Writers Write is a resource for writers. In this post, we discover how being a worst-case scenario expert makes you a better writer.
I can’t breathe. I am wearing spandex. Floral spandex. The floral is a desperate attempt to disguise a body type more suited to tracksuits (Non-velour preferably). I can’t breathe, because breathing might let my belly relax. The suit won’t hold. My naked thighs quiver with vengeance. I have sand in body parts I can’t discuss right now.
I am not happy. My offspring and their father dig with enthusiasm, oblivious to my outdoor aversion. By now you might have guessed I am on the beach. Not my natural habitat. It is hot and it is bright. I am desperate for the shadows of my study, for the electronic glare of my laptop. But no, here I am. Outside, smelling like coconut. And I don’t like the beach boys.
I am pretty much towel-bound. I don’t swim. I don’t tan. I don’t play with the funny plumed ball thing. So inevitably, while avoiding sun, sand and all movement, I get bored. Very bored. Very quickly. And of course the book I packed is utter crap. Fifty shades of glittery teenage vampires or something like that.
So what do I do? I play this little game. I call it Worst Case Scenario Thinker. I try to imagine what the worst thing is that can happen to me, right now, on this beach.
What will I do if there is a Tsunami? What will I do if sharks crawl up out of the sea and eat me? (Don’t tell me it can’t happen. Darwin wrote a whole book about walking fish.) What will I do if a meteor hits and I am struck by green kryptonite?
I try to discuss these scenarios with my husband so that we can plan some kind of exit strategy, but at times like this he prefers the company of the children or the ice-cream vendor or the car guard. So, it’s pretty much up to me to save our family, the world, and well the entire universe.
But what does this have to do with writing you ask? Well, your character should be experiencing pretty much the worst thing that can happen to him. Find out what his biggest fear is and make it come true.
Clearly, I fear losing my family to walking sharks in the middle of a meteor shower that triggers a tsunami while my husband is talking to the car guard. But, what does your character fear? Find out and use it. Bad news is good news in fiction. Ah, life is so much better for writers don’t you think?
by Mia Botha
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