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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Who Would Do What?

I recently spent a day at a theme park. It was hot, fun and full of a wide range of emotions. A fun little writing exercise I thought of while waiting in line for a ride has sparked today’s post.  My imagination run’s wild at times.

I like to think a lot about characters and how each behaves differently from the other. How would they react in certain situations?

More importantly, how would each character act if put in the same situation. It would be erroneous to believe they would act the same or all act the way I would have behaved.

I want to make sure I keep my characters individual as possible. That doesn’t mean that they can’t react the same, but that some would not. So how does that work? How can I keep enough variety?

I’ll start by setting up the scenario so you don’t have to read it over and over.

It’s a hot sunny day at a loud and overly busy theme park. The line up to get on to a popular ride is at least an hour-long. There is no shade and irritability is a common sound among parents hissing ‘stop’ at their children.

This particular ride is terrifyingly tall and raises the riders to the top to drop them quickly. Every time I looked up at it some would grit their teeth, some would pale while others would become excited and some nervous.  It has six sets of four seats in a row. Groups of people vary in size.  The excited and relieved people corralled in the staging gates are let into the area to find seating. A lone rider sits leaving a single seat open on a row of three unbeknownst to him. A family of four wants to ride together but there is only the single seat on one side and the three empty beside the single rider on the opposite side.

Example 1

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“Oh, yeah sure. I didn’t realize there was an empty seat.” He said getting up to move.
“Thanks, man.” The father smiled. 
“No Problem.”

Example 2

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
The man threw his eyes up to the sky. “Fine. Even though I just freaking sat down and buckled in.” He said begrudgingly.
“I appreciate it man, thanks.”
“Sure whatever.” The man stalked off to the other side to sit.

Example 3

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“I do.”
“It would be nice.” The father prompted. “We’d like to sit together.”
“Not my problem.” The man ignored the protests of the children for the separation.

Example 4

“Excuse me, sir. Would you mind moving to the single seat on the other side so we can ride together?” The father asked.
“Piss off.”
The tired family separated unhappily yet silently.

With each example, I had the single rider’s response increase in hostility. There are infinite ways this could go. The father could involve the ride attendants. The man could involve the ride attendants. They could get physical and evicted from the park. The ride attendant could get physical with the belligerent single rider.  The family could have been lying about the one empty seat and the single rider would have to wait another turn. Karma could get either and the ride breakdown.

How a person responds is as important as how a person initiates.

Example 5

“Seriously? Come on man there’s a single seat on the other side. We want to ride together.” The father said frustrated.
The man looked at the Father, seeing he was tired from the long day…

Again the single rider can respond in any way from polite to outright rage. This would depend on who that person is on a basic level. Unless there are extenuating circumstances well foreshadowed I wouldn’t have someone kind and calm, tell the man to Piss off.

Assessing the possibilities of alternate outcomes can also lead to possibly a more interesting angle, change the story or direction completely or cement the readers’ feelings toward a specific character, which is very important to do. If a reader doesn’t care one way or the other they might just stop reading or complain about wasting their time.

My advice about exploring the possibilities.
It’s honestly a lot of fun and if you take the time to try you might find a better angle or even another angle for another story altogether.

-Sheryl

Other reactive posts

What Do I Do About That?

What’s Your Story?

My Posts From The Start   

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Grit

What Do I Do About That?

I write a lot. I make mistakes and I correct them. I try and I fail. I’ll try again until I succeed. It’s not easy to take something and show it to the world. It’s hard. There are outside forces one must face. Someone asked me what I do about the outside forces that affect my writing, my tenacity and my emotional state.

  1. Rejection
  2. Opinions good or bad
  3. Degrading Criticism
  4. Constructive Criticism.
  5. Doubt
  6. Fear
  7. Jealousy
  8. Sabotage
  9. Help and kindness
  10. Encouragement
  11. Trolls and haters

There is so much more I could list. The bottom line is no matter what a person does there will be things that help and things that hurt. I can’t say what you should do about either, it is a personal thing on how to handle them. What I can do is tell you what I do.

Recently I had an encounter with a man at a grocery store. The cashier kindly reminded the man he had some strawberries that he hadn’t packed yet. The man lost it. Yelling about knowing what he damn well bought. He used some strong language and even used a racial slur among his insults on the poor unprepared cashier. I’m not okay with any of that. I turned to the man and told him there was no need to be rude the cashier was only being kind. The man turned on me and used some more colourful language and called me all sorts of feminist derogatory comments. I told him to have a nice day and that I was sorry he was so miserable to attack someone who was being nice.

Long story short, it made me think. His insult was to call me something pretty offensive. I’m sure he found that to be a great and vindicating insult. I didn’t take offense. Why? Because to me what he called me wasn’t an insult. Sure he meant it to be mean. But the truth is he’s just a sad and miserable man. I shook it off and complimented the cashiers kindness and patience.  Water off a ducks back is the saying.

The reality is that I looked at the situation from the grumpy belligerent, racist, homophobic, rude mans perspective. I have no idea what brought him to sputter such hateful things(And loudly). But it couldn’t be good. What I do know is that he was interesting and yes, I tucked him away for a character bio.

So regarding my list… What do I do about that?

  1. Rejection… I keep trying. Even when others say not to. It’s up to me. Not them. Not giving up is harder than it seems. I have my ups and downs, but in the end I keep my eye on the prize. I set my stubbornness to task and I move forward.
  2. Opinions good or bad – Take them with a grain of salt, but never ignore them. The good ones are considered, the bad are heard but they don’t get a say in the end.
  3. Degrading Criticism – Look at the source. Is it from someone worth listening to? No? then I don’t listen. I won’t take criticism from anyone that hasn’t taken the time to get to know my work or me for that matter.  I check to see if they might possibly fall into haters, trolls or the jealousy category.
  4. Constructive Criticism – Take it, sit on it and revisit later. It takes time to accept it. This is the best of all. Sometimes it hurts to hear or read right away. Sometimes it looks like degrading until I look at the source and weigh the merit of the criticism. Does it have a good source? Someone with my interests in mind? Yes? Then I’ll take it and put it on a list to mull over later once I’m ready.
  5. Doubt – Doubt will come no matter what. I literally talk myself through it. I have a list of others that struggled to get published. I remind myself it’s about perseverance and dedication. This goes hand in hand with rejection at times. I get rejected then I doubt. It’s perfectly normal. But normal doesn’t mean I have to let doubt stick around. No thanks. doubt, I’m good.
  6. Fear – There is only one way to deal with this… head on. I take a deep breath and press enter. I take my chances putting my work out there with the understanding that I may fail and knowing that I may succeed. It takes tremendous courage to try, and even more courage to not sink if it doesn’t go how I dreamed.
  7. Jealousy – There is nothing I can do about jealousy. Personally I distance myself from it and do my best to not indulge. Either the source will come around or they will wallow in it. I’m not going to stop being proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished because others aren’t happy. If I can I’ll bolster them in their own achievements. If I can’t… then I do my best to ignore it. 
  8. Sabotage – See it for what it is, acknowledge it and walk away from the source. Cut them off and if I can, I’ll confront them. This is hard to do but necessary. I have a goal, to be a published author. I’m not going to let someone actively attempt to crush my dreams.
  9. Help and kindness – I try not to overlook this one. Sometimes bad opinions sneak into this category in disguise. The trick is to identify it and act appropriately.  Those that are genuine will shine, they will make you feel worthy and they often offer help in what way they can. Sometimes it’s an ear to listen or a solicited opinion. Whatever the case may be, cherish the kind and helpful people.
  10. Encouragement – This is what will lift me up. I suck it up like a sponge and add it to my rainy day arsenal for when fear and doubt come out to play.
  11. Trolls and haters – Just walk away. Unfriend, block and ignore. Once I identify a hater or troll I cut them out with no mercy. These people take perverse pleasure from hurting others. I cut some out of my life. Some were strangers, others were close. Was it easy? Nope. Was it worth it? Hell yes. Later haters.

Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Our trials and tribulations help define us as who we are. While I look at that list I ask myself, regarding others, am I on the right side? Do I do unto others as I would want unto myself? Sometimes it’s not easy to see when you’re on the wrong side of the list.

I could have yelled back at that man, I could have easily been rude or just as offensive. I didn’t. I might have when I was younger and more stubborn. But I couldn’t. Life is hard enough and it doesn’t need to be harder. I chose not to add to his grief and misery. I did “people watch” him. I learned from his behavior so something good came from it.

My advice about facing the good and bad.
Be prepared for both. Be ready to embrace the good and reject the bad. If you want encouragement, give it. If you want kindness, be kind. Be to others what you want for yourself and never give up.

-Sheryl

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved

Other fun posts

People Watching

Who’s who in the grand scheme of things

It’s not always the obvious choice

And the link to all my previous posts in order: My Posts From The Start

Impression