Bridget Hoida on: The Final (sound)Tracks

Tracks nine, ten & eleven of the So L.A. Soundtrack


Stuck In Lodi” by Creedence Clearwater Revival

So I know I promised a few days ago, when I began this project, that I was going to avoid the “cliché” but when you’re writing a book about a town as small as Lodi and it just so happens that there is also a fairly well known song about that same said town, well, you kind of have to include it. Especially when, near the end of the book Magdalena really does find herself “stuck in Lodi. Again.”

  “Everybody’s Gotta Live” by Arthur Lee

Hearing this song was a turning point for me. And equally important, it was a turning point for the book. I was deep into writing the pages of Magdalena’s depression, writing the worst and most despicable parts about her. When you’re doing dark writing like this it’s hard not to get wrapped up in the anger and the despair. I was struggling to write the scene where Mags comes to a resolution and forgives herself for Junah’s death, but I just couldn’t get the words out. A friend sent me this song and like Arthur Lee says, “Everybody’s gotta live and everybody’s gotta die.” Accepting Junah’s death allows Magdalena to live. She just has to “know the reason why.”


Our Lips Are Sealed” by The Go-Go’s

Return to the Valley of The Go-Go'sThis song is spiritual for me. Especially when paired with the video. There’s something that’s just, well, so L.A. about it. Convertibles with their tops down, girls who are insanely beautiful, but not in a manufactured way (e.g. L.A. in the early 80’s and not 2012) and dancing, fully clothed, in a public fountain in Beverly Hills. For me, this is Magdalena before Junah died: self-confident and joyful, and it is Magdalena in Take Six, which is not in the printed version of the book.  Splashing in a public fountain while singing with a “hell-if-I-care-who-sees-me” attitude is where I hope Magdalena’s headed, off the page, after the book ends.


Bridget Hoida on: Writing in Bathtubs

I was asked, today, by a fabulous reporter, what my writing method is.  “Longhand, computer, cocktail napkins?” he inquired, which caused me to pause, (deep breath) because I sincerely wish I was still as sexy as the drunken scrawl of a cocktail napkin. But writing. With kids. Is something else entirely.

When I was young(er), (read: childless & broke) I lived in a fabulous one bedroom on Dohney, just off the Sunset Strip. I was shacked up with my then boyfriend (now husband) and we believed that because we lived next-door to the couple that appeared on that reality show, Temptation Island, (hosted by Marky Mark, minus the “Funky Bunch“) that we were happening. I won’t mention that only one burner worked on that thing we called a stove, because for the most part we ordered out. But I will mention that then, writing was a process. We were broke (did I mention that?) and my “desk” of choice was the defunct bathtub in our carpeted bathroom. Yeah, the bathroom had carpet. I’ll spare you the details but to say, it had a shower (on the left side) and a claw foot tub on the right. Because we had a bed, that gawd-awful stove, an olive-green refrigerator, and a view (did I mention the view?) there wasn’t much room to eat, or write, in our 550 square feet, so I holed up in the only available space: the broken bathtub. Outfitted with over-sized pillows and a cookie sheet writing desk, it was almost fashionable. When I wrote then, I had the luxury of habit. Of method.

Before kids I could make organic, free-trade lattes. Light a candle. Call a few friends long-distance. Do lunch. Take a walk on the beach. Take a nap. Light another candle, (bougainvillea this time because peony is so passe). Burn a new CD. And then write.

When you’re paying someone, hourly, to watch your kids you have no time for atmosphere or ambiance.

You sit down in a chair –with a cold cup of coffee, if you’re lucky—and you write until the babysitter reminds you she needs to go home, NOW. And even then, you try to squeak out a few more words, another page, before the kids start asking for blueberries and their ninja costumes.

Today, my habit is the back of a Target receipt in the queue of a carpool line. My method? Stolen moments.

Bridget Hoida on: Quotation Mark Murder

In So L.A. I was looking for a way to tell not what really happened, but what could possibly happen. The novel opens with Magdalena falling off a boat and then moves both forward and backward in time.

This is how most people tell stories. They begin in the middle and then jump around, forgetting, amending, and calling attention to the most important parts, while the listener rarely ever exclusively listens but instead interjects and provides his or her own connections, observations and experiences. Eliminating quotations allowed me to access some of this interplay. This is important both for me as a writer, and for Magdalena’s character development. Although Magdalena may appear to be whining about the lack of parking on Robertson, what she’s really bemoaning is a deeper, more personal, unspeakable grief. In my mind, having your brother (or anyone you love deeply), fall to his death off a granite rock is devastating. Although Magdalena is awake for most of the novel, she is walking through (and waking in) the intense fog of grief and her motivations, as well as the plot, are submerged—that is they happen off the page.

For her nothing adds up and so she seeks to make trouble where there is none –Ricky’s imaginary affair; Puck’s unintentional betrayal.

Because the plot of So L.A. is elliptical (and dependent upon the unreliable narration of Magdalena), and, as has been noted, void of conventional quotation marks, I needed a structure of some sort to hold the narrative together. Robert McKee’s STORY! gave me just that. A primer for how to write a winning screenplay, McKee offers priceless nuggets of advice, like “The Problem of Surprise” or “Characters Are Not People” which not only became the headings of some of my sections, but also function to bind the narrative together and instruct the reader (albeit satirically), how to approach the accompanying text.

This week I’ll post on the Three Levels of Conflict: Imagination, Memory, and Fact from Magdalena’s grief-addled perspective.