Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Dilemmas, Dilemmas

I've just done something awful. I've thrown away my daughter's Christmas money. I am truly sorry about it, but in my defense, leaving your money wrapped up in a tissue at the bottom of a used supermarket carrier bag along with old sweet wrappers and then leaving the bag to fester for several days in the sitting room is asking for trouble. Especially when the days you leave the bag festering coincide with rubbish day. And even more so when you are congenitally untidy and it's not the first time money has been lost due to being left hanging around with used bus tickets.

So I feel sort of justified in accidentally throwing the money away. But I also feel guilty for not checking thoroughly. But justified because it's really a bit much to expect me to check through all her rubbish on the off chance. And guilty because she's feeling broke at the moment. And justified because her room is a tip, and the bathroom is a tip and she never clears up after herself. And guilty...and justified...and guilty...

My dilemma - should I replace the money?

I don't know what to do. But I know it would make a good minor dilemma for a character. (Minor because it is very domestic and, hey, it's only money we're talking about, not life or death.) A good character dilemma is one where both sides are equally attractive or unpleasant, there are pluses and minuses for each side. If I'm tough now and don't replace the money, then maybe she'll start being more careful with her possessions. But it was my fault, even if I didn't do it on purpose. I don't know what the right thing to do is, and if I were writing this scene, I'd go through the options as I have done here. Hopefully, readers would also find the choice a difficult one to make. Then the character would make their choice and the novel would play out the consequences, good or bad.

Good dilemmas make for good books. Sophie's Choice by William Styron comes to mind, with its heart-rending central dilemma. We can talk about them, debate them, have arguments about a good dilemma. Meanwhile, back at home, I'm still dithering which is not an attractive character trait. Dilemmas, dilemmas. What would you do?


Ann Patey said...

I don't see how you can say it's your fault and she'll never learn if you replace it! (From a writing point of view I think it would be boring as well.)

Tough love!

Crysse said...

How much?

And for writing this scene it would be good to have viewpoint of daughter!

I look forward to reading it in a future novel.


Sarah Duncan said...

£60. I repaid the money, but deducted it from the money I was giving her for her work experience week in London. A real life messy compromising equivocation - useless in fiction.

Think my daughter's viewpoint can be summed at as Disgusted of Bath!