[Reading Room] Close Encounters by J. D. Daniels

Originally published in The Paris Review, I came across this story in the wonderful Short Story Thursday email series by Jacob Tomsky.

This is the kind of short story I hate: self-absorbed people acting in self-destructive ways and complaining they’re not happy. I don’t actually hate this one, though. Maybe because the main character doesn’t ever complain about the mess he’s making of his life. In fact he sort of understands it’s all his choice.

The most interesting part about this, as a writer, is the way that so much is left out. It’s kind of annoying to the reader, but on the other hand, spaces make the reader think. And thinking makes the reader work a little. And working at figuring out what is going on makes the reader ENGAGE with the story. And that’s going to make it stick. I bet this story is going to keep surfacing in my memory as my brain tries to solve the puzzle of it: what did it really mean? What was J.D. Daniels trying to say to me? Do I care? Is it relevant? I’ll say this for it: the characters felt real. So I can’t dismiss it.

The Tuesday Reading Room is a regular features at StoryADay.org. If you’d like to submit a review (of someone else’s story), read the guidelines here.

Guest Writing Prompt from Jacob Tomsky

Jacob Tomsky of Short Story ThursdaysJacob Tomsky is a best-selling writer and host of Short Story Thursdays, a weekly email dispatch that somehow manages to be snarky and sweet at the same time. (If you haven’t signed up to receive a story a week from Tomsky yet, do it now).

Read our interview with him, talking about how he moved from a short-story-hater to one of its best champions.

As you can see from the prompt below, Jacob has Opinions. Do not disappoint him.

The Prompt

Story told in first person or third person only. NO SECOND PERSON, GODDAMN IT.

Past tense. You can do current tense or whatever it’s called but that would piss me off too.

Prompt: Main character is being interviewed on television, live, for the first time ever. Story begins at the moment the camera goes live on the main character.