Many thanks to Book Blather staff member, Cheryl Dale, for the following post.
I recently strayed from my faith based blog platform (www.climbingoutofthevalley.wordpress.com) and posted a humorous story at the request of a friend. I received a surprising number of responses to that post. People love to laugh, and people love to discover they aren’t the only ones who do dumb things.
Here’s the main part of the post:
My husband and I make quite a few extended trips on our Harley Davidson. We have a favorite couple we like to travel with, the friend mentioned above and her husband. They had been married just five days and this was our very first trip with them. My husband and I were celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary and they were marking one week as we left home for ten days on the open road.
It is no secret that guys love their bikes. They talk about them, show them off, polish them, compare them, and talk about them some more. Every time we stopped for a break, the guys would stand around admiring the bikes while she (let’s call her Bev) and I busied ourselves with more important things like finding an espresso stand or poking around gift shops or catching up on all that had gone on since the last stop two hundred miles ago.
This particular stop was for gas and a short break. Bev and I went inside the mini-market to grab a cup of that questionable push-a-button- shazaam-it’s-espresso. Of course we got the extra large size. We wandered back out to where the guys were doing what guys do – admiring their bikes. The sun was shining, the weather was perfect and the camaraderie was perfect.
I leaned against a pole and took a big sip of my drink. Bev decided she needed something out of the saddlebags so she set her drink on the front seat of the bike. The memory of what followed will forever be frozen in time.
Bev opened the saddlebag, her extra large, hot, sticky drink tipped over, the shiny chrome of the Harley disappeared under a sheet of mocha – and the only sound was the sharp gasp of breath from every man within viewing distance.
No one moved for several seconds. All of the guys looked at the husband. Bev and I looked at each other. Somehow we knew this would be the ultimate test of the week old marriage. She would either be flattened, forgiven, or forced to find her own ride home.
Have you ever known someone who reacts to a crisis by laughing? Yeah? Well, that’s my friend Bev. So let me give you some advice right here and now. Dousing a Harley Davidson showroom polished motorcycle with a sticky chocolate drink is not a laughing matter. Take my word for it.
You might also appreciate knowing that pulling a cheap, carboardy napkin out of your pocket and attacking the flawless chrome is not a good idea regardless of your intentions. There are special chamois cloths for that.
And one more bit of knowledge gleaned from that experience. Men love their wives. Men love their motorcycles. Do not let yourself get in a situation where one is pitted against the other. My friends are still married – but it was a close call.
The response to the post was a good lesson for me when applied to my fiction-writing journey. Even though it’s called fiction, it still has to be real. Whether you write contemporary, fantasy, paranormal or sci fi, your characters have to be believable. The reader must be able to bond enough to say, “In another life that could be me” or “That sounds impossible but it’s happened to me.”
Real life experiences, therefore, make great fiction details. We love to laugh at other people’s trips and falls not because we’re mean and unfeeling, but because we are relieved we aren’t the only clumsy ones on the planet. We love to hear about unbelievable incidents that were incredibly embarrassing because – we’ve been there.
When I fell off three short steps at church, broke both feet and did major soft tissue damage I didn’t think anyone would believe you could get hurt that badly in such a simple way. What I found out was people responded with stories way crazier than mine!
Characterization is all about getting the reader to engage. What better way to engage than to put something on the page that makes them sit back and say, “I love her. She’s just like me.” Or “Hey, I got in the same mess when I was in high school.”
I’m not just talking about humor. Heart wrenching, tear jerking, life changing experiences work the same way. When something about your character touches the scarred soul of your reader, you’ve made a friend for life.
Books and stories take us away from everyday life and let us live in another time and place for a while. But the things that happen in those books and stories are really just a skilled writer’s poetry of everyday life.