I do give a thumbs up to FB’s ability to keep me up to date on the lives of my friends who live far away. What they have to say is humorous, entertaining or inspiring, thank goodness. But if I Facebooked everything I have the option of posting, do you think anyone would want to be my friend? Here is an example… Tonight I (DRUM ROLL) ordered (Wait for it! Waaaiiiittt!) A PIZZA FROM DOMINO’S!!!! (Wild cheering! Confetti dropping! Ladies swooning!)
Yes, folks, I ordered a pizza. Now, with a show of thumbs, how many people care? Eight thumbs just went up in our household, because there are four of us, we each have two thumbs and we are hungry. But aside from our clan, I can’t imagine anyone would care. It’s one of those little details best celebrated within the confines of our home.
Speaking of mind-numbing details, have you ever spoken with a person who had this very interesting story to tell, but they spent half an hour just setting it up or went off on so many tangents, you forgot the topic of discussion?
I woke this morning. It was still dark outside. I rolled over and looked at the glowing red clock. It was four a.m. I flipped my pillow, because I always do that, don't you? I tossed a few times before throwing my plaid flannel blanket aside. I knew I couldn’t go back to sleep after fifteen minutes, so I sat on the edge of my queen-sized pillow top mattress. I put on my pink slippers, stood up, exited my bedroom and passed the broken down brown recliner on my way to my 1970s kitchen to make coffee. Only I didn’t have any ground coffee so I had to find the coffee grinder and beans my wealthy high-powered executive sister gave me last Christmas. OH, MY GOSH! RIPPING MY HAIR OUT NOW!
One of my friends has a word for these people. Vanilla. Vanilla is great. Don't get me wrong, but it isn't as exciting as Cherry Garcia or Chunky Monkey. Focusing on the mundane creates a boring story. Sorry, but it's true. If I wanted to read about real life, I'd... Well, I'd put down the book and just live it.
My seven year old daughter said to me today about a classmate, "If Sally Mae isn't at school, there's no drama." I couldn't help but giggle. Whereas we might not appreciate the drama queens in real life, over-the-top is fun in fiction and exaggeration creates more memorable images.
For example, instead of saying a person was embarrassed, you could say his face was redder than Uncle Hester's bloodshot eyes on New Year's day. Or you could go a bit more traditional and say as red as a Big Boy tomato. The point is to create a strong image or emotional response, like perhaps a laugh. It is not meant to be read literally, and it is supposed to be borderline outrageous if not outright ludicrous. There's even a name for this technique. It's called hyperbole.
Back to my uninteresting story of ordering pizza. If all I said was, "Guess what I did last night? I ordered a pizza," you’d say, “Who cares?” Or, if you are a smarty-pants like my friend, Herman, you might say, "Congratulations. You must be very proud." But by simply adding a little dramatic flourish, the story of how I came to decide to order pizza and the aftermath might amuse you.
It all started with an innocent act. My daughter propped the front door open while she balanced twenty plus stuffed animals that had been scattered over our lawn seconds earlier. At this exact moment, our neurotic neighbor walked by with his dog, a husky with Paul Newman eyes and a bad disposition. On more than one occasion, our neighbor has cautioned us that his superior canine will annihilate our dog with the speed of a Ninja if she comes too close. And he must really be worried, because he wears a leash contraption wrapped around his body that is a cross between a fly-fishing rod and hospital traction. That dog isn’t going anywhere.
As the neighbor passed by, my daughter called out a greeting, waking our dog from a nap and enticing her to dash from the house to accost the killer fluff ball. Immediately, I tore after Dani, but one can only run so fast in Mr. Bunn Bunn bunny slippers. Our neighbor bellowed, “Get your dog! Get your dog!” while slinging the leash in the air like a lion tamer's whip. I yelled back, “I’m trying! I’m trying!” as I darted in circles grabbing for Dani's collar. It was the lamest three ring circus ever to come to our town.
Finally, I gained control of the situation and wrestled our 60 pound muscle-bound trouble-maker back inside. Things have never been the smoothest with this neighbor, so the encounter shook me up. To calm my nerves, I took a time-out in our hot tub where I floated, splashed water on my face and chanted, "Take me away. Take me away." Obviously, cooking was out of the question by this point, so I ordered on line from Domino's Pizza.
While I waited for the delivery guy, I had a conversation with my husband, next my son and then my daughter. Three different conversations! Never once did anyone mentioned anything odd about my appearance, so I just assumed the pizza guy was in a very good mood with all that smiling. In fact, we sat through the whole meal without anyone telling me I looked like a one-eyed Alice Cooper. My entire eyelid and underneath my eye was black! Of course, I didn’t discover this until I checked my reflection in the bathroom mirror before I headed to the mall to buy a hat for “Silly Hat Day” for my son. Good thing I checked. Thanks for having my back, family.
Have you ever had a real life situation that you know would make a good scene in a book? Did you use it? Why or why not?