Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Disrobe and Dat

Tomasz Rut,
giclee on paper and canvas.

I spend a lot of time on the first chapter of a WIP.

Not only because those pages are the first any agent will see when they ask for a partial - that anxiety comes later - but because the details, the nuances, the voice, the inflexions, reflexions and reflections, are the foundation for the entire novel.

And many decisions have to be made about what, superficially, is very minor stuff.

In A Malignity of Ghosts, my main character is surprised in her bathroom by the zombie of her recently dead husband.

Right now I'm dithering over whether to have her take that interrupted bath in the same bathroom - after she cleans up the mess - or re-arrange the floor plan and install a downstairs shower.

Showers are closed-in cubicles and therefore psychologically adverse.

On the other hand, I don't want readers to go squick-squick-squick over her bathing in the same room where she dissolved him.

So right now I'm hanging like a bathrobe.
Anyone else get hung up on decisions like these?


Bailey Stewart said...

I was going to respond, but I couldn't decide what to say ... so, I guess the answer is "yes". *gg*

Carla said...

Well, if she calmly took a bath in the same room that would say something about her character, relationship with her husband, and her certainty (or otherwise) that he was really gone this time. If she avoided the room by taking a shower downstairs, that also says something about all of the above, but different things. So either could work, but would likely take character (and therefore story) in different directions.

Bernita said...

Very safe, Bailey!

Not "calmly," Carla!
But I lean toward that. The other is second guessing, of a sort.

Ric said...

We ALL get hung up on these things. And, as you correctly point out, the decisions made now affect whether the agent reads past the first five pages.

If she calmly continues with her bath, the reader will go, "Wow, this girl has a set of lead balls!" Sets up a no nonsense, no prisoners taken persona.

If she scurries out, locks the door never to return, it says something totally different (and, IMHO, just another wimpy female).

Carla has it right. All depends on what you envision the heroine doing when confronted with the zombie of Uncle Buck.

Amy Lavender Harris said...

Oh yes, the same bathroom, please! If it's going to be macabre, I like it dark.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ric. The male POV is then, that to avoid the site would cement a whimpy impression.

So it wouldn't be a turn-off to you either, Amy!

writtenwyrdd said...

WEll, the way I see it, you could use her choice to illustrate her character. If she squicks easily, I'd go for the shower because it has enclosed walls that would imply protection. If she is intrepid, doughty, callous, or doesn't give a shit about hubby anyhow, you can play that element up by using the original bathroom scene.

For example, if she just sweeps him into a pile "I have to hoover later, anyhow; I'll get to the old jerk then" we learn something about her.

Anyhow, I'll be interested in seeing what you decide upon.

And I agree that these are not minor details in the first chapter.

Sam said...

Write what you feel is best - some readers will squick over anything, lol.
Don't think so much about 'what will the reader think', just write what YOU think. I think. Right?
OK, don't listen to me, I'm in-between books and have NO idea what to do now.

Bernita said...

I think of shower walls as preventing her from seeing what might leap out at her next, as a sort of trap, Written.
I see our minds work on parallel practicalities - because yes, she does sweep him up!
I think, definitely she'll use the tub, though writers may be more hardcase than the average reader, no one has gone eeuuu yet.

Bernita said...

That's really good advice, Sam. Thank you.

S. W. Vaughn said...

Oooh, squicky is good. I likes a good squick, I does.

When you're done and ready to query, you should send it to Evil Editor. He likes zombies. :-)

I experience indecision all the time. I think. Don't I?

Jaye Wells said...

I spent about half and hour yesterday trying to decide if catnip could work on a cat/demon. Does that count?

Bernita said...

It's the Librian curse, Sonya. We like balance.

Definitely, Jaye. I like that and it grows wild.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Yea... I know how something like that can stump you...it sets the whole tone for the rest of the story.

How does she take the dissolution? Does it frighten her? Is she pragmatic about it? Disgusted?

I think knowing how she feels will tell you the rest.

Like if it didn't bother her...she could be cracking jokes like, "Away goes trouble, down the drain...Rotorooter"

In case they don't have Rotorooter in Canada, that's a jingle for a drain unclogging company.

writtenwyrdd said...

Even better, she can sell hubby's ashy remains on Ebay or something as a spell supply. Squicky enough?

Seriously, do what you think gives the proper picture of your character. That response serves well in lieu of backstory about the relationship. Did she kill him? Do you want to imply she might have? Well, this response to where to continue the ablutions might just give the reader all you want in the way of information or red herring...

Bernita said...

She's basically a pragmatic person,Bonnie, and she's going to meet a character called Rhoda Tiller.

Ah, red herring. I do want to imply that.I want to leave that question up in the air for a while, Written, just as I want his character to be revealed slowly too. Thank you.

raine said...

Agree that her decision would reflect her character.
Not sure I agree that avoiding a bath there immediately after destroying her late husband would make her a wimp--I mean, really now...
If she's accustomed to such things happening, or she's gonna be a total bad-ass, she'd go on with her plans, yes.
But there's nothing wrong with our superheroes/heroines having a little human weakness either.

Oh, and yes--it's a CONSTANT decision-making process.

Bernita said...

That's why I have dithered, Raine. She's not a total hardass, she has vulnerabilities. I think I'll just have it the only bathing facility in the house.

Carla said...

"Even better, she can sell hubby's ashy remains on Ebay or something as a spell supply. Squicky enough?"

This reminds me of an incident in a Bernard Cornwell novel where a queen is burned to death for adultery and a priestess/sorceress scolds one of the executioners for not bringing her the ashes for use in spells. Pre-dates Ebay, but the same sort of thing.

Bernita said...

Hmmm, the ashes of a felon's heart, etc., was often a component of spells and/or ointments in various magicks.
With that in mind, I had best be careful about her disposal of same.

writtenwyrdd said...

Even better, for humorous effect you could have a character sell the ashes and accidentally include some of their own dna/ hair/ blood/ nail filings (whatever) and so when they are used in some ritual, all hell breaks loose. Literally. Hah.

Man, I really love these sorts of what if discussions.

December Quinn said...

Oooh, writtenwyrdd, what a great idea!

I agree. She seemed like the clean-up-and-have-her-bath type to me.

Bernita said...

I do too, Written!
~wondering about a way I can tweak that idea~
After all, someone is out to get her.

That's the way I saw her in the beginning, December, scared, but tough.

writtenwyrdd said...

Evil Magus: What? You mean you allowed Crone's blood to mix with my zombie dust?

Humble zombie dust salesperson: I didn't know Master! I didn't know! (Eats bug.)

Evil Magus: What about the brain? What did it say on the jar?

H.Z.D.S.: Well, there was an accident...I couldn't get that particular one, Master, so I took Abby Normal's...

Evil Magus: That was an Abnormal Brain, you idiot!

(Sorry, couldn't resist, it reminded me so much of Young Frankenstein.)

writtenwyrdd said...

Well, bernita, if someone is after her, You could have someone come in and steal the ashes, and if your character is as big a slob as me there'd be dust bunnies and cat hair and probably my hair in that dustpan, too.

Or have your character realise someone is after her, so she immediately flushes the stuff down the loo to get rid of the ashes?

Or you could just ignore me cuz I'm still trying to avoid my own writing!

Bernita said...


I've sketched it like this, Written, the zombie itself is proof someone is after her. She is, however, not sure if this was a zombie or a tulpa, when she thinks about it.
She's an exorcist of ghosts ( they are sometimes a real nuisance) given the dramatic increase in their presence, and has avoided the whole animator/zombie business, primarily because of the blood rituals - which she thinks are stupid.

spyscribbler said...

Oh sheesh! I swear I hadn't read this yet when I wrote my own blog post today. I'm mired in my beginning now, too. I think the second and third chapters are my favorite; they always race by as things unfold. Then there's the middle. And then the end.

I really like it when I finally get to that last period. And then to begin the whole process over again. Geeze, am I nuts??

It's not likely someone would re-do their whole floorplan. Is likely they'd use a whole lot of bleach and toothbrushes, though. I hear they have special cleaning crews for post-murder messes and stuff like that. Good luck!

writtenwyrdd said...

Tulpa? Cool! I'd never heard that one before.

If she thought it was a tulpa, would that be an indicator of her guilt (his murder), her mental imbalance (because she thinks he's real but he isn't) or because she knows from experience that she or someone close to him may have created this bugaboo to come and get her?

I really like the idea of a thought form given reality as opposed to a ghost.

Bernita said...

Natasha, it doesn't matter if you did.
It is the Libraian syndrome, as I said earlier.

By floorplan, what I mean is that I could reconfigure my ideas about her house and include a shower on the ground floor.

Gabriele C. said...

Oh, writtenwyrdd has some evil ideas here.

I think she sounds like the one who would take a bath in the same room. Or maybe I would like her to be that sort, because I prefer to read strong women.

Bernita said...

She considers a tulpa because of the lack of slime when he...um...disintegrates.
And,of course, she wonders if she's going to have to deal with his ghost as well.
It's urban fantasy, and no, she didn't kill him.

Bernita said...

Nervously, mind you, Gabriele, but I'm inclined to think she would.
You've all reassured me.

spyscribbler said...

ROFL ... the floorplan thing cracks me up. Duh! When I write, I always forget I can do things like that, for some insane reason. LOL ... I'll vote for making it harder on the character, not that my vote counts. :-)

Are you a Libra, too? Why is it that Libras have so many Libra friends? I hate the indecision of it. DH hates it even more than I do, LOL. It takes me as long to decide as it does for me to do.

I think that's why beginnings drive me crazy.

writtenwyrdd said...

Here's the real question: What would YOU do with a pile of zombie dust between you and your bath?

Moi, I'd likely step over it until I felt like dealing with it. I really am that big of a slob. Of course, I would have to consider the possibility of the cats deciding it made a fine landing zone. It might make me get busy faster, lol.

word veri-- in accordance with what I just said: tntpu

Bernita said...

We do like to be aware of the options, don't we?
Measure and weigh, measure and weigh ( otherwise known as procrastination.

Ha, Written, you're not the only one avoiding writing!
It would depend on how dirty I was.
She collects it carefully first. She plans on taking it to the cop shop, along with the door key. It's an attempted murder by zombie after all.

writtenwyrdd said...

I can't wait to see the rest of this, lol.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Written for the encouragement!

Anonymous said...

Speaking from the contagion perspective, I would certainly want to bag up the ashhole. I agree with the others that the stuff would be useless as spell material since there would probably be some of my DNA/essence in there too. The Witches of Eastwick (book) talks about the side-effects that can ensue.

But natch, I'd take my bath there - as soon as possible - to assert myself. Best defence, etc. However, I'd also stock up on salt/iron/other unworldly weapons.

The Lady in the Lake needs a special sword.


Scott from Oregon said...

Richard Pryor had some funny stuff to say about "white people" and how they stay inside of scary houses...

His notion was that "white people" were odd.

"Black people" he said, would LEAVE the haunted house right away and never return.

I would think one of the hardest things to convince a skeptic of in a ghostly tale is why anyone would stick around at all...

Jennifer McK said...

I'm in awe of all of you. *bowing to the masters*

Bernita said...

Assertion of domain - a good point, Asa.

It IS her house, Scott. Some people get really, really stubborn when pushed.

Clever lot, aren't they, Jennifer!