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.


Mindy Kaling is my patronus.

Mindy Kaling is my patronus.


Doppel was one of those stories that came to me quickly. Partly because I was taking a class at the time and the muse works overtime when there are professors assigning deadlines. And partly because the story was salvaged from the cutting room floor.

The Boat People takes place partly in Vancouver and one of the main characters lives in the Downtown Eastside. I became obsessed with the ecology of that neighbourhood. Historically downtrodden and drug addled, Carrall and Hastings is undergoing some pretty serious gentrification. There is a movement of bodies as the long term residents are getting squeezed into a smaller space and increasingly pushed out.

It's an important and interesting story but it was too much of an aside for the novel so it got dropped. Fortunately, I delete NOTHING and was able to re-work much of what was lost into Doppel.