It looks like I might be falling into a hard-easy-hard routine with these writing exercises. Today’s stretch is hard … or at least harder.
A character with “issues” grabs a reader’s attention, whether they are physical or emotional doesn’t usually matter. They can be an important part of the story, such as Monk’s various phobias, or a minor tic that adds comic relief when needed. The right “flaw” can be used to manipulate a reader’s feelings toward a character.
Write a scene introducing a character with an unusual problem. This can be a fictional condition or malady, as long as it is believable.
Harry clenched his teeth and tapped his left foot rapidly on the floor of his Buick Wildcat, taking care not to hit the brake peddle—he couldn’t afford to lose a second. The spot where his shoe beat against the carpet was worn bare. Beads of sweat broke out on his forehead and soaked into bushy brown eyebrows, or swept down the hook of his nose. He took a deep breath and blew it out through thin, pursed lips; sweat splashed onto the leather steering wheel cover.
None of his efforts reduced the pressure in his bladder which had increased dramatically the moment his destination came into sight. “Arrival anxiety” the urologist had called it. What crap! It happened even when I’m coming home from the grocery store; why would I be anxious about that? Naming his “problem” hadn’t yet produced a solution.
When he started flapping his knees together, Harry was sure that Sandra’s eyes were boring holes in the side of his head. Why the hell did I think I’d get away with this? She probably thinks I’m having a mental breakdown. Although it was their third date, it was the first time he’d picked her up instead of meeting somewhere. Harry felt as dry as a bone—no drinking since lunchtime, not even water—and had spent the last moments before leaving the house in a desperate effort to squeeze out every last drop … and still he was dancing desperately in the seat with a burning tingle in his lap, feeding the flames of his panic.
After wiping the back of his hand across his forehead, he jammed it into his crotch and squeezed, hoping that his jacket would cover the movement. The sharp intake of breath coming from the passenger seat proved that hope fruitless. Bright red spread up his neck, but he’d rather be embarrassed now than when he arrived at the posh restaurant with a dark, wet stain on his pants.
The physical sensations were all too real, but Harry knew that, if there were no destination waiting, he could probably drive all day without a pit stop. Instead, he raced the last block, sped under the awning of The Flapping Goose, and slammed on the brakes. He jumped out of the car and tossed the keys to the valet.
“I’ll be right back,” he yelled over his shoulder to Sandra as he sprinted to the entrance. The startled maitre d’ pointed when Harry burst through the doors and gasped.”Where’s the men’s room?”
Relief, when it finally came, was so strong his knees buckled; he had to grab the chrome fitting of the urinal to keep from falling. What came next was just part of the routine. Washing his hands, he looked in the mirror. “Ol’ Buddy,” he said to his reflection, “we really need to do something about that plumbing of yours.”
He wasn’t surprised when he returned to the curb, but still raised a questioning eyebrow toward the valet. “She hopped in a cab as soon as you went through the doors.” The kid looked like he was about to apologize until Harry glared at him. Instead, the valet asked the logical question. “Should I bring your car around?”
He had a brief, dark thought of going through it all again so soon. He shook his head and went in for dinner.