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

People Watching

One of the best ways to find inspiration is to people watch. Whether it’s a specific behavior, reaction or interaction watching others is the best way to get a good visual of what people do.

I recently went to a concert and had a heyday watching people. How they act, react and behave in an extreme environment. I don’t do this to criticize how others behave, I do it to learn how others behave. It is a lot of fun to see how different people can be within the same experience. How varied the responses can be.

I love scenarios that push people out of their normal pattern of behavior are great for gathering quirks or ideas for someone. For others its like a magnification of who they are for a brief moment. It doesn’t matter where you observe. the grocery store, the library, a bus, the mall, a hospital, a playground, work, a restaurant anywhere will do. The more out of the normal routine the better such as A concert, the beach, the movies, a carnival, the scene of an accident or even in a panicked crowd. The point is I try to keep my eyes and ears open.

Reacting to situations can be obvious, but for some it’s a moment behaving opposite to how they would normally. This is of course a great opportunity to shake things up or add some spice to a stagnant story.

For example how I would write my reactions into the story:

Amber entered Scott’s office unannounced without permission. She closed the door behind her and crossed her arms. “You’re busted buster.”
“Sorry?”
“You will be. Did you think I wouldn’t notice the chair? Or that my email history was tampered with? I heard you met with my ex roommate. What sort of moron do you take me for?”
“Um…”
“Um? I know about Clifton’s stupid spy program. Your keystrokes were recorded idiot.” She clenched her hands.
“Calm down Amber.”
“No I wont calm down. You went into my computer and stole an email to what? Put doubt in Dales mind? You’re a first class ass. No matter how much you try there is something called a DNA test. If he wants one he can have one. The baby is his. End of story.” She shook her fist at him. “I thought you were my friend Scott, I needed your support not scorn. I needed your friendship not you going behind my back to tear me down.” She stepped toward Scott and pointed aggressively at herself. “I’m terrified, my life is forever changed and all you can do is mourn the fact I no longer worship you.” She spun, opened the door and turned back to face Scott. “Have you always been so cruel? Even to your friends?” She slammed his door as she left a stunned Scott staring after her.

This is an emotionally charged conversation. My instinct would be toward anger and frustration. However I’m not at all like Amber and she’s in a position I can make her erratic. So I thought about how someone more emotionally volatile might react.

Amber slammed Scott’s office door causing him to jump. She cocked her head to the side and crossed her arms. “You’re busted buster.”
“Sorry?”
“You will be. Did you think I wouldn’t notice the chair? Or that my email history was tampered with? I know you met with Susie. What sort of moron do you take me for?”
“Um…” 
She shook her fist.”Um? I know about Clifton’s stupid spy program. Your keystrokes were recorded idiot.” She breathed hard and scowled. 
“Calm down Amber.”
“No I wont calm down. You went into my computer and stole an email to what? Put doubt in Dales mind? You’re a first class ass. No matter how much you try, there is something called a DNA test. If he wants one he can have one. The baby is his. End of story.” Her hands fell to her sides and her anger melted away suddenly. “I thought you were my friend Scott, I needed your support not scorn.” Amber swallowed hard and her breath hitched. “I needed your friendship not you going behind my back to tear me down.” Her blinks pushed tears out between her lashes to her cheeks. She tapped her chest with her fingers. “I’m terrified, my life is forever changed and all you can do is mourn the fact I no longer worship you.” She spun, opened the door and turned back to face Scott. “Have you always been so cruel? Even to your friends?” She swiped at her tears, hurried toward the restroom leaving a stunned Scott staring .

That may not be how I would react, however Scott needed to know his actions have consequences beyond his selfish goal. The repercussions may be more than he bargained for.

Sometimes the tone of a conversation is more important than the content. To convey Amber’s anger and upset with Scott’s betrayal I needed a different reaction from her. To get that I had to think about how someone else might process. The real trick will be to have Scott react in a way I wouldn’t. And don’t worry he wont.

My advice about people watching.
Take notes or jot down things you see people do, when, how and why. When you build a character give them actions and reactions unique to them and thing outside your own boundaries.

-Sheryl

Some posts about moods and emotional conversation

Mood swings

Roller-coaster Conversations

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Heard
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