Monday, March 22, 2010

Stunned and Stupid

Perhaps lilacs are a little premature but crocuses are blooming under my smoke tree.

Sorry I've been absent. My doctor has been trying various combinations of pain pills and relaxants to unknot my pinched nerves. As a result, I alternate between vacancy and mild agony and possess the mental depth and capacity of a bug.

Another thing that leaves me stunned is the discovery that in spite of all the valuable information/advice available on the net one still sees in excerpts put up for critique the infamous mirror scene wherein our lovely young heroine catalogues her hair and eyes, nose and mouth. Extensively and in detail. Sometimes including ears, brows, chin and throat.

Mind you, I'm prejudiced against this method of character description since I seldom examine my own face in a mirror -- except to anxiously examine my wrinkles, to wonder if my eyebrows need plucking, or if my mascara has run. (In fact, I usually reel back in horror at the ravaged remnants of a once fatal beauty. Especially pre-makeup, in the morning.)I think people examine their reflections for something specific and seldom indulge in general admiration.

So, besides the tiresome cliche which agents plead with us to avoid, a character's facial vanitas examination doesn't ring true for me.


writtenwyrdd said...

I'm sorry you're in pain, Bernita. I hope you get fixed up soon. is it neck or back? Those are the worst.

Ric said...

"reel back in horror at the ravaged remnants of a once fatal beauty."

I'm certain beyond argument that "once fatal beauty" such as yours, can still cause a heart to skip a beat, and breath to cease.

Unless it is germane to the plot, I really don't want to know what the heroine looks like - let me create my own picture.

Lana Gramlich said...

I'm sorry you're still hurting, hon. I know that's really rough. I hope they find something that really works for you soon.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Written. Sciatica. And the damned thing should have fixed itself by now.

Ah, Dearest Ric...
I like details dribbled in, in a natural fashion.

Bernita said...

Lana, you know something about pain, I think. Thank you, Sweetheart.

writtenwyrdd said...

Aleve/Naproxin works for some, but it sounds like yours is too much for that. Failing allopathic medicine, perhaps a doc like an OD who does scral/cranial manipulation? Or a massage therapist with some training along those lines? My massage therapist got my sacroiliac joint back into place with one session and she's the reason I'm mostly sciatica free. (My sciatica, however, is relatively mild and just gets me in the hip joints of all places.)

fairyhedgehog said...

I'm so sorry you're in pain, Bernita.

It's horrible moving between being in pain and feeling stupid. (When my brain fog was particularly bad with my CFS I felt entirely stupefied and it was not pleasant.) I prefer "stupefied" to "in pain" though.

I hope it gets cleared up soon.

laughingwolf said...

ask your doc if medical marijuana would help? not the cheap shit from the government, the real stuff

i have a friend with fibromyalgea who swears his pain is lessened considerably by it [he does have medical/legal permission to use it]

i'm with you on the 'dribbles'...

BernardL said...

Description other than relating to character interaction bores me to distraction. If an author wishes to convey a character's self absorption, I like it to be inside a scene with other characters, or a simple 'she never passed a reflective surface without pausing to stare in contemplative joy'. :)

Bernita said...

She hasn't suggested physio yet, Written. We do have a couple in town.This goes from spine down to my toes.

Fairy, thank you. I prefer a state of duh to pain myself.

LW, for me to try weed at my age would shock my kids!

"or a simple 'she never passed a reflective surface without pausing to stare in contemplative joy'. :)"
Bernard, that's exactly the impression of the character I get when a writer goes into one of those set descriptions.

laughingwolf said...

if it relieves your pain, they should rejoice!

Natasha Fondren said...

Yeah. I put in my contacts yesterday, only to discover I age at least fifteen years with them. Good god. Better off not seeing, in my opinion.

Angie said...

I hope you feel better soon, hon. Or at least find some better drugs. {{}}

Agreement about the mirror scene. One can come up with a proper combination of character and scenario which would make that sort of catalog feel natural and realistic, but they don't apply to most of the scenes where a mirror is actually used, so....


Anonymous said...

I use the mirror to sneak up on blemishes and stray chin hairs, i.e. anomalies, not to appreciate my vacillating charms.

I'm more interested in characters who are alert to changes, not their Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Behind.

So sorry about the sciatica. Thinking of you very much.


raine said...

All my sympathy, Bernita. Have had recurrences for a few years now, and sciatica is a very special pain. (hug).

Not a big fan of the mirror inventory either. Unless they're examining their fangs.

SzélsőFa said...

plus, it leaves nothing for your imagination to glue up the sentences. i don't think people want to indulge in a medically explicit description :)))

StarvingWriteNow said...

Are you able to do any sort of exercise to help with the pain? (I know nothing about sciatica, so apologies if I am speaking out of my ass, here)

And I do agree with the face examination thing--unless the character's hair turned white overnight or they wake up from a coma and have a completely new face because their old one was blown off, there really isn't any need to stare at themselves.

As for you, dearest, I have complete faith that your beautiful soul shines in your face, makeup or not, and will always turn heads. I prefer to look at my wrinkles,etc. as "life" lines--proof that I have LIVED, that I have some good stories to tell. I am certain you do too.

Bernita said...

Just not my thing, LW. Oxycodone is less complicated.

Shocking, isn't it, Natasha? Destroys that mental image of ourselves entirely. Mine is about 15 years out of date too.

Went most of yesterday without a pill, Angie, so I'm hopeful.
It always surprises me when I see writers who haven't read the mirror memo.

Thank you, Asa. Yes, the general survey of charm doesn't strike me as at all realistic.

Thank you,Raine. Are we alike even to our hurts?
I have no problem with someone using a mirror to see if they have lipstick on their fangs or a chipped tooth( damn all choker necklaces), but the same thing applies - they have a specific reason for checking themselves out.

Right, SzelsoFa, doesn't give the reader any leeway.
And it's so obvious a technique. I don't like to see the writerly hand reach out of a story.

There's a couple I've found on the net, SWN, which may help.
A close examination is natural and logical in those cases.
We've all earned our wrinkles, but thank God for makeup! And thank you, sweet Girl for those kind words.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I hope you feel better soon.

I wonder if those writers are paying attention. Most books today include NO physical description. It's all shown, as in when our hero kicks someone's ass, the reader assumes they're big and muscular.

I'm guilty of it in SCAR to a degree, but I tried hard to keep it very general and in strict POV, such as the Bishop mulling over Trinidad's popularity with the local parishioners, "Well, he is a pretty thing, I suppose," she thinks, sniffing in disdain, thereby effectively dismissing his better traits.

And of course the love interest notices, too... :)

Carla said...

I suppose it could be used explicitly to show the character's vanity? I seem to remember a scene in Adam Bede in which Hetty contemplates her beauty in a mirror at some length - though that tells you a lot about Hetty's character beyond her physical appearance.

I hope you feel better soon.

laughingwolf said...

AND 100 times more addictive :(

Amy Lavender Harris said...

I'd love to see my mother smoking ganga.

Bernita said...

Thank you.
"...a pretty thing"
Ooh, I like that, Betsy. Especially since it does double duty.

Yes, Carla, that's a good example of reflection examination done properly with intent to reveal character and thus avoids the cliche factor.
Thank you. I hope soon too.

I don't see anything addictive about feeling groggy and spacey, LW.

Brat Child! I'm way too old to take up pot.

archer said...

[Shouting over men lined up to volunteer to give you a back rub]

Hey, Bernita! You feeling better?

Anonymous said...

Those nerves had better un-pinch, fast!

Whirlochre said...

Sorry to hear you're still semi-crocked. Hope you find the solution soon.

As for the mirror thing — it really does look as if I'm collecting all the tropes. Hopefully I've been creative enough with the condensation from the hot tap to pull it off.

laughingwolf said...

Bernita said...

"Shouting over men lined up to volunteer to give you a back rub]"
~batting eyelashes~
What a delightful thing to say to an old hag like me!
Thank you, Archer!

Yep, Jason. I have a contract to sign and it's difficult to concentrate on the clauses.

Thank you,Whirl.
I am absolutely-certain-without-the-slightest-doubt that anything you write will be totally unique and totally un-cliched.

Erm. Thank you, LW.
I take them under a doctor's supervision and am not concerned about addiction. I don't like the way they make me feel and the only reason I tolerate oxy is because it takes away the pain.

laughingwolf said...

ok... if it works, great! :)

Peter Newland said...

Sorry to hear you're having trouble :(

Back pain is the worst. I was told I had a bulging disc in '03, and it still gives me trouble sometimes. Never hit that nerve though, thank goodness.

Though one time I started feeling something very much like a toothache in my lower back. It went on for a while, then eventually it started feeling like I had put Icy-Hot on it (which I hadn't!) then it gradually went away. That was the weirdest thing.

I hope you feel better soon! I always hated being on painkillers & muscle relaxers.

BTW, is that your daughter that posted earlier? That comment cracked me up. :D

Bernita said...

LW, when the pain is bad, addiction is the least on one's worries.

Thank you, Peter.Yep, hate that woozy feeling too.
Two of my daughters posted, but I suppose you mean the ganga comment.I have such great kids!

Gabriele C. said...

Jacqueline Carey uses that gimmick in her first Kushiel book, and it obviously works for most readers. I think as writers we are more aware of all those rules (most of which are nonsense in the first place and broken in published books all over the shelves). I think I noticed it because I just had read it's one of those Don't-s, else I would not have batted an eyelash at that description.

Though of course, it can be done badly and clumsily, and then it's better not done at all.

Get better soon, Bernita. Is there a trustworthy chiropractic around where you live? My father sometimes needs to see one to unblock his back.

Suzanne Perazzini said...

I remember having my heroine look into a pool of water and complain about where the years had gone about 8 years ago but I've come a long way since then or at least I hope I have.
I would love to see a photo of that fatal beauty.
Hopefully, your doctor can sort your pain sooner rather than later. That's not nice at all.

Rick said...

Is it too dreadful of me that I have one of those mirror scenes? (I like Gabriele's point: Writers are terrified of them, but readers seem to have no problem!)

Hope you're feeling better soon!

Demon Hunter said...

I hope you feel better, Bernita. Take your time. We'll be here when you get back. ;-)

Bernita said...

Gabriele, yes, there are a couple available if my doctor recommends that avenue.
Clumsy. Yes, that's the real point, I suspect. A mirror scene slotted in like a formula in the first few pages of a novel.

So not nice, Suzanne. So debilitating.
Somewhere back in the archives - 3 or 4 years ago - there are a couple of pictures of me - for dart board purposes.
The "pool of water" doesn't sound so bad, especially if the character has already been established, so the scene is not a short-cut to reader sympathy.

Thank you, Rick.
Considering your genres and your skill, I doubt your scene would come across as the tiresome, standard cliche!

Thank you, Dear Demon!
It's a real pain in my ass all the way down to my toes to have to cut back on blogging.

laughingwolf said...

indeed so...

i have chronic tendinitis in both hands, with both osteo and arthritis in the small of my back from a crushed vertebra in my 20s... pain was so severe at times i could not get off the throne for hours on end, stabs continue off and on today

word verif: dednats

Bernita said...

LW, we're just a pair of crips.

laughingwolf said...

seems so, bernita... but damn, we're good crips ;) lol

Steve Malley said...

My flatmate and I had been living together for over six months before his new girlfriend pointed out that our house had not a single mirror.

we honestly hadn't noticed. :)

Hope you're feeling better!

Bernita said...

Thank you, Steve.
I take it you are both bearded?

Barbara Martin said...

I'm doing a catch up of your posts after being absent from blogging. Pain is a tough thing to get through, and extremely tiring. I hope you will be able to find an alternative pain killer.

Bernita said...

Barbara-of-the-beautiful-photographs, oxycodone is the only thing that works so far...but since it does, I'll take it.