|Ignore the old-house-in-renovation-look|
I live in a big old, rambling farmhouse, with a big old takes-forever-to-climb, built-at-an-alarming-angle staircase. I love my big old house, and the staircase was a serious motivating factor when I bought the house. Then it tried to kill me this past winter.
*Pause for world-building info dump*
My bedroom is on the second floor; a bathroom in the process of renovation is conveniently, right next door. If one were (and, one often does) to walk out of the bathroom, you take a hard left to get to the bedroom. Then there's a Misleading Bit O'Wall (reason for being thus dubbed to follow) and, immediately following, also on the left, the Staircase of Fate. Said stairs are made out of real dead trees, not pressed and hardened cardboard. And there used to be carpet on them. I took it off. Very. Very. Smart.
So late one night - technically, it was very early, cause I'm a stay-upper like that - last December I found myself in need of the potty. I make that trip, and flip off the light in the bathroom as I exit - cause who needs the lights on to make a hard left turn into their own bedroom? But it's late, and I'm tired, so when I put my hand out and feel the Misleading Bit O'Wall ending, I think oh good - bedroom - and commenced to step out into nothingness. I was already leaning forward a bit, reaching for the light switch inside the bedroom, so I don't do one of those slippity, land on your butt things. I fell completely forward and went end over end so that the very first thing that HIT was literally the crown of my head. On a step. A hard one. With no carpet. I heard the *CRUNCH* inside my head as my neck impacted.
Thought process went like this, as I stepped into nothingness, surrounded by pitch blackness:
1) Where the hell did my bedroom floor go?
2) *CRUNCH* Oh shit, I'm falling down the stairs, and I think my neck just got shorter.
3) Wow, this is really taking a long time to get to the bottom
4) *still falling down the stairs* Do these stairs end? It would be really terrifying if I just kept falling.
5) *MEATY SMACK as I hit the bottom* (cause she never really slowed down) Oh good, I'm done falling, the perpetual stairs theory is false.
7) I appear to be alright
8) *attempts to stand, immediate vomit reaction, curls into fetal position* Should I call the squad? I can either crawl the length of the house to the security panel and do that, or crawl back up the stairs to my cell phone.
9) Well, I'm butt ass naked so I don't think I will go for option one. (Inside track - BBC sleeps in the nude. Yeah, cause that's how I roll - and let me tell you, the bruises were interesting).
So I crawl back up the stairs, to call my Mommy and Daddy - cause that's also how I roll. And an interesting conversation follows:
Mindy: (after a few dials cause it's like, 3 AM) Hi Mom - first of all, I think I'm OK, but I fell down my stairs and I want you to come and make sure I don't fall asleep and not wake up, or vomit and choke on it and die in my sleep.
MOM: (long sigh) How did you manage to do that?
Mindy: Does it matter? I just DID!
MOM: Hold on.
*I overhear MOM waking up DAD*
MOM: Here - keep your daughter talking on the phone while I drive over there to make sure she's OK.
DAD: What happened?
MOM: She fell down the stairs.
DAD: How did she manage to do that?
Why am I telling you all this?
Well, shortly after the Staircase of Fate escapade, I began analyzing the thought process I had while in the act of getting shorter. When something alarming, sudden, and traumatizing happens to our characters, we tend to make them aware of what's going on. But the truth is, when something like that occurs in real life, we are so disoriented we have no CLUE what is happening - hence my wondering why my bedroom floor had evaporated.
True, it's hard to write a realistic, sudden scene where your character doesn't know what's going on without confusing or losing your reader. I was able to think of one example (and my apologies to Sue Grafton, because I'm not able to quote her word for word here). In one of the earlier Kinsey Milhone stories (I believe it was somewhere in the D-F range) Kinsey is walking out of a house where she just conducted an interview to have a very attractive blonde assassin take a shot at her. She meets his eyes, and smiles and says "Hi," cause he's that cute, and then a bee flies past her ear and the wooden post beside her face randomly explodes. He took a shot at her - we know that - but she doesn't, and the casual, realistic description of the scene was such an awesomely fresh take on writing that it stuck with me a long time - I read those books in junior high.
So, chew on that - and by all means let me know if you can think of other examples. Better yet, if you can tip me off on which Grafton novel that was, I'd appreciate it - I want a re-read!
I'll leave you with a related conversation, that has no bearing on writing. A week after my Fateful Fall Forward I was still dizzy at random moments, and slightly sluggish. So I thought - Hey! Maybe I should go to the Dr! *dials phone*
Mindy: Yeah I need to get an appt.
Receptionist: And what do we need to see you for today?
Mindy: I fell down my stairs and I think I have a concussion.
Recept: Ma'am? Would you like us to call the squad for you?
Mindy: Oh no, this was like a week ago.
Recept: (long pause) What are your symptoms?
Mindy: I'm dizzy and nauseous, plus I want to sleep a lot.
Recept: For a week now?
Recept: OK - be here in the office in 15 minutes. I'm taking the liberty of scheduling you for an MRI as well, cause they're going to want to do that.
Mindy: Well, it'll have to be in half an hour, it'll take me that long to drive there.
Recept: You're driving yourself around?
Mindy: Uh... nooooo, no, of course not.
MRI said that my brain is just fine :) Do you trust modern medicine?
If I can find a way to fit into a writing-themed blog post, I'll share a picture of my superfluous banister!