Monday 18 January 2010

Exercise: End of the World . . .

One issue that a lot of writers out there suffer with is how to connect with their characters. A character is just like any other person out there and experiences every single emotion that there possible is, which makes them real. But, how do you actually put that feeling down in writing and make the reader feel what your character feels?

Any movie goer out there may have seen 2012, a film about the end of the world. It's a fantastic film but relies wholly on the special effects of what the world goes through. You don't actually get to feel what the characters are going through when faced with that predicament - and that makes it hard to connect with them.

An exercise that we came up with revolved around one question. What would you do if you had an hour left before the end of the world? Forget all the special effects that go with it, all the earth quakes, flashing lights, and the scientific `how would's` and `what if's`. Just concentrate solely on your character and what they would be feeling and going through:

Exercise: An hour before the end of the world . . .

I’ve never intended to spend my last moments locked away in the dark, but what else can I do? I’m paralysed with terror. There’s nothing else I can do but sit and wait.

When I heard the news, I was in disbelief. It couldn’t be true, and it just wasn’t possible. The world couldn’t end just like that, and certainly not within the hour. I couldn’t believe – didn’t want to believe – but then things started to go wrong.

All communication went down.

There is now no TV, no phone lines, and no internet. There’s no access to the outside world, and no way of contacting anyone. I am alone – that is, apart from my dog, Rufus. He’s been my trusted friend since he was a pup, and in this dark hour he is the only one I have. I used to believe that I would do anything to protect him. He was like my child. Pets are, after all, valued members of their family. I’d never let anything happen to him, but now I am powerless against what is approaching. My heart sinks with guilt at the thought of it. I feel I am letting him down.

Chaos is breaking out outside. Riots are blazing all through the streets. I can hear it from my dark confines; the screeching of tyres, the crashing and grinding of colliding cars, and the screaming of people.

Oh, the screaming. It’s tortuous to my ears. The people are running mad. I’ve seen looting in clips on the TV, but never did I expect to see it happening outside my own home. Men and women all over town are breaking into shops and stealing hundreds of pounds worth of electronic equipment and goods. I can’t help but ask myself why. Would their death be made any easier if they were sitting in front of a huge flat screen television set? And what would they watch? The thought baffles me. This news has affected everyone in different ways.

I heard a loud smash about ten minutes ago, and something tells me it was one of my windows. There’s no point in me going out to investigate. What good would it do? There’s nothing left worth protecting out there, and I’d only be swept up in the mass hysteria that has over-taken everything. It’s turned into a vicious world out there, and I know I’m making the right choice by staying locked up, even if it is only for the last twenty minutes.

Rufus whimpers beside me, and I can’t help the tears as I bury my fingers in his fur. He’s so innocent, and doesn’t deserve the fate that waits us both. A bottle of whiskey and a tub of sleeping pills sit on my lap, and my head is filled with confusion. Should I take them? At least then I’d be asleep when the moment finally comes, blissfully unaware. But I can’t leave Rufus. I debate whether I should share some with him, saving him from this agonising nightmare.

But that thought scares me more than death. What if the news flash had somehow got it wrong, and what would happen if I give him too much and he never wakes afterwards? Could I live with that grief? Could I live knowing that I killed him when I didn’t have to? At the moment Rufus is the most important thing to me. I love him more than anything, and I don’t want him to suffer the things that I, myself, am running away from.

With less than twenty minutes left before the world as we know it ends, I contemplate. I hold the tablets with one hand while the other strokes my dog.

I wish I knew what to do…

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