Let me set the stage for you. Wintertime in New England. A gravel walkway, preventing us from ever completely clearing the snow. An abnormally fluctuating temperature, beginning a cycle of melting and freezing of that walkway snow. Then, a freakishly warm night and morning, complete with a rain storm. Now the walkway is covered by an inch of snow, two inches of ice, and an inch of water. Perhaps the slickest surface on all of Mother Earth.
But. We're not ready to brave that front walkway yet. Just know, it's out there, waiting. No, first we have to make ourselves very late for our walk to school. We have forgotten a museum field trip for Superman, and now, upon remembering, have to repack his lunch in only disposable containers. Then, we fix him his second breakfast. You see, Superman lost weight in the fall from a bout of swine flu (yes, really!), and so now we feed him all sorts of fatty foods at every turn. This morning, a burrito. Which he eats from the end of a fork. Meat on a stick. For breakfast. Yum.
Now, time to race out onto the front walkway. Does this sound like a good idea? Racing out onto the slickest surface on the face of the earth? Well, hindsight is twenty-twenty. But in the brain of a mom, trying to get her kids out to school (and a field trip) on time, the 'hurry' synaptic connection is the only one firing.
So, we race out, supporting Superman by the back of his jacket, and we slide across that skating rink. Superman loses his balance. His feet fly out. His hands jerk back. His feet slide back to support him. He doesn't fall (he's Superman, after all). But the burrito flies from the fork. Splits in mid air. And lands squarely on my head.
Erica talked about this a few weeks ago at her blog. No--not burritos in the face. But the Perfect Storm. The perfect intersection of circumstance, personality, and past that makes your novel ripe to happen.
The set-up for me to be standing in my front yard, burrito meat dripping down my face, and watching my neighbors walk past, trotting their kids off to school, was indeed, a perfect storm.
Things that conspired against me that morning:
The physical landscape.
My son's earlier illness.
My switch to writing in the morning, which made us a few minutes behind our normal schedule.
My son's field trip plans that day, which which made us even later.
My son's sensory quirks, which makes him someone who wants to eat his burrito on a fork.
My mommy personality which makes me want to protect my son from falling on the ice.
What conspires against your characters, until they have burrito on their faces?