When I write a story it seems to emerge from the fog at the end of the lane like an old house. It’s a magical house in a magical mist, windows appear and disappear like the scraps of description I’d like to include. The chimney which one moment is on the left moves to the other end of the house as the breeze of creation stirs the clouds. Does it have a porch? Or are those just old yew trees? Should I add a garage or a stable. Another writer might prefer blueprints before beginning to build, but I prefer scribbling a rough outline on a napkin and then editing it as I go along.
I stand on the front lawn a while wondering who lives here. Even though unfinished, the house seems occupied. What characters would inhabit such a place? They have a dog. I saw it disappear around the end of the porch. I check the mailbox, doing my research. They subscribe to some interesting magazines. Three people live here. Good. More than that and my story would be as crowded as a boarding house.
Ready to begin writing, I walk up to the steps, climb onto the porch, and ring the bell. The door opens and three figures await in the hallway. Others hide in the shadows of doorways and on the stairs, my supporting characters. They let me in and introduce themselves.
I wander around the house as the characters open doors and show me the rooms in which they live. I see the rugs on the floors, the wallpaper on the walls, and the personal treasures on the shelves of the bookcases. Like an overbearing mother-in-law I change the decor to what I deem more suitable. The characters never complain.
Through the kitchen window I can see a garden in the back of the house, the ending of the story. The leaves of the plants are glistening with dew. But I don’t know how to find the back door, so I begin rearranging the rooms as if they were furniture. Chapters get shuffled. Story threads get rewoven. I open closet doors. I descend into the cellar. I look for burglars in the attic. The female character shows me her bedroom, but I do not go in. My editor would not like it.
We all meet again in the hallway, and the back door is in sight. I see the ending of the story. The neighbors across the garden are well known to me. I built their house last year. My characters walk out into the garden I designed as metaphysical mystery and mingle with each other, while I sit in my rocking chair on the back porch drinking my lemonade, brushing shreds of typos and passive voice off my clothes.
To the left of the garden, behind the hedges, the morning sunshine reflects off the windows of another house.