Narrative Writing


Shoe-Shine Boy

Imagine that you've written a story about Lawrence Goodwin. Lawrence is a poor kid who doesn't have a penny to his name; nonetheless, he has big dreams, and his dream is to save enough money to buy a shiny new bicycle. The bike he wants costs $100.

Lawrence convinces the owner of the corner store to front him a jar of shoe polish, which he'll pay for at the end of the day. All day long, Lawrence sits in front of the store, shining shoes, but his customers don't tip well. At the end of the day, after paying for the polish, Lawrence has made only 10 cents in profit. And the next day he earns even less.

Poor Lawrence! At this rate it's going to take him three years to save enough money for a bike. But Lawrence is not a quitter. He redoubles his efforts, and the next day he gets up even earlier, and he stays even later, polishing shoes with great vigor while cheerfully chatting with the customers.

One day, one of his regular customers walks out of the store and sits down in front of Lawrence's shoe-shine box. Straightaway, Lawrence gets to work. As Lawrence polishes the gentleman's shoes, the man stuffs some newly-purchased lottery tickets into his breast pocket. He explains that he has bought them for his wife. Lawrence tells him, "I hope your wife gets lucky, sir!"

When Lawrence is finished, the gentleman rises to leave. As he's walking away, one of the lottery tickets slips out of a hole in the in the gentleman's jacket. It floats to the sidewalk, unnoticed.

Lawrence waits for a moment then picks it up. The man has already disappeared around the corner. Lawrence scratches the ticket and sees that it's worth $100! Ecstatic, he runs into the store to cash it. Now he can finally afford that shiny new bike.

Happy ending . . . ?

Meh . . . you're probably not impressed. True, Lawrence proved that he's a real hard worker. But he achieved his goal mostly through a combination of dishonesty and dumb luck.

Here is a better ending:

Lawrence picks up the lottery ticket. The gentleman has already disappeared around the corner. Lawrence is tempted to keep the ticket, but—being a good kid—he runs after the man and returns it. The gentleman is so impressed with Lawrence's honesty that he hands the ticket back to Lawrence, saying, "Keep it, kid; you deserve it. You're the best damn shoe-shine in the business."

That's better, don't you agree? It's better because Lawrence has now earned his reward through a combination of honesty and hard work. His good character and his diligence have finally paid off.

Key Point:

Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.