Every other Friday I volunteer as a Young Author Mentor for 4th and 5th graders who have difficulty with writing. It’s been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in the city, and while they are extremely rowdy -I look forward to seeing them and teaching them the skills of the trade.
Yesterday, we were showing the kids how to create an outline for a story. We read a short story out loud to them and then asked them to identify the different parts of the story: the setting, the conflict, the characters, the theme, etc. Then, of course, they had to write their own outlines so they could put what they just learned in practice.
This particular session, I’m paired with two girls and a boy. The girls are writing their outlines, which happen to be about “not fitting in” or “being part of the popular crowd” or “being pretty”, and the boy is in the process of writing his outline that had something to do with scaring people on Halloween, someone wanting him to stop scaring people, and he wouldn’t, and then something big happened? I’m still not quite sure.
As they are writing and I’m answering their questions, the boy sweetly asked, “Ms. Tigar, where’s your outline?”
I hadn’t been writing anything because I was too preoccupied helping them, so I decided to make something up off the top of my head (that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?). I started scribbling down some story about a guy named Adam and a girl named Lucy and how every Saturday they would go running in Central Park and then get coffee at this cute little corner shop. Then one day, Adam trips and falls and they have to rush him to the emergency room, and in a panic, because Lucy is so upset, she professes her undying love for him.
As I describe this story, all three of them look at me confused, and the rather smarty-pants girl says, “Your story is a love story?” I nodded, and the other girl asked, “But they end up happily ever after, right?” I nodded again, and they both seemed satisfied. The boy in true typical man fashion asked, “Why did you want to write a love story?”
That’s a good question, kid.
Back when I was their age, I probably would have written about not fitting in or not feeling pretty (I really doubt I’d ever write about something scary) -but the first thing that popped into my head was to write a story about two people who have to find their way to each other and then they fall in love and end up in perfect bliss. So realistic, right?
Hmm. Maybe I need to take a writing lesson from the kids I’m teaching, eh?
My current chapter in the story of my life isn’t about romance or intrigue or passion. It’s not even about lust or crushes or incredible sex (although, I wouldn’t complain). This time in my life is more like this:
Conflict: Lindsay has an internal conflict where she hates being single, doesn’t love herself how she should, and has to learn how to be content as an individual before finding Prince Charming.
Plot: Lindsay moves to NYC, finds a job and an apartment, goes on lots of dates, breaks up with her ex-boyfriend in a dramatic series of unfortunate fights, realizes she sincerely has a problem, embarks on the journey of 12-steps to solve her issue…
Theme: No matter where you are, who you’re with, what adversary you’re facing, or what happens in your life -you have to have faith in and love yourself.