Whew! I screeched in on the tail end of Chatterbox. We have a great topic, thanks, as always, to Rachel Heffington of Inkpen Authoress!
Criticism seems to be what certain people do best – especially certain people between book covers. A critic is a great foil for a protagonist, whether he or she means well or just likes being contrary. Put criticism in a scene and chances are it will be the flint that strikes a fire. I’ve met a number of critical characters in my stories, and even though they’re not the only ones there who ever criticize, the action comes effortlessly to them. But one outshines them all: Tabitha Brown. Tabitha is the grandmother of Amy, The Alice Quest’s protagonist. High-spirited, blunt, and opinionated, Tabitha never hesitates when it comes to speaking her mind. Her estimations are alternately positive and negative, but she never fails to criticize where there is something wrong – for the sake of the improvement of her listeners, of course. What she chooses to critique, however, can be … surprising.
“Amy.” Grandma was fidgeting. She looked in all the mirrors and kneaded her hands together in her vibrating lap.
Amy checked her speed. 75 mph. Not 80. She would not go 80.
“You can go faster, you know. That way all these hurrying Harries won’t pass you.”
Grandma hated for people to pass her. “Grandma, I’m not comfortable going faster,” Amy replied in a pointed, yet respectful tone. “I rather like speed limits.”
“You rather like –? Oh please, Amy! On the highway you get so much farther if you rev it up. We have a long way to go. I want to get there as quickly as possible.” Grandma flung her hand dismissively. “You’re too careful sometimes. You won’t get pulled over.”
With that mindset, how had Grandma gotten away with so few traffic tickets in her lifetime? It was an honest, albeit sarcastic, question and Amy would never ask it, but still she wondered. “You never know,” Amy said. “I haven’t gotten a ticket yet, and it’s one of my life goals to never get one.”
Grandma looked at her and burst into a smile. “Ha! That sounds like you. You’re always too cautious, you always want to do things ‘just right.’ Live a little, Amy. I’m not talking about breaking the law – and I don’t call going a few miles over the speed limit breaking the law – but it’s just one example of what you always do. No risks! No mistakes! What will you accomplish if you never take risks?”
“Plenty,” Amy responded, then chided herself for her too-snappy comeback. “I mean, I do take risks, on occasion.” Amy signaled, glided into the left lane, and pulled beside a semi. Her heart was in her throat as the deafening metal monster towered over their little Honda and blocked out the sun for the seconds it took to pass it.
Even with that thing crowding her, she had better make her point before Grandma interrupted. “Take this trip, for example. We have no clue how it’s going to end. And then I’m teaching that co-op class this fall, and I haven’t taken any education courses. Isn’t that risky?”
“Do you think you can do it?”
“Well … most of the time I’m pretty confident, yes.”
“Then it’s not a risk.” Grandma settled back in her seat as Amy returned to the right lane. “Risks stretch you and enrich you like nothing else can. If you do only what’s comfortable to you, you’ll never get anywhere.” She fixed a glare on Amy’s profile. “With all your history study you never learned that?”
Amy wanted to respond. Since she couldn’t think of anything reasonable to offer that she might be able to chance, she decided to relate her escapades as a kid … and afterward Grandma would undoubtedly have concrete suggestions of other risks for Amy to take. Amy commanded herself to be patient and attentive. How bad could this counseling session be?
This is not in my story at the moment, but it's an idea for a future scene.
Also, I just wanted to give you a heads-up that I will probably try in-the-blog comments next week; you can still comment on Google+, though; it just won't show up in my blog. : )