One day I happen to see an old acquaintance at North Gate Mall.
I can take this opening sentence and extrapolate the narrative and the story into an infinite number of directions. The sentence provides me several opportunities and the reader has two pieces of information that may inspire the reader to continue reading.
I can describe the mall in excessive detail, lingering on the depth of the hallways, the store fronts, the lighting, the shadows, the color, the smells, the people. I can show the feeling I have as I approach this person my acquaintance I’ve not seen in some time and explain in great detail our last encounter and why we haven’t seen each other over the intervening time as my options are almost endless.
We come closer and as we do my anxiety rises. Do I walk on by and pretend no recognition? Do I turn around and go the way I came? Do I shoot down one of the corridors? Now my options have changed somewhat. The perspective has been altered slightly because I have shared some information and can no longer go in certain directions that I could have done previously. But I can now take other paths that I couldn’t have taken from the opening sentence…
…what will my direction be?
In real life I might dart down one of the corridors and avoid a meeting, out one of the mall exits to my car and drive home never to see this person again, especially if the acquaintance is a former lover and we separated on terms that might be described as “a little rocky.” While driving home I might have an automobile accident, or I’m swallowed up by a sink hole, or a space ship pulls my car up into the bowels of the space ship to never be seen again.
Or I don’t drive home but simply walk to another mall entrance and enter again at another section to continue my shopping, or have lunch at one of the many restaurants. Walk down to Barnes and Nobles and buy a book about writers on writing and take my new book to Red Robin and have a burger and a beer for lunch while flipping through the pages of the book.
There are, you see, several things I can do with this opening sentence. Some would require an awful lot of work to develop. One is something I’ve played around with for some time, but could never find an opening into the story. I could explore the identity of the person who is approaching me. Once in 1976 I took a weekend trip to the Gulf Shores. Dauphin Island, AL off the shore of Mobile Alabama when I was in college. I had a weekend relationship with a young woman that has haunted me since. A single weekend that was powerful, the memory etched forever to be replayed a thousand times. Forty years ago if my math is correct.
I don’t dart down a mall corridor. My eyes are the eyes of a 67 year old. I continue to approach the person. I’m now close enough for my eyes to focus and I realize the person I see in the distance is a young woman of about 25. We pass at the mall and I continue on to the book store to buy my book and to have a burger for lunch.
Suddenly I hear a loud KABOOM!…. and people are running wildly every where….