Katrin, my current main character, needed to race up to the fourth floor. I’ve run up flights of stairs any number of times, including the time that my daughter and I went on what we called the Chicago diet. (Climb up and down the 2o flights of stairs to our hotel room and eat absolutely anything that we wanted.) But I thought it would be helpful to know exactly what Katrin was feeling as she climbed the stairs. I decided that I’d better climb six flights of stairs because Katrin lived in a building with high ceilings.
I took the stairs two at a time for the first four flights, but then had to switch over to one had a time for the fifth and sixth flight. Because we only have one flight of stairs in our house, I did have to run down the stairs, too. So I ran down the stairs and flung open the door to my study. It rattled in satisfying way. Then I spoke Katrin’s lines.
“This is–this is Dom Leandro,” I found myself gasping out. In my rough draft, there was only one “This is” but it feels right to add in that breathless second line.
I know that I’m not the only writer who does silly things like this in order to get a scene right. In fact, I was lucky enough to go on a writers’ retreat with Kathleen Duey as the writer-in-residence. The stories about what she used to do to get a story right assured me that I wasn’t crazy to be doing things like climbing stairs or falling down in order to get a story right. In fact, my son was an incredibly good sport last year when he let me tackle him about twenty times for my project set in Egypt.
I discuss these techniques and other ones I’ve used in one of my school presentations: Action! Put Your Character into Motion.