Thursday, May 26, 2011

And now there's coffee everywhere...

It's funny what you spot on a read through when you've had time to forget what you wrote. For example, I had one character hand his roommate a cup of coffee. Roommate was holding a beer in the other hand. Roommate dumped the beer into his coffee and, (watch closely now) shadowboxed cheerfully out of the room.

Did you catch that? Doubtless you did - I had a man with a full cup of coffee and beer in his hand punching at the air. Thus the title of this post. *Sigh*

Now shadowboxing cheerfully early in the morning is completely in the Roommate's character. But even he isn't dumb enough to slosh hot coffee-beer all over the kitchen. Writing like that is rather like the hammer problem in cartoons. You know - the completely naked, except for gloves, rabbit suddenly produces a hammer the size of his torso, just in time to smash the duck. It works in cartoons because we accept that we're in a sort of surreal bizarro world where this is consistent with cartoon physics. But if your character is holding hot coffee in his hand and he waves it around, it's going to spill. When I wrote the scene the first time, I was thinking of Roommate's personality, not the physics. But all actions, even the most delightfully symbolic ones, have consequences and those consequences can't produce an unwanted effect or they will kick the reader out of the story. Suddenly the reader is wondering why the Roommate isn't covered in scalding coffee-beer instead of following the plot.

Have you guys caught any moments like that in your own writing?

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