Agency. His life is free verse, careering headlong, blind, instinctive
Through fields of head-high swaying corn.
Every choice his own, every option wide open.
Skipping risky in the path of the harvester’s whirling threshing wheel.
Steered by whim and whimsy, where rules are few and flimsy.
A daughter arrives
And binds him into haiku.
Compromise, yield. Bend like corn in the wind. Accommodate my girlfriend’s misbehaviour and look the other way. I knew I should. I always had in the past. Concede and move on. Life is too short, right? But as we screamed and wailed for the third time that week, my daughter cowered in the corner, sobbing silent. I knew we were sowing seeds of sadness in a girl too young bear their weight. Her tears hardened me to steel and concrete. Frozen iron earth. Bulletproof, I wrapped myself around my little girl and let the hail of fury ricochet. The angry scythe-tongue couldn’t harvest us. I shielded my little ear of corn from the worst of life. I stood the ground for both of us and brought it to an end. Rigid.
Turn your soil. Sow your love in full sun, in spring. Be wary of sudden frosts if you plant too soon. Cover with soil and water well. Shoots will show in seven days. They will bloom or die. If you do not reap joy by autumn, it is time to take away.
I used Random Word generator to come up with my words: https://randomwordgenerator.com/
First word was “agency”. I felt the opposite was “limitation”.
I came up with an arc about the arrival of a child taking a young woman from a free and crazy existence to one that is far more rigid, but that the restriction is actually welcome and enjoyable.
Then the line “her life is free verse” popped into my head. So I thought about moving from that to a really rigid, restricted form, like haiku, within the piece, to reflect the journey.
I drafted it. Then changed the pronouns, to he/him. I think I also made it present tense throughout, rather than past tense.
Second random word was “compromise” and I felt the opposite was “rigid”.
This time an arc suggested itself about a person who is by nature an appeaser, learning to dig their heels in and become more rigid.
I switched from third to first person, present to past tense, when prompted to shift perspective.
My third random word was “Add”, and in the moment I felt the opposite was subtract – although, this became “take away” when I was prompted to tweak the opposite.
An arc suggested itself about “adding time to love” and “taking yourself away” if it didn’t work out. This in turn suggested a gently hermit-crabby structure talking about relationships in the language of instructions on a seed packet.
I kept this section sparse and removed longer words when prompted, which actually led me to the word “reap”. I then saw a farming/growing thread was present in all three and used this to pull it all together.
I think it’s still clearly three separate vignettes of different parts of a character’s life. I like the fact it shifts in perspective and form with each section. I’m not sure it all fully hangs together – but it definitely took me in some interesting and unexpected directions and the process was hugely inspiring.
Mathew Gostelow (he/him) is a fledgling writer, in Birmingham, UK. His strange tales have featured in The Ghastling, Ellipsis, Stanchion, Cutbow, and others. He is a Pushcart nominee and has won prizes from Bag of Bones, Bear Creek Gazette, and Beagle North. @MatGost