Good writing is not about a narrative. It’s about multiple narratives in relationship with each other, not only the narratives in the story itself but also the narratives in the readership that the story is responding to, confronting, confirming, or tweaking.
For example, To Kill a Mockingbird contains narratives about small town politics, Southern culture, family dynamics, racial bias, gender bias, the justice system, and prejudice against the mentally challenged. Today, it’s often reduced to the few of those narratives that most confirm and comfort the political narratives we bring to the story as readers, but the other narratives are there nonetheless.
I was reminded of this complexity recently when I noticed that my novelette, The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die, had gotten another very positive (5 star!) review, which I hadn’t seen until now. At first, I was encouraged, taking away the most comforting narrative that it told. But then I realized that the fact that I hadn’t noticed it even though it was over a year old meant I’m not one of those writers who obsessively check their Amazon stats.
And that’s not as comforting a narrative.
The absence of that desperate need to be accepted and loved may not bode well for my chances for success as a writer in today’s literary culture. Self-promotion is the lifeblood of 21st century writers, and it’s a practice that makes me uncomfortable and the excess of which I find off-putting in others. I try, but I am deeply aware that I am “not that kind of writer” and likely never will be.