Give your protagonist two equally unacceptable choices, then step back and let the story unfold by itself.
Pete’s 1st Dilemma: In his rubber dinghy, Pete Pig floats up to an isolated island to learn that it’s already inhabited. Although he hasn’t had food for days, and there appears to be vegetation on the island for him to eat (the man’s easily accessible kilt for one), Pete knows by the look of the man standing there, that the man could be just as hungry as he is. Pete is pork. Pete is food.
Which holds the greater risk? The sea? Or the island?
Isaac’s 1st Dilemma: Isaac is sick of eating coconuts and hasn’t been able to catch any fish. He is getting weaker and weaker. He needs protein and a good bit of protein has just washed up onto shore in a rubber dinghy. However, this protein is in the form of pork and because Isaac is a Jew, he does not eat pork.
And on top of that, he’s a rabbi and even if there is no one else on the island to give good example to, he must follow his conscience. Although, he reminds himself, there are times when laws may be broken to save a life, even one’s own.
Is this one of those times? Or not?
Pete’s 2nd Dilemma: If Pete chooses to go ashore and the man attacks Pete and he has to kill the man in self-defence, who will climb the tree to get the leaves for Pete to eat? How often do coconuts fall off on their own? Who will crack open the coconuts for Pete to get at the water inside them?
If the man attacks and Pete kills him, Pete’s dead. If Pete doesn’t defend himself, he’s dead.
Isaac’s 2nd Dilemma: Isaac is aware that pigs are omnivores. He’s heard stories about pigs eating human flesh. This pig looks strong enough —and hungry enough — to overwhelm Isaac.
If Isaac is forced to kill the pig in self-defence, it would be a waste of food if he didn’t consume the flesh — so he might as well kill the pig immediately, just in case. But what if it’s a tame pig? Not dangerous? What if he could turn it into a pet? A companion. G_d knows it’s lonely here without having a guilty conscience on top of everything else.
Should Isaac allow the pig to come ashore? Or not?
Pete’s 3rd Dilemma: When Pete takes a closer look at the man and sees the yarmulke and sidelocks, he relaxes somewhat. If Pete is right, and the man is a Jew, Pete most likely will not be on the menu.
We can develop a friendship in that case, decides Pete. Work together. I’m the one with the raft after all. I have fishing gear but no opposable thumbs to use it.
However … He might not want to cook me up for food, but I’d make great bait to fish with. I’d also make a great signal for passing ships if he set me on fire … with the matches hidden in my little boat here.
Do I reveal everything all at once? Or a little at a time. Maybe keep the matches hidden for now?
Isaac’s 3rd Dilemma: Once Isaac turns the pig into his pet, and teaches him some obedience lessons, maybe the pig would allow him to carve off one of its legs with the clam shell Isaac’s been using as a knife. This would provide a bit of food. But Isaac knows that would be causing great pain to a living being and this is something he cannot do. And how would I stop the bleeding anyway? I might as well kill him immediately … But that wouldn’t be right.
Then Isaac wonders how many coconuts and leaves the pig would eat in a day. Can this island sustain the two of them? Isaac has seen a first aid kit tucked into a far corner of the pig’s little raft and what looks like a fishing kit in the other. If the pig comes ashore, they can both obtain sustenance from fish and clams and seaweed.
Should Isaac take the chance? Or not?
Next post: Cure Laryngitis — Use your own Voice
Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them: http://www.amazon.com/Really-Stupid-Writing-Mistakes-Avoid/dp/1479308226
… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction): http://www.amazon.com/Death-lAcadie-Kesk8a-Sherrill-Wark/dp/1511501154/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8