In the last three weeks, I have posted two linked stories that deserve a bit of backstory:
First, you should know that I’m a contrasting sort of girl. If the story is bleak, odds are I’m giggling and clapping at my own cleverness while I type. If it’s heartwarming, I’m sniffling self-sorrow and rolling my eyes in disgust. If it’s cheerful, then you can bet something AWFUL is going on in my life. My neutral and my stories’ neutral are about the only emotional matches.
Second, let me be clear. I have never been suicidal. Bi-polar comes to me as rage. I loved Hulk in The Avengers, because his secret was that he was always angry. Yeah. That’s me. I mean, I’m not always ready to punch people and rip apart buildings. But it’s always simmering along, though when I’m good and medicated, I can feel it rather than living it. (Note – I’m good and medicated and plan to stay that way for the rest of forever.)
Third, and now we get to the point, I nonetheless know a lot about suicide. I researched it like a fucking project when I was a teen, because of the way mental illness runs in my family. I needed to know. And it’s proved to be very useful to me as a writer, this knowledge.
For example, Jeanine.
In the first story, Jeanine slit her wrists. I did extra wrist slitting research just especially for her.
I could have reasonably gone a number of different directions following her up. I could have let her die and then followed Kallum’s reaction. I could have let Kallum come back and find her in the Nick Of Time and had a rapidquick salvation sequence. I could have let Kallum find her at the last second (but too late) and had a heartwrenching attempt-to-save-her-scene. Any of those would have worked with last week’s Death from Trifecta. Kallum or Jeanine either one could have Talked to The Reaper.
I opted for none of them. Killing Jeanine would have been tons of fun. But all of those scenarios smacked of melodrama. I am not a big fan of melodrama. It’s kind of like heartwarming. It goes for the cheap shot. When my kids are the topic, I often have to settle for the cheap shot ,because I seem incapable of presenting something good without that annoying emotional string attached. But when I’m writing fiction, I have a lot more options about presentation, and I like to play with all of them. Sometimes I do melodrama. Sometimes a story requires it.
But more often, a story requires subtlety. And Kallum and Jeanine’s story felt like it was one of undercurrents. By shifting away from Kallum and Jeanine for the next scene, I was able to give the piece darker, more bleak overtones. And ‘bleak’ is one of my favorite modes. Now, we have a third sister (and we’ve confirmed Tina and Jeanine are sisters anyway), sitting around ignoring the phone, dressed in black. And she’s supposed to be a mental health coach.
Also, assuming that Lucia IS mentally sound, Jeanine is NOT. She may be getting off the ward, but she’s not in any way ready to live unsupervised. And, realistically, how long can her sister walk away from her own life? How long can Kallum stay home from work? It would help if Jeanine had a job, but I get the feeling she doesn’t. (They may sign her up for one after this.) Essentially, once Jeanine is dead, so is the story. If she lives awhile longer, then everyone can suffer more. YAY, WHEE!!!
But if she is going to live, it has to be plausible.
However, it’s perfectly plausible for her to survive slitting her wrists. For one thing, most people do not slit their wrists right. (Um. Yeah. I’m leaving that sentence for humorous posterity.) They saw away horizontally at the wrong part of the arm and never hit the artery, or they realize the cut needs to be vertical, but they make it too shallow because it hurts or on the wrong part of the arm because that artery is small. Then, the blood clots around the spurts. So it’s safe to assume Jeanine had to spend some time hacking away on herself figuring out what to do, with that knife getting more slippery and her arms getting more sore all the while.
Then, even when somebody does slit them right, it’s usually not perfect. Until the cut is a goring gash, the body is going to try to clot. And the would-be suicide gets lightheaded and may very well pass out only to wake up with scabbed over arms half an hour later, and also pruned up skin that has been sitting in its melodramatic little tub for too long.
Finally, it takes about half an hour to bleed to death from the wrists. And it isn’t all tragic and magical, they’re in pain that whole time, because of the nerve endings in the way, and because they have to slice deep. When they pass out, it’s not necessarily from blood loss, and they may very well try to save themselves because it hurts more than they expected.
So as long as the yard was small enough, and Jeanine just underinformed enough, Kallum could have come back in to find the bathroom flooded and running into the kitchen, and Jeanine listless and half gone and still gotten her help. But that scene would have been melodramatic. Possibly, I’ll go back and write it anyway, now that I know I have a way to pull back from that intensity level afterward. More likely, I’m through writing about this couple, but I’ve gained a couple of new techniques from the process. And that, my friends, is one of the most important reasons I put fiction on my blog.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.