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A Young Woman at a Wedding

at a wedding--1993

at a wedding--1993

The possibilities are endless. Right?

1. A young woman, an aspiring writer, goes to her friend’s wedding. She has a nice time. She goes home.

2. A young woman, an aspiring writer, goes to her friend’s wedding. She gets drunk, makes a pass at a groomsman and is rebuffed. She goes home and cries herself to sleep.

3. A young woman, an aspiring writer, goes to her friend’s wedding. She gets drunk with the groomsmen. She stumbles out into the hotel hallway with one and they kiss. A group of people get off the elevator and they stop. She says goodbye. She leaves. He promises to call, but of course, he doesn’t.

4. A young woman, an aspiring writer, goes to her friend’s wedding and gets drunk with the groomsmen. One groomsman convinces her to go look for some other friends and she wanders the hotel hallways with him until they get tired and sit on the floor where they pass out. In the morning they are teased endlessly by their friends.

5. A young woman, an aspiring writer, goes to her friend’s wedding and gets drunk. She finds herself alone with a groomsman in the hotel hallway where they kiss. A lot. They go downstairs and ask for a room. When they are told a dental convention has taken all the other rooms, they lean against each other and laugh. They go to the bar, get coffee, and talk all night. After the day they never see each other again.

6. A young woman, an aspiring writer, goes to her friend’s wedding. Drunk, she keeps dancing with a groomsman until they have left the reception and kiss in the hotel hallway. They try to get a room but the rooms are filled with wedding and dental convention guests. They laugh and stumble into the parking lot. He suggests they find his car but he doesn’t have his keys. They go to the Denny’s across the road and share secrets all night. They never see each other again.

7. A young woman, an aspiring writer, gets drunk at her friend’s wedding. She dances as long as she can and then leaves with a groomsman. They kiss on the hallway floor and in the stairwell. There are no rooms available. They go to the parking lot where they dance between the cars and kiss again, but they can’t get in his car. He doesn’t have the keys. They give up and go to the room she is sharing with another friend. The two of them fall on the bed, and she with her head on his shoulder falls asleep. He strokes her hair. They never see each other again.

How do you know when a story is true? I don’t mean–it really happened that way. You may know well a story is fiction, but it rings true in your head or your heart or your gut. Wherever it is you feel such things.

One of the above stories may be true. Which one feels that way to you and why? Or perhaps they all fall flat. Why then are they unbelievable?

12 thoughts on “A Young Woman at a Wedding

  1. Bottom line is you’re stuck with having a convincing voice. The way you wrote them, they all resonate the truth of what those characters did. I guess you’ll have to get used to it.

    As an exercise in my writing seminars, I calculate the number of students, add a factor of five or six additional, then prepare slips of paper with an uneven number of True written on some, False on the others. I put them in a paper sack, shake them, ask each student to take one and hide its T or F designation. Then each student writes something and we all of us participate in trying to guess whose stories were really true, which were made up. Never in all the years I’ve done this has anyone cheated. But the results invariably lead to the issues you raised in your blog post. It doesn’t matter if it really happened that way. It matters if you believe it.

    Unless you have some kind of meltdown, the more you write and the more I am fortunate to read your work, the more yet I will come to trust you.

    BTW, I trust Powers.

  2. They all felt potentially real to me. If I had to pick which one WAS true, I’d probably go with 4, 2, 3, or 1. They seemed the most real to me for their human-ness. People go to weddings and nothing happens. People go to weddings and do stupid things like fall asleep in hallways.

    The others have their plausible aspects too – it’s not that they were UNbelievable, but I think the “they never see each other again” aspect seemed … I don’t know – wouldn’t the aspiring writer ask her friend, the bride, if she can find out why the guy never called? I guess it’s the “never” aspect that strikes me. No phone calls, no letters, no “what the hell happened” questions – that’s what it is that’s striking me.

  3. I don’t think I, for myself, look at it from that direction, but from the other: when the story’s off, false, not true, not the right decision — be that in micro- or macrocosm — I feel the FALSEHOOD. I wrote a book several years ago and at the halfway point I made a major shift in direction. It was jarring and wrong. But the book was wrong initially, and more wrong after I made the shift, because the story wasn’t right, wasn’t true, was false.

    When I’m writing now, and I feel there will be a shift toward not true, false, wrong decision … I stop writing. Sometimes (okay, once), the right, true, not wrong way will come to me later. Other times the book stays on hold, unfinished, untouched. I have several I’ve started and never gone back to; most of them felt “wrong” out of the gate to me.

    This is a difficult concept to explain, isn’t it?

    Or is it just me? Oh. It’s me. Ugh.

  4. If I had to guess, I’d say #6 is the true(st) one. Why? Details.

    First one that jumped out at me was the dental convention. Not just “all the rooms were taken,” not even “…because of a convention” — but because of a dental convention.

    But two options mentioned that detail. Ah, but #6 threw in another: Denny’s. Not just “a diner across the road” but a specific place, calling to mind specific sensory experiences, and not improbably calling to mind a reader’s own experiences in such a place. (A McDonald’s wouldn’t work — too ubiquitous, and also an implausible locale for an all-nighter — even though it, too, would be instantly recognizable in the reader’s mind.)

    So the details, for me, instantly lend credibility. (Which is one little thing Stephen King does — think of all the brand names he uses — to make his stories of unbelievable events real.)

    Note that I’m not saying #6 is emotionally the truest. If you took those details and blended them with some of the “content of the heart” shown in the others, or brought some of that content into #6, then everything would start to coalesce.

  5. Any of those options can be ‘real’ in a story–it’s the writer’s job to frame the event properly, is all. So long as it appears to move the story along in some fashion, whether it be to give some background, to give emotional motivation, to explain, to screw up a relationship or whatever, any of those can work.

    That’s the cool thing about writing. We can make anything fly. Sometimes there are better choices available for the purpose at hand; but written right, you can make it work.

  6. Like Shelly said, you have a convincing voice. They all COULD be true. The more details you added to each one made them seem truer and truer, until about #5, when the addition of more details made them seem more like something someone would write. Is there a point in there somewhere? Don’t know. You’ve given me something to think about.

    Interesting post.

  7. The reason they never saw each other again was that the young woman in question left for the Peace Corps a short while later. And she decided not to torment herself by even asking for his address because she figured if she did the asking and he didn’t write, she’d feel like an idiot.

    And just to add, her friend wasn’t the bride. Her friend was the groom, which was why she hung out with the groomsmen in the first place.

    And finally, for the record, while the dental convention was a true detail, that wasn’t the true story. The true one was the last one. But I don’t think that matters too much.

    • Yeah, well, I’m not sure if it isn’t the other way around. What does it say about the true story? It is tricky to decide on the best details. Thanks for reading them all.

  8. All the options sound plausible to me. Only the first could have happened to me, making me think of another question: can you be a good writer if you’ve hardly experienced life? ~Miriam

    • You can be a good writer whatever life you lead. There are infinite ways to experience life. All you need to be able to do is imagine them–living them not required. There are certainly plenty of people who experienced more than me.

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