Evolution of an Idea, part two

(Don’t know what’s going on here?  Start with part one.)

The mousy young woman glared silently at him from across the lecture hall, glasses concealing the anger in her vivid green eyes.  He was ruining her life and he didn’t even know her.

Yesterday I figured out a bit of what’s going on with the scene that popped into my head last night.  We now know where it is set, something of the relationship between the two players, and a bit more about our main character.

Tonight we track down the big question.  How is he ruining her life?

This question has proven to be a bit more difficult than I initially suspected, partially because of that last tweak I made in the previous post.  This whole thing is tricky because she knows who he is, but he doesn’t know her.

There are many ways for one person to ruin someone else’s life when the ruiner doesn’t know the victim, but they typically involve a major difference in power.  This would be the case with a CEO closing a factory, for example, or a banker foreclosing on a loan.  With the setting involved in this case, it would be very unlikely that this is what’s happening here.  There are some ways this could work, but they’d be pretty forced, so for now we’ll table that idea.

My first thought was that the two are instead peers, classmates taking similar coursework.  Following this track, I thought a roommate or friend had started to date this guy, and was now no longer available to spend time with our green-eyed girl.  This is possible, but strikes me as very petty.  It also makes our main character kind of needy and stalker-like, which isn’t really that wonderful.

So let’s go back to this concept of power balance.  Along these lines it would be possible for the guy to be in a position of slight power.  Perhaps he’s a grad student and she’s an undergrad, or maybe he’s the teaching assistant for the class she’s taking.  Again, these lead me to possibilities, but none of them are very good.  He’s paired her with the wrong lab partner, either thwarting her dreams of flirting or tethering her to an idiot.  He’s assigned seats and she’s way in the back, where she can’t make an impression on the professor she idolizes.  He’s gotten in the way of her pursuit of a prime research project or assistantship.   These join the pile of petty (and shallow) and present another conundrum: in these cases he’d have to at least know of her, since he’s either assigning her to something or in the same field of study.

Looks like I’ll be chasing this one a bit longer.  I’ll mull over the options tonight, including pulling that major power balance off the shelf again, and maybe this tale will have some bones in need of fleshing out tomorrow.


4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. R. Hans Miller
    Apr 10, 2013 @ 09:08:02

    I like the imagery in that first paragraph, but it seems to contradict itself. If the glasses are concealing her anger, how do we know she has vivid green eyes? Wouldn’t those be concealed or muted to some extent too? Why not have her intentionally hiding anger by keeping her face passive somehow?

    What I wonder about this situation is if the guy is really ruining her life, or if that’s just her dramatic reaction to the situation at the time. When I was in my twenties, I had a lot of moments when I thought my life was being ruined by others. It usually turned out that I had simply indulged in too much angst.


    • Leigh Townsend
      Apr 10, 2013 @ 17:25:12

      I did toy with the “he didn’t know her” being an exaggeration, and yes, it is very likely that the ruining is just her impression.
      As far as the description goes – if we know she’s angry and we know she thinks he’s ruining her life, why wouldn’t we know she has green eyes? 🙂


      • R. Hans Miller
        Apr 11, 2013 @ 07:11:38

        It’s a matter of consistency in point of view. You’re either describing her from the viewpoint of a person looking at her and seeing anger in her green eyes; or you’re looking at her through her own eyes. The writing is in the 3rd person with 1st person knowledge.

      • Leigh Townsend
        Apr 11, 2013 @ 16:26:09

        Good point on consistency, I’ll take another look at it. I typically write in third person limited, which is exactly what you describe: third person with first person knowledge, from one character. That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t keep it consistent, though – definitely something to think about when I do revisions. Thanks!

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