Emotional Detours force your character to change a belief, prejudice, or opinion when your character meets evidence that challenges it. The detour can change his mind, reinforce his theory, or alter it slightly.
First example: Dick had a troubled childhood. He and his dad didn’t get along. His dad was always on the road. When he was home, he wasn’t much interested in Dick. They never spent time together. Dick enters the military and his mom dies. He sees no reason to stay in touch with the old man. After all, dear old Dad was never around when they needed him. Dick refuses to visit even when his dad is critically ill. Then Dad dies and Dick is forced to go home and clear out the house so he can sell it. Dick finds evidence that his dad was in fact a spy in possession of a secret the government would kill to keep. As Dick takes a detour to hunt down the truth, he comes to terms with the fact that his memories weren’t entirely accurate and his assumptions about his dad’s behavior were wrong. Did that make his dad “Father of the Year?” No, but the detour explained why.
Second example: Jane is against genetic testing and manipulation. It is playing God. Then Jane’s child is born with a disease that only stem cell therapy can cure. Jane must take a detour to research ways to save her daughter. What she learns can either reinforce her initial belief that playing God is wrong, even if it means her daughter dies. She can decide that it isn’t evil after all and stem cell therapy can do great good. She can come to terms with the nuances that anything can be used for good or evil.
Third example: Sally hates Venusians and everything about their culture. She is furious when she is sent by her employer to work in Venusia. Sally’s prejudice makes her prickly and uncooperative. As Sally lives and works in Venusia, she learns Venusians are just as diverse as humans. Some are good. Some are bad. Most are in the middle: simple, hardworking beings who live and love and want to provide for their families. Alternatively, she could decide that Venusian society is like arsenic, poisoning everyone who comes into contact with it and contamination is inevitable if you stay there long enough.
As the detour comes to an end, your character will have been tested. His belief will be intact, altered, or overturned. Along the way, your reader will learn something from the exploration of the thematic message at the heart of your tale.
Posted by Diana Hurwitz