Saturday, October 13, 2012

Annoyance or Writing Opportunity?

Wisdom has it that when faced with a bad situation, you can either cry about it, or laugh. As a writer, I can go one better and write about it.

Right now I'm virtually homeless. Can't afford gas to run the generator (for heat and computer) up at my land so I'm staying at a friend's house. Unfortunately, my buddy is the Beta roommate. The Alpha roommate (the lease is in his name) sits on the couch, watches sports (screaming at the TV) and orders me and my buddy around. Mostly cleaning. Mostly cleaning we were already doing or about to do. For instance today's exchange:

"I've got to go up to my land and water the yaks. Before I go, I'm going to walk the dogs, put two of them in the car and then tend Bushi's wound," I tell my buddy CK. "Can I borrow the vacuum? I'll run it over the rug after I get the dogs in the truck.

Three minutes later, the Alpha Roommate (AR) comes out as I'm applying meds to Bushi (who got in an unfortunate incident with a yak). "You know we gotta vacuum the house."

"Yes, I was getting the dogs outside so I could do just that," I say.

Pretty much every hour he'll tell us what we're doing inadequately, give us instructions on something to do that we already planned. I could let it bug me. Or I could:

Ask How My Characters Would Handle the Situation

Hailey probably wouldn't get in that situation in the first place. She's got a host of supporters, and if she needed a place to stay, she wouldn't have trouble finding one with someone who didn't drive her batty. However assuming she did, she'd probably make a cup of tea and sit down with the AR and have a heart to heart about the fact that he was driving her bonkers.

Willa, only sixteen, would probably just let him steamroll her the way I'm doing. (What can I say, I just don't want to make waves? I desperately NEED somewhere to stay at the moment.) Being snarkier than I am, though, she might come up with some lovely comments under her breath.

Storm or Jiana, both herbalists, would probably slip something into his whiskey. He'd be in the bathroom too much to bother me.

D'hara, well she's an assassin by trade. Which brings me to my next idea for turning an annoying situation into writing fodder.

Plot His Murder

Well I obviously don't want to kill AR. Not for real. He hasn't done me any real harm, and he's actually a decent guy. Plus I have the benefit of knowing that I can actually get out of here eventually. But thinking on the many methods of his potential death isn't just therapeutic, it might even lead to a story down the road.

Can I see a roommate being driven so buggy that they eventually commit murder? Well it might be called "justifiable homicide".

So let me count the ways...

He chews snuff. Hellebore is about the same color. My character would need to shred the stuff up pretty fine to match the consistency.

He drinks a lot of whiskey. Hellebore tea mixed in with? Is there another plant that'd be less likely for him to taste or less likely to show up on an autopsy? Darn, I used to have a copy of Deadly Doses: A Writer's Guide to Poisons. Drat, it burned in the house fire. I'll need to get a new copy.

AR has a touchy stomach and doesn't eat much or consistently, so poisoning the food is out. Besides, there's a steady stream of buddies coming over to hang out and watch sports and they might get poisoned by mistake. Or worse, he might feed some of it to his dog, and then my character would feel guilty for the rest of her natural life.

He takes regular baths to relieve his gout, so there might be some potential there. My character could just enter the bathroom while he's bathing and drown his butt. However though he's small and wiry, she probably wouldn't be able to overpower him. But maybe gift him with a radio so that he can catch his the scores then knock that sucker into the tub?

Or just rig his TV to explode the moment the Patriots came on screen? That just might work. Okay it'd take more technical knowledge than I have but it must be doable! Back to researching!

Invent a Character Who Contemplates Murder

Maybe as part of another plot, I don't need to actually kill off the roommate. Just have a character who spends her spare time contemplating murdering her roommate. I can start with the above list and build from there.

It's probably been done before but...don't you dare steal this one, I might actually use it!

View It From His Side

Much as it spoils the fun of contemplating murder most foul, I could write a scene, or even a whole story based on what he's potentially dealing with. First I could start with his personality - Monk on steroids. Maybe he grew up in a messy house. Or maybe it's his ex wife's fault. Perhaps he's been in prison, or the navy, and the only time he felt safe was when he was spit-shining his shoes. Now the only thing that make my OCD Control Freak character happy is a clean house.

Roommate's crazy friend moves into his spare bedroom, toting three pit bulls and two cats. Landlady's coming and the house needs to be spotless. But there's Thunder Puppy banging at the door and scraping the wood to kindling. The cat's are howling in the middle of the night to their lady-loves outside. The other dog's leaking blood across the carpet. And my character's useless roommate won't toss the chick out on her ass. (Is it really that bad? No. But this is fiction, right?)

So next time you're in a situation that's driving you up a wall, don't let it get to you. Slam the door on your annoying roommate, tell your hubby to take a chill-pill, give your mom some Valium and pull out your trusty best-friend-and-therapist the computer, and turn your troubles into fodder for your stories.