I had an Aha Moment!
They don't happen all the time, but when they do I look at them as a gift from the Gods. Because usually, if I'm alert enough to pick up on the intention, then there is something very crucial in what it has to offer.
I was rewatching Anthony Bourdain's show, the episode where he and his film crew get caught in Beirut, Lebanon during a time of crisis. If you haven't seen this episode then I suggest you find it and watch it. It's worth it. For anyone is of the same approximate age as myself (and you will have to guess what it is) then you remember the bombing in Beirut and the hostage crisis. If you don't remember it, or you need a refresher... check out the Jimmy Carter Library online.
Tony and his crew were faced with some brutally realistic circumstances as they overlooked the unfolding drama from a hotel patio, high above. They had gone there to film an episode on food and instead, found themselves embroiled in an International incident. As the days wear on and their hopes begin to dwindle, they compare themselves to those living in the middle of the chaos. Tony mentions that for those living in the streets they begin to become resigned, almost numb to what was so close. There is a startling reality in that.
They got some rather ominous words of advice:
Don't do things regularly -- it only makes it easy for you become a target.
At only takes 3 days to plan a kidnapping.
Quick Clot can save you if you get shot in a femoral artery.
There is a scene where Tony is given access to the kitchen to cook a meal.
And it is out of this... that I realized was missing from my story... was that in times of continued chaos and threat, we revert to our most basic functions to give us some sort of normalcy. When everything around us can't be controlled, we revert to controlling that one simple thing that we can.
As suspense writers we are taught to keep the level of tension high. But it's those moments, those scenes that are most humanizing. We are how we react to those situations. We are taught to have characteristics that will endear to our readers. But there is something more... we need to have our readers identify... to see themselves reflected in our story.