A Scene at a Time

We all heard that often the simplest things are the best.

Is it worth it to apply to writing?

Last night, as parents snapped pictures of their daughters and sons, clad in their long or short shimmery dresses, nice suits or tuxedos, ready for Winter Formal, I had the distinct impression to watch a scene from a movie or reading a scene from a book.

The very beginning of a story was unfolding before my eyes.

After the picture, there would be a dinner, after the dinner, a car ride to the dance venue, etc, etc, until eleven o’clock when boys and girls would – hopefully – return home.

Although we live our lives in a linear pattern, following a chronological order, in reality lots of emotions linked to our personal history build a background much more important than the orderly succession of events.

And suddenly there was a click in my mind!

See, I am stuck in the middle of the YA novel I started during NaNoWriMo. I have created likeable characters: a group of boys and girls, seniors in high school. Their ethnic background is as diverse as their personalities. The setting is inspired by my daily surroundings: a city of half million people, an hour away from the wilderness.

The problem: I’m trudging my way through the story.

But as I watched the picture-taken episode last night, I had an idea.

I was the witness of a single scene from the Winter Formal. Unless my son tells me about it, I will probably never know more of the story of the night. But I didn’t really need him to fill me with the details. One scene had triggered my curiosity.

So unlike the path I have followed until now for everything I wrote, I figured that I didn’t need to write in a chronological order. I would eventually need to do it at some point. But for now, I should forget about the neat succession of events in the fictional lives of my fictional characters.

In the same way one scene from the much longer story of the kids going to Winter Formal caught my imagination, I should write the scenes that would, one by one, fill the outline I’ve already mapped.

My assignment for today was to write the short scene where seven-year-old Adele looses her first tooth, in Yosemite, in the middle of the winter, with only her seventeen-year-old brother and his friends for company. She worries because she didn’t bring her pillow when they fled home to escape chaos following a natural disaster. A few lines from the scene:

“How will the Tooth Fairy know about me?” Adele asked. Anxiety filled her voice. “Will she bring me a coin? Mom said she always brings a dollar the first time.”

“A dollar?” Matt exclaimed.

Hugo glared at him and cleared his throat.”Of course,” he said.

Blood pearled on Adele’s lip and Charlotte searched her pocket for a tissue. “Tooth Fairies are smart,” she said, gently blotting the blood.

“I thought there was only one,” Adele said. “Right, Hugo?”

Hugo nodded yes.  Alejandro dug the heel of his boot in the snow. Come on, Alejandro, Hugo thought, tell me you got a buck.

I don’t know yet where the scene of the tooth will exactly fit, but I know I needed it to show how Hugo, Matt, Charlotte and Alejandro would react to the innocence of a much younger child while more important matters worry them.

I don’t know yet either if I will write the whole novel in this fashion, but I’m glad I tried something radically different from what I have ever done so far.

If only there was a Winter Formal every night!

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