by Matt Sinclair
You ever have one of those days when everything goes right—until you realize that everything went horribly wrong?
The kids love every moment of daddy time at the park and hiking in the woods, but the next morning mommy discovers the tick bites. Or maybe the day after the date with the most amazing person you ever met you discover a closet full of skeletons, some with the flesh still wriggling.
How often do your characters have those good days? If you’re like me, you love posing problems for your characters to overcome, but I don’t think I often give them great days. Or if I do, I might skimp on the details. Why? Because good news is boring.
Look at it another way: Many of us complain about how we hate news of child molesters in the neighborhood or the thief who beat a grandmother nearly to death. I complain too. It’s awful, awful stuff. But do you remember the name of the autistic kid who shot the game winning basket a couple years ago? Do you know where he is now? Me neither.
I’m not saying there’s something wrong with you for paying closer attention to the bad news. In a sense, it’s healthy. We note it because it’s aberrant.
Fine. Use that. Now give your character a great day. Show what made it great. Spare no mental expense. Maybe one of the kids says something that changes dad’s day. It seems at the moment to be such a minor comment, but it later turns out to be ominous. Or maybe the skeletons in that person’s closet include a mutual friend or maybe a mutual ex? And maybe the only reason those details come out are because the date went so well in the first place.
Ultimately, whether characters have a good day or a bad day, they need to overcome the challenges life tosses their way. Because if everything is just good or just bad and no one ever learns from the struggle. Well, that is boring.
Matt Sinclair, a New York City-based journalist and fiction writer, recently published a short story anthology called Spring Fevers, which is available through Smashwords, Amazon, and in print via CreateSpace. It includes stories by fellow FTWA writers, including Cat Woods, J. Lea Lopez, Mindy McGinnis, and R.S. Mellette. He also blogs at the Elephant's Bookshelf and is on Twitter @elephantguy68.