What Would Your Characters Do?
In my last post, I talked about some of the mishaps on our recent European trip, and how a writer might use them. “Only Trouble Is Interesting.”
What do your characters do when things don’t go the way they want them to? You don’t need to be writing about travel. Stuff happens anywhere and anytime.
Take our neighborhood. We live in a rural area, in a housing development established back in the 70s. It was designed for weekend getaways. Time marched on, and more and more people decided this was a great place to live. Now, almost everyone lives here all the time, which puts a strain on the water system. Pipes from the 70s are wearing out, developing leaks. Cutting to the chase, there was a major leak that drained the entire system. We have people in charge of this, and they haul water as needed, but between how much water was needed, and the freezing temperatures and snow, we had no water for about five days. The loss showed up late on Christmas afternoon, and I feel for the people who were left with the aftermath of a Christmas dinner and no way to wash the dishes.
Most of us take it for granted that when we turn a tap, water will come out. That toilets will do what they’re designed for. Take all that away, couple it with a community Facebook page, and people’s true colors are waved for all to see.
There were those who said, “This is what rural mountain life is like. The people in charge are working long hours in miserable weather searching for the leak. They will find it, and all this will pass.
In a show of community, nearby RV parks, even though closed for the winter, opened up their showers. Places like Walmart donated cases of water.
Was this enough for some? There were those who demanded minute-by-minute updates. Wanted immediate solutions. “Threatened” to put their homes up for sale. (Good riddance, IMHO). Ranted and raved about how nobody was doing their jobs (they’re all volunteers, btw) and they should be replaced. These were probably the people who made no efforts to conserve water year round, I’ll bet.
Other colors were waved when one company’s trash pickup didn’t happen on schedule because of extreme weather (the first time they’ve missed since we moved here 13 years ago), posted their fury and immediately changed trash companies.
An example from our recent cruise. Because of a lot of recent rain and snowmelt, the Danube waters rose to the point that the riverboats couldn’t get under the bridges, even though they had wheelhouses that could be lowered to some extent. The authorities closed the river.
(You can click on the images to enlarge them)
Our ship couldn’t get to its next stop. A sister ship was coming the other direction and faced the same problem. Our cruise director—who probably had very little sleep for several days—and the other ship’s crew coordinated a swap. All our passengers would be bussed to the sister ship, and vice versa.
Yes, it was an inconvenience. We had to pack, but the cruise line took care of transporting our luggage. We got to our scheduled cities, but it required longer bus rides. The ships were in canals now, not in the Danube proper.
I’m glad to say that most of the passengers accepted this as something nobody could have predicted, and praised the crews of both ships for their efficient handling of the unexpected swap.
The cruise line did offer compensation. They gave us vouchers for lunch at a landmark restaurant. The next day, as we disembarked for the buses to the Nuremburg Christmas Market, they gave everyone thirty euros in cash. And, they refunded everyone the equivalent of 25% of one day’s travel, which was realistically about the only time we lost.
Yet there were some passengers who thought the cruise line should have known about the river rising and should have refunded everyone’s money for the entire trip.
And then there are the rule breakers. We toured the Melk Abbey, and taking pictures inside was prohibited. Yet there were two people in our group who felt that this rule didn’t apply to them, because … they were photographers with expensive cameras? The guide was very polite, and said, “Please, no photography” but did nothing to stop them. Part of me thought she should have demanded their memory cards (or taken their cameras until the end of the tour), but she let it go.
What about your characters—or people you know—TKZers? Can you use the way they respond to “times of trouble” or “rules” in your stories? What about how other characters react to them? Have you already done so? Have you read books where this was handled well? Or not?
And two more things, totally unrelated to this post. Character naming caveats. Don’t name a character Al. I’ve read two books recently with this name, and my brain insists on reading it as AI, as in Artificial Intelligence. Depending on the font, the reader might not be able to tell the difference. At least if that reader is me.
And don’t give your male character a last name that’s a female name if you’re going to refer to him by last name. If you call Bob Patricia ‘Patricia”, you’re likely to give your reader the hiccups until they adjust. At least if that reader is me.
How can he solve crimes if he’s not allowed to investigate?
Gordon Hepler, Mapleton’s Chief of Police, has his hands full. A murder, followed by several assaults. Are they related to the expansion of the community center? Or could it be the upcoming election? Gordon and mayor wannabe Nelson Manning have never seen eye to eye. Gordon’s frustrations build as the crimes cover numerous jurisdictions, effectively tying his hands.
Available for preorder now.
Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”