The FML MomentApril 6, 2009 at 4:35 PM | Posted in Writing, Writing Advice | 9 Comments
Tags: climax, dramatic arc, FML, FML moment, fmylife
Today, my boyfriend told me he couldn’t hang out with me because he felt really sick. I went to his house anyway to surprise him with homemade soup. I walk in to his room only to find him hooking up with my sister. She can’t drive, our mom drove her there. FML
Today, I got accepted to Yale University. My parents response: “We never expected you to get into college. We spent all of our savings on sending your brother to school.” FML
In the past couple months, a morbidly entertaining sensation has swept the young adult nation: fmylife.com. (For the less enlightened, that “f” does stand for what you think it does.) My friends and I check the site almost every day. And every so often, you get the entries that are just so heartbreaking, so awful, that you can’t help but empathize with the person who submitted it. But what can these incredible glimpses into other people’s lives teach us about writing?
Basically: your book should have one. An FML moment, that is.
It’s that time right before the climax, or else close to it, on your novel’s dramatic arc. It’s that moment when your main character has lost everything. They’re pretty much screwed, thanks to you, and the light at the end of the tunnel is fading or completely nonexistent. You’ve chased your main character up a tree, thrown rocks at them – and now, well, you’ve thrown a rock at the beehive above their head.
Why is this necessary? Why be so cruel to this character who you probably treasure dearly? First of all, it adds drama to the upcoming climax – finally, redemption! – as well as realism to the entire story. Main characters cannot be coddled. If they are, why should the reader care about them at all? There’s no risk, no true sense of danger or emotion, just a spoiled MC skipping along on a smooth, flat road of a plot. We don’t get to stare into the soul of a truly frightened or emotional MC. When an MC has been thrown in the dumpster and left for dead (literally or figuratively) – well, that’s the golden hour of reader compassion. (Think Harry walking to his death in the Forbidden Forest, ghost relatives in tow.) And when the MC makes it past that horrible situation, usually during the climax? Hello, joy and cries of “That was freaking amazing!”
Of course, the FML moment doesn’t always have to be super dramatic or put your MC in the claws of death. Depending on the tone of your novel, it could literally be the moment when your snarky, dejected MC declares, “F*** my life.” It could consist of an emotional breakdown after weeks of gnawing stress, or it could be when the MC gets rejected by her crush and loses her job on the same day. These moments are not meant to depress the reader. In many cases, watching someone go through hell defines a good read (why else would a site like fmylife exist?). Instead, they provide a springboard for an awesome climax and character revival.
So without further ado (or, you know, cricket chirps), the FML entry my WIP’s main character would submit to the site:
Today, after a huge fight between the three of us, my now ex-best friend’s ex-boyfriend tried to kiss me. Yeah, I was wondering why he broke up with her. FML
What about yours? :)
Today, I had one of the worst panic attacks in years. I was worried nobody cared about me and that I had completely messed up my life. I was hyperventilating and crying hysterically. My mom walked by my room, looked at me, and said, “If you’re going to make those noises, at least shut the door.” FML
Today, the girl I’ve loved for the past two years finally expressed her innermost feelings for me. After a brief make out session, she asked me to “never leave her side.” When I got home, my mom told me that my dad got a new job. I’m moving to the other side of the globe in two weeks. FML