Life is rarely even-keel; day to day, moment to moment, things can change in an instant. A misheard word, a comment in passing, being cut-off on the road, an unexpected phone call, a surprise kindness from a stranger can change everything. In a scene, this is going from + to - (or - to +), flipping the switch from positive to negative or back again. This is the simplest form of momentum and the closest thing to life at its most real.
Brian Selznick (author and illustrator of, most recently, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck) is the genius who pointed to Fortunately by Remy Charlip as his favorite childhood read and the perfect example of how physically turning the page reveals the next flip of emotions, from good to bad, hopeful to hopeless, okay to oh-so-*NOT*-okay, and the humor that results because we *understand* what this is like. We see this in our own lives. We know this one thing to be true: life changes & "This, too, shall pass."
For example, yesterday was a plethora of emotions. I woke up at 6 a.m. to get the kids ready for school, including the breakfasts/lunches/extra snacks for after-school programs and brushing/washing/dressing kerfluffle. My husband volunteered to drive them to school in honor of our 13th anniversary, which we were still celebrating, and he left with a kiss. An hour or so of writing was interspersed with calls checking on two friends living with cancer and one with a newborn baby. I sent a second batch of e-invites for my steampunk birthday party. I pulled back my hair, dressed all in black, and met Hubby for a quick grab of lunch before going to a cemetery to help our friends' family lay their mother to rest. I bought Angry Birds bandages, extra thermoses, kids' socks and underwear on my way to pick-up and hugged my children a little closer before getting back in the car. We went to doctor's appointments and reviewed spelling lists and drove home to do homework while I tried to make vegetarian chili after discovering that there were no onions in the house and trying to salvage what was left of old shallots while the children harassed each other and one erupted in tears. Hugs. Punishment. Apologies. Dessert. Warm bath for one, quick shower for the other, pjs, books, extra studying, bed. And a quick call to Hubby with another electronic hug on our anniversary day before clean-up, dishes, soap in the open wound on the thumb, cursing, Bactine, book, bed.
That's real life and those are real stories, the ones with the highs and lows, the ones that make me think of roller coasters in scenes from My Life and Parenthood. In writing (and in life), it's important to remember to enjoy the ride!