I just started my week-long writing course today, and the first exercise we were given was to choose a nonfiction article from among 7 or 8 options provided and then work some of that info into a scene. It was an exercise in exposition, the point being that exposition is perfectly fine as long as it’s something the reader wants to read — which is to say that it needs to be relevant to the characters and situation. It wasn’t easy. My article was about how to make timers and tripwires using basic household items. Here’s what I came up with in the half hour allotted. The beginning scenario is inspired by a true story, relayed via my mother-in-law.
Two days earlier, the whole camp had gone to the Lumberjack Log Jam for a day of roller coasters and water slides. Todd was being nice to me until he discovered some slightly older boys standing in line behind us. All charity for his younger sister was tossed aside. “Sadie!” he shouted. “Never touch a boy there!” The entire crowd laughed. All eyes were upon me.
Even as I gazed at the discarded candy wrappers on the ground, willing myself to turn invisible, a new purpose began forming in my small, homesick head, a purpose that made our remaining time at camp bearable. I hatched a plan – a plan that needed to be executed before Todd and I returned home, a plan that needed an audience.
I knew Jason would help me. It’s not that he had anything against Todd. But Jason couldn’t turn down a good prank, so when I told him I wanted to scare the piss out of Todd, he pulled me into the woods and said, “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll give him a little nighttime visit from Jackie the Red.”
Jackie the Red was the obligatory one-eyed murderer who, according to camp legend, was the butt of a prank 20 years prior. His cabin mates had scared him one night by covering themselves with dyed-red corn syrup and pretending they were all dead. Little Jackie ran screaming and was never heard from again. Except that there were reports of him wandering the woods with a red light, looking for revenge. The red light didn’t make much sense, but it allowed the counselors to scare the bejesus out of the campers on ghost story night, which was just a few days away.
“Bring me an alarm clock, some wire, and some duct tape,” Jason said. “I’ll steal a red flashlight from the counselors’ office.”
I agreed to Jason’s request and went scrounging for the items. The clock had to be a mechanical clock, not a digital one. I found one in the older girls’ cabin. The wire I stole off one of the many “No Trespassing” signs fastened to the fence. And the duct tape I found in the cafeteria.
We met the next day. Jason took apart the light, handing me a battery and the red bulb. We cracked the case of the alarm, exposing the two hands of the clock, and he attached small sections of wire to each hand. One wire ran to the positive end of the battery; the other ran to the exposed red bulb. “When the hands meet,” he explained, “the wires come together and viola! The light goes on. We set it up right by Todd’s bunk and five minutes after he gets into bed, it’s Jackie time!”
It was a great idea, but I wanted to take it further. Sure, it would be fun to scare Todd. But I was more interested in the piss being scared out of him. That is, I wanted him to wet the bed. And I wanted everyone to know about it.