Monday, July 21, 2014

Party On!

If you've been around this blog for awhile, you know that I occasionally take late night walks. On these walks, I sometimes see interesting things or get a little scare, but even if I don't, I tend to come away with tons of story ideas or to have worked out a story issue I was having.

The other day I took one of my late night walks (it's been super rainy here lately, which is weird for us, and the other night was actually clear!) While I didn't observe anything fascinating, I did walk by a party. On the one hand, I was happy they were out on the porch, as it meant there were people who were a) conscious, and b) in a position to hear me, say, scream should anything happen on this late night walk. Yes, I think about those things, and I know I shouldn't go on late night walks, but they soothe me and open up my creativity. And sometimes that is my only opportunity to get out for a walk or any type of exercise.

Courtesy of Stephanie,
Back to the party, it made me think about how parties can be used in your writing for various purposes. For instance, having a character interact with folks one way, then completely change their behavior in privacy can tell you about that character pretty quickly. And even if you don't change anything once they get away from everyone, you can still learn plenty about them. Are they bubbly and outgoing? Shy and reserved? Do they feel threatened or get aggressive? Are they highly competent and professional? Are they putting on the party? Crashing it? Or are they being forced to attend due to a relationship, friendship, or work?

A party scene can also help you introduce several characters at once, giving us a hint about who it is we should follow and become invested in. Harry is highly personable, organized the entire event, and was the life of the party. Betty skulked in the shadows, cast fake smiles at anyone who spoke to her, and left early. Ramin was friendly, albeit reserved, chatted with folks and showed interest in what they had to say, but was relieved when the evening came to a close. We've just met three characters, and if you write the scene properly, you should actually have been able to show their personalities through their actions and reactions, rather than telling us their personality traits or situations.

Courtesy of Camaher,
The type of party can also say a lot about the setting and characters. Is it a raucous, drunken orgy of energy? A sophisticated, highbrow affair? A dinner party? A barbecue? A kegger? What type of house is it being held in? What is the general setting? A field? An apartment? What's being served? Is there hired help or a frantic hostess? Even better if you can immediately set a time period for the story. Are they wearing hoop skirts, evening gowns, or poodle skirts?

Interactions between folks can also lead to the sharing of quite a bit of information. Conversations can reveal backstory, establish relationships, and lead the story forward. A character can discover clues or additional information they might not have gotten otherwise. Discoveries can be made.

Not only can information be established, but so can relationships. Did Betty glare at Ramin the entire time she was there? Did Harry look at Betty with lustful eyes or with deep love that isn't returned, because she never notices him or pays any attention to him? Is Ramin carefully studying Harry out of the corner of his eye, maybe reporting into a hidden microphone?

I'm sure I could keep going, but the point of it is, parties can be a great tool in your writing toolbox. If you're struggling with presenting some information, consider throwing a party! In your book, anyway.

Have you used a party in your writing? What did it help you establish? Can you think of other ways it could be used to help your story?

May you find your Muse.


  1. Hi Shannon,

    Party on! I do like your idea about incorporating characters within a party scenario.

    Yes, you can observe a whole diversity of characters, each with their own idiosyncrasies. Of course, back in the day, I've attended a wide range of parties from posh, stuck-up events to the parties where folks use your sink and the partly filled beer bottles as ashtrays.

    Would you believe that I'm the really shy guy in the background at a party? I start out that way until the "life of the party" notices me and tries to show off to others by making fun of me. Suddenly, I go from the really shy guy into the zippy, zany part of my personality. It comes as a surreal surprise.

    You've got to fight for your right to paaaaaartay!

    Off to find my party muse, Shannon.

    Gary :)

  2. Ironically, my current manuscript opens up with a party. Or rather a festival. I used it to establish the main character and introduce some minor characters and alien races.

  3. I've been working on trying to come up with an opening scene for a story. I think I have it now. If that story ever goes anywhere, you'll know it because I'll be thanking you. But in case not, thank you, now!

  4. I have used parties in my novels. They're great places to have a conflict.
    Have I told you my son works at the Broadmoor as one of their golf professionals? He said something about the unusual rain too.

  5. I've used parties a couple of times, but my POV characters are usually so miserable during them, they don't take much note of what else is going on.

    They are a great setting for conflict, though.

  6. I love me a good party scene! Yes, they are effective for introducing characters, for giving readers a break in a tense thriller, and for pushing a romance to a new level. Night walks, eh? Sounds really tempting.

  7. I honestly don't see me ever using a party scene for any purpose whatsoever.
    Unless I decide to start writing stories that focus directly on real life, but I don't see that happening.

  8. I haven't written a party scene that I can remember. I did write one for a gathering after a memorial service that I liked because of exactly what you've written. The interactions can characterize a lot of people quickly.

  9. I haven't written a party scene that I can remember. I did write one for a gathering after a memorial service that I liked because of exactly what you've written. The interactions can characterize a lot of people quickly.

  10. Gary, I tend to be quiet unless I know someone there well. But I CAN imagine you being quiet until they harass you. That's how we sarcastic folks tend to be.

    Alex, yay! Good uses for it, for certain.

    Rachel, can't wait to hear!

    Susan, yes, conflict! Perfect use. You have! And, yes, it's so weird. It's been good, because it has basically been much of fire season, but we're having flash floods instead.

    M.J., they're interesting for background, too.

    Catherine, oh yes, I can see those uses, too. And I love taking walks at night.

    Andrew, probably not a lot of use for them in your books. Unless a guest wants to wander into the Imagination Room so the mess must be cleaned up.

    Lee, a gathering like that would work great, as well.