Thursday, March 12, 2009

Hooray for an Audience

How can I tell you the appreciation I feel for my audience, any audience? Last evening I took to my writing group a short-short story that I was worried about because it was set in a specific era, and it featured a naive narrator, one who does not know what the audience/reader knows. How though, does one create that setting in an economical way and not leave the reader wondering what the heck is going on? First, I had to do my homework, my research, and make fairly certain that I knew what I was writing about. In this case, I had to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of both Celtic mythology and immigration into New York in the late 1800's. The mythology was interesting and somewhat familiar, as my first book of poems stems from that tradition. The immigration piece came out of my genealogy work on my own Irish ancestors. Anything can be grist for the writer, though sometimes information is more gristle than grist.

Packing all of this back story and lively characterization and dialogue into 700 words was a challenge, and I knew I did not have an objective view of it to see if I'd pulled it off. Well, I did. Mostly. Those in the group who had no background in mythology were left behind, but most of the people got it. I even saw that knowing gleam in our facilitator's eyes as she linked her mind to the story and knew what I knew, what the first-person narrator did not know, that she was talking to a god-figure who had appeared on the sidewalks of New York. What fun! There are, as I've probably said before, three high points in writing--one, when you get that tickle in the brain that says you're onto something worth writing about; two, when an audience responds the way you hope; and three, when an objective editor says yes!

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