Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Anecdotes in Fiction

An anecdote is a short, amusing account that can be informative. These 'stories within a story' enrich a novel. The trick is working them into the narrative without interrupting the flow. A short anecdote can serve as a transition scene, one where the tension abates enough to digest what came before, and prepare for what comes next. It does double duty by developing character. This example has two men betting on a high stakes ball game.

Ed's team was leading at halftime, putting him in an expansive mood. Nor could he resist taunting the competitive Pete. He hoisted his beer. "Here's mud in your eye, bro."

Pete scowled. "Man, what does that even mean?"

"Let's find out that little thing." Ed magnanimously did the honors on his pad. "It's an English racing term. It seems my horse will kick mud in your Jockey's face all the way around the track!"

"Boogity." Pete turned up his soda, ignoring the toast.

This might reinforce Pete's sour mood, leading to consequences later on. But suppose it's Ed who's wigged out? In this example, the two are watching a police drama, where a cop has just used the term T.O.D.

"Unbelievable," Ed groused. "T.O.D. is the same three syllables as Time Of Death. It only saves time on the written page! Stoopid!" Pete didn't seem to care, even when the cops made fun of the "vic's" appearance. "Our vic? Wasn't the guy a human being? Real cops don't do that either!"

"Chill, homey."

The stage is set to propel Ed into the next scene, and we've learned something about both men. Anecdotes are readily found from personal experience or 'tall tales' you hear from friends. A few ideas:

Porch spiders: some actually make pets of them. And where do they go in winter?

Mole stakes: not the sonic kind, but sticks you plant along the property line to keep the critters from tunneling in.

Rodent traps: and the wide array of birds you get to see close up before you open the trap door.

Getting any ideas yet? Jot them in a handy notebook for inclusion wherever you want to lighten the mood.

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