First, I have to toot my own horn today. I found out this weekend that a short story I published in the Los Angeles Review ("Red Man, Blue Man") was selected by the editor to be used as an example of narrative tension in her fiction writing class. I'm honored!
This has put me into a great mood, so I just thought I would talk about something that always excites me when I'm writing.
One writing situation I love finding myself in is when two of my characters are forced to react to the same issue. I've been working on a story called "Satellites", and a father and daughter are both dealing with the return of a long lost family member. They go to have lunch with this family member together, but afterwards, I plan to have them react to his return in different ways..ways I have yet to figure out.
For me, this is when characters come to life. And, come to think of it, the situation arises in "Red Man, Blue Man" when each of the men decide that it's time to fall in love. What better way to emphasize individual personalities than to have them react differently to a shared situation? It was actually this very type of thing that made me start writing in the omniscient point of view, where I could get into the heads of both characters at once.
In the movie High Noon, there is a scene near the end--spoiler alert--when the main protagonist's wife (played by Grace Kelly) and his ex-lover (Katy Jurado) find themselves sitting next to each other on a train headed out of town.
Both of them have reasons for staying and reasons for leaving, but their personalities determine what each of them does in the end.
A similar situation is set up in the movie Princess Mononoke --spoiler--when two of the animal gods find themselves waiting for death.
One of the gods decides to face death calmly while the other is full of rage. Just thinking about this type of set up makes my mouth water!
Have you found yourself in this type of writing situation? Did you use it as an opportunity to contrast your characters and bring them to life?