When you think back to your favorite novel or film, what moments in the story stick in your mind? Often there is one scene that reveals something new or even something very familiar about life and stays with us.
In an interview with Publishers Weekly, novelist Courtney Maum (I Am Having So Much Fun With You) talked about the mix of heartache and humor that often occur together. She gave a wonderful example from her life:
“For instance, last summer I was eight months pregnant and we had to put our cat down. I mean, we really loved this cat. While we were burying him in the backyard, two men were painting our nursery. And the painters were singing along to ‘Love Shack’ on this awful radio with terrible sound while we were outside crying.”
I think if you can find this kind of moment when your character experiences something that illuminates the tragi-comedy that is his or her life (and ours) it enriches the story.
What moments like this did your characters experience?
Did they notice them at the time?
Were they changed by it?
Even if you don’t use those moments in your manuscript, being aware of them will help you get to know your characters more intimately.
As an exercise try looking at a photo and brainstorm what else might be happening or about to happen that would make it a dramatic moment (example below).
(Get tips on writing from Anton Chekhov and the other greatest writers of all time, collected in Your Creative Writing Masterclass, now available from Amazon or your other favorite bookseller.)