Earlier today I mentioned how writing a story is a lot like walking. You just put one small step forward, which inspires the next small step. Repeat until you’re done. Writing is obviously a lot harder than this metaphor, but in some ways it’s exactly that easy. Write a thing, that inspires a new thing, keep going.
I’m going to write the story I used as an example with annotations.
“So I guess that’s it?”
This line appeared in my mind out of nowhere. It reminds me a bit of when my parents told me they were getting divorced. My dad looked at my mom and said “how do I say it?” and she responded “just say it.” And then he told me he wasn’t going to be living at home anymore. So in this story, that line immediately made me think of a woman saying it to a man. Her boyfriend or husband. Or maybe it’s just a first date? Let’s see.
She searched his face for something. Some reaction.
At this point I decided that the couple has been together for a long time. They have a kid. This is a real relationship and she can’t believe it’s just over like this. Oh, maybe it’s at The Cheesecake Factory or something. In Jersey. He didn’t even spring for a night in Manhattan like they used to. Just down the way at The Cheesecake Factory. Personally, I’ve always loved the Cheesecake Factory, but it’s a good restaurant to use when you’re trying to make a statement about how this New Jersey suburban couple found themselves at the end of the line.
She got nothing. Not one of his arch smirks that she hated, or even a wan smile that said “yeah, you got me. We’re through.” Not anger, or sadness. He just stared right through her, like there was something more interesting behind her. Maybe there was.
Weird. He’s just not responding at all? That’s gotta hurt. So what does she do?
“Ok,” she said, standing up suddenly and grabbing her small red purse.
I like that detail. I feel like it alludes to the idea that she was trying to doll herself up for this date. Maybe they were trying to rekindle their relationship. Maybe “small red purse” doesn’t express that clearly enough. I can add something later.
“Can you cover this?” she said, gathering her iPhone and yanking her cardigan from where it hung on the back of her chair. She didn’t wait to respond – he didn’t, at all, something she’d never forgive him for – and instead strode down the bullshit marble floors, past the bullshit nouveau riche glass sculptures, past the comically LA bakery counter featuring huge gaudy cheesecakes, and out into the street.
I’m not loving the quality of my writing here, but I do like the scene. There are a bunch of little details that add flavour. I like imagining what she’s going to do next. I’ve used the guy as a little pawn to tell a story of what you do when you start over. Oh, that reminds me. Here’s what she should do.
Once outside, she pulled up Uber and punched in her favourite Manhattan bar.
There we go. She’s going to look back in order to look forward.
Result not found. Fuck. That was fine. She typed in Times Square. She’d have plenty of time to figure out where she was really going once she got there. Send.
Amit would arrive 7 minutes, the app told her.
And there you go. Go and be free, random lady in a story I just wrote!