Commentary on “The Bride in the Rowboat”
Dylan Brie Ducey
I wrote an initial nine-page draft of “The Bride in the Rowboat” for a workshop in 2014. Then it sat in a drawer for years. I worked on it off and on in the year before the pandemic, and then in March 2020 I got laid off from my job, and I set up a desk inside a plastic shed in my back yard. The shed has a door, and that’s how I was able to start a second novel. When I needed a break I revised several stories, of which “The Bride in the Rowboat” was one.
The structure of the story has remained the same; I didn’t chop it into pieces and move paragraphs around, as I’ve done, foolishly, with some other stories. In this case I guess I accepted the basic structure and subject of that first draft. It was more a thing of fleshing out the characters of Julia and Richard. Several people in the workshop had said that Richard was a creep, and asked what was wrong with Julia that she would go out with Creepy Richard, and even sleep with him on the first date. Really, what a slut. One reader commented that I’d written before about a female character who dates a man who’s obsessive and stalky, and what was this, some kind of pattern?
It’s true that the stalking situation is one that has cropped up in some of my work. More generally, I tend to write about women and girls as they navigate the perils of being female. Girls and their friends, girls and their mothers, mothers and their daughters, the fraught relationships between sisters, etc. Anyway, I tried to clarify what made Julia tick, while also establishing that Richard was not a creep, but rather, as Julia says, “a black hole of need.” I also ratcheted up Julia’s preoccupation with literature, something she has in common with Tony. This was when the hospital metaphor popped up, to my surprise.
For the ending, I wanted Richard to push Julia too hard. Her character is all about coping, and repressing whatever happened with her ex-boyfriend, and she thinks she can handle Richard, but she finally snaps. Not that she understands herself any better at the end of the story. I don’t think she does, and Richard, of course, is nothing if not persistent.
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Dylan Brie Ducey is the fiction editor at Anti-Heroin Chic. Her work appears in Gargoyle, Superstition Review, Truffle, Five on the Fifth, and other places. She received the Carlisle Family Scholarship to the Community of Writers Workshop (formerly Squaw Valley WW), and her MFA from San Francisco State University. (Photo provided courtesy of the author.)