Outline for an Eco-Romance by Ori Fienberg

Opening Scene:

Joe and Cindy are talking. They are both very beautiful and young, in love, and about to graduate from college. Joe has been promised a job by his reclusive and highly successful grandfather. Joe is bringing Cindy to meet his parents, at their yearly family retreat to Montauk. Cindy is worried because she does not think Joe’s conservative parents will like her, and also because she has a deep-rooted fear of bonfires, which are an important family tradition.

Inciting Incident:

Cindy meets Joe’s parents, but they are taken aback because Cindy is actually an oak tree. Joe’s parents are not into inter-Kingdom partnerships, but they agree that they will try to get to know her. Only Joe’s grandmother is unfazed, declaring that Cindy seems to be a lovely young tree.

Decisive Moment:

Cindy agrees to go to the bonfire, to show Joe’s family that she can have a good time with them, despite being an oak tree.

Mishap Scene:

When Cindy sees the bonfire, and determines that in fact a large amount of the wood being used on it is oak, she begins to cry, dropping leaves everywhere. She runs into the forest, and Joe follows her. Cindy wants Joe to come live in the forest with her. Joe does not want to live in the forest because he is not sure how he will be able to take the corporate job his grandfather offered him in his multinational landscaping business. Joe convinces Cindy that his family didn’t have the oak wood in the woodpile out of spite.


Cindy tells Joe that she’s worried about losing him, and that she will not leave the forest until they are married. They find the tallest tree in the forest, an old white pine to marry them, and then they consummate their relationship.

Falling Action:

Cindy invites the children of Joe’s family to climb her. When Joe’s parents see the children having a good time with Cindy, they feel better about their relationship.

External Challenge:

Joe’s parents inform them that Joe’s grandfather, the reclusive millionaire who sponsors the family retreat, has decided to join them. Joe’s grandmother is very nervous.


It is revealed that Joe’s grandfather is actually a highly successful shrub. He has stayed hidden out of embarrassment, but now, since it’s become clear that Joe is deeply in love with Cindy, he comes to give his blessing. Joe and Cindy admit that they have already married according to an ancient tradition, and they learn that it was the same way for Joe’s grandshrub and grandmother. A tear of joy comes to Joe’s mother’s eye when she spots a budding acorn on one of Cindy’s branches.


Ori Fienberg’s poetry, essays, and short stories appear in many venues including Always Crashing, Cincinnati Review, Essay Daily, Pank, Subtropics, and ZiN Daily. A graduate of the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program, Ori works for Northeastern University’s College of Professional Studies and lives in Evanston, IL. This piece was completed at a Sundress Academy for the Arts Writers Coop Residency. Read more at http://www.orifienberg.com.

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