Friday, January 14th, 2011

Writing Prompt: How Does Your Character React to Sad News?

Hospital Street Sign As Seen From the RoadI got some terrible news this morning.

One of my good friends at work is in the hospital and his condition is “serious.”

My first reaction was physical pain: a heart-sick reaction which started in the chest and moved quickly to my stomach. My limbs felt leaden.

I’m still sad, and hopeful — very hopeful — that things will be all right. But I have this nervous energy thing going on and I really want to help.

But there’s nothing I can do. He’s got a good (family) support system, and I’d just be in the way. Besides, as close as we are at work…and as much as I know about his condition…I’m guessing he’d just want family around at such a time.

Still, there’s a frustration factor here. The questions is: how will I handle it? And what if the situation turns bleak?

Here’s Your Prompt: Your character has just received terrible news. What does he do? Is he a manly man who doesn’t cry? Does he punch the wall to let off steam? Does he hit his wife or kick the dog? Does he open a bottle of Jack Daniels?

(Each of these actions tell something different about your character.)

Perhaps he’s only received partially bad news (like me) – the condition is serious, but hopeful. What’s his immediate reaction? Does he swear like he’s angry that this has come to pass? Does he accept it with stoic pessimism (“It was bound to happen anyway.”)? How does your character react if the wost-case scenario comes to pass?

On the other hand, maybe the news isn’t such a bad thing…maybe your character is ecstatic to receive such bad news about someone she knows….and secretly, or maybe not so secretly, she is doing the Snoopy-brand happy dance. Instead of Jack Daniels, does she crack open some champagne?

Write a scene in which your character receives terrible news. Try to show his or her actions without dialogue. How can you use action to relay what your character feels?

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