Last week, I talked about two of my favorite books in the world, and how they had weddings driving their plots. Then, I read a short story about a wedding industry worker who finds romance, and it didn’t work at all for me. So, I guess that while I love a trope, a trope isn’t going to do all the work of enchanting me into a story.
What exactly went wrong?
Well, first, the heroine was selfish and kind of whiny. I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around that, because I do like a snarky heroine who knows what she wants. Where is the line? This one was delayed by protestors in delivering a cake, and thinks to them, “Hey! I have a business to run here!”
Intellectually, maybe I can give the author back a couple of points that I deducted. After all, when she wrote this a few years ago, protest and rallies weren’t a major part of the American national dialog. But today, in 2018? I could feel a little sympathy, but combined with Our Girl’s other character faults, it just came across as self-entitled.
Another trope the author used was “he was once my love, but I still resent him for dumping me” which isn’t a trope I have strong feelings about, either way. The author used the “his wife died of cancer” card, and I really didn’t like the sudden self-realization that flooded over Our Girl – that she was being bitchy to a guy who lost his wife to cancer.
“I got a girl preggo, then married her (even though I didn’t want to impregnate and marry you), and then she died.” “Oh, good, now I can feel sorry for you, instead of angry.”
First, I don’t like that he gets a pass because of personal tragedy, and second, I don’t like the way she feels she has to swallow her anger and feelings. But hey, it was a short story. We don’t have enough real estate to spare for a long reconciliation. This did the job, quick and dirty as it was.
We did, however, have plenty of real estate for TWO wedding cake assistants and description of high heels. I feel the pacing could have been sped up a bit.
The biggest problem, though, was the fact that the conflict just wasn’t there. Our Girl ran into a series of Troubles, and like The Pilgrim’s Progress, she overcomes them one by one with the help of Our Boy, who is the Uber driver assigned to her when her delivery van breaks down.
Sometimes the troubles weren’t very well developed. For example, there were the protestors – who were simply an obstacle, and there was no real interaction with them or their cause. They were there to stop the Uber driver from driving. So, Our Pair have to get out and walk because they are only a mile away from the wedding venue. Those high heels were a problem – quickly fixed because Our Boy had an extra pair of his kid’s sneakers in the car to lend her.
Then there was some minor drama over an incline – Our Boy is carrying the big box with the cake, and he starts to tilt. She quickly sets down the little box with the topper and her caddy of supplies, and helps him up the hill. There’s no crunch. No clever dialog. Was it included just to show that she’s not just a princess to be rescued, but a princess who can help the knight over the rough ground? I felt that scene could have been reinforced with some dialog and/or body language to show their growing connection.
Finally, they get to the wedding, and IT’S THE WRONG TOPPER! It’s a different client’s cake. This is the climax, and it should be a big deal, but it’s quickly resolved in a paragraph as Our Girl scrapes off the top layer, and redecorates with supplies in her handy caddy. Now, she’s eating scraped-off cake with Mr. Hunky, and falling in love, encouraged by the fact that he really likes her cake.
Don’t get me wrong: the author did a lot of things right. She had good command of the language, and her vocabulary was spot-on. She fore-shadowed prolifically. But still, the story didn’t work for me, and it wasn’t entirely a case of “not my cup of tea” either.
I think she needed to amp up the conflict. What if they had broken up because his car had broken down, and he’d been too late to their wedding, and the acrimony had just built up too much between young kids? Then the irony of his being her Uber driver could have had something to work against.
Or, they protested causes in college, but a fellow protestor fomented drama, and broke them up?
Or maybe even they had gotten into a stupid argument during a hike, and stopped speaking as a result . . . until now, when they must hike a mile loaded down with wedding cake?
Well, with 20/20 hindsight after reading someone else’s baby, it’s easy for me to say all of that. But, I don’t think that’s what the story was about for the author. Creating a link to the past that caused friction and conflict in the future would have turned this into an entirely new story. Maybe better, maybe just one with different problems.
I’ve been deliberately vague about the story, because what I learned wasn’t so much about how that author told a story, but learning more about how I want a story to progress and turn and twist. It was a good learning experience.