I once wrote a story with a beginning, middle, and end. I described the character and his situation, a boy from the perfect home who suffered some great tragedy. He lost his perfect home with his perfect parents and lived in an orphanage. At the conclusion, I made sure that he was happy again and lived with a happy family. I was so emotionally spent, I may have even cried a little. Afterwards, I forgot all about it and went on with my life. It served as a distraction but didn’t affect me at any intellectual level.
Realizing this, I wrote a story intended to “mean” something. I searched through articles based on real tragedies. I decided to use recurring symbols to hammer in my point to the reader. My boy, this time, was a little older and wore a red coat. He lived in the Communist China and he loved his red coat. He joined the Mao’s Militia, the Red Guard and wore a red armband. He was happy to be in service to Mao Tse-Tung. One day, since as a Red Guard he had freedom of movement, he took a trip on a train to the rural parts of the city to see Mao’s true citizens, the workers of China. On the outskirts of the city, he only saw poverty and suffering and was shocked. His face turned red with anger, and he offered his red coat to a homeless woman and her child. He tore off his red armband and decided that there was something wrong with a Socialist society that ignored its people. Realistically, my boy would probably be arrested and/or killed, so I end the story there. It’s the change that matters anyway. The reader can make up a happy or sad ending and then go on with their happy life, forgetting all about it but maybe learning a couple facts about Communist China so that they can say “Oh! I read a book about that one time. How sad that China was so backwards then. Maybe someday they’ll change their ways.” I cringe at the thought of the reader, putting on her reading glasses after Oprah told her to read my book. I begin to hate my reader. I think about my confused readers fighting over what my story means and I grin ferociously.
I write a story called “The Man with the Golden Thumb.” It’s about transvestite lawyer who has a thumb made of gold. It doesn’t have any magic powers or anything. It’s just his thumb—he was born with it. Get over it, will ya? People get used to thumb and don’t bother him—her—anymore about it. She’s a successful lawyer specializing in cases where wives have hidden razor blades or rat poison things they baked for their husbands. She starts her own firm. One day, she gets mugged by a group of bored millionaire who beat her up and take her thumb. She becomes depressed and turns to alcohol. She gets disbarred and opens a bakery that gives part of its profits to victims of millionaires.