This weekend, my town hosted a big ass air show to celebrate 100 years of Canadian aviation. Our skies roared with flybys from CF-18s, the mighty Hercules, forestry Air Tractors, aerobatics teams and the iconic Snowbirds. The show was held over the lake, with planes swooping down on sailboats anchored in the water for a unique vantage point – the majority of spectators hung out on the beach and stared up at the clouds.
The beach was a sea of lawn chairs, umbrellas and picture crazy spectators.
As I watched the intricate manoeuvres, I marvelled at the dedication, precision and fearlessness of the pilots – and munched on those greasy (but fab) tiny cinnamon donuts. A collective gasp rose from the crowd, making me drop my treasured donuts. I looked up as one of the small aerobatics planes lost a chunk of its wing. People bolted to their feet, hands over their mouths, willing the pilot to control the plane as it wavered over the lake. Freaked, I couldn’t look away. People switched from still photos to taking video.
He’s going down!
Alas, the plane did NOT crash. In fact, the drama was all apart of his act. He even tossed out a roll of toilet paper at one point.
The crowd’s fear subsided; we resumed our beachy seats and laughed off our gullibility. But during the rest of the show I relived that communal sense of terror, the crowd of strangers brought together by spectacle…and that’s what I’ll remember most from the four-hour long event – because while it was scary, it was also (once we figured out it was fake) fantastic entertainment.
I decided to challenge myself to write those kind of big, horrific, it-could-go-either-way moments in my WIPs. My characters don’t have to be dangling in the sky, but they need an ultimate dark moment, a life changing decision, all they hold dear must be threatened. I want readers in the grip of something inescapable, willing my characters to try, to breathe, to survive…
As writers, it’s our job to offer readers the most fantastical thrill rides (be they internal or external) our imaginations can muster. Remember, it’s all part of the show, folks.