Monday, February 09, 2015

Using Real life Incidents to Torture Characters

I was at a meeting the other day where the speaker was discussing torturing characters to up the ante, so to speak, on the conflict in the story. It was quite an interesting presentation by Karina Fabian. If you haven't read her books, check her out. She's witty and smart.

Her presentation made me think about how we, in our real lives, have escalating situations that really annoy us at the time but can be mined as golden nuggets to add to our stories.

As an example, my sister was telling me how she'd gone to a presentation in St. Augustine, Fla this week. It was on log cabins and after the lecture, they were invited to go check out a sample already built cabin. She got some sort-of directions to this place but when she followed them, she ended up in a Cracker Barrel parking lot. (!) - She tried to go to the road next to that but it was I-95. So, she drove around the back of the restaurant and could see the cabin off to the side a little ways away across a field.

She got out of her car and walked into the field to hike over to the cabin. Immediately thereafter, she stepped into stinky, funky, mud to her knees. One leg only. So, her pants, sock and shoe were soaked on that side. Since she was traveling from a visit in Jacksonville, she had more clothes in her suitcase and returned to her car to drive to an isolated area to change clothes and shoes.

Enter the new shoes she'd never worn before. She set out on her trek again, avoiding the mucky field but within a few feet, the new shoes rubbed a blister on her foot. Deciding as she  limped along that she really didn't need to see that cabin anyway, she decided to go shopping instead. She got back in her car and drove to the downtown historical district. After driving around for 30 minutes and not finding a parking place, she said, "Screw it. I'm going home." and she turned and drove the 6 hours home.

From this little incident, I think I'm going to steal a bit of her angst but ramp it up a little to cause my heroine in my current story some real issues. Can't you see this same scenario played out in a couple of different ways? Make it at night, in the fog, her car is broken down but she sees a light a mile or so ahead where she thinks she can get help so she hikes that way only to be chased by a wolf.  OR how about it's snowing, in the negative degrees and she only has flip-flops in the car when her sneakers get wet- there's fear of hypothermia- she already can't feel her toes, etc.  OR how about she heads back to her car to change her pants when her leg gets wet and on her way, the car explodes? OR she drives to that isolated area to change and witnesses a man burying something mysterious? The man notices her and comes after her and she has to run for her life? Tripping on the way and turning her ankle which makes it hard to stay ahead of the man....... and so on and so forth.....

See where I'm going with this? Any fun tortures you can think of for this character- my sister?


Louisa Cornell said...

Good Lord, Jillian! Don't you have enough? Your poor sister!! LOL You could have a pack of attack dogs chase her at some point. But rather than make them Rotties or Dobermans, how about a pack of vicious chihuahuas?

I have learned via the amazing Grace Burrowes that chasing your hero up a tree, throwing rocks at him and then setting the tree on fire is just the beginning. :)

Jillian said...

Lol Louisa. I have this awesome picture of some hoard of chihuahuaa now.

And I love th tree torture. Superb.

Cari Hislop said...

I think your sister's scenario would be great in a romance (up to stepping into the stinky mud...but without having any clothes or shoes to change into)...I'd have the heroine cross the muddy field. And after a hellish few hours...she arrives with stinky mud on her legs, ruined shoes...and then finds herself meeting the hero (who thinks she's an idiot who can't even operate her sat nav - an idiot who smells really bad from the mud...because life is cruel! ;)

Ali Hubbard said...

I love the story about your sister. bwahahaha. I take inspiration from everyday life and give it a little boost too. Most of it is from strangers though.

Today I was standing in front of the restroom at Target waiting for my daughter to come out. I noticed 3 young men (likely college age in Tuscaloosa) in line at a checkout. One of them could not keep his eyes off a smiling girl who had already checked out. Of course...I was thinking, "what if she was waiting on one of the OTHER guys?"

More commonly I see something normal and then it becomes very suspense-y or paranormal in my mind. I live in the country and if someone is walking down my lane? I think werewolf first, of course! lol

Jillian said...

I love that idea, Cari. Run with it. Sounds like a divine (smelly) way for the hero and heroine to meet.

LOL Ali- I am with you. Worst case scenario first - I get a zit and it's cancer. LOL I also tend to think there will be someone to cut me off on a dark road and kill me.
I love the Target scenario- that girl liking the other guy would be perfect. I love being inspired by little events. It's very fun.