Friday, February 23, 2018

Distracted Characters

The discussion about endings got me thinking about my series arcs and my subplots that sometimes extend beyond the current book. The romances. The deceptions.  The murder that is solved, but the relationships that aren't resolved. I was going to write about that, but then my life intruded.

I've been juggling balls -- symposium in April, classes to teach, SinC chapter, non-profit board, books to write, short story for an anthology -- and my mail has been piling up on my foyer desk. I noticed but didn't feel any urgency about the pink envelope I received. I knew that if my car insurance payment had been credited on the next day, then I would automatically get a notice. I was sure I had made my customary payment by phone because the bill wasn't there in my in-box. And then I got around to paying bills and realized there was no entry for the insurance. And called to make sure I had actually paid. And was told by the customer service person that no, I hadn't and I had missed the grace period. Luckily, I've been with the company for most of my driving life, and he reinstated me in a few minutes. And I -- horrified by the accident I might have had -- signed up for automatic bank withdrawals of my payments.

After I'd hung up, I started thinking about distractions in my characters' lives. I've been thinking about subplots in my historical thriller. But over the course of the eight-month span required in this book (because of real life events), any number of things might distract or obstruct my characters.
Over the course of eight months, they will need to go on with their lives, attending to the ordinary tasks that we are all required to do to avoid having bad things happen. Even when we are organized, sometimes we are required to work late or deal with a difficult person or go to another store to find something. Sometimes we have a dripping faucet or are spattered by a passing car before an important appointment and have to stop to make repairs. 

Thinking about this over a soothing cup of tea, it occurred to me that I should think about my  characters' ordinary days.  What will fall by the wayside when they find themselves immersed in this extraordinary situation?  How will little things left undone create problems? How will things beyond their control distract them from bigger problems.

This is sending me back to my 1939 timelines and notes with each character in mind.  I don't think I'm wasting time thinking this through. As I've mentioned I cannot write a non-stop thriller -- even if I wanted to do that -- but I do need to make sure my characters struggle to get to the finish line.

Of course, I've done this in my series, particularly the first-person Lizzie Stuart books. But I think that here it might be even more important. I can work in setting and a sense of ordinary life without  paragraphs of description.

What about your characters? Distractions as they are sleuthing or plotting mayhem?

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