New Writer: Hello, Mr. Editor. I have a story that I would like you to read.
Old Editor: I figured you would.
New Writer: Well, will you read it?
Old Editor: I already read it, actually.
New Writer: No way! When did you read it?
Old Editor: Just this second.
New Writer: Wow, you are a fast reader.
Old Editor: I’ve been at this for years.
New Writer: Well?
Old Editor: Well?
New Writer: Did you like it?
Old Editor: To be honest, I am not sure I quite understood it. I have some questions about your story. Would you mind answering them for me?
New Writer: I don’t mind at all. Fire away.
Old Editor: What is your story about?
New Writer: It’s about death, man.
Old Editor: A very important subject.
New Writer: I know right?
Old Editor: Right. Can you elaborate? Why did you decide to explore this topic the way you did? Could you talk a bit about the structure of the story?
New Writer: Sure. Sure. So, like, when I originally conceptualized this piece I wanted it to be something different, you know, from the standard rise and fall narrative. I wanted to subvert, invert, reimagine, and manipulate the narrative arc. I wanted to steer my readers in a direction that no other writer has ever steered them before.
Old Editor: I see. And how did you plan on doing that?
New Writer: I figured I would throw them right into the middle of the narrative. I didn’t want to waste time explaining extraneous details or introducing innocuous characters. I wanted readers immediately in the thick of the action. I wanted them to be the story.
Old Editor: That’s a fascinating idea but…
New Writer: Right? The way I see it, stories ought to exist the way our lives exist. They should show reality in such a way that readers can feel and become a part of…
Old Editor: I have a question. I’m sorry to interrupt.
New Writer: No problem. Shoot.
Old Editor: Why aren’t there any characters in this story?
New Writer: I don’t understand.
Old Editor: Characters. Why aren’t there any?
New Writer: There are, though.
Old Editor: Forgive me, but I cannot find them.
New Writer: Jesus, man, can’t you see? You have to infer the characters.
Old Editor: I have to infer them?
New Writer: Read between the lines. They’re there. Just because I don’t deliver them to you in exposition doesn’t mean they’re not there.
Old Editor: I understand what you are saying. I think. Maybe. But, that all being said, I do not believe you have created a single character in this piece.
New Writer: Whatever.
Old Editor: I’m sorry, but…
New Writer: You just don’t get it.
Old Editor: Okay, well maybe you can help me get it. Can you talk to me about the conflict in this story? There must be a conflict.
New Writer: Of course there is a conflict!
Old Editor: Well, um, what is it?
New Writer: The story revolves around the conflict between life and death.
Old Editor: The conflict between life and death?
New Writer: Yes. Duh.
Old Editor: Can you explain to me how this conflict manifests itself? I’m having trouble finding it in the text.
New Writer: Listen, if you aren’t going to read my work closely, you aren’t going to get it. That’s just all there is to it. I’m not writing for lazy readers.
Old Editor: I apologize. I read as closely as I could, and still, I am at a loss. I am asking you to help me understand. Maybe you can help me unlock whatever it is you have accomplished with this, this, this artwork.
New Writer: Okay. Geez. The conflict, if you look carefully, emerges through the story’s imagery.
Old Editor: The imagery?
New Writer: The imagery.
Old Editor: I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. But I need you to elaborate on that. There is not any imagery in this story that seems to be functioning in any way.
New Writer: Man, you’re just like all the rest.
Old Editor: Explain it to me, the imagery.
New Writer: The image is of the setting sun, man. Two people watch a sun fall below the horizon and the day dies. That’s the death. But the sun will come up in the morning and can’t you see! Can’t you see the binary I have established between light and dark! Day and night! Life and death! Dogs and…
Old Editor: Listen. I’m going to read your story to you. Listen to how it sounds. Pretend you have never in your life heard this story before. Can you do that?
New Writer: Of course.
Old Editor: Okay. Here it goes: Orange. The end. Now, tell me, after hearing your story, what do you feel? What do you understand? What do you know?
New Writer: I feel… I feel… I feel just so…
Old Editor: Are you crying?
New Writer: I’m sorry it’s just that…
Old Editor: What are you crying about?
New Writer: It’s just so beautiful.
This post is by Joseph Truscello. Joseph Truscello is an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. He has a BA in English from Pace University and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. From 2011-2013, he taught high school English in Hartford, Connecticut, as a member of Teach for America.