Sunday, January 31, 2016

Getting back on the horse

When I was eighteen, some friends and I were going out to a local bar for the evening and I was the designated driver. Back then, it was legal to drink 3.2 beer at that age. It was a weekend in winter and I couldn’t wait to go out to have some fun. It was chilly out and raining and my mother, having heard the weather forecast, urged me to stay home. But I didn't listen to her.

Windshield wipers slappin’ time, to quote Janis Joplin, I picked up my friends and we headed up Colerain Avenue. In a matter of minutes, the rain turned to sleet and, before I knew it, the road became a skating rink. I slowed down but I couldn’t control my car. It slammed into the rear end of one of the cars whose driver had the foresight to pull over to the side of the road and park.

I was shaking as I jumped out, worried that the driver of that car was injured. Thankfully, she was fine and there was, miraculously, no damage to her car. I turned around and discovered that wasn’t the case with mine. There was a huge dent in the front bumper.

I immediately called my father and he got there quickly. After checking to make sure everyone was okay and that my car was safe to drive, he told me to get back in my car and follow him home. I refused. No way was I going to drive! But Dad didn’t take “No” for an answer and I was forced to do as he said. I was scared and nervous but I did it. I got back on the horse, so to speak.

We all have times in our lives when bad things happen. Often much worse than the example I gave. Serious medical issues, the death of someone we love. We may feel like climbing into bed and pulling the covers up over our heads and, sometimes, that's exactly what we need to do - temporarily. But, eventually, we need to accept what happened – and move on. If we do, we’ll become stronger, more compassionate people. If we don’t, we’ll become bitter and resentful.

The same principle applies to writing fiction. If we want our characters to be realistic, we have to put them through some “stuff.” As in real life, how they deal with the problems we give them will reveal their true “character.”