Don’t plague me

I adore reading. I read a lot and enjoy various formats. There is one thing I don’t enjoy reading no matter what or who writes it. Plague. Widespread illness out of control unfurling upon the masses to bring about misery and death. This is totally a personal thing, maybe it’s my inner hypochondriac coming out to play or whatever. I just don’t enjoy reading about pustules, open oozing sores, swollen lymph nodes, the last gabbled breath of the many, over and over… yuck.

I was reading a super awesome book series and they went plague quite a few books in. I haven’t finished it and haven’t moved on in the series either. That was about two years ago. I probably won’t. Everybody has that something, that taboo subject they won’t read or write about. For me, its sex implied or explicit. Some it’s disease, illness or plagues. For others, it’s racial repression. For others, it’s violence against women or children, especially sexual.  It could be how graphically someone writes about the tattered pungent rotting green hued skin, falling off the corpse in chunks as it lands in thick wet plops on the cold hard ground. Like I said, everyone has the one thing they won’t write or read. That’s totally okay, I can’t please everyone. I should, however, be pleasing someone. Boring writing is right up there with plagues for me. If the story is going nowhere for too long I get bored. I don’t want to read a chapter describing the grass in detail either.

I find it’s a fine balance. Toss in a little of everything and keep it interesting. All good recipes require an assortment of ingredients. The more you put in the better it tastes, right? In moderation. If a plague must happen for story development or it is part of that era then fine, but less is more IMO.  I read a book that had the black plague happen smack dab in the middle. Sure the author described the misery and filth, but he did something far more amazing. He showed the good, the silver-lining and what the survivors with vigor were doing to help. He focused on the emotional and surrounding and fascinating factoids that let me get through a subject I’m uncomfortable with. That stuck with me. If it has to be there, and it must be horrifying. Why not temper it with the bright side too?

I don’t have an example of this because I don’t want to. I can be super gross, and write violence and gore. I just don’t like plagues or uncontrollable diseases.

I cannot take credit for the following since I’m not a great joke teller. *Sources unknown.

Two bacteria walk into a bar and the bartender says, “Leave! We don’t serve any bacteria in this bar.”
The two bacteria reply, “Hey, but we work here. We’re staph.”

Why did all the bacteria fail the math test?
They thought division is the same as multiplication.

A parasite walks into Jim’s party. Jim says, “Get out! No parasite are welcome at my party.”
The parasite says, “Well, you’re not a very good host.”

I need to go wash my hands a few times now.

My advice about Plagues.
When you write about something uncomfortable, there will be some who love it, and those that hate it. How you write it will make all the difference.

-Sheryl

Other gross posts

That is disgusting

Blood

Spit it out!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Vigor
Unfurl

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Well, excuse me!

I really enjoy the little things in writing. The sometimes humorous or clever things that make a story or character believable and fun to read. I try my best to include the little nuances that make a human being human even if they only exist in my mind and on paper. These little tidbits are not for everyone or every character otherwise they wouldn’t be minor traits.

Our emotions define us has people and embarrassment is one of them. Our bodies betray us in ways that can be funny and or embarrassing. I talked about flatulence so how about the other gas expelled from our bodies?

Yup, burps and belches. Stifled or free to fly they can be a point of contention, compliment, embarrassment, humor, insult and offense. What is the difference between a burp and a belch? Volume mostly. A burp is a natural expulsion of stomach gas, while a belch is generally forced out to be louder and longer. Both can be voluntary and both can be created by swallowing air and or carbonated beverages.

Reasons People Burp
Consumed air or carbonation with drinking or eating
Indigestion
About to vomit
Making room for more food (Still from swallowing air)
To pay a chef a compliment
To be manly *eye roll
To be rude
To be silly
To show off or compete (Yes this happens)

Burps can be stifled or belted out. They can sound very different from one to the next. I’m not sure if I would use this much or at all perhaps to show someone’s lack of manners or to bring about embarrassment.

Dale wolfed down his second vendor-dog and chugged his coke as he and Amber swiftly walked back to work from lunch. Back at his desk, Dale hung up his jacket and turned as Rachel approached him apprehensively.
“I have the new printouts for the Toothpaste demo for you Dale.” She held a folder of pictures.
“Thanks snitch.” He snatched them from her hand belching loudly wafting his hand before his face. “Woo! I should have passed on the onions and banana peppers.” Dale laughed as Rachel gagged from his aromatic expulsion and hurried away.
Amber popped her head over the divide between their cubicles. “OMG Dale that was hilarious.”

Anne sat at the café table with Valery; her hand flew to her mouth as she burped wide-eyed. “Oh-my-gosh! Excuse me.”
“It’s all good, you tried to cover it.” Valery waved her hand in dismissal and told Ann about her post-taco encounter with Jackson the night before eliciting giggles and laughter.

Bodily functions are good for highlighting a characters level of manners or maturity. They can ease a tense moment or cause one.

My advice about burps.
While not necessary in a story, they can lighten a scenario or darken one. Variety is the spice of life and if a character needs a little something to set them apart a belch might do the trick.

-Sheryl

Other posts of interest

Oops! What did I just say?

Show and tell

Bam! Pow! Kaboom!

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Aromatic
Nuance

Conversing is easy…not!

There are some things in writing that irk me. I do my best not to do these things and try very hard not to let them minimize my writing.  There are some well-known authors out there that dabble in the ostentatious style of writing. Whether it’s a little or a lot, it can be tedious and frustrating to read.

I don’t enjoy when a scene is dressed up unrealistically or conversation is flowery and overdone. Writing can be extravagant without browbeating the reader into a puddle of eye rolling. I’ve talked about establishing the scene in Setting the mood and keeping it simple in KISS you’re writing. What about conversation?

Conversing is easy… not! Well it is in the real world. If I don’t write the way I talk and the way others actually respond then it can quickly become garish or even mundane if the conversation is unnecessary or could be easily replaced by a summary like I talked about in What happened yeserday?.

There are words I find in writing, even current books that are used outside narrative and within dialog that, honestly just don’t belong. Words that would never cross a real person’s lips. Sure I love to use “old fashioned” words and I adore the unusual, but too much is garish. It’s all about moderation.

For example:

The comfortable small lounge bar wasn’t crowded since it was a weeknight and not very late in the evening. “Scott, I do really enjoy our time out together. Thank you ever so much for treating me to a drink. After the overly busy and stress filled day I’ve had it is an extraordinarily kind gesture.”

Amber set her empty glass down on the round table, sat back on the soft cushioned couch and gingerly touched her bandaged forehead. It was so very small a cut, but bled so much it seemed a whole lot worse.

“You’re most welcome Amber, it is my utmost pleasure to cheer up your desolate mood. I too had a day that was hard and stressful. It would seem Dale is determined to the utmost to continuously point out that I was defeated by a woman so impervious and unobtainable.”

Scott waived at a server for refills and smiled at his friend. She was very attractive and extremely willing. That was however the entirety of the problem. He wanted a challenge, he wanted ever so much to conquer and win over a woman of moral fortitude. Amber was definitely a woman lacking discriminate taste when the matters of choosing potential suitor.

“Yes indeed, you can say that again Scott. Dale was gloating ever so much today. It seemed it was all he was capable of doing. Normally I would acquiesce and join in such banter, but Sasha is quite possibly the most elusive heartless stick in the mud I’ve ever acquainted with.”

First of all that was uber awkward and so over the top I gagged a couple times writing it. This is an extreme example but I read a lot and I’ve read some super awkward conversations that realistically would never happen. Or at least not in any situation I can think of. Maybe I’m wrong but if it’s awkward to read then it would be super awkward for people to actually say.

Let me tidy it up and modernize it a bit.

The small uncrowded lounge bar was perfect for an early evening drink. Amber downed the last of her martini. “What a super stressful crap-tacular day. I can’t thank you enough for treating me to a drink Scott.” Amber set her empty glass down on the round table, sat back on the soft cushioned couch and gingerly touched her bandaged forehead. The small attention-causing cut had bled profusely, but didn’t hurt then or now.

“No problem Stitches McGee” He teased. “I needed one as much as you. Dale was a dick all day, gloating about winning the bet. I should have known Sasha was a total unobtainable ice bitch.” He shrugged. “But my ego got in the way.”

Scott waved at a server for refills and smiled at his attractive and willing friend. He wanted a challenge, to conquer and win over a decent woman, which was not Amber. Amber was more fly by night, go where the bed sheets are open, not the kind of girl to bring home to mom and dad.

“You can say that again, I got sick of Dales crowing myself. Normally I would join in, but you didn’t deserve to be snubbed so coldly by princess frostbite.”

It is possible to have a character of wealth or education speak properly or with class, without them sounding like a pompous windbag throwback from an 1800’s romance novel. (Well unless it is a story set in the 1800’s then by all means have at it.) I have a character that speaks properly and never contracts words unnecessarily. He still uses jargon and I don’t overdo the filter words and unnecessary additives. The people he converses with speak normally, and are sometimes more flippant around him for contrast.

People speak differently, they have different lingual quirks and in a story, it’s painful to read dialogue that is the same across the board for each character. It makes for stiff conversation that I personally start skipping over or I’ll just put the book down.

My advice about ostentatious conversation.
Um don’t. Make sure each characters voice is as unique as they are. Give them catch phrases or lingual mannerisms that are theirs alone. Sure, you can have someone pick up a slang term from another and make fun with it, but really, just keep it realistic.

-Sheryl

Posts related and mentioned in this one

KISS your writing

Setting the mood

Missing body parts

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Ostentatious
Conquer

The wild card

When I’m writing my story and I’ve got the characters established. Their backstories are hinted at, their interactions are firm and the protagonist is ready for the next stage of their development. The story is moving along and I know it’s now time to shake things up. To introduce a wild card. Something random that may or may not influence the entire story line. At this point, I might introduce something that will expose or foreshadow the main antagonist. The one that will cause major conflict and make the protagonists life hell. It’s time for the wild card.

Sasha sat in her small office reviewing the next client’s requests. Her heart wasn’t in it. Valery grilled her at lunch and suggested some time off. It wasn’t a bad idea so she agreed. A tropical resort sounded much safer than dealing with Baylor and being followed by a police cruiser everywhere. She browsed some last minute vacation ideas until she was paged to the boss’s office. Mr. Clifton had little to do with the day to day. He was a businessman not an artist, he owned the company and spoke only to those well above Sasha’s pay grade. She glanced at the computer. Is it monitored? Would she be fired for slacking on the job?

Checking her hair and make-up she walked quickly to the blue door and knocked. A come in sounded from behind.  Mr. Clifton was bald, very bald. His grey eyebrows and black lashes the only hair on his head. He was an average man. Attractive only because of his expensive suits, money and the power he exuded. Sasha didn’t like or respect him. Aside from the uncomfortable flirting at the office parties and yearly meetings, he usually only grunted at her dismissively.
“Miss Parsons, please sit. Don’t look so frightened, I don’t do the firing around here.” He laughed at his own remark. “Unless you make me very unhappy.”
She licked her lips as he continued.
“I was told you are doing very well lately and that your work has been securing some very large accounts. I asked about you and was assured that you can be discreet.”
She nodded and swallowed hard, the knot in her stomach tightening.
“I have a client that needs some sensitive and confidential work done. I think you are up to the task.”
“Yes sir.”
“Good. Here are the images and message he needs to be contained in the advert. Nothing blatant or obvious.”
“Subliminal.” She frowned. “But that’s…”
“It is not for public, and there is nothing illegal in the message.”
“Okay.” She opened the file.
“I want you to have a proof for me by the end of next week.”
“I can have it ready by then, but there isn’t anything being sold, what is the product?”
“That is not for you to know. The image on the last page is to be hidden.”
She flipped to the last page and bit her lips.
“Your discretion is of the utmost importance. Your career here has been exemplary and I wouldn’t want this to change that.”
A threat. She looked up ready to quit and stopped herself. The look on his face suggested quitting wouldn’t solve her issue with this and she needed this job.
“Wilber is retiring in a few months, his office and title would suit you I think Miss Parsons.”
She nodded. She had no choice. She smiled forcing her lunch down. “I am to understand that if say Valery were to look at this she would see an advert for… say… a security company but if members see it they will get the message?”
“You are smarter than you look.”
She bit her cheek and tasted blood. “Thank you.” It was better than the expletive that she wanted to launch on him.
“My time is important, I will see you next Monday with the final product.”
“But you said…” She would have to drop everything to make this work. If she lost this job, she would lose her house and her dignity along with it. What little she had left.
“I Changed my mind. Is that a problem Miss Parsons?”
“No not at all.” She stood. “I work best under a deadline.”
“Good to know.” He dismissed her by looking at his computer screen.

Sasha walked down the hall holding the file and her stomach. This screamed of illegal and even though it looked innocent, it smelled rotten.
“You look like you chugged car oil.” Valery held Sasha’s purse out.
“Long day. Mr. Clifton just asked me to do a job for him.” Sasha took her purse and they stared walking out to the parking lot.
“The hush hush kind right? What did you do to piss him off?”
“I don’t know, he hinted at Wilber’s position. Why? Has this happened before?”
“Every few months he has someone doing secret projects. They are either fired or quit after a while.”
“Why the hell am I just hearing about this now?”
“There’s no proof and we have a lot of staff that come and go. Barry thinks it’s just coincidence. I try not to let gossip percolate through the office.”
“Well I’ll do what Clifton asks, ask nothing and show no-one.”
“Not even me?”
“He casually hinted I would be fired.”
“Best if you don’t then Sash. It’s probably some weird sex fetish club thing anyway. I’d rather not know my boss’s boss, is into playdoh sex or something.”
“Weird.”
“I bet it’s a thing too. I knew Wilber’s leaving, you’re probably up for promotion, whatever the job, just work your magic.”

Sasha laughed as she got to her car. The idea of a promotion dulled the underlying fear that’s been present all day as she drove. She had a few stops to make before going home. The problem was the cost, was she willing to sell her soul for the position? She knew whatever the message was is illegal. Or would lead to something illegal. The symbol of the left hand palm up in a circle with the thumb crooked oddly up was a sign. It was to be hidden within the image and that was ominous on its own. She didn’t know it, but it wasn’t anything good. She would know about that. Even after visiting with her parents and stopping at the grocery her mind was still stuck on the file and Clifton’s request.
“Maybe it’s just a test, it’s probably nothing.” She muttered as she pulled into her driveway. “After the past few days I’m just being weird.” She looked in the rear-view mirror. “Get a grip Sasha.”

So, I have added an ominous task to distract Sasha. Bad things can happen when someone is distracted (Bwahahahaha). Her mind should be on other things… Right? Adding this unexpected event opens the doors for more, hopefully a lot more. Sometimes these ideas are an innocent distraction and singular, sometimes they are part of a greater plot and the catalyst to start the main story line.

My advice about wild card moments.
Whether you use them as a defibrillator for a dead or dying story or the key to the gates of the actual story, adding something random can revive or open the story.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Silliness and seriousness

The ‘been there, done that’ people

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Percolate

+ Tears

I have a lot of fun watching people, their reactions and comparing them to my own. It is fascinating to realize that people respond in such a wide variety of ways to simple things.

Since I’ve talked about blood and sweat it’s fitting that I take a poke at tears. Tears are wrapped tightly around emotions and pain and a huge part of life. They can easily be over used in writing and are often the go to for anyone wanting to brashly show emotion. The temptation to turn to tears is easy because they are the visible product of emotions that come from the windows to the soul.

I like to get overly creative with tears and or crying if I can(or remember to). Mostly because if I’m careful they can express an emotion without internalizing the POV. The trick is to stay away from melodrama and understand that crying isn’t always why we tear up. Also not everyone cries and some cry at the drop of a dime.

Reasons for tears
Sadness

Anger
Embarrassment
Desperation
Joy/happiness
Something in the eye
Cold or illness
Wind
Flash of bright light
Pain
Manipulation (this one can be fun to give an antagonist to use.)
Acting

It is easy to go right to crying when writing but it actually can take a lot before a person is emotionally there. This is where paying attention to real people and how they deal with emotions can help.

Some ways to describe or elude to tears
Welling up

Mist/misty/misted
Drops/drips
Streaming
Glistening
Wet/wetted
Damp
Moist (A lot of people dislike this word, use with caution)
Watering
Rapid blinking
Wiping eyes (With anything really, tissue, fingers, sleeves…)

Now that I have an idea how to cause and describe tears. What other things happen when tears are imminent, occurring or when they are over.

Signs tears are about to happen/are happening or have happened
Red nose
Blotchy skin
Sniffles/runny nose/blowing nose/dripping nose
Red eyes
Puffiness
Streaking makeup
Wet skin/drips on clothes/Tear stains (On clothes or if face is dirty tears leave streaks)
Stuttered breathing
Hiccups
Difficulty talking
Down cast eyes
If from sadness a closed off posture, rubbing hands or arms. Looking down at hands or lap People often feel shame after crying (I try to remember to show the shame and not tell it)

For example:

Amber listened to Valery list off her so-called offenses against Sasha and a few others in the office. Most of it was here say and not actual proof or had little fact to it. This is personal, it had to be. Blinking rapidly Amber let big globs build up in her eyes until her vision blurred and then blinked the fat drops down her rosy cheeks.
Valery handed her a tissue. “What do you have to say?”
“Thanks.” Amber sniffled and dabbed the corners of her eyes. “It’s all out of context, I’m being targeted. Jealousy I think.” Amber blinked up through her false lashes at Valery. “It happens all the time.” She fidgeted with the tissue in her hands. “It’s not my fault if that’s how people are going to be. I’m awfully sorry if my sense of humor caused heartache. I’m just the bystander caught in whatever is going on. I get sucked into the gossip too easily, it’s my weakness.”
Valery consoled the desolate Amber and sent her on her way once she calmed down and promised to be nicer and more careful about gossiping.
Amber sniffled as the door closed behind her, a sly smile eased across her lips. “Works every time.”

Cal closed his eyes a moment and took a deep breath as he closed the door behind him. He swallowed and cleared his throat. The woman was a shattered mess of her former self.
“Bastard.” Cal murmured and pressed his forefinger and thumb to his burning eyes.
Detective Miller clapped his hand on Cal’s shoulder. “She’s lucky to be alive Cal, bring her justice, catch the guy.”
Cal shook his head. “That woman’s life is forever changed and that filthy no good piece of…” Cal sighed again, rubbed his face and eyes. “The scum that did that to her Miller, he’s on the loose again.”
The reality was Cal shouldn’t be on the Baylor Crowen case at all. If it wasn’t for a lucky break or two he would have been pulled for being too close to this case. His cell rang and held it to his ear. “Thorn.” Listening his grim face fell further. “What do you mean the officer lost her?” Cal took a slow deep breath in. “I’ll go myself.”
“The protection lose Miss Parsons?”
“Yeah, traffic separated them, she didn’t go where they anticipated and she’s not answering her cell. They’re going to do a drive by her house to see if she’s there.”
Miller cocked his head to the side. “Just a drive by?”
“Yup and a lot of good it will do her if he’s already there. Shit.” Cal turned and Detective Miller followed. “I should have insisted on better protection.”
“Some on the force think Baylor Crowen isn’t Dr.Demolish.”
Cal was nearly running as he got to the parking lot. “Tacky Miller and I bet my life savings that he is.”

 Not all tears need to be shed, some can be close and then disappear. They don’t have to be streaming down in torrents to be useful. Just enough to elude to something greater such as Cal’s reason for hunting down Baylor Crowen and even switching departments to follow him. I pay close attention to how I want a particular character to present tears and keep this info in their Bio’s. A person that cries at sad commercials might not cry in front of others. A man who cries might need to be pushed to his brink before it happens.

My advice about tears.
Tears are not always something to cry about. If you’re going to give someone a reason make it a good one that furthers the story in some fantastic way. Don’t forget to show and not tell, but don’t make everyone crybabies or stoic-feel-nothings find a balance and mix up the degrees of teary moments.
-Sheryl

The other two related posts

Blood

Sweat

That is disgusting

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Filthy

Sweat

When I’m writing I try to remember all the things that make us human, I talked about blood already and how we react to it.  The human body is an amazing thing and it’s movements, functions and physical being are fantastic ways to show emotion, action and even setting in a story.

When I talk about things like blood, I would use is sparingly, but what about sweat? I doubt I would have my characters sweating constantly, that’s gross. However, it can be a really good indicator for many things. Like with pretty much everything else sweating is personally unique. Some people sweat 24/7 some never sweat. Sweat is a tangible and visible que with definite possibilities

Some causes of sweat
Stress
Fear
Exertion -exercise – out of shape
Heat – room – weather – overdressed
Sick
Nervous

These are alternate words from the Thesaurus.com, some of these might earn an eye roll from the reader, since they are not common and frankly, I had no idea what transudation was.

Diaphoresis
Exudation
Transudation
Steam (This has potential)
Excretion (This just sounds gross)
Sudor (um okay…)

 Now I know the following myself words that can be used to describe sweating 

Glow
Perspire
Drip
Glisten
Swelter
Wilt
Seep
Soak
Drenched
Stain

If sweating is going to become a factor in “showing”, I ask myself can the person smell? Can that smell be part of the story? Humor maybe? Embarrassment? Or is it a pleasant smell to the sniffer? What about taste?

Amber paced Valerie’s office poking at the bandage on her forehead that covered a small cut with three stitches. She pulled on the front of her shirt rapidly to fan her sticky chest. She didn’t take the day off since the injury was minor, that and it was getting her a lot of attention.
“Fitting.” Amber grabbed another tissue and dabbed at her glistening face, her makeup was ruined for sure. “The ice queens’ best friend is a heat miser.”
“Actually.”
Amber spun around at Valerie’s voice.
“The thermostat is broken and the repair-person is on the way up.” Valery tilted her head to the side. “I asked you to my office to talk and clearly we need to have one.” Valery gestured curtly at the chair in front of her desk.

Valery slowed her pace rounding the corner to her street. She scratched at her soaked hairline as a drip of sweat tickled her neck. Smiling she began her cool down. Tonight was a personal best, three minutes faster than the night before. 

The salty taste of his neck still stung Valery’s tongue as she flopped back on the over-soft bed.
“Val baby I’m glad you told me.” Jackson smiled and looked over with his near black eyes, his forehead glistened in the dim light.
“That you’re super disgusting?”
His soft laugh filled the warm room. “Relish is not disgusting. But for you, I’ll skip it.”
“Yeah well.” Valery sat up and brushed back the strand of hair stuck to his temple. “Lucky for you you’re super-hot and I’m a sucker.”
He wagged his eyebrows. “You sure are.”
“Stop.” She smacked his chest playfully. He grabbed her wrist and brought it to his lips.

Sasha pulled her hand from the slender clammy one and resisted the temptation to run it on her jeans.
“It’s nice to meet you Andrew.” Sasha flicked her eyes sideways at her mother. Leave it to her to make dropping off a magazine for her father into a meet the new neighbors grown son; who is probably still living in their basement.
“I, um.” Andrew swallowed hard, his protruding Adams-apple bobbing under his glistening skin. The smell of the peach tart her mother schemed to serve wafted from the kitchen.
Sasha hugged her mom and wiped her still damp hand on the back of her mother’s designer blazer. “Next time you plan to ambush me, be cleverer and pre-trap me here for dinner or something.” Sasha kissed her cheek and waved at Andrew. “I have to go I have a lot of work to do and it’s been a less than pleasant day. Maybe next time I can stay longer.”

Sweat is a bodily function that can range from alluring to disgusting depending on the situation. Perception is key and so is how I set it up. What if Valery found sweat disgusting, well chances are two strikes would be too many and Jackson would be out. Tone of the words are important too, clammy wouldn’t fit in so well with at romantic encounter.

My advice about perspiration.
Don’t sweat it, use it to your advantage and keep it natural. A stained t-shirt armpit can be a turn off or a symbol of hard work it all depends on how you write it in and how the characters respond to it.

-Sheryl

Other body-ish posts
Missing body parts
In the eye of the beholder

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Tart

Blood

It is inevitable when I’m writing that my characters are going to get into sticky situations. It is very likely that they will encounter or give up some of their own blood, sweat and tears to entertain my readers. I write a lot about emotions, feelings and the senses, because they are a major part of being human and alive.

I’m not a writer of the undead, be that zombies, mummies or vampires. I don’t write about lycanthropy in any form or paranormal nor the preternatural. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of such fantasy, but I struggle with realism and can’t seem to venture very far outside of it… yet. Maybe someday, I do have some ideas rattling their cages in my brain.

So when I research or ‘people watch’ aka observe I try to compare every experience/action/movement/reaction etc. to how I have felt or reacted in the self and same situations(or near to) Then I think about how incredibly fascinating it is that people are so universally unique.

Recently I have been thinking a lot about blood. Yes, blood. Specifically how people react to it. In conversation, in movies, in real life, coming out of others and coming out of themselves.

Common reactions to blood on TV/movies
Grimace
Eye roll (Too campy)
Close eyes
Turn head away
Cover eyes/face
Turn off the TV or walk away

 These reactions are based on the knowledge that its not real. It also helps that if you’ve ever seen real blood in copious amounts Hollywood rarely gets it right.

Common reactions to seeing someone bleeding for real
Rush to help/Provide help
Turn away
Gag/vomit
Faint
Fear of disease/contamination
Panic
Crying
Grimace
Waving hands in front of self and shaking head
Fear of hurting the injured
Shaking from adrenaline
Calm in order to keep injured calm

Seeing blood is different from bleeding. From a little to a crimson mask from a tiny face wound to a bullet in the chest, bleeding can be tricky to write without overdoing it.

Common reactions to bleeding (Pain is not always a factor with blood)
Disbelief
Shock
Panic
Faint/Fainting
Shaking
Crying
Anger
Vomiting
Calmness (odd but true, some people just mellow out)
Disorientation

The idea is clear, either way blood = bad and blood = good.  Whenever tragedy strikes the heroes step up. They run toward the danger, the blood and those in need. However if there is blood, something bad happened. Duh right?

Like pain, a bloody experience is tempting for me to internalize, to shift POV and slip into my characters mind. Let’s find out what happened to Amber and why her head is bandaged.

 Amber laughed and spilled her drink on the floor as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. She thought it was even better given Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. She felt pain instantly as her head hit on the base of a chair at the table beside theirs. She cried out, the sharpness of the impact felt hot. Someone helped her sit up and she touched her forehead gingerly. She could feel the warm thick fluid streaming down her face dripping onto her light pink sweater. Like a suffocating fish, her mouth opened and closed in surprise. Amber pulled her hand away as others called for help. She was afraid and screamed, her shiny red fingers were covered in blood and she felt faint as her eyes fluttered.

That POV went all over the place. In her head, out, and back in again. Let me try a re-do, maintaining and external POV.

Amber wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and sloshed her drink, spilling it as she retold the shrew in Sasha’s desk drawer story. It was even better after Scott’s unscripted shrew comment moments before the discovery.
“It was magic, her screaming and blithering like an idiot.”
Amber’s audience held their martini glasses up in congratulatory cheers.
“I need to visit the loo.” Amber gulped the last of her candy apple martini and hopped off the tall chair.

Her foot slipped on her spilled drink and she hit the floor hard. Her forehead connected with the chair-base at the table beside theirs, and she cried out.
Someone helped her to sit up on the sticky bar floor. Like a suffocating fish, Amber’s mouth opened and closed as she gingerly touched her forehead. Her fingers slid in the warm thick fluid as it streamed down her face and dripped onto her light pink sweater. Amber pulled her hand away while someone called out for help. She screamed as her shiny red fingers shook before her fluttering eyes.

Oh boy I definitely had to take the ‘feels’ and “ing’s” out of that first attempt, that was for sure. I also had to give Amber a little something for her nasty behavior, right?  I don’t care for the term “pumping” to me that implies gore. So I don’t use it, totally a personal preference.

My advice about bloody writing.
Don’t over describe blood with as many alternate words for red that you can find. Pick one or two and keep it simple. The word red works, and I only used it once.

-Sheryl

Here’s an older post or two

No “Filter Word” Parking Here

Are you inging too?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 Fish

Time to take out the trash

Today I received an email asking for advice. I have been blogging and sharing my experiences and all that I’ve learned and am still learning about publishing my book. My posts have come about from; research, advice, instinct, common sense and a whole lot of hard work. Getting a book published traditionally is a daunting task and a lofty objective. It is however, the path that I know is the one for me. I have and will face many rejections from Literary Agents, I edited and revised my book to a point a professional said it was clean and well written. It may require some additional tweaking but I was told this could be done after a publisher takes me on that it is minor.

The temptation to get quick/instant results and venture into the world of self-publishing or vanity press is strong. However after a lot of research, and I mean a lot, I will take this route as my absolute last resort. Does that mean self or vanity press publishing is bad? No, but it is the last resort for me. Vanity press and self-publishing companies don’t actually call themselves that, but they do ask for money upfront for their “services”. Research the company and see what reviews they have before you decide anything.

Many great authors faced and still face rejection. One of my all-time favorites just recently had a book rejected and was devastated. She has had her books published since 1977. Thankfully, she is seeking alternate routes and publisher to get her book published. I can’t imagine how this felt for her to be so accomplished and then told “I don’t like it enough to publish.” Yiikes.

Scary? Sure. However, nothing in life comes easy; the best things are fought for. The harder I work the better I feel about my book. I have spent countless hours working on it and polishing it up. I can’t just give up on it and I won’t. I have my mind set on traditional publishing and my heart, instinct and common sense all agree.

Believe it or not, this is a level of tenacity your protagonist should have, even the antagonist. They should be driven and focused. If the protagonist ever gets to a point where they want to give up, give in, or even take the easy way out, have someone or something inspire them back into action and back on course.

It was near impossible to focus on work. It was true her designs have been edgier lately. Darker, mysterious and full of danger. The clients were eating it up. Sasha generally kept her office door open, and could hear the laughter of Amber and Scott. Her mind immediately jumped to the conclusion that they were laughing at her.
“Wow.” Sasha rubbed her temples. “I must really be letting them get to me to think that.” She stood and went to find Rachel to see if she was done proofing.
It meant passing the attention whore Amber who was milking a small head wound as if her head were severed and re attached.

“Hey Rachel.”
The young woman looked up at Sasha, relief instant in her eyes. “Oh Sasha.” She smiled. “I’m glad it’s you. That last advert was perfect. I couldn’t find any errors or anything missing.”
“Thanks.” Sasha narrowed her eyes at Dale who was in earshot. He made a show to roll his eyes. Rachel glanced his way then back at Sasha, her tension back. Sasha leaned closer to Rachel.
“Why were you glad it was me?”
“Um.” Rachel’s eyes flicked to Dale again. “No reason. I just wanted… Um to tell you in person that I found no error in your design.”
Sasha stood straight. “Okay thanks Rachel, my office is always open.” She nodded and turned toward Amber who artfully touched her head to draw attention to her bandage. A snarl set on Amber’s lips.
“Nice try. FYI Karma is a bitter medicine.” Sasha smiled brightly and nodded as she passed the malevolent woman.
Sasha had changed all of her passwords and put a security program on her work computer to record any attempts to log in. Sasha needed a plan. It was time to take out the trash. She needed a way to rid the office of Amber and Dale. Scott could stay or go, without Amber and Dale’s influence she suspected Scott would settle down. His recent bout of crazy was completely out of character for him
.

While a small moment of renewed determination from seeing others affected by her workplace-adversaries and Sasha might just be starting out on the right path… Maybe.

My advice about determination.
Don’t let the easy path tempt you. Take the time to figure out which way is best for you as an author. Regarding your characters, give them the same obstacles you face in life with a little more drama and flair and let them flourish or fall.

-Sheryl

Related posts on the path to publishing.

The not-so-direct path to publishing.

The rejection letter

The blurry lines of opinion and advice

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Lofty

Chop, chop, prep that character

From bad to worse.

A character created to fall before they rise up, must do so gloriously. The way to get them there must be interesting and exciting. This takes planning and prepwork. Sometimes that can mean going backwards to add it in after the fact. This is fine especially when I’m not sure exactly where things are going until they get there.

For Sasha, the set up needs to be intriguing and potentially dangerous. Her life is shifting, mixing swiftly and the ingredients are smashing into one another causing her to see herself and her life in a different light.

I like to look at a character as if they are holding their plate above their head and I’m heaping on issues and problems for them to deal with, like potatoes and gravy at thanksgiving. The question is how much? That depends on what outcome I want.

To set Sasha up I need her distracted and her mind too full of issues. So I pile them on. I want her to be ready to accept her fall and have the new found strength to push back, get up and fight. It isn’t easy but I try to keep this subtle.

So far the issues I’ve given this particular Protagonist are:
Disapproving parents
A dark secret that makes her refuse to date
Scott pestering her to date him
Her friends nagging her to get over it and date
Baylor attacking her in her home
Amber and Dale bullying her at work
Her self-denied attraction to Detective Cal Thorn who she snubbed
And the following:

Sasha’s nerves were taught and frayed. After avoiding Scott, Amber and Dale she made it to the sanctuary of her small office. She stared off into space as Valery popped her head in the door.
“Hey you okay, why were you so late?” Valery sat primly in the chair across from Sasha’s
“Baylor got out on bail.”
“What!” Valery looked out the open door and lowered her voice as she got up and shut it. “I mean you said he might, but for real?”
“Yeah.” Sasha rubbed her forearms. “This morning, the judge didn’t hear a word I had to say, the others couldn’t identify him. The evidence is in question too. It was an utterly frustrating mess.”
Valery hugged her friend.
“He’s under watch and Detective Thorn said I would be too.”
“So would Baylor come after you?”
Sasha shook her head. “It’s not likely. The detective said if Baylor thinks he’ll walk away from this then he won’t do anything to land himself back in jail. Baylor was so charming and convincing”
“Could he get away with it?” Valery held her friend by the shoulders at arm’s length.
Sasha nodded. “The judge certainly thought so. Oh, Val it was as if she was accusing me of harassing Baylor! Thank God Detective Thorn was there, he was so kind and helpful.”
“You two are spending a lot of time together.” Valery’s suggestive tone was aimed to distract.
Heat crept up Sasha’s cheeks like flames as she looked at her friend. There was nothing she could say. It was a dammed if she agrees, and dammed if she denies type scenario. There is only one course of action possible.
“How is that new guy Jackson? Did he pass your stupid relish test?”
Valery laughed throwing her head back. “Typical Sash, deflect, deflect, deflect. No he piled the barf on his hotdog and ate it with gusto.”
“That’s too bad.” Sasha sat back down.
“Normally it would be, however he figured out that I was put off and made me tell him why.”
Sasha looked up from her hands. “And then what?”
Valery shrugged. “He promised to brush his teeth and never eat it in front of me again.”
“And you’re okay with that?”
Valery put her hand on the door handle. “I have to be, one look from him and I melt. It’s like I’m being burned when his flames for fingers touch me.” Valery chuckled and opened the door. “By the way, we’ll revisit that Detective of yours later.”
“Don’t waste your time Val, he’s just doing his job and I’m still not interested in dating.”
“Uh huh.” Valery closed the door. Her laugh, though muffled, and was easily heard.

I think I’ll add one more thing before Sasha snaps, I won’t say what just yet, but it will be a wild card.

Even though I’m tearing Sasha down it doesn’t need to be all melodrama or blatantly obvious. She is still Sasha, but more aware that things aren’t exactly as they should be, people are not who they pretend to be and her life isn’t heading the direction it needs to go.

My advice about prep-work.
Out of the blue life changing events are okay but are served better if the character is prepped properly. Give them a reason to want to grow or change, give the reader a reason to want them to.

-Sheryl

Related Posts

Eating emotions

Did you smell that?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Flames

Something stinks!

The human body is a complicated contraption. Writing about it can be just as complicated… or not. I find people tend to avoid the bits and pieces that make us uncomfortable in real life. But why? I don’t always think of it at the time, but when I’m revising/rewriting scenes I try to remind myself to make people more human, more relatable and therefore interesting.

There are some things our bodies do that may or may not be received well by anyone.  One in particular can be raunchy and unpleasant. I’m talking specifically about tooting, farting or flatulence. Whatever you want to call it or refer to it as. The expelled stinky gasses from the body are a common occurrence and everyone knows it.

Flatulence is necessary to the wellbeing of the body. It can be involuntary or manipulated to be voluntary.

There are cultural rules/taboos, social rules/taboos and even personal rules/taboos regarding letting one out of the gates.

Breaking wind can provide plenty of opportunity and fodder for storytelling. From the accidental squeaker to the purposefully silent and deadly, flatulence can and will always be a source for reaction/conversation/embarrassment. I’m not ever going to write this in every scene or even more than once maybe twice if it’s funny for character/relationship development or story advancement (Kudos to anyone that can make a fart plot development without being utterly silly).

I know this can easily fall under the ‘poo-poo humor’ category but if you think about it as I have, it happens in real life and the after effects can be dramatic.

Reasons for involuntary flatulence
Diet – long term and short term

Illness
Age – yes I went there, either the very young or very old don’t care, lack control it or don’t feel it.
Exercise 
Stress
Nervousness
Held in too long due to circumstance

Reasons for voluntary or forced flatulence
Being silly/joking around

Being gross
Being rude
Wanting to clear out an area
Wanting to annoy/gross out someone
Need to get it out before a big/long meeting 
Relief 

Now if I’m going to go to all this trouble to talk about why’s and how’s I suppose I should list a few types.

Types of flatulence
Trumpeter
– loud and proud

Squeaker – the pffft with a small itty-bitty noise
Silent and stealthy – nobody knows and nobody smells
Silent but deadly – I don’t think there is a human alive that hasn’t had this one happen to or around them
The forever – loud or not it is like a deflating balloon
The Popper – one or many, its little pop’s
The snap – uh… it sounds like a snap
The What?  The one that sounds like someone asking “What?”
The gust – sounds like the butt is just blowing air 
The what-the-hell-did-you-eat?  – Self explanatory
Sickly – When you know someone’s just not feeling up to snuff
Shart – when a little poo sneaks out with it. Yeah this is as gross as it sounds for everyone involved.

I’m sure there are more and other names for them, but I’ll move on. So how does one make this part of a story? Good question.

Dale and Amber snickered and whispered behind their hands.
“Go.” Amber nudged Dale off her desk. He sauntered over to Rachel’s desk. She frowned at Dale.
“Morning Rachel.”
“Oh good morning Dale. How are you?” She forced a smile and glanced down the isle of cubicles. Right on cue, Sharon was making her way toward her cubicle.
“Same as always.” He paused, the soft sound of air escaping his rear made her fist tighten on the scissors. 
“Must you? Every dammed time?” Rachel set the scissors down before they wound up in Dales offending cheek.
“Just a bit of payback for snitching to Sasha.”
“It was months ago and an accident you ass.”
He laughed as he walked away. Moments later Rachel’s crush stopped at her desk. 
“Good morning Rachel.” Sharon wrinkled her nose. “Are you feeling okay today?”
A cursory glance at Dale and Amber reminded her of her place. “Um sorry, I…” 
“I hope you feel better.” Sharon moved on quickly casting a giggling Amber and a tittering Dale a narrow eyed glance.

 Valery bit her bottom lip regretting the taco lunch with Anne earlier. Her gurgling stomach made her cringe as Jackson opened his door. He threw his arms around her and hugged tightly. Valery’s eyes flew open as she passed gas loudly.
“Oh my god.” She pushed away and covered her flushing face.
He laughed and pulled her hands away. “Now that you’ve popped the fart cherry and set the bar so high, I get a free pass or two when I rip one out.” He pulled her inside and closed the door.
Valery’s mouth fell open then she laughed. “Jackson you are one digit hotter for being so cool about that.”
He took her jacket and shrugged. “Meh, you’re one digit hotter for being so dammed cute and embarrassed about it.”

Flatulence doesn’t have to be immature poo-poo humor. Sometimes when a person is too perfect or seems to well put together like Valery a little embarrassment can go a long way to making her feel more human to the reader.

My advice about cutting the cheese.
I wouldn’t say to overdo it, but if you need something to break the ice or lessen the tension or even create some, there is nothing better than a little stink cloud to change things up.

-Sheryl

Other posts worth a toot

Did you smell that?

Eating emotions

Setting the mood

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