Not much to post this week reference-wise, so instead we’re going to talk about some of our storytelling choices in Chapter 23, regarding how Herr Inspektor is dealing so far with his clear case of post-traumatic stress disorder. If you haven’t yet read Chapter 23, obviously you should move along. Also you should get caught up! Here’s the Story Archive.
Two important things happen in this chapter regarding the answer of a fictional character to an author’s cruel onslaught of unbelievable strain. The first one is vomiting. It’s about the first thing our hero does upon his escape into relative safety. We even went so far as to describe it as his body’s attempt to reject the experience. I know vomiting squicks a lot of people out, and honestly we’re not super fond of it either (I mean, hell, who is?), but it’s an invaluable device for when you need to convey trauma. Our line about bodily rejection is exactly what’s happening—the idea is when a person experiences something traumatic, there is an actual physical response, like a denial. If you have the stomach for it (lol), always consider whether or not your character might throw up after a particularly awful experience. Like any narrative device, it should not be overused, but it can be particularly effective.
The other thing is the bath. Where the vomiting thing is used by a lot of movies and TV shows and other forms of storyteling, we almost never see the ritual bath. Probably because a bath does not make for particularly dramatic storytelling. So why does Herr Inspektor’s bath have its own chapter? Because it’s necessary, that’s why. After a traumatic event, particularly one that involves being covered in blood for hours, not to mention being seduced and variously threatened with grievous bodily harm, a person is going to want to GET CLEAN. And not just a shower, if you ask us. A lovely, hot, luxurious bath. In our opinion, it is totally acceptable to sacrifice drama for a well-earned respite, and this is not something that is done nearly enough. It’s not just for the character, or even for believability; it’s for the reader/viewer. We shoved a huge amount of drama and tension into Chapters 19-22, and in fact throughout the whole story there’s been a building wall of suspense with very few periods of calm. This bath was mightily deserved. It’s a chance to breathe; it allows the story and its put-upon hero to settle and recharge and get ready for the next rise. This probably seems pretty basic, but it kind of seems like the only time characters bathe are when it’s for sexy or comedic purposes (see The 40 Year Old Virgin, which achieves both at once). But baths are wonderful and multi-purposeful! They clean! They soothe! In fact, we recommend them to everyone, not just characters. If you are tired and sore or even just depressed, take a bath. You will be so happy you did.
Maybe this stuff seems obvious, but we think it’s cool anyway. Writing!
As you were.