I used to think it didn’t matter.
Surely, the words are for themselves.
A well-turned phrase justifies its own being. A good story does not need a someone to give it purpose. Sure, a story is more real if someone loves it or hates it — at least hears it. But a story does not need to be spoken to anyone. A good story just needs to be.
That’s what I used to think.
But then a writer friend of mine did me the courtesy of critiquing a story of mine by making it clear he had read it, but that he would have enjoyed it better with a particular aspect strengthened. So I wrote another story, and in my mind I only thought about making it the sort of story this particular writer friend would like. The way that story turned out story made me think differently about the relationship between writer, story, and reader. Because that story was probably one of the first stories I wrote that worked nearly right.
Since then, I have been thinking about who I write for. In general, it is specific individuals, and different ones for different stories, and I almost never tell them that I have done it. Except, sometimes, when I write for myself, which makes it hard to keep secret.
I always ask myself, “What’s a story I would like? How can I tell a story I would enjoy?” then I ask myself, “How can I write it so that Taylor will like it too?” Or Lucy. Or Abi. Or Nick. Whoever it is. Them and me. I almost think of it like a letter.
Somehow, this works for me.