I’m working on a story, an assignment for my writing program. I wrote the outline several weeks ago – a tidy beginning, middle, and end – and submitted it with the story’s opening paragraphs to my mentor-teacher, per her instructions.
I’ve always been a diligent student, if we forget the first years of high school when I endeavored to flunk out and escape to London to become a hairdresser. An interesting plan that was succeeding apace, but ultimately foiled by wise and gentle Mr. Compton, my junior year English teacher. He saw through the black-dyed bangs, the Bauhaus tee shirt, and the back row slouch, and convinced me that I really did care; despite my dismal performance in Geometry, P.E. and Speech, I was hungry to learn. Mr. Compton counseled me to persevere through the pointless – e.g., the Geometry slog- to gain the power of choice to pursue my heart’s passion.
My time to complete this assignment is ticking away, so I sat down last week to fill the outline with the story’s content. It was a story that had deep personal meaning when I conceived it in the early spring, but with a looming deadline I simply wanted to plug in the requisite words in a way I knew would please my mentor, even if it wasn’t the story in my heart.
Yet something curious is happening as the story unfolds. A character has appeared whom I hadn’t invited along. She knocked quietly at the door. I was surprised to see her small figure outlined in shadow through the opaque glass of the back door, but my protagonist was not. I’ve just left them sitting on the back porch, silently eating banana bread smeared with peanut butter.
And now, what to do? The story playing itself out is the same in setting and mood as I envisioned initially, but this uninvited guest is taking me in a direction I hadn’t planned. Of course, I have little choice in the matter. Mine is not to question the design, but to color in between the lines with words. It’s okay if I color outside the lines, too.