Do you ever have those moments when you think, “I’m totally going to use that in a book”? When you want to stick that joke or one-liner in your back pocket for later? I do. Every day. All the time. Whether it’s something that someone says to me or something I see happening and it triggers a description in my head, I always get those moments.
And I’m not really talking about ideas. I know a lot of writers get those at the weird and unexpected times. I’m talking about those random pieces that you can pull from reality.
I love getting those. They’re like these little helping hands. I can’t say how many times I’ve asked, “Hey can I put that in my book?” Getting things from that reality place makes the world you are building so much more relatable and real. It also will mean more to you, as the writer. Rereading and recognizing that one little genius line that helped you get through this novel.
There is a problem, though.
These little lines of conversation or funny moments and stories that we see in reality are ones we want to use. Because they work and they are great. But the problem is that we forget them. Or we can’t fit them into the story that we are already working on. Or they don’t fit our target audience. And if you are having to “fit” anything into your story, it probably shouldn’t be there to begin with.
It’s like when someone tries to “fit” you into their busy schedule. You’ll be there, but you won’t have their full attention. Everything in your story should get your full attention, and not feel crammed in at the last minute.
That’s why you outlined, right?
So how do we solve this problem? More importantly, how do we seek out the back-pocket-moments if we aren’t catching them already?
Let’s start with the easy one. This is kind of like my advice for holding on to ideas, to write them down and store them all in one place. Whether that be a journal, a phone, a Word document, or even in a box underneath your bed with a jagged slit in the top.
I know it’s difficult to organize like that. True geniuses don’t have time for organization and are typically messy, but we’ve got to draw a line at some point. You don’t want to forget these little lines because they are how we can incorporate our own worlds, things we can relate to, into our writing. And that’s going to help you make it more relatable to others, too.
You never know, some of these things might spark a story idea at some point.
Okay, now for the harder one. How do we seek out these back-pocket-moments? It’s actually pretty simple. It’s not too hard. It’s not going to kill you. But you won’t like it.
Yes, we’re going to talk about socializing. And not socializing between fictional characters, but the real kind. I know, it’s hard for me too.
Listen to other peoples’ reality-stories. Don’t try to think about your own fictional story. Listen to conversations. You know, when you are in a group conversation but don’t actually talk? Yeah, that’s when you should be listening.
If you are obsessed with your story like you probably are, since you are reading this blog, then your story will always be in the back of your mind. It will never get too far and will always stay within reach. When you are in social situations, just keep listening, and eventually it will come naturally. You might even get a little engrossed with the TV-worthy dramas going on around you. It will give you new characters and new places and new subplots that you never even thought about.
And then you will think to yourself, “Man, I’ve got to put this in my book.” You won’t even realize it. You hear a story, with a one-liner that sounds just like what one of your characters would say, and think that. Think of your novel as a puzzle. You’re in charge of making all of the pieces, but every now and then you might stumble across a perfect corner in the wild (reality=the wild). One that fits in like it was made to be there.
Then you write it down.
Another piece of advice? When you find ones that you know you will use in the story that you are writing now, put them in a separate document. A separate place. The “On hold” shelf of your library, if you will. That way you won’t have to go through your collection of back-pocket-moments to find the perfect one for that scene in your story.
And if you get bored, or need a break from writing, go through that collection. See if anything sparks some inspiration. By the time I was done with my first draft of Holding My Breath, I had pages and pages of these. I think it was eleven, actually. Everything from funny comments from my dad’s childhood stories to the way I came up with to describe the half-it sky, while I was on a fishing trip in the mountains. I’m always thinking about things like that when I’m in the first draft, how to describe things that my characters might see.
That sky description ended up being a huge symbolic moment in the book. Symbolism is so fun. Isn’t symbolism so fun?
God, I’m such a nerd.
I love it.
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Thank you for reading, and don’t stop writing!