Cheryln100000149781632_8303I 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…

Liberty Valance JW and JS cigaretteMore about measurements of time:

  • 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)

Abernathy2.previewSo 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!

PRP Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 2 WebEXCERPT FROM SPELLBOUND:

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:


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A native Oklahoman, I've been influenced by the west all my life. I love to write short stories and novels in the historical western and western romance genres, as well as contemporary romantic suspense! Check my Amazon author page to see my work:
I live in Oklahoma City with my husband of 40 years. I love to hear from readers and other authors--you can contact me here:
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  1. I love the excerpt Cheryl! Sounds like a great read! Like you, I’ve caught myself using the word “moment” in way to many instances. Thanks for the interesting history on the word! Best Wishes on your future stories!

    • Thanks, Kathryn! And I should have made a change to this–these books ARE AVAILABLE NOW through Amazon and other e-book retailers and are also available in print! I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt!

      I do that a lot, too–moment, moment, moment. LOL I had an editor call it to my attention though–and that has helped me curtail it.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I use the word MOMENT a lot too, Cheryl.
    Someone told me in historicals for me to say something like ‘it’ll only take a second.” or “He drew his gun in a split second.”

    Isn’t right because time back then just wasn’t really broken down into seconds the way it is now with sweeping second hands and digital clocks ticking off seconds.

    People just didn’t really THINK in terms of seconds.

    Some I’m sure, the term existed and of course a minute was always 60 seconds, but it just wasn’t a common expression.

    So I switched to MOMENT. “It’ll only take a moment.”
    “He drew his gun … well, I might now use MOMENT here but also not split second…..FASTER’N GREASED LIGHTNING.
    So I get the use of MOMENT.

    I try NOT to overdue it because it’s almost a reflex at this point.

    • Mary, you’re so much like me–it IS almost a reflex! And you just have to stop and look for it when you go back over your stories to edit. But you’re right–saying “second” just doesn’t fit in the old west.

      I read a story once where the author had the hero saying, “Hold on a sec,” all the time. I just had to lay it down, it bothered me so much. He wouldn’t have ever said that in the old west at all!

      I’m so glad to see you here, and congratulations on YOUR new release THE ADVENT BRIDE.


  3. My daughter would stamp her foot and say, “Your moments are toooo long, Mommie.” I think she was probably right because I was usually reading when I said it and would go right on reading.

    • LOL Connie! That’s funny. I was just thinking–I don’t believe I use “moment” when I speak that much. I don’t say, “We’ll do that in a moment” or anything like that. But it sure does come in handy in writing, for sure!

  4. Hi there Cheryl,

    That was an interesting post. I’ve never realized a moment was 90 seconds! I guess we learn something new every day, don’t we? I think I’m using it often at least in writing, not often when I speak. And, of course, I love your excerpt – but then, when did I not love something you wrote, huh?

    • Liette, you are too kind, dear friend! Thank you so much. I’m glad you enjoyed the excerpt–I had such fun writing this story.

      Yes, like you, I had not idea a moment was a definite period of time. It surprised me to find that out! I still use it a lot in my writing–and it’s usually NOT 90 seconds long! LOL


  5. After your last post about moments, I did a search through my MS. Ugh. I never realized how many moments I had throughout my pages. I’m not saying I’m going to replace all of them. Just a lot of them. Thanks for another interesting post.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been procrastinating in downloading Volumes 1&2. So, winning #2 would be awesome!

    • Hi Alisa!

      Oh, I couldn’t DO without a few “moments” in my writing! No, don’t replace all of them! You need some, to my way of thinking! LOL So glad you enjoyed the post. PRP has a lot of great Halloween reads–both in these anthologies and some stand-alones, too! I’m starting to get in the Halloween mood this year, even though my kids are grown and gone. LOL


  6. I have definitely been using a moment incorrectly! But I think people that I call on the phone definitely have it wrong”hold for just a moment” turns into 20 to 30 minutes! But I will get it right from now on. ????

    • Cindy, when I think of all the passages I’ve read over the years with “moment” mentioned in them…I’m not sure there IS an incorrect way to use it! (Except, as you say, when people ask you to “hold for a moment” and it turns into a half-hour wait.)

      Thanks for coming by today!

  7. Hey, Cheryl. Interesting post. Who knew a moment was longer than a minute. You learn something new every day.

    • I sure didn’t, Carolyn. I thought it was longer than a second, but not as long as a minute. Yes, you DO learn something new every day don’t you? LOL That was a true surprise to me.

  8. If you were writing an article for “Scientific American”, I could see the necessity of the editor’s stringent and literal need to keep the moment an actual time element. But in the world of fiction, I think an author should take that creative license and make that moment last as long as he or she sees fit. How many times have you combined the literal with the figurative such as, he smelled like apples, autumn, and happiness. I’ve never smelled happiness, but I can sure imagine what it ought to smell like. And I can take a pregnant moment and make it stretch out until it delivers something to remember. Just sayin’…
    I loved your excerpt…another half dead hero? Or did you actually kill this one and revive him from the dead this time? LOL You certainly have some colorful names in this story. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of the name Earlene before.
    All the best to you, Cheryl. I know Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico, Vol. 2 is going to be a fantastic bunch of stories.

    • Sarah, you know me and my half-dead heroes! They all cringe when they find out they’re going to be in one of my stories. LOL

      Earlene is an old name and used a lot in this part of the country. Country singer Barbara Mandrell had a sister named Earlene. You know how I LOVE names–especially the odd ones! LOL

      Your story in COWBOYS, CREATURES, AND CALICO VOLUME 1, The Beast of Hazard, was just full of wonderful surprises–I loved that story, but I always love your Wilding family.

      And you are so right about combining the literal with figurative meanings. I think every writer does that! No, I don’t adhere strictly to the length of “a moment”–my moments are all different. LOL


  9. “A moment” has always been used so freely. I always considered it meant just a very short period of time. Nice to know that it officially is 90 seconds. It has become so common a figure of speech, most people don’t consider it a fixed amount of time. All the examples you gave are valid uses of the word. People expect them, use them, and aren’t too worried about the exact number of seconds.

    • Patricia, I really think 90 seconds seems so llloooonnng…LOL (for a “moment”, anyway). I just always think of a moment as being shorter, somehow. Thanks so much for stopping in and reading and commenting. I always look forward to seeing you!

  10. I have always believed that moments can have different lengths of time. I suppose it’s wanting to hold onto the good, but so fleeting it seems, and trying to let go of the not so good, those moments can linger.


  11. Love the excerpt, Cheryl. And loved the lesson on ‘moment’. I had no idea that is where the word originated. Like you, I use ‘moment’ often when writing, to replace something like, ‘in a second’. I think I began using this term when a former editor remarked on the passage of time and wanted to know how the characters knew an hour had passed when they didn’t wear a watch. Ever since then, I try to steer clear of, ‘an hour later’. But I agree, depending on the circumstances, a moment can signify a second or long minutes later.

    • Julie, it’s odd to think that time wasn’t always measured as we think of it now, isn’t it? And sometimes, we forget and talk about it like it’s always been that way. “Moment” is a great term because of its ambiguity…well, unless you adhere strictly to the 90 second rule…LOL Glad you enjoyed the excerpt!

  12. I have used moment in my speech for all my life. My mother used it and I had a sense of what it meant. She also used minute. I told her her minutes were rubber minutes. She laughed. I enjoyed your post and would like to read the book.

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