Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Characters Under Pressure by Andy Scheer

My water heater just gave me a lesson in the craft of fiction.

Like many lessons, I didn't expect it – or even realize it at first. Wednesday morning as my wife and I got ready for work, I started hearing an unusual noise. From the upstairs bathroom, it seemed to be coming from outside.

I went down to investigate. The noise wasn't coming from outside or the main floor. But it increased when I approached a heat vent. Time to head to the basement to check the furnace.

I discovered the water heater gurgling and spouting. The flow hadn't gone past the concrete floor of the furnace room, but I needed to take action.

Soon my wife, my daughter, my son-in-law, and their three-year-old were all there. Some watched, some asked questions, some offered suggestions, some began moving items out of the way. Each acting completely within character – only more so.

Later I reflected on the characters in my work in progress. I know about their baseline personalities, but I haven't gone nearly as far as my friends DiAnn Mills or Brandilyn Collins would suggest in charting how they'll act when the pressure really hits.

I think I'll find out. Just wait for the next scene.

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