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Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beware of the Little Things

I ran to the convenience store yesterday to get a soda to help me through the long afternoon.  

I really ought to sit at this particular store with a notebook someday because every time I go I see someone or something interesting that I want to incorporate into a story.

Today was no exception. 



I can turn it all into a writing lesson!  

I parked my tempermental truck (story for another day) in front of the store.  A woman was walking in front of the truck into the store.  At first glance, she appeared to be a chic professional.  

Blonde hair.
Black slacks
Fitted black pinstripe jacket.  
Cute black sling back pumps.  

As she turned to go into the store, I was struck by her hair.  
And not in a good way.
It was just past her shoulders and just hung there.  Dull, lifeless, BLAHSVILLE.  

I don't say this to be mean. Lord knows there's no love lost between ME and MY hair (someone please save me).  

But her hair ruined her look. 

And I thought to myself

(as I do)

"Wow.  One little detail can throw everything else out the window"

Another example. 

I'm in the store now.  She's off in the corner getting I don't know or care what.  I'm heading to the fountain drinks.  I turn my head and there's this OH MY GOD gorgeous man entering the store.

Now I'm as happily married as you can be.  

Been married for 17 years, but 'with' him for almost 19.  

I'm NOT looking to get myself into any trouble or anything, but if I were a single woman again, this man would be in ALL my fantasies.  Helllllllllllloooooooooooooooo sexy!

You know what I'm saying?  Short dark hair, big Hershey's Chocolate Bar eyes.  Business casual attire. 

We're talking YUMMMM-ILICIOUS.

Blondie is in front of me now, paying for her stuff.  I grab a pack of gum from the rack behind me...daughter ate my last piece the night before, and you never know when you're going to need a piece of minty refreshment.

I pay for my stuff.  Mr Hot Stuff is behind me now.  

I'm not on the market, but you know the presence of such "oo-la-la-ness" just makes you want to act cooler. 

Like I can make him WISH he were lucky enough to be married to me. HA!


I paid for my stuff, and left.  Someone is yelling behind me.  I ignore it.  I get to my truck and Mr. Gorgeous Himself (yes, He needs to be capitalized at all times) rushes out to hand me my gum.

Our hands touch during the hand off. 


I thank him (graciously of course) and get ready to leave.

Turns out he was parked right next to me.  A BMW from New Jersey.  Well well well.  As I'm backing up, he's getting into his car.  I'm thinking he's earned himself a spot in my Virtual Harem (ahem, hubby and I both have them, kind of a wish list).

But before I can decide where he ranks among the other boy toys and eye candy, I see he's got a pack of cigarettes in his hand.

Ruined the whole fantasy for me.

Both my parents smoked, half my siblings do.  It is in no way a reflection on who you are or the quality of your personage, but I just cannot think about a smoker like *that*.  No matter how scrumptious he might be. 

And so, 

(here comes my brilliant segueway)

...even the most perfectly crafted story can come crashing down in a second by a misplaced detail.


And here is a real life writing example...

I read a book earlier this spring.  (Okay, I technically read more than one, but I didn't have an issue with most of them)  

This one book was REALLY bad with the details.  

For instance:
  • A person went to bed wearing one thing and got up in the middle of the night wearing something entirely different.
  • The characters' ages and age differences kept fluctuating.  We're talking 3-4 years off. 
  • The characters did things that should have been completely out of character for someone in their position.  (There are some things that you can reasonably expect a cop/teacher/priest to do or not do, right?)
  • The dialogue was, in most cases, stiff and painful. 
The premise of the book was interesting, but there were so many of these glitches that it completely ruined the whole experience for me.  

Soooo, tell me.  What was the worst mistake you've run across in a book?  (you don't have to name the book if you don't want.  I'm not out to trash anyone)


Jen said...

Wow Vicki I imagined one gorgeous man and as soon as you said cigarettes I too was uninvested. Too bad because he sounded gorgeous!

The hubs and I met at work, we enjoyed one another's company for about a year until we started dating and when we moved in together I realized he smoked. It was awful and took a lot adjusting to. The man I fell in love with wasn't supposed to be a smoker. Luckily he's taken the steps to quit though it's been hard. I love him too much, but that part is very unattractive so I understand where you are coming from!

JustineDell said...

Oh, super cool way to teach a lesson! I love a good swooning, too. Too bad it was ruined for you though. But hey, keep the visual of him locked up in your mind for future reference. ;-)

I've read so many "mistakes" I can't name one specifically.

More recently, I read Nightlight (the Twilight Parody) and found numerous OBVIOUS typos.

Then one time (one the very first page of a Harlequin Romance book a sentence said the following:

"she'd had had" Which is basically saying "she had had had....and there is no such thing. Grrr....

I normally notice the things that are supposed to be "off-limits" to us newbies, which make me angry.

Excellent Post!


Creepy Query Girl said...

'Virtual Harem'- bwahahahaha! We all have them! One little thing that erks me is when I'm reading a series in quick succession and the past keeps being reiterated for those who haven't read the prior books. I'm like- 'get ON with it already'

Candyland said...

Details are key. They can absolutely make or break something. Let's see, in a book I really hate it when they do something out of character and I have to go back and re-read.

Matthew Rush said...

Interesting story Vicki, thanks for sharing. I smoked for years until I quit - it is disgusting.

Culture Served Raw said...

Oh I know what you mean in the last part. I'm not one to trash books, and I;m bad at being subtle so I'll pass on answering that! Needless to say, very entertaining article!

Carolyn V. said...

Oh man! I picked up a book last year. I read through the first chapter with excitement until I hit the info dump. I couldn't wade through it, so I put the book down. I haven't opened it since. *sigh*

Shannon said...

Excellent lesson and I loved how you told it. Good job keeping me reading. :)

As you know, I have a hard time maintaining my suspension of disbelief so just about anything will jar me out of a book/movie. It sucks.

Wendy Ramer said...

The smoking thing is weird for me. I lived in Europe for a few years and so had to accept smokers or live a very solitary existence. I eventually fell madly in love with a smoker, and though my husband does not smoke and the mere scent of cigarettes now grates my last nerve, back then it was different. And today, when I think of 'his' kisses, they are laced with tobacco, and it is such a sweet memory. (And don't go making me feel guilty for still thinking of 'his' kisses. Every girl's got her secret past, right?)

Renae said...

This was a hilarious way to teach a lesson. Well done! I agree that one little detail can throw off the entire story, though I'm not sure I've ever read a stroy like what you described.

I simply hate when details get repeated over and over in books!

Dawn said...

Oh yeah, details MATTER for sure. Good eye for catching him, er, them. In books, I can overlook a couple of faux pas (just as I'm come to accept my husband's quirks...) but too many and I become frustrated. Maybe it's because as a struggling writer, it annoys me that some work is publishable.
Btw - I lobe the virtual harem. My husband claims he doesn't have one, but I suppose my Monday Muse Avatar selection could be classified as an Inspirational Harem. Hey, whatever works. Right?

Maribeth said...

Great way to reach a lesson. Felt let down with the cigarette. *sigh*
Won't name the novel but two biggies. The author described a well known building in Chicago and was way off base--even got the number of floors and architecture wrong. Then was so far out of whack in describing a Catholic Mass that non-Catholic friends who also read the book were complaining.
Even if you think you know things like this you should check to be sure.

Giggles and Guns

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Holy cats, was that a published book that you read? So sad. And the "virtual harem" had me spitting out my tea. I'm looking for a way to introduce this concept to the hubby. *grins*

I love these kinds of life-in-the-moment lessons! Thanks so much for sharing!! :)

Janet Johnson said...

The would have ruined it for me, too. Great story!

And I'm with Susan. Published? Amazing.

Janet Johnson said...

Wow, distracted by baby in arms. I meant "The cigarettes would have ruined it for me." :)

Kimberly Franklin said...

I loved this story. Isn't it amazing how one small, insignificant even, detail can make all the difference?!

Have a great day!!

Sandy Shin said...

I love your story, and the connection you've made to writing. A tiny little detail really can make all the difference.

(Although, it could be a good thing, too: A great, suprising little detail can convince a reluctant reader.)

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Great story, Vicki! I had a substitute in my kickboxing class today and he was worthy of joining your virtual harem. You wouldn't believe how hard I worked out today!

Lisa K. said...

Great story, and that certainly does make for an excellent writing lesson. Loved your post!

Renee Gold said...

Vicki, Vicki, Vicki....
how am i going to sleep now.. i am going to be wide awake thinking of that perfect picture you posted of Pierce Brosnan! This is quite true... I am not usually one to go ga ga over too many men. I am so particular. However, I do think that photo of Pierce is the closet thing to perfect I have ever seen. (period)<

I also loved him in Mama Mia.... he is just freaking hot. There is not a better way to say it!
Good night (I hope)... I have a feeling I am going to continuously play the scene in Mama Mia where he sings to Meryl at the end....