Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Creating an Uncomfortable Situation


I was at a local amusement park with my children last weekend and was put in an uncomfortable situation a couple of times in a row.

We were in the water park when a family took it upon themselves to have a humongous, awful argument about five feet away from me. They were calling each other names (the children as well as the adults), being passive aggressive, being openly aggressive, and being overall very loud. The dad was a bully, the mom was shrill, the teenage son was accusatory. I tried to escape.

Shortly after that, a large lady in an inner tube floated up to me in the shallow area and stayed right there next to me, less than a foot away. I’ll admit to having some personal space issues, but I think even someone who doesn’t would think that was a little close when the rest of the shallow area had no one in it at all. (The arguing family had moved on to another section of the pool.)

It all made me think about creating discomfort in our books.

Putting our characters in uncomfortable situations can be a way to create humor. It’s fun to put a character in an uncomfortable situation and see what happens. My character, Myrtle, gave a disastrous dinner party and she was so serious about trying to make everything perfect. When it all backfired on her, it made the scene funny.

By making our protagonist feel uncomfortable, we can pull our reader into the tension that she’s feeling. This will evoke sympathy for our character.

This discomfort can be used as a way to keep readers turning pages….readers want our friendly protagonist to get out of the situation she’s in.

Lend a sense of realism to a scene. We’ve all been in situations where we feel uncomfortable. Readers can relate to it.

Do you like making your characters uncomfortable? How have you done it in the past?