On this day in 1866, the Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky met a very important deadline. Based on the terms of his contract with his publisher, Dostoyevsky would either deliver his completed novel on November 1, 1866 or his publisher would be given complete rights to his works, without compensation, for the next nine years. Clearly entering into such a contract was a gamble, but then Dostoyevsky had a reputation as a gambler. After all, the reason he agreed to a contract with such stark terms was because he was desperate for money to pay off his gambling debts.
When Dostoyevsky began work on his novel on October 4, 1866, he had just 26 days to finish. To assist him, he hired a stenographer, a woman named Anna Grigorievna whom he would later marry. They met daily. Dostoyevsky dictated the story to Grigorievna, and on November 1st, two hours before the deadline, the complete manuscript was delivered to the publisher.
The title of Dostoyevsky’s novel is appropriately The Gambler, and its plot revolves around several desperate characters winning and losing at the roulette table. In the novel, art imitates life as the author’s addiction to roulette is the focus of his novel’s plot.
Today’s Challenge: From Fact to Fiction
What anecdote from your life would be worthy of adapting to fiction? Just as Dostoyevsky used his life experiences, his passions, and his misfortunes for his fiction, the challenge here is to take something from your life and adapt it into a fictional anecdote. Once you have an actual incident, transform it into fiction by creating a character in a specific setting. Decide also on a point of view – 1st person or 3rd person (limited or omniscient). Then, write your anecdote. Base the plot of your anecdote on the facts of your experience, but also use your poetic license as a fiction writer to embellish the facts. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)
1-Nissley, Tom. Reader’s Book of Days. New York: W. W. Norton, 2014: 315.