I’m currently reading a Sci-Fi novel, Stardoc by S.L. Viehl, that I didn’t expect initially to enjoy very much. I picked it up at a yard sale for maybe $1, if that, and it was in a moment of boredom that I plucked it off of my shelf to give it a shot. I am SO glad I did. :) While not life-changing or the best book I’ve ever read, it is entertaining, and most importantly, surprising! I am hooked in a way I haven’t been with my reading lately.
When reading yesterday I hit a spot that the writer in me applauded.
The main character is a diminutive female doctor named Cherijo. She’s only 18, grew up sheltered and also dominated by an overbearing father. She’s out of her element on a frontier colony, and pushed to her breaking point in an understaffed, underequipped FreeClinic medical trauma unit.
She’s not my typical fave hero, because I prefer knife/sword-wielding badasses, but I like her all the same despite her being more healer than martial.
When, in a totally freakish moment, the man escorting her somewhere grabbed her quickly and established a mental link with her, without her permission I was outraged! He locked up her body and I felt her complete surprise, horror and fury over it. Turns out the man was trying it on her to see if he could. When he finally releases her and apologizes, the author surprised me by going outside of the healer mode for Cherijo and doing something I found 100% believable: She had Cherijo draw back and punch the man square in the face with all her fear and outrage burning through her.
That was what I didn’t see coming, the realism. Which, of course, inspired a prompt!
I’m not sure it’s possible in the space of a prompt, but, see if you can put a character in a situation where they can surprise a reader, believably, with their actions.
Here’s my attempt:
Other than the fact that it was red, the toaster oven was almost completely useless. It slow-baked when you wanted it to toast, and considered 350⁰ close enough when you set the oven temp to 400⁰.
Karen sighed at the warmed brick that should have been a delicious piece of sourdough toast and cursed the toaster oven, swearing once again she’d replace it if it didn’t shape up.
The lifetime of frugality she’d learned from her mom would prevent her from tossing out an item that, though it sucked, wasn’t truly broken.
Karen caught fossilized crumbs on her plate and settled at the kitchen table with a book. She managed only a few pages before her cell phone rang. It was a fairly rare occurrence at night, for which she was thankful after listening to the chiming double-ring of the phones all day at work. Her family rarely called, their lives allowing barely more free time than the seconds it took to punch out a text, and the hour was such that if it was her dad, he’d been drinking and probably wouldn’t remember tomorrow that she’d ignored his call tonight.
She didn’t want to talk to whoever it was but her safety nature made her cross to the desk, book still in hand, and glance at the phone’s display.
Her boss’s ID.
She picked it up, faked the phone-smile-voice, and answered.
A coworker had to call out. In her boss’s opinion, being down one man left them in a desperate situation, and could she come in early. Right. Because when the business world didn’t start to panic until market open, they’d certainly get slammed at 5 am. She rolled her eyes as she agreed to the 4 am wake up time like it was really necessary. At least the Chicken Little was grateful when someone soothed his ridiculousness.
She dumped the phone back onto the desk, then cracked open her book. Where was she. . . .
The phone rang. Her boss again.
Unless he’d realized he was being a complete tool about having her come in early, she definitely didn’t want to talk to him again.
Ah. The weekend. It was the same employee who was scheduled on this weekend, who also couldn’t cover that. Could she? She’d rather poke her eye out. She already had to cover all of New Year’s.
They could really use her.
“No one else could do it?”
He hadn’t asked anyone at the larger office because despite it being 9 pm on a Thursday and no one else caring if it was scheduled yet or not, he couldn’t sleep until he knew someone was covering the weekend he wasn’t even the back-up on.
“I guess I could. . . .”
Great. She was a lifesaver. Of course he would have done it, if he could, he said. He’d love the overtime, but of course he didn’t get it. He worked 10 breakless hours all day all week he reminded her. As if he ever let anyone forget it. And he didn’t even get overtime, he reminded her. Right. Because he hadn’t known that was the case when he accepted the supe job they’d offered him.
She made all the non-committal noises of sympathy she could handle while he talked about how he never took days off, wanting both to say “stfu,” and “I’m trying to read, gtf off my phone.”
Working the weekend. Again. She thought of the Christmas shopping she had to do, of the errands she needed to run, the dinner out she wanted to have with her boyfriend…scrapped. The weekend shift meant never being farther from her computer than the laundry room, ready even in the dead of night to work at the drop of a hat. Sure, with a laptop and wifi she could sit at a coffee shop and wait in case work came in, but she couldn’t be off the grid for the time it took to get there. Just. In. Case.
Paid OT was a minor compensation when she thought of how she just couldn’t afford to work the weekend and try to keep up with the rest of her life.
He could take his OT, his “I never take a day off, I hate to stick you with this,” his sky-is-falling paranoia and shove it.
She went to her kitchen, unplugged the shiny red toaster oven and marched down to the dumpster, pjs, slippers and all, to heave the useless appliance inside. She could afford to by a real toaster. She didn’t need to keep being frustrated by that abomination.
She made it three steps before the guilt set in. Five more before it really hit her. She made it to the outer door before she caved, pjs, slippers and all, and marched back to the dumpster to retrieve the not-really-broken appliance.