Thursday, October 29, 2009

Antibiotic Wishes and Codeine Dreams ...

By Kelli

What's the most exotic way I've ever killed off a character?

Well, possibly a combination of yew berry poisoning and stabbing ... or maybe aconite (Deadly Nightshade) poisoning combined with drowning. The combo methods are generally a result of the imprecise nature of poisons in the Roman world--both of those methods of disposal are found in NOX DORMIENDA and CURSED (formerly known as MALEDICTUS), respectively.

Poison in the Roman world was a very common tool, especially among imperial women, if the historians are to be believed. And since any Roman historian needs to be taken with a proverbial grain or even ceramic dish of salt, the link between women of any class and poison is probably more of a cultural paranoia than an actual historical fact--that old saw about poison being the women's weapon runs back at least a couple of thousand years.

I personally think it says more about Roman historians and the dominant culture than it does about women or their weapons of choice, but still ... the idea of the foxglove leaves "accidentally" introduced into the salad by the person nominally in charge of the culinary domain is intriguing, no?

You might even say the Romans had poison on the brain. In Pliny, for example, you'll find reference to poisoned honey ... something I might use in the Arcturus Series, if it proves successful enough to continue. But me, well, when I kill a character it needs to work within the milieu and be absolutely consistent with characterization. No fancy-schmancy poisoned peacock's tongue when a simple bit of poisoned eye cream is far more logical on both counts.

Actually, as a writer (and I know this is going to ruin our reps, guys, so forgive me), I don't spend a lot of time dreaming up ways of killing off people. We like to give the impression that we do--makes us seem a lot more interesting, and makes people inclined to be nice to us--but I think most of us create a situation and characters and let things unfold from there.

In CITY OF DRAGONS, people die from gunshot wounds, one person is intentionally run down and run over by a car, and someone else is strangled. Each death matters; each victim matters. No matter what the agent is, no matter how it happens, loss is loss and it's the most Godawful thing about life, period.

With respects to Dylan Thomas, I do not go gently into that good night.

And that respect for life and death is why, I think, we as authors take a grim satisfaction in punishing the people who prey on others ...

Now, as to my blog post title? Well, I'm writing this while taking codeine cough syrup for a bad bout of something that has me out for the count for the week. And I'm on super-antibiotics, too. So right now, I'm wondering about the toxicity of drugs I'm taking ... ah, the writer's life for me! :)

Take care, everybody--and stay healthy!!


Jen Forbus said...

Sorry to hear you're under the weather, Kel.

I think readers of crime fiction also read for the same reason...not to get enjoyment from the killing (well, maybe the horror fans?) but from the satisfaction of retribution of some kind of closure. Take for example Tana French's IN THE WOODS. What people seemed to criticize her most about...they didn't find out the answer to the kids' disappearance. Me personally, I took issues with some other factors, but people who posted on my blog all commented on being angry that there was no answer to that in the novel.

Feel better soon! :)

Kelli Stanley said...

Thanks, my dear Jen! :) Hopefully I'll be able up and around in a few days.

I think you're absolutely right about resolution ... once we open up a story-line, heighten the drama, etc. we need to provide some sort of emotional resolution for the reader. It's possible to do it without tying up all the plot elements, but leaving readers in a kind of emotional suspension is never good. I'm wary of watching movies these days for this same reason.

The more heightened the stakes, the more of an emotional catharsis required. And that sense of righted wrongs and hard-fought justice is one powerful catharsis! :)

Take care, my dear, and thanks for the comment!!



Rebecca Cantrell said...

Kelli, why aren't you resting? (Imagine that in the Mom Voice).

I agree that, for me, every death should matter and that the reason behind the death is way more important than the method (although that depends on the book). Most of the major historical deaths I deal with are already recorded, so I can't get too creative. Lots of shootings. A few stabbings. Some beatings.

But I do have a very exotic way that someone is killed in A GAME OF LIES. Wait until 2011...

And, Kelli, REST!!!

Jen Forbus said...

Hey Rebecca, what was that Kelli was saying about building up the emotional suspense??? Huh??? 2011??? I have to wait until 2011??? ;)

Kelli Stanley said...

Oh, no--Rebecca's using the M.V. on me. I feel guilty just for typing!! ;)

I am resting, my dear friend, and thank you. But one can only watch so many Joan Crawford movies in a row.

(Just finished Daisy Kenyon--excellent writing, noir cinematography, great soap melodrama).

And now that you've baited us by making us wait until 2011, I'm hereby demanding an early mss. edition of A GAME OF LIES. :)

OK, back to resting. :)


Kelli Stanley said...

Jen, Becky is a master at this sort of thing ... but I've got a plan. At the next conference, we get her to drink some absinthe and pry the info out of her! ;)