Mah Jongg has nothing to do with writing, unless one writes a story about the game. It’s a lot of fun to play. Writing can be fun too, but I’ll get to why sometimes it isn’t in just a minute.

On Saturday I finished the fourth of four Mah Jongg classes at the Haverhill Library, the same library where that illustrious group, the Thursday Night Writes, meets each week to critique the heck out of one another. Criticism can be fun when you are on the dishing out end, but this past Thursday I was on the receiving end. It wasn’t too, too bad. If you can keep an open and disengaged mind the bad stuff can just float over your head while you write down the criticisms. It seems the major problem in my current story is getting the hang of time travel.

In the film Back to the Future, and in one of the Harry Potter stories, why can one person appear in a time and place both as the present existence of himself and as a future or past existence, yet I’m not allowed do it in my story? Is it such a big deal to stretch and break the bonds of believability? This is why writing sometimes is not fun, when one just can not grasp why one’s critique group cannot grasp the concept!

But, back to Mah Jongg. This was the first time I’ve taught the game to a group. And to a large group of ten, only one of whom had actually  touched a Mah Jongg tile before, and yet no one threw anything at me. That, in itself, was both rewarding, and remarkable. It can be frustrating when you don’t know the game. Even when you do know the game. When you are just learning the rules sometimes you just can not grasp the concept of why the game is played that way. Grasping new concepts, slippery concepts like time travel and Mah Jongg, make your head hurt. Several times during the class on Saturday I heard someone say they had a headache.

Figuring out my time travel issue will probably give me a headache at some point this week. If anyone can give me a definitive explanation of time travel, in simple terms that a lay person can understand, I’d be most thankful.

About Eleanor Ingbretson

Native New Yorker. Transplanted to New Hampshire years ago, but still considered a flatlander by the neighbors. Writer of fantasy and mystery and whatever else takes my fancy.

Posted on February 28, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I so wish I could have attended the Mah Jongg classes. I have been able to participate in the time travel critiques via time travel–er, FaceTime. I’m sorry I am no help on time travel, it’s all I can do to follow what everyone else says!! This uneducated, if slightly confused, time travel person likes your story!!!


  2. Without any knowledge of the story in question, I would say this is a matter of world-building. If there is time travel in the world of your story, then you have every right to make it work in whatever way you want. However, you need to determine exactly how it works, what the limitations and consequences are. (This tends to be most helpful if done ahead of time, but can be applied retroactively.)

    If you establish in your mind the rules for time travel in this story and apply them consistently throughout, readers shouldn’t have difficulty with the concept. I’m guessing that something came across as inconsistent. You may need a little reveal to help the readers understand, as when J.K. Rowling has a character explain that it’s imperative that the past self not see the future self.

    Happy revising!


  3. A perfectly reasonable request, and also a perfectly reasonable critique of our critiques. Here’s my idea: the problem, as I saw it, was that a person was transported into his own past, to a place and time where he had done something differently from the way he was “now” about to do it. I don’t think you actually have to solve the problem. You might get away with merely acknowledging it. How about having Nick looking (the original) Alex just as Mattie and he arrive from the future, only to have him blink out and reappear next to Mattie? “How’d you do that?….” etc.

    Fellow critiquers, play fair! What is your solution to Eleanor’s problem?


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