On Creating the Illusion of Two-Way Conversation, and Why It’s Valuable

Karl A. Menninger

“Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends who listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.” – Karl A. Menninger, Born Jul. 22, 1893.

Wouldn't it be nice if we, as writers could listen to our readers?

We can't. I'm not listening to you now. These are words on a page. But I can make you think I am listening. That I have listened before. To all your plans and hopes and dreams and worries.

I can convince you of that by making guesses. Cold reading in word form. Educated estimations based on demographics and universal feelings and common shared experiences.

And if I do it right, feeding it back in as a loop, you begin to feel that I know you and you know me.

You confuse words on a screen for an actual person you're having a conversation with.

And you do unfold and expand to participate. You can't help it. You're doing it now.

If I have cleverly structured certain narratives, the reader (that's you) will insert yourself into the story.

When YOU read it, it taps YOUR memories and YOUR feelings. You make the story personal as your mind inflates inside it and grows to fill all the nooks and crannies.

Your first love. Who? A thousand different people are being thought of right now, as that line is being read. But you all think I am talking to you.

I build you a house of words. You paint it in your own colors and take ownership of it.

And when you do that, I own you.

Because I'm the one writing the story. You're just along for the ride. And if I give you a role, you might just fulfill it just the way I wrote it, so long as you're feeling it.

Will you?

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