What Would You Do?

Sometimes my characters get stuck in a pickle. I want them to be believable, so I want them to react in realistic ways. The problem? Sometimes I don’t know if my reaction would be everyone else’s.

In this scene, my twenty-eight year old protagonist takes off in her old car to search for a house she had been taken to several nights before. An hour and a half later, she has driven up and down the same deserted mountain road three times in the sleet. Just when she decides she’ll have to turn back, her car starts sputtering and she is able to just make it to a small gravel lookout before it dies completely. She is unable to get it to start again and is located twenty miles from the freeway exit and the last glimpse of civilization.

Now, here is where how she reacts can seem plausible or completely off the wall, depending on the reader’s point of reference.

What’s the first thing the character does after realizing her car won’t start? She checks her phone. Right? No bars. She can’t get a signal. Now, what does she do?

I could have her get out of the car and look under the hood, but if she’s anything like me, unless there’s a mechanic under the hood when I open it, I have no earthly idea what I’m looking for.

I could have her stay in the car until someone drives by. But, it’s pretty cold and she hasn’t seen a car since leaving the freeway.

I could have her get out and walk. She could make it to the freeway in roughly 4-5 hours of walking, she still has several hours of daylight left, and she has her pepper spray in her purse.

So, what’s the most realistic option for my character? ๐Ÿ™‚

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About Adria Waters

I am a mom, wife, teacher, and a writer. Somehow I'm trying to find time for all of those things!
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8 Responses to What Would You Do?

  1. janeen says:

    A couple of things, those are a few too many coincidences for me. I would be in such a hurry that I forget my phone instead of just having no service, because she might be able to walk just part of the way to get service again, and instead of looking under the hood, give her a flat, more realistic on a gravel road, have her take the entire thing off, knuckle scraping, only to discover the donut is flat too from the cold on the mountain. Cold effects tire pressure.
    Then it depends on what she needs – if you change just part of it and she needs phone service, have her climb the ba-jillion steps of the fire tower lookout to get a single bar/or have to moral dilemma, of breaking into a ranger tower to call for help, or curl up in the car and wait for a ranger.

  2. Hadena James says:

    If it’s too cold to hang out in the car, protected from the sleet and wind, is it safe for her to walk 4-5 hours to a freeway?

    • Adria Waters says:

      Right. Walking doesn’t seem a viable option. But waiting in her car is a pretty scary option for her, too.

      I could just give her some mad MacGuyver skills and she could fashion a fully functional motorcycle out of a pine cone and some acorns! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  3. Barb Grindstaff says:

    I love your analogy that “there would have to be a mechanic under the hood” but I have actually done that. Then I stood there looking at the engine like it was going to tell me what to do. I think doing something like that “feels” like the thing to do and under stress she might do it without stopping to think. That might give her a pause, under the hood, to realize how deep she’s in and stop to think & make a plan. Unless she’s a rocket scientist that would never make a wrong move, I would believe it. (Since you know I did it once, we can all agree I’m no rocket scientist!)

    • Adria Waters says:

      Rocket scientists are overrated! ๐Ÿ™‚
      I do agree that sometimes what feels natural is doing something that feels like what you’re supposed to do. I’ve been in that situation before, and what’s the first thing you do? Look under the hood because that’s what you’re supposed to do.
      Thanks for the input!

  4. Brianna Boes says:

    I’ve looked under the hood before, hoping that something would jump out at me. Lol. I was like, “Maybe something’s loose in there?” I’ve also done things I’ve seen my Dad or husband do, not really knowing what the heck I’m doing. Like checking the oil or pouring water over an engine that is overheating. Also, if there is sleet, walking up the steps to the top of a tower would probably get her killed. I can barely make it up three slippery steps without falling.
    Now, I do know quite a few women who know how to fix simple things on a car: change a flat or fix certain engine problems. Does he have AAA? Could her car come with emergency help? Also, if she doesn’t have bars, but another cell phone company has a tower nearby, if she dials 112, she can get emergency highway assitance. But that only works if there is any cell service.
    I think the best bet would be that her gps or something with satellite service has an emergency call button, like AAA or Onstar. I guess if her car is old, they wouldn’t be included in the car, but do they have AAA or Onstar on some GPS?

    If none of the options are working, maybe you could change some of the circumstances. Like when she is sitting in her car, trying to figure out what to do, it stops sleeting. It’s still cold, but she’s able to wrap a blanket around her and walk or she’s able to change her flat or whatever.

    • Adria Waters says:

      I like the idea of the situation changing a bit – maybe the sleet stopping could make her feel like she’s finally caught a break.
      I doubt I’d make it up the stairs in the sleet either! Haha ๐Ÿ™‚

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