Plymouth, UK

A rendezvous of secrets

Reading is designed to alleviate our curiosity. We all want to know what’s in our neighbors’ pockets, how they style their hair, how much time they spent on the rusty machine in their garage, or how long and serious their last relationship was. So once in a while, if we’re lucky, a good novel might begin to soothe our penchant for mischief.

From this transfer of information between strangers, or from what we might describe as storytelling, we find chance encounters both public and clandestine. These gatherings can easily be found in parks, on open highways or tucked away in snowy cabins, yet the best spots for them are often locations where the author is a little unwelcome.

In order to learn more about this classified material we should first identify the co-conspirators of each story, these so called ‘readers’. It’s here that we’ll notice just how peculiar they are; they believe that friends, enemies and even lovers can be discovered beside the narrative, beside the incandescent glow of a careful story. They’ll often study the tales they bump into as if they were each an experiment and this is just the sort of research which might be conducted under a laboratory’s sterile light or a library’s most private alcove, with each reader performing their own rituals (often consisting of chilled beer in the summer and a hot water bottle under their sheets in the fall). After these strange rituals are over with they can finally kickstart the operation – yet, in order to test these narratives accurately, our aspiring readers ought to gauge the story’s effect on someone else: another reader.

Although, I’m not sure what these readers hope to learn from one another, since most of them are just the sort of person that will judge a room not by its furnishings or its architecture but by the quality of the reading light. However strange these habits might be though, they’re not a characteristic to be noticed solely amongst other Readers because even Non-Readers can act in peculiar ways, too.

For instance whenever children fool around with words and speak with a funny accent, or whenever they write in that charming scrawl, as we listen to them fumble and sing, or hum, or clap their hands whilst alongside them we watch others dash, hop, jump and jiggle, we see even the youngest of them are perfectly aware that these are not just silly games at work, they’re opportunities for great stories to be told.

Loud or quiet, roared or mumbled, these are fragile times in the life of a story but there’s no denying their potential once Non-Readers grok how each tale can be transformed on screen or warmly wrapped up in the pages of a book. ‘But where are the very best?’ they start to wonder in their late teenage years. ‘How are stories made, and where are they all anyway? How are we supposed to uproot the juiciest tales with the most connective threads – how can we read the stories written for us?’

To reveal the answers they must find the nearest library to poke, prod and plunder for their own but it’s during these secluded moments that they should expect to get their hands a little dirty. It’s going to take an awful lot of time, money and sheer will power to answer all of those questions which, of course, lead to the penultimate Question of Questions:

Which of these stories will delight an audience with a swarm of giggles and which will make them quiver in their seats?