I have heard from a couple readers over the past few months who have been disappointed in the role Miss Zula plays in Tied to the Tracks. These readers like Zula better than the main characters and would have liked the story to be more (or entirely) about her.
This is a compliment, in a way. But on some level it does frustrate me because my intent was to present Zula as a bit of a mystery. All the clues are there, all the information you need to piece together her story — but you have to look for them. Some readers didn’t get this.
I thought about stringing together all the chapter openings that deal, directly or indirectly, with Zula to see what people might make of that, but I stopped myself for a very good reason:
If you have to explain to your readers what you intended, you’ve failed. There are two possible reasons for this failure:
1) you didn’t write the story well enough;
2) the reader wasn’t reading closely enough.
When I’m teaching creative writing I always focus on the first. When I teach a piece of a novel or a short story, I focus on the second. In this case I must assume this is all my fault. But it’s also a little sad that I failed to make this part of the story work the way I wanted it to.
Hint: Zula’s entire name is Zula McGuffin Bragg. There’s a hint in that name, but nobody has picked up on it, as far as I can tell.