Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Big and Small

Does size matter?

“If size did matter, the dinosaurs would still be alive.” – Wendelin Wiedeking

Is it the thought that counts?

“The best portion of a good man’s life is the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love.” – William Wordsworth

Is bigger better when it comes to romantic gestures or is romance in the details? Those small gestures layered into the story to create the strived for romantic chemistry between the hero and heroine, the small hints that lay the groundwork and lead up to the big moments. Perhaps it’s the unspoken show of love that we fall for and love to write.

It was only a little lie. No big deal. She could and would keep it together. Except the stars and the scent of him were casting a spell and conspiring against her. Her craving for open air and space had trapped them together beneath the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt and a zillion other tiny specks of light. The breeze carried a trace of soap, a whiff of man and a fragrance so familiar it made her think of bush parties, bonfires, cheap wine and the back seat of a ’86 Firebird.

“Then this must be my lucky day, Lilypad. I’m all yours.”

She bit down on the inside of one cheek. That he remembered the awful nickname he’d labeled her with when they were kids was a visceral punch to the gut.

“I hated that name.”

“I know.”

“Why Lilypad?”

“I don’t know, I thought of it one day when a bunch of us were catching frogs.”

“You’re such a sweet talker.”

The moan of a loose deck board sounded in the dark. “You don’t want a sweet talker. Remember?” He ran a finger down the side of her cheek. “You want someone who’s going to …”

I’ll stop there as it’s gets a little edgy after this spot. I figure Chase remembering his childhood nickname for Lily qualifies as one type of small gesture. The stroke of his finger down her cheek represents another.

If romance is about the emotional journey of the male lead and the female lead characters then small gestures are equally as important as the big payoff scenes, like the first kiss or love scene or the declaration of love. Since the ending is no surprise, the small and big payoffs need to capture the imagination, have a flavor of uniqueness and be true to the characters and their histories. They must be worth the journey.

I think the small gestures can be as heart wrenching as the big ones. Think of those instances when the giver is unable to articulate his or her feelings. When those three little words are too big to say but the need to communicate won’t be denied. Small gestures give voice to internal conflict. They set the stage for the big gestures and happily-ever-after.

Drop a few examples of your own small or big gestures. What small gesture works for you? Do you favor over-the-top big gestures? Let’s hear your opinions.

Hope you enjoyed my little snippet from my work-in-progress, Common Ground. I was desperate for word count as I left writing this post until the very last minute. I think I’m suffering from post-holiday sluggishness and am only slowly getting back into the swing of things. Maybe I’m experiencing s’more withdrawal.

“Size matters not,…Look at me. Judge me by size, do you?” – Yoda


Janet C. said...

Loved the little snippet of Common Ground, Karyn. Thanks for sharing it with us. I remember you talking on betabloggers about nicknames and Lilypad and I wondered how you were going to work it in. It's perfect, well done.

You're absolutely right - the layering of romantic gestures is so important, each one escalating the tension between the h/h. Then, one of those gestures sticks and becomes a character trait that the reader waits for (like Chase trailing a finger down Lily's cheek - he'll do it often and the reader will sigh). And perhaps Lily will come to view it as a prelude to a kiss, giving you the opportunity to up her internal conflict.

Wow, did that make any sense? Only on my first cup of coffee - wanted to post early since my day will be busy.

Captain Hook said...

The small gestures do mean a lot. When I think back on past boyfriends, it is the little gestures that I tend to remember more.

It's easy to do big when it comes to romance, but the small courtesies like opening a door and sincerely asking how my day was mean so much more.

Great snippet of your story. I can't wait to see it on shelves.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks Janet. I had great fun writing that bit so I hope it survives through the next editing process.

And you make perfect sense, even on one cup of coffee. I've read books recently where I wondered just where the romance in the romance genre had gone. To me, it's the unspoken gestures, the revealing tells our characters fall back on when words fail or are purposefully held back.

I know you're very busy with final preparations. I hope things are coming together as smoothly as possible.

Karyn Good said...

Thank you for the vote of confidence, Captain Hook. I'm in need of it today.

Isn't there a saying about love being in the details? I think that's so true.

Have a great day! I know you're busy too.

Vince said...

Hi Karyn:

I couldn’t agree with your observations more. I made an observation many years ago about real life and those around me that goes like this: “The big things you have to do, it’s the small things which determine your sincerity.”

A man may work two jobs and care for his invalid wife. However, these actions are expected of him and he could be doing them out of social pressure and a sense of duty. There may be no love in his sacrifice at all. Yet, if in the middle of the night, with no one looking, he gets up and checks her bed, and seeing perspiration on her forehead, blots it away with a cool rag, then that gesture alone says more about his love than any of his big sacrifices.

Sincerity is often best evidenced by small gestures.

Girlfriends intuitively see small gestures that immediately warn them that the new boyfriend of one of their own is all wrong for her. They lament, “Why can’t she see it?”
Writers need to be like girlfriends. They have to see things and then show them in the proper context at the right time. (Fortunately, having a talkative sister, I always knew girlfriends were more influential than my date herself. LOL)

Karyn, I like your story. Remembering a nickname from the past is a little thing that shows a deeper interest in the person. I read a story recently where the young girl heroine kept a ‘good luck’ stone from the side of the river the hero gave her for all the years she and the hero were apart. She still had it when they met again many years later. She hides her true feelings for him and tries to prevent the hero from knowing she kept the stone but at the right moment in the story he discovers the stone among her things. This scene is emotionally powerful.

What if Lilypad absent mindedly rubs a spot just above her left eye where she was last kissed by the hero many years ago? What could be made of this small gesture?

You are absolutely right. There is great power in little things.

Good luck with your story.


Karyn Good said...

Hi Vince! Nice to meet you. I'm sorry I missed the chance to comment on your wonderful post on Saturday. I remember talking with Anita on the way to a SWR meeting about you and the idea of rewards per page and I have kept that in mind ever since. Your post is one I'm sure I'll read many times. By the way, I consider myself an entertainer with an eye on "the needs of the novel". :)

I love your line about small things determining sincerity. Sincerity plays such an important role in bringing characters together against imposing odds. And thanks, I'll have to think on a possible small gesture made by Lily!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, you might be in the midst of a smore withdrawal, but you're writing hasn't suffered any.

I think this is the first time I've ever read a snippet of your writing. Very nice. I, too, am looking forward to seeing it in print.

My favorite gesture is when a character touches a scar or other disfigurement on a person who thinks he's unloveable because of it. That's a wordy sentence, but I hope you get what I mean.

Excellent post, Karyn.

Karyn Good said...

I totally get what you mean, Anita. Acknowledging and accepting someone has suffered does make a powerful and loving statement.

Thanks for the kind comments about my writing. I'm getting braver! I look forward to the day we both can claim shelf space in the bookstores.

Hope you're enjoying the summer.

Suse said...

Hi Karyn,

When I first read the following descriptive quote, I thought to myself, "Wow, I wished I had written that." And then when I realized you had written it, I thought, "Wowee! You go, girl!"

"Her craving for open air and space had trapped them together beneath the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt and a zillion other tiny specks of light. The breeze carried a trace of soap, a whiff of man and a fragrance so familiar it made her think of bush parties, bonfires, cheap wine and the back seat of a ’86 Firebird."

I am very impressed with your writing, Karen. I'm also in agreement with you and the others that the small gestures are the important ones. These are the ones that our guys show us on a daily basis, because guess what, we see them on a daily basis. Can you imagine sticking with some guy who only made grand gestures, and they were few and far between?

Our guys and our heroes reveal who they are by the how they act on a regular basis. And as Vince indicated, it is the small gestures that indicate sincerity.

Reading your blog today, Karyn, was just as good a treat as a s'more. Thanks.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks Suse, I really appreciate your kind comments and I'm motivated to get back into the swing of things, writing wise.

Yes, grand gestures get boring, especially when they're motivated by less then sincere sentiments and done to impress as many people as possible. We all know guys (and gals) with those motivations. It's the little everyday things that make the difference.

Hope you're getting time to relax this summer.

Frances Davis, RNC-OB said...

This discussion about gestures reminds me of a scene I read in a novel once, I don't even remember the name of it. The hero is unable, due to his sense of honor, to confess his love to the heroine and is about go to a dangerous situation. He is painting a picture as the heroine comes to him to tell him good-bye. She is facing his back and puts her hand on his shoulder as she gives him her final farewell and tells him she loves him. Then there is a soft "snap". His clenched fist has broken the paintbrush.

I have always loved the thought of that snapped paintbrush. I wish I could remember who deserves the credit for it.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Karyn,
I loved your snippet. Your facility with language is truly awesome, girl. Way to go!

I love small gestures in real life and in fiction. Like Vince says the little things that are done when nobody's looking say a lot about the character.


Karyn Good said...

Hi Frances! Isn't it interesting the scenes we remember. Sorry I can't help you with a title. Thank you for letting us in a lovely, poignant scene. The snapping of the paintbrush a very telling gesture.

Karyn Good said...

Thanks for the compliments, Jana. I really appreciate it, especially since I started revising tonight.

Talking about the little things we have our characters do to show they care has forced me to think of what little things I do when no one's looking. Could be there's improvement needed in that area.

Hope your summer writing plans are going well.

Ban said...

Karyn, I don't know HOW I missed this post ... unfortunately, being the last, there is nothing new I can add. You are so correct, the smallest gestures can hold the biggest meaning and I love them far more than the grand ones. And I'm with Suse, I didn't know that snippet was from your story until chase said "lilypad". That was such a sweet moment and I could almost hear the tenderness in his voice when he said it. Wonderful scene, really felt like I was there - thank you for wrangling your courage and sharing !!!