Monday, May 20, 2013

The Big Impact of the Smaller Things

I think this post has been brewing for a while, but it was actually a non-writing related meltdown that made me realize it.

I took the day off on Friday to get a few things done, namely my glucose tolerance test and a tune-up for my car to make sure it's safe to drive to Georgia.

Things have been stressful in recent months, but I've really been trying to take everything in stride. Sure there have been tears along the way, but on Friday I was honestly convinced I might never stop crying.

And it was basically over the stupidest thing ever.

In my defense, in addition to the things in the links above, I'd consumed enough sugar for 3 people, I'd worked late the past two weeks, gotten all kinds of aggravation from unaccommodating doctors offices in GA, and on top of it all, I had a wicked, can't-get-more-than-two-feet-from-a-box-of-tissues-or-you're-in-trouble cold.

All relatively small things, in and of themselves.

And then, to make a long story short, my doctor's office screwed up a prescription refill and I got stuck paying for a medication I'll never take, all because they didn't follow instructions.

We're only talking about a $25 copay here. But guys, between stress and not feeling well, I melted down like they'd just stripped me of my entire life's savings. The tears just kept on coming.

When I talked to my husband he said, "Babe, it's only a prescription, it's not a big deal." I knew he was right, but that didn't stop it from feeling like a very big deal. It felt like confirmation that nothing would ever go right in my life ever again, because it had been so long since anything had.

It sounds dramatic, because most of us (myself included) know better than to sweat the little things. But when the little things keep piling up, they get heavier and heavier. And eventually, something is going to buckle under the weight.

But the moral of all this? Is that these are the exact moments I try to capture in my YA stories.

When the average person thinks back on his or her high school years, it's usually not one specific event or memory that evokes the misery and perfection of being a teenager - it's a culmination of many moments. Looking back on my own high school years, there really weren't any major events.
     Does it mean that nothing I went through didn't FEEL like a major event?
     That nothing I experienced didn't shape my way of thinking and acting for years to come?  
     That I can't still recall those moments of joy or anger or hurt as if they just happened yesterday?
Absolutely Not.

And this, THIS, is the exact reason I wrote the contemporary romance that got me my agent. I wanted a book that captured those first-relationship moments you never forget, because of how they made you FEEL.

The smiles and laughs that start to take on a different meaning until your insides squirm when you realize your feelings for someone extend beyond friendship.

The way it feels like you've been punched right in the gut the first time you see that person look at someone else the way you wish they'd look at you.

The magnitude of a kiss you've waited eons for.

The letdown of knowing it can't be anything more.

The devastation of believing you're inferior and worthless.

The invincible feeling of knowing you most certainly are NOT inferior or worthless, and no one ever has the right to make you feel that way, thank you very much.

Having no real certainty of where do I go from here?

Those, to me, are the moments that stand out from my teenage years, and the things that have never left my mind, even though they're not momentous by anyone else's definition. Unfortunately, novels that flesh out these kinds of moments are often branded "quiet," almost like it's a bad word.

I don't call them quiet. I call them "real."

It's a huge challenge to drum up major emotion from minor things, to create drama that's gripping and relatable without theatrics. To write something people will love just for the way it makes them feel. To create a story that's a collection of small things leaving a big impact.

Wasting 25 bucks on a botched prescription refill is not a big deal. Neither is developing a crush on someone. But they've FELT like big deals to all of us at one time or another, and when you can put that moment in context to make someone feel its significance all over again, that is no small feat as an author.

So no, I don't say "quiet" like it's a bad word when it comes to novels. I say it like it's something I'd love to see more of. I say it with respect.
I say it like it's an accomplishment. Because it is.

Your turn - what small moments in life have made the biggest impact on you and your writing? Which  novels have made a mark on you just for the way they made you feel (So I can go check them out RTFN)?


  1. That--the breaking point moment--is SUCH a perfect way to describe those moments in fiction. And you do such a good job of them in your books...too bad you have to go through them in real life to get there. Love you, G! <3

  2. I'm sorry you had a difficult couple of weeks; that's tough. And I know how frustrating it can be when you have to pay for someone else's mistake. I think that it's good that you channeled those emotions into your YA writing. Young teenagers become more and more aware of their emotions, I think, as they grow older, which magnifies the importance of certain events. So even one thing can mean a lot to them. I like authors who focus on the smaller, ordinary events and make them interesting, because then it's easier to relate to their stories.

  3. Oh, sweetie. First of all, **hugs*** I know those moments and they are HARD.

    Second, you are absolutely right. And whenever I hear complaints that a teen in a book is irrational, melodramatic, or why, I think....yeah. BEcause that's what life is. We freak out sometimes. The key is to get readers to completely sympathize with the freakout, which is what you do so incredibly.

    Hang in there. You do know you can call any time, right?

  4. A small wrong thing at the exact wrong moment can be an INCREDIBLY big deal, no matter your age. But it is one of those perfect moments to capture in a YA contemporary novel -- something every teenager can relate to.

    I hope you survived your glucose test. I hated those. And, um, I failed one. And ended up on insulin shots -- which I hear they don't do anymore -- but hey, I survived that, too.

    So did the baby. She's almost 13 now.

  5. I am now living in a young adult stage of life. Its one of the most confusing time of life. The question, who am I ? bothers like you can't sleep at night.