First Frightening Experiences

Anonymous asked: “How do you write a pure innocent character who is subjected to a life-changing challenge and doesn’t know how to cope? How do you write an arc from being overwhelmed to learning to adapt?”

Now, if it were me trying to write this kind of a scene, I’d think of big life-changing events in my own life. Life-changing events don’t have to be all that remarkable or novel, but they felt big to me while going through them (hence life-changing). 

Like going to a new school where I didn’t know a soul. Or starting college and really living on my own for the first time in my life. Other life-changing events might be like getting married, having a child, or moving. These are all huge firsts that are frightening, new, exciting – big, wild emotions all around, mixed feelings sometimes so big and muddled it’s hard to tell what exactly they are (especially in cases like moving or starting at a new school, where excitement and happiness is not always a given). 

I won’t lie, I definitely cried a few times from being homesick the first time I made a big move on my own. I was homesick and knew no one in my new city so it was a lot of firsts. It was a matter of getting used to the new town, in a new country. There was a bit of culture shock. I’d also never ridden the bus in my life until then. I wasn’t even sure what line I was on the first time around and actually, since that first time, I eventually learned the city and never again figured out where it was I went. 

The first few weeks were hard. I had to learn how to feed myself with things I wasn’t used to. Everything was just a little bit different and on top of it, I had very few kitchen supplies and space to actually make use of. Recipes I knew were a challenge alone in that kitchen. It didn’t take long for me to reach out to anyone who lived close, anyone I knew through a friend of a friend to make plans to go with them to try to figure out just basic things, like what grocery store to go to, what pharmacy, what hair salon, and so on. 

Eventually I started going out alone to get things like groceries. I learned what bus to take and where it would drop me off and when it would be back. I learned to read bus maps and schedules. I started actually enjoying the city. I would go to cafés just for fun and bring a book, be alone. I still got homesick from time to time, but it wasn’t as constant. I started going to things in the city, made friends with people I met. Before I knew it, I had a life there. I had about ten different dishes I could cook confidently and ate porridge almost any other day of the week, which I guess was fine, because it didn’t bother me, but that was a small thing. 

Anyway, this was a tangent and could be completely unhelpful. The point I guess is that even an innocent and pure character faced with a lot of emotion will eventually figure out how to cope with a situation. It may be hard, it may be after many tears, but eventually, they will need to lift their chin, look at their situation and think, what do I do now? Some stuff will just be out of necessity and that kind of thing will help. I had to learn how to take the bus so that I could get groceries. Helpless as I was, I learned how to take the bus. There were trips where I got on the wrong bus early on, but eventually that stopped happening and I learned for next time. Its going to be trial and error when you’re new and don’t have help. (Or are just too proud to ask). Let what the character needs push the character’s actions. It’s going to be baby-steps. Figure things out one detail at a time. 

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