Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pushing Our Characters to the Edge

Wonder Wheel 2 Monday afternoon seemed specially engineered to make me crazy.

It started early in the afternoon. And we’ll substitute “snap” for all the bad words that I thought during those six hours.

I was in the kitchen when I looked at the clock. What?? That couldn’t be the time! I was supposed to be volunteering for the Girl Scouts at the festival booth…now. Snap!

Daughter was still in pajamas. Snap! And she hadn’t eaten anything. I was wandering around in glasses and no makeup. I put my contacts in, grabbed water bottles, gave up on makeup, and made some food for my daughter—for the car.

We ran out the door and headed to the festival (which is huge for Matthews—over 200,000 people go.) There was no place to park. Snap! I parked illegally and said a quick prayer.

We ran the blocks to the festival. It was very humid.

We started supervising the go-fish/plinko booth, taking tickets, handing out small prizes, and explaining to small children how the games work. I saw the other Girl Scout mom that I was volunteering with. “Hi,” I say, holding out my hand, “I’m Elizabeth Craig.” “Oh,” she said, smiling, “we actually know each other, don’t we? Through our sons?” Snap! My rotten memory strikes again.

It was VERY hot and there’s no air circulation under the tent. “Mama,” said my daughter, “where are our waters?”

Snap! Left them at home after I pulled them out.

I felt, of course, horrible. And a couple of hours later, my daughter was very sweaty and thirsty. As a reward, as we finished our volunteer shift, I told her we could buy drinks, ice cream, whatever.

The merchants at the fair only took cash. I’d only brought a debit card. Snap! I found an ATM. $4 fee for withdrawal, then the bank would assess a $3 fee. I was really starting to mutter under my breath.

We got the (now very expensive) ice cream and found a tent to sit under and a couple of chairs together.) Unfortunately, we were sitting right next to a woman who was talking on her cell phone very loudly about gross medical stuff involving staples. While we were eating the very expensive, high-fee ice cream. I leveled a baleful look at her and she seemed to think I was sympathizing with her about the medical stuff, so she smiled at me.

I was starting to feel like a character in my own book. My stories have conflicts on different levels—the big conflicts (including murder, medium-sized conflicts (between characters or between my sleuth and characters)…and, also, some small conflicts. These mini-conflicts are designed to raise my protagonist’s blood pressure and possibly make her do things she wouldn’t ordinarily do, and move the plot in a different direction.

Do you push your characters’ buttons?