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Stop Writing Pretty Moments and Give Us a Story Already!

Hello dear friends and gentle readers! This is Joyce and today I am going to talk about the difference between writing pretty moments and writing a story. Believe me, there is a difference. As attached as you might be to that pretty scene or bit of dialogue, that moment does not a story make. It can however make an already existing story deeper and more interesting. Allow me to elucidate:

I was sitting with a friend on St. Augustine Beach in early April. We had not spoken for nearly 12 years, and yet we were able to pick up where we had left off like nothing had happened and no time had passed. We were kids again and as we sat listening to the waves crashing in the dark, I said "Can we just stay on the beach forever?”

I wasn't (entirely) serious, but I did want to linger in that moment for as long as possible. He laughed and squeezed my hand.

"We can't," he said. "We have to live in the world."

As I felt the warmth of his hand in mine I realized that this moment could only exist together in a vacuum and the very nature of life does not lend itself to that. Our story cannot remain that perfect and untouched. Something has to happen. The moment has to end. The next bit of action has to begin.

Likewise, our writing cannot remain stagnant. You can linger in a beautiful moment in your narrative for a moment, but eventually you have to move on and finish the story. The work has a life of its own and cannot exist in a vacuum. Things have to happen. Your characters and your story must be strong enough to go through things.

You can't make all of your writing beautiful moments and pretty words no matter how much you want to. You can't remain on the beach doing nothing for the rest of your life. Something has to happen. Action must occur. Otherwise you don't have a story. You have a moment full of pretty words.

That's not to say you can't linger in a moment for a little while. Sometimes it's nice to stop and rest with a friend on the beach before finishing your story. Just make certain that your narrative doesn't go diving headlong into the waves. Not only is this totally cliche, but it could be the death of a promising story that needs to be told.

Eventually my friend and I left the beach. Our story continued and it is everything a good story should be: beautiful, complex, and full of difficult emotions. As much as I might have liked to stay on that beach for the rest of my life, I wouldn’t have things any other way.

What do you think? Can a story be nothing more than a beautiful moment? Is action necessary? Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading guys. Now, go Write Like a Rock Star!

Joyce Ann Underwood is a blogger and essayist. Originally from Crescent City, Florida she spent her childhood on the back porch listening to the old-timers tell stories. This ignited a passion for nonfiction storytelling that she honed while studying creative writing at the University of West Florida. Her poetry has been published in the creative journal, Kairos and on the website HIV Here and Now. Her essays have also been featured on Offbeat Home. She blogs at and

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