• 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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We’d Like to Take You Home with Us

“The Launching of Rochelle Epstein” was my single attempt at a novel in 1987. I squeezed out about 30 pages before the thing collapsed on itself. I’ve been working with writers for 30+ years and I don’t have a clue how fiction writers create their worlds then march their characters through them. I can help with plot points, I can tweak dialogue, or question a character’s motivation, but I don’t know how you get past the 30 page mark. How does the imagination unspool, how do the sentences get in line like a flock of geese? How do you go back the beach, the forest, the runway? The bridge table, the rest stop, the last best thing?

How the fuck does fiction work?

14 Responses

  1. Wait: That’s supposed to work?

  2. How does fiction work?
    Writers imagination + readers imagination.
    I think this part of the equation.

  3. I don’t know. But I do know that it’s ridiculously easy and ridiculously difficult, always. And that, of course a first attempt would lose its way 30 pages in, because the first time we try anything we’re shit at it. Maybe because when we start, we are more focused on trying to sound like writers than we are on simply telling the story.

    Maybe that’s how it works. You just tell the story — but you let it into you and you into it, and be yourself being someone else, and all these other someone elses, and you risk finding out what you’re afraid of, what you love, and what you think, all from someplace to hide.

    Well, like I said, I don’t know. Even after writing lots of them now, and studying writing and structure and shining a high-powered torch up the (often shitty) business end of so many books, I really have no idea. So I just write down stories. (Works a lot better than NOT writing down stories. In fact, now I think about it, I recommend this strategy.)

  4. When you find out let me know. Oh yeh, ask Donna she’s pretty good at it.

  5. “How the fuck does fiction work?”

    Like I would know.

    I tried writing more in response to the question, which is one of the most difficult I have encountered, but I deleted it. All I can say that might have any value is, don’t give up.

  6. Despite Carolynn’s confidence above . . .

    I have no clue except I think it has to do with how different brains work – no different than how some loved a book you hated.

    I guess. Like I said no clue.

    Harryipants probably said it best, ridiculously easy and ridiculously difficult.

    All I know is writer’s block gets talked about a lot – but all that is is not knowing what’s supposed to happen next. Or not knowing what you’re writing about. So. You wait until you do. It could come to you in a few seconds, or a few hours/days/weeks/months. There’s something to be said for outlining. And it can change – mine always do – but it lays the groundwork from beginning to end.

    I always know my endings.

  7. Writing novels and stories is a lot of hard work. Period. The end.
    Then there’s the “it” factor; the magic. It’s like a drug. It’s addictive.

  8. Someone has to die, preferably a beloved character. So that means creating a perfectly good human being who is going to be missed when they shit the bed.

    There has to be an epiphany. In this case, the main character has to be quite despicable or at least dragged through the coals of hell before displaying some noble aspirations.

    The story has to be interesting or entertaining. What is the universal attraction? What means something to me might not interest someone else. I think you have to believe in the story, trust it and just keep moving forward with it.

    Finally, I just don’t know. I can’t write believable fiction and my nonfiction contains too many embellishments and twisted facts (alternative reality?) to be considered totally accurate, so I’m stuck in the middle somewhere.

    I like the “Launching” title — it caught my interest and made me wonder what was happening with Rochelle Epstein.

  9. I’m here for the comments because I want to know, too.

  10. I’ve been an editor for 40 years and have written and published 2 novels. I have found it to be true that the characters lead and even build the plot. If characters are developed for a few generations back, have psychological integrity and the writer trusts them rather than using them as devices, they will spin out what happens step by step.

  11. I think you just keep asking and answering questions until you run out.

  12. I have a few Rochelles in my drawer. Failure to launch is a specialty of mine. I just ignore the ruby slippers and sleep hard in that poppy field. Sometimes I never even get out of Kansas. Applause and wonder to all of you who’ve made it.

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