Thursday, August 4, 2011

Just Jump

Have I mentioned before that my brothers were crazy daredevils?

So on Friday nights when my parents went on dates, we'd party down. Because that's what you're supposed to do when you're parents are gone, right? We lived in a split-level house. (If you're unfamiliar with a split-level, you walk in the front door and are immediately faced with a half-flight of stairs leading up, and a half-flight of stairs leading down.) One of our favorite things to do was to gather every couch cushion and pillow from the whole house (with eight of us, it amassed to a decent amount), and pile them at the bottom of the lower flight of stairs.

We didn't have a railing between the upper flight of stairs and the lower--- instead, we had a half-height wall. And lemme tell you, that wall was way easier to climb on top of than any railing would've been. (I think my parents might've planned on our eventual antics when they designed the house. That's as good as permission, isn't it?)

So, with an easy to climb half-wall, we had no choice. We had to climb on it. And we had to jump ten feet down to the huge pile of pillows.


Just because we grew up in a family of daredevils didn't make that first jump each week easy, though. Every single time it was scary. It was SO HIGH. And it was hard to tell if we had fluffed and stacked and prepared the pillows well enough. And there was the possibility of not landing on our feet and getting hurt. (And actually, there was the possibility that if we sat crouched on the wall long enough, contemplating the jump, someone would "help" us make the decision to jump.) And there was the heart-clenching fear when we free-fell to the bottom.

And yes, there was the exhilaration of it all.

Because do you know what? Our ordinary life was just ordinary. Sure, things happened all the time like they do to everyone, but our Friday night jumps were something WE controlled. A craziness to our life that we chose (except in instances where we were "helped" to choose).

Jumping off that wall is kind of like jumping into a huge story line. Jumping into that larger-than-life, huge conflict / consequences story is scary every single time. You prepare by practicing and reading all about plotting, but you never know if you prepared enough until you jump in. Sometimes you may not want the huge story line, but your characters themselves will "help" you make the decision to jump. After all, they like to be in control of the jump! There will be heart-clenching fear. And there's a possibility that you'll not land on your feet. You might get hurt.

But do you know what? Without that hugeness to your plot, your story is just ordinary.

And along with the huge story line comes the exhilaration of it all. For you and your readers.

And that's what it's really all about.

I'll admit. Of all the things that require bravery that I mentioned on Monday, this one might be my hardest. I have to amp up my conflict with each round of revisions, because it is never huge enough at the beginning. Do you ever have that problem? If you don't, how do you push beyond the limits to come up with a huge storyline from the beginning?
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14 comments:

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I can imagine the fun you had and worries your parents had. Did they know you jumped on those pillows?

I really like the way you tie jumping on the pile of pillows with writing stories. Here are your words. "Jumping off that wall is kind of like jumping into a huge story line."

elizabethreinhardt said...

EXACTLY my problem! I sometimes love my characters so much, I'm nice to them. I totally need to push them off the ledge and into the pillow pile...I have a feeling they'll love me for it!

Kelley said...

I'm trying to think of what my sister and I did when my parents were gone... we must not have been very adventurous because I can't remember.

I'm editing book 1 of what I hope to be a four part series. It just flopped out of my head into an outline and I think its big enough. At least the first book is... we'll see how the other ones go.

Peggy Eddleman said...

Peaches-- The only way we were able to do it was because my parent's DIDN'T know. They would have had heart attacks! Now that the statute of limitations is over, :) we've told my parents all the crazy things we did. We sit around the kitchen table and laugh about it, and my parents just shake their heads and wonder how it is possible that we are all still alive.

Elizabeth-- I know! I've had that problem so many times! And you're right-- they probably would love us for giving them the push.

Kelley-- Wow! Just flopped out of your head? I'm a little jealous. Okay, maybe a lot.

Carrie Butler said...

Great post! I loved how you tied it in with the jumping story. :)

Jenny said...

New here :0)
Oh wow! This sounds like it was a lot of fun. As a parent it scares me to think what my kids will do one day when they get older.

I always find that I write the nice version first. Then when I read it again I realize I have to go back and make it more.

Thanks for the post, it made me laugh.

Jenny said...

New here :0)
Oh wow! This sounds like it was a lot of fun. As a parent it scares me to think what my kids will do one day when they get older.

I always find that I write the nice version first. Then when I read it again I realize I have to go back and make it more.

Thanks for the post, it made me laugh.

Carrie Butler said...

Pssst... there's something for you on my blog today. :)

David Powers King said...

I'm more of a "slide-down-the-stairs-in-a-sleeping-bag" kind of person. Or I was . . .

Love the way you tied your thoughts together!

CherylAnne Ham said...

I grew up in a split level, but we had a railing. Drats. Plus, I'm an only child so only one pillow to land on probably wouldn't have cut it, anyway. LOL

I usually have to ramp up the tension during revisions too.

Maeve Frazier said...

Love the analogy. Great Post! Sounds like you had fun.

Libby said...

I think having to ramp up the tension is pretty common. Hard to do, but common. :)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Carrie-- Thanks! And thanks for the blog award! So very sweet of you!

Jenny-- Welcome! And that's why it's better if kids don't tell you all the crazy things they do until they become adults. :) I totally write the nice version first too! Then I have to go back through and replace a few nice characters with ones that breed more conflict.

David-- You need to work on that "was." This weekend! Come on. You know you miss it. I remember when I was sixteen, my date showed up at my house right when we had talked my mom into going down the stairs in a cardboard box. See? You're never too old. Good times, good times.

CherylAnne-- Yeah... I wouldn't recommend it with one pillow. Maybe you'll have to try David's trick of going down the stairs in a sleeping bag. :)

Maeve-- Thanks! It was fun.

Libby-- Yay! I'm not the only one!

Raquel Byrnes said...

You are so right about the plot needing the type of scary conflict to make it extraordinary. Great post.
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