Thursday, June 25, 2015

Shopping and Smoking: What If . . . ?

SCENARIO: A very pregnant woman, mid-twenties, stops on the sidewalk outside a strip mall and struggles to light a cigarette. After a couple of tries, she's successful and continues on her way.

What if . . . an old woman accosts her, scolding her about smoking while pregnant? What if the pregnant woman pushes past the old woman, knocks her to the ground where she cries out in pain? Was it an accident? Was it on purpose? 

What if . . . a homeless man tries to bum a cigarette off her? What if she gives him one because something about him reminds her of her father? What if she gives him the whole pack? Why?

What if . . . she's not even aware she's pregnant? What if she's suffering from a mental or physical condition that keeps her from recognizing reality? 

What if . . . this is an alternate reality where smoking while pregnant is actually good for unborn babies? What if it's a sign you're taking care of yourself or a symbol of your wealth and status in this society? 

What would you do with this scenario? Does it trigger an idea for an essay, a blog post, a flash fiction story? Could this woman become a character in your novel? Who is she and why is she doing what she's doing? Let's think outside the box!

22 comments:

  1. What if she's not pregnant because she's shoplifting under those clothes? Still dumb for smoking though...

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    1. Excellent idea, Alex! I never even considered that she wasn't pregnant and/or shoplifting.

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  2. The first one seems a likely scenario in real life, so I wouldn't write that. I like the idea of her being deluded and not realizing the reality of her situation!

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    1. The first one is pretty possible but could definitely be well written. I like the deluded idea, too - you sometimes read news stories about that kind of thing, especially with teens.

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  3. I actually do like the first scenario because too many people think they have the right to tell others what they should and shouldn't do, and it's interesting to think what might happen in an ordinary scenario of one woman telling another what she shouldn't do.

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    1. What if, as the old woman scolds, the pregnant woman bursts into tears and agrees with the old woman? What if she's all alone in the world and terrified of having a baby? What if she's smoking because she's so scared the baby's daddy - a really bad dude - is going to come after her?

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  4. I like the scenario of her not being aware she's pregnant. I have really strong feelings about smoking, primarily because I'm allergic to cigarette smoke. When someone lights up near me, I get a really painful sore throat and have to move.

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    1. What if the old woman was allergic to cigarette smoke and that was why she yelling at the pregnant woman, not because the woman was pregnant? What if the person doing the yelling is allergic to cigarette smoke AND blind, doesn't know who is doing the smoking?

      I love playing with "What if's"! It's like playing with blocks, stacking and creating all sorts of buildings and cities and worlds. :)

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  5. I love those "what if" questions! And, I love the comments. What if her doctor told her it was healthy to smoke? (It happened to my mom in 1971 . . . so, if we just dial back this story by 40 years, it could look very different)

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    1. I love the comments, too! You guys rock. :)

      What if the pregnant woman is from 1971 and the old woman is from the present - some kind of time travel story? Or what if the pregnant woman and the old woman are the same person, scolding herself in a parallel universe kind of thing? :o

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  6. Or what if her pregnancy isn't real...it's one of those psychosomatic pregnancies. And she's just gotten a call from the doctor saying it isn't real, so this is the first cigarette she's had in eight months...

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    1. So, she knows she's not pregnant but her body looks like she is to everyone else? Good one!

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  7. What if she time traveled looking for her babies father and where she travelled from, back in the 70's smoking while pregnant was not a big deal.

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    1. Oh, you could do so much with that concept! Excellent!

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  8. I play the 'what if?' game when I'm plotting a scene. It really helps me come up with worst case.
    Susan Says

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    1. In fiction, I go with the dark and creepy. In real life, though, I try to play the What if game with more positive, happier outcomes. :)

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  9. Madeline, I love using "What ifs?" to explore possible plot twists for my wips. It's a great way to explore possibilities.

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    1. The more often we ask, the deeper we go, the better those plots will twist. :)

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  10. Perhaps the "pregnant" woman is just fat, and she's tired of being reminded of it? I just realized that none of the characters in my books smoke!

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    1. Good one!

      I think a few of my characters have smoked....

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  11. What if she wasn't pregnant but had a huge tumor and associated bloating and the cigarette was actually marijuana she needed to curb the pain?

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    1. Great idea! Now would she explain that to the old woman or would she tell the old woman to buzz off? I wonder....

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