Survival of the fittest

Survival mode kicks in when nothing else will work. When rationalization and strength are no longer playing fair. Survival in dangerous situations can be boiled down to fight or flight. What happens when flight isn’t working out so well? When I have the character backed into a corner or hotel bathroom? It is in these moments I have to decide. Decide to let logic lead the scene or pepper a bit of panic in to make things more interesting. In time to flip the switch, Sasha didn’t go for the main door. In her flight mode, she took the easiest path. It happened to be backward and into a very unescapable room.

So what does happen when flight fails and the protagonist is trapped? Fight. Fighting is the only option. This is because giving up is not going to happen. I think if Sasha just curled up and resigned to the fate Baylor wishes to bestow, the readers would get mad at me, annoyed with Sasha and stop reading. After all, she doesn’t deserve to be read about right?  So I can honestly say I chose Sasha’s path, I made her go the wrong way. I did this because it’s interesting and it is likely what one would do when faced with mortal danger. Logic often fails in the face of fear. Sasha got to the bathroom before Baylor… barely.

Baylor’s fingers stopped the bathroom door as Sasha pushed hard to close it. Uninjured legs were her advantage and gave Sasha just enough to get the lead. Baylor howled as she pushed. He would be stronger. She needed advantage. She let up a fraction, doubled her force and pushed hard against the door. The fleshy crunch of his fingers made the bile rise in her throat as he bellowed. She let up again and he pulled his fingers out letting the door click closed. She pressed the lock button. He could open it, but not immediately. Would he shoot the door? Would the bullets come through? Every movie or show that ever had someone trapped behind a door with an armed assailant, played out in her head. Sasha didn’t know what to do and fear was taking over quickly.

“Don’t panic. Don’t panic.” She couldn’t manage more than a shaky whisper. As Baylor slammed his shoulder against the door. Glancing around, she spied the curtain rod. “Brace the door.” She yanked on it. It was screwed into the wall. Putting all her weight on it, she tried again and it gave. A few more pulls and it was free. Baylor was pounding on the door then stopped suddenly. She put the curtain rod on the floor and used her feet to wedge it against the door. Putting her back to the door, she put her feet on the front of the toilet and prepared to use her leg strength to keep him from opening the door. 

The rattle of something in the handle made her stomach clench. This was it. Either he was getting in or he wasn’t.

She readied herself glaring at the toilet. “Please be strong and hold.” The porcelain stayed silent denying her any reassurance. Taking shallow breaths, she looked around. Hairspray. There was a can of hairspray on the counter. Non-flammable but it would hurt the eyes. She took the chance to grab it. As she sat back bracing her feet against the toilet again the lock clicked and the door opened. The curtain rod held as Baylor pushed and cursed her.

Tears streamed as she tried to steady her shaking legs. “Come on Sasha.” She cried. “Don’t be the damned damsel now.” She rubbed her legs as he pushed on the door. A slight crack made her look down at the rod. It was bending. “No.” She begged. “No please don’t give out.”

The rod bent and the immediate pressure on her back made her scream in fear. Bracing her protesting legs, she heard the toilet creak. “No!” She had nothing else to brace against close enough. The nozzle of the gun poked through the increasing gap in the door. When Baylor fired, the deafening sound shut her screams and his grunting out from her mind.

This is it, he was getting in. She would die or worse, be maimed for life. She looked up at the barrel of the gun now pushed through. In movies someone brave would grab it. If she moved, he was in for sure. It was out of reach. When she looked around desperate, her breath caught. She could see his face in the reflection of the mirror. He could see her too. The raw fury was terrifying and sobering. His face was close. She could see his eyes as her ears rung. His hand was through and she pushed harder with her legs. The toilet shifted back, she expected water to start spraying everywhere. It didn’t. The door closed enough on his wrist to keep him from bending it and aiming at her directly.

“Stupid bitch!”

She could hear him again, the painful pressure on her back and legs caused whimpers to mix with her heavy breaths. “Do something, don’t give up.” Sasha glanced up at the gun. If she moved fast he might stumble into the room, maybe it would give her an advantage? Her stomach tightened as he made progress pushing the door again.

She moved slowly off the floor bracing herself against it. He moved it a fraction more. She was up enough to move, but which way. Away from the gun, might earn her a smack from the door. Towards it would be unexpected. Before she made up her mind, her body moved fast toward the gun and past it. The door crashed open and he stumbled into the room. Immediately she sprayed hairspray in his direction correcting her aim and finally hitting his eyes. Seconds, mere seconds.

The gun swung toward her and she launched her body at him shoving him with her shoulder, he hit the tiled floor yelling and rubbing his eyes and she ran. Blinded with fear and tears she ran from the bedroom out to the door.

It was as if the handle evaded her fingers, three shaky attempts finally paid off with the door opening. She fell into the hall against the opposite wall. Disoriented she ran aimlessly. Her feet pushed against the rough carpet as she skidded to a stop and pushed the bar on the fire escape door.

“Cal!” She screamed his name repeatedly while running down the stairs. With no clue what floor she was on she moved fast. “Cal!”

“Sasha!”

She heard him below her and nearly fell with desperation to get to him, to safety. “Cal!”

He rounded the stairs and she nearly collapsed. “Bayl.” She gulped. “Up. Gun.”

“I heard a shot.” He pulled out the radio the lead officer gave him and updated the other officers, as he looked her over for blood.

Baylor Crowen was in the hotel. It was surrounded by police and swat was organizing a sweep as they spoke. Cal’s concern was a terrified Sasha.

He picked her up and started down. “How many flights up?”

“I don’t know. I’m sorry.” She was beyond remembering even if she had counted.

“He’s above the thirty-second floor.” Cal informed the officers and listened to the radio chatter as he made his way down the stairwell. Sasha clung and cried as he descended the stairs uttering calming reassurances. He turned and opened the emergency exit with his back. The fresh air was too cold and she started shivering as Cal rushed toward a waiting ambulance. He set her down on the back as a paramedic wrapped a blanket around her as another started assessing her.

“No significant injuries.” The paramedic said then started asking her questions. What day it is, the year, her birthday. Then she started asking Sasha about any pain or injuries. The steady stream of questions calmed her mind and her hands shook less.

“I think I’m okay he didn’t get me.” She said sounding distant as they gave her oxygen and spoke soothingly and checked her vitals.

Cal was only ten feet away talking with three other officers in various types of uniform. One looked like the kind that stormed the buildings in drug raids. Sasha looked around at the chaos. Cop cars, ambulance, fire trucks and people everywhere. Hotel guests, staff, bystanders, officers, paramedics, firefighters and reporters.  Cal walked back toward Sasha who was now sipping bottled spring water that the paramedic gave her.

“She’s okay, shaken but not injured Detective. You’re a brave woman Sasha.” The paramedic smiled kindly and patted her shoulder. “She shouldn’t be alone.”

“I know the drill.” Cal smiled. “I’ll watch over her.”

“Bring her in if need be.”

“Will do.” Cal turned to Sasha. “Can you walk?”

She nodded, shrugged the blanket off and took his extended hand.

I bet she didn’t know she had it in her. She did because I wrote it that way. Surviving danger is exhausting and can have a multitude of after effects. Now I did not make her super-heroic that would be dumb. Sasha is resourceful, smart and determined. She is not a cop or trained in any martial art. She didn’t grab the gun or take Baylor down in a magnificent duel. Why? That’s simple; she’s not ready for that yet. She is just a woman with really bad luck these days. Maybe it’s time to turn all that around. Maybe.

My advice about surviving danger.
Stay within the characters parameters, but allow for growth and opportunity to advance. Nothing too crazy or unbelievable. It’s weird and lazy to give someone an ability in a story and declare it a miracle of the moment or call them a “natural” at something they’ve never ever done before. *Totally rolling my eyes ’cause that happens all the time.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Sensible sensation

Wisely Perpetrating Gullibility

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

Protest

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

The ‘been there, done that’ people

I have no illusions to the fact that I need sometimes need an expert’s advice and help.  Why? Because I am not a professional writer nor editor and there are always going to be someone that knows more or has more experience than I do. I would be a fool to pass it up for ego’s sake.

That advice and information that I’ve found has been instrumental to me getting where I am today with my book. I have seen some people shun the advice of experts for a few reasons. Ego, laziness, and even fear. Yes fear. Taking advice from someone ‘better’ than I am, can be intimidating. What if they say my work is crap? But, what if they don’t? Even if they did, I would hope that they would advise me on what is needed to un-crappify it.

Without advice I would never have turned this:

The seats were all full at the coffee shop. Abigale liked routine and needed to sit. Even though the other occupant at the table was that annoying guy she approached him.
“May I sit here?” She asked.
“I don’t think so.” He replied and put his foot on the chair.
“Jerk.” She said and walked away.

Into this:

The café was unusually busy with the patrons from the busker’s carnival outside. Abigale needed her routine, sit, drink her coffee and read blogs before work. There was only one seat at a small table; and that unpleasant lowlife was seated at it.

She hastily glanced around and swallowed her pride. “Excuse me. May I sit?”
Billy looked up from his book. “I don’t think so.” He put his sneaker-clad foot on the vacant seat.
Her mouth fell open and she furrowed her brow with a hard exhale.

A young couple nearby surveyed the area and made eye contact with Billy.
He smiled at them. “I’m done here if you two want these seats.”
“Oh thank you so much.” The young woman sat when Billy moved his foot and stood.
“You’re a first class jerk.” Abigale lowered her chin with a sneer.
Billy dunked his finger in her coffee. “You have no idea.” He stuck his finger in his mouth and left her staring after him in shock.

With some simple rules from those that have ‘been there and done that’, I was able to learn to turn a simple encounter into an annoying one.

My advice about experts.
Seek them out, take what advice you need and learn from them. You don’t have to do every single thing they say, but be open minded. Don’t forget some ‘experts’ are merely know-it-all’s with nothing constructive to say. I don’t pay them much attention.

-Sheryl

 

Related posts:

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

Tag! You’re it.

Copyediting. Why I didn’t pay someone to destroy my fragile confidence.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved

 

Expert