Allow the unexpected to happen

characters sometimes grab the bit between their teeth and take off in directions you didn't expect - and if you aren't a horseman, this image doesn't convey much of raw power or raw terror to you, so I'm going to give you a story from my personal experience. I was thirteen. I had a horse - my parents got him for me from one of those kids' camps that has horses over the summer and looks for places to board them over the winter. He was mine for a season, and while he was mine, I loved him dearly.

He and I went out riding on a bitterly cold Ohio afternoon, when the sky was a frozen white blue and the glare on the patchy snow shot like lasers into my eyes. He was skittish, my mind was on the way the breath curled from his nostrils and the busy twitching of his ears, and when two pheasants blasted out of a snow bank on the dirt

Holly Lisle side road we were travelling along, neither of us was prepared. He grabbed the bit in his teeth, preventing me from slowing him down or stopping him by sawing on the reins, and took off at a bucking gallop down the dirt road. He didn't stop until he hit a paved road . . . and the only reason he stopped then was because his hooves went out from under him and he went down and I jumped off fast enough to save myself from being crushed or breaking a leg. But I landed on my left knee and still have a hell of a scar from it. I was scared to death. We got off the highway with the help of a lady who lived on that corner out in the country and who had apparently seen us. We didn't get run over.

But I found out what it's like to be on the back of a thousand pounds of racing, kicking, panicking animal with no way to steer and no idea of what is going to happen next. It's a shitty feeling.

But it makes a great story.

And you're in this for the story, not for how good you feel while you write it. When your character grabs the bit in his teeth, give him his head. Let him run. Trust him not to get the two of you killed. Maybe you'll end up someplace grand, and if you don't, at least you'll have had one hell of a ride.

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