Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Getting to Know Characters - Pilot Scenes

Thanks to everyone who wanted to read Forging a Legend.

I've been writing a series of pilot scenes for my time travel fantasy. I came up with the term "Pilot Scene" after the concept of a pilot chute in aviation. A pilot chute is a small parachute that drags out the larger one. My pilot scenes are independent, sometimes disposable scenes that draw out the larger story.

I realized that I didn't have any emotional connection to my main characters, Mike and Ashley (who are twins in their late 20s). I needed to write some scenes to get to know them and to form a bond with them. So I jumped ahead in the story and wrote about them acclimating to living in the 1920s.

In this scene, Ashley has been trying to get to know 1920s household technology. It's a bit spare on description for now.
Mike's first day of work was the longest that Ashley ever spent. When he got home, she opened the door and announced, "I want a housekeeper."

He took off his hat as he entered, exactly as if he had been born in 1900 rather than 1985. And where the heck did he get that thing, anyway? "Why?" He asked as he put it on a peg beside the door.

"Good lord." Ashley said.

He shot her a level look. "What?"

"Next thing, you'll be telling me to fetch your cigar and smoking jacket."

He scrunched up his nose. "Not likely. The cigarettes here smell terrible. The men at work couldn't believe I didn't smoke. I was actually glad for the open windows, even if the screens had holes and let in every fly in St. Augustine." He pulled off his jacket. "So why do you want a housekeeper?"

"Because I don't know anything. I can barely operate that stove well enough to boil water. How the heck do you tell how hot the stove is?"

"By how red the heating element is, I guess."

It made so much sense she wanted to smack him. "Well, that's not all. Come look at this." She led him into the kitchen, opened the cabinet under the sink and brought out a washboard. "This overgrown cheese grater is how we wash our clothes. Do you know how long it would take to do even one load of clothes? So don't count on having a fresh shirt every day unless we get a housekeeper."

She caught a smirk on his face. "Don't think you can hack the 20s, Ash?"

"You can't either. Come see this."

He followed her out to the backyard. She gestured over the neglected lawn. "How do you expect to mow this grass without a power mower?" She was satisfied to see the smirk melt off his face. "The neighbors won't put up with all this grass now that someone lives here."
Shortly afterward, they discover the local speakeasy. Ashley's been night prowling, and here she has a bit of a shock when she takes a shortcut back home to the back porch.

Michael met her on the back porch with a gun.

"Where'd you get that thing?" Ashley asked as he lowered the gun.

"I thought it advisable."

"Well, I want one too."

"Why? Did something happen?"


She made sure the door was locked behind them, and then took him upstairs before she would talk, and then she insisted on talking in the stairwell, well away from any windows.

"How much did you check this neighborhood out before you decided to rent this house?"

"It seemed like a residential neighborhood to me. Why?"

"Well, there's a speakeasy around the corner."

His eyes lit up with interest. "Really? Where?"

"I'm not telling you!"

"Really, Ash. There's nothing to be alarmed about. If it's really a speakeasy, they're not going to want any trouble with the law."

"Yeah, that's what the guy said, too."

"What guy?"

"The guy who wanted me to go in."

He frowned, then tromped back downstairs and grabbed his coat and hat. "Come on. Let's go check out the place."


"They're not going to be open every night. I want to see it."

"Well, have fun, then."

"Come on, Ash. They're not going to let just any stranger in, and they've already invited you."

She stared at him and crossed her arms. He grinned. "Where's your sense of adventure? You afraid?"


"No you aren't. Let's go."

"Wait." She went over to her purse. "I want to take my camera."

"They'll never let you take pictures."

She held up the thin, pink plastic device. "And they'll never know it's a camera unless you tell them."


  1. Thanks for mentioning Looks like getting to know your charaacters this way is fun. I'll have to try it sometime. {SMILE}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  2. Excellent. I really like the conflict between them, with him fitting in and her having a harder time of it. And the bit about the camera at the end is too good. =) Shows she has an adventurous side despite all her qualms about that particular adventure.

  3. Thanks, Kristin! It was fun to write. And an emotional attachment to my characters is no longer a problem.

  4. I love those scenes! Sounds like a really neat book.

  5. It sounds like they don't really get along all that well - assuming that they are a couple. Are they a couple?

  6. They're brother and sister. And yes, they bicker. Kind of like I did (and still do) with my own brother. We give each other a hard time. All in good fun.


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