Portrait in Chalk: Story 1

            A fourteen year old boy with a talent for drawing discovers a sixteen year old runaway girl living under his porch. Smitten at first site, helps safeguard her, bringing her blankets and food. She gets a job using a false identity. Gradually, she learns to trust him. When the authorities trace the stolen identity, he makes a dreadful mistake, giving away her secret hideout, but she had already escaped. He tries desperately, but finds her too late, seeing her for the last time in the window of a Greyhound bus as it leaves the terminal.

 

Portrait in Chalk: Story 2

            A young man, once a hopeful artist, is haunted by the memory of a runaway girl whom he sheltered for several months when he was fourteen. He loved drawing her. When she left, he quit drawing. It broke his heart to remember her face. After an attempted baseball career, his life becomes aimless. One night, as he stumbles out of a bar, he remembers when he and the girl laughed at a drunken man. Disgusted with himself, he finds work with a stone mason, with whom he once held a summer job, becomes his apprentice, and eventually a master craftsman.

 

Portrait in Chalk: Story 3

            A middle aged woman, whose husband died suddenly, is left with a tidy insurance benefit. At first, she continues the hard but satisfying life she has known for 30 years, conducting cruises on her catamaran in Maui, but without her husband, the life is unsatisfying. One of her divers points out pictures on the internet that resemble her in a disturbingly familiar manner. She remembers the boy artist she left when she was sixteen, when she was a runaway from a dysfunctional family life. She sells the catamaran and seeks out her onetime admirer.

 

Instructor Response

Russ. Good work. Great ideas. I’ve suggested structure to clarify story mainly. Remember, story (even within a scene) needs conflict and resolution (or non-resolution with implied something to come), beginning-middle-end, character-based plot (for literary fiction and most other genres too), and momentum.

All the best, and thanks for the submission.
Bill Coles

Portrait in Chalk: Story 1

A fourteen year old boy with a talent for drawing discovers a sixteen year old runaway girl living under his porch. Smitten at first site, helps safeguard her, bringing her blankets and food. She gets a job using a false identity. Gradually, she learns to trust him. When the authorities trace the stolen identity, he makes a dreadful mistake, giving away her secret hideout, but she had already escaped. He tries desperately, but finds her too late, seeing her for the last time in the window of a Greyhound bus as it leaves the terminal.

Neat! Some thoughts to increase tension and conflict. Could the boy accidentally give away something or do something that results in her being discovered? It would have to be innocent on his part. Is it possible the boy is related to the job she gets—his father owns a fast food joint, or the girl works as a nanny for the boy’s sister’s children . . . something like that? She gets fired. (Trying to increase the entanglement.) Rather than make the loss fatalistic in that he doesn’t get to her time under the porch, could he find her as she is packing and plead with her to stay; she argues she can’t and then tells him to get her something from his house and when he returns she is gone. Then the bus station stuff. Examples as to how to make characters and plot inseparable. You can find your own solutions that will have more impact because it’s you, the author, choosing them.

Portrait in Chalk: Story 2

A young man, once a hopeful artist, is haunted by the memory of a runaway girl whom he sheltered for several months when he was fourteen. He loved drawing her. When she left, he quit drawing. It broke his heart to remember her face.After an attempted baseball career, his life becomes aimless. One night, as he stumbles out of a bar, he remembers when he and the girl laughed at a drunken man. Disgusted with himself, he finds work with a stone mason, with whom he once held a summer job, becomes his apprentice, and eventually a master craftsman.

Tell why she left. Make it related to something he did. Your basic premise seems to be: would-be artist draws girl who captures his heart and the memory of her face and the desire to create her artistically spurs him to become a great craftsman. But it’s not enough for the story. Reader will need to know more about the girl, what about her attracted him. Where she went and why. What she thinks of him, even—mutual attraction? apathy? The scene with the drunken man seems unrelated. It does not contribute to plot or characterization. Consider the young man rediscovering the girl. She could still be lovely and fuel his feelings, but she rejects him. She could be dying. She could have a disfiguring disease. She could be mentally ill and unrecognizable as the girl he fell in love with. With something like this, he is compelled to re-create the girl he remembers in his drawings (now lost), the image he cherishes, and he becomes a stonemason to try to satisfy this need to find her again (which, I think, would have to be unsuccessful due to the nature of how such a scenario must turn out). See how conflict, character-based plotting, and a resolution to a problem are being inserted? Of course, do it your own way. And the story has momentum driving to a resolution of whether he succeeds in re-creating the girl, not on becoming a master craftsman.

Portrait in Chalk: Story 3

A middle aged woman, whose husband died suddenly, is left with a tidy insurance benefit. At first, she continues the hard but satisfying life she has known for 30 years, conducting cruises on her catamaran in Maui, but without her husband, the life is unsatisfying. One of her divers points out pictures on the internet that resemble her in a disturbingly familiar manner. She remembers the boy artist she left when she was sixteen, when she was a runaway from a dysfunctional family life. She sells the catamaran and seeks out her onetime admirer.

Consider redoing the timeline. Boy meets girl (from dysfunctional family) and provides something for her she never had. Later, woman’s husband dies. She continues the tour business (catamaran in Maui) but is not satisfied with life. (I’d reconsider the diver and the photos. They don’t seem credible or direct enough to motivate her.)  Something happens such that she remembers how the boy saved her life when she was young. She craves happiness and stability so much she cashes in her possessions and tries to find the boy. The conclusion is what she finds. (She has to find him!) She could fall in love again. She could nurse him back to health and a normal life but he resents her unwanted compassion after a lifetime of neglect. He could be happily married with five kids and unwilling to speak to her, sending her into a suicidal depression. He could be a single, wealthy banker waiting for her all these years. :-(   Make up as many options as you can, and choose the best.

Lots of possibilities. The idea is to construct the story so the problem is clear, the obstacles obvious, the choices to be made significant, the solutions many, and the resolution realistic and happy or sad without sentimentality.

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