I don’t know about you, but when I write, I use the word “moment” quite a bit. I never really stopped to think about how long a “moment” was until my first editor for Fire Eyes made me take out a description of a moment—I had deemed it “a long moment”—she let me know that there could be no such thing as a “long moment”—it was either a moment or it wasn’t.
Ever since then, I’ve paid close attention to my writing about “moments”—because it dawned on me that I believed there were more than just one kind of moment. There are the long, awkward pause moments; the quick can’t-believe-I-said-that moments; the long steady stare moments that say “I saw what you did and I know who you are”. There are the moments in between the blink of a firefly’s light in the summer night, and the breathless moments in between the first assault of a tornado’s devastating winds and the eye of the storm. There are the moments that tick by into minutes, and then hours…and hopelessness; and there are the moments of despair that settle quickly only to be lifted by a smile of forgiveness or understanding.
A MOMENT OF REMEMBRANCE–Soldiers raise the flag at Iwo Jima–World War II
I subscribe to a funny little newsletter called “Wisegeek” that addresses all manner of subjects, and their piece on “moments” was what prompted this post. Here’s what they had to say about it:
The amount of time in a moment is 90 seconds, or one and a half minutes, according to its usage as a unit of time measurement in medieval times dating back to the 8th century. This was based on the positioning of shadows on a sun dial, in which shadows moved along the dial 40 times in an hour. After the invention of the mechanical clock in the 13th century, a moment was no longer widely used as a specific unit of measurement. Going forward in modern times, a moment began to be used as a figure of speech to refer vaguely to any very brief period of time.
THE MOMENT OF TRUTH–Tom is about to give Rance the news that HE wasn’t the one who shot Liberty Valance, after all…
- Time has been measured since at least 1500 BC, which is the first instance of records indicating time measurement through the invention of the sundial by the ancient Egyptians.
- The word clock comes from the medieval Latin word for bell and refers to the bell that was used to signal that it was time for monks to pray.
- The poet Miroslav Holub proposed in 1990 that a moment is the unit of time it takes a person to read a average line of verse
A MOMENT IN HISTORY–Bud and Temple Abernathy, the youngest long riders in history, in their car (ages 11 and 13)
So now that you know what a moment really is, what do you think? Would you define it the same way? How would you measure a moment in your writing? Would there be “long moments”? “Fleeting moments”? “Awkward moments”? I’m of the mind that there can be many different kinds of moments—but it’s clear, not everyone agrees. What do you think?
Here’s a “Moment of Truth” from my upcoming release, SPELLBOUND, a short story that will be included in Prairie Rose Publications’ second volume of Cowboys, Creatures and Calico. There are some wonderful Halloween moments in the old west in all of these stories!
The horse shifted, and as he moved to the side, Angie saw the form of a man lying on her front porch.
“Is it him?” Angie asked in a low tone.
Earlene didn’t answer, and when Angie turned, the girl had tears running down her cheeks.
“Part of me wants him to be alive, but the other part don’t,” Earlene whispered. “He’s liable to be a mean ’un, Ang. And us all alone—”
“Hush up your blathering, Earlie,” Angie said sharply, sparing her a hard glance. “Better be every little part of you down to your wishbone hopin’ for him to be alive, girl. Else, you’d be a murderess.”
Together, they slowly approached the bottom step of the porch.
“And from the looks of him and his gear…he’s not some drifter that will go unnoticed if he disappears. Now, help me get him inside.”
Earlene turned wide eyes on Angie. “But—you’re gonna bring him in our house, Ang?”
“Well, I sure as hell am not gonna leave him here on the porch to freeze to death, little sister! It’s bad enough you shot him! And we’re going to have a talk about that. You and that gun—” She broke off. “Oh, come on. Help me, before he bleeds to death.”
“If he’s a robber, I’ll plug him again,” Earlene said steadfastly as she helped Angie roll the man over onto his back.
Angie bit back her response. Right now, this stranger couldn’t do anyone any harm. His shoulder still oozed blood, but the lump on his head where he’d fallen from his horse was every bit as worrisome. How had he gotten back on?
Just as they leaned over him to take hold of his coat, his eyes opened.
Earlene jerked backward, with a shriek. Angie was startled, but she managed not to scream. His dark, intense gaze held hers, and she felt her bones seem to liquefy and melt.
In spite of his situation, incredibly the corner of his mouth lifted in a rakish grin. “I’ll be damned…”
Authors in this volume besides me include Jacquie Rogers, Kathleen Rice Adams, Kristy McCaffrey, C. Marie Bowen and Kaye Spencer.
Both anthologies, Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico Volumes 1 and 2, are available at Amazon. Here’s the link for Volume 2:
I WILL BE GIVING AWAY A COPY OF VOLUME 2 TODAY TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER!