Sunday, June 17, 2012

Puke and Death (or Reality Without the Puke)

So it's mid-June, and writers everywhere are burying themselves in their manuscripts, fingers flying fast and furious as they struggle to meet the 50,000 word NaNo goal. In June? Yes, in June. Camp NaNoWriMo is in full swing.

I met my 50k camp word count on the 14th, but have a personal goal to finish the novel before the end of the month. I'm aiming for about 75k, and am somewhere around 62k right now. I have a feeling I'll finish.

Writing a novel in such a short time is a little ridiculous, but I've loved every second of it. Instead of getting stuck in my head, I'm letting the story pour out as fast as I can type it. Later, during the second draft, I'll do all the language polishing that I'm yearning to do now.

Before that, I'm struck by another interesting thing that has happened when just pouring the words onto the page without carefully editing as I go (like I usually do).


Seriously. I've counted at least five instances of characters… well.. emptying the contents of their stomachs. This isn't the Exorcist I'm writing--it's YA Fantasy. But it's edgy, and after some of the dark, sick, twisted things I put my characters through, it seems many have a tendency to throw up.

When I realized this, I spent a moment face palming. Or several moments. Puke? Seriously? Once I could understand. There's some heavy shit in this book. But at least five times? Really?

Which brings me to reality vs. fiction. Perhaps in real life, when faced with death and torture and rape and any number of horrific things, a person's natural inclination is to puke. Or scream hysterically. Or go catatonic. Who knows. Pick your coping mechanism.

In fiction, characters can't just go catatonic when things get too scary or psychologically damaging. It doesn't make for a good story or a very compelling character. We don't want to read about characters just like us. We want to read about characters like us but better.

In my first attempt at writing a book, I didn't have a single instance of puking. There was some heavy, twisted stuff in that book as well, but the characters handled things in ways that were truer to them. Reality but better. Reality without the puke. 

In my haste to plow through this novel before I lose momentum, I've let a little too much reality into my fantasy world. I've made a note about it for now. I refuse to go back and edit out any of the regurgitation until I write the words 'THE END'. Because I promised myself no editing.

Will anyone puke in the final draft? Maybe. Possibly even two people at the same time. Who knows. But when someone empties his stomach, I want it to mean something. If someone loses her lunch, I want it to be because what has just happened is so powerful, so horrific, that these fictional characters that have dealt commendably with other horrific things are brought to their knees.

But puke still isn't necessarily the best way to handle that. 

So the moral? Whatever your characters do in your story, make it a little bit better than real. Be true to the character, true to the world, and make them worth reading about. Puking is easy. It's like tears. Just because a character cries doesn't mean we feel sad with them. Just because a character's stomach turns inside out doesn't mean we feel as disgusted, horrified, and traumatized, unless it's from picturing the vomitorium that their world must be.

Now I’m off to write the climax, which hopefully will involve plenty of death, mayhem, destruction, pyrotechnics, but not a single instance of vomit. 

(What? You didn't seriously think I would pass up the opportunity to put half a dozen pictures of cartoons puking on my blog did you? Bwahahahah? As if! You should've realized you never make it out without some awesome exorcist-style decorative flair. Now go and be queasy!)