Misunderstandings are another stock-in-hand strategy by which we make sure our stories don’t end a page or two after they start. And boy, can they be true to life! How often do we make assumptions about what someone else means, or thinks, or has done—and then act on that assumption without bothering to check the facts.
Post a piece from your work-in-progress that shows a misunderstanding (either in progress or ending). Somewhere around nine lines (mine is longer this week). And please share so that other people can enjoy your extract and those of other guests.
My characters tend to talk to each other when any reasonable person would, so if a misunderstanding is to continue, I need the characters to have evidence that they don’t believe they need to check, or I need outside circumstances to prevent them from asking the question that would clear everything up. Or I clear the misunderstanding immediately and use it to bring my characters closer.
The piece I’m posting comes from the end of Kidnapped to Freedom, which will appear next month in Hand-Turned Tales. My heroine has just realised that the privateer captain who rescued her is the boy she loved thirteen years ago.
As she crossed back to the rail, adding up all the little clues she’d noticed this past week without being aware of them, he came from below and made a straight line for her.
“Good evening, Mrs Morien.” The slight husk in his voice had been turning her knees to water all week. Quickly, before her fears choked the words in her throat, she said, “Finn, when are you going to take off the mask?”
The captain went completely still. Then, slowly, he raised his hands to the back of his head, fumbled with the strings of the mask, and let it fall into one hand.
A man changes a great deal between seventeen and twenty-nine. She knew him though. She should have known him a week ago, by his eyes alone. She clamped firmly down on the hurt that he’d felt the need to hide from her. He owed her nothing. She owed him everything. He had saved her brother and sister. He was in the process of saving her and her children. He clearly wanted not to acknowledge her, and he had every right.
“You do not need to wear the mask,” she told him. “I understand. I have no claim on you and I will not be a nuisance.” She made to pass him, but he put out a hand to stop her.
“No, Mrs Moriel… Phoebe. No, that isn’t it at all. I was… The Blakes have done so much wrong to you, to your family. You must hate us all, especially me. I don’t blame you. I left you in that place. I knew what Chan was like, and I walked away. I wore the mask to make you more comfortable. No. That isn’t true. I just didn’t want to see your eyes when you rejected me. You stay here. Enjoy the fine evening for a while longer. I’ll go.”
She was so stunned that he was halfway to the hatch before she found her voice. “I don’t hate you, Finn. I don’t blame you.”
“I blame myself.”