Suddenly we come to a crossroad. And there are no signs, no familiar bearings and limited resources. How do we choose which direction to go in? At some point we sometimes need to make a choice, a gut reaction. But what happens when our emotional history is jamming the process? Instead of letting ourselves think options through rationally and with insight, we allow ‘old stories’, or ‘old fears’ to impact us.
Our past histories can leave markings on our souls as clearly as lines on a paper map. Sometimes they’re so worn and smudged we don’t recognize their influence, positive or negative, until we come to that corner in the middle of choice.
In the historical romance “A Memory Between Us,” by Sarah Sundin, Major Jack Novak, faces one of his greatest fears and allows it to map a critical decision. In addition to the personal failure and recrimination he faces as a result, he loses the faith and confidence of his best friend as well. Like a domino chain his choice plunges forward setting up even more critical consequences.
“Holland. Jack’s feet went cold. The course took them over the Rhine Delta with dozens of watery inlets and marshy islands. He couldn’t think of a worse place to crash or bail.” Due to his own fear of drowning, Jack orders a new course, and puts the entire squadron in greater jeopardy. When questioned his reply is, “Listen, have I ever let you down? Trust me.”
But this time Jack is not making a decision based on the needs of his men, but on an incident from his childhood that has become an emotional map. He thinks he has it under adult control until he faces its reality. And charts his next map point from the wrong premise.
Give your character a fear that you have coped with without success and have her succeed. Or, give one that you have overcome, but in his situation, he doesn’t. What do you learn from each other?