Last night I started rereading Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure, all stuff that I already know (haven't I been teaching short stories and novels for twenty years now?), Chekhov's musket-on-the-wall. But Bickham does a nice job of reminding me that stimulus and effect matter even at the sentence level. I talked with my students about this during workshop this week.
In a composition class it makes perfect sense to write: "Alice went to the circus because her best friend wanted her to." But in a story class, we absolutely must learn to put the stimulus first.
"Alice, if you're really my friend, you'll go with me."
"I hate circuses. Those elephants in chains. Women swinging around at the top of the tent -- you know I'm afraid of heights."
"But Brett is going to be there. That tall boy from math class."
"Then go with the others. Go with the group he's going with."
"I won't be brave enough to talk to him if my best friend isn't there."
Okay, that's what I'm thinking about.
And I'm thinking about how growing up on a farm on Elk Creek road in Lewis Co.,Washington, shaped me into this stubborn and slow-learning creature that I am.