Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Writer's Motivation

One of the fun things about having a website is getting contacted out of the blue by a reader you'd have never made a connection with in your daily life routines. For example, many years ago when I posted one of my daughter's stories on my website (she was 12 at the time) I was contacted by peridoicals in California and New Zealand that wanted to publish it.

The following is a letter from a university lit student inquiring about the motivations behind one of my stories. I received this letter in 2004, when my stories were still posted at  

I'm not too sure how to go about this, so here it goes. Hi, my name is Julia, I'm an English Literature student at ______ University. My Literary Criticism class is analyzing short stories in the reader-response style and one of the possible perspectives is to include the intent of the author as part of the interpretation.

I've chosen your story, M Zone (I hope you don't mind), and I would appreciate it if you can give me any idea as to your purpose for writing that story, how were you inspired, and so forth. Any information would be helpful. No information would mean I'd just have to B.S. it like usual. Hope to hear from you. ~ Julia 

morning, 9-30-2002

Julia:  I am delighted that you have selected my story for analysis in your English class.

You mention having to B.S..... Are you saying, then, that you also are good at fiction?

As regards my story The M Zone.... Briefly, I have always been fascinated with how the mind works. In college I took a Philosophy of Mind class, for example, but have longtime mulled on the topic of how the mind works, how memory works, how reality is perceived. This theme appears in a number of my stories, along with the notion of what is real and what is not.

My reason for writing the story was simply this. I had an idea for a story, shared it with someone, and they said I should write it.

Many of my short stories are initiated by a dream which then becomes one scene in the longer story. Others are like a puzzle which the writing is the solution. That is, I have an idea for a story and I do it to see if I can "pull it off". That is, can I make it work.

One thing different between Hollywood and story writing. If I fail, I have lost a few hours or days but no money. When Hollywood directors fail, (and a movie flops) it is millions of dollars lost, and many times whole careers. That is why you seldom see Hollywood movie directors taking risks, doing something really new.

Thanks for visiting my site. What is your deadline for this assignment? I will mull over your email and reply tonight if able.

evening, 9-30-2002

Hi again. Just a late night note in response to the question again. When I write I am generally attempting to connect with a reader, a person, a human being with a mind and feelings and a will. The goal is usually to "reach" that person and make them think. Occassionally I aim to move people to action, though primarily the first aim is to "connect with a human being." I am not writing just to express myself. What is the point of sharing if you are writing only for yourself?

So, if one seeks to connect, one has to develop the skill of communicating what is in the author's head and create the picture for another human being so that they see it, and feel it and comprehend it. This takes craft, discipline and a measure of skill. If the writer CARES about the reader he will work very hard to learn how to engage a reader, paint a picture, create a story.

I hope this is helpful in some small way. And if you desire to be a writer, I wish you the very best. And even if not, may you become all you are meant to be as a human being, a Person.


The M Zone and other stories can be found at in my short collection titled Newmanesque. It is also available for Nook and in the Apple store for iPads and other digital reading devices.

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