Steve Almond writes, “It doesn’t especially matter what your heroine cares about, as long as she cares a lot…as long as her passion places her in peril, you’re in business” (This Won’t Take But A Minute, Honey, 9). Desire or passion, then, is the place where a story begins, structurally and emotionally. The moment when a reader recognizes desire is often the moment when that reader begins to care, begins to desire as an active reader. Whether the reader wants what the character wants or wants what the character does not, readerly desire (the desire to continue reading, in its most basic formation) registers and mimics the story-forming desire of a character.
Reading a story might be described, in literary terms, as an event of mimetic desire, “the process by which a character is led to desire an object through emulation of another character who already desires that object” (Fredric Bogel, The Difference Satire Makes, 52). In this case, the desired object signifies less than desire itself. The reader emulates the character by participating in the words that make up the character. By following the movements of the character, the reader begins to want something, and as in the case of the character, perhaps, what matters most is the volume of that want.
The author’s work is to vivify desire—in herself, in her characters, in her readers. Imagine the work of reading, then, as contributing to three parallel, communicative lines of desire. Each one mirrors the intensity of the last. Prompt: Your story involves two characters. The first wants some object, intensely. The second begins to want that same object as a result of emulating the first.
About David Aichenbaum
David Aichenbaum’s fiction has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Hobart Pulp, decomP Magazine, Dogzplot Flash Fiction, and Diddledog Magazine. He is the managing editor of Matter Press’s Journal of Compressed Creative Arts.
For further reading, check out FlashFiction.Net’s suggested readings of flash fiction and prose poetry collections, anthologies, and craft books, by clicking here.