Public service announcement: Writers of fiction, this post is for you.
Warning: Contains embedded content and conclusions for the Average Joe and Josephine’s life.
I mean, both the latte and the black coffee came from reputable shops.
But somehow, the bubbles bug me.
I’m used to a smooth, black surface on my coffee.
Something doesn’t seem right.
Fiction writers, at the opening of your story, this is the feeling you want your reader to have.
Everything seems fine.
(There’s nothing bad happening, really.)
But something — just one little thing — is off.
But it’s there.
Even on your first page, before all breaks loose, your hero’s Ordinary World has bubbles.
In my current story, I’m in the process of putting bubbles into the story. Story outline in hand, I’m deliberately placing (“planting”) little, bothersome pieces in earlier chapters that, if you’re really paying attention, simply don’t seem right. Later on, those plants give the reader an, oh! I get it! I knew something wasn’t right! confirmation (so he/she can pat him/herself on the back for “catching’ it).
Bubbles entice the reader, prepare the reader, and draw the reader further into the story’s web.
We should pay attention to bubbles.
But in our lives, we often don’t pay attention to the bubbles. We pass over the bubbles, brushing them off as outlier thoughts with no impact on our lives.
Brushing off bubbles can be dangerous.
If something doesn’t seem right, paying attention might be the thing to do. (Just sayin’.)
I’ve been caught in bad situations because of not paying attention to bubbles.(Haven’t you?)
Sometimes premonitions give us warning (as in this article, on the possibility of a sixth sense).
(By the way, fiction writers, you can get away with creating premonitions in some stories. But back to reality….)
Bubbles are more than premonitions. They’re our brain catching inconsistencies. We simply need to pay attention. Because there’s something in our brains going on all the time, where the parts of the brain work together to signal, to alert us to potential danger.
Some call it gut instinct kicking in (even Oprah puts in her two cents on gut instinct). But there’s something more.
Referring to his bestseller, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell states, “When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions.”
Those “instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.”
We notice the bubbles. Our brains are smart. But, then again, we can blow off the smart signals our brain is sending to us.
FBI, CIA, and Special Ops persons are trained to pay attention. They’ll be the first to tell you how much the Average Joe and Josephine miss, on a daily basis.
(By the way, I ADORE Joe Navarro’s book, What Every BODY is Saying: An ex-FBI Agent’s guide to speed reading people. Paying attention to body language is one way for us to notice bad-bubbles people. And as a writer, it’s full of practical description for us to “show, don’t tell” our characters.)
While it’s cool for your main character to blow off the bubble-event or clue (it makes good story), in real life, blowing off the bubble-event or clue brings us trouble we could have avoided.
Sometimes we simply need to pay attention. Because though bubbles look harmless (and even fun), and we may brush them off as non-important, bubbles can spell danger.
If something in life seems off, we need to pay attention.
Don’t go on as if nothing’s wrong.
(Take care of yourself.)