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Circle Of Life

I hold onto my experiences, mentally filing them away. And when I write about a character in the same situation, I pull them out of my heart and mind, and live them all over again: osmosis from reality into fiction and then to the soul of a reader, the grand circle of literary life.
| Sep 14, 2012 | No comments |

It’s been said that the most compelling element of fiction is its ability to evoke strong emotion. But how do we do that?  How do we infuse our writing with enough believable story to wrangle that response from readers? I’m personally learning one particular aspect of this right now, and it cuts me to the heart, but it also enriches me.

I’m currently in America, visiting dozens of people, and the lessons have been endless. Let’s start with a simple yet profound one that I’ve not enjoyed in the least: leaving friend after friend after friend. It’s a thing that wrenches my insides with unshed tears that may come out later on paper, if I’m lucky. Imagine for a moment you’re me; this is how you would experience it.

You spend years working together online, chatting regularly, sometimes video chatting. Minds meld in an inexplicable way, even across the distance. You plan a journey to meet. You sweat and toil to make it happen, and you wait longer than you thought you ever could. Then you are there, but oh, the time is so short. For a while you float along in your bliss, then you realise your sojourn is half over. In the remaining days and hours before the parting, you drink in their face with your eyes, memorising every line and expression. You want to be able to call up their image on your inner screen at will, almost as if they were there, but aren’t.

When the moment finally arrives, you do the unthinkable and just turn away—less painful that way. No clinging, no extra hug, just do it and get out of there. And then it’s over. You’re away and they’re gone and there’s nothing else to be done about it. You cry inside and maybe out, and things return to a semblance of normalcy, if there is such a thing.

Further, in all of this rumbles the hassle of travel, of getting away by whatever means you have chosen. You fly and are afraid. Or even with ground transport you are afraid you might miss a connection and all the repercussions that go along with that. All this fear mushrooms up to the extent that you are no longer sure how much of your bellyaching is from that and how much from having to leave. And you think you would rather be sentimental than a scaredy-cat, even as the miles stretch out between you to impossible distances where you once again hang by the fragile thread of technology to keep you connected.

Then you wonder if maybe you’re overdoing it. If everyone else is much more matter-of fact about these things than you are and you embarrass them by, well, being more intense than is necessary. But no, there was that connection before, though via the safety and silence of the anonymising Internet.

Parting is such a strange thing, this instantaneous transition between there and not-there, with you and not with you. We’ll meet again someday, but we can’t know how or when or where. In view of that hope I can live through these sorrows.

For after the leaving comes an arriving; after the lonely travel comes a meeting, a sighting of faces seen many times before: photos differ from their live subjects in subtle ways. Now, at last, I know what you really look like. There is a jaunt through local haunts, finally pulling into a driveway of a place I’ve known from many angles except this one with my feet on its ground. It is a most peculiar—and spectacular—sensation.

This is my life, so it seems, to look my friends but rarely in the eye. However, I do get to look them in the soul very often, and for that I shall be glad, and travel on—other friends await, and I will yearn also in good time for home, so as to welcome kindred spirits there.

I hold onto these experiences, mentally filing them away.  And when I write about a character in the same situation, I pull them out of my heart and mind, and live them all over again: osmosis from reality into fiction and then to the soul of a reader, the grand circle of literary life.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience when reading a book you didn’t want to end. I know it’s happened to me. So by writing these moments of life with friends into my stories, I make them last longer in the reliving—and I’m taking a little piece of you home with me, too.

Grace Bridges is a geyser hunter, cat herder, professional editor, translator of German and French, and current president of SpecFic.NZ and GeyserCon.NZ. She has edited and co-edited a number of short story collections including Avenir Eclectia, Aquasynthesis, Aquasynthesis Again, high school student collections Alter Ego and Timegate to Tomorrow, and New Zealand speculative showcase Te Kōrero Ahi Ka: To Speak of the Home Fires Burning. Visit www.gracebridges.kiwi to read Earthcore: Initiation for free, no strings attached.

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This would make an excellent speculative story. 

I never thought about how it must be to meet the people you’ve only met as pen-pals/online friends. The sweet is always tempered with bitter at good byes and not-enough-time.  But Grace, what an opportunity! It is something most of us only dream of doing.

Be safe and have fun! 


I’ve only met one of my online friends in person, and regularly snail-mail the other. I want to met some of them so much.

Jeff Chapman

I suspect your trip will generate memories that you can live on for years and the friendships will be closer for the brief but shared experiences. And I’m so impressed that you continue to work as you travel.

Brenda Ri
Brenda Ri

Grace, you wrote with such tenderness and fullness of heart that it moved me very much. Like all things in life, we move on or they move on.  The fond memories stay forever in our hearts so we learn to enjoy the moment as it unfurls.  As you add these bits and pieces of your friends’ characters into your writings, you immortalize us and bring us a deeper sense of connection with you. 
Bon courage, my friend, and keep up the good work! Happy trials to you!

Teddi Deppner

Beautifully put, Grace! Sharing this with a friend who is planning a traveling adventure… I think it will resonate.

Rebecca Qualls

Being said friend of Teddi’s (see comment above), it indeed resonates. We have sold our home, moved outside the circle of convenient with plans in the near horizon to travel far away. It is a strange dichotomy. I yearn for the adventure and can only imagine what sights and experiences await. But I realize I cannot take those who fill my heart with me. There will be no meeting for hikes or dinner or writer’s meetings. No face to face. And that’s where I find myself living in a polar world. A burning flame of excitement, surrounded with a shroud of sorrow. Thank you, Grace, for sharing your experience. Maybe I’m not as crazy as I feel half the time. 


Grace, very nice piece. Although I have a hard time relating. I am the exact opposite. Exact. I can’t travel. CAN’T travel. I have missed the meeting of many potential friends. The closeness of relatives I may very well never see again. Experiences I will never get to enjoy.

I have a phobia that doesn’t allow me to travel more than one hundred miles away or so. I nearly missed my daughters graduation from college. I’ve always want to see the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, New Orleans during Mardi Gras , see my relatives in Florida, visit Ireland where my ancestors were born. But I can’t do any of those things.

I work 65 miles away from home and have to travel that every day. Some days I feel like I just can’t do it. If it were any farther away than it is I know I couldn’t do it.

It’s a strange phobia, this. But to me it’s debilitating.  Whenever I begin to travel, and I know it is more than a couple hours away, my stomach begins to tighten, my heart races, I break into a cold sweat and, eventually, go in to a full on anxiety attack. I’m like a caged tiger that can’t escape.

My daughter took a trip to Hungary a few years ago for college and when she returned she had a ton of photos she took. We all gathered at her grandparents one evening to watch them as slides. It was a fun evening. Until… When she got to the last photo it was a shot of her looking out the plane window (a classmate took it) with the wing of the aircraft in view with the clouds and ocean just beyond it. 

My stomach tightened, my heart raced, I began to sweat… I vomited. And this was just a PICTURE of flying.

I tell you this story about me so you have a reference point of where you find yourself when you travel. You’re not over reacting, you’re feeling emotional. You hate to leave friends but at least you CAN see them. You are sometimes afraid to travel, but so much that it paralyzes you.

Enjoy your travels. Enjoy your friends. Enjoy the sights and sounds. And when you’re thinking you’re over reacting, or being too emotional, or being too scared. Think of that guy in upstate NY who can barely make it to work in the morning and who will never see any of the excitement and wonder the world has to offer. Or to see friends or family that have moved away.

Good luck and good writing and have fun!