POST CARDS FROM THE MUSE
Top of the Ferris Wheel
By Nandy Ekle
We hadn’t watched one of those court shows in forever. You know what I’m talking about—the Jerry Springer type judges, hearing the cases of Jerry Springer type parties. The cases sound contrived, the judges sound scripted, and the parties scream and yell at each other when the judge bangs her gavel.
As we flipped through the channels we came across one of these shows and decided to watch for a minute. There were two women, two best friends, who were suing a carny man. Their claim was negligence. They had been trapped at the top of the ferris wheel for more than five minutes. One of the women suffered from severe acrophobia, fear of heights.
The story was that one of the women, the one who was not afraid of heights, decided to administer some psychotherapy to her friend. The best way to overcome an irrational fear is to face it. So she talked her acrophobic friend into getting on the ferris wheel at the state fair. After all, the ferris wheel is a very tame ride—no terrifying speed, no slowly climbing mountains to plummet down toward the earth with a promise of death. You simply sit in a bucket and look at the landscape as the wheel turns.
As you can imagine, the wheel stopped while the two women were at the very top due to a sudden mechanical problem. According to the carny man, the wheel is inspected three times a day, so the sudden problem was very unexpected and the man immediately stopped the ride.
The acrophobic woman had a panic attack. She began screaming and flailing causing the bucket to rock and bounce. As her panic turned into outright terror, the door of the bucket flew open, causing her fit to peak, and the other woman also began to flail around.
Eventually the wheel was repaired enough to bring the women back to the bottom so they could leave and go on their merry little lawsuit-for-pain-and-suffering way.
After listening to this story in total disbelief, I realized what the women were describing was the perfect image of plot writing. You have a character with a problem who wants a solution to their problem. Then you have them do something so different from anything they’ve ever done before, only for everything that can go wrong to . . . go wrong. Then you have a character who seems to be at fault for every problem that comes up. And finally, we have the secret bad guy, the one who stands behind the machinery with a pair of wire cutters.
Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.