Outside Forces

On my vacation journeys, I found ample time to people watch. I saw some pretty interesting action/reactions that I myself would not do or say. This is important as a writer to understand that other people are different in many ways.

I talk about behavior a lot because it’s important to any character and story to evolve characters and who they are. Or even make sure they don’t evolve, that they stay exactly who they started off as. Or make them de-evolve into the ‘bad guy’. Either way, as they bumble along, it’s important that they have reactions to situations.

Personality can be affected by outside forces. These extenuating circumstances can often cause a character to act… well out of character.

What outside forces am I talking about? The kind that can suddenly or even gradually force a person to act irrationally in one single moment or over a designated period of time.

Here are a few examples:

hunger/low blood sugar
Sun/Overheating
Sudden weather change

Thirst
Headache/Illness
Other people’s screaming children/loud noises
Bad Drivers

Greif*
Shock/fright
Injury/Pain
Exhaustion
Drugs
Alcohol

*While grief is an emotion, it is caused/forced by outside forces and is not(hopefully not) an everyday emotion.

It’s important to make sure that they still have some of their personality within the moment or shortly after. Also, note that it can be frustrating to have everyone that’s “Drunk” Behaves the same or have everyone “grieving” reacting exactly the same. If you’ve ever been to a funeral or watched a movie with one in it, you can see that individuals act individually. While variation doest mean I would have people acting in extremes (Unless necessary) I would have subtle differences or meaningful moments of uncharacteristic behavior that has a poignant place in the story or character development.

My advice about outside forces.
When used well they can add a dynamic and depth to any character. They can show perfect Pauline has a limit to her seemingly unending patience or that Fury driven Frank has a soft spot for kittens being abandoned in a garbage bag at the side of the road. 

-Sheryl

Other people posts

People Watching

Static Vs. Dynamic

My Posts From The Start

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Bumble

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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

Who are you again?

Reintroducing characters that haven’t e been mentioned in  a while. It happens, someone fell to the wayside either unintentionally or by design. It’s been a while old friend, perhaps the reader might want a re-introduction.

It doesn’t have to be a full-blown head to toe and detailed recount of who they are and how they fit into things. I also try to keep the reunion casual and not a slap to the readers face. If I set a character on the shelf on purpose I have already decided to bring them back at some point. If I just sort of left them out and need to bring them back I do so carefully.

I have talked about this before, forgetting to include someone present in conversation. It’s awkward but it happens. The story gets going and they just don’t keep up.  This time I’m talking about the ones that I set aside on purpose. Minor players that can come back to cause… mischief.

Valery grabbed Anne’s arm and dragged her off to the side near the bar, but away from the crowd. “Tony’s adorable and hot.”
Anne rolled her eyes in response.
“Still?”
“Not in love enough I guess.”
“Anyway.” Valery grinned. “Jackson and I are heading out. They got along fine.” She looked at the two men head to head scheming most likely. “I’m glad we did this.”
“Me too.” Anne’s smile faltered. It wasn’t the same without Sasha. “So is Jackson a keeper?”
“Yeah.” Valery laughed. “Now I’m taking him home and keeping him up late.” She sauntered over with enthusiasm to an appreciative Jackson, they said goodbye and left with hands roaming each other.
“I like your friends.” Tony kissed her hand and smiled. “We should-“
“Anne.” A man said too loudly with an unhappy frown.
Her eyes widened at the unexpected sight of Valerie’s accountant. “Neil.”
Neil looked from Anne to Tony and sneered. “Dude, she’s just using you. She’ll let you take her home and be gone before the sheets settle.” He laughed. “Unless you’re a schmuck who wants to be used by a whore that will sleep with a guy she just met,” he glared at Anne.
Tony looked from the furious Neil to Anne who looked ready to puke or punch or both.
Neil shook his head. “She’s a no good one night stand slut, run now while you can friend.”
Anne closed her eyes, took a deep breath then opened them and looked at Neil. “You’re insane. I wont apologize for not returning the hundred calls you left in one damned day. It was a mistake, get over it.”
“You could have called to tell me that.”
“I told you before I left.”
Neil looked at Tony. “Like I said man, a no good slut who doesn’t return calls.”
Tony had heard enough. He clenched his fists below the table and met Neil’s eyes. “Well, that is interesting. We’ve been dating for a while now.” Tony smirked. “So it stands to reason that if Anne couldn’t be bothered to call you, I don’t think she was the problem.” Tony held up his hand to stop both Anne and Neil from speaking. “Furthermore if you’re going to accuse a woman of being a slut for sleeping with someone they just met, don’t forget to call yourself one, friend.” He grabbed Anne’s arm and dragged her to the coat-check.

It’s all fun and games until the one night stand from Starches comes back to ruin things. I introduced Neil as a potential love interest for Anne, but he just wasn’t right so I dropped him like a hot potato with no explanation. Yes I did that on purpose. I also didn’t bother to go into great detail about who he was or describe him thoroughly, I didn’t the first time either, that’s because he’s relatively unimportant. Things were going a little too well for Anne, so as the mean writer I felt it necessary to put a frown on her face. Nobodies perfect after all. I wonder if her skeletons will play well with Tony’s? Hmmm….

My advice about bringing a minor or extremely minor character back to stir things up.
Do it. As long as it fits and they can help make the story more interesting that is. The thing is if they are minor and not likely to come back, they can cause all kinds of trouble at no cost to the love for them, because they are… minor.

-Sheryl

The post where Neil appeared for the first of two times. Crazy things

Another fun post I particularly like: That is disgusting

The original post about dropping characters: What happened to that guy?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Enthusiasm

Sound and selfish advice

There comes a time when things don’t go the way one expects. I think there are two main types of people in this sort of scenario. One who rolls with it and hopes it goes back to their way, and the other who manipulates and makes things go back to their way. Or so they hope anyway. They are the trouble causer’s. The selfish people who will do what they need to do to get what they want. Whether they realize it or not.

I wouldn’t say I write people this way all the time, but a good antagonist is a bad and selfish person. Or should I say a selfish person makes a good antagonist? Either way when someone spoiled wants the cookie, what wicked words will they weave? What dastardly deeds with they do, to obtain their goal?

Dale stopped outside Scott’s office and poked his head in the door. “Hey their giving Alice the office baby gift and card as soon as we’re all out there.”
“Hey.” Scott beckoned him in with his hand.
Dale stepped into the office. “Sup?”
“You’re work is way off today. You’ve been avoiding me too. What’s going on?”
Dale shook his head and looked out the window. “Nothing, just an off day.”
“It’s going around. Amber’s been weird too.” Scott cocked his head to the side, at the mention of Amber, Dale inhaled sharp and quietly. Dale left the office and Scott followed.

The gathering was cheery. The occaion was one to celebrate. Alice is well liked and will be missed during her year away. Amber stood alone, a strange pained look on her face. Scott watched Dale stand across the room from Amber behind the crowd, and Scott went to his side. Something happened between his two friends. Amber wasn’t flirting with him incessantly and was demure. It was so unusual to not have her mooning over him it was as if a part of his day was missing and it was throwing off his groove.
“Spill it.” Scott spoke quietly with his head closer to Dale as Alice opened the sacred card, sighned by all so it must be witnessed by all.
Amber stood stone-faced staring at the gifts Alice opened. Amber glanced up to see Dale and Scott head-to-head whispering and the colour drained from her face. Scott noticed, after the third jab to get Dales attention Scott pulled him out of the open office down the hall back to his office.

“What the hell happened between you two?” Scott closed the door.
“Nothing.”
“Liar.” Scott stopped and sucked his breath in. “Oh my God you slept together.”
“No.” Dale ran his hands through his hair. “Once. We were drunk.”
“Shit Dale when isn’t she drunk?” Scott rubbed his eyes. Dale was a good-looking man. However having two women in one week choose another man over him was too much. “Really? Amber? Sure she’s got an ass worth worshiping, and man.” He held his hands out mocking breasts. “She’s stacked, but you had to stoop? Man, you are way better than that.”
Dale clenched his fists at his side. “She’s not as bad as you think. And it was a one night stand.”
Scott laughed. “Oh come on Dale she brags constantly about her escapades. Constantly. It’s disgusting.”
“No more or less than we are.”
Scott shrugged. “Were men Dale it’s different.”
Dale scrunched his face in anger. “Are we? She boasts like we do, but it’s all a show.”
“Oh? And how would you know?” Scott sat at his desk and sneered. “Because she told you she’s a good girl? She told you she doesn’t sleep around?” His spiteful laugh made Dale tilt his head and crack his neck.
“Yeah she did.”
Scott recovered from his laughter. “Let me guess, she said she rarely drinks and doesn’t take random men home regularly. I’ve seen her leave the bar with at least ten men in two months Dale. Ten different men. Two just last week.”
“She said-”
Scott held up his hand and cut him off. “Lies Dale. If I told you every morning I make a power smoothie and I put a hundred-dollar bill in it, blended it and drank it, would you believe me?”
“You don’t.”
“Dale you don’t know one way or the other what I do when you’re not around. You don’t have a clue what she really does when she’s not around you.”
Dale glanced at the closed door, in the direction of Amber’s desk. No, he wouldn’t know.

People can do and say almost anything to get what they want, even if they didn’t realize they wanted it in the first place. Scott may not be lying but he sure is saying what will get him his attention back. People do this all the time. Twisting truths or their version of events to best suit their needs. It’s frustrating to read, but for good reasons. Someone is getting in the way of someone else’s potential happiness or just getting in the way. I like to evoke emotions with my writing, I hope I do at least, and get the reader to earnestly dislike someone or feel sorry for someone else. I want the reader to hope for a desirable outcome and then put obstacles in  the way. It’s so fun to torment, isn’t it?

My advice about writing self-serving moments.
Do. Do write them, it is sooo much fun to read people being selfish and ruining things for others. Clean and tidy people are not common; don’t make your characters common.

-Sheryl

Other posts

That sounds right

Getting a little touchy feely

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Sacred

A bit of the opposite

Sometimes I find myself wanting to soften up harsh characters by making them somewhat likable… somewhat. That doesn’t mean they have to stay that way, or turn good, but a fun side story needs ups and downs too.  Like Yin and Yang everyone has a bit of the opposite in them. This should be true of those who are inherently bad. Perhaps they have a reason that will tug the heartstrings, or a soft spot, maybe they volunteer at homeless shelters or cuddle abandoned puppies at the pound. Whatever the deed may be they can’t be pure evil. Or at least I don’t like everyone being purely rotten to the core.

This can be tricky, if constructed callously they might come across as smug or the action is unbelievable. If I want to make an antagonist have a slight soft side or a reason for the reader to either identify or sympathize with them, I need to assure I write their situation  realistically so it can fall within the story.

I started off using Cal and Sasha primarily as my blog examples, but Amber, Dale and Scott stepped in to be mighty fine side-story antagonists. Just how bad are they?

Lunch couldn’t come fast enough and it came too fast at the same time. Amber solemnly walked to the restaurant with Dale. He prattled on the entire way even as they were seated in a booth. Like a robot, she ordered what she always did. Penne Primavera with chicken.

“Earth to Amber. What’s gotten into you today?”
“Nothing.” She stuffed her mouth with the savory pasta.
“BS. Either you’re in love or you’ve gotten some seriously rotten news.”
She sneered at him. “Really?”
“Ooh did Scott finally give in to your shameless advances and take a dip in the muddied waters?”
She kicked him hard under the table.
“Ow.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer. “What the hell is your problem?”
“You Dale. God I hate you, what the hell was I thinking.”
Dale scowled. “Shut up you love me and it’s just lunch.”
“I’m not talking about lunch Dale.” She stared hard at him.
“What that drunk one-night stand a month or so ago?” He laughed. “Oh I see you’re hung up on me. Got a little taste and you want more?” He grimaced at the second, much harder kick. “Knock it off Amber or you’re stuck with my bill.”
“I’m stuck with more than just your bill Dale.”
He shook his head. “You’re crazy, what the hell are you on about?”
“I’m pregnant.”
“So who’s the chump?” His laugh died as her eyes widened and lips pursed. “No. No way. You hop from bed to bed like a rabbit in heat.”
“I act like a slut Dale, I’m not actually one. You’re the only possibility.”

He threw his napkin down. “Like hell I am. You’ll have to prove it. Wait.” He frowned. “What are you going to do?”

She looked at her plate. “I don’t know.”

He stared in silence a moment then inhaled loudly. “Do I get a say?”
She looked up with her chin lowered. “Do you want a say?”
“You’re sure it’s mine?”
She nodded maintaining eye contact.
“Shit.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t…” He sighed and tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want you to get rid of it.”
“What?” She wiped her eyes.
“We get along mostly. I’m sure we can figure this out. Why tell me now? Why here?”
“I didn’t plan to. I just.” Amber sniffled. “I have no one else to talk to.”

Dale sat back and looked at her. She looked tired and terrified. She set herself up for the lack of real friends. The ones she has are just as shallow and mean as she is. Or is she? Her raw honesty and willingness to play spiteful games was why he liked her. Did she play along because she was deep down rotten or because she just wanted to play with the cool kids?
“How far?”
She rolled her eyes. “A month and a half duh.”
“You found out today?” Dale picked up his fork and continued eating.
“Yes.”
“Um.” He swallowed his bite. “How does that work exactly? Why not sooner?”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “I missed my last. I didn’t think anything about it sometimes I skip, but.”
“But?” He filled his mouth again.
“I forgot to count and I-” She shrugged.
“You’ve been drinking a lot lately.”
“Not as much as I let on. Just the night I fell and hit my head and the two with Scott after that.” She looked down at her full plate.“I haven’t been feeling well.”
He huffed. “Great. Our kid will be mathematically challenged as well as a compulsive liar.” He reached over and touched her cold hand. “Let’s go for a walk before we head back and after work we can sit and figure this out.”
“I thought you’d be a total jerk about this.”
“Me too.” He dropped enough cash to cover both tabs and tip and led her from the restaurant.

Hmm. Well I guess people aren’t always as we expect. Since none of these people are main characters I don’t need them to shine too brightly one way or another. They have parts in the story, they are the garnish or side dish that makes the rest even better. I wanted Dale who is a nasty, rude all around jerk to have a surprising reaction. Originally I thought to keep him on path and be a jerk to Amber, but this I think was better.

On a smaller scale perhaps I would have them do something kind and random.

My advice about putting a little good in the bad.
I personally think it needs to be there. All good bad guys have a reason, something that drives them to be bad. A good bad guy has a small tender spot for something. If you humanize them, it makes it all that much more conflicting for the readers emotions. They love to hate what they hate to love.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Eyes that carry worlds

Hahaha oops.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Construct

Drunken secrets

Getting drunk is a common occurrence. Like everything else, it is a uniquely unique thing. Some people can drink for hours and maintain a semblance of control; others can go wild with one drink. Some people pass out some puke. Others get giddy, while some cry. The mood swing of the alcohol ride can also vary. Some start off as happy go luck and end up bawling, while confident careful people end up doing crazy things they would never normally do.

Like with all good interactive situations I keep in mind who will react how. Nobody reacts the same to alcohol in varied amounts and often nobody reacts the same way over and over.  Ones pre-drink emotional state can greatly affect the outcome of the scene. The good thing is, there are no rules. Opportunity for confessions, Drunken secrets to come out, game changing moments, or complete blind sides are up for grabs. If the story is floundering and you know where it needs to go but just can’t quite get it there, how about a bit o booze? Even if the story isn’t floundering it is such a great way to change any dynamic.

Cal set the six mini bottles down on the table, Sasha picked up a rum as he went to get coke and glasses.

“Why didn’t you peg me as a cop when you met me?” Cal handed her a can of Sprite. “Sorry no coke in the fridge.”

“You’re too pretty and too nice. It’s weird until you burst into my house I had no idea. I thought I had good Cop radar.” She took a swig of the pungent rum before adding the rest to the lemon-lime sprite and took a large sip of the mixed drink. “Oooh that’s really yummy.”

When she looked at him sharply for dumping a second shot into her glass, he shrugged.

“It’s either that or Valium.”

“Rum. It tastes better. Thanks. As I said, I’m not normally a basket case. This is even better as a double. I love the taste.”

“I can tell.” He sipped his Sprite sans alcohol. “So before I busted my cover did you at all like me?”

“Fishing are we? I just said you were pretty and nice. That’s all you’re getting, and don’t get your hopes up booze doesn’t loosen my tongue.”

“From what I remember it makes it sharper.” He smirked at her open mouth as if she wanted to say something, but anything said would prove his point.

“Clever little copper aren’t you?” She laughed before he could respond. “It’s your job. I know, I know.”

“Do I know your ex?”

“Ben Huberson.”

Cal thought a moment. “I’m sort of new to this area. It doesn’t ring a bell.”

“He doesn’t ring a lot of things or when he does he can’t stick to it.” She laughed again. “Gonna stick a pin in that? What happened didn’t make it into any papers or news so don’t bother looking it up and if you find him, and you wont, he wouldn’t tell you what he did. If he did I’d be surprised if he told you the truth.”

“That bad huh?” Cal took that as a challenge. He found things and found things out. He was dammed good at it and if she kept up this way he wouldn’t have to search very hard.

She finished her drink and he filled her glass from the cans on the table. She looked at the bottles.

“There’s more rum.” He got up and fished them from the fridge and handed her two.

“I don’t need that much.”

“Do you cry when you drink?”

“No. Silly Detective. I only cry after nearly being killed and running people over with my car. Rum makes me happy.” She giggled at his serious face.

“You’re a strange woman.”

“Says the guy, wait, I had something for that. Damn.”

He laughed at her perplexed expression. “Why did you go out with Val and Anne that night? You didn’t seem to want to be there.”

“Anniversary. Suck-y stupid anniversary.” She was drinking too fast, and knew it so slowed down, not that it mattered she was nearly done the second. “They think I should move on. The think is.” She giggled. “The thing is.” She nodded. “I am happy. I just don’t want to go down that road again. I’m happy alone. Stick a pin in that PoPo.” She snickered into her hand. He watched her amused with her silly behavior. They sat in silence a while Sasha sipped her drink. 

Cal broke the silence first. “What about Ben?”

“Ben can rot in.” She finished the second double drink and set the glass down too hard. “He can go rot in hell. Ben in hell roasting his balls on the flames wouldn’t be punishment enough.”

“You have issues with genitalia.”

She giggled again and couldn’t stop. “Oh I do. I’m so mean. I stab them, kick them and I’ve even punched them. Selfie defense. I mean Selfie… self-defiance. Shelf defense.”

Cal waited patiently for her giggle fit to finish. It took a while and it took concentration not to laugh along with her. Not because groin injuries were funny, but her laugh was contagious.

“Sorry.” Sasha wiped laugh tears from her heavy eyes. She pointed at the empty mini bottles. “One, two… three and four. Why my drunk?”

“Because you barely slept last night, refused to eat supper and drank four shots in.” He looked at his watch. “Less than one hour.”

“So? I kin do that any time.” She blinked slowly. “Maybe not on an empty tum-tum.”

“What happened that day two years ago?”

“Nice try copper-roo. Not gonna get that story. No sir. Not even Val would blabber-blab. It would be funnier if you.” She giggled. “If you were named Bob. I could call you bob the bobby. With your stupid pins. Bobby pin.” She laughed so hard Cal bit his lip to keep from joining. “I’m gonna be pissed when I’m sober ya know.”

“Will you?”

She leaned her heavy head back on the couch. “You bet’cha gadget. I’m gonna be mad tha, that you tried to drink me, drunk, get me to drunk talk.” She looked up at the ceiling. “Was worst day ever and he wants me to talk about it. Can you bel-believe it? The sexy cop wants me to spill the beans.” She giggled again and pointed at him. “Naughty cop. You’re a naughty cop you know that?” She smiled at his amused face. “You should stripper, be a strip dancer thing, guy. You know what I mean. Bet you’re better taking your shirt off than playing cops and robbers.” She closed her eyes and they stayed closed.

“Some days I wonder.” He sighed hoping she wouldn’t remember.

He honestly didn’t mean to pry, he couldn’t help it. She had a huge mystery begging to be solved.  He wondered just how tight-lipped Valery would be. Would Anne? There has to be someone willing to snap her out of her glass box of self-pity. Ben probably cheated, it has to be big for her to be so upset. That it was such a secret meant it might be huge. At least for her anyway. Enough to scare her off men for at least two years.

She started to fall over so Cal picked her up and put her in her bed, tucked her in as she snuggled on her side. He took her unpacked clothes off the bed and put them away in the drawers. The file folder was neatly tucked under her laptop. He saw what was in it, strange pictures that were probably some company’s idea of advertising. The only one that didn’t fit was the hand. Maybe it was a multi-purpose hand moisturizer. He didn’t know and didn’t really care.

“You are interesting.” Cal turned the light out and went to his own bed.

I don’t like reading that someone’s words are slurred or garbled so I’ll write it slurred or garbled. That’s a personal choice. Show don’t tell after all.  Everyone has seen various degrees of drinking to drunk to pass out drunk. I’m not talking about alcoholism or substance abuse, that is a whole other subject.

My advice about getting your characters drunk.
Whether it’s in or out of character it can really work to liven things up, good or bad, drunk is interesting.

-Sheryl

Other posts

The prelude to this one Stick a pin in it!

Bacon, Banter and Coffee

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Pungent

Splendidly Stupid

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
Speeding
Jay walking
Shoplifting
Snooping
Forgoing safety for embarrassment
Not locking the door
Opening a door
Investigating a strange noise
Walking alone at night
Walking toward the danger
Trying drugs
Drinking too much and/or too fast
Having unprotected sex
Having 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?”

“Advertising.”

“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.

-Sheryl

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