# of pages written: 1 (don’t judge me)
# of days left to write 1st draft: 123
I’ve been agonizing for days, trying to write a story about a girl who feels awkward at a wedding because she has a prosthetic arm and the DJ is playing the Hokey Pokey.
Well, first I thought she should have a prosthetic arm. Then I decided, no, maybe she’s just enormously fat and her friend has a prosthetic arm. Then I thought, no, maybe she used to be enormously fat but she’s still self-conscious. Finally I decided that she’s really ugly, and her friend, Tippy, has no arms at all. In fact, it’s Tippy’s wedding, and Tippy is dancing the Hokey Pokey even though she has no left arm to put in or out of the circle.
Whew. It was decided.
I gave my main character a name – Lena – and described her and wrote a little bit about her childhood. I decided that she was adopted and was a discipline case in middle school. She had to see a therapist and was labeled EBD (Emotionally/Behaviorally Disturbed). She met Tippy at a summer camp for kids with problems, but she didn’t like her at first because Tippy seemed too content with her situation. I described Tippy and then I wrote a scene to show how she and Lena became friends. Finally, I went back to the wedding. Lena is standing with a glass of champagne, watching Tippy do the Hokey Pokey. OK, I thought. I’ve set it all up. But what happens now?
When I was in elementary school, my friend Sarah and I would sometimes decide to play Barbies. We’d pull all of her Barbie stuff out of the closet and start preparing. First, we picked which Barbies we wanted to be, gave them names, and picked out their outfits. Dressing the Barbies took awhile since our chubby fingers were clumsy with the tiny pieces of clothing, and there were always missing shoes to be hunted for.
Next, we would put together the Barbie dream house, which took even longer. We set the kitchen table with dime-sized plastic plates and placed itsy-bitsy bottles of pink perfume on the bedroom vanity. The set-up process would take a good two hours, and usually just as we were ready to begin playing, it was time for me to go home.
I often seem to have the Barbie phenomenon in my writing. I create a character, name her, dress her,place her in some sort of situation. I build her house and set her table and write about her background. The set-up is great, but often I can’t figure out what actually happens to her and I stop before the story even really gets started. My character is left alone, all dressed up with nowhere to go. In fact, Lena is still standing at that wedding in a purple dress, watching the bubbles burst in her flute of champagne and cursing the DJ for being so insensitive. She might stand there forever.
Sometimes, when we were feeling lazy, Sarah and I decided to forgo the whole Barbie dream-house set-up. We took a couple of our favorite dolls down to the bathroom and filled up the sink with water. Voila – a Barbie swimming pool! We’d take turns making our Barbies dive off the faucet or the soap dish into the sink. We would make up some sort of story about how they were Olympic swimmers or famous movie stars. Sometimes the sink turned into a shark-infested ocean, or a murky lake filled with mermaids.
We didn’t waste time with the set-up. We jumped right in to the story.
The more I think about Lena and Tippy, the more I think that maybe there is a story in the set-up. Here I was thinking the story takes place at the wedding, but maybe the real story is how they got to be friends in the first place. The idea of the no-armed girl doing the Hokey Pokey is clever and all, but the story of two misfits and how they became friends…well, maybe that’s what it’s all about.