http://www.everydayfiction.com/brand-management-in-an-age-of-anxiety-by-walt-giersbach/. One of the many nice things about EDF is that the publication invites reader comments and assigning “stars.”
This story garnered 63 comments, and replies to those comments, and replies to the replies — all in 24 hours. Some were quite critical, others uplifting. Some went entirely off the track and was the subject of the publisher’s cautionary notice about do’s and don’ts in commenting. So the insight came to me that reading a story — even a novel — is at heart a Thematic Apperception Test. This psychological test checks underlying motives, concerns, and the way people see the social world through stories they make up about ambiguous pictures of people.
Some readers were turned off by the brand names in my story (even though this was the magnet that drew two superficial people together). Others felt the story needed more editing, that they were “fooled” initially into thinking the male author was a male narrator, and that this wasn’t the “reality” they were expecting.
(In full disclosure, let me note that EDF balked at buying the story until I had rewritten it. Their editorial team was clear in what bothered them, and I corrected the copy so it read more smoothly and clearly.)
My response to these varied reactions is that they’re all simply marvelous. It shows the wonderful diversity of our makeup, our subliminal literary expectations, and the “anchors” we drag with us to a reading task.
I often say I write hoping there will be some one — or more — who exclaim, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I’ve felt that way myself.” This particular insight into reader kinship came to me years ago when I was editing travel guides. I received a letter saying, “I’m wheelchair bound and can’t get out, so I read your guides and imagine I’m traveling the country.”
Those are the people I write for. That stranger out there who comes into my world. The other critics — often right, sometimes wrong — are vastly amusing.