Monday, January 24, 2011

Ordinary Scenes, Extrordinary Emotion


A kid's birthday party with candles sparkling on a cake. The family waits for the birthday boy to blow them out. This is an ordinary scene; please spare us the pain of reading it! Yet in this story, it is key to the climax, the very worst moment before things start getting better.

A little over a year ago, this boy had a twin. They should be celebrating their birthday, not just his. The young boy stares at these glaring menacing lights that he can easily blow out...but he couldn't blow out the fire that took his brother. The fire started by a candle.

This blog is about analyzing real life to find and appreciate the stories, characters and settings around us; sadly, the scene described above is part of a true story. In real life, I don't always hear the end; as a writer, I have the privilege of making everything better (yup, I'm generally a happy-ender).

Here's another common scene, in books or life; the death of a pet. The dog dies from rabies, which is not very common but we've all heard of Old Yeller, right? But this dog, Liberty, was the companion of a young woman doing humanitarian work in Africa. She has to bribe him into the garage and feed him poison to end his suffering. Yet after a week, he continues to live; she must let her night guard kill him. The horror is not over. A rabid dog must be burned, so the carcass will not be eaten. The young woman buys gasoline and makes a pyre of coal and dry mango leaves, adding to it throughout the day until it is finally...done. Not your average "my hamster died" story.   

Next time you have an average scene to write, look around, read the news, take a walk; see if there's something extrodinary happening in the humdrum normal stuff.


  1. Very good advice. You've given me something to put in the "remember to do this" box.

  2. Very nice. I was just reading a book about acting with my dtr (we managed to get to one of her classes early - a rarity) and the author offered the same advice about character ...someone may think she is BRAVE but climb on a chair when she sees a mouse or insist she's never silly but gush at her dogs and talk baby talk. There are so many emotions hidden in each character and associated with items in our stories.

  3. I love what you did with that scene. You added emotion to an ordinary scene. Great job.