Real moments don’t have trademarks

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

5 comments on “Real moments don’t have trademarks

  1. boltoncarley says:

    Why not be okay with plotting out the big moments (much like a flash mob proposal) and then find the little moments around ’em as you go? I love to have an outline or plan of the big things, just like some people need to have a plan when they go to propose. When we get nervous, we need a plan. My husband never would have proposed that way because he’s not a public guy, but there are those that are. But my theory is – I will always take love stuff over who shot who on the news!

    I loved the writing in this. Shots for viral vids? Well played. I can see your disregard for over-the-top which rarely works in real marriages and love and perhaps what you are thinking. Cleverly worded, too.

    • My reaction is more to the external focus of these “moments.” I think planning is necessary in writing. It’s too easy to meander. It’s more about writer’s intention. When I read a passage focused on the event rather than people/feelings, it rings false to me–like it was written for the eventual movie. Some of this is expected-but I hate it when my scenes feel contrived.

  2. whimsygizmo says:

    LOVE this, Jeannine. You had me at those first two sentences. Your humor is delightful. I completely agree. And Life Phase that dons capital letters becomes a movie script subtitle, not a real moment in time. I think this perhaps comes a little more easily in poetry, though sometimes when I find myself leaning on the same phrasings, or revisiting The Same Old Pain, I begin to feel I need that little registered trademark up in a corner somewhere. (“This portion of De’s heart is brought to you by the letter “P” and the number “3.”) 😉 I’m learning, though. Sometimes it’s just about the word spill, and letting them lie where they will…in order to tell the simple truth.

    Loved this post. 🙂

  3. […] of my friends dissed me for disparaging sappy viral videos. I may be a grumpy old man from time to time, but I’m not a heartless cynic. Surely my […]

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