When you're bringing home a fish from the store and introducing it to your tank, the best thing to do is let the new bag o' fish sit in the existing aquarium for a while, THEN dump the new fish in. That way they don't flip over and die of new water shock right then and there.(Or something like that.)
The last few days in Japan, we've had the opportunity to acclimate via bag, i.e. spending time on a Navy base (little America, pretty much) and venturing out into the city as needed/desired. I'm a new fish in an old tank, but I'm doing really well. No stress, no freak outs, no nothing. And coming from me, the queen of random stressy freak-outs? That's saying a LOT.
So, let's direct this back to writing. A lot of times, our plot may tend towards a classic "fish-out-of-water" story, or at least a "fish-in-a-new-tank" story. How do you ease your character into his new tank? Do you let him sit and acclimate slowly? Or do you dump him in without warning? Does he die of new water shock? (I think I made that up) Or does he adapt and survive?
If you ARE letting him acclimate slowly to the new world (maybe having a helpful guide tell him what everything is, things neatly labeled, I don't know) what other sources of conflict are out there threatening him? Push those stakes a little higher. Does this kid REALLY need an all-knowing guide?
There's a reason Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda die (oops...spoiler alert?). There's a reason Marty can't find Doc Brown during those REALLY important moments. And there's a reason you shouldn't let your main characters sit in a pet store bag for fifteen minutes before dumping him in new water. It may be relaxing and stress free for someone moving overseas, but since when did anyone want to read a book where the main character leads a delightful and stress free life?
Sigh. After writing this, I realize I've got fifteen metaphorical minutes to cut out of my latest WIP. If you'll excuse me...
How's your little fish out of water doing?
P.S. You have 24 more hours to enter MY CONTEST and your odds are VERY GOOD! Stop by and comment and win a prize pack from Japan! (THE PEN, DEAR MOTHER, THE PEN!)