In my college biology class our professor said there are basically three instincts: fight, flight, or f—um, lust. I remember it well because she was blushing when she said it. In any case, whenever I need to figure out why one of my characters wants to do something, I go back to these three basic instincts to decide which one their current action stems from, and that allows me to understand whether what I’m asking them to do (or seeing them do in my head) is going to work or not.
Last Sunday I was working on yesterday’s scene for The Biker’s Wench and there’s a spot where Monica is in flight mode and Harley’s in fight mode. I was watching them work through the scene (scenes play like movies in my head as I write them) wondering how on earth they were going to end up in the place I needed them both to be at the end. And then it hit me – the underlying *reason* for both of them being in the modes they were in was the third “f” (lust). I had them both so worked up wanting each other that it was (is) affecting how they interact with other people, not just each other. Harley’s fight mode is a direct result of wanting her safe…because he “wants” her, and in his mind, even though he has no intention of doing anything about it, she “belongs” to him. Monica’s flight mode isn’t so much the fear of her father (a fear she’s known all her life), but more the underlying fear of her desire for Harley – she doesn’t want to want him. These characters are so emotionally charged they can’t think straight, so they aren’t. They’re just feeling, and going with that, for better or worse.
I love conflict like this on paper (which I realize makes me sadistic), because for me, the higher the stakes, the sweeter the reward. Off-paper, I find it far more fascinating than I probably should…but the idea that you can want someone on so primal a level that all of your actions and decisions are subconsciously based on that urge is just incredibly (and sometimes tragically) romantic to me.
I think we’ve all felt these instinctual urges before, whether we were aware of them on a conscious level or not. I’ve certainly experienced them, along with that inability to really think things through and guard my actions (more so when I was younger). Perhaps that’s why they make for such great stories – they speak to us on that primal, instinctual level that we can all identify with in some way or other. Whether I’m reading or writing these particular emotions, I feel it in my gut – fear, anxiety, panic, hopefulness, joy, exhilaration…it’s an amazing, exhausting journey.
Have you felt these primal urges recently? How did they make you feel? Excited? Anxious? Scared? Hopeful? What was the last book you read that made your heart pound and your pulse speed up from what the character was going through?