Did you ever see something that took your breath away? Something new to you, beautiful beyond compare?
We were out shopping at a home improvement store, something that makes everyone in our family grumpy. The kids were arguing, my husband and I had grown short-tempered, and we all really just wanted to go home. Then my daughter said, “Hey. What’s that in the sky?”
We all stopped and looked. There was a large cloud in the sky colored like a rainbow. It wasn’t raining; it wasn’t even overcast that day. It was a sunny afternoon, no chance of precipitation. But there it was: the rainbow cloud.
We all stopped and stood in the parking lot, staring at the anomaly. None of us had ever seen anything like it before.
And then I noticed the true benefit: we’d all stopped arguing. There was no sniping about the heat, no arguing over what to buy, no griping about how long we were out.
We all were silent taking in the beauty of the rainbow cloud.
Sometimes nature interrupts life and we need to just stop and take it in. (tweet this)
Once we got back in the car, the fighting was over. It was as though the spectacle had erased all feelings of ill will. We were quiet, and at peace.
I’m not saying it was a magic cloud. On the contrary, I believe there is a scientific explanation for what we saw. I don’t know what it was, but I know there is one.
What I am saying is: sometimes things intrude in our lives that make them better. (tweet this)
Take a moment today to look around, to stop and smell the roses, to listen to a symphony or just walk in the park. Open your mind to a new experience and you might be surprised at how you’re elevated.
And writers: consider taking a break in the action to let your characters experience something momentous, something that changes their perspectives or just gives them time to breathe. Sometimes the best parts of your work can be found not in the action scenes, but in the downtime between them.
In my recently published novel, Mystery Heir, the most poignant scene doesn’t occur during the action. It occurs in the moments between, when protagonist Naomi reunites with her new friend, Aaron. Here is an excerpt:
Out in the waiting area, Penelope and Ryan were standing and talking. But Naomi’s eyes were drawn to the benches. That’s where Aaron sat, alone, waiting. She headed straight for him, and when he saw her, he leapt up and ran at her. He flung his arms around her waist, nearly taking them both down to the floor in the process. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and put her head down to his. She had a great rapport with all her college students, but she couldn’t remember the last time she had bonded so quickly or so fully with a younger child. She stood there, enveloped in his embrace, and marveled at her fondness for him.
“I was worried about you,” his muffled voice said from inside the hug.
She pulled away from him and looked into his eyes. “I’m fine. I was worried about you.” She pulled him down on the bench beside her.
“They couldn’t reach my mom last night. She was in surgery.”
“Oh no! Is she okay?” Penelope asked. She and Ryan had walked over and she heard Aaron’s last statements.
“She’s fine. She’s a nurse at St. Vincent’s Hospital. I guess she was called into some surgical procedure, and they couldn’t get her out. They reached her this morning. She’s on her way here now.”
“I’m sure she’ll be happy to see you’re safe,” Penelope said.
He looked at her, then turned back to Naomi. “They’re bringing Social Services in, too.”
Naomi took his hand and squeezed it. His eyes were dry, but she could see the sadness and fear in them. “Everything will work out, Aaron. You wait and see.”
He shrugged. “I’m glad you’re okay. And I’m sorry I blamed you. I know it wasn’t your fault.”
She dropped his hand and put her arm around his shoulder, hugging him again. “No worries now.” No matter what he said, what anyone said, she’d always carry guilt for what happened to him.
Ryan said, “Aaron, Miss Williamson from Social Services is here. She’d like to see you before your mom arrives.”
Naomi gave his shoulders one more squeeze, then she turned him to face her. “Listen to me. You’re going to be fine. And you have my number. If you ever need anything, anything, you call me. Understand?”
He nodded. And without another word, he got up and went off with Deputy Ryan.
“Good kid,” Penelope said.
“Yeah,” Naomi said. Her voice was hoarse, and Penelope was wise enough not to comment on it.
So you see, the downtime between action scenes and plot progression is where readers learn the most about your characters. Make sure you use those slower moments to explore your characters’ depths.
If you’d like to share something that stopped either you or one of your characters and led to a breakthrough moment, tell us about it in the comments below.