“And they all lived happily ever after.” My dad would close the book cover and lean down to give me goodnight kiss.
“And then what?”
This was a common conversation when I was a teensy-Tiffany. Happily Ever After wasn’t enough – I wasn’t trying to get a stay of execution from bedtime – I wanted to know what happened next.
“Well, Tiffers, they lived happily ever after. So they were, er, happy.”
“But then what happened?”
I wanted to know if Prince Stephan woke up every morning and told Aurora how beautiful she was. Did he get mad when she kept pricking her fingers on spinning wheels and calling out: BAND AID! I need a Band Aid! (In my version of Sleeping Beauty Aurora passes out from seeing the blood – there’s no need for any enchantment on the spindle). Does Prince Charming ever get annoyed that Cinderella allows so many mice in the house? Were there kids: princesses and princelings? I wanted proof of these happy endings – I didn’t want to relinquish characters I loved.
I always thought I’d be happy to read a whole book full of the happy part of the happily ever after. Who needs the conflict and tension? I’d be thrilled to see the other Prince Charming pick wildflowers for Snow White, or hear Darcy speak sweet, proud, nothings to Lizzie.
Or would I? Jo’s Boys and Little Men aren’t as interesting as Little Women (this could be because I’ve never forgiven rotten Jo for breaking Laurie’s heart). The kiss exchanged by Clary and Jace at the end of City of Glass doesn’t have a tenth of the passion of the forbidden one they share in fairy court in City of Ashes. And Breaking Dawn? Everything I wanted for Edward and Bella happened in the first hundred pages, the next 600+ pages weren’t all happy, but the seemed to go on forever and continue long after the plot had dissolved.
Would I want to hear Darcy complain to Lizzie about drainage and tenants at Pemberley or know the details of Rochester’s lifelong struggles to cope with the loss of a hand and vision in one eye? Not so much.
If I want to hear a Prince Charming talk about laundry, dishes, or other day-to-day aspects of what’s next? , I’ll just turn to my St. Matt.
As much as I hate when characters I love are hurting, as much as I agonize over adding tension and terror to the lives of my own characters, a story isn’t a story without suspense and conflict. The happily ever after isn’t special if the characters didn’t struggle or overcome an obstacle to achieve it.
Maybe I don’t need to know what happens, after the Happily Ever After, after all.
On Twitter today I noticed this acronym: IRL. At first I thought it was a typo for URL, and then using my best teacherly context clues, I decoded it: In Real Life.
But as writers, don’t we have a different definition of real life than others do?
It’s not always my house in Pennsylvania, my mischievous puggles, or my saintly husband that seem the most real to me. I’ll go for a writing-run and come home not knowing which Doylestown roads I paced down, but with images of fictitious East Lake blurring past my footsteps.
There are days I’ll shave the same leg twice and emerge from the shower with my head still sudsy but full of conversation between my protagonist and her love.
Yesterday I looked up from writing – and just a blog, not even TBALMCSAP – and turned to St.Matt and said, “Hey, if you want to go for a run, you should go before it gets dark and then we’ll do dinner.”
“Tiffany, it is dark. I already ran and I cooked dinner. I ate sitting right next to you, don’t you remember?”
I didn’t. But should I admit that?
Should I confess that sometimes the settings, people, and stories in my head seem more realistic than the ones playing around me in 3-dimensions? That chasing Distraction-Fairy-Jace to Idris taints my dreams and re-directs my thoughts until I find myself surprised not to find runes carved on my own skin? Or that my kiddos’ discussions about the characters in Angie Sage’s Magyk infiltrates their math class, recess talk, and casual conversation until we’re all wishing for a cat/duck or a messenger rat? That I broke my heart and sobbed early morning tears for my main character but rolled my eyes at the co-worker drama that unfolded a few hours later?
I’ve always struggled with this – the real versus the envisioned. My imaginary friends required places at the dinner table and had an alarming habit of ducking out of the way so my dad had to make at least three attempts before he could nail them with goodnight kisses. I caused a minor scandal at the grocery store when my five-year-old self started bawling and screaming at the shopper who’d hit Harvey with her cart.
The bewildered woman looked around, “But I didn’t feel anything. Where is he?”
“He’s around the corner crying and bleeding,” I bawled and the woman went wide-eyed and white faced.
My mother, frantic at the sound of my howls, then embarrassed as she tried to reassure the terrified, apologetic shopper she hadn’t run-over my younger brother, lashed out: “Tiffany Allison, Harvey is NOT REAL. He’s imaginary. You MADE HIM UP.”
If I’d been the recipient of the cart collision, it couldn’t have hurt more than those words.
But it didn’t stop me from making things up – from creating, imagining, and living dual lives: one corporal, one mental.
It’s possible I’m alone in this. Doubtful, but possible. Even if I were,, however, I wouldn’t feel lonely. How could I? There are stories to live and create, both IRL and IMH.
When I pictured the Distraction Fairy – which I frequently do while being distracted – I always pictured a her. And she had a pointy chin and ears, blonde hair, wings, wand, the whole sparkly shebang. Come to think of it, she looked remarkably similar to Tinkerbell, only she wore pink instead of green and obviously she has a tiara.
That’s not how I picture the fairy anymore. If you read yesterday’s blog you know that my Distraction Fairy is currently named Jace. And even though he is a blond, Jace would not don pink ruffled chiffon or a tiara for anyone. He’ll sulk, he’ll pout, he’ll be all-around angsty, but he’s not putting on a skirt.
At least he didn’t in Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones…
I don’t know about City of Ashes or Glass yet because I don’t have them YET! Despite having finished book one in The Mortal Instruments Trilogy before going to bed, I don’t yet have numbers two and three.
Frustrating, I know! I turned the last page, looked around and noticed that it was dark out. I looked at the clock: 2:30 AM. Was my first thought: ‘oh geez, it’s really late and I should get to bed’? Nope. It was: ‘aw man, it’s hours before the bookstores open and I can call around to see who has the second and third books in stock.’
It’s quite possible that at this point I became a Distraction Fairy and peppered poor Emily Hainsworth with endless questions, predictions, and what-if’s about the rest of The Mortal Instruments Trilogy.
I take this to be evidence for why I need a Kindle or Sony e-book reader. With a few simple buttons I could have been blissfully re-engaged in Distraction Fairy indulgence.
I presented this argument to St.Matt when I woke him up at 3:30 AM. He disagreed. He thinks this is evidence for why I shouldn’t get a Kindle or Sony e-book reader. Let’s quote him, shall we? “You don’t need anything that’s going to make you sleep even less than you do now.”
But doesn’t he realize the Distraction Fairy flew away as soon as I ran out of pages to read? And then what was left? An overwhelming, itching desire to dig into TBALMCSAP revisions and not emerge for days, which isn’t an option right now.
I can do this.
It’s only an hour ‘til I go pick up doses two and three of the Jace-version of the Distraction Fairy and only two days ‘til I can bleed purple ink on TBALMCSAP.
As for St. Matt’s suggestion that Distraction Fairy take the form of culinary masterpieces or a spring cleaning binge, doesn’t he know the fairy can’t hold a wand and cook/clean at the same time? (And I seriously can’t picture Jace in a French maid’s uniform… guess I’ll have to wait and read).