A Copywriter’s Blog
“…and then what happened?”

I’ve been kind of stuck the last few weeks. To be honest, I’ve felt really drained since I launched my book a few months ago. It’s been doing well, and I’ve been thrilled. But the fact that I followed through with something has actually put unexpected strain on any new project I try to start. Suddenly I feel like all of them have to be worthy of record-breaking levels of interest. It makes me hyper-critical of everything I try to do, until I wind up discarding ideas before I even try them. As any creative person knows, that’s the best way ever to do absolutely nothing.

But two separate events occurred in the past week that I think have snapped me out of it. Permit me a short aside:


I’m a fan of Neil Gaiman. This is a ridiculous statement of course. It’s very much like saying one is a fan of eating.

There is little distinction in being a fan of one of the greatest living writers- no, storytellers- of our time. I’m by no means his biggest fan. The man is painfully prolific, and most of the time I feel as though I’ve barely read any of his work. Some of you may not know who I’m referring to. Thankfully, it’s very easy to explain Neil Gaiman to people these days. You either say “Sandman” or “Coraline“. (And if that doesn’t work, try “The Graveyard Book” or just send them here)

I bring all this up as a prelude to the following story that Gaiman referenced in the introduction to Stories, his latest work. Someone asked him what quote he would choose for the wall of the children’s section of a library. The following was his response:

I’m not sure I’d put a quote up, if it was me, and I had a library wall to deface. I think I’d just remind people of the power of stories, of why they exist in the first place. I’d put up the four words that anyone telling a story wants to hear. The ones that show that it’s working, and that pages will be turned:

“…and then what happened?”

I will assume those words hit you the same way they did me, and I’ll say no more about them. Event number two:

A few hours after reading that, I met a Former Student for lunch in a pub. We had just received our pints when a woman came in and sat at the bar. She looked to be in her late thirties, with short blond hair. She was dressed modestly in the summer heat, and spoke to the bartender in a voice I couldn’t quite hear, despite the fact she was sitting only a single stool away from me. She seemed tense.

All these details I noticed out the corner of my eye. I saw her raise a glass of red wine to her lips before turning back to Former Student, and only glanced back in time to watch as the woman laid a dollar on the bar and slid off her stool in a single motion. The glass she was leaving behind was completely empty. She left hurriedly and without a backward glance.

“Did you see that?” I exclaimed, “If we weren’t waiting on food I swear I’d run after her just to ask how her day is going. What the hell was that all about? Who has a single glass of red wine and bolts? The foam hasn’t even settled on my beer yet!”

Since it was fresh in my mind, I brought up Neil’s anecdote to Former Student. “That’s why this is bugging me-” I concluded “some woman just knocked back a glass of red wine at 2:30 in the afternoon and ran out of a bar…AND THEN WHAT HAPPENED?”


And that brings us to now. Obviously, I have no idea what happened. I didn’t follow the woman to find out. But I’ve decided to write four separate short fiction scenarios that answer that question. They’ll all be here on the blog. They’ll be as short as I can keep them, and in many cases they’ll probably raise more questions than they answer. But it’ll be creative writing of a sort I feel up to right now. I’m doing them here because I think the mystery is fascinating, and I hope you do as well. Also, airing them publicly forces me to actually do them. And once I’m done, I think I’ll be ready to tackle personal writing projects again. If not the aforementioned short story, then something else.

Ideally, I’d like to do “What Happened Wednesdays” but who knows if they’ll be done in time or not. I suspect I won’t manage one by this Wednesday, because my week is already giving me scary looks. So- if not Wednesday, then by next Monday you’ll read my first stab at what happened then. Each story will start with the same scenario, though they may not be told the same way. And each will provide a possible answer to just why this mystery woman was in that bar, ordered that drink, and left so quickly. I hope you enjoy them.

I’ll still update something funny or angry on Mondays, even it’s just a short paragraph. I realize you guys don’t come here to watch me demonstrate just how poorly I write, so I’ll keep the regularly scheduled posts running as well.

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3 Responses to ““…and then what happened?””

  1.   Jeremy Says:

    Thought I’d up the ante. Just wrote a short piece with that starting premise of red wine lady. I’ll share it with you after you share yours. I kept it real short – less than 350 words, as that’s what I felt the spirit of this was. I’m looking forward to comparing notes.

  2.   Ben Levy Says:

    Well met, sir.

    I’ve just completed my “at least there are words on the page but I wouldn’t dignify it by calling it a first draft” draft. The narrative style I’m using will almost certainly force me past 350 words, but I’ll make the attempt. En Garde!

  3.   BrokenJPG » Blog Archive » What Happened Wednesday- Vol 1 Says:

    [...] 2008  « “…and then what happened?”   What Happened Wednesday- Vol [...]