So, there I was, leaving Wal-mart’s parking lot, waiting for traffic to clear. Close on my left was a young Amish man, sitting in his horse and buggy, in clothes my great-great grandfather would have worn.The Amish are new to our area, and we’ve not yet grown used to them, or to the sight of their black buggies swaying down the highway. It feels rather like a rare and exotic animal has moved into our midst. We watch them covertly and marvel at their living habits. (I was captivated by the sight, a few weeks ago, of an Amish man perusing Walmart’s extensive shampoo selection. He stood a very long time, reading labels, in his black hat and beard. I concluded that Amish men like to have shiny, bouncy hair, too!)
Anyway, while waiting for the traffic to clear, I caught a glimpse into the buggy, and did a double take. There, plastered all over the inside front, was a picture of Jeff Gordon, along with other NASCAR memorabilia. Emblazoned above Jeff Gordon’s face were large, reflective, press-on letters proclaiming “Git R Done!”
Obviously, this Amish man has some issues. While trotting down the highway at five mph staring at a horse’s behind, he’s evidently dreaming of whipping around a race track behind the wheel of a gas-guzzling NASCAR going 225 mph.
Now there’s nothing wrong with being a NASCAR fan, but I find it a tad inconsistent with what I’d assumed to be the Amish mentality. Which is why it’s so darn interesting.
Watching that buggy trot away, I remembered a workshop I attended in which Donald Maas advised us to imagine the one thing our hero/heroine would never do, and then make them do it. In other words, sometimes it’s a character’s inconsistencies that make them truly memorable.
I came home from the Amish buggy episode and tore apart a scene I’d written just that morning. In the scene, the hero’s gray-haired, elderly aunt is sewing quilt scraps when I introduce her to the reader. I wrote it as anyone would expect her to be—an expert seamstress, demurely making tiny stitches in an intricate quilt. But that scene’s changed now. My new, revised, aunt is an abominable seamstress. Her quilt squares never come out even, and her crocheted afghans keep unraveling. She eventually dumps the whole mess, buys herself a quilt at Big Lots, and puts her prodigious mind to work helping the hero and heroine. I like her much better now, and I think readers will, too.