Writing and reading take up a large amount of my free/spare time. I love both and more so when a story is fun.
When smart people do stupid things, it can get fun. In scary movies, people watching yell at the screen “Don’t go down that hall!” Or something similar. The characters do stupid things that propel the story forward. A good person can commit a crime with the right motivation. A lonely person can be blind to offered love because they are stupidly looking elsewhere.
Stupidity is common and ranges from mild forgetfulness to voluntarily opening a closet door that has blood oozing out from beneath it. Here are some obviously stupid things people do that can jump-start a story.
Driving drunk / getting in a car with a drunk driver
Forgoing safety for embarrassment
Not locking the door
Opening a door
Investigating a strange noise
Walking alone at night
Walking toward the danger
Drinking too much and/or too fast
Having unprotected sex
Volunteer for a shady organization
Going off alone with a virtual stranger
Talking to strangers
I know there are infinite things that can be added to the list. The point is if I need someone to get into trouble, the best thing to do is momentarily lower their IQ, and make them do something that everyone and anyone can see is dumb. Really dumb, the dumber the better. However if it’s too obvious you might get some eye rolls and lose the readers interest. I’ll get back to my usual style of blogs soon. For now I’ll share the next chapter. This is what happens after Sasha leaves the bar.
Sasha paid the taxi driver and went up the steps to the back door of her house. The dark yard empty and ominous. A grand waste of space that she didn’t need. Nobody understood why she bought the ‘dammed house’ as her father called it. She did, it was a beautiful house away from the city and cookie cutter suburban homes. It was quiet and lonely. Just what she wanted, or was it what she needed? She could never decide which.
The door swung open as she flicked the kitchen light on. Sasha dropped her purse on the counter and turned back to lock the door. The abrupt swing of it opening knocked her back and onto the floor. She yelped in surprise as the man from the bar pushed his way into the kitchen.
“Get out of my house Baylor!” Sasha scrambled to get up.
He smiled at her on the floor and let her get to her feet. “I think you owe me an apology and a conversation.”
“I owe you nothing. Get the hell out!” She glanced at her purse behind him on the counter. Her pepper spray and cellphone sat useless out of reach. She didn’t have a landline phone and her neighbours complained that she was too young to be living alone. The words witch and lesbian were overheard once or twice. Sasha didn’t care one way or the other, she saw no problem with either option. She half wished one or the other was true, maybe she’d be happier then.
Her body went cold with fear as she turned to run for the front door. It would be locked and dead bolted and would take too long to open. Her elderly neighbors too far to hear and would be long tucked in for the night. A rough hand grabbed her arm and shoved her toward the sink.
“Oh no you don’t.” He sneered. “Tell me Sasha are you a natural blonde? I just don’t see you as a pick. Although…” He squinted his dull-blue eyes. “You are close in face… really close.”
Baylor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter. She barely knew him.
He shrugged. “Either way I get what I want even if you were a mistake.”
Screaming was pointless, nobody would hear. “You should leave. The police…” She squeezed her eyes shut.
“Are nowhere to be found. Unless you have a psychic connection no one will hear you here.” His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered. “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Baylor’s deep voice made her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”
She could only gasp for air as he brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her; reaching for the counter as he raised his fist to strike her. If she could reach the knives, might survive this.
The door flew open. “What’s going on here?” Cal advanced with fists clenched on Baylor.
Sasha’s legs wobbled as Baylor let her go and his eyes widened.
Cal swung hard at Baylor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made Sasha gag and Baylor crumpled the floor.
Eyes wide Sasha’s hand flew to her throat. “Di-did you follow me too?”
“Dammed right I did. Right after I saw that piece of filth follow you.” He pulled out a badge and a pair of handcuffs. “Detective Cal Thorn.”
“You’re a cop?” Sasha sat hard on the creaky wooden chair, her shaking hands resting on the antique kitchen table.
Cal finished cuffing Baylor. “I am.” He stood and faced the pale shaken Sasha then called to confirm his backup who were already on the way. He opened a cupboard, after two tries, found a glass, and filled it from the water cooler in the corner. “Here drink some water.”
She reached a still shaking hand for the glass. “You never said, I wondered what kind of job you had you were awfully observant.”
“Kind?” Cal sat shooting Baylor a cursory glance. “Meaning?” His eyebrow went up as she sipped her water.
“I don’t know, I thought maybe, I don’t know.” Her shaking subsided as a flush crept to her ears.
“Go on, tell me, what did you think?” He moved to check her for injuries.
“I’m not hurt.” She turned her head avoiding his hands. “I thought model maybe. You knew what designer my shoes were.”
He narrowed his dark brown eyes as he sat in the adjacent chair. “Nice try. So what was your first conclusion jump?”
She looked up from her water. It was so thoughtful. Then again, he would know how to calm someone that just had a fright. She licked her lips and looked back at the glass. He’s a detective there was no point lying.
“Well you skipped over my gorgeous hot friends staring only at me and commented on my shoes. I was dressed more expensively so I figured player or gold digger?” She furrowed her brow looking into her glass. “Can men be gold diggers?” The question in her voice made him laugh deeply, the abrupt pleasant sound filled the small room.
“My sister is a designer and travels the world. She talks, I listen.” His smile went deep into his eyes. “I’m pleased that you wondered at all.” Cal watched her process his words, what happened and she tucked it all away quickly. She’s not used to confrontation or violence, but was or has been at some point. This wasn’t a new pair of shoes, she’s worn the victim footwear before.
“Thorn.” Sasha furrowed her brow again then widened her eyes. “Calanna Thorn?”
His chest puffed out as he nodded succinctly with a smile. “The very one.” He saw now that the bitchy somewhat shyness he mistook earlier was as he suspected, just discomfort for the situation. This woman was intelligent and confident, not for physical self but as a person. “What type of graphic design do you do?”
“That has a tone of compliance to it.”
Her mouth fell open, nobody knew, how did he guess so quickly?
“Let me guess Sasha, you went to college for art, your parents or whomever influences your choices, frowned severely at the wasteful choice. So you sidestepped into advertising, worked yourself to the bone to climb whatever ladder there is in that industry and are sitting pretty close to the top rung.”
Again, she gawked at him.
“It’s my job.” His knowing smile curled his lips as he reached for her hand. “You have paint on your index, a slight ink stain on your pinky and the callous of someone who sketches and or paints by hand.” His fingers ran over the rough skin on her middle finger knuckle. “Your clothes, while understated, were expensive. You have confidence in your abilities, but not in yourself.”
She pulled her hand away putting both in her lap as a loud rap on the kitchen door made her jump. He was too intuitive for her liking. She was so careful to hide herself and in one evening this virtual stranger has unravelled more than she let anyone know. Not even Valery or Anne.
Cal opened the door and slipped into all business super cop. He directed one of the two officers in uniform to take Baylor Crower into custody and read him his rights as he was now stirring. The other officer took out a notepad and asked Sasha the usual questions. Cal stopped him half way through and said he’d bring her to the station for an official statement.
The adrenaline was long gone and Sasha sat quietly as the surreal evening played again in her mind. Cal left her alone in the little cold room, she glanced at the observation mirror a few times feeling like the criminal not the victim. The statement was as clear as she could be and now she was waiting. What for, she had no idea. The door opened and Cal was framed in brighter backlight. Somehow it looked angelic and devilish all at the same time.
“Come on.” He smiled holding the door open. “I’ll drop you at home.”
She nodded and followed him. Yawning she glanced at her watch. 4:47 am. The combination of sugary drinks earlier, the late night, excitement, danger and stress took its toll and she nodded off in his car. Cal watched her a moment after parking the car. He honestly thought Baylor would go after Anne or Valery, they were more his type especially Valery. When Baylor showed up Cal nearly lost his control. He needed to catch him in action, probable cause to arrest him. Baylor’s prints were not on file and the last woman couldn’t identify him. His prints were however in evidence for ten crime scenes. Baylor Crower was going to prison for a very long time. That didn’t mean he wasn’t a threat to Sasha. He’s never left a victim untouched, not that Cal knew of and criminals such as he, are resourceful. Something about Baylor’s approach tonight didn’t sit right, he let her see his face as he attacked her. Cal would to look into that.
“Sasha.” Cal brushed her hair back from her cheek and she startled awake instantly.
“Oh!” She looked around and fumbled for the door. “Thanks for the ride Detective. Sorry I fell asleep.” She jumped out slamming the door before he could react. She ran inside and locked the doors behind her, leaning against it she worked to calm her panic. “Way to be cool Sash.” She rolled her eyes at herself. After a scalding hot shower to wash the memory of Baylor’s hands off and the terrible evening, she crashed into her bed unceremoniously.
Sasha did a few stupid things. One, she left the bar alone with someone following her after being a bitch. Two, she didn’t lock her door immediately complacent in her secluded neighbourhood. Three, she went in the back door, had she gone in the front she might have seen Baylor’s cab. And four, she left her only phone out of reach. Not huge errors in judgement, but enough to give the assailant opportunity.
My advice about stupid.
Everyone lapses in judgement so no matter how smart or wholesome a character may be let them make a bad decision. The conflict you can create may take your story to the next level.
It’s a love hate sort of thing This one is actually based off part of this chapter but used differently
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