I thought of this the other day and can’t seem to get it out of my head.
Imagine writing a scene where a character intends to commit suicide.
He is emotionally at the end of his rope.
He sees no other way out.
So he makes his way to a rooftop.
Gathering all his resolve, he takes a deep breath, closes his eyes, and runs at full speed towards the edge.
As he is about to plunge into nothingness, a piece of rebar along the broken edge snags his pants leg. He swings in a graceless arc and hits the side of the building, hard. The leg snagged by the rebar is painfully twisted. The opposite leg and hip, taking the full impact with the wall, are shattered.
Now he hangs, almost stationary, like an awkward chrysalis. Racked with pain, helpless, terrified, his resolve for suicide crumbles, but too late. When he hears the fabric tear, he screams for help from an unhearing world.
So what happens next?
Does he get saved somehow? Does a roving gang use him for target practice? Does he cut his losses, jerk himself loose, and fall to his death? Does he fall, but not die? And if he does survive, why?
A man literally hanging by a thread is a great inspiration for a story, wouldn't you think? This, after all, is the essence of horror. It’s the reader’s understanding that at any moment something terrible is going to happen. And secretly, deep down inside, you want it to.
The hanging man might be a main character, a secondary character, or someone alluded to by one of the other characters. No matter what, he must have a back story. He must have had some circumstances that drove him over the edge.
And there must be something that follows.
When I wrote Any Tomorrow, I started out with the simple idea of a man trapped underground when the world comes to an end. That simple idea grew into thousands of words and a story that spans the globe over the course of a thousand years. More importantly, the character I originally envisioned as the focus was subsumed by another character who grew to dominate the story.
So what would you do with the hanging man?
How would you explain his circumstances?
What would you do with his story?
Why don’t you drop me a line and let me know. I’d love to hear from you.