Are you with him?

meeting the future mom-in-law's friends
meeting the future mom-in-law's friends

“Would you like to dance?” he says.

I’m sitting in a country/western bar with my best friend, S., and my dad’s girlfriend. The man standing at our table is tall and lanky. He wears a plaid shirt, a wide silver belt buckle, dusty jeans, and cowboy boots. I assume he drives a pickup or a Grand Prix. He looks at least ten years older than my 22 year old self.

“Sure,” I said. My dad’s girlfriend thinks I never date. I suspect she is starting to think I have no interest in men, but she’s too nice to say. She nudges my best friend’s arm. “Well, would you look at that,” she says.

On the dance floor, the man holds my hand and puts his other hand on my waist. He’s a gentleman though and doesn’t stand too close. We make small talk and I glance over at the table and dad’s girlfriend and S. are whispering to each other and watching me.

The slow song ends. “One more dance?” he asks. I nod before I realize what the next song is. The song is Strokin’ by Clarence Carter, and my stomach drops and my face burns red. I think of walking of the dance floor, but neither do I want to look uptight. I can take a joke, right? I’m a modern girl, yes?

I look at dad’s girlfriend and S. They are laughing. Well, it is just a song. The man smiles at me, and I do what I’m best at–pretend I don’t notice anything.

When the song ends, the man says something to me, but I don’t listen. “Thanks, but I really need to sit down,” I say, more to the floor than to him, and walk away.

In real life I’ll do close to anything to avoid conflict, but obviously this doesn’t work in a story. Sometimes I wonder if I don’t stir up too much trouble between characters, putting disasters together and figuring out if all turns out well or otherwise. Sometimes I worry I haven’t caused my characters enough trouble, but I don’t want to go over the top.

Where is the top? How do you know you’ve taken the reader far enough?


In other news…I keep tweaking the fiction blog (go figure), and have added brief descriptions of the other novels I’ve written. Since I’m trying to decide which one to edit next, please consider leaving a comment about which one sounds the most intriguing. (If they all sound like train wrecks, please, like my son says, keep it in your brain.)

7 thoughts on “Are you with him?

  1. fairyhedgehogblog

    That took me right back to being a teenager and dancing with guys. The uncertainty, the fluttering stomach: it was all there.

  2. fairyhedgehogblog

    PS I looked at your other novel ideas. My guess is that you could make any of them work but I commented on the ones that most caught my eye.

  3. Somewhere, I once read that the way to build suspense is — obviously — to put your character (main or otherwise) in jeopardy. And then, less obviously, you keep cranking up the intensity of things going wrong: they solve one little problem, overcome one obstacle, and wham, get hit with another.

    At some point you’ve got to stop, unless maybe you’re updating the story of Job.

    Apparently like you, I tend to avoid conflict in real life. Apparently unlike you, though, I worry about including too much in my stories; I don’t like to torture my characters :). (But I do kill them sometimes.) Hampering The Bad Guys, especially for comic effect, is for me a lot more satisfying than doing it to The Good Guys.

    But where’s the line? Dunno. One of those “it depends”-type answers, probably!

    (P.S. Thanks for the reminder about the fiction blog. Been a tough week to spend much time online but I *will* look at it… because I’m looking forward to it!)

  4. JES, I like the don’t torture but kill thing you got going on. I hamper the bad guys, but I like to make the reader think the bad guys are winning for a while. I may have a mean streak after all.

  5. That had to be the first time someone replied to a comment from me before I posted the comment itself.

    I know, I know — probably just some stupid time-zone techno-thing. Leave me in my dream world where time travel is possible (if rare)!

  6. This is exactly my problem. Since I avoid all conflict in real life too, I have a very difficult time putting it into writing, especially when I’m not writing thrillers or adventure stories. Just family type drama. It’s a question I’m always asking myself, and I’m always afraid I don’t put in enough conflict, or worse, I’m putting in conflict that’s not realistic!

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