+ 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

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

Ow! That hurt!

I like to give my opinion and I like to share what I’ve learned. This time it isn’t necessarily about writing or style per say, it’s more of an individual observation on behavior. I try to envision what I’m writing about as I write and keep the scenario firm in my mind. The reason for this is believability. If it doesn’t look right in my mind, how can I expect it to play out in someone else’s?

Since there is action, violence and clumsiness in my stories, there is pain. It is a sensory response tightly tied to emotions and therefore is often an internalized experience and generally written the same way. But, what if I don’t want the POV inside my characters head? I look at others in pain. Yes I know that sounds weird, but its true. How do real people respond to pain? In the movies, the pain threshold is amped up a few notches for the Hollywood experience. So when someone is riddled with bullets and still carries on, that might not be realistic, but it’s fun to watch. But, is it fun to read? Maybe. It depends on how well it’s written.

Like with everything defining, I put my characters pain threshold in their bio. Some people are naturally tolerant to pain. Some take a bit to catch their breath and wits to continue on, while others will shut down until the pain ebbs enough to function again.  In addition, like with many other things, pain tolerance can be learned or they can develop a tolerance for it over time.

Aside from the obvious screaming, grunting, cries, profanities and “Ow! That hurt!” what else can we do to show pain? What are the physical indicators?

Grabbing the injured area swiftly
Sucking breath through teeth sharply
Pursing lips and moaning
Crying and tears
Sobbing
Wailing
Rubbing the affected area rapidly
Staring at the injury wide-eyed (Especially if blood is involved. I’ll talk about blood another time.)
Fainting
Falling to the ground(In various ways, also dependant on type and placement of injury)
Gasping for air (If wind is knocked out)
Blood, swelling or bruising
Broken bones (Best used if it’s an obvious or super disgusting break)
Stunned, Dazed or confused
Rapid breathing
Shaking hands

The people that shake it off would do just that. Shake a limb or even jump on the spot a time or two then move on.

Sasha admired the large bruise on her hip from being knocked to the ground earlier. She poked at it with her finger, sucked her breath in sharply and winced.

Cal ran over to the car. The woman in the driver’s seat was conscious, her right hand on her forehead and her left on her chest where the seatbelt dug in. He assessed her quickly asking her the standard questions as she gulped air and struggled to answer.

Anne walked with a slight smile to her lips, the sun warm on her face and a cool breeze brushing by. Her foot strayed too close to the sidewalk edge, her ankle gave way and she fell sideways to the ground. Landing hard on the grass, she cried out pressing her hands on her ankle.
“Ow, ow, ow, ow.” She blinked the tears from her eyes.
“Are you okay?” A tall man squatted beside her.
“No.” She swatted his hand away. “Don’t touch me it hurts!”
“Let me see, I can help I’m a nurse.” His soothing voice made her look up into his steel blue eyes. Reluctantly she gave him access.
“I’m Tony.” His gentle fingers pressed and ran across her skin.
“Ow! Anne.” She yelped and pulled her foot away when he pressed too hard.
“It’s not broken. Here.” He held his hands out. “Let me help you up Anne.”

The boy fell to the concrete with a dull thud. Sasha gasped along with a few others. He laid still as his mother knelt. He rolled over and sat up dazed and unsure why everyone was staring. He raised his hands seeing the scraped cut palms and red starting to surface near the tiny embedded pebbles and started wailing in earnest.

Sasha opened the new clients file, reached for the top page, it requesting a vegetal ‘feel’ for the advertisement and drew her hand to her mouth instantly. Sucking her finger, she scowled at the offensive page. She looked at the razor thin trench filling with blood as she pulled air through her teeth hissing at the wound.

These were tame everyday examples of immediate responses to pain. Obviously, there are other types such as acute from gunshot, stabbing, and broken bones.  Long-term pain can affect a person’s personality and even change them over time such as arthritis, improperly healed bones, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, Shingles, Fibromyalgia, headaches and migraines. These are just a few, adding this type of dynamic to a character can be beneficial to the cause as much as the character. If it’s not something close to you, do your research and talk to someone living with or near someone with chronic pain. Other types of reoccurring pain that can vary in intensity are menstrual cramps, labor and birthing, surgery, earaches and toothaches.

My advice about pain.
You can pretty much do anything you want to your characters and have them react in any way you want them to. From interesting, to predictable, to way out of left field. As long as you work it into the story in the same voicing you’ve been using all along it will add the ick factor or cringe moment that will make the reader want to know what happens next.

-Sheryl

Other sensory posts

Getting a little touchy feely

Did you smell that?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Vegetal
Heal

Splendidly Stupid

Writing and reading take up a large amount of my free/spare time. I love both and more so when a story is fun.

When smart people do stupid things, it can get fun. In scary movies, people watching yell at the screen “Don’t go down that hall!” Or something similar. The characters do stupid things that propel the story forward. A good person can commit a crime with the right motivation. A lonely person can be blind to offered love because they are stupidly looking elsewhere.

Stupidity is common and ranges from mild forgetfulness to voluntarily opening a closet door that has blood oozing out from beneath it. Here are some obviously stupid things people do that can jump-start a story.

Driving drunk / getting in a car with a drunk driver
Speeding
Jay walking
Shoplifting
Snooping
Forgoing safety for embarrassment
Not locking the door
Opening a door
Investigating a strange noise
Walking alone at night
Walking toward the danger
Trying drugs
Drinking too much and/or too fast
Having unprotected sex
Having sex
Volunteer for a shady organization
Going off alone with a virtual stranger
Talking to strangers

I know there are infinite things that can be added to the list. The point is if I need someone to get into trouble, the best thing to do is momentarily lower their IQ, and make them do something that everyone and anyone can see is dumb. Really dumb, the dumber the better. However if it’s too obvious you might get some eye rolls and lose the readers interest. I’ll get back to my usual style of blogs soon. For now I’ll share the next chapter. This is what happens after Sasha leaves the bar.

Sasha paid the taxi driver and went up the steps to the back door of her house. The dark yard empty and ominous. A grand waste of space that she didn’t need. Nobody understood why she bought the ‘dammed house’ as her father called it. She did, it was a beautiful house away from the city and cookie cutter suburban homes. It was quiet and lonely. Just what she wanted, or was it what she needed? She could never decide which.

The door swung open as she flicked the kitchen light on. Sasha dropped her purse on the counter and turned back to lock the door. The abrupt swing of it opening knocked her back and onto the floor. She yelped in surprise as the man from the bar pushed his way into the kitchen.

“Get out of my house Baylor!” Sasha scrambled to get up.

He smiled at her on the floor and let her get to her feet. “I think you owe me an apology and a conversation.”

“I owe you nothing. Get the hell out!” She glanced at her purse behind him on the counter. Her pepper spray and cellphone sat useless out of reach. She didn’t have a landline phone and her neighbours complained that she was too young to be living alone. The words witch and lesbian were overheard once or twice. Sasha didn’t care one way or the other, she saw no problem with either option. She half wished one or the other was true, maybe she’d be happier then.

Her body went cold with fear as she turned to run for the front door. It would be locked and dead bolted and would take too long to open. Her elderly neighbors too far to hear and would be long tucked in for the night. A rough hand grabbed her arm and shoved her toward the sink.

“Oh no you don’t.” He sneered. “Tell me Sasha are you a natural blonde? I just don’t see you as a pick. Although…” He squinted his dull-blue eyes. “You are close in face… really close.”

Baylor put his hand on Sasha’s shoulder as she backed up into the counter. She barely knew him.

He shrugged. “Either way I get what I want even if you were a mistake.”

Screaming was pointless, nobody would hear. “You should leave. The police…” She squeezed her eyes shut.

“Are nowhere to be found. Unless you have a psychic connection no one will hear you here.” His fingers brushed the side of her neck and she whimpered.  “I’ll teach you a thing or two.” Baylor’s deep voice made her lips tremble. “Teasing me at the bar.”

She could only gasp for air as he brought his other hand up to her clammy neck. She moved her trembling fingers behind her; reaching for the counter as he raised his fist to strike her. If she could reach the knives, might survive this.

The door flew open. “What’s going on here?” Cal advanced with fists clenched on Baylor.

Sasha’s legs wobbled as Baylor let her go and his eyes widened.

Cal swung hard at Baylor, the sickening smack of fist to jaw made Sasha gag and Baylor crumpled the floor.

Eyes wide Sasha’s hand flew to her throat. “Di-did you follow me too?”

“Dammed right I did. Right after I saw that piece of filth follow you.” He pulled out a badge and a pair of handcuffs. “Detective Cal Thorn.”

“You’re a cop?” Sasha sat hard on the creaky wooden chair, her shaking hands resting on the antique kitchen table.

Cal finished cuffing Baylor. “I am.” He stood and faced the pale shaken Sasha then called to confirm his backup who were already on the way. He opened a cupboard, after two tries, found a glass, and filled it from the water cooler in the corner. “Here drink some water.”

She reached a still shaking hand for the glass. “You never said, I wondered what kind of job you had you were awfully observant.”

“Kind?” Cal sat shooting Baylor a cursory glance. “Meaning?” His eyebrow went up as she sipped her water.

“I don’t know, I thought maybe, I don’t know.” Her shaking subsided as a flush crept to her ears.

“Go on, tell me, what did you think?” He moved to check her for injuries.

“I’m not hurt.” She turned her head avoiding his hands. “I thought model maybe. You knew what designer my shoes were.”

He narrowed his dark brown eyes as he sat in the adjacent chair. “Nice try. So what was your first conclusion jump?”

She looked up from her water. It was so thoughtful. Then again, he would know how to calm someone that just had a fright. She licked her lips and looked back at the glass. He’s a detective there was no point lying.

“Well you skipped over my gorgeous hot friends staring only at me and commented on my shoes. I was dressed more expensively so I figured player or gold digger?” She furrowed her brow looking into her glass. “Can men be gold diggers?” The question in her voice made him laugh deeply, the abrupt pleasant sound filled the small room.

“My sister is a designer and travels the world. She talks, I listen.” His smile went deep into his eyes. “I’m pleased that you wondered at all.” Cal watched her process his words, what happened and she tucked it all away quickly. She’s not used to confrontation or violence, but was or has been at some point. This wasn’t a new pair of shoes, she’s worn the victim footwear before.

“Thorn.” Sasha furrowed her brow again then widened her eyes. “Calanna Thorn?”

His chest puffed out as he nodded succinctly with a smile. “The very one.” He saw now that the bitchy somewhat shyness he mistook earlier was as he suspected, just discomfort for the situation. This woman was intelligent and confident, not for physical self but as a person. “What type of graphic design do you do?”

“Advertising.”

“That has a tone of compliance to it.”

Her mouth fell open, nobody knew, how did he guess so quickly?

“Let me guess Sasha, you went to college for art, your parents or whomever influences your choices, frowned severely at the wasteful choice. So you sidestepped into advertising, worked yourself to the bone to climb whatever ladder there is in that industry and are sitting pretty close to the top rung.”

Again, she gawked at him.

“It’s my job.” His knowing smile curled his lips as he reached for her hand. “You have paint on your index, a slight ink stain on your pinky and the callous of someone who sketches and or paints by hand.” His fingers ran over the rough skin on her middle finger knuckle. “Your clothes, while understated, were expensive. You have confidence in your abilities, but not in yourself.”

She pulled her hand away putting both in her lap as a loud rap on the kitchen door made her jump. He was too intuitive for her liking. She was so careful to hide herself and in one evening this virtual stranger has unravelled more than she let anyone know. Not even Valery or Anne.

Cal opened the door and slipped into all business super cop. He directed one of the two officers in uniform to take Baylor Crower into custody and read him his rights as he was now stirring. The other officer took out a notepad and asked Sasha the usual questions. Cal stopped him half way through and said he’d bring her to the station for an official statement.

The adrenaline was long gone and Sasha sat quietly as the surreal evening played again in her mind. Cal left her alone in the little cold room, she glanced at the observation mirror a few times feeling like the criminal not the victim. The statement was as clear as she could be and now she was waiting. What for, she had no idea. The door opened and Cal was framed in brighter backlight. Somehow it looked angelic and devilish all at the same time.

“Come on.” He smiled holding the door open. “I’ll drop you at home.”

She nodded and followed him. Yawning she glanced at her watch. 4:47 am. The combination of sugary drinks earlier, the late night, excitement, danger and stress took its toll and she nodded off in his car. Cal watched her a moment after parking the car. He honestly thought Baylor would go after Anne or Valery, they were more his type especially Valery. When Baylor showed up Cal nearly lost his control. He needed to catch him in action, probable cause to arrest him. Baylor’s prints were not on file and the last woman couldn’t identify him. His prints were however in evidence for ten crime scenes. Baylor Crower was going to prison for a very long time. That didn’t mean he wasn’t a threat to Sasha. He’s never left a victim untouched, not that Cal knew of and criminals such as he, are resourceful. Something about Baylor’s approach tonight didn’t sit right, he let her see his face as he attacked her. Cal would to look into that.

“Sasha.” Cal brushed her hair back from her cheek and she startled awake instantly.

“Oh!” She looked around and fumbled for the door. “Thanks for the ride Detective. Sorry I fell asleep.” She jumped out slamming the door before he could react. She ran inside and locked the doors behind her, leaning against it she worked to calm her panic. “Way to be cool Sash.” She rolled her eyes at herself. After a scalding hot shower to wash the memory of Baylor’s hands off and the terrible evening, she crashed into her bed unceremoniously.

Sasha did a few stupid things. One, she left the bar alone with someone following her after being a bitch. Two, she didn’t lock her door immediately complacent in her secluded neighbourhood. Three, she went in the back door, had she gone in the front she might have seen Baylor’s cab. And four, she left her only phone out of reach. Not huge errors in judgement, but enough to give the assailant opportunity.

My advice about stupid.
Everyone lapses in judgement so no matter how smart or wholesome a character may be let them make a bad decision. The conflict you can create may take your story to the next level.

-Sheryl

Related posts

It’s a love hate sort of thing This one is actually based off part of this chapter but used differently

Hey! Its’ Interjection

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

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