This is the second part of Exercise 6 from Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft book. To recap: Chapter 6 was about verbs, specifically dealing with person and tense. This serves as a prelude to chapter 7, which is a long (and intimidating!) chapter on point of view. My take on this exercise has an old woman wandering around the remains of her house after a fire and remembering a different disaster that struck when she was a child.
The prompt: “Exercise Six: The Old Woman
This should run to a page or so; keep it short and not too ambitious, because you are going to write the same story twice.
The subject is this: An old woman is busy doing something – washing the dishes, or gardening, or editing a PhD dissertation in mathematics, whatever you like – as she thinks about an event that happened in her youth.
You’re going to intercut between the two times. “Now ” is where she is and what’s she’s doing; “then” is her memory of something that happened when she was young. Your narration will move back and forth between “now” and “then.”
You will make at least two of these moves or time jumps.