Hidden messages

I got an email from a reader, a highschool student who came across Doppel and liked it. She asked: are there hidden messages in your story?

What an unexpected question. The answer of course is no, I haven't planted mysterious ciphers that if cracked will reveal secret messages. And also yes, there are Easter Eggs in every story. But what a person makes of any story, the meanings they divine in the words they read, those things are often not anything the writer intended, at least not consciously.

Often, the hidden meanings of a story, the secret messages, the rich subtext, the themes and morals, exist for the reader because the writer remained silent. Two characters have a conversation at a bar. We are privy to their dialogue, their body language, the setting around them but none of their inner thoughts are revealed. When the author is silent, the reader has the freedom to project their own ideas on a tale. And the story changes then depending on who reads it and on when it is read. The novel you love at 15 might be one we loathe at 23 and then perhaps love again at 74.

Good stories are partnerships. Writers leave a few blanks for readers, with their unique personalities and life experiences, to fill in. The best stories are the ones that reveal something new on every re-read and this is only possible if the writer is brave enough to stay silent.