I have officially become a grumpy old man. A grumpy old man with boobs and great shoes. If I see one more “cute proposal” video, I’m going to hurl. You know the ones I’m talking about–where some guy has a bunch of his friends dance and lip synch to Bruno Mars, or do a Bollywood production, conveniently captured on video and posted on YouTube? I avoid them like the plague. It’s hard to do. They don’t make flu shots for viral video.
I realize I’m in the minority, but these moments don’t feel real to me. They are like Moments!®. I write women’s fiction, which is a genre built on Moments!®. There’s the Meet Cute!® and Drinking Alcohol With Gay Best Friend!® and of course, Happily Ever After!®. Readers expect them. What makes a story hit home, however, is truth. We find truth in the little moments.
Little moments often don’t reveal themselves until after the fact. Whether it’s a blooming rose, or a breach in the dam, these events unfold over time, starting as a bud or a fissure that grows, possibly without notice. To really capture the totality of an event, you have to trace it to the original source–the butterfly that started an inevitable chain reaction.
I go back and forth on the plotting vs. organic storytelling argument. When I wrote my novel, I knew what the Moments!® would be. They were the scenes I saw most clearly, that came to me with swelling music. They are also my least favorite parts of the book. It’s all the little moments in between that matter, the ones that drive the story, that tell you everything you need to know about the characters. When I wrote them, they unfolded like petals, and are still revealing themselves to me.
There is a good novel amidst all of those words. I just have to find it. I suppose it’s like that old adage about how to carve an elephant from marble. You have to chip away the parts that don’t look like an elephant. I have to chip away the parts of my story that don’t feel like truth, at least for the characters I’ve created and the world they live in. Fictional characters living in fictional words have inherently more vivid and interesting lives than we do, but aspiration or fantasy are but a sparkly bow. The human connection must come first, and you can’t put a trademark on that.
How do you balance the big moments and small within your writing?
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph by Marina Noordegraaf