Toothbrushes & Characters & Questions

A woman approaches the registration desk of a hotel and asks the employee for two toothbrushes. The woman is approaching middle age, with middle-brown hair, of middle height, wearing an expression that is in the middle area between cordial and private. She avoids eye contact. She does not want to add commentary about this packing oversight.
Is she silently blaming someone?
Is she disgusted that she forgot them?
Does she have twins who left them in the restroom at Wendy’s during the lunch stop on the way to the beach from central Pennsylvania?
Does she resent that she has to take care of this errand?

It occurs to me that this tiny moment is a good one to add to the list of back-story questions for characters. How would a character behave in this situation and why? Would the behavior change during the course of the character’s development and why? How could such a moment be used to signal attributes of a character?

Some moments generate more questions than answers, but I’ve always liked questions better.


About Carolyn

I live in Washington, D.C., write, teach, try to eat the requisite fruits and veggies daily, and avoid caffeine after 2 pm. I wonder about things a lot -- like why "pretty" means "pretty" and "not so much" and if I can ever perfect the single-portion, no-knead, daily baguette and how many people realize that Beau Brummel had a lot to do with our desire to bathe daily -- those of us who do in fact "take the daily."
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