Finding the Fire (Day #83)

Posted in: PARALLEL, Writing

Help me.

It’s Day # 83 and I’ve just discovered a giant, glaring hole in the middle of my story.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating.  It’s not really a hole so much as a weakness.  A place in my story – a single scene – where I need to go further and deeper.  But I have 17 days to finish this thing.  Strengthening weak story points is simply NOT ON THE AGENDA.

Except now it has to be.

So that’s what I spent yesterday doing:  trying to make a tepid moment into a fiery one.  For most of the day it felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall.  I just couldn’t seem to crack this scene.  And then I realized my problem:  I was trying too hard.  I was trying to manufacture its fieriness when I should have been trying to uncover its fieriness.

The scene I’m struggling with is one in which two best friends, both mature, intelligent, and likable seventeen-year-old girls (yes, I believe such creatures exist), get into a huge, potentially friendship-ending fight.  I spent yesterday morning focused on what triggers their fight — the thing that sets them off — until I realized that the trigger doesn’t really matter.  Think about your biggest fight with your best friend.  Was the thing that set you off really what you were fighting about?

So I changed tactics.  And while I made some great progress, I’m still not 100% there.

Which is why I need your help.

I need BFF fight stories.  What triggered your fight doesn’t matter — I’m interested in why you were really fighting.  What underlying issues came spewing out once the gloves were off?  I’m thinking of things like jealousy and insecurity and guilt and anxiety and fear and arrogance.  Things that influence both our actions and our reactions.  Issues that may have affected the distribution of power in the relationship.  Were you the pretty friend?  The smart friend?  The funny friend?  The popular friend?  Or was it the other way around?  Or maybe you and your BFF were equals, but she (or you) had a tendency to monopolize conversations or spill secrets or hog the spotlight.

In the case of my characters, the fight happens after my protagonist, Abby, tells a guy that her best friend, Caitlin, likes him.  Abby has a feeling that Caitlin secretly likes this guy (who, by the way, has a girlfriend), and thus (in her mind at least) is just trying to facilitate what she thinks would be a good relationship.  But it’s not true.  Caitlin doesn’t like this guy.  And even if it were true, we all know that telling a guy that your best friend likes him without your best friend’s authorization is a clear violation of the BFF code.  When Abby comes clean about what happened, Caitlin blows up, accusing Abby of doing it out of fear that the guy Abby likes really likes Caitlin.

Did you get all that?

What I’m trying to nail down now is why the fight escalates the way that it does.  Because really, what I’ve just described isn’t a HUGE deal, even for high school girls.  So why does it become one?

Here’s what you should know about my characters (and, be warned, I’m going to do this fast and off-the-cuff):  Caitlin is beautiful, confident and smart (in a very left-brained, practical way).  But she’s not arrogant – at least, not when it comes to her looks (mainly because she doesn’t notice them).   She’s unemotional, but not cold.  She just thinks with her head not her heart.  Hyper-focused on what really matters to her — her passion for science and her career as a scientist — Caitlin often gets frustrated with stupid high school crap.  She’d rather be in a physics lab then hanging out with other high school kids.  But she’s a great friend.  

Abby, on the other hand, thinks mostly with her heart.  And although she’s driven, her drive stems from deep-seated perfectionism, not passion.  Abby is a constant overthinker, yet at the same time, she often says things without meaning to.  She’s well-intentioned but has a tendency to be self-involved.   She’s also never completely satisfied, always somewhat anxious, mostly because she doesn’t live in the moment – she’s too busy projecting to next week or next year.  Abby has never been jealous of Caitlin – or at least, has never thought of herself as being jealous of Caitlin – but it does bother her when the guy she currently likes seems taken with Caitlin (something that has definitely happened before).

But I’m telling you all of this just for context.  What I’m really looking for are YOUR stories.  Real-life fiery moments.  Complicated friend dynamics. The deep, gritty, not-so-picture-perfect stuff.

The stuff that makes our friendships real.

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