Monday, April 03, 2006

Listing to Starboard/Motherboard

The problem with lists is their compulsive imperative.

One has to either cross off items or crumple the thing into the wastebasket.

So, I crave your indulgence.
I remember three more items from the list mentioned yesterday.

(2) Do your characters ever throw-up?
(3) Ever desperately need a bathroom?
(4) Pass out?

Throw up? As in hurl, vomit, spew, barf and all those other neat words?
Twelfth Century/night/Sockburn Keep:

"My lord! There's a man!...his brains are Draco's stall! His head's squashed like an egg!...Draco's trampling him!"

"Four," said Hugh quietly. "One went for the horses. To add to the confusion or for their own escape."

"I'd best go and quiet him so they can drag the body out," said Roger and moved. "Hugh?"

"Yes, my lord. I'll have a search made as soon as we can spare men from the fire. Go warily."

Damie walked away from them into the darkest corner she could find and proceeded to puke her guts up...

And (3) the delicate subject of facilities:

"Now where is your privy...your toilet...your loo..." She dredged up the word " your garderobe? I need it."

His face lightened. He grinned and gestured her toward a painted curtain hung decorously.

"In there, my good woman. If anything was needed to convince me you are real. That you have need of it."

You're lucky I haven't widdled all over your floor, Damie thought. You would have found that real enough...

HA! Two for two, today.


Tsavo Leone said...

Yep, I've had characters pay a visit to the vomitarium on at least one occasion... and had them utilise the various bathroom facilities available.

Indeed, I've also had characters lapse into unconsciousness (though there may have been physical intervention which precipitated said unconsciousness)...

Do I win a prize?

Tsavo Leone said...

And, since I wasn't about yesterday to comment, I have the male lead in my main WiP crying on a few occasions too.

After all, all four things are very human 'failings'. Providing the story calls for it, I don't see why characters shouldn't do the same things that you or I do on a (semi) regular basis.

Additionally: 5) Prepare and eat a meal...

Erik Ivan James said...

My novel protag vomits violently following his "up close & personal" witnessing of a politician shot in the head. He vomits violently again in a later chapter when he sees a TV news report on the incident.

Urgent bathroom need? Not so far, but it could work well in one of the chapters---thanks for the idea!

No "pass outs" so far.

Another good post.

Bernita said...

Not sure I want to know what kind of a meal your characters might prepare, Tsavo...It would probably be central to the plot, however....
Have been wondering if the point of that mostly forgotten "list" was a rant aginst too much avoidance, niceness in stories and if it was genre specific, and its objections quite out-of-date.
You're a prize and a winner in yourself, Tsavo.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik.

You know, the vomit reflex in that sort of situation is most severe the first time...and caused mostly by the smell, I believe, rather than the sight.

Sandra Ruttan said...

Does it count if you had a minor character pass out after being struck with a bowling ball in the head?

Not that I've written that. Just asking.

Bernita said...

Probably minor characters can be disposed of as in "fire at will." I suppose the "listor" meant major protags.

I'm extremely fond of blunt instruments myself.
Yes, indeedy.

kmfrontain said...

I've had a character need to go pee in a major way, enough that it interfered with his actions in a scene. But I tend to write stuff like that for humour. I had a prince go for a pee on a bush in the woods, and almost get trampled by a frightened pig.

Savannah Jordan said...

Loss of consciousness? Yup.
Retch? Yup.
Loo? Not yet.

I think you handled them brilliantly, Bernita. Dmie and John are waiting on my TRB list...

Bernita said...

Of course, there's the stories where our commando hero is snorkling the
leaf mould and gets pissed on by an unwary sentry or searcher.
Over-used now I think.

Like that, KM. Pigs make great characters. Something intrinsically funny or endearing about them.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Savannah. Don' your breath there.

There are those who wail "don't characters ever go to the BATHROOM?" and those who then feel compelled to write - as a result of such criticism - five pages saying "SEE, I know what a guarderobe/ bidet/commode/outhouse is! I've introduced REALITY"

It can't be gratituous, as Tsavo says.
Same with bathing.
My characters get really dirty though.

Savannah Jordan said...

Bathing... ah yes. Well as we've seen in my blog, I like a good cleansing scene. :) Keep this talk up and people will be looking for 'bathtub' sex again... *wink*

But, seriously, I think some aspects of reality can be left out of books.

Dennie McDonald said...

I've had them pass out - in just about every book - but not all - and it's always the heroine - I think it makes the hero more vulnerable to have to deal with her and whatever put her there!

I have passed out many times ~ MANY ~ in my life (low blood sugar - mind out of the bottle folks!) so that's one of those carry over into your writing moments - and it also makes the one going under vulnerable too - so double whammy!

alexandra said...

At least somewhere in all my novels I have characters go through the 'motions' and, as sometimes happens, I also make sure someone at least has a chance to throw up, barff, puck into the porcelain god! ;-)

I even have one poor character in 'ELEMENTAL' who literally loses her skin to a demon. Well, he was hungry.

Sela Carsen said...

I've had one pass out before. She got shot. I hate the "I'm going to wait until a convenient time before I let go of consciousness" scenes. Seems to me that fainting would happen at the most INconvenient moments.

They've also showered and visited the restroom.

Bernita said...

They can be a great read, Savannah, like yours, but I can't identify with the heroine, remembering the time I fell flat on my behind.
But I strongly agree that every function need not be detailed.Save it for the interesting ones.

Personal experiences and perspectives certainly influence our choices, Dennie. Passing out is NOT nice or pleasant, in my rare experience. That often gets glossed over.
Always thought it made the hero irritable to have a limp female on his hands - great potential for more problems the pair must overcome.

Bernita said...

Somehow I didn't expect your characters to produce bland effusions, Alexandra.

Exactly, Sela!
We prefer the cause to be sufficiently strong enough to produce the effect and consistent with the character.
~checking ms. and wondering, hmmm~

Rick said...

Yeah, make me feel guilty. I don't have any of those three. A lady in waiting has to gulp it back when she comes upon a dead fortuneteller, but gulp it back she does.

As for the garderobe, I try to avoid even thinking about the nonexistence of toilet paper, since reflecting on that fact takes all the fun out of the 16th century.

Bernita said...

Mullein leaves, in season are nice and soft and known to be mildly anteseptic,Rick - but the most off-putting thing was the description of the special little tool.
Gave an entirely new meaning to "shit on a stick."

Carla said...

I take it the 'special little tool' wasn't the Roman sponge on a stick? The environmental study on the York sewer sediments reported hundreds and hundreds of sponge spicules, from species that don't occur anywhere near Britain - so somebody must have been shipping the things in in sizeable quantity. There's attention to detail in military logistics. Up in Caledonia it appears the fort garrisons didn't get pampered with suchlike home comforts and the drains there are full of sphagnum moss instead.

Bernita said...

I think the medieval form was called a gompf, a scraper - without the sponges.
Apparently hay balls and assorted rag bits, as well as sheep's wool was also used.

Gabriele C. said...

Lol, I should sent Horatius on the loo and have him complain that he doesn't get decent sponges but only some friggin' moss in that bloody wilderness.

But only if it fits the story, and I doubt it. The way I structure my plots doesn't include 'domestic' scenes for the scenery alone - thogh it is something that can work in hist fic. (Scarrow starts Under the Eagle with a latrine scene, and it works fine for his book.)

Now, Roman baths is another matter. Ask Idamantes and Vinicius. :)

My characters don't vomit at the sight of something disgusting, that would be unrealistic. The men are used to battlefields, Tiberia is a physician and Morait has grown up breaking up animals and such. In case Julia should ever see something that could make her vomit, I'll probably forget to include that detail because my own tolerance level is pretty high.

Bernita said...

Yup, Gabriele.
That's a neat thing about the sponges though.
Not every one faints at the sight of blood or throws up at the sight of a body - or not on all occasions and in all conditions.
My husband once cut his thigh open with a skiel saw when I was about 8 months pregnant.Just missed his femoral artery.
I threw him a towel, told him to lie down before he fell down and called a neighbour to drive us to hospital. The neighbour was much more excited than I could manage, arriving with his shoes on the wrong feet, etc. Protective hormones I assume.

Jay said...

Nothing makes a character come alive like bodily fluids .:)

Bernita said...

True, but hay fever, the common cold and diarrhea are difficult to make exciting or even interesting.

Shesawriter said...

I have a winning toilet scene with the heroine losing everything but a kidney. ;-)

Bernita said...

All I could say to that is...WOW!

ali said...

Hahaha. I love the second extract.

That's the problem with bodily fluid scenes. Unless it's funny, or something else more dramatic is going on, they're boring. I don't need to read about someone going to the toilet, I can do it.

Candice Gilmer said...

Crying -- yep
throw up -- yep
potty break? -- Yep
Pass out -- yep

I have a character that's done all of the above, in some version or another. In one story, my big, hunky FBI guy breaks down crying when his partner dies. Throw up? My heroine in the same book does just that, because of torture, etc, as well as pass out. And there might actually be a potty scene with her as well.

So I hit on everything, but it depends on the character's need, or their reaction. I have to say, the characters react to things in believeable ways (I think) which makes it easier for the reader to bond with themt.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I can't even think the word without reflexively gagging...sorry, weak stomach. I would never put my character in that or I'd probably hurl writing the scene.

And the christian fiction unless it it paramount to the plot....pick another place!

kmfrontain said...

Ah! Hayfever, or cat allergies. I have a great scene for that one, a guy who sneezed through a videotaped interview because of his cat allergy. His face was in kleenex constantly. And I made a big deal about the noise and the action of sneezing, while all this was being taped for TV. But again, I used it for humour. A pulled on my own experience with allergies for that scene. That one was actually fun to write. Cathartic, I suppose.

December Quinn said...

My Hero in the work you saw a little of passes out on a few occasions, and throws up and cries all at once. It's funny, because I was worried about that scene making him too vulnerable (when we finally see his vulnerabilities) but all my readers said no, it works. Which is good, cuz I love that scene. :-)

Bernita said...

Yep, you all seem to agree, as Ali says, if it's funny(KM) or dramatic/has a dramatic cause( Candice, December), ie. plot (Bonnie) the functions function.
No icks, just natural and realistic.

Lady M said...


Bathroom sex? Did she say that?


Yeah - a lot do - but I really tend to stay away from mundane expressions or activities...

Like details - I don't describe the act of wiping... etc. LOL!

There was one book I read where the girl talked about her feminine hygiene products - in graphic detail - and I can't remember what book it was or I'd "plug" it here (pun intended). But I do remember thinking - now - that was something I did NOT need to know. Yanno?

So too much is too much. I think maybe a careful consideration... what you could say to your friends type of thing - or what you wouldn't want to hear yourself might not be a good idea to write. LOL!

Hugs B

Lady M

jamie ford said...

That's a very interesting question. My answer would be almost, no, and no. Man, my protagonist must really have to go...

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