Stories Cry Out for Capture (Milk Those Tears)

Over the weekend, I attended the wedding of a friend’s daughter. It was a lovely setting, in a bower warmed by the early fall sun of Northern California. Prior to the ceremony, all was going satisfactorily, with sighing grandmothers, scanty-skirted wardrobe malfunctions and many tuxedo tuggings. The groom, a hearty, open-faced lug I’d never met, joined the assembled bridesmaids and groomsmen at the head of the crowd. All turned to watch the bride’s stately approach, and she joined the groom at the altar, presided over by the minister, a Jerry Garcia-lookalike who grinningly bid them to join hands.

That’s when I noticed that the groom was weeping. He had holding his beloved’s hands, and was gazing into her eyes, and the tears were streaming down. The minister voiced some of the standard wedding pleasantries, but all the while, our boy on center stage was crying, shaking a bit in the depth of his emotion. He had to pause many times in the recital of his vows, and had to mop his face with a handkerchief all the while.

I watched the bridesmaids, and as you might expect, a number of them were crying too, but I could see that a few of the groomsmen, hearty fellows all, were showing some reddened eyes as well. Even one of the commercial photographers, a woman, was crying. The display of the raw male emotion became even more interesting when I found out that the groom was a cop.

The Gift of the Odd Angle (Snatch Those Stories When They Surface)
The reason I’m making note of this is that as storytellers, life gives us gifts. All you have to do is open your eyes (if they’re not too full of tears) and note them. Here you have a situation where something plays against type. A cop, a tough guy, openly weeping at his wedding. It turned out that most of the groomsmen were cops too, and they weren’t hiding their own rising feeling. I’m sure you know that there’s a lot of machismo in the fraternity of the boys-in-blue—group cries are probably not the norm.

For a writer, it’s one of those moments that you store away (or if you’re someone who gets right on it, damn you, you use it right away). You make a cop character who chokes up when he arrests a criminal, but is otherwise mister macho. Or maybe your cop character organizes a secret group of emotional policeman, the Crying Cops, for encounter group support. Or maybe the cop is only emotional around beautiful blondes, like our bride. (There are worse problems, I suppose.)

What I’m getting at is that you should keep your notebook at the ready, and write down those moments—and your life is full of them, if you look—where something is a bit unconventional, or off-kilter, or puzzling. Even if those things only provide a secondary character or a sub-plot, they give texture to your stories, and provide sparks for ideas and angles.

And who knows? The next time you get pulled over, you might get a crying cop, and he won’t be able to write out the ticket because his pad is so damp from the tears…

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6 thoughts on “Stories Cry Out for Capture (Milk Those Tears)

  1. Notice the unconventional, or off-kilter, or puzzling. I do very much like this advice, TB. Good for storytelling; good for the soul.

    Did you cry at the wedding? I hear that writers are a macho bunch too.

  2. Thank ye, Annie. Though sometimes it’s the bogglingly weird that truly makes one think that there are aliens among us (and that they are worth writing about).

    Like browsing through the People of Walmart site and thinking that it’s one of your neighbors wearing the fuchsia tube top.

    No, I didn’t cry at the wedding, but because of a crappy cold, I coughed a lot. Does that count?

  3. That’s the best explanation for swollen runny red eyes I’ve heard. “No, I wasn’t crying, I had a cold.”

    I forget to carry my notebooks and jot these moments down. I wear cargo pants 24/7 so I’m not sure what my excuse is.

    Maybe I have a cold.

  4. No Tom, coughing doesn’t count unless it’s an attempt to disguise a series of convulsive sobs.

    Just checked out the People of Walmart site. Wow. In the “Random Photos” category there’s a photo of a female shopper in a swastika sweatshirt. She’s not your neighbor too, is she?

  5. Joel, do you ever fully empty the cargo pants? You may be delighted to discover that there’s a full tea set, a chipmunk and a small rowboat in there. Never let your notebook catch a cold.

  6. Annie, no, that former neighbor is running for office (and I think she’s using that tea set of Joel’s as a platform). I do have some freaky neighbors though. One rides a sit-down lawnmower over his acreage for recreation, sending up large clouds of dust because he mows over areas that are essentially dirt. Beats bowling, I suppose.

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