I woke up this morning feeling wretched. My eyes were crusty, and it felt like someone had poured glue in my mouth while I slept. I was sore all over, and cold despite a heap of blankets. And yet, as they say, the beat goes on. Life continued happening around me even though all I wanted to do was curl up in a corner and hide. Children still were dressed and fed, work still got done, and, of course—coffee still got poured. Okay, not gonna lie. That happened first.
A story is no different. Characters face difficult, even crippling, situations, and yet their reality still continues, steadily marching the plot along and pulling them, kicking and screaming, perhaps, with it.
This is one of the things I particularly enjoy in a story. Putting yourself in your character’s shoes, imagining how you would feel if it were you dealing with a loss, or an injury, or a terrible choice. Time will keep moving, regardless of what’s happened. How do your characters cope? Denial? Reckless behavior? A new sense of purpose? A change of heart?
But sometimes, imagining what you yourself would feel (or hope to feel) is not the answer. You are not your character, after all. Are your personalities similar? If every character in your story resembles yourself, you may want to go back and try again. There are infinite types of personalities out there, and if everyone were the same it would most likely make for rather a dull read. Not only is it an important decision figuring out how you would have them proceed, but it’s equally important that it’s fitting given everything your reader knows about this character. In order for their reaction to this cataclysmic event to be believable, you must have a strong base that would suggest that this is, indeed, a plausible response. As you write, explore the options and be open minded. You don’t want to end up defending a weak response later on.