“I rented a billboard to ask her to marry me,” he said. We were sitting on his couch. It was our third date.
“Really?” I said, not wanting it to be true.
He looked matter-of-fact, as if he’d just said he’d run out of ice. “She said no.”
Well, obviously, I thought, though I did experience momentary panic. It wouldn’t be the first I’d gone on a date with someone meant for someone else. “When did this happen?” I ask. We’d known each other for less than two weeks.
“Two weeks before I met you,” he said.
“Oh.” Four weeks ago. A month. I felt winded. And I knew he was never going to like me. I can’t follow a girl worth a billboard. I can’t be the girl worth a billboard. I don’t know what quality a girl like that has, but he was never going to find it in me. Don’t go out with this guy again. You are wasting your time.
How does it change the story to know this was the tactophobe? Well, of course! Details matter–what you leave out and what you put in. Now, he looks more heartbroken and I look even more foolish. I like a story to zip along and some details slow the pace. Maybe sometimes a reader needs a break. Maybe they need to know.
I like to be fair to my characters. It’s been bothering me since I first had to ramble on about the tactophobe that I wasn’t being fair. I knew he was heartbroken, and I didn’t say.
But in fiction how fair do you have to be?