Imitation of Lorrie Moore


 This week's imitation is a little tricky, because, to imitate this story, we're going to have to write in second person--YOU-- which is not easy to do effectively. I can see you going about this 1 of 2 ways:

Option 1. Pick a paragraph out of a story you've already written. (Preferably your workshop story, but whatever works.) Now convert that story into second person, present point of view. Lorrie Moore uses the title "How To Be The Other Woman" as a kind of springboard, and gets us right into second person as if the narrator is telling the reader what to do. She does this for a paragraph, and then shifts us into a scene. She is still using the word "you" but the reader can, at this point, come to see the character that the you represents.

Her style is easy to imitate here, too. She constantly peppers us with very close, vivid details, and uses repetition at key point to elevate the musicality of the language, like how she ends a section with: "It is like having a book out from the library. It is like constantly having a book out from the library." There is also a lot of dialogue throughout. So much of what we get about her lover comes to us through how he speaks to Charlene.

You probably won't end up converting your entire story into second person, but it's good to try this with at least a paragraph or two to see and start to understand how this point of view works--how it changes the distance (second person is presumably INSIDE the reader's view, as close as it gets) and the energy of the piece.

Option 2. Work from scratch. You can write a direct imitation, which is also a fun exercise. Start with making the title work for you. HOW TO ____________ (something that has even a small bit of potential for conflict). Come up with 3 ideas.


How To Make A Mom Friend

How To Be A Gamer Girl

How To Break Up With Your High School Boyfriend

Write an opening line that is a direction. For Lorrie Moore, it was, "Meet in expensive beige raincoats, on a pea-soupy night." Then move on to setting the scene as Moore does: "Like a detective movie. First, stand in front of Florsheim's Fifty-Seventh Street window, press your face close to the glass, watch the fake velvet Hummers inside revolving around the wings tips; some white shoes, like your father wears, are propped up with garlands on a small mound of chemical snow. All the stores have closed. You can see your breath on the glass. Draw a peace sign. You are waiting for the bus."


Show up at his after-school job at Subway. Like the supportive girlfriend. First, order a sandwich, keep your eyes fixed above him, read the descriptions of all the various sandwiches; there's a new one, an oven roasted barbecue chicken, that you haven't tried before. The chicken resembles rubber. You order it anyway. You can see your reflection in the glass in front of the counter. Fix your bangs. Tell him you need to talk.

Then write a paragraph in which you continue the scene with more action. 

Lorrie Moore: He emerges from nowhere, looks like Robert Culp, the fog rolling, then parting, then sort of closing up again behind him. He asks you for a light and you jump a bit, startled, but you give him your "Lucky's Lounge--Where Leisure Is A Suit" matches. He has a nice chuckle, nice fingernails. He lights the cigarette, cupping his hands around the end, and drags deeply, like a starving man. He smiles as he exhales, returns you the matches, looks at your face, says: "Thanks."

Imitate this. Write a sentence that is an action, then pay attention to some of the surroundings. Give the other character an action that interacts with the main character, and the main character's reaction. Write a sentence that begins with: "He/she/they has/have a (adjective) trait, (the same adjective) another trait. Give the other character a longer, more drawn out action that's spread over 2-3 sentences. Then a one-word line of dialogue. 


  1. You meet every Wednesday; you've had worse coworkers. He smells like pine, and the dirt on his fingernails rains down on the vanilla folder he hands over. Ginger fingers meet callous hands. His eyes are pristine: muted in color and stubbornly gazing. He would walk into the back and your feet remain planted at the desk that you choose not to move from but wish to leap out of. Every week you reciprocate his "This week's observations." with a nod and he remains none the wiser.

    An hour before you pull a piece of honey flavored hard candy and a sharpie. The purse is filled with necessary clutter; it takes a minute to sift through but an hour to sort. There was never a need for button clamps or bi-folding velcro; it rummages all the same. Shrubbery ears and a fat face and a flat snout complete a minimalist bear. You leave your seat and bound toward the bin called "outgoing gear" and leave it with clear visibility. He never reacts, but you yearn for the day that you get to witnessing it.


  2. Taylor Rico-Pekerol

    Wearing a baby blue silk dress, you sit at the dinner rehearsal next to your mother at the table for immediate family. You're at the Italian restaurant, Asiago’s—which always smells like too much oregano and not enough tomato—on the corner across from the laundromat. Surprisingly, it is packed in the downtown area with people window shopping and trying to get reservations at the next best restaurant in town after Asiago’s. Everything is too much. People smiling, talking loudly, your mother nudging you every time the best man walked by. It is all too much. You stand up telling your mother you need some fresh air and walk outside. You look around searching, but couldn't find what you're looking for.

    Although it wasn’t particularly cold out, you wrap your black coat around you and your silk baby blue dress and step off the curb. You walk across the street to the laundromat. It is horribly bright in comparison to the dimly lit street. Through the window, you can see an old woman sitting working on a crossword and waiting for her clothes. The hands clasping the crossword are calloused and dry as though she has been doing laundry by hand instead of at the laundromat. You push the door open to walk inside and the bell jingles to announce your arrival while the sound of rumbling clothes and forgotten pocket change made their rounds and invites you in.

    The woman glances up and smiles at you with genuine eye crinkles that you compare to any grandma saying, “Oh dear, poor thing what happened to you.” You look away quickly, worried that the hollowness inside you is seeping out from within and everyone can see it too. A television in the corner plays the local news and the broadcast shows the most recent shooting that happened on Jefferson street. Another one. Another shooting part of thousands in our God-forsaken country. Work hard, play the game right and you could still lose it all, either lose it in your head or lose your life, whichever way you look at it. You turn to watch the clothes in the dryer as they completed circle after circle, the same pattern that never changed.

  3. You stop and take a deep breath, checking on your clothes again. You take a lot of care picking out your outfit that morning. You replace your usual overalls with a simple cotton dress for fear that it would make you look too boyish. You want to make a good impression so carefully brush and style your hair and put on some of your mother’s lip gloss despite the fact that your lips now felt sticky and uncomfortable, causing you to lick and smack them.
    You know where to find her mother’s makeup because once you watched her get ready for her usual evening excursions doing who knows what. You prefer not to think about it. In the drawer you find pink, purple, and blue powders and vibrant lipsticks. You have never worn makeup because your dad didn’t allow you to. He always said it would cause you to end up like your mother. “You’re already enough of a freak,” he always said. So decide to not try too much or you will end up looking like a clown. Instead, you pick a subtle pink lip gloss that comes out of a tube.


  4. Lorrie Moore Imitation

    How to be a back seat driver
    How to be a college student
    How to ask a person out.

    Enter the car on the passenger side. Being careful to move the heap of receipts from the chair onto the dashboard, so your hands don’t have to make multiple trips. Sitting down on the fabric seats the car smells musty, and the seatbelt will take one or two tries to get into place. Once you’re in they’ll come into the driver side and turn the key. They start to back out and you check the blind spot on your side, just in case they miss something. Last time you didn’t check the passenger side bumper got a dent from a lamp post.
    They put the car into drive and the two of you leave. They start checking over their shoulder, and starts to shift lanes.
    “You’re turn signal.” You say to remind them.
    With a quick motion and a sigh they turn it on and complete the maneuver. It didn’t really matter since you know there is no other cars on the road. But you don’t want them building up a habit of not doing so.
    Up ahead the light is a stale green. You hold your breath in anticipation. The light switches to yellow and they aren’t slowing down. You raise your hand to the handle and feel your muscles tense. Your foot firmly pressed into the imaginary breaks on the passenger side. As you pass under the light you see the yellow turn to a red and think back to your Driver’s Ed class where the teacher said, “If I’m the one testing you and the light turns red as you pass under it I’ll fail you.”
    You let out a sigh of relief. There was no accident and it’s not a Driver’s Ed class. We’re just going to the store.

  5. There is a bowl of fruit outside your bedroom door. The chipped ceramic scrapes against your thumb as you bring it up for a closer look. The chunks of apple are large and unwieldy, more wedges than slices. Your daughter must have cut them while you were in your room. The knife’s handle must have slid around in her palms, slick with juice. It’s a wonder that the knife didn’t slip—that she didn’t cut herself.
    Maybe it’s time to teach Hannah how to use a paring knife.
    You bite into the apple. It’s gone soft.
    You suppose that’s better than letting the fruit rot.
    Hannah’s room is down the hall. When you open the door, you find her hunched on her bed, facing the window. Her blinds are shut, but the light from the setting sun filters through the thin fabric, casting diffused auras of shadows onto the wall.
    Her third grade teacher had told you that Hannah was an advanced reader at your conference the day before.
    Hannah is a pleasure to have in class, she told you. She just wished she could get the girl to speak.
    You flick on the lights.
    Hannah turns around, squinting at the sudden increase in light. It strikes you—not for the first time—how tired she looks. The lights only serve to highlight those ever present shadows under her eyes.

  6. How To Be Someone With ADHD In A Normal World.
    Go take your medicine that you have no idea what it actually does. Like an ABC family sitcom, your house is just as standard as anybody's with plain, white dry wall and two bathrooms upstairs with only one that you actually use. Enter your semi clean bathroom and strain your eyes from the bright white lightbulbs that are a pain at this time of day but are fine at every other time. Grab the big, solid orange cup that you have been keeping next to your sink for God knows how long and fill it up with just enough water to take your drug and clench that little morning thirst that you have. After this, go downstairs for some breakfast where you see your mother up bright and early as well. She wears that kind of ugly sleep dress that you don't fully understand but have grown used to seeing her in it that you don't question it anymore. She tells you she is going to cook some eggs and bacon for herself and asks if you want any. You politely decline her offer and grab the Cheerios that you know aren't that tasty but are way healthier for you and grab one of the blue bowls in the cupboard above the dishwasher. Your mother lets out a loud yawn and says ok clearly a little disappointed about not getting to cook for her son but clearly understands his choice.

  7. You stand up while masking your frustration with a false show of nonchalance. Even though you are just a soldier, you have never been treated with the same respect as the others who are full-blooded Sicillian. You wear your insecurities like you wear your black trenchcoat. They blend in and make you unseen--except to those who know how to look. Your father had married a white and all-american woman and although you look no different from the others, you feel the whiteness recoiling in you like a sickness with no cure. Your mother had been the perfect mafia wife, until she wasn’t. She was a shy, quiet woman who had married your father young. Not much older than you are. She was an old-fashioned and loyal woman who had steadfastly stood by your father. Until she didn’t. You think she probably loved you, but this life wasn’t for anyone. When the boss’s ear was tickled with doubt from your uncle, he had eliminated any chance of leaking information from one who would perhaps try to leave. You never found out the details. You never asked.
    “Aye,” You push your luck. “Don’t wait up, this might take a while--I’ll be back at the house later,” You say to them. The men all share an amused glance as you slink through the double doors into the pizza kitchen with the two ladies. Through the brick, flames, sauce, steam, and flying dough disks, you weave through the chefs busy at work to arrive at the staircase at the far end of the kitchen. You pay no attention to them as you take them up to the top floor. This routine had become, well, routine. Lead the ladies, show them their living quarters, debrief them on their job expectations and processes, pay division, and all the extra information. Even though they hardly understood Italian or English. They never forced anyone, every lady had come here of their own accord. However, they learned that once you were in, you were in for life. Just like you had learned. You were in this for life and no amount of pain, blood, smoke, bullets, suffering, or broken ego would make you want to even try to leave it.

    - Elizabeth S.

  8. The first step is probably the most important: you have to, at some point, be alive. Hopefully it was a good one, because the next step is a bit trickier, which is you have to somehow find a way to stop being alive. Next you wake up in your bedroom with the giant bay windows and think you have been given a second chance. You go on believing this until you try to open your refrigerator and your hand passes right through the stainless steel handle. Unavoidably, an existential crisis is going to happen, you have to just hunker down and wait for it to pass. You spend an uncountable amount of years standing at the big windows, waving at anyone who passes. You eventually get over the alarm of them running away every, single time. You get lonely.

    A van pulls up in front of the house, and a man starts carrying boxes into your home until they are stacked up so high and convoluted that even Theseus can’t find his way around this beige maze. Just as he starts taking tubes of rolled up underwear out of one of the boxes, he glances at a mirror hanging from the closet door and promptly smashes his fingers in the drawer, and you slowly, so as not to exacerbate the situation, phase through the closet door. He has a rough voice, rough vocabulary. He dashes to the closet and giggles the handle, but his hands are shaking too much to turn it. He draws a few deep breaths, slowly turns the handle and opens the door. Looking at, or more accurately, through you, his face turns whiter than any of his underwear is ever going to be again, and says: “Boo.”

    -Logan O.

    1. I forgot to write the title: How to be a Ghost.


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