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? 🙂