Blog Post by Brenda Webster - Jul.23.2008 - 10:17 am
I kept tapes of my process when I was re-writing my first novel with the help of a very gifted younger novelist, Sarah. The first thing she told me was to cut my novel by half (It was 600 pages of mostly monologues). After I did that she started questioning my character's weakness. "What's the matter with this woman, she'd ask, "her husband reads her diary and she doesn't get mad, instead she apologizes to him for thinking about another man." That was the first time I had thought there was anything odd about it. Next she took on the overpowering mother in the story. She set a timer and told me to choose if I wanted to be mother or daughter. I took daughter and she proceeded to provoke me, telling me she coulldn't come out to California because her cat was sick and anyway I didn't keep the house up etc. until I finally cried out.."Oh, damn you I don't care if you never come to visit. I hate you." "That," said Sarah" is what is missing in your novel." We went on this way for over a year. I've written a story about it ("Learning to Write Leah's Way" for Women's Studies..don't know if they have an archive.) It was a particularly haunting experience because after building up my character giving her a job and new confidence and finally reaching the last chapterwhere she stands up to her mother...Sarah, my guide committed suicide. Literally drank herself to death.
Brenda Webster was born in New York City, educated at Swarthmore College, Columbia University, and University of California, Berkeley, where she earned her Ph.D. She is a freelance writer, critic, and translater who splits her time between Berkeley and Rome,...
Causes Brenda Webster Supports
Doctors Without Borders
The Nature Conservancy
Women Support Women