Episode 34: Saying “I do” in Fiction

On March 16, 2019, Rex Hurst is getting married. So a few days earlier,  he and Kasie recorded this episode of Write On SC. Here are the show notes:

Introductions

Dr. Kasie Whitener, Clemson Road Creative, fiction writer

Rex Hurst, Horror Writer

Theme for the day

Weddings in Fiction (follow up to Episode 19)

Agenda

  • Big News!
  • Weddings in fiction
  • Worst literary marriages of all time
food couple sweet married
Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com

Segment 1

How to write a wedding scene step by step. For those who want to go generic:

  • Where exactly is the wedding held and what time of year is it? In Hawaii by the ocean in the middle of summer? How about in New York, indoors, at the beginning of winter?
    • How is the place decorated?
    • What items are handed to the guests and what preparations are made right before the wedding begins?

Part Two

  • This should be around when the bride makes her way out. Show how she’s feeling and if she’s crying or not. Add a metaphor or simile about the way she looks if you can.
    • Is there a ring bearer or flower girl? How cute do they look in their clothes?
    • The bride is usually escorted down the aisle by her dad. If the father is dead then she can have a close guy friend, or her brother walker her down.
    • Father presents bride to the groom.

Part Three

  • Couple approaches minister…
    • The minister says “You can now be seated” to the guests.
    • Priest begins to wrap it up.
    • Final ceremony moments

Write with Fey offers this wisdom:

Master the details.

  • Know when and where.
  • Pick the theme.
  • Say “yes” to your heroine’s dress!
  • Bridesmaids and groomsmen.
  • The bouquet.

The Ceremony

  • Emotions are high.
  • How does the bride feel as she walks down the aisle to the man she loves?
  • Wedding march and escort.
  • Music? Does a father figure walk her down the aisle or does she take the walk alone?
  • The vows.
  • Ring exchange.
  • The kiss.

The Reception

  • Dances
  • Bouquet and garter toss.
  • Food
  • Cake

Segment 2

There is a ritual to these things. There should be 1) recognition of the ritual, the importance of it whether in its entirety or individual pieces of it. Something should mean something or there’s no reason to bother showing it in the story; 2) recognition for the reader; rituals are easy devices to connect your reader to something that’s happening. While he or she may have never been turned into a vampire, fallen off a cliff, or ridden a train across Europe — they have likely attended or participated in a wedding. That recognition means they have expectations that should be met, meeting expectations helps the reader trust you and helps you skip over the details of the thing in favor of the meaning of it.

Weddings, like funerals and other rituals, are meant to be milestones. They’re a point in time marked for memory — orchestrated to be remembered.

Weddings, specifically, are beginnings. Like births and baptisms and bar mitzvahs, weddings are meant to be hopeful and optimistic; they contrast beautifully with a character’s natural cynicism or a couple’s ultimate doom.

A few cynical (critical?) takes on marriage (from this link):

  • The “Inverted Wedding” is the phenomenon in literature wherein the corruption of a bride’s marriage leads to her own demise.
  • Marriage is an institution to control fertility and channel its productivity into the realm of social good; this politicizes a woman’s sexuality, forever linking it to the purpose of procreation.
  • Outside of marriage, a woman can be marginalized as having not contributed to the social good; her contributions, outside of procreation and familial stability are degraded; this makes it a lightning rod for gender power struggles.

Segment 3

Weddings are the beginning, right? Then the marriage is what follows. So let’s not leave off discussing bad marriages in literature. What immediately came to mind was Edna Pontellier in The Awakening. She walks into the ocean and kills herself, right? So that’s a bad marriage. Also, Celie and Mister from The Color Purple. Holy cow, that marriage is awful. We know a lot of the bad marriages are a result of women being considered property by their husbands (and fathers before that).

Modern literature also has a lot of bad marriages where women are seeking stability, validation, or some other form of security (financial or otherwise) in exchange for their husband’s access to their body and caregiving. We talked about marrying to escape loneliness or the prospect of being lonely. Then we got back to the literature conversation with this blog and its list of the 11 Worst Marriages in Literature. Though how Celie and Mister didn’t make the list I’ll never understand. Here are a few:

  • Frank and April Wheeler in Revolutionary Road
    • Suburban dream revealed as a plastic, hollow achievement in this 1960’s-era drama showing that professing to want the same things doesn’t mean you’ll be satisfied by achieving them.
  • Humbert Humbert and Charlotte Haze in Lolita
    • As the central story is Humbert’s pedophile relationship with his stepdaughter, the marriage to her mother is secondary but oh-so-dysfunctional.
  • Tom and Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby
    • It’s an arranged marriage of sorts to protect the financial standing of the Buchanans. Daisy gets the life she expects but realizes it isn’t the life she wants when Jay Gatsby reappears and shows her what love could have looked like.
  • Cathy and Adam Trask in East of Eden
    • Two brothers fall for the same woman and she has them both. Juicy. Terrible. And like a trainwreck, impossible to look away.
  • Emma and Charles Bovary in Madame Bovary
    • From the blog: “The Bovarys weren’t just unhappy, they were unhappy marriage pioneers. After the book was published in La Revue de Paris in 1856, Flaubert was put on trial for obscenity — a move which made the novel into an immediate bestseller. Emma endures a more subtle torture than many of these wives; she’s stuck in a loveless marriage and bored out of her mind. “Each smile hid a yawn of boredom, each joy a curse, each pleasure its own disgust; and the sweetest kisses only left on one’s lips a hopeless longing for a higher ecstasy.” To relieve the pain, she has affairs, racks up debts, and finally takes the only means of escape: suicide.”
  • Amy and Nick Dunne in Gone Girl
    • Rex (who has read this one) asserts they are both equally crazy and equally to blame.

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