Saturday, October 16, 2010

Showing characters at their worst

Do you ever let your characters behave badly--with a legitimate excuse like PMS? Do you embarrass them? Put them up in a tree and throw rocks at them? You should! I have a quote on my computer that says: "Successful romantic comedies have their jokes rooted in truth. We laugh because we recognize ourselves."

Here's a clip from Strange neighbors you girls still having PMS might identify with.

Merry shook her head at her own insanity. Jason wasn’t usually an asshole. For chrissakes, he’d been on his best behavior at all times, so why was she giving him the cold shoulder?

Because she wanted to. Maybe she was sick of him being such a perfect gentleman. Maybe she wanted to push him to his limit and see where and how he crossed that line. Maybe it was PMS.

As a nurse, she knew she could always blame it on the full moon and PMS, but as a woman, she knew it had more to do with loosing her guy to a rich blonde in a bachelor auction—in other words, all of the above, plus massive insecurity. What a combination.

“C’mon Merry. We’ve been driving for half an hour and you haven’t spoken to me once. I explained that I had no idea bidding would go that high. Hell, I would have covered the extra, but I thought you’d refuse it. That’s why I gave you the head-shake.”

She turned away from him and stared out the window. “Whoa, they had passed Exeter Street and were heading toward Fairfield.

That’s when she realized he wasn’t taking her home.

“Where the Hell are we going?”

“Someplace special.”

She crossed her arms and frowned. “Who says I want to go somewhere special with you?”

“Look, I don’t know what’s going through that pretty head of yours, but I’m not taking you home until you tell me. Whatever it is, we’ll straighten it out.”

“Who says I’m crooked?”

He stared at her like she had two heads. Maybe she did. She felt like two sides of her were at war.

Part of her knew he was telling the truth. A big part. The logical part. Besides, it wasn’t as if they weren’t engaged or married. He could go out with anyone he wanted, and if she kept acting like a spoiled brat, he just might.

She fell back against the leather seat and sighed. “Okay. You’re right. It’s not your fault. I don’t know why I’m mad, I just am.”

“That time of the month?” he asked.

Ebbing embers of anger flared again. “What? How dare you?” If glares were daggers, he’d be shishkabob.

“I was almost married, once,” he said softly. “I know the signs.”

Why did he have to remind her he had been hurt? Why did she have to care? Why did she suddenly hate any woman who had ever laid eyes on him?

She retreated back into silence. It was safer that way. He was right. She was due for her period in a couple of days and hormones were making her crazy.

“There won’t be a second date with her, Merry. You know that, right?”

She cocked her head and stared at him. He glanced over a couple of times. All she saw in his eyes was sincerity. Shit. She wasn’t ready to forgive him.

“How do you know? You haven’t even been out with her yet?”

He let out a long exhale and turned up Brookline Ave.

“Where are we going? You still haven’t told me.”

“Look, it’s probably not the best time to tell you this, but tonight was a test.”

She gasped, indignant again. “A what?”

“A test. You failed miserable. Unfortunately, so did I.”

“What are you babbling about?”

“I mean…” He pulled over to the curb and gave her an intense gaze. “I figured I’d find out how you reacted to me getting some pretty strong female attention. And I thought that if you weren’t okay with it, I wouldn’t want to move our relationship to the next level.”

“Oh.” Sails--no wind. She was caught completely off guard and her heart crumpled.
She folded her hands in her lap and figured it was over. He was probably driving her to Rhode Island so he could dump her on her father’s doorstep and tell him to come and get her stuff at his earliest opportunity.

“Don’t you want to know why I failed too?”

“Uh, yeah. I can guess, but go ahead.”

“What do you guess?”

“That you thought we could stay friends, but you don’t even want that anymore?”

There was that look again. She was tempted to check her neck to see if she really did have two heads growing out of it.

“No, Merry. In fact, you couldn’t be further from the truth. I still want you--as a friend and as a girlfriend…in a big way.”

“And you call that failing?” Her crumpled heart filled again. With the blood back, it warmed her all over.

“What do you call it?”

She smiled. “Acing it. Passing with flying colors.”

At last, he smiled too. “It’s about time I did something right.” He leaned over and cupped the back of her head. She knew he wanted to kiss her. Something inside still jittered, but it was hard to deny the bridge he was trying to build. It was about time she walked over it and met him halfway.

*Conflict makes a story. Sometimes it isn't the big explosions, it's the little baby conflicts of emotional upheaval. And my theory about using this in comedic ways is this: We laugh because it isn't happening to us. We're a little warped that way.


Victoria said...

Okay, the "crooked" line is classic! I really LOL, then had to read it to my hubby!
And, yes we all laugh at what happens to others. But we need to learn to laugh at ourselves, too. May not be able to in the 'heat' of the momment, but life is just too serious not to see the humor it. In the stories friends and family love to tell every year at gatherings or to new friends. Love may make everything worthwhile, but laughter eases the pain.


Wynter Daniels said...

Good excerpt. I enjoy that sort of banter and I use it in character dialog too. I agree - we can laugh because we recognize the feelings.

Sherry said...

I see myself in so many of your characters. Their actions, their reactions even conversations that you write.. That is why your books touch my heart so much.. Thanks for writing them...

Ashlyn Chase said...

I'm glad you all recognized the embarrassing moment as something they could laugh at later.

A little further into the books, Merry goes on "Seasonal" (so she only has to go through PMS quarterly) and Jason asks her...

Oh, never mind, I'll let you read the book! LOL


Dalton Diaz said...

Ya know, for all of the makeup, heels, childbirth, and inequality, guys can put up with a few days a month of walking on eggshells.

I'm just sayin'...

Great excerpt, Ash. You know how much I love fun banter!

Katie Reus said...

Love that excerpt, Ash! The realism of her reaction is something I think a lot of us can relate to :)

kittykelly28 said...

I love it when characters are real like that. It's not all flowers and dasies and it's nice to read that too :)


Michelle Polaris said...

Real characters are the ones I remember best. Love the excerpt.

Jina Bacarr said...

Nice layering of emotions, Ashlyn, and good volleying back and forth between characters. It makes you want to know more about them. Good job!

Ashlyn Chase said...

Thanks everyone! Coming from all of you I almost don't feel like a hack. LOL


Ashlyn Chase said...

Thanks everyone! Coming from all of you I almost don't feel like a hack. LOL


Ashlyn Chase said...

I'll pick a winner from the commenters who email me tomorrow a.m.



Adele Dubois said...

Just stopping by to say hi, Ashlyn. I've already read your debut novel. All the best for the series!

Ashlyn Chase said...

And the winner is...


Congrats, girl!

Cara McKenna said...

Oh God, I'd be screwed if all our characters were expected to be on their best behavior and act rationally all the time! Not to mention, bored to death.