Thursday, July 06, 2006
The Day I Became Mortal
Some of our most profound stories are short, and they beg to be rendered graphically, as this one does.
This story is pared down to its essence. Further detail would distract from the knowingness of it. My memory is much richer:
I remember the sleeveless mini-dress I wore – a yellow coarse-weave fabric with a paisley pattern of pale golds and oranges, a wide collar and buttons down the front. I loved that dress, and wore it with my hippy sandals. I felt so cool in my hip short hairdo with the curls on top and sleek, smooth hair on the bottom. My sunglasses were huge.
I remember the smell of heat waves rising from asphalt and the fly buzzing lazily in the air. My bag of groceries weighed heavy and cold in my left arm and my tiny son’s little hand, as plump as his pudgy cheeks, warmed my other. He stood smiling in his navy chino boxer shorts, the madras plaid shirt matching the one I made his daddy, and his red Keds. The black vinyl top on our red Corvair Corsa convertible radiated heat like an oven.
I remember how intensely blue the sky was, how bright and hot the sun. Before then, summer seemed to go on forever, without any hint it would end. This day, as I looked at the sky, everything looked the same, and nothing was the same. Something fundamental had shifted. The balance had turned, in the season and in my soul. This moment was a milestone in my life, when I first truly knew that life is temporary.
How much does the story gain for you as a naïve reader with the addition of the extra memory? Some will like it better, some will prefer the spare version. Some will appreciate the artistic enhancement more than others.
This is a good time to reflect back to the concept of purpose. If my purpose is to portray the intensity of the moment and my insight, I'll go with the spare version. If my purpose is to portray a sense of the time, of life that summer, details matter.
Compare these two versions and consider how you might adapt your own stories. Obviously you won’t experiment with everything you write, but perhaps you have a milestone story of your own, a key insight moment, that you’d like to play with. Pare it down, dress it up. Different strokes for different folks, and different purposes.
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal