First up, my apologies for spacing last week. I am a creature of habit and when my routines get disrupted I forget things. I forget things anyway, but if I don’t have a normal whateverdayitis, the chances of me remembering whatever I’m supposed to do on that day take a rather sharp nosedive.
I’ve got any number of little reminder routines set up to keep me from forgetting everything and meandering off into the sunset in an absent-minded haze, but disrupt them in any way and… oooh. What a pretty sunset.
So of course my apology begins with what is probably the single most terrifying word in the English language.
When that word is spoken, you know something has gone horribly wrong. Precisely how horribly depends on context, of course, but it’s certainly not a word you want to hear in, say, a nuclear reactor. Or anywhere else that deals with critical functions that can go horribly and lethally wrong.
Which of course is why as a writer, someone is going to wind up with a reason to say “Oops” when the situation is at its most tense and the slightest wrong move could cost your protagonists their lives.
A well-placed “oops” can also be used to let in some comic relief. A little bit of slapstick, or even a near miss can be an excuse for some laughter, whether it be your characters having a bit of a nervous giggle before moving on or your readers rolling on the floor laughing at the bizarre but totally understandable escalation of events.
Pratchett managed the latter beautifully with the start of the bar brawl in Color of Magic, where a string of small actions leads to a whole lot of people doing everything in their power to kill each other – humorously, of course, Pterry being the genius he was. If I had the time to dig the quote up, I would, but alas, as I write it has more than passed my bedtime, so I’d best sign off and schedule this to post in the morning.