Margin Notes



What I Was Reading:

The fleeting experiences we gather when we are young and restless seem so far away when we grow older. Moments in that time can feel more important because in hindsight, they are. Sometimes the moments play endlessly in our head, as we chase the ‘what ifs’ that passed us by. Scattered Showers by Rainbow Rowell is a series of nine short, love stories each keeping an optimistic tone, reassuring us that we are all capable to love and be loved back. Fraught with cynicism, sarcasm and sexual tension, ‘Midnights’ is a story that navigates the ambiguity of young love over a series of New Year’s Eve parties. Following two strangers who become fast-friends, the story reveals how precious a moment can be; as time drips away, friends come and go, chances are missed, people change and sometimes you find that the thing you’ve been looking for turns out to have been there all along. Taken from the point of view of Mags, a shy, quick-witted girl, the story also forces us to remember our past and the people we left behind, while cherishing those that stayed by our side through thick and thin. ‘Midnights’ is a wonderful story for those who want something more meaningful than just a conventional love story.

Midnights is available to read here when you click on read sample below the cover image.

What Moves I Notice the Writer Making:

Diary Entry: The author uses an almost diarist’s format with a timestamp to showcase events taking place over a series of times. It creates this Groundhog Day affect where every New Year’s Eve party at Alicia’s, poor Mags and Noel get closer as friends and yet farther apart, with Noel always getting smooched by a different girl, and Mags always playing second fiddle. The repetition of the New Year’s Eve theme is a seamless stopping point to capture how much can happen in people’s lives in the run of a year and brings us closer to Mags as a person who is watching life pass by.

Frame story: The author begins the story with a snippet of the ending, several hours before midnight. Contextually, it presents a flashback that makes the reader worry for the character Mags, who is anxious about people we have yet to learn about. It makes the reader feel for Mags, as if she was hiding from a would-be antagonist (but as we learn she had planned to lure Noel outside). The following timestamps unfold the events that led up to this in a linear chronology, giving us clues as to why Mags was the way she was that night. In this way, the author does not tell us everything we need to know about Mags but gradually introduces us to her.

Foreshadowing: Rowell presents numerous recurring events that reveal what may arise further on in the story, such as Noel’s nonchalance to his nut allergies in the first meeting (and his lifesaving EpiPen); Mags’ Chex and her wiping her hand to ensure Noel would not have an allergic reaction (which becomes near-fatal later on); and Noel’s preference for dancing “in public” (which he does each time but with a different girl until the ending).

Inner and Outer Dialogues: The author uses a third person limited point of view, which allows us a glimpse into the thoughts of Mags and her interactions with others (primarily with Noel). Rowell affords us the chance of seeing the world through Mags’ observant eyes, and this allows us to really feel for her when Noel time and time again chooses another girl over her.

Humor: The author often uses sarcasm to illustrate Mags’ and Noel’s budding friendship and belie the growing sexual tension between them. Rowell also employs italics for emphasis when others are chanting the countdown to New Year’s but also to place emphasis on specific sarcastic remarks (“How are you still alive?”), which the two often quip at each other.

Possibilities for Writers:

  • Narrative building using cold opens.
  • Crafting a story using nonlinear chronology (frame story, in media res, reverse narrative), to build a character without a lot of exposition.
  • Noticing and highlighting other craft moves present.
  • Playing with the idea of using timestamps to indicate change in time and setting in a story (quickwrite).
  • Writing an epilogue about what happens next or a continuation of the story.
  • After reading this text students could respond by writing about what they think of this organizational structure, something they connect to in this text, something they are still wondering, or about why they are/are not drawn to stories like this one.


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