Fiction Writing – How are you going to grab their attention?
There is a clown singing Happy Birthday. Images of It run through my mind with alarming clarity. I am standing in a forest of helium balloons. My daughter has had her face painted. I think it was meant to be a Princess Spiderman. Not working.
And my son? Well yes, my son is high on red food colouring, smashing his face into the birthday cake and opening the presents. Have I mentioned this is not his birthday party? Well, it’s not. I am not making eye contact. I don’t know whose kid that is. Instead, I smile my brightest, whitest smile and chat to the other mommies. I suck at mommy-talk.
“Well, my Kyle can triple somersault off the roof of the house and vault into the chimney, belly slide down it and be at the breakfast table at 5am in time for our family yoga routine.” Laura says this as her gold jewellery jangles. You have to understand how much jewellery this is to drown out the noise of a children’s birthday party. I am still stuck on 5am family yoga. WTF?
“Well my Ashley is translating the Rosetta Stone.” Jane keeps readjusting the strap of her Louis Vuitton tote. Yes, I see it woman. I struggle to keep my smile in place.
“Hasn’t that been done?” My knowledge of Ancient Egypt is sketchy but I at least I know about the Rosetta Stone.
“It’s wrong. She is making the correct translation, changing the history of Egypt as we know it and is in line for a scholarship to Oxford.” Her bosom literally heaves with pride. I am gobsmacked.
“Shouldn’t she finish pre-school first? I mean varsity is a long way off.”
“Don’t be so naïve. Have you not planned for your child’s tertiary education?” Alice turns to me, her eyes wide.
“Well, we put some money in a jar beside his bed, but I figured we’d let him grow up first.” I am failing at this polite thing. I start looking around for an escape route.
“What can your children do?” All eyes turn to me. They want answers.
I am struggling here. Seriously, my son can blow cold drink bubbles through his nose, but we don’t encourage that. And my daughter, well her super power must be hair dressing? She loves playing with hair, but I am not sure these skills are going to fly in this company. Screams from the house attract their attention. My son has saved the day by setting fire to the living room curtains with the birthday candles. Take that for special skills. I can make a quick get-away while everyone is dousing the fire. I don’t call this kid Captain Awesome for nothing. We discuss fire safety on the way home, but my mind is actually on other things.
You are a bit freaked out right about now, aren’t you? But you can relax. My life isn’t nearly as exciting as this. Nor is my son an arsonist, at least not yet. The cake and the presents could be truth. The conversation is also a slight exaggeration, but only slight, as any mother who has survived a kiddie party will tell you.
But what is the point?
Well the point is real life sucks. It sucks so much that they even have to stage reality TV shows. Oh, did I just spoil that for someone? My bad. But yes, reality is over rated. Writing what you know is great, but for heaven’s sake do something with it. No one cares about children’s birthday parties.
So how are you going to grab their attention?
Fiction should be a little over the top. Think of James Bond. No one can really survive that many life threatening situations or that many one-night stands. And Bridget Jones? No one can screw up that many times. These people and these situations are larger than life and we love them for it. They are entertaining and that people, is the point of fiction. Forget about reality for a bit.
You are a fiction writer. Have fun.
by Mia Botha
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