Moments of Irrationality

Yesterday I went to the Post Office, a very Christmasy thing to do. The actual trip to the post office was fine and the time in line wasn’t bad either. Then I got out to my car and the battery was dead. Now, while annoying a dead battery is not the end of the world. In fact, over the years, I’ve had this happen to me a double handful of times. This time was different.

You see, this time I had my not quite 3 year old daughter with me. It was a cold, snowy day and the car hadn’t had a chance to warm up on the trip over. Terribly rational me would have considered that I had a cell phone and a nice warm Post Office right there, gone inside and called for a tow. But motherhood is not rational. Motherhood is protective and decisive and all I could think was that I would not let my sweet daughter be cold. I had to get her home where she was safe and warm. So I bundled her up in her jacket, coat, hat and blankies and started rushing home through the wind and snow. (Irrational me was also only dressed in a fleece jacket and hat because we were only running a mile away and only getting out of the car for a minute.)

Halfway home I realized I was being irrational and I had the tools to get help without continuing to walk through the storm. I called for a rescue and within 30 minutes we had returned to my dead car, jumped the battery, dropped it off at the shop and were safely home and warm.

Now, how does all of this tie to writing?

Because sometimes characters too will be driven to irrationality by other drives. As readers, and even as writers, we can often see the rational solution, but in the moment it may be the right thing for our characters to give into those irrational drives. The key is that while they act in the moment, looking back later they should be able to learn from the moment and the next time make other choices. Maybe still irrational ones…but something new. This is part of character growth and creates a stronger emotional arc.

Though I would still walk through snow for my daughter…given the same situation hopefully I’d think about the warm Post Office and the phone first.

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