Working the List: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

Yesterday I returned a book to the library that I bought on Amazon a few weeks ago. It was Stephen King’s Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. I returned that book along with another by Sue Monk Kidd about Jesus’ wife called The Book of Longings. That one really was a library book.

Some might make a symptom out of this unintentional return to the library of a book I own. Or owned. Actually, one could make a case that I just gave the book to the library and now it’s theirs. It went from being owned to being a gift. It’s hard to regard that as a bad thing.

No matter. The point of talking about it at all, other than to come clean about this weird mistake and thus, somehow, negate it as a sign of declining capacity, is to say that I used Stephen King’s narrative device in a story I just wrote called “Margaret’s Billy.”

This is my fourth story. My little lane change from nonfiction to fiction has been very slow, like a beginning driver who keeps her turn signal on for ten miles before creeping over into the next lane. I have been stuck on the fourth story for weeks – not having a premise or characters or setting or anything. And then it came to me. Shawshank Redemption. Tell the story like Stephen King tells it in the book – a savvy narrator who sees it all but is fascinated by the main character, watches the main character, and tries to figure out what makes that person tick.

I just finished the story. It ends with a mystery which I like. I don’t like everything to be neat and straightened up at the end of a piece. ‘Left hanging’ is the feeling I’m aiming for in a lot of my writing. Often, it’s because I don’t know myself how something should end up, usually it’s because everything in my life has always been unresolved, pending, or, better said, evolving.

Anyway, I like this story, “Margaret’s Billy,” an awful lot and I have Stephen King to thank for helping me get off the dime.

5 Comments on “Working the List: Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption

  1. Jan, I love this post. Reminds me of a successful author (??) who guested recently on Stephen Colbert’s show. Asked about his writing mode, the author said (paraphrased) — “I start out with a clean idea and then let my characters take over. They lead me to a conclusion that I often don’t see in my original conception”. In other words, writing fiction can be a mysterious, uncertain journey. Just let your characters lead you down that yellow brick road. I hope all’s well, Jan. (I haven’t read “Shawshank” but just saw the film and, yes, I loved it and wondered why I’d avoided it for years.)

    • Hi Jan, so no I really want to read your story! Are you going to post that or we just going to have to drool and be frustrated!

    • I’d never read Shawshank either but then made a crazy resolution to read all of Stephen King which, right away, is ridiculous. Also working on 11/22/63 which might take the rest of my natural life. 🙂

      • Jan, I loved “11/22/63”. Some of his narrative reads like prose. So beautiful. I’m not a die hard King fan but have also enjoyed his memoir about growing up a Red Sox fan and visiting iconic (overused word, yes!) ball parks. Thanks, again, for this post.

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