More than ten years ago I attended an elaborate fortieth birthday party. A band, a bar, food, and a glamorous setting. The night was full of fancy clothes and fun times—including belting out eighties tunes with a karaoke machine. When it was time to say goodnight, I walked over to one of my best girlfriends, who’d thrown the party for her husband. It was after midnight.
“I have to tell you something,” I said. I held her elbow and turned her toward me. “I think you forgot to put on mascara.”
“What?” She touched her eyelashes. “Oh crap!” She laughed. “Why did you wait ‘til the end of the party to tell me? Why didn’t anyone else mention it either — or still? I mean, don’t I look different without mascara?”
She did. “I didn’t have mascara in my purse,” I said. “I didn’t want you to feel self conscious about it – you look great.” That wasn’t a lie. But framing those very ‘done up’ eyes, well, she just looked like she didn’t have eyelashes.
We laughed about it then and we laugh about it still, a decade later and we’re both fifty (okay, she turns fifty in a few months). And every time there’s an event I give her the thumbs up – which means – yes, you are wearing mascara.
So, of course, any time I embark on writing a new story, MASCARA comes to mind (writer-brain, no apologies from me).
When it comes to story telling – how do you decide which details to reveal early on and which one can wait until later? What ruins the story and what adds to it?
Kurt Vonnegut said, “Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.”
I like surprises, so I’m not sure I completely agree – although things that fall out of the sky don’t work for me – so really – the signs are usually there if I choose to see them. Maybe that’s what he meant. I’ll never know! I do know that I rarely leave for a party (or the grocery store) without checking my make-up. Twice.
Amy Sue Nathan is the author of THE GLASS WIVES published by St. Martin’s Griffin in 2013 and the forthcoming FINDING IZZY LANE in 2015. She is the founder of Women’s Fiction Writers, a blog dedicated to the authors, books, and craft of women’s fiction, as well as a freelance writer, fiction editor, and workshop instructor. Amy is an unapologetic chocoholic and even more importantly, the mom of two amazing adult children (which happens to be her current favorite oxymoron).