WFMAD Day 11 – we interrupt this blog

I was going to blather on more about the state of flow and mindfulness today, but the universe had other plans.

Every once in a while something happens in the news that you can use in your writing, whether its in your Work In Progress or in free-writing.

What am I talking about? The Jet Blue flight attendant, Steve Slater, who reached his breaking point with a rule-breaking, rude passenger, deployed the emergency chute, grabbed a beer and left the airplane.

Is your character going to do that?

Probably not.

But it is a great example of the reaction of a person who is under pressure.

Anyone can behave well when life is going swimmingly. It’s the choices that people make under pressure that give you the most insight into who they really are. Sometimes it takes tremendous pressure or drastic change for a person to learn about herself.

Writers sometimes care so deeply about their characters that they hesitate to make the going too tough for them. The early drafts of SPEAK all featured pathetically lame endings because I didn’t want the main character to have to be traumatized even more than she already was.

It took a while but I finally figured out that I had to (rather literally) back Melinda into a corner to force her to fight her fear and find her voice.

Got that?


“Write about what you’re afraid of.” Donald Barthelme

Set… Turn off the phone, Internet, and inner critic who doesn’t want you to make waves.

Today’s prompt: Craft a scene in which your character is backed into a corner, pushed against the wall, driven to the brink. Force her into an emotional reaction that is the sort of thing she has never done before. What will she do? Why? What does this tell you about her that you didn’t know before?

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble!!!

16 Replies to “WFMAD Day 11 – we interrupt this blog”

  1. Great tip! I’m going to do this today or tomorrow but I have to say If we followed every prompt would we get a story or just a collection of events in a persons life?

  2. I have been doing my writing every day, but hadn’t been on the blog till the other day. So now I am doing some catchup with the prompts. They are marvelous. My favorite so far has been reading the poem (Day 4) and selecting some words to write about. That was actually my easiest writing day. Reminded me of the time many years ago when we had a word a day calendar at work (a college) and several of my work study students and I would write a story at the end of the month, trying to incorporate as many of the month’s word a day words as possible. Talk about crazy, imaginative stories! Thanks for all your hard work. It’s like taking a writing class, but with hints and helps! Today’s prompt is a little tough, but I will ponder it on my commute to work.

  3. Oh my word! Between yesterday and today’s prompts have I gained new insight on my characters for my WIP. I was truly surprised at some of their responses to events in the story. Thank you, Thank you.
    I will be gone Friday through Monday this weekend with my college dorm mates in Bodega Bay. Will write the 15 minutes but with limited Internet access, may not get to read the prompts.

  4. I actually wrote something similar to this earlier this morning. It wasn’t in a corner, but it was more of a corner in one’s mind; exploring being pushed by your own self. It was a freeing write, and I felt a lot better after I wrote it. 😀

  5. This is actually easy for me today. I am a school librarian and I see teachers being pushed to the brink everyday not only by unruly middle school kids, but by our administrators as well. The words just flowed . . .

  6. Oh, thank you for this one! I had a scene I couldn’t think about writing because of the emotion involved. I had just outlined it without any detail, and today I forced myself to actually write it. It’s terrible, of course, but it’s more finished than it was, and that’s what editing is for, right?

  7. Today was a test.
    Today was the first day in August that I wasn’t able to follow my morning Fifteen Minutes with Laurie writing schedule.
    Today was a day that my granddaughter arrived at my house at 7 a.m., bursting with energy and I had to play My Little Ponies Are Hiding From the Evil Cat until it was time for her to go to Sea School, and then, I had to go to work.
    I tried to write for fifteen minutes, but when my ponies didn’t talk for a minute, I was instructed to make them talk and told (by a four-year-old) to “Turn off your computer, Grandma. You need to play with me!”
    So, now it is 9 p. m. and I just got home after working a nine hour day at the toy store and I am exhausted, but . . .
    I made a promise to myself, and so I have just followed the prompt and written for twenty-five minutes: a scene in which one of my characters is backed against the wall and the way they react kind of scares me.
    So off to bed I go, hoping I will not have nightmares.
    At least, about the evil cat taking over the world. (In hindsight, I should not have asked my husband to take our granddaughter to see the new Cats and Dogs movie.)

  8. Laurie, I think I’m ready for some tea and for you to hold my sobbing head in your lap, stroke my hair, and tell me that I’m good. I’ve been working on this “fear” piece for two hours and can hardly see through the tears. Pretty cathartic though the end is a far off piece yet.

    Just checking in to say, “Still here.” And I ain’t down yet. (Wet about my face, but still vertical.)

  9. This goes so well with the prompt’s writing from yesterday where one of my characters started cursing me out for all the horrible things I put the characters through.

  10. This exercise is reminding me of something I wrote about my character a little while ago in which she was faced with a vision of something quite horrific. I needed to write and look at images about things that I was afraid to look at. By allowing her to face it, I, too, had to look at it as well. I haven’t been able to go back and edit the section though…Perhaps this exercise will allow me to do that…

  11. I actually am revising a scene where the character was backed into a corner, emotionally, and finally stood up for herself. I ended up tightening this scene in spots, to make it stronger, at the advice of someone who critiqued it. It was a lesson in “less is more.” I also spent half an hour on the new WIP, and am thrilled. Thank you for all your advice and encouragement!

  12. Um, holy cow! Raina lost it and destroyed the garden room. And I realized that, even though the ship has been the only home she’s ever known, she hates it there and she’s really got some deep-seated anger towards the ancestors who wrecked her planet.

    (I was totally exhausted today and really contemplated giving up on the challenge, but I’m so glad I stuck with it because that scene was really awesome!)

  13. Great activity!
    My character was surprised when learning about something she never dreamed would happen to her. She had thought her plan was well thought out. Nothing could go wrong. Once she learned what laid ahead, she had to figure out how she was going to get out of her situation.
    The timer went off before I got to the problem solving part. I learned my character reacted in a way I did not expect her to do.

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