I was thinking about the (very few) good news around this week, and pretty much all of them centred around what is commonly known as ‘the festive season’. Which got me thinking about parties. Which, in my writing-focused mood, got me thinking about epic party scenes in novels. So I decided to compile a list of ingredients for a good fictional cocktail (or other) party.
There’s obviously a lot of hedonism in fiction, classic examples being Hunter S Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Then there’s the slightly more contemporary hedonism of Alex Garland’s The Beach and Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. The trick (no pun intended) with good hedonism is, well, being excessive.
There’s also the drinking style. Contrast the tame (albeit occasionally bloody) parties in Agatha Christie’s stories, which involve a few drinks and some dancing, to the binge drinking in the likes of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited and Ben Master’s Noughties. The drinks-mixing scene in The Rosie Project (where the lead character went on a bespoke cocktail-mixing bender) was a step beyond – and in the right (and completely hilarious) direction. But, as a whole drinking involves specific drinks (beer, wine, spirits) in particular quantities (sipped, downed etc) – and not always with some moral lesson (I personally prefer drinking scenes without the and-your-life-is-now-ruined-because-you-drank-irresponsibly-one-night).
I think pretty much all of the above mentioned books have some great dancing scenes – some concentrating on the movement and others on a particular character’s ability to draw in a crowd/ clear the dancefloor. The key to a good dancing scene is a focus on a certain individual’s antics spliced with the music (no matter what the type).
Dinner parties or posh dos often fall into two categories: boring and unexpectedly fun. Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim does the latter ever so well. But food is not just for dinner parties. From the cucumbers and carrots at children’s parties to a kebab on the way home from a club to putting a pizza on and forgetting it in the oven until a fire alarm disrupts the party, food is an integral part of the party scene for a reason.
And everything else…
I could go on about the ingredients for a good party scene but I’ve got to leave something for you to think about, right? On which note (pun fully intended), I’m off to do some research at a friend’s party. The key to good fiction is realism and all that…