The moment cubby gives your story realism and soul.
When an audience experiences a story, part of the ritual is: suspending their disbelief.
They know they’re watching a large screen in a theater, or a bright screen in their living room. They know that the people on that screen are actors playing out scenarios designed and determined by a whole fleet of other people. Everything is polished and perfected before being put in front of that audience. It’s not real life, and they know it. They suspend their disbelief.
The moment cubby, is all about purposely and specifically injecting some “less-than-perfect” into your story.
Putting some humanity back in.
There are many ways to accomplish this. But two of the easiest are…
- Intentional Flaws
- Extraneous Beats
These are mistakes.
You are purposely putting mistakes, flubs, missteps, into your story. But these aren’t just any kind of mistake.
These are mistakes that specifically do not move the story forward in any real sense.
Damn near useless, in pushing the narrative along.
What’s that mean?
You’ll commonly see mistakes used in stories for an important story purpose.
Like the best friend accidentally tells someone a secret. Oh no! Everything’s ruined! It just slipped out!
That’s a mistake. But it’s the kind of mistake you see all the time in stories. The kind that is there to advance the story. If the best friend doesn’t spill the beans, then the girlfriend never goes to the secret meeting, and the story doesn’t move forward.
What we’re talking about here, with intentional flaws, is a different kind of mistake.
We’re talking about a character saying “when’s the lime getting here?” instead of “when’s the limo getting here?”
Does that advance the story? No. Does it feel like the kind of flub people make in real life? Yes. And it’s endearing. It’s unusual. It feels real. Like suddenly you’re not watching a polished practiced performance. Instead, these people are authentic in a way they weren’t just a moment ago.
I’m sure you can think of examples from your favorite movies. But if you can’t, here’s one:
Boogie Nights – William H. Macy’s character (Little Bill) finds his porn star wife having sex with another performer in the driveway.
A friend tries to talk to him about purchasing a zoom lens for the film shoot the next day, but is irritated that Little Bill seems distracted.
“My fucking wife, has an ass in her cock in the driveway Kurt, alright?”
He flipped the words around. That’s 100% moment cubby material. It’s not there to advance the plot, or the story at large. It’s just a very human screwup in the words being used. It’s great.
Intentional flaws don’t have to be just dialogue. They can be actions too.
Maybe your character backs up into a chair, knocking it over. Maybe they scoop their ice cream with a fork on accident. Maybe they stoop down to pick up a pen they dropped, to realize they didn’t actually drop anything.
Get weird with it.
When you add intentional flaws to your story, you’re adding a bit of much needed authenticity to your story. You’re roughing up the edges. Making it feel real.
These are similar to intentional flaws, in that they too do not advance the story in any appreciable way. But extraneous beats are more about…
Giving attention to a moment that is typically skipped over in other stories.
It’s a moment that just… is.
Like a character excusing themselves to the bathroom during a stressful dinner. They get to the bathroom but don’t really do anything in there, they just take a moment to themselves. Breathe.
Or maybe you have the audience witness the main character eating an entire cupcake in one sitting. No talking, no real facial expressions communicating feelings – just your character. Eating a cupcake. Then they’re done.
When crafting your story, you’ll ideally want your moments to follow some kind of theme.
Perhaps all your moments are comedic. Maybe they’re all intensely private. Maybe they’re all about emotional outbursts, whatever.
Then there’s the central moment of your story. The big one. The major moment.
It’s the one moment that defines your story as a whole. The core. One image, one line, one idea in action.
This, is your story’s soul.
That quirky, unique moment that really encapsulates what your story is, at a fundamental level.
Like an old man and his granddaughter holding hands as they stroll through the park. You let that moment breathe, let it expand. Because that moment, is what your story is all about.