I was critiquing a writing piece a few weeks ago and the person had an action-packed chase sequence. It wasn’t terrible, but the sequence happened over a three day span and the characters didn’t make any stops to eat or sleep.
Which was… UNBELIEVABLE. Let me tell you, if someone was after me and I had to run, my almost forty-year-old body is in trouble. I can make it about a quarter of a mile before I’m panting like a dog on a hot summer day. I’mresourceful–I might be able to trip my stalker and knock them into a mailbox or something, or grab a large brick from someone’s flowerbed and aim where the sun don’t shine. No way a story written about me could justify a character going through a three day chase scene like that.
The point is, it’s important to think about the reality of a character physically being able to handle the challenges we put them in.
I remember reading about the jump Tris made in Veronica Roth’s Divergent (which I loved), and being a little disappointed in the impact description.
I hit something hard. It gives way beneath me and cradles my body. The impact knocks the wind out of me, and I wheeze, struggling to breath again. My arms and legs sting.
The physics teacher in me felt like there might be some rope burn from the net, maybe a few bloody scrapes. Maybe she’d wobble her first few steps or something? I mean, I know that “hottie” Four frees her from the net, but then she goes on the tour, and there’s no physical remnants of her dauntless acts.
So, the other day I had a conversation with my sis-in-law about an upcoming trip we’d like to take with the kids–an eight mile hike. She advised me to prep for the trip, cautioning that it would be difficult for an average person to just jump in on a hike like that without any training.
Makes me think about the characters in my story–a teenage girl, on the run, hiking four or five miles off-trail. I’ve added all these setting details, but I’ve basically just taken them from point A to point B. They rest, they sleep, but I’ve forgotten to add those touches of realism–aching feet, blisters, sheer exhaustion–that would keep my character from seeming larger than life.
So many tiny little details to think about when writing a story.
Going back now to reread the whole thing and look for places to add sore elbows and feet 🙂