Up the Conflict Meter: Assume

You know what the say about assumptions.  They can get you into a lot of trouble.

This past weekend, DH and I attended Middle Son’s basketball games.  Friends of ours needed to finish a bit of last-minute shopping for a vacation, so we took their boys after the game.  In tow, we had four boys and one girl (5, 7, 9, 10 and 15), all blonde.

We took our crew out to eat on the way home.  When we finished our meal, the waitress–bless her poor heart–asked, “Will this be one or two checks?”

I suppose we looked very much like a family in the process of blending.  Masses of kids, close in age.  I’m sure it didn’t help that DH had his hand on my knee throughout lunch, or that neither of us wore wedding bands (his lost, mine getting fixed after knocking two diamonds loose).  Throw in the fact that the boys called us by first name a time or two and I’m quite certain the waitress felt confident in her assumption.

In life, these assumptions can be embarrassing.  In writing, they can be a gold mine of novel fodder.

What if I had been a jealous wife who thought my Hubby was cheating on me?  Imagine the scene this could have caused if I would have confonted him right there.

While in public, I try very hard to keep my what ifs to myself.  Yet, this doesn’t stop me from letting my imagination run wild on the page.  By letting my characters make assumptions based on limited facts, I often infuse my stories with unexpected conflict.

What off-track assumptions have you made in life?  Have you written any into your novels?

Curious minds want to know!




12 responses to “Up the Conflict Meter: Assume

  1. Ha, I’m thinking of the letter I opened during my first marriage, which was a paternity claim against my (then) husband, filed by health and welfare to collect child support. They hadn’t bothered to check any details (like social security or even his middle name) in comparison with the actual father, who shared his first and last names… If I’d been a jealous sort (or if I hadn’t already been aware of the guy running around town with a shared name), THAT one could have gotten explosive! 😉

  2. I can think of several examples where I have been the “recipient” of assumptions –
    In college I taught swim lessons in an urban area; most of my students were african-american. Many, many times I was asked by the kids “how many kids do you have? how old are they?” My answer of “I’m only 19 and I’m not married” was met with looks and responses that made it clear that my answer did not fit their assumptions about young women.

    • Oh yes. We bring so much of our experiences into our daily living that we think everyone else shares the same background. This kind of thing has taught me that there is unequivocally no such thing as common sense. Just life experiences of vastly different levels.

  3. I don’t do this with assumptions like what you describe, but my imagination always runs away with me in horrific ways. Maybe I should try to focus more on writing horror. LOL I once called highway patrol because my husband was over an hour late from when he told me he was leaving. I was sure there’d been an accident. No. He was talking with a colleague. For an HOUR. I imagine horrific scenarios for my kid all the time. Sometimes I wish I could stop. Or at least imagine happy endings, but that doesn’t seem to be my forte. If you ever meet a woman with a glazed, teary expression in the supermarket, that’s me. I’ve just daydreamed up another one.

    • Victoria,

      I am so much like you it scares me silly. I can’t not imagine horrifying things when my loved ones are away from me. Even a simple drive to school in the morning causes me a bit of what-if nightmares.

      I hope there’s a cure for this, because Eldest is going off to college this year and I can’t even begin to imagine what that will be like.

  4. Hee. I have fun with What Ifs. My husband will sometimes stare at me after I bring up a random, “What if all plants were carnivorous?” or “What if my fingernails grew so long they curled–you know, like that lady in the Guinness book of records?”

    I always have to wonder about everything. So do my characters. Nagging questions and crazy postulations truly are great novel fodder.

    Btw, you have a blog award to collect: http://innerowlet.blogspot.com/2011/12/be-all-end-all-interview.html

    • AM,

      I can just picture you and your wonderful what ifs. I’m sure it is part of the reason DH fell in love with you.

      Thanks for the award. I’ll collect my bling when I have a chance. Likely sometime into the new year, as I’ve been swamped beyond crazy lately.


  5. I feel awful about this one, but I assumed recently that someone I knew *MUST* be pregnant.

    I was sadly wrong. Apparently she’d just gotten super-festive right before the holidays and ate a little too much turkey and dressing.

    But dang..she did look preggo. I felt truly, truly awful about that one, and blamed my comment on the fact she was standing sorta slouchy and that the lighting wasn’t so good.

    • LOL. My DH made this mistake once and we’ve learned never, ever to repeat it.

      He asked a dude when his sister-in-law was due. She looked like she was six months pregnant. Seriously. Dude hung his head and said, “She just looks that way.”

      OOOOOPS. Never assume with that one.

  6. In my ms however, the wife is going to be actually on the right track and prematurely assume something (he’s cheating) and while she is wrong, she will be gaslighted into silence on the subject.

    He will make her think she is off her rocker. If you don’t know what gaslighting is, it’s a horrible form of mental trauma/abuse where you convince somebody that what they saw, thought, witnessed was not the reality. Cheaters do this alot.

    • Sounds like you’ve got this scenario all figured out. Sadly, I’ve known far too many people who are victims of this kind of mental brainwashing to not know what you’re talking about.

      Best luck cheating on your MC–and making her stronger for it.


  7. Kana,

    That’s too funny. Definitely a good thing you’re level headed and had the heads up on the dude.

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