Like yesterday in theatre class, a bright-eyed eighteen-year-old turned around from a couple rows in front to ask me and another forty-something person I sat with (a close friend, btw), "so, how does it feel to be an older student?"
It did take us back a bit. Was our age so obvious? My friend and I later speculated about this and blamed each other for drawing attention. I said it's his fault - - what do you expect when you don't dye your gray hair? "Your roots are showing, too," he snapped back. True, they are. (Yes, we are close friends -- *ah, hem* old high school friends, in fact, from that by-gone era known as the 80's.)
I think I responded to the question with some lame "different priorities" stuff (ever notice how the most important things always sound lame in short answer?), and my friend gave a direct "it sucks" answer. He didn't mean that. Not really. But both of us had a lot of "background" in our answers that couldn't be summed up in a one-minute, on-the-spot answer. My friend's background I knew was a sleepless night spent at a hospital when one of his kids had an asthma attack. Yes, different priorities and responsibilities that don't get translated in "it sucks." Our actual answers to the question, in fact, probably left the poor girl convinced the "older generation" (anyone over 30) are just strange. LOL
But it occurs to me that this "how does it feel" question has a lot of use for character development in writing. What might you learn if you ask your character a "how does it feel" question that seems:
- too obvious to ask;
- puts them off guard;
- also could be insensitive;
- too complicated - consider the "short answer" to a stranger and the "background"
Be specific. Be insensitive. Ask the hard question you wonder how a reporter gets the nerve up to ask a stranger and then be the empathetic friend to your character. What hard "how does it feel" questions would you ask?