I enrolled in a class at the University of North Florida Lifelong Learning Institute (fancy name for classes for the 55 and over crowd), the class I'm taking is "I want to write: Where do I start" ?
We are scheduled for four sessions, every Wednesday of March starting next week, each session is 2 hours. There are 12 people enrolled in the course.
Yesterday the instructor sent a welcome email and our first assignment. She included the working story draft (see below) and asked us to continue the draft with 2 or 3 paragraphs. I was intrigued by this assignment, I've not done something exactly like this before and certainly I was willing to give it a try.
I read the working draft over and over and over getting to know Ben and Doris. I documented the facts, hints and whispers about these two characters, I underlined, circled, made notes in the margins, every time I read the draft again, I learned more about time, place, age, character, possible likes and dislikes, the setting, and motives for behavior, it was like being a detective.
To continue the story I needed to know and imagine as much about these characters as possible. I looked up the Whale Branch River, I enlarged the map rendered by Google search so I could read the names of the roads and highways. I researched places where this couple could visit on their mushroom expedition. I researched the average temperatures for March, April and May in the Whale Branch River area and I read a few articles about wild mushrooms.
This morning after my customary 2nd cup of coffee, I started with my contribution to this draft. The dialogue is what I'm least familiar with, exactly how to continue the back and forth conversation cadence between the characters while advancing the story, adding facts, new information, information that supports prior details of the story, basically how to keep it all going based on what was already provided by the class instructor.
Tomorrow I will work on this again. At some point I will share what I'm going to share with the class next week. Perhaps I will wait until after the class.
What I know for sure is that something is going on between Ben and Doris that will come to light. There is a fracture somewhere in their short 5 years of marriage; they are miles apart in their heads and hearts, while living with inches of each other in the side-by-side cottage. Hmmmmm... Stay tuned.
Death by Mushrooms
“Doris,” Ben called as he walked into the kitchen of their side-by-side cottage. “I thought for our fifth anniversary, we’d go camping. I’ll find a spot were mushrooms grow, get all the equipment organized, plan and cook the meals.”
The seventy-one-year-old woman rested her mug of tea on the small table that sat in front of the window which over-looked the front yard. Her gaze shifted from the view, to the man standing a few feet away. She stared for a moment or two and thought, Is this the time?
He smiled broadly. “Isn’t that a great idea? We haven’t gone anywhere for months. We should be outside enjoying these beautiful spring days before the humidity makes being out impossible.”
“Being a child of the Lowcountry, the moist air never bothers me, nor does the heat.,” she replied, quietly. “Since you came south after you retired ten years ago and, except for a few days once or twice a year, seldom venture anywhere without air-conditioning, your body has never adjusted.”
“Now, Doris. Remember six years ago, when we met, we were on that canoe trip down the Whale Branch River.” He smiled at her.
“I do remember. That was our first and only canoe trip together. Usually, I go with our community to events held outside. You stay home, play pool or lounge about. We seldom do anything as a couple. Even when we go to the club house for dinner, we go with others or pick-up someone while having a drink.”
His smile deepened. “That’s why this trip would be a good fun. We’d be alone, enjoying the out-of-doors, finding mushrooms …”
“You can’t look for them. You’re allergic. Simply touching them would give you hives. Plus, my vision isn’t as good as it was.” She hated admitting this, but her doctor had told her it was only a matter of time before she totally lost her sight.
“I can check with the Department of Natural Resources to find where to go. We’ll stick to sides of the road and not go back into the woods. We could search for them while driving. When we see some, I’ll stop, and you can pick them. If we bring a cooler, they’ll keep until we come home. We’re be together, but each would be doing what they enjoyed and can do. Maybe you can find some chanterelles. I know you love those. They do grow on road banks.”
He looked so pleased with his idea. Maybe they could do this. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll tell him I want a divorce. “When do you want to go?” she asked.