Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fear Factor

Writers are encouraged to give their characters fears, flaws or foibles for several reasons. I know I hate to read about “perfect” people. They remind me of the annoying kids in the “In Crowd” in high school, the kids with the new cars and the cool clothes who got onto the Honor Roll and into the best schools without breaking a sweat or needing a scholarship. They were already living their happy ending, or at least it looked that way when I was a young jealouspuss.

I’m mature enough now to agree with Roseanne Roseannadanna: “It’s always something.” You never know what hidden misery lurks behind that perfectly brace-less smile and cheerleader uniform. Thus has my well-earned wisdom spared me from watching the new crop of teen reality shows. There's always plenty of angst to go around.

So, I’ve been toying with what makes a good, reasonable quirk for a hero or heroine to have. I’ve read about those afraid of thunderstorms, commitment, going blind/insane, horses, performance failure, dancing, etc.

If I were my own heroine, I’d have major rodent aversion. Lately, we have been overrun with field mice, which’ve abandoned the snowy pastures and are holing up in drawers, basement boxes, and my pantry closet. The other night one ran into the bathroom while I was---uh, using it, and I’m surprised you didn’t hear me scream wherever you live.

We are now hosting a Decon buffet throughout the house, since the little bastards just licked the peanut butter and cheese off the spring-traps. I’m leaving the hall light on so there are no furry surprises as I stumble around in the night. My grandmother was similarly afflicted with mouse mania; I remember her leaping up onto a chair when she was in her seventies, the most exercise she’d gotten in decades.

There is no rational reason to be afraid of tiny, cute creatures, but I hate them with an all-consuming passion. And it’s not because I’m concerned about that virus they can harbor, either. Even if they presented me with a clean bill of health from a vet, I’d want them dead.

Do you have any mouse tales? Any irrational fears? What about characters in books, either your own or someone else’s?

Fear is static that prevents me from hearing myself. ~Samuel Butler

I’m talking about imaginary friends (not mice) on Romantic Inks this Sunday. Please join me! And there are still some great items to bid on at the auction, which ends on Saturday, January 26.


BernardL said...

Are you afraid of cats too, Maggie? There ain't any better solution to an on going mouse or rat problem than a cat. This brings me to my aversion: cat boxes. :)

RevMelinda said...

Dear Maggie:

Please help me. I am being HELD HOSTAGE by Deanna Raybourn's books (Silent in the Grave, Silent in the Sanctuary). Brisbane's quirks--no, they're "issues," aren't they?-- are MESMERIZING and I am actually dreaming about him. (Don't tell my husband.)

I can't talk, I can't write, I can't blog, I can't go anywhere until I've finished them. What can I do? Is there any hope? And HOW can I wait a year for the next one?

Lusting In My Heart

Maggie Robinson said...

LOL, RevM! I turned on a bunch of people on the EJ/JQ bulletin board to the first one. LOVED IT!!! Now I'm the lusting one if you have the second book. Isn't she a great writer? And what a fabulous heroine! I was sucked right into the snippet for SITS at the end of SITG and never wanted to leave Raybourn's world. I'm afraind I'm a fangirl now. Will break down and buy second book in*shudder*hardcover. It's so exciting to find a new writer that knocks your socks off. Have you read Spymaster's Lady by Bourne? Another great book.

Bernard, we borrowed my daughter's cat for a while (I'm allergic---love them but can't touch them, which makes for a sad kitty). All he did was exhaust them batting them around but did not kill them. But I think the Decon is working, and so far I don't smell rotting mouse carcasses in the walls.

terrio said...

I had a terrible problem with mice when I lived on a farm in AR. Used the sticky traps because I didn't want them to die somewhere in or under the house and I'd have to search for them. It's cruel but it had to be done.

I remember many years ago, my old roommate was petrified of the things. She was *cough* times larger than the little buggers but she'd climb that cabinet all the same. They startle me if they come out of nowhere and I don't want to touch them but I'm not afraid of them.

For flaws, my heroine seems to be stubborn and pessimistic. She is convinced every man will leave her and refuses to give anyone a chance. My hero is having anger issues he's not dealing with. Not violent anger but enough to make him cranky and not much fun.

TiffinaC said...

Pfft: Bernard, my cat doesn't do anything to rid us of the mice living under our kitchen cabinets. Oh wait, he stares at the doors, wondering if he should do something about!
I'm not afraid of mice, I do have a nasty mouse story and a reason I will never use traps again to get rid of the vermin (long story short, our apartment flooded with about a foot of water... in that time, caught a mouse---do you know what that much water does to a dead mouse?)
Heroes need fears. Mine have plenty. i like alpha's so I have lots of arrogance, domineering attitudes, but I also have fear, tramatization of the past...and really there are probably too many to name.
Do I have irrational ones? yes...spiders and creepy crawlies.

Maggie Robinson said...

Oh, Tiff, despite loving Charlotte's Web, I hate spiders too. I came home from a date once to find a spider on the wall over my bed, so I slept on the living room couch. And wood spiders...yikes, they're so big they make noise when they jump.

Terrio, I used to put mouse traps in brown paper lunch bags so I didn't have to see the dead things. I'd just roll up the bag and throw it all away. I really could never be a coroner.

terrio said...

Wow, Maggie, I never thought of that. I did buy one of those humane traps once. It was a little rectangle made out of clear plastic with a type of trap door at one end. You'd put the bait at the far end and when the mouse walked in it would shut. Then I could let them go outside.

Of course, unless you are going to drive them out of town, they're just going to come back in again. LOL! But my conscience was clear!

Tessa Dare said...

I'm not exactly fond of vermin, but I'm not terrified of them. My big phobia is being underwater with a limited air supply. I discovered this when I tried to learn to scuba dive. Did not work. It's snorkeling for me.

Keira Soleore said...

Oh, yes, every spring, they come to visit our crawl space. Other than one incident a few years ago, when I saw one streak across the kitchen in the pantry (and I screeched loud enough to wake up the dead), I've been able to sniff them out. And we dutifully pay up with the rat demolition expert shows up and makes sure no furry creature (eeeeeeee) makes it way into the house.

Maggie Robinson said...

Keira, we can screech a duet together. My husband read this blog and said I omitted some of the more embarrassing aspects of my mouse sighting. To give him credit, he did come to my rescue but then just laughed when he saw me.

Tessa, I don't really even like swimming much. Learned in the ocean and almost drowned numerous times. Actually went to a college that required passing of a swimming test to graduate (!!!). I passed---just.

irisheyes said...

I'm not fond of rodents, but they don't terrify me. My son has a pet hamster I really wish would meet his maker, but that's more of an ick factor than fear factor. I was assured by the DH at the time of purchase it would only live 2 years. We're going on 3!!! Note to self: never listen to the DH when it comes to animals.

He uses the humane traps too. And I think the same thing, Terri - you're just letting it go to come back inside again! Sheesh!

My fear - spiders and creepy crawly things. I hate bugs. It doesn't matter the size, although the bigger the bug the louder my scream! I have never seen Charlotte's Web and probably will never see it. I even have a hard time with cartoon bugs.

RevMelinda said...

Maybe I shouldn't mention that there are currently two little gerbil corpses in our freezer?

(Perhaps that's just the first step on the slippery slope that will end with us as the subjects of Ann Rule's next True Crime book. . .)

Maggie Robinson said...

I know in Maine there are lots of humans in the freezer, waiting for a spring burial.* But gerbils? I want to know more, Rev M!

* Not in MY freezer, mind you.

Ericka Scott said...

I'm with you on the mice! Bleh. Sneaky, dirty, smelly creatures...

RevMelinda said...

Maggie, I work for hospice so my comfort level about these things is a little--er--different. The gerbils, bless them, just died in their beds and our freaky family hasn't had the time or space to plan a suitable memorial service (and we think the dog might dig them up once they're buried. . .).

I remember touring around a Big Farmhouse in New England (New Hampshire? Vermont?) and they showed us a special place in the house (attic? basement?) used in the 18/19c for frozen storage of loved ones who died when the ground was too hard for burial.

What does it say in the obits in the paper when people are on ice for the spring? I'm picturing something like "A March burial is planned" or some such. . .

Maggie Robinson said...

Hi Ericka with the gorgeous book covers! I am now singing the praises of Decon.

Rev M, in the spring a flurry of announcements appear in the papers on the spring interments. So it's kind of like people have two obits---one for the actual funeral, and then later when they can actually be buried. Must be doubly hard on the families to go through the whole process twice.

I admire you so much for your hospice work. Toward the end of taking care of our parents in our home, we had hospice care and appreciated it so much. My father's caregiver knew so much about him in the short time he was with us, and helped me look at things in a very different way.

Oh! And I got Silent in the Sanctuary!!! But I'm trying to finish The Winter Rose first. Only 450 pages to go, LOL (It's 707 altogether)

RevMelinda said...

From SITS page 230:

"I suppose it is quite certain he is dead?" I asked faintly.
"There are bits of him stuck to your shoe," he remarked, rather unhelpfully.