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 Ernest Hemingway Message Boards : The Writing Room
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hijo
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Posted: 21 September 2005 at 10:47am | IP Logged Quote hijo

In the spirit of Hemingway, the great experimental American writer, here's a novel idea I want to see someone try, and if no one else gets to it I'll likely try it myself eventually:

We don't know the narrator's character. I mean, we don't know what race he or she is, we don't know the gender, we don't know even the sexual orientation.

It's a love story. A falls in love with B. All the troubles and tribulations of same. B dies somehow - either through A's negligence, rejection, lack of concern, or even passionate action.

"It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all."

And in the end, we still don't know: was it a man and a woman, heterosexual or homosexual? White, black, asian, circasion, uzbek, tajik, hispanic, russian, french, algerian, alien?

I think the lack of knowledge should in no way affect the story's outcome. The reader ultimately should be left with the understanding stated in the epigraph, or not.

Takers?

Allbest,
hijo
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Posted: 22 September 2005 at 3:46pm | IP Logged Quote HemingwayCenter

Sounds pretty experimental to me Hijo!  How can we identify with a character when we know nothing of his background, lifestyle?  And isn't identifying with the character, whether we like him/her/it, or not, what an author's ultimate goal is?

Interesting idea, though I'm not sure if it's do-able.


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hijo
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Posted: 23 September 2005 at 12:06am | IP Logged Quote hijo

Mark: my thought is that readers would put themselves in the character, and it might appeal to a broader spectrum of readers by not being as defined as it normally is - or isn't.

My point, I guess, is readers - myself included - make assumptions about a character from the moment the story opens and the voice or person is introduced. Then more parts of the character are doled out throughout a story - much as when you meet someone you've never seen before, or learn about them from conversation or "chat rooms."

The experiment would be to see if a character could be written, or narrator used, in such a way that the model is human - no longer a particular human, or a particular gender, or of a particular sexual persuasion.

The story, I'm hoping, would be about love as an experience, and death as the loss of a loved one, and the point being the rest is what we, as humans, impose upon ourselves and other characters rather than what may or may not be the case.

If no one takes me up on the challenge, as mentioned I'll probably get to it eventually. It's a story that's been slowly forming in my gray matter for a few years.

But if someone could do it, well, wouldn't that be something? I mean, create two characters - with names like maybe Sam and Billie, write the love story, one dies, the reader cares about and has sympathy for the two of them because of the way it's written...

What should the gender or persuasion or race or whatever matter?

In an odd way, I think that may have been part of the premise of "The Garden of Eden."

Best,
hijo
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george
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Posted: 23 September 2005 at 8:47am | IP Logged Quote george

Sounds like a good idea. 

The way I'd get around it would be to tell two consecutive stories, but let the sex change between each one.

i.e in the first story the narrator is a male and by the second the narrator's become female.  I wouldn't make a big deal of it either, a seemless change.

Yukio Mishima's Sea of Fertility series comes to mind, as does the film Palindromes.  In the first, the series comprises four books, and in each one the narrator is a new character, is reincarnated as a different person each time.  In the second case, the protagonist is played by five different actresses.

You wouldn't become attatched to all of the characters, but you might identify with at least one.

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rob on the job
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Posted: 23 September 2005 at 1:18pm | IP Logged Quote rob on the job

Writing a story like that would be equivalent to the guy who wrote an entire novel without using the letter "e" once.
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tobycole
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Posted: 24 September 2005 at 12:05am | IP Logged Quote tobycole

hijo,

  Alex and Billie (A and B) could be looking backward as spiritual beings beyond their human existence without need for gender and/or racial references.  The story might be carried in verbal exchanges.  Of course, it would be love, love lost, and love re-united, but too late because they are beyond human love, and so are lost to each other again, but they don't  care because they are one with the universe in their post-human spiritual state, and so are actually together but not alone.

 It could be like when you run into somebody from high school after twenty or forty years and the references that were important then are but fuzzy memories now. For example: 

 "Remember the rumble that sent Abbott to ICU for a week" 

"Ya, we actually kicked butt that night.  Who did we fight?" 

 "I don't remember, but it was a blast." 

 "What was it about?"

  "I only remember how scared we were when we knew Abbott was cut so bad, and we had to take him to the hospital." 

 "Cleaning the blood off of Charlie's father's car took half the night."

  Good luck writing your story...ah... the emoticons to the left: you see them too, don't you? 



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hijo
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Posted: 26 September 2005 at 12:28am | IP Logged Quote hijo

Toby: now you're on the right track, I think. Except I'm still not convinced you'd need to "backstory" it with a no-longer human existence...though I admit, I like the idea of looking back from wherever it is that souls or people or spirits or whatever go to realizing ultimately even things like gender don't matter.

Your dialog is bang-on as usual. That's kind of what I've been thinking, is that dialog and description, rather than "he said" or "she said" would boil down to "Alex" or "I" said and "Billie" or "my love/love/wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/whatever" said.

The point - rather than writing a novel missing a frequently used letter, intriguing an idea as that also is (but it sounds more like a parlor trick than what I'm proposing in terms of effort and craft) - would still be that love is love, death is death, and loss is loss.

Maybe, Toby, you should write it? 'Cause you're certainly on the same page as far as dialogue ideas.

Glad, by the way, this suggestion has been moved to the Writing Forum.

Allbest,
hijo
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Posted: 26 September 2005 at 12:31am | IP Logged Quote hijo

Okay. Here's an example:

I first met Billie sitting at my usual stool at the Pinckney Street Hideaway. That someone was sitting in my stool wasn't as unusual as that it was someone I was instantly attracted to...

"Sorry - I usually sit there. See, my name's on the brass plaque."

"I know."

"You know?"

"Yes," Billie said. "I saw your name. I knew you'd show up eventually..."
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Posted: 27 September 2005 at 12:02pm | IP Logged Quote tobycole

hijo,

  I like the starting point because it is like reading the list of flavors at a local home-made ice cream stand: so many choices and so little time.  What happens next? 

    I am guessing your Billie is a woman.  A woman would be allowed to come on to either a man or another  woman in that situation without much risk.  If Billie is a male and comes on to either a woman or another man in that situation, I think there is much more risk.  The point is I am guessing.  Maybe Billie is a  professional gambler and only feels alive when taking big risks.

  "Actually," he said as she inserted a fresh paragraph into what they thought was a finished post,  "role playing is about the role and not the actor currently inhabiting the role. I think focusing on the roles that are being played, as opposed to the actors who are playing them would be the way to overcome the craft challenge of this story."

  It has occurred to me that you could make them actors (aren't we all), or even high energy expressive people. They could swing in and out of roles complete with language and gender changes.  And, rather than have none, they could demonstrate many without revealing any. Of course, it would be confusing and maybe even counter productive and probably a terrible idea. 

"Back space," said the editor in a firm voice that was a full octave lower than normal. 

 "I won't do it," said the overly-caffinated typist, "I like the sound of it, even if it is rubbish."  

 Good luck with your story and thanks for sharing the idea and the invitation.  I could see me trying a short story. I would post it,  but no promises about getting it done.  You know better than I do that your idea can only come from you.  Lord knows,  I am likely to run far afield from where you would go.  I hope you find the time and energy to write it. 

 



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hijo
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Posted: 28 September 2005 at 10:15am | IP Logged Quote hijo

Toby: many thanks for your suggestions. I'm getting the feeling you're right, that I can't really express it in a post and the best thing would be for me to write it and post that if I get around to it.

And also, he said gravely, I probably have to be the one to do it because I think I am getting a pretty narrow focus on what I think should be done and how it should be done.

Anyone approaching any unknown person - either in a "chat room," a bar, on the subway or in life, is taking a risk, I think. And personally, I don't believe either gender or any race or even people playing roles have any corner on the risk-taking market.

Love=risk. That's one of the points of the story, if I ever get it written.

"But I haven't the time," Billie - who at this point could be either or transgender or neither or both - said, taking a sip from the Cosmopolitan that stood long-stemmed and red and open on the oak bar above the brass plaque with my name on it.

"Rubbish," I said. "Everyone has the time. They just need to take it."

"No," Billie said. "No, I don't. I really don't."

The next I saw Billie's name, it was the by-line of a novel about two people meeting, drinking, spending time together, fighting, frolicking, loving, hating, and one of them dying.

Kind of like "The Crying Game," only without a surprise ending. Focusing on love as a bond that transcends all divisions, and death as the inevitable end of every story, meaning loss a part of the experience of life.

Or so the blurb on the back of the dust-cover said.

It reminded me of a Hemingway quote, something to the effect that "no one is as lonely as the one who has lost a spouse they truly loved."

"Sounds like a Toby Cole novel," I said. "Or at least a short story."

Perhaps I'm alone in a skiff surrounded by water, where no one can help me -

But one book at a time, or at least two and the short stories in between, I always say.

Allbest,
hijo

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