30 Days of Writing–Day 20: Character Interactions

Fight Club

After a day off, I”m back in the saddle.  I can’t believe I’m already at question twenty.

20. What are your favorite character interactions to write?

I like a good fight.  Naw, not a Fight Club fight but a war of words.  Verbal brawls are hands down my favorites, somewhat ironic since I write mostly romance.  Not so ironic is the fights are between people who care about each other but have communication issues.  Their arguments pierce the rigid curtain of self-control and reveal thoughts and feelings that they’d previously suppressed.  Usually they are cathartic but sometimes they only further drive in the wedge.

My entire 2009 NaNo novel, All’s Fair in Love and War, dealt with a prickly and tentative relationship between the two main characters with plenty o’ sparring.  That was my first NaNo and I wisely chose something I knew I’d be able to come back to again and again over a very short time period.  My strategy worked because I finished it on 11/17 and it’s chock full of verbal zingers.

 Maybe it’s a passive aggressive way of venting frustrations–having your characters do it for you, like puppet therapy. (Actually I just really like the word “puppet” and try to use it as often as possible, even threatening to send my kids to puppet camp, a source of endless conflict and debate.)  Even when the characters are seemingly getting along, I try to have an undercurrent of conflict, if only to bolster the chemistry.  Here’s a progression of conflicts between the two main characters in All’s Fair, Colin and Shelby.

Escalating conflict:

“You’re a tease and a collector,” he said with a smug expression that she’d have given her right arm to have been able to slap off.

“And you’re a jerk who thinks he can pigeon-hole all women into a few limited categories.  Let’s see if I can get them all.  It shouldn’t be too hard considering your stunted emotional outlook.  You’ve got your group one–mothers, daughters and sisters; group two–the marriageable, subservient virgins; group three–the playthings who are whores the instant the bed grows cold, and then there is the category the rest of us occupy–bitches who refuse to go willingly into either of categories two or three.  Did I get them all?”

“Well you got the bitch part right,” he muttered as he moved closer.

Détente in the making:

After she sang her verse, she sipped then said, “I’m tone deaf and can’t sing a note.”

“Worst kept secret ever,” he said dryly.  He drank, sang his verse then shared his guilty secret. “My first girlfriend dumped me for the President of the local Michael Jackson fan club.”

“I dumped my first boyfriend for the captain of the debate team.  He dumped me a week later because he said I argued too much.”

“Imagine that.”

“Shut up, Colin.”

But détente is blasted to smithereens in the face of the mother of all blowouts:

She assumed a stance sideways to him and spat out over her shoulder, “You just shut up, Colin Montoya.  Shut your big fat mouth and stay out of other people’s business,” then kicked herself for sounding like a first grader in the schoolyard.  She watched him approach but held her ground.  He didn’t stop until she could feel his breath on the back of her neck. 

“Or what?  You’re like a snarling little kitten, you know that?  All I have to do is pick you up by the scruff of your neck, and you’ll dangle helplessly under my control.” 

If he thought making an oblique reference to the night they spent together was evidence of his power over her, he was sadly mistaken.  “Get away from me, Colin.  Why don’t you run along now and find your date.  I’m sure she, for one, misses your company.”  She turned the rest of the way around to leave, her back now to him and managed to put a few feet between them before she heard him speak again.

“Where’s your date?  Alex?  Or was it Russ?  Or Gavin?  Whatever his name was, where is he?  I get so confused by all your men.  I’ll have to remember to take a number the next time I’m feeling… masochistic.”

Okay, so enough with the quotes already, sorry, but I do love a good fight.

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