I remember a speaker at the very first writer's conference I ever went to talking about upping the stakes in your story. Character stuck in a tree? Make it rain. Character getting her heart broken? Smash her car while you're at it. You get the idea.
I've started having a lot of fun lately with my WIP. It's actually a manuscript I started a couple of years ago and set aside, worked on other stuff, and just recently came back to with the plan to be done with the first draft* by our retreat in December. Followed by the plan to query early next year. The best part of this is that it is, like I said, starting to be a lot of fun.
A big part of the fun, though, is how outrageous it is at times. In fact, that very characteristic is what had me set it aside before. Would anyone really buy that some of these people would behave this way? I'm talking in the tree and not only is it raining, but it's the biggest thunder storm in fifty years. And they're naked. That kind of outrageous.
I wrote a scene earlier today in which a couple of characters make a major life decision basically on a dare. Which is not how real people behave**, and if real people don't behave that way, why would anyone believe a fictional character would? I have other characters who exhibit jaw-dropping selfishness; another who cannot issue a compliment without it coming out an insult. Another whose sense of entitlement is elevated to an up-the-tree-naked-in-a-hurricane--and-zombies-are-roaming-the-countryside level. All of this, completely outrageous, so much I have to wonder, will the reader buy it?
Real people are outrageous. Behave outrageously. Do outrageous stuff, all the time, every day. Peruse the news, flip on the TV, heck, just check a Twitter account, and suddenly almost anything I write, no matter how high up a tree I put my people, is believable. I think half the reason it's fun to read is that we are so relieved it wasn't us. This time.
Because sometimes, it is.
*My first draft is really my second draft, because I compose longhand. As I transcribe, I complete the first round of edits. So when I show up at our lake house in December, I will have a second draft ready for the next round of revisions!
**Not that any of my events would ever be based on personal experience. Ahem. I'm not telling. You have to wait for the book. And I'm not telling then, either. Do you hear me, Terry Gross?