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Jude's avatar

My friend is working on her story and needs a bit of help -- there is one part that she is stuck at ..details inside?

Asked by Jude (32112points) June 9th, 2009

She’s working on a novel. The part that she is stuck at is a simple scene, although, she said that she’s terrible at coming up with ideas for this sort of thing—the daughter is sitting at her kitchen table, coffee in hand, with her glass sliding door open (leaving only the screen door) and outside the rain in falling. She’s watching the rain, sipping on her coffee, when in walks her Mom. Her Mom grabs a cup of coffee and sits down at the table—- what to they talk about?

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38 Answers

chyna's avatar

“Honey, I have to tell you something. Your father isn’t really your father.”

DeanV's avatar

Flood warnings about. Pack up your stuff.

Or: “We’re out of coffee”

Darwin's avatar

They need to talk about something, anything, that would move the story forward. Unless she is writing it for the New Yorker. Then it doesn’t really need to go anywhere.

What is the basic conflict in the story? Is there some bit of information about the heroine that needs to be introduced and can be through a conversation (such as the above “Your father isn’t really your father.”)?

eponymoushipster's avatar

“Do you ever feel——not so fresh?

Jude's avatar

So far eponymoushipster’s is a contender ~ ;-)

Jude's avatar

@dverhey your second one cracked me up, dude.

DeanV's avatar

I suppose you could make it “Who wants to brave the rain to get some more coffee?”

Jude's avatar

Friend’s response:

(Chuckles) Unfortunately that is not what I’m going for. The point of the scene is to show how the main character was shaped by her family and how she grew up. A big part of the story is about family (angels guiding you through your life, etc.). I’m trying to show how this girl interacted with her mother. She’s young, a bit pensive, very talented, just beginning to figure life out a bit. She is sitting watching the rain, drinking coffee and then she has some sort of random conversation that illustrates the nature of their relationship. I picture it as almost a collaborative relationship that they have through life, if that makes sense. What do you think? =S….should I send it to the New Yorker? Haha

DeanV's avatar

Definitely eponymoushipster’s then…

eponymoushipster's avatar

Mother: “You know what i really enjoy?”
Daughter: “What?”
Mother: “Pensies.”
Daughter: “MOM!”
Mother: “I’m just saying… So, when are we gonna arm wrestle?!”
[Daughter leaves room.]

you asked for random. it writes itself.

EmpressPixie's avatar

Perhaps a childhood story? Her mom can be all “You know you really loved the rain when you were younger, we couldn’t keep you inside on days like this” or something, then use that to step into childhood recollections.

Blondesjon's avatar

Girl sat at the kitchen table she had known since her pigtails and sunny gap-toothed smile days. She watched the rain splash mindlessly onto the porch beyond the kitchen’s sliding glass doors, wondering when her father would ever make good on his decade long promise of a new paint job for the poor old deck. A breeze, redolent of the day’s showers floated through the screen, stirring the steam from her coffee cup as she absently ran her finger along the cup’s rim. Lost in soft, random thoughts of her past, she didn’t realize her mother had sat down across from her until she spoke.

“I don’t think the deck is going to get painted today.”, Mother said. A small smile played about her lips, as it always did when she knew she had guessed correctly at what Girl was thinking.

Girl looked at Mother and grinned, a strange and beautiful thing that was so much the girl she had been and yet offered a glimpse of the Girl she was becoming. “Dad told me once that it would be a jinx if he ever actually painted the deck…”

”...because the whole thing would fall to pieces when he was done”, they finished in unison. Mother laughed and sipped her own cup.

“Your father.”, she sighed. “I love him but he could never be accused of being handy.”


@jmah. . .Hope the above helps. Sorry it’s so rough but it is just meant to be an example.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

Well, whatever they talk about it needs to be engaging and pertinent to the core plot (or a sub-plot) or else it’s just a vignette with no apparent purpose. I can’t really suggest anything else, not knowing what the novel is even about. Any more details?

Edit: hm, yeah, I read your friend’s response…after the face, lol. That’s still rather vague. Honestly, it sounds like this is something she needs to figure out for herself. It doesn’t really sound like she understands the relationship between the girl and her mother. When you understand your characters this kind of stuff should come pretty naturally, I think.

What sort of things happened in their past? Is there a specific event(s) that had a really big impact on the girl’s life? How did this affect her, and how did it affect the mother? I think if she asks herself these sort of questions and comes up with answers to them, then when she goes back to try and write this scene again it’ll be a lot easier. I have to do this a lot of times when I get stuck on a scene. (I’m actually stuck on one right now, lol, and am about to do the same, going back and asking/answering more questions about the characters.)

chyna's avatar

@Blondesjon You continually suprise me. In a good way.

Introverted_Leo's avatar

meh, I meant “after the fact.” My bad.

alialiali's avatar

conversations with my mom about sex are always the strangest.

FrancoB411's avatar

Oh that’s easy.

If you want to show how the mother shaped the daughter, have them prepare their coffee the same way, or have the daughter know how her mom likes the coffee.

If the mom was domineering, the daughter would be preparing the coffee for her without being asked.

If the daughter was rebellious, she’d use salt instead of sugar.

If the mother and daughter were cooperative, the daughter would have made two cups worth, and there would be a kind of ballet between the two of them perfectly orchestrated preparing the coffee, maybe mom gets the crackers while daughter gets the jam. It’s a ritual.

As for the conversation, it could be as mundane as possible. Or they could say nothing, and the daughter could sit there admiring how thet the rain dissolves the horizion into a soft gray haze. She plays with her hair. Then her mother comes in, prepares the coffee, stares out the sliding glass, sighs, and plays with her hair the same way. Daughter looks at mother and says something like: I never realized how much I’m my mother’s daughter. Mom: Why’s that? Daughter: Nevermind.

The key isn’t what they say, it’s how they communicate and what they do. Dialogue is a counterpoint to that stuff in good storytelling.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

Quip: If you could somehow work in velociraptors into the scene I’d definitely buy this book.

Answer: It depends on the rest of the story doesn’t it? It shouldn’t just be nonsensical conversation.. it has to have something to do with the storyline. We don’t have enough information here to go on unless you share more about the story.

Jude's avatar

Thanks for your responses. I’ll pass them on to her.

@NaturalMineralWater, I’ll ask if she’ll share a bit a more of what she has in mind for her story.

Jude's avatar

@Blondesjon Wow. I love the imagery there and, well, everything else about it. She’ll love to read that!

filmfann's avatar

Mom could talk about how the constantly trickling rain reminds her of the men’s room urinals at Yankee stadium on dollar beer night.

filmfann's avatar

Or, Mom could talk about her years in the navy, when she was on the Indianapolis, and how she got sunk right after they delivered the bomb; the Hiroshima bomb…

shadling21's avatar

Wow. This seems to really depend on the characters. I agree with whoever says that the scene should advance the story. Every good scene has an arc, so that the characters can experience a variety of emotions, a conflict can build, or a resolution can be achieved.

Then again, I’m speaking from a screenwriting perspective. A piece of writing has no rules! But I’d tell the author to take the characters where they want to go without forcing any action upon them.

Jeruba's avatar

She needs to know what she wants to accomplish in this scene, including what each of the two people want in this conversation and what is getting in their way. If there is no such purpose being served, the scene does not belong in the story.

maggiemaye's avatar

Let mom and girl go to next scene. Go with them, but don’t force them. What’s happening there? Does the coffee scene come before or after or not at all? But, don’t throw the coffee scene away…it may be needed ten or 20 pages later!

saraaaaaa's avatar

“honey, can you keep a secret…?”

Midnight_Blue's avatar

Your friend should look to another pastime. That is not a problem that should give reason for pause.

Jude's avatar

@Midnight_Blue, she’s new to this. Although, I’ve seen some of the stuff that she has written and it’s beautiful. Give her break..

Blondesjon's avatar

@Midnight_Blue . . .yeah. like you’ve made some great life decisions.

Midnight_Blue's avatar


>. . .yeah. like you’ve made some great life decisions.

What have my life decisions to do with my writing skill or experience? The problem as described is too simplistic to be a problem. Plotting, dialogue, character development are all a part of writing. If it has reached the stage where two characters are in a dialogue then if the story has been properly developed this should be just another small step in story development, not a stumbling block.

calvinette's avatar

The mother takes a sip of her coffee and says to the daughter, “You ready?”
The daughter says, “Lemme finish my coffee first.”
“Fine,” says the mother. “But the car’s runnin.’”
The daughter sips her coffee, stalling, trying to build up the nerve. “You got the gun?”
“Duct taped the .38 under the front seat.” The mother is not breaking eye contact. She knows she’s stalling. “You got the money, right?”
“Right here.” The daughter pats the giant purse that sits in her lap.
The mother is impatient. “We got the guns. We got the money. What are we waitin’ ‘round here for?”
“Woman, I need my coffee.”

Blondesjon's avatar

@Midnight_Blue . . .Your original comment was a passive/aggressive cheap shot.

don’t get mad if we all decide to play

Midnight_Blue's avatar


>Your original comment was a passive/aggressive cheap shot

Possibly I am passive aggressive, but it wasn’t a cheap shot, it was valid. I write, successfully, though not yet in English. I don’t believe that the question was genuine, it wasn’t asking something, it was saying something.

Is that also a passive aggressive cheap shot?

Blondesjon's avatar

@Midnight_Blue . . .No. Just more, boring, “look at me” twaddle.

Midnight_Blue's avatar


>No. Just more, boring, “look at me” twaddle.

It is working. Imagine what would happen if I actually tried? I appear to have managed to focus your attention on me. I wonder how? I don’t want it.

Bye, until such time as you have something interesting and topical to say. I am finished with childishness.

Blondesjon's avatar

said @Midnight_Blue without a trace of irony

Introverted_Leo's avatar

Yeah, so anyways… @jmah: let us know if your friend needs anymore help after reading the new comments.

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