In response to Writing101 prompt Compose a series of vignettes
Repetition and accumulation 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.
The spectrum of moods you can create with this format is extremely wide. You might aim for a warm, lighthearted vibe, like a travel blogger channeling her love of the road through a string of portraits of the people who took her on as a hitchhiker. Or tackle a serious, tough issue like discrimination through the fragmented lens of anecdotal storytelling, as shown in Teri Carter’s sobering piece enumerating the instances of racism she’d encountered in her own family.
Not sure how to approach this assignment? Pick one of these:
- Tell a story composed of scenes in each of which you eat your favorite dish, or enjoy your signature drink.
- Build a narrative of your own personal growth (or your attempts at achieving it) by evoking some of your past birthday parties.
- Write a post in which each section begins with the phrase “You may never believe this.”
- Recount the same anecdote several times, but do it in a different style or genre each time, so that each retelling exposes something new in your tale.
Ben and the WordPress.com Team
Crap! Crap! Damn it hurts. Shit! Where’s the doctor? I’ve been here half an hour. I’ve got a million things to do. If I don’t finish it today I’ll never hear the end of it. Come on! At least the nurse is cute. But I’d like her to tell me the doctor is going to see me now. Maybe I should smile to her. Yes. Great she’s smiling back. She’s got a beautiful smile; it almost brightens the room with something that’s akin to hope instead of the grey of sadness and pain. No. Wait! Don’t go. Smiling means I’m in pain and I need someone now! Or that I’d love to ask you out. I should wave her here. OUCHH! Or not. Can’t move my arm. Has to be broken. Come on Dude! Broken bones have to be more important than the kid coughing. Why didn’t the mother bring him to the doctor instead of the ER?
Wait! What? Someone else? Great! And she’s pregnant. Super! Of course she’ll go first. Might have broken the waters or something. Water must be awfully less painful to break than bones though.
Damn it that day sucks!
She’s been sitting there for a couple of hours, holding onto the jacket on her knees as if her life depended on it. Once in a while she looks towards the corridor that leads to the OR, before returning to the waiting room and its white walls. The people around her are depressingly indifferent. At best their gazes are vacant or they’re engaging family members – like that mother soothing her kid who seems to have a terrible fever and difficulty breathing. At worst, they look as if their last hour is come, unlikely as it is. Like the guy with his broken arm in a sling. It’s got to hurt a lot but still. Ah no, he smiles. Probably trying to woo the nurse into showing him to a doctor faster. It almost makes her smile. That people should be able to flirt in such a place is both ridiculous and comforting. But she can’t blame them. It’s such a dreary place otherwise.
She doesn’t really need to wonder what sort of people she resembles. Her last hour isn’t come and yet it might as well. Again, her gaze turns and lingers over the door that read “staff only”. When the door opens again, she looks towards it. A couple is ushered in, the woman about to give birth in a wheelchair. She almost cries.
But her name is called and it feels as if a jolt of electricity goes through her. She doesn’t let go of the jacket, as she stands up. She walks to the doctor; he doesn’t need to talk. She crumbles tears dried up now and her heart breaking into shards of glass. Someone pulls her up just when the surgeon expresses his sorrow for her loss.
Oh my God! This has got to be the most beautiful and most terrifying day of my life. I need to concentrate. But it’s hard! Damn it! I can’t wait to be at the ER. And yet I wish we never arrive. I turn to her; she’s beautiful, and courageous. She has to be in a lot of pain but she bears it as if it means nothing.
“Watch the road!” She smiles before she cringes. Yes, she is in pain. I turn to the road.
I sure as hell don’t want to arrive in any other way but alive. Why did I not call a cab? I’m just as incapable of driving as she is. Still we make it to the ER. The doctors are surrounding us right away and settle her in a wheelchair. They’re like angels to me, all dressed in white. The ER must be paradise. Oh my God! It’s truly happening.
“Let’s get her in. That baby’s just about ready.”
What?? Right now! Can’t he or she wait for a little while longer? I’m not quite ready to be a dad yet. Still I hold her hand, as we run towards the birthing room.
Terrifying! Life changing.
She’s been working in the ER for the past couple of weeks. It’s a reprieve from the Oncology department even though she’s already seen her share of broken bones and dying patients. Still she enjoys the work more; first, it isn’t as frequent that she must be the bearer of terrible news to the families. Even now in the room, most patients will be ok. The kid probably has an acute bronchitis that may have turned into a chest infection but it’s easily looked after. If it’s got some underlying tones of asthma, he’ll be given a prescription for aerosol. The old couple are here because her arthritis has got worse and they’re coming while their family doctor’s on vacation.
The gentleman smiling to her, trying to show a brave face even though he’s obviously in pain will have his arm in a cast before the end of the day and in three weeks, he’ll be up and running, ready to do whatever it was he did before he broke his limb. Even the man currently in the OR who was hit by a car has better chances to get out than 90% of the patients she’d had in the oncology department. It was hard for her not to get attached to the patients and each one not making it through left a scar in her heart. In a way, the ER is safe. She doesn’t have the time to create a true relationship. At least she doesn’t expect she should. And then there are happy moments, like that woman coming in with her husband, rushed to the room to give birth to what must be a bundle of joy for them.
But then, there are also the moments of sorrow. The woman whose name she hasn’t caught, holding onto a jean jacket that’s covered in blood, crumbles. It seems the gentleman hasn’t made it. But the gentleman with the broken arm is right there, pulling her up. Something to stir hope in the woman’s heart. She’s seen it happen before. People come together in the face of pain, of loss. Why not? And there has to be hope in the world, otherwise how does one go on?