Follow the Story

All I want to do lately is work on my novel. For that reason I had a hard time thinking of what to write for today’s post. Then it came to me, share my writing process.

I’m not like some of my writer friends who create a detailed outline and then follow it faithfully chapter by chapter. Once I get the idea, I just start writing. Somewhere along the way I get a picture of the basic story and character arcs. I may write a story or character timeline, but I never stick to it, because I’m following some inner wisdom about how the story should go. I’m always thinking about what I’m working on and ideas come to me while I’m doing the dishes, or vacuuming, while I’m in the shower, or in the nether world between sleep and waking.

I find the more I write, the more I want to write. This is the first time I’ve felt like that about my work, except when I worked in the theatre. Being creative begets more creativity, a deeper self-understanding and joy.

For most of my life I’ve kept my inner life hidden, not willing to expose my true thoughts and feelings to the general public. When I was acting, I could hide behind a character. Now all those pent up thoughts are coming out in my storytelling. My personal philosophy comes out in my work, but when I write fiction, there’s also a bit of mystery about which parts of the book are from my real life, and which from my imagination.

Since I want to get back to working on my novel, I’m going to include a scene from it, which I’m sad to say will most likely be cut. I needed to write it so I could understand why this character, Chloe, would do such a terrible thing. As a former actor, I wanted to understand her motivation, this scene is what came out in the process.

Let me set the scene for you. The main character in the past, Morgan, is going to marry Jonathan, the town minister. The wedding is in two or three weeks time. Chloe, who as you will see, is a damaged individual, thinks she’s in love with Jonathan. So, she tries to get rid of Morgan in an “accident.” Here’s the scene.

After dinner Chloe announced her plans to take her evening walk. “Spring is in the air, Do you want to come Amanda?” she’d asked knowing Amanda would not come this night.

“No, not tonight. I’m tired,” Amanda said. It’s working out so perfectly. Herbert had been angry about something that’d happened at the bank. Amanda had taken the brunt of his rage. She’s so weak. Why doesn’t she fight back? Chloe never stood for such treatment. Her father had always been so loving, stroking and petting her. She’d been able to manipulate him and all his friends into doing her bidding. Herbert was no different. She could get him to do anything she wanted him to do, but he wasn’t very interesting and certainly not handsome. “Herbert, what about you?”

“No. Why would you ask me? You know I never go out for walks after dinner.”

Good. She’d be alone and unobserved. “All right. Goodnight then. I may not get back before you go to bed.” Amanda and Herbert muttered their good nights.

She walked out the door and took a nice deep breath of the evening air. Looking across the street, she noticed that the lights were glowing in the schoolhouse windows. “She’s such a fool,” Chloe assured herself. There’d been one frantic moment when Morgan had almost caught her planting the drug in her tea, but in the end, she hadn’t suspected a thing. “My plan is going to work,” she assured herself again. She took the large jar of oil she’d saved, little by little, from its hiding place near the wood pile. Stowing the oil under her cloak, she followed the path she’d scouted to the back of the schoolhouse.

When she got to her destination, she had to look to see if Morgan had succumbed to the sleeping powder she’d put into the tea. She peeked into the east window. Morgan lay on the floor in the aisle. Ah, she tried to escape. Not this time.

She’d been clever about that too. She overheard Seth ordering the tea and Martha mentioning that Morgan had begun to order it too. “Yes, I gave her a cup one day when she came to the office. I’m glad she liked it so much.” Seth had played into her plan like all the rest. And he thinks he’s so smart. I’ll show him. I’ll show them all. She’d purchased the sleeping powder from one of those nasty Chinese people. They didn’t even speak English, so she was safe.

Creeping to the back of the building, she soaked the pile of kindling she’d systematically stacked up, and the corner of the building in oil, careful not to get any on herself. She didn’t want to make a mistake at this point and get herself caught in the blaze. She lighted the edge of the pile. The kindling caught fire quickly. She stayed long enough to make sure the building caught fire. Then she followed one of her routes to the other side of the main road through town, disposing of the jar on her way.

Her heart was pounding. As she neared the other side of the walkway, she hoped the alarm would not be sounded too quickly. That was the one variable she feared. That Morgan would be saved and she’d have to start all over again.

The flames were just visible above the roof. It wouldn’t be long now. Just then Jonathan appeared and headed toward the schoolhouse. What’s he doing here? He said he’d be gone until very late. She wanted to scream, but the fire hadn’t been discovered yet. She held her breath as Jonathan opened the schoolhouse door and heard his yell down the street. The glow from the burning building was visible through the open door. She heard another yell and another. What are all these people doing out and about when they should be home in bed?

Seth came out of the newspaper office and ran toward the burning building, yelling at the top of his lungs. Max ran from the livery, and suddenly the street was filled with people. She stood there transfixed. Seth ran into the front door followed by Max. Good, we can get rid of him too, the dirty half-breed. Most of the building was now engulfed in flames. It’s so beautiful. The blue, yellow, orange and red conflagration rose up to the sky. But, what about Jonathan? Somewhere in her tiny heart, she knew he was safe. Once Morgan was dead and she told him what she’d done, he’d be so proud of her. But, he hadn’t come out yet. People were forming a bucket brigade. How foolish, it was obviously too late.

“Chloe, aren’t you going to help with the buckets?” Martha was pulling her arm.

“Oh, yes. But not too close. I’m so afraid of fire,” she said smiling to herself. She’d spread that around the last few weeks, how she’d witnessed a terrible fire and was deathly afraid of being trapped in one.

She let Martha pull her along to the end of the line farthest away from the fire, keeping a look out for Jonathan. Where is he? She took the buckets and passed them along as they were handed to her. Then she saw Seth with a bundle in his arms. It was Morgan! Damn him. He was yelling something. The sound of the fire was deafening and then the loud creaking of the weakening roof beams made Max dive out the door to land on the grass. Everyone else near the front of the bucket line ducked. There came a deafening crash as the roof collapsed. The kaleidoscope colored flames flared out momentarily over the heads of everyone on the ground. Screams filled the air as those closest to the fire crawled away from the extreme heat. The town’s people huddled together in the middle of the street. Only Chloe was standing separate, a forgotten bucket in her hand. She scanned the crowd. Where is Jonathan? She couldn’t see him anywhere. An unfamiliar sensation clutched her stomach. He not there. She had to find out where he was. She ran to Max. “Where’s Jonathan?”

“I couldn’t save him,” was all Max coughed out. Tears were streaking his smoke stained face.

“What! You left him in there? Nooooo…” she screamed. Something snapped in her head. He’ll be all mine if… She threw the bucket and ran toward the raging fire. “Jonathan,” she screamed. Hands tried to stop her, but she dodged them and ran toward the friendly flames. She didn’t care about anything but being with Jonathan. The conflagration seared her flesh.With the first inhalation, the flames filled her lungs. As her body collapsed, an unearthly light embraced her. There now, your pain is over.

This is a rough draft, but, I’d appreciate your comments about the scene if you care to reply to this post. I can use the critique. Thanks.

Published by lucindasagemidgorden

I grew up in the West, the descendant of people traveling by wagon train to a new life. Some of their determination and wanderlust became a part of me. I imagine them sitting around the campfire telling stories, which is why I became first a theatre artist, then a teacher and now a writer. They are all ways of telling stories.

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