Not-So Happy Holidays?

The holidays bring out many emotions in people from one end of the spectrum to the other. It is this time of year that tends to inspire writers to put a holiday in their writing. I know I do. Holidays can be fantastic sources of interaction, story building and potential strife.

For me a book or story can sometimes be a small retreat from the real world. Even so, I prefer that sanctuary to be realistic within the boundaries of the genre. Writing a holiday can become unrealistic really quickly. Real family or friend gatherings are not perfect, they are usually not flawlessly rosy and completely happy events. People bicker, fight, argue, get stressed, overwhelmed, overworked, crowded to name a few.

They can put on airs and pretend all is well, coming across as fake and glazed over. Family members can have deep seeded issues that go back years. Secrets are always at risk of exposure by a thoughtless person. Especially if someone brings home someone for the first time to meet the family.

They can be amazing too, bringing a sense of love, peace, family, warmth and comradery to the surface. Fences can be mended, temporarily or permanently. Good news and celebrations all around.

Traditions, widely celebrated around the globe or specific and quirky to a person or group. They can be very exciting to write about and read. Real or fabricated.

The temptation to make a perfect holiday gathering in a story is strong, but and that’s a big but, it is soooo much fun to create chaos, embarrassment and hilarity. How people react to the Christmas pudding splatting on the floor can really set a mood. Mom might panic and cry over her shortcoming as a hostess, dad might chuckle, make light and start cleaning it up to make her feel better. Big sister the perfectionist might have a mini meltdown about diner being ruined. The moody uncle may cry bad omens and more foul to come.

Possible super drama causing Christmas disasters (and mini disasters)

Tree falls over or is knocked over
Wrong labels on presents
Relative gets too drunk
Turkey is burned
Table collapses
Power goes out
Everybody brought the exact same dish to the potluck
Car breaks down on the way
Huge personal fight with dirty laundry aired in front of family
Someone trips and falls face first into a gooey dessert
A child accidentally (or on purpose) pulls someones pants or skirt down
Everything that can go wrong does
Someone used the wrong/mixed-up ingredients rendering dinner inedible

 What will make the story is how the people react, act and handle things. I make sure to hold true to my characters behaviors and quirks. I love to take this opportunity to expose them or make them vulnerable to show a characters mettle as they make it through the holidays.

The thing is I don’t add a holiday in unless I can make it part of the story, make it have some meaning or influence on the characters or events. It’s not hard to do as long as I keep the basics and remember to have fun with it.

My advice about writing a holiday.
Perfection is boring, stir it up, make it drama and work it all into the main story-line not as detached side-dish that nobody really wants and only takes because it will hurt aunt Bertha’s feelings and ends up fed to the dog or hidden under mashed potatoes.
Happy holidays everyone stay safe and eat lots of turkey!

-Sheryl

Other posts

Covered up with paint and lies.

Hahaha oops.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Retreat

Advertisements

Bacon, Banter and Coffee

Conversation is a multi layered beast. It can change with the wind, the tone can be misunderstood and feelings altered because of it. Small talk is generic and often dreaded. When people talk in a story it should have meaning, it should have a point and a direction. Whether it’s establishing backstory, character development, relationship development, it should have a place in the story. If it’s put there as filler, the reader isn’t dumb, and will know. I love good Banter, fun dialogue that brings out a characters nuances, hints toward an end goal and show’s us a little about who they are. Banter is easier done once the characters main attributes and position within the story have been set. Why? Because banter is often a friendly exchange, with humor, or even sexual tension depending on who is conversing. A history between the characters is necessary, it doesn’t have to be much, but enough that they can joke or make light of something common.

I just love when I’m reading a book and the characters slip into banter style conversation. It makes me as the reader feel closer to the characters. I become invested and I become interested. Too much drama, tension, or emotionally charged conversation can smack of melodrama. Eye rolling glorious melodrama.

After Sasha’s chaotic evening and past weeks she’s due for a little banter.

Sasha woke to the smell of bacon and coffee. The abnormally comfortable bed cocooned her in warmth.

“I’m not on vacation.” She whispered the words wide-eyed as it all came back. With a hand to her aching head, she slowly moved her sore stiff body from the bed.  She grabbed the soft white hotel robe and covered up. Whomever went through her belongings only packed light nightwear. Nothing practical. It should bother her that someone riffled through her home to bring her things, but it didn’t. She looked at the splay of clothes on the other side of the massive bed. At least there were jeans, some fitted long sleeve shirts and a couple soft sweaters.

“Morning.” Cal didn’t look up from the paper as she padded barefoot to the table. “Hope you like more than fruit with horse food and ruined milk. I already ate.”

“Yogurt is improved milk.” She smiled at the two Ibuprofen tablets beside the plate and sat. “I sometimes treat myself, I think I’ve earned some cholesterol and salt with a side of carbs and grease.”

“I did order you plant matter as well.” He smiled when she snickered.

The article was nonspecific. Sasha’s name was still out of the story but Baylor was now headline news. For now the information, surrounding the case was contained. It couldn’t stay that way for long. He was on baby sitting duty because his superiors caught wind of his history with Baylor.

“So am I news yet?” She bit into the toast and looked at it. Real butter. “Mmm.”

“Not yet thankfully.”

“I wish it would be never.”

“We’ll do what I can. For now you’re stuck here with me.”

“As in all day?”

He turned the page slowly. “As in all day.”

She chewed the fried sausage slowly. She was being rude and knew it. It was partly because he hit on her at the bar on the anniversary of the worst day of her life. It was also because she liked him, was attracted to him and didn’t want to be. Mostly it was because Baylor had soured her mood and tainted her home. Again. Last night had been too much. Everyone was picking at her or asking her to go outside her comfort zone. A zone, she was being told too often lately, was a bit too small.

“I have work to do, I can do it here, but I should call Val and Anne and let them know I’m on an impromptu vacay.”

“Will they buy it?”

“I was chatting with Val yesterday about getting away for a few days. I didn’t say where, she knows about Baylor after the bar and the bail thingy.”

“Staying home isn’t getting away.” He folded the paper and set it on the table finally looking at her directly.

“It is for me.” She looked down at the empty plate. “Guess I was hungry.”

“You probably skipped supper and likely ate grass for lunch. Not to mention that much stress will make you hungry.”

She laughed.

Cal’s head tilted to the side. “What?”

“There was wheat grass in my salad at lunch.”

They both laughed. He pulled out his phone and held it out. “Untraceable and blocked. Two calls.”

She took it with a sneer. “Protective custody. More like Jail for the innocent; except lucky me gets two whole calls.”

“You broke a few laws yesterday, I see no one innocent here.”

“You’re a regular funny guy.” She stomped off to her temporary bedroom. At least her prison was four and a half stars. The door wouldn’t slam, it had a safety slow close. She scrunched her face when she heard Cal’s boisterous laugh behind her. “Jerk.”

In this, I wanted to portray that Sasha is sarcastic and health conscious, Cal is practical and nurturing. While upset about what happened Sasha is aware she is taking it out on a patient Cal. Much of their banter wouldn’t work if they hadn’t had some time together already.

My advice about Banter.
Know your characters and how they interact together (Not everyone is equal in reaction/action). Make sure to keep in mind where you eventually want them to end up. Nothing can lighten a story after a violent storm than some sunny friendly banter.

-Sheryl

Other fun posts

Silliness and seriousness

Ghosts that write stories

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Chaotic

Mood swings

I don’t find people to be even tempered. At rest, at work, at home or at play people tend to be who they are for the most part. But, what happens when tempers flair or stress overwhelms? Can a quiet person become loud? Does a calm person snap and start yelling? Sure, people can behave outside their norm, as long as it is infrequent and outside the norm.

When I work on bringing Sasha down, I have her steady personality of hard working, caring, strong minded and level-headed put to the test. Her snippy and mean responses start to peek through when she’s pushed. So when she falls over, her mood changes, and so it should. When someone looses a good job, they don’t just get mad, shrug and say “that sucked”. It affects them, it worms  into their day and alters their personality until they adjust and move on. Sasha was just attacked by Baylor again at her home. Can’t say for sure but a mood swing or two might be in order. Since she just came out of a traumatizing moment I have to bring the tone down and let her settle, then I can slowly build up the anticipation toward the next dramatic event. For now I’ll let her mood wander a bit.

Sasha leaned her head back and looked at the drop ceiling with frustration in her eyes. “Protective custody?” She grimaced. “Where?”

The officer that took her statement tapped his pen incessantly. “Until we have Crowan in custody you need to be fully protected Miss Parsons. We will take you to a day’s inn hotel and post officers outside to guard you.

“Splendid. Can I just book one myself? If I have to do this I’d rather be somewhere nicer.”

“It can be arranged if you wish.” He got up with a huff. She nearly asked why that was offensive as he left. She had no clothes and was banned from her house until they decided to put her there as bait.

“I’ll never be comfortable in my home again.” She muttered to the tabletop. The officer told her with damage to her car it wasn’t safe to drive. When she went off the road, she hit a rock and caused damage. She didn’t even remember or notice hitting a rock. Shock they said twice; she was still in shock. She didn’t think so but what did she know of being in shock.

Cal opened the door and gestured for her to follow him so she did. He had her things anyway. “Officer Cooper said you wanted to waive our hotel for one of your own choice.”

“I didn’t mean to offend but.” She stopped. But what? It was offensive.

“I booked the Linux for you, I figured you wouldn’t want the days inn that we usually use.” He chuckled. “I had a female officer gather some things for you and they will be in your room.” He led her to the parking lot.

“Oh. Um thanks. I’ll pay for the room.” The Linux was a star above what she would have chosen.

“It’s not an issue. The upgrade however means you have to have direct in-house protection.”

She breathed in the cool calming night air in before getting in the car. “Direct in house?”

“Officer in room. Well in the attached suite. Two plain-clothes officers will be stationed outside as well.

“Oh. Who will be in the room with me?”

“I will.”

“You.” She frowned and looked out the window. That was too close. He unnerved her and since she met him, her life has turned to hell. “Does it have to be you?”

“You sure know how to cut a man down.”

“Sorry it’s just.”

“Look Sasha I get it, you made yourself clear at Starches. You’re not interested, not on the market and if you asked me you’re not even remotely honest about why.”

Her head turned fast, her brow furrowed. “I don’t owe you an explanation.”

“No you don’t, we don’t know each other very well. I meant honest to yourself. You’re miserable for some reason and I’m betting it’s mostly your own doing. Regardless, it’s my job to keep you safe. End of story. If you want total strangers watching over you from a car parked obviously on the road, then go to the days inn.”

“No. You’re okay I guess.”

“Good to know.” The sarcasm rolled thick in his voice.

He pulled into the hotel, they got out and he opened the trunk so she could get her belongings. She followed him numbly as they checked in and went up to their room. She tried to look around and appreciate the décor but couldn’t focus.

The room was divided into three, a common room with a couch, table and two chairs flanked by bedrooms that each had their own bathroom.

“Do not leave this room without me, do not use the phone, you can call work in the morning.”

“Whatever Detective Dictator. I don’t need to call work, I was planning to take some time off to work on a project at home. I’ll have to let Val and Anne know that I lost my phone so they don’t freak out and call the… police.”

“Tomorrow. Stay off the internet and if you need anything let me know and I’ll order room service.”

She blinked her burning eyes at him and held her roiling stomach. She was precariously close to throwing up. Her mind heard his words but her body stopped processing. It all came crashing down, the surreal weight of the evening broke her defenses and she started crying.

Cal saw it coming, she was trying too hard to hold it in and be a tough girl. Save it for the movies, he always said. The real world was a whole lot more emotional. She ran for what she presumed was her bedroom and right through to the small bathroom.

Cal sat on the couch to make some calls. He could hear her, that would have to be enough.

A rough night and a rough reaction. Stress and strain can cause outbursts and behavior glitches that can sometimes be embarrassing or even hard to shake. Sasha probably thinks it couldn’t get worse, silly girl, she doesn’t know who controls her destiny. *insert evil laugh.

My advice about mood swings.
They can be serious, dramatic or even funny if you pace them well. Have fun and try having someone get snitty or even silly on the flip of a dime.

-Sheryl

other blog posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Anticipation