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-The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
-Fiction Writing
-Holly Lisle Author Website

September 19th, 2005

10:25 pm - SWELL: Anna and Clarence [dialogue]
C: Do you think I did the right thing?

A: You want my honest answer? I think you were being a bit of a dick.

Really. (--miserably)

Don't worry. He'll get over it, and so will you.

I didn't mean to, I really didn't--I just... I don't want that kind of life for him, I don't want him to have to suffer.

I don't either, but it's not our choice to make. We can't change who he is.

Anna, he's so young--

He's a smart boy, and we have to trust that he'll do the right thing.

I don't want him to hurt himself.

He's a teenage boy, you'll never keep that from happening.

I know, but I feel... I feel responsible, I feel...

You think it's your fault? What's happened?

Is it, Anna? I can't help but think I did something wrong, raising him... I've tried to set him an example, but...

But what? Sam's homosexuality has nothing to do with you. You didn't raise him to be gay. Look at yourself! You didn't turn out at all like your father, did you?

I don't have a father. My father was never there for me.

And even if he had been, you would have been nothing like him. You're nothing like Gran Wendy either. You're your own person, Clarence, and so is Sam. We need to accept that. You need to accept that.

I do accept that. I do. I'll always be there for him, no matter what. I love him so much.


You think I want him to be homosexual? I wish he weren't, I really wish he weren't. I want him to be married someday. I want to have grandchildren, Clarence. Sam's my, our only chance. I'm too old to have more children...

You're only thirty-five--

And Sam's too old for us to... foist another brother or sister on him right now. So if Sam doesn't have any kids, well, then...

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08:59 pm - SWELL: Calvin thinking about Louisa and Sylvie [scraps]
For a moment, he allowed his mind to wander toward Louisa. What would have happened if he had married her? He felt a pulling ache in his chest. They might have had children—Louisa would have wanted children, a little girl with her dark red hair. And Anna would be so happy for him—she and Louisa were such good friends, and Clarence, and Sam, who would baby-sit for them…

And he didn’t know what made him more disgusted with himself—the fact that he entertained these thoughts, or how wistfully happy they made him. He tortured himself over them like picking at a scab; the more he tried to mark them as forbidden and prohibited, the more he agonised, the more he wondered. He glanced over to the bed, where Sylvie’s dark head lay peacefully on her pillow. Sylvie always looked so young when she slept—her face gentle and unguarded, the look that children always lost once they became adults. That naïve, unaware look burned Calvin like a hot iron, twisted his stomach, made him dizzy with self-loathing, even though he knew that in real life, when she was awake, Sylvie was neither naïve nor unaware. Sylvie loved him, but she would hate him as well if she thought that he loved her less than he loved… well, she would hate him because of Louisa, and she would be right to, because she deserved better. They both deserved better, but Sylvie did especially. Calvin looked at Sylvie and his heart warmed and his stomach fluttered. He loved her, he loved her, he loved her. He didn’t want to think what would happen if she ever left him.

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September 18th, 2005

11:33 am - MOUTH: Dora and Olivia [dialogue]
D: I looked some stuff up on the Internet. It's a disorder, there's cures for it. They can treat it--

O: Treat it? Do you know how they cure homosexuality?

They have therapy--

Therapy? Do you know what kind of therapy they're talking about? Aversion therapy? Jesus Christ, Dora, do you know what that it? They hook wires up to your fucking balls and show you gay porn and shock you if you get turned on.

That's not what I was talking about, Olivia.

What were you talking about then?

I--there has to be something I can do for him.

I don't see what you can do. From what you've told me he's pretty sure that he's gay.

But he's... he's so young. I wish I could do something to heal him, to change his mind...

Change his mind? (--sharply.) You don't think he chose to be gay?

I don't know, I don't know.

How could you think that? Who would wiliingly make a choice like that, knowing they would face a life... a life of rejection and alienation?

You see? That's exactly my point! I don't want that kind of life for my son. I don't want him to be rejected and alienated, I don't want him to suffer, I want him to be healthy and normal and--

Well, you're not helping much, are you? You're his mother, you're the first person who's supposed to be there for him, no matter what, and now you're just condemning him--

You think I'm condemning him? What would you know about being a mother? You don't know the first thing what it's like to be fully responsible for someone else's well-being, their life! I am the first person who's there for him, I am the first person who's helping him--I'm trying to help him grow up to be a good person, I'm trying to do what's best for him! You wouldn't know anything about that kind of responsibility, that kind of commitment. Your entire world is about you--you only need to take care of yourself and you see the rest of the world only through your books and your writing and your job and you know absolutely nothing about what it means to be a mother, to be a family. You can just play with people and then leave when you decide you don't like them anymore, you don't want to see them anymore.

I cannot believe you just said that.

Every word of what I said was true.

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11:29 am - SWELL: Anna [intro]
Many years ago, Anna Tyler, then called Anna Thomas, was a student at the University of California at San Diego. She was an undergraduate, majoring in Biochemistry.

She was, like most college students, young enough to get into all sorts of trouble and old enough to know better. In a fashion typical for those her age, she was intelligent and idealistic, not naïve, but not yet familiar with the ways of the real world.

Anna’s parents, Kate and Samuel Thomas, were gently supportive of her, in the way that modestly affluent parents often are. They didn’t pressure her down with their own dashed hopes and failed aspirations; nor did they require her to achieve some certain high standard of success that they had reached themselves and wished to impose on their children as well. Mr and Mrs Thomas were a good sort, as far as parents went, although Anna didn’t fully appreciate this until later.

When Anna was twenty-one years old, in her last year of college, she dated a young man named Harry Byrd. Perhaps “dated” wasn’t quite the word to describe it, though; their relationship was more like what a high-schooler would have called “going out”—that is, they referred to each other as girlfriend and boyfriend and smiled when they saw each other in passing, but didn’t do much else. Anna was genuinely fond of Harry Byrd, and ostensibly he of her


Three weeks later, Anna found out she was pregnant. She cried for a long time, face down on her bed, tears soaking into the soft linen of the pillowcase. She then wrote a letter to her parents, because she couldn’t bear to call them, couldn’t bear to hear whatever it was they might say in reply.

She found in the pocket of her jeans the ripped half-sheet of paper where she and Clarence Tyler had exchanged phone numbers. When they had, she hadn’t intended to ever actually call him, and she doubted that he would try to contact her again either, but now Anna was grateful, glad that they had thought of such a token nicety, even if neither of them had meant anything by it. She called him. Later, she would reflect on the fact that she had been too scared to talk to her parents and hear their voices, but she had had almost no reservations about calling this almost-complete stranger, to tell him she was going to have his child.
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August 17th, 2005

03:36 pm - Put Yourself Into Your Characters [exercise]
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For you to be able to use the events from your own life effectively in fiction, you must, then, do the following things:

1. Search out those events in your life that have meaning to you;

2. Honestly explore how each of those events affected you;

3. Disguise the events and your reactions to them while still maintaining their essential, emotional truth;

4. And give these altered events to your characters, both good and bad, as part of their personal histories.

And a final, essential point. If this isn’t hard for you to do, you aren’t digging deep enough. The things that matter are never easy. Including the things that matter in your fiction, though, will help you get sales, reach your readers, and write something that isn’t just the next Paper Hero Goes on A Quest doorstop novel. Say goodbye to Evil Villains, Oppressed Virginal Heroines, Naïve-But-Stalwart Heroes, and Smart-Ass Sidekicks forever. Because once you put yourself into your characters, they become Deeper People. They become real.

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August 11th, 2005

05:48 pm - MOUTH: Olivia [scraps]
Olivia's name reminds me of that character from The Sound of Music, the pretty, sophisticated baroness, Baroness Schraeder. I can't remember her first name, though I'm sure she had one.


I like Olivia. It's humiliating, admitting to myself that I don't hate this woman who's younger, prettier, and more successful than me. I'm disgusted by my utter lack of backbone. The woman sitting across from me at my own kitchen table has had an adulterous affair with my husband, and I can't muster the slightest bit of rancour. We're not friends, by any means, but still, it's unsettling and embarrassing.

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05:04 pm - MOUTH: Dora meets Sam [present]
Sam is a good-looking kid, I admit to myself. He has dark hair that falls into his face and pale skin and eyes. He's tall, but not very. I can see why a girl would find him attractive without needing to stretch my imagination much. It takes a little more effort to see why Julian would find him attractive, but when I see them together, chatting quietly and holding hands, some part of me both admires and envies them. Julian's wearing that look on his face again, the look of shining adoration he used to have whenever his father came home from work bearing gifts. Now, Bernard rarely comes home from work, and Julian is always sullen. I haven't seen him this happy in a long time, smiling and joyful, and suddenly I feel bitter because I realise that this must be the Julian that Sam sees all the time. I hate that an outsider, a boy, can so easily inspire [happiness] in my son when I, his mother, have been trying and failing for [years]. Even more, I hate myself for begrudging my son [t]his happiness. I try to hate Sam, too, but it's hard; every time I try I feel like I'm kicking a puppy. Sam is intelligent, witty, and sensible; when I think about it, he reminds me a lot of Olivia. Which may or may not be a good thing.

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01:28 pm - MOUTH: Dora introduces herself, meets Olivia [present]
There are some people in life who were probably [never] destined [never] to be happy. Perhaps it seems rather [fatalistic] to think that way—I suppose it is. But sometimes I can't help but wonder, when I see everyone around me smiling and successful, just what it is that I'm missing.

[Now] The pragmatic answer is obvious, but unhelpful. I'm missing a husband; it's three in the A.M., and Bernard is Out—"Out" meaning with an attractive, sociable woman, younger than me, of course. Part of me thinks I should mind more than I do. I have so many friends who have gotten divorces—their freedom, they call it, [now they get] to shop for boyfriends instead of groceries. But the idea of broaching that subject in my household terrifies me; it's like the feeling of almost dropping a crystal wineglass and catching it on your fingertips right before it nearly shatters. The separation is inevitable, I suppose. But I could never leave the children.

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Meanwhile, I’m desperately racking my mind for something, anything to say. I feel incredibly foolish, sitting across from this woman who is not my friend, who knows I came here because I wanted to see her. It’s incredibly ridiculous, then, that I have nothing of purpose to say. I think, guiltily, of James, who is no doubt waiting for Bernard or me to come home so he can get some sleep. But I can’t leave—I can’t drag my body off this plastic bench and out the door with a cheery “Was nice seeing you bye now!” For one thing, I haven’t paid for my coffee, but the point is, I can’t bear the thought of being alone right now. The part of me that is a wife, a mother—the part of me that is Mrs Bernard Bishop—is resigned to this exhaustive loneliness, this bone-aching minimal satisfaction. But the other part of me, the part that me that is a woman, that is human, that is both weak and strong, vulnerable and resilient—the part of me that is just Dora—desperately wants more, wants to have a life that is real and fulfilling, wants to look into someone else’s eyes and say something that is honest and heartfelt and meaningful.

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