The characters in Nero’s Fiddle are issued the challenge to get to Washington, DC within 25-30 days to stop a disastrous incident. They must walk almost the entire 600 miles.
Thus far, the novel stands at 60,000 words. The characters in Nero’s Fiddle are close to halfway to their destination. One of the characters has disappeared. His disappearance is on purpose: to allow the story to focus on Captain Beverly Mossberg (former military), her two kids and the tagalong stranger, Sedona and the relationship between the four, particularly the relationship between Bev and her kids.
I recently encountered a dilemma in the writing. I wanted a particular reaction from the lead character, Bev. However, the reaction I wanted would leave her children thinking her a coward.
The scenario: Bev encounters no fewer than a dozen men molesting a young woman. All men are carrying guns. Bev has her own gun and is an expert markswoman but the odds are not in her favor. As with most women (including myself), her initial gut reaction is to charge into the fray, gun blazing. Doing that however would risk the lives of her children as well as risk making them orphans. There’s no help in sight: Sedona is akin to Don Knotts in The Shakiest Gun in the West and there’s no way to call for help.
Initially, I wanted Bev to reluctantly walk away, feeling it was the only way to protect her children. The more I considered that option the more I realized how unsatisfying it was. It would create a great deal of conflict between Bev and her kids, especially her twelve year old daughter, which would make for great drama, but it didn’t present Bev as the kick-ass solider I knew her to be.
I asked a few women their opinion of the situation and what they would do. Most of them found it as problematic as I did. Their initial gut reaction was to start a gunfight but, with kids in tow, they’d be afraid to. All of them were opposed to the idea of walking away but none of them would put their children’s lives at risk by attacking the men first. All of them felt, as I did, there had to be a viable solution.
I did what I always do when faced with such an enigmatic dilemma: I sat on it for a few days and asked my muse to work on it for me.
My muse came through. Yes, Bev initially is going to walk away. But one of the men stumbles upon her and the others when he walks into the woods to relieve himself. When the man threatens her daughter, Cap’n Mossy is forced to react. Her actions not only enable the girl to get away, she also takes care of the threatening men. In addition, the solution presented to me by my muse allowed me to satisfy my desire to have Bev blow something up. (Make no mistake, Bev wanted to blow something up, too).
And that’s all I’m going to reveal about that.
It pays to ask the muse for help: to stand down from the writing even if for only a short period of time. It’s that subconscious thing at work again: that part of the brain that works non-stop on whatever dilemmas we’re facing and sometimes offers us solutions to difficult situations.
I just need to train it to work that way in real life.