Well, I’ve had the good fortune…or possibly misfortune (depending on how you want to look at it) of hearing detailed commentary on a short story I penned several years ago.
To give you a brief synopsis, one of the main characters in the story was killed unnecessarily by someone who thought they were performing an act of mercy. (The story can be found on Facebook on my Short Story page or Word Press, “Author Lynn Steigleder.” The story’s title is “Jack in the Box.”)
The individual who read the story (we’ll call her Suzie) became distressed to the point of suffering physical symptoms directly related to the end of the piece.
Now, to me, I feel like I’ve done my job in so far as pulling a reader into a make-believe world and having her express true empathy for human beings that only exist in the mind.
She can actually see the story as it unfolds and knows where this character lives; not far from where she herself lived twenty-eight years prior.
Suzie has developed such an aversion to “Jack in the Box” that she says she wishes she had never read it. It’s etched in her brain and she cringes when it comes to mind.
This happened recently during a book club meeting. Suzie recounted a small portion of the story to her club members. (Great praise for an author, right?…think again…wrong!) Her description was one of such distaste that you thought she was relaying an account of a true story. “I hated it,” she said, in no uncertain terms.
Now, I had to ask her, “If you hate a story, you normally mean the story itself was lacking in plot and the writing’s sub-standard, don’t you?” She assured me this was not the case and reiterated the plot was loathsome in places. Suzie also made a point to tell me the writing was exemplary leading to the graphic nature of her problem with the piece.
So, I thought as my head began to swell, not too shabby. I still got it! Can mak’em cry, cringe, and puke all in under six thousand words.
The title, “Jack in the Box,” even causes Suzie to shake her head along with a slight shudder.