A typical story is built on action and adventure, particularly when you look at epic Fantasy, Science Fiction and Dystopian stories. But lately, I have become increasingly interested in stories that are more focused on small moments.
Is it possible to write an engaging story that is based on small moments and human interaction? If you had asked me this a few months ago, I might not have said yes. Even though our lives are typically just a series of small moments, with some action and adventure hopefully woven into it, we simply don’t experience life like the heroes and heroines who live in the pages we turn with eagerness. But, after coming across stories that do emphasize the small moments of life and realizing how much I enjoy them, I would have to amend my first thoughts and absolutely say yes.
A story of small moments has a very different focus. It is based on human interactions and as much of the things that are said as the things that are left unsaid. They are subtle, but the writer blows them up so that the reader is right in the center of it. A book I read recently (For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund ) is a story made up of small moments. The agony and the suspense are all wrapped up in the painful encounters that the main characters share, and the many things they do not share with one another. You have to be a VERY skilled writer to pull something like this off. But I felt my adrenaline pumping in this story in the same way I would in an action/adventure story. I became so invested in the characters, that I began to feel anxious for them in their everyday agonies. My next thoughts: How can I do this in my own writing?
It was rather fortuitous that I was pointed to this book right now. My main characters have a similarly complex relationship as Kai and Elliot in For Darkness Shows the Stars. And reading this story has given me some great ideas for how to approach Vea and Kale and showcase them in a way that would help the story along. Withered World has a bit more action than Kai and Elliot’s story, but Vea and Kale spend a fair amount of time together in places where there are dips in the action and there’s a real opportunity to flesh out the characters and their relationship through dialogue.
The challenge? Keeping it interesting.
This is something that Peterfreund does really well and, I hope from having read her book a few times through, that I can make a go of it myself.
I’ve picked up on a couple of tactics to help enhance these moments and endear readers to my characters. First, I am planning to have Vea say one thing to Kale and think another. These interactions seem to be particularly poignant and they stress the complexity of the characters and their relationships. Besides, we do this in real life all the time.
Another thing Peterfreund does in her novel is showcase the physical reactions that the characters have during their interactions. I believe this is what heightened my own responses to the story and brought me even closer to the characters. A lot of Elliot’s experiences are very visceral and heart-wrenching. And most of the time, she keeps them hidden, but there’s a particularly gut-wrenching scene when, to her dismay, Kai witnesses her feelings.
The concept of small moments in stories is one that I will continue to be intrigued by and hope to study more going forward. It’s hard to find writers who do a good job with this. It’s easy to get bored. Action and adventure are the easy parts (in comparison). If you have recommendations, please share in the comments! As I apply these new ideas to my edits, I will report back and let you know what my beta readers think and if it improves their feelings for the story and for the characters.