Writing Tip — Writing in Time: Graduation as Writing Inspiration

graduationw-3649717_1280May kicks of the graduation season here in America, both for high school and college students. Graduation as writing inspiration provides wonderful opportunities to explore characters, examine a community, and begin or end a story with a ceremony most of us are familiar with.

Graduation is both ending and beginning, and that’s where writers should use it — either to kick off a story or wrap it up. It wouldn’t feel right putting it in the middle. Or at least I don’t see how it could be used logically in that part of the story.

For high school students, it feels like the beginning of adulthood, which is both exhilarating and intimidating. While I was working my way through junior high, graduating from high school seemed as fantastic to me as winning the lottery or becoming famous. It was something wonderful that happened to a select few but not ordinary people like me. I didn’t think I was going to die before I finished high school. I just didn’t have the imagination or the positive outlook to see a happy future for myself . All I knew was school, which I hated more and more each year, and figured that’s what I’d do for the rest of my life. When my older sister graduated and went to college, I began to think I might make it out of the jungle that is high school. So I was shocked when I finally earned the right to put on the cap and gown and and receive my diploma.

For college students, graduation can be even more frightening. You’re an adult now, and you have to find your own way through the world. Idealism and experimentation run head on into the real world. For the last few months leading to graduation from college, I found it fascinating to watch people with the wacky hairdos abandon them for a more traditional look as they scrambled to find jobs.

Graduation ceremonies are a valuable tool for dealing with many different kinds of characters because, in real life, many different people are involved in them besides the students — parents and other relatives, teachers and administrators, friends. With that many characters to work with, graduation can bet the setting for any mood. Deeply tragic, if students remember a friend who has died, to frantic comedy as a family tries to gather to honor one of their own.

I have firsthand knowledge of the comedic sort of graduation. When my oldest sister graduated from college, I was assigned the job of ferrying three of my grandparents to the small college-town during a storm so fierce I was hydroplaning at one point. Another time, my oldest sister drove me and my two younger sisters to a cousin’s graduation. We left right after breakfast. The only way to the small college was up a twisty mountain road. No.3 sister was soon car-sick, and No.4 sister and I weren’t doing too well either because my oldest sister had put on so much perfume that it almost congealed into another being in the car.

How would you use graduation as writing inspiration?

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