Healthy snack

1-ccs resized

John’s arms dangled over the edge of the shopping cart. He dropped the box in.

“What are you doing?” John’s father loomed.

“Looking for oranges.” John waved a plastic bag. Well, he had been looking for oranges when the chocolate covered strawberries called to him. It was the kind of treat his parents never let him get, even though it was basically a healthy snack. They would just say “No, John” and “Put it back, John.”

He felt sneaky, and a little naughty. He hoped wouldn’t be in too much trouble when they found out. Mostly, though, he hoped for a chocolate covered strawberry.

They unloaded the cart at the checkout, and John started to sweat. His dad lifted the chilled plastic box onto the belt. His mom put it in a canvas bag to take home. How could they not notice? John thought. At home, John put away the bananas and kiwifruit, dreaming of chocolately berries.

Suddenly his dad swooped towards his mom and gave her a kiss.

“The strawberries are a nice surprise! Thank you!”

His mom’s eyes opened wide.

“Oh, I thought you… you’re welcome…”

John’s dad handed John a plate with a luscious strawberry, and John dug in with a grin. It was cool and juicy and very, very sweet.

Just the right level of detail

I remember hearing an author tell a story about, when she was a child, writing long, long stories with dozens of characters who started on a grand adventure.

I remember hearing an author tell a story about, when she was a child, writing long, long stories with dozens of characters who started on a grand adventure.

After a few twists and turns, the author couldn’t think of anything else to do with them, so they died in a fiery bus crash.

The author said she did this again and again: develop a few too many characters, start them someplace, and then watch the whole thing fizzle out.

Eventually she learned to hone down the characters, the plot, and the focus, and she became the kind of author who told stories in front of crowds.

Writing science can be like this too. Too molecular (or too expansive) and the only way to wrap up is an atomic explosion. Not molecular (or galactic) enough, and a reader will never understand perspective or purpose.

I’ve had my share of drafts that end in fiery bus crashes. I doubt I’ve had my last.