Farfetched got me hooked on the animal photos and captions at I Can Has Cheezburger. (They invite readers to use their photos.) This funny one got me thinking about our invisible writing partner--the reader. Some writers never think about their readers, others tailor their books completely to what they hope their readers will want. I used to claim I was in the first camp, but I think that was probably never true. At this stage in my career, I feel pretty confident that whatever pleases me will also please certain readers. That means I am free to consider their preferences without feeling as if I am sacrificing my integrity.
The former U.S. poet laureate, Billy Collins, sometimes talks to his invisible partners in his poems, as in this one, A Portrait of the Reader With a Bowl of Cereal, where he refutes Yeats' dictum that "A poet. . .never speaks directly, as to someone at the breakfast table." I'll quote just the first and last stanzas. . .
Every morning I sit across from you
at the same small table,
the sun all over the breakfast things--
curve of a blue-and-white pitcher,
a dish of berries--
me in a sweatshirt or robe,
But some days I may notice
a little door swinging open
in the morning air,
and maybe the tea leaves
of some dream will be stuck
to the china slope of the hour--
then I will lean forward,
elbows on the table,
with something to tell you,
and you will look up, as always,
your spoon dripping milk, ready to listen.