Okay, Listen Here

Okay, Listen Here

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Write What You Know or What I Learned About The Prom

Write what you know
. We've all heard it. Some believe it. I do not. If people only wrote what they knew, there would be no books about vampires, space aliens, and zombies. There would be no Lord of the Rings, Charlotte's Web, or Winnie the Pooh. No Peter Pan. I could go on but I should probably stop. I'm trying to work on stopping after I've made my point. It's not working too well.

Anyway. I believe: Write what you know, what you can research, or what you can make up and make believable. I'm not scared of any of that. But this weekend I had myself a little epiphany: What's scary is what I just think I know.

Though she hasn't plotted anything and I haven't pantsed anything (much) about our next story, Plotter and I know the characters, the setting, and the basic premise. Do not tell her I've been running some scenes in my head. She wouldn't like it. One of those scenes involves a football coach who is forced to chaperon a high school prom.

I thought I knew about proms—until this past weekend. I shudder to think what I would have written. Before you jump to conclusions, let me assure you I did not actually attend a prom. I did, however, go to a fairly new (at least where I come from) prom ritual known as Lead Out. This is where the young lady and her escort are announced and they walk arm-in-arm across a stage in front of an audience. They, then, have their picture taken and move on.

I would like to claim that I had the good sense to attend this event because I realized that the two proms I attended many years ago would not have much bearing on what goes on today. But, alas, no. It was all about my godson, Precious Angel. Though sophomore boys do not usually attend the prom, Precious Angel was invited by a beautiful young lady who is a junior. Precious Angel enjoyed this rare honor because he is sweet, kind-hearted, well-mannered, and gets excellent grades. Okay. That's a lie. Those things are true of him but, let's face it, he was invited because he plays football, is built like a brick outhouse, and—thanks to years of Junior Cotillion—dances like he could be on Dancing with the Stars if he didn't drip so much testosterone.

Prom has changed. No corsages. Nosegays. A few of the young ladies had obviously consulted Bjork for fashion advice, but, for the most part, they were lovely, fresh, and dressed age appropriately. There was a girl wearing a cammo gown and couple in matching Converse tennis shoes. I don't know what they were thinking, but I'm sure they thought it through because they looked pretty happy about it.

It was the male attire that really surprised me. Even Precious Angel who, thanks again to years of Junior Cotillion, understands that correct male formal attire is black and white, (do not pass go, do not collect any colors) got with the prom program and wore a tie and vest that matched his date. And who knew there were no many white tuxedos in the whole of the world? I could almost hear the ice cream truck bell and taste an Eskimo Pie. And did you know you can rent white top hats and canes? I might have been at Almack's. I was a little jealous on Precious Angel's behalf that he had no props. Maybe next year. Maybe I'll see about getting him a chariot.

All in all, it was wonderful. Two young ladies were escorted by their fathers and one brave beautiful girl walked proudly on that stage alone with her head held high. I suspect my eyes were not the only ones that filled when a gallant young gentleman wheeled his date onto the stage in a wheelchair. It was easy to see the chair was not temporary.

I love a rule. The only thing I love better than a rule is an etiquette rule. But it was great to see rules broken in the name of fun and youth. I think they are better than my generation. I'm glad I learned that before I write my prom scene.

Which really, Plotter, won't be for a long time. Way after conference. Probably even next year, or the year after.

Have you learned anything by accident?


  1. Oh yeah, I learned not to be sarcastic with a Senior Federal District Court Judge! I was standing in court with a local attorney (who was driving me crazy in a civil lawsuit - he was a nice guy just being a lawyer) and the judge asked me why I didn't get that attorney to sign an agreement. Being young, stupid and just a little puffed-up with my own self-importance, I told the judge I wasn't the other attorney's mother. I quickly learned that smarting off to a judge (who is a god in own courtroom) can get you in a lot of trouble. By accident, I learned what the U.S. Marshal's holding cell looked like from the inside. By the time the judge decided to let me out, I had also learned that I was an insignificant bug on the windshield of life who should keep her mouth shut unless she was groveling before a judge to get to go home for the evening instead of finding out what she looked like in those orange prisoner coveralls...

  2. Oh, Cheryl, that's so funny--the telling, anyway. I'm sure the experience wasn't one bit funny. The hero in our WIP is a circuit judge.

    At one point, he says to the heroine, who'd just asked him if he had always had to have the last word: "Pretty much always. And now that I'm a judge, I always get the last word. Very satisfying."

    And doesn't that just sum it up?

  3. I learned that Pantster will hide things from her partner and deny them when asked about it. :-)

    Seriously, I learn something surprising every day in 4th grade!

  4. The joke around the court house was that a judge is like a five-hundred pound gorilla - they did exactly what they wanted, when they wanted and how they wanted. No, it was not a fun experience - I cried but the marshal wouldn't let me out of the cage. Believe me, I learned my lesson very quickly.

  5. I've been trying to think of something all day that I learned by accident. I can't come up with anything! Maybe I've really just not ever learned anything :|

  6. I've learned so much my head hurts and then I can't remember any of it. ;)

  7. I think you've all learned a lot because you are all so smart, funny, and creative!