Monday, November 10, 2008
Falling for You
Let me set the scene for you. Wednesday evening, seven o'clock. My husband is out of town. My daughter had returned to classes for the first time since giving birth, leaving Grandma (me) in charge of Baby Kai for three hours. It's just me and baby. Ah, bless.
After a bit of playtime, Kai fell asleep in his little "papasan" seat, so I seized the opportunity to scrub some spots off the carpet on the stairs. (Those spots had been driving me batty every time I traveled up or down between the first and second floors.) Once the task was done, I stood to survey my work at the landing where the stairs make a 90-degree turn.
Somehow, I missed a step. And went flying.
Those testimonies of time going in slow motion during a crisis situation are true. As I flailed toward the brick fireplace, I prayed over and over that I wouldn't hit my head and black out and leave the baby without any supervision. I careened into the fireplace tools and the poker gouged through my new suit pants and sliced a nasty hole in my thigh. I landed on a glass canister filled with scented pine cones and sent broken glass flying everywhere. By the time I came to a complete stop, I'd left a pile of rubble in my wake.
Kai merely squeaked a time or two then went right back to sleep, leaving me to assess my personal injuries. The toes on my right foot had evidently done the splits on the corner of the brick hearth and my foot was already starting to swell. I'd caught myself on the heel of my right hand and it was puffing up pretty good too. But considering how bad the accident could have been, I was praising the Lord for His protection. My head remained intact and unharmed. And Kai stayed asleep until his mommy returned from class, so I didn't need pick him up or walk the floor with him. A trip to the doctor early on Thursday morning confirmed that a couple of broken toes and torn ligament or tendon in my foot encompassed the worst of my injuries.
Are you old enough to remember the old "Choose Your Own Adventure" books? At the end of an action scene, the reader got to choose where to go next. As a writer, YOU are the one who gets to determine the outcome of a scene based on what you want the character to take away from the experience. If I had been writing this scene in a work-in-progress, I would need to evaluate where it fell in the story and determine what I hoped to accomplish before I could decide on a conclusion. For example, if the scene fell somewhere in Act One of my story, the stair-falling accident wouldn't likely end in cataclysmic disaster but would be just bad enough to introduce a need for change within the character. Perhaps Speedy Susan is always scurrying from one project to the next without ever really slowing down long enough to enjoy the here-and-now of life. A couple of broken toes just might be impetus enough to make her re-evaluate her priorities and implement change.
If I were writing Act Two of my story, I might need to up the stakes a bit more. Maybe Speedy Susan's freefall down the staircase leaves her immobilized with a crying baby. She will be forced to count the cost of action and, by exteme effort and determination, win this mini-victory by overcoming her personal pain to care for the child. Perhaps she didn't realize until this moment that her own needs now truly take second place behind the needs of her grandchild.
Had the tumbling act occurred in Act Three of my story, this scene has several possibilities for being a Black Moment. The very idea of a few of these horrific prospects makes me shudder. I'll let you fill in the blanks with the worst-of-the-worst scenarios. And yet, since it is fiction, even the bleakest result would be used to teach our character a valuable life lesson and give the reader a Happily-ever-after conclusion.
Susan Warren and Rachel Hauck posted a simple chart on their blog, My Book Therapy (http://www.mybooktherapy.com/?p=283)last week, which breaks down the goals of each act in your story. Check out this link if you'd like to know more.
I'll leave you with the latest Kai pic, taken after an exhausting morning of fussing. Oh, but their sweet when they're asleep!
Editor Du Jour Susan