Characters in novels shouldn’t throw up so easily
14 Saturday Jun 2014
Written by J. Abram Barneck in Writing Tips
No tags :(
Have you ever noticed that characters in book often seem to be overly queasy. It seems that if you are a main character in a book you suffer from some kind of stomach disorder because every little thing can make you throw up.
The ability to suspend disbelief is extremely important for an author. The greater ability you have to lead the reader into a deeper level of suspended disbelief (which means the reader is really getting into the story), the more successful your novel will be.
When reading a book, if a character throws up, my mind immediately does a check to see if throwing up is really a likely reaction. If not, my disbelief in your story is increased. Your goal is to suspend my disbelief, not increase it. Basically, we all have an internal B.S. meter.
Here is a check list that pretty much represents my B.S. meter for a character throwing up:
- Is the character sick or drunk or physically compromised in some way? Sick, drunk, spinning, etc…
- Is the character experiences something that overwhelms her senses:
- Sight: Is the character experience blood/scene of death/etc. for the first time?
- Smell: Is the smell so strong it causes a gag reflex, or is smell coupled with another sense (such as sight).
- Touch: Usually touching something gross isn’t enough unless it is all over you and smell is involved too.
- Taste: Gag reflex
- Sound: Almost never causes throwing up.
- Did the character just experience an immensely overwhelming experience that is so horrific they will have a psychosomatic reaction? Even if a character is experiencing this, it pretty much has to be the first time:
- For example, the new detective might throw up at the scene of his first murder, but never again. Main characters grow from this experience. They get stronger and it doesn’t happen again.
- It is the result of a build up of consecutive occurrences. A character has one experience that makes them queasy, then another, then another.
- The character is most likely a side character and getting queasy is their character trait. You maybe could pull it off with a main character but it would be tough.
- For example, a side character, Lisa, a forensics analysts always throws up at a murder scene. Something different always sets her off to the point that the other detectives actually place bets on how long after she arrives until she throws up.
If your character is throwing up, and it doesn’t involve something like this, then I don’t believe it.
I don’t actually ask myself all those questions. Those questions are already answered, or not, by the story when the throwing up occurs.
At first, I didn’t think I had a character throwing up in Fire Light. But then I remembered that I did. Kendra throws up. In this scene, Kendra, Jake, and Alexis’s minds are joined and they experience each other’s thoughts and memories in real time.
More of her memories flooded into me, and in less than a second, I witnessed every single time her grandfather had raped her himself or gifted her to others.
Lexy’s shame rolled into me like an ocean, mixing with the nausea coming from Kendra, who had also just experienced the same revolting memories. I heard Kendra emptying her stomach next to me. The stench of half-digested pizza mixed into the air that already stunk with burned vampires, blood, and gunpowder. If throwing up were a possibility for me, I’d have done it too. My body wanted to do something—anything—to rid itself of the evil that writhed just under my skin.
According to my B.S. meter, this is acceptable. It doesn’t just match one of the above, it matches multiple. because it matches both #2 and #3. She she’s horrific images in her mind. The experience is immensely overwhelming. And it is a first time for this experience. It also might match the build up, because, well, she just experiences a lot of blood and gore, too, and was likely already queasy, though I never mention that. I probably could have and maybe should have mentioned that.
Have fun writing and please, do your best to avoid throwing up.