• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You’re Gonna Make Me Give Myself a Good Talking To

I’ve been using the revision of  Forest for the Trees and then the pig flu and bronchitis as excuses for not starting my new screenplay (this after putting my last screenplay on DNR). Well, the revision is in production and I’m all better. There we are, and yes the sound you hear is me whistling in the dark. I’ve had an idea for a new screenplay that I think about mostly when I walk the dog, fold laundry, do dishes — you know, quality time. I learned in my screenwriting class to begin with character sketches. The kids in the class were undergrads and I don’t think any of them wrote the sketches. I did, of course. And I found it hugely helpful. The more I wrote about a character, the more the larger story unfolded. I think this would be helpful for fiction writers, but I’m not sure because for the life of me I don’t know how people write fiction even after 25 years in publishing. I only know when they do it well. Anyway, I cracked open a new notebook over the weekend and started writing about my lead character. Her name is Anna Elliott and she’s got great tits. And, no, not everything I write is autobiographical.

What’s most difficult for you? Starting or finishing?

Some housekeeping:

  1. First and third prizes have been sent out to winners of the match the author photo with the first line contest (The First Cut is the Deepest). Second prize never sent in his/her address. You have until the end of the year (askbetsylerner@gmail.com). Or whenever.
  2. Thanks to all the great tech advice, my new iMac is coming on Thursday. (I love you John Hodgman — forgive me.)

15 Responses

  1. John Hodgman will be proud! 🙂 And you will LOVE your Mac. I’ve used one for 20 years, and I made them give me one to use at the school where I teach, even though the whole campus is PC-based. Guess who never has to call Tech Support? 🙂


  2. Thanks for talking about character sheets and how they lead to the unfolding of the larger story. I’m in the middle of that now myself, and it helps to hear you mirroring what I’ve been thinking.

    It’s not starting or finishing that’s my big problem — it’s middling. There’s always a hump in the middle where I have to pause for a few days, get my breath back, figure out where my head is, and then I can buckle back in to finish.

  3. 2 questions arise from this post —
    What kind of notebook did you “crack open” — I have great curiosity about writer’s notebooks … i.e. Moleskin? Leather-bound? Rite-Aid pad.
    Which young-adult-verse-novel would you suggest I read next??
    Thank you!

    • I’m a notebook whore. I use all kinds.

      • This I love … “Notebook Whore” — perhaps you could publish a “The Notebook Whore’s Little Black Notebook”? I also love your idea of publishing something that generates $$ for charity …

  4. Best wishes for the production. It is more difficult for me to finish than to start. Since I begin with characters that I send sprawling into life without a definite goal, the first draft usually gets away from me around 100,000 words with no end in sight.

    It’s like starting a war. I send in bodies and after it’s a bloody mess, I ask myself what I was trying to achieve in the first place. I end up with dozens of lovely digressive chapters, darlings I must kill.

    Now, almost ten years after my first book, I force myself to write a detailed outline and write the last chapter first. Whether or not I use it, it prevents me straying far from the path.

  5. I think middles are the hardest for me. Yeah, I know, I didn’t really answer the question. I do character sketches for my novels but very little outlining until I’ve a chunk of it.

  6. This is totally off-topic, and a little shamelessly self-promoting (but I’m not going to compete with Anna Elliott’s assets):

    I finally found good reason to link you in my latest blog post: http://trac-changes.blogspot.com/2009/11/what-can-job-interview-teach-you-about.html

    I am ridiculously pleased to share your sense of humor with my readers. Thanks for the always-hilarious posts!

  7. Also, finishing is harder for me than starting. Then again, starting is also pretty hard. Some awful combination of perfectionism and neuroticism. And that is why I prefer to edit.

  8. I was a little surprised to see that a couple of people answered that the middle is the hardest part for them. That’s the way it is for me. Nice! Now I don’t feel like a big, flaming geek. 🙂

    At least not about this.

  9. Mead Composition notebooks–one per character.

    • Very cool! I love those Mead composition books, but I swear in my half century of life, I never thought of doing one per character — what a great way to organize a novel

  10. Starting is harder for me for sure. The idea of character sketches is a good one. Usually I wait a while until I do that, but I think with my current work in progress I’m going to start it sooner (like today) rather than later (like tomorrow). It’s something to prime the pump and give me direction.

  11. I’m so mad at you for saying this whole character sketch thing because I’m in the middle of a slow going screenplay. And I haven’t really adjusted my writing habits for the medium. The formatting does not give any narrative space for falling into a trance in which the character reveals him/herself. At least not for me. Dang it.

  12. I do not define my characters ahead of time. I let their actions define them.

    I just give my protagonist a goal and a lot of obstacles that must be overcome to reach it. The other characters either help or hinder the protagonist along the way.

    Without a story, characters are like dolls no one is playing with.

    Once that framework is established, I rewrite about a thousand times, adding mannerisms and dialogue that reveal, but do not belabor, why each character is going to help or hurt the protagonist.

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