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.

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Bridget Hoida on: hard beauty

I’ve always had, at best, a tumultuous relationship with Los Angeles. It’s like that with things you love enormously. So when I came across this breathless quote by Michael Ventura, in his essay “Grand Illusion” I knew it was the only place to start my book:

 “The beauty [of Los Angeles] is the beauty of letting things go; letting go of where you came from; letting go of old lessons; letting go of what you want for what you are, or what you are for what you want; letting go of so much—and that is a hard beauty to love.”

So L.A. –dare I suggest like Los Angeles itself– is fraught with beauty and self-loathing. Not only do the palm trees of Sunset clash with the Central Valley combines that supply L.A. readily with the organic soy for her venti lattes, but I’m readily convinced that the tanned and toned flesh of most every Angelino secretly yearns for the soothing balm of an aloe wrap in San Joaquin starlight. When I first moved to L.A. I was told I would have to give up the levees and lakes of the California where I was raised in order to embrace the wave-crashed beaches of the Los Angeles enigma. Twelve years later, I realize that you can let go without relinquishing everything and that beauty, no matter how hard (or hard earned) is always still beautiful.

Magdalena on: naked rush hour bingo

When we first moved to L.A. my favorite thing to say was, That’s so L.A. I used it to describe just about everything from fake boobs to traffic. Then I got implants and started to drive. Drive not to go someplace, but as sport. On the 10 you can pick out the regulars from the tourists. Those who merge left just before the lane ends and then have to merge back right again versus those who know the La Brea shortcut: exit but don’t ever get off. During a crunch you can save five minutes plus if there’s a pile-up. My favorite time to drive is early morning and right before dark. I like the added thrill of the sun in your eyes. It throws mirage into the game and the DJs are at their prime.

Sig alert on the Santa Monica Freeway West, the Shady Lady hums through my speakers. Since nobody’s going anywhere anyhow I’ll take caller number nine for some naked rush hour bingo.

I kid you not. Bingo. Naked. In rush hour.

Shady Lady here. Name, make and license plate, please.

Oh hi-yee! I’m Alyson, with a y, and I’m in a silver 325i on the 10 West, wearing pink and black—

Which, as you may realize, is the physical description of a gazillion people on the 10, but everyone plays along.

Okay listeners we’re on the prowl for a silver Beemer license 1MY325I. If you see her, honk. And Alyson, you know the rules: you lose a piece of clothing for every honk you hear.

As if there isn’t enough honking on the 10. As if taking your clothes off while stuck in traffic weren’t so L.A.

Magdalena on: the courtesy wave

The best part about freeways is the lane change. I like to cross from middle to fast without hitting the reflective bumps that divide the road. It takes a lot of practice, especially at speeds above sixty, but if you tune into the blinker, if you play the clicks of the flashing green light like a metronome, you can usually succeed provided some asshole—the type who refuses the courtesy wave—doesn’t speed up when he sees you attempting the merge. I always give the courtesy wave; it’s like waiting the requisite three seconds before making a left on yellow: survival. If I were a cop, I’d ticket anyone who didn’t wave. It’s inexcusable. Almost as bad as strutting down Rodeo with a Prada knockoff bought from a vendor on Venice Beach or screwing another woman’s husband.

I said almost all right?

Magdalena on: caution tubes & cement dividers

Now I consider breaking things just for conversation. Like the Tank. It’s silver and colossal and has a gazillion cylinders, so I run over things for adventure. It started with those little concrete blocks that separate parking spaces; initially I had to escape an irate gas man, but once I realized I could do it, I started to run things over on a regular basis. My favorites are orange tubes. Not the cones, those get caught in between your tires and can’t clear the muffler so you end up dragging them for a block or two and people look at you funny. But the orange tubes, they’re taller and usually stuck to the asphalt by a black hexagon. They’re also a harder plastic so when you run over them you get a nice click-thump rather than just a chub. The trouble is the tubes are usually located on on-ramps to alert your attention to cement dividers, so it’s quite a trick running over the tubes and still clearing the concrete. A trick I’ll most likely be avoiding today, considering the ’Vette and all. I mean I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the pinnacle of caution, but I’m not exactly malicious either. Although I should add—not many people know this—when you’re in a Polo White ’53 ’Vette with a personalized license plate that reads ARTGRL, you can’t see the front from the back, parking’s a bitch and you can forget cutting anyone off.