My earliest writing was a story whose title was “one good turn deserves another.” Incidentally, that was the first thing I typed in Microsoft Word (I used comic sans font, of course!), after learning how to use a computer during the post- JSS 1 long vacation. Quite cheesy story, I know but it was a good start for me.
Since then, I have written published and unpublished stories, articles, and half-done manuscripts, many of which lie fallow in a notebook under my bed (in my parent’s house), or a folder somewhere in my hard-drive, and yes, oscillating within my subconscious. I thought I will be a sole fiction author and was actually working on a fiction title when “Donut” happened (check it out, it’s free!). I’m glad it did. I like to see Donut as a manifesto and harbinger of greater things.
There’s one fiction title I have been working on painfully for years. The theme is solid and I see a potential series springing forth, but the characters, plot, and setting have not quite elicited exhilaration from my editors and beta readers. I’ve tried to edit, rephrase dialogue, restructure scenes, change characters but nothing has worked. And I have learned that, like some buildings, maybe the structure has a faulty bedrock, and if I do not tear down, it will keep falling apart. So I’m REWRITING, and changing the title… and reading story structure books. If my work turns out great, this might be my first fiction title.
Here is today’s first lesson – sometimes, it’s just best to REWRITE. If nothing else works, try rewriting.
And – an excerpt from the old draft. Enjoy and tell me what you think about it. Cheers!
As I walked through the door out of the class, I almost collided into a girl, carrying a large canvas towards the art room.
I remember how we met. It was my second finals at the state fine-art and creativity expo. She took second place after me in the painting contest. When we returned to school the next term, she resumed with us. Her family had relocated to the city and her parents suggested they find a nearby school. Few weeks after she joined the school, at break, she asked me to teach her how to paint with pastels. And from a simple platonic friendship, we started going out. Though she wasn’t nearly twice as brilliant as I was, I couldn’t resist her charm.
I followed her into the art room. There was Uncle Alders in his watercolor stained apron, palette clutched by his thumb and drawing pencil tucked over his ears, dishing out instructions to the 20 or so students. I almost laughed, but for what brought me there.
Lydia sat at my place.
Terrible nausea washed over me as flashes of the accident churned my mind. I thought I was going to throw up so I quickly bent over the wall fastened wash-hand basin. There was Lydia, bent over her easel, painting. My body lay in a coma at General Hospital.
The feeling passed, but the knot in my stomach persisted.
Lydia. I was rising up to leave the room when she raised her head. I slightly flinched, thinking she saw me. She didn’t. No one could.
I’m obviously the last thing on her mind, anyway.
Instead, she scooped some color from the Mon Ami jar, mixed it on her palette and put some tint of pink on her painting. She would have been with me in the car when the accident happened. But two months before, she broke up with me. One day during break, she called me aside in the buttery and told me she had become born-again and felt convinced that the things we were doing together were wrong. She didn’t want to go out with me anymore. It was after a youth weekend camp she attended. She said she decided to “take the higher way.”
I told her she was crazy and told her in two weeks the religious sentiment will pass. I surmised it was no more than an emotional religious encounter like most of the people in my church, who will stand for altar-call today and the next day, are back to the old habits they renounced.
I was wrong. At least, two months now, she hasn’t returned and it’s looking like she’s not going to.
Higher way. Whatever that meant, it seemed to work for her.
She was busy these days. Busy with her painting. Busy with her books. Busy with those student fellowship guys. I must agree she’s changed for the better. She looks happier and the last term, she rose to the third position in class from average.
Here was I, trapped between life and death, not knowing which one I deserve.
Cool for her.
P.S. 1. References to real situations or actual person is entirely coincidental. 2. JSS 1 is the first year of secondary school in Nigeria. 3. I drew that unconscious guy in the image.