Writing Prompt: Well, what did you expect?

Writing Prompt: What did you expect? #365StrongStories by Marisa GoudyOur six year-old has never had “a sleepover.” Until last night, she and I had only been apart for three nights since her birth in 2009. Her first night away from family wasn’t spent on her best friend’s floor and it wasn’t part some Girl Scout event in a church hall. Nope, we sent her to the woods.

We’re blessed to have the Wild Earth organization in our town. They offer legendary summer camps as well as weekend programs all through the school year. We trust these dedicated counselors to care for our girl and initiate her into a forest wonderland that she couldn’t access with her parents clucking “be careful!”

Moira was phenomenal. The youngest kid of the group, by all reports she was up for every aspect of the adventure.

She’s home now and we are so grateful to have her back and hear her stories of the dragonfly she healed, the donuts she ate, and the unicorn she met (the program, Mystwood, has a profoundly mystical element). And yet…

Even after all that magic and bravery and sense of accomplishment, there been has all sorts of frustration and anger and sadness today. As Moira herself said, “I didn’t think I would come home and feel yucky!”

Shifting from a children’s paradise in the woods where fairies cavorted in every tree trunk to a rainy day Sunday with all the same old family rules is hard. Transitions are never without their challenges.

Ultimately, however, this discord is rooted in our expectations.

Our daughter expected the high of her experience to last. We assumed that she would return tired but happy to be back with her folks. At some level, we probably expected her to be grateful to us for sending her somewhere so amazing (yeah, that one is quite silly).

Your expectations - and particularly all the ways those stories are defied - those are often a source of conflict. And, as you probably know, conflict is pretty much essential to story.

Think about when your expectations stirred up trouble or caused you pain. Write into a situation when hope and reality were mismatched. There’s a compelling story in there, I promise...

Learn more about what makes a story compelling. Join me for The Story Triangle, a free online class I am offering on May 11.

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