Writing 101 – Day 13 – Tell a story in a series of vignettes

Today’s assignment focuses on repetition and accumulation as a way to give structure and momentum to a piece of writing — and help your readers stay engaged (it’s one of the reasons why lists, which we’ve explored earlier in this course, are so effective as a narrative tool).

Today, tell a story through a series of vignettes (short, episodic scenes or anecdotes) that together read as variations on the same theme. They can each be as short or long as you see fit — they don’t have to be the same length — but they need a common feature to tie them together, whether it’s a repeated phrase, a similar setting, or the appearance of the same person.

A friend at work today mentioned – “We never stop worrying about our children do we?” and I readily agreed. Although my friend’s children are younger than mine and we worry about different things, worrying just seems to be part of a parent’s lot in life.

I became a mother 26 years ago but the worrying began before that.
I’d had a miscarriage the year before Sarah was born so when I learned I was pregnant again –
I worried – will this pregnancy last? Will she be alright?

After she was born and immediately stopped crying as soon as my husband cradled her in his arms and she heard his voice –
I worried – how will we know what to do?

The second night in the hospital when I had such a longing to hold her and it took too long for the nurses to bring her to me so I wandered the hospital halls looking for her –
I worried – is she okay – what’s taking so long – why won’t they bring her to me?

When she finally slept through the night as I tiptoed into her room on more than one occasion –
I worried – is she still breathing?

When I had to go back to work and she went to daycare –
I worried – will they take good care her?

When her brother was born a few years later –
I worried – will she know we love her just as much even though she has to share our time and attention?

When she started kindergarten and didn’t know anyone –
I worried – will she make friends?

When I had to take a business trip and was away on her fifth birthday –
I worried – will she think I love my job more than I love her?

When we moved across country when she was eight years old –
I worried – will she miss her friends?

When she started middle school and tried out for the soccer team –
I worried – will she make it?

When she applied for college –
I worried – will she get in the school she wants to go to?

When she took a summer internship in Los Angeles –
I worried – will she be safe?

When she got her first job after college and moved to her own apartment –
I worried – can she afford to live on her own?

When she wanted a new job and seemed so unhappy –
I worried – will she get the job she wants?

And despite all my worries – big and small – Sarah has become exactly who I would have chosen for her to be if I could have imagined the perfect daughter.

So today when I realized that a hurricane is approaching the North Carolina coast where she is heading for a friend’s wedding this weekend, I called to make sure she wasn’t planning to drive alone only to learn that she was – and I worry.

She’s only had her new job for two months and didn’t want to ask to leave work early to be able to ride with her friends so she was going to make the three hour drive alone. When I described the predicted severity of the storm (forecasters are calling it a 1 in 1000 year rain event with significant coastal flooding) she was glad that I worry and she changed her plans.

She will leave work early and won’t have to drive alone.

So I worry a little less – but still – I worry.

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