According to Plan
To save his life, Danny could not understand what the writing fuss was all about. When his teacher would issue the weekly vocabulary assignment to use the spelling words in an essay, Danny would choose some story from his lifetime, and used the words in the order they appeared on the list. It was as as clear as glass.
It was not so for Johnny. He hated to write, and simply chose to ignore all but the most pressing of assignments. Danny thought it was kind of funny that Johnny had such a hard time of it, because he could tell such excellent stories. Danny knew that it was part of his Native heritage, that Johnny spent so much time in the company of his elders, who used to spin long yarns of action and intrigue, telling about the early days of his people, and the way they got on in life.
It seemed that Johnny could take the most boring of topics, and liven them up when he spoke. If he could do this so effectively in his conversations, then it seemed as though writing should not be that difficult. Danny had a brainstorm. He had a recording device already installed in his laptop, and he waited until Johnny stayed over one stormy March night, when they ended up in his room, and were just shooting the bull.
They had a pending assignment, which dealt with the writing domain of the short story. Johnny didn’t worry too much, because he had a tendency to wait for a more direct reason to do something about it, such as an invitation to lunch detention, to help prod him in the right direction.
Danny knew better than to share his plan, because there was a certain passive/aggressive approach in Johnny’s refusal to begin the process of writing, until he had the proverbial gun to his temple. Danny decided to go about the process of extracting a story in a backwards manner. Johnny had been carrying on about a football game that he had played in, which featured some extraordinary moments.
Danny’s plan was to activate the recorder, and then just jumpstart the conversation, so that he could ask the occasional clarifying question, to keep Johnny on track with his account of what occurred. Danny decided if he ignored the essential components of a correctly written story for the moment, and concentrated on simply getting Johnny to tell the story in his most natural voice, the details would work themselves out.
Stuff like character development, conflict, and resolution would all become clear, if he listened to the account first, and then asked the occasional judicious question. Everything went according to plan. When Johnny left for home the following Sunday morning, Danny had an hour’s worth of taped material. He verified that all the critical components of the story were indeed present in the oral version, and he was optimistic that he had captured something of significance on his recording.
When Johnny reappeared at Danny’s that Sunday, on the false pretense of watching the game on TV, Danny presented his recording to Johnny, pointing out that the short story was indeed complete; all Johnny had to do was transcribe the story from the recording to his word processor. Johnny got into it like a meditation, spending a good part of his Sunday, working on a school assignment, simply recording the words as they flowed out of the laptop. This was unprecedented in the annals of Johnny’s educational experience. The result was a well-written essay, complete with all necessary components, and expertly word-processed, with Danny as chief editor, and motivator.
And how was this effort received the next day by Johnny’s teacher? She called him out in front of the class, and assigned him to a week of lunchtime detention, so that he could try again, this time doing his own work, instead of getting someone to do it for him, which is what he undoubtedly did, when he submitted the writing assignment that she was just returning. Everyone knew, she said, that Johnny was not capable of producing such a fine effort.
Johnny attended lunchtime detention all week, and had a fine series of wordless illustrations, to demonstrate what he thought of the whole writing process, thinking to himself, “One picture is worth a thousand words, and I have given you a whole slew of pictures. It’s all you’re ever going to get out of me.”