Three weeks ago, on a fine Sunday morning, I was taking my daily 45-minute walk. Along the way, I thought about life, resolved issues, organized my day, and pondered writing. Forty minutes in, I spotted two men walking. One was traveling backward while holding a baseball bat while the other yelled incoherent remarks. The man with the baseball bat saw me and told me to be a witness. This episode was very far out of place for my neighborhood and certainly not how I expected my morning to go.
They continued to argue, and then a car drove up. The driver moved his vehicle to allow the dash camera to record the incident. The argument became heated, and the one man threw a rock at the man with the bat. This gesture tipped the fragile truce, and the two began trading blows. As the fight raged, the man with the car took away the bat. The fight ended with the man with the bat in a chokehold.
I called the police (several people had also phoned them) and asked for an ambulance. The police came, arrested the incoherent man, and questioned everybody. (Side note: The ambulance never arrived.)
Because I was a witness, I waited to give my statement. In the interim, I spoke with the man with the bat and car driver. The incident began with the incoherent man (who was probably homeless and on drugs) attacking a female jogger and scaring three boys. A jogger called her husband, who grabbed a bat to go after the guy. The car driver was the father of the three boys. The event concluded with the police arresting the homeless man, but I was unsure if they arrested the man with the bat.
I thought about this experience for a while before blogging about it. We all made many bad decisions. The question is: Why were the four of us not thinking clearly? It occurred to me we were all under the influence of adrenalin. Our adrenal glands release this hormone when our body senses a threat or the need to achieve extraordinary physical effort. Besides giving us strength, adrenalin clouds our judgment and forces us to make quick decisions.
Let's examine the players starting with incoherent man. He probably took too many drugs and had preexisting mental issues. The guy saw a jogger and, in his drug-induced delusion, tried to get a date with her. When she refused, he became upset and went after her. Because his efforts were unsuccessful, he verbally took out his stress on some boys.
When the incoherent man got confronted by a guy with a bat, his adrenalin kicked in, and then the grave decisions started. His biggest mistake was attacking a person with a bat. The adrenalin clouded his judgment into thinking he could withstand the blow from a bat. (This was true, but luck could have favored the other man, and he received a fatal blow.) The correct course of action should have been to enjoy being high and leave the jogger alone.
The man with the bat was having a relaxed breakfast and then got a call from his wife. She was under attack. This information sent him into a rage, and the adrenalin flowed like a river. From that moment on, his mind was in a different place. He grabbed a bat and jumped into his car. This adrenalin-fueled decision was a life-altering event. The correct course of action should have been to protect his wife from further attack while calling the police. Confronting a person who was not a danger was a colossal mistake.
The car driver thought defensively and logically. Adrenalin forced him to protect himself and record the incident. The correct course of action should have been to put more effort into defusing the situation.
I forced myself to stay at a distance and monitor my surroundings. I did not protect the man with the bat, defuse the situation, or record the incident on my phone. I was heavily under the influence of adrenalin and made four poor decisions.
My blogs have had a common theme, and this is the point where I ask myself, "what does this have to do with writing?" Yes, there is a tie-in. This situation was far from what we see in the news, movies, or writing. Overall, the event was messy, illogical, scary, and chaotic. I could even describe the violence as comical. My summary would be, "There was no reason for this crazy fight."
Everybody is used to organized incidents in print and media. Bruce Lee makes a quick jab with “expert timing.” Indiana Jones fights his way out of captivity. Both superstars use calm intelligence and make brilliant decisions. Their mistakes contain comedic value, and viewers clearly understood the action. The only place for adrenalin is to create a more powerful punch.
What about the bad guy? He goes down on the first punch because adrenalin is not present to convince him to stand back up and fight.
Should I have expected an epic battle scene? Did somebody expect me to carry my six-shooter and deal out some western justice? Yes! Because that is how epic stores and movies play out. However, we know films and books are positive reflections of reality, and adrenalin has no place.
This incident gave me a lot to think about, and I will incorporate more chaos into my stories. However, I will have to keep in mind that readers are not expecting adrenalin-fueled rages that make little sense. Therefore, I will have to explain to readers that the character’s bodies released a massive amount of adrenalin. Would my readers understand, or is that the adrenalin talking?
You’re the best -Bill
April 07, 2021
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