Monday, December 7, 2009

"Mother! Oh God, Mother!"

By Jeannie

Before I answer this week's burning question, I'd like to take a moment to thank my fellow criminal minds for inviting me to join them. I'm honored to be included in such a diverse and frighteningly creative group.

Now, on with the show!

This week we're discussing whether or not we've ever worried about our family's reaction to a scene we'd written. Short answer: Yes...sort of. Let me explain why.

I'm a native of southwestern Mississippi. I grew up in a rural area with conservative values. Crime, sex, and the supernatural were not topics discussed around the family dinner table. Sex was especially taboo. When I asked my mother were babies came from, as all children do, she changed the subject. So I asked my older brother. His answer was that I'd been found under a dirty cabbage leaf in the garden. (For those who haven't heard this before, I grew up what was essentially a 40-acre farm.) I then asked my older sister, the nurse, and well, let's just say that I was the most well-informed six-year-old in first grade.

Do I worry about my family's reaction to a scene I've written? Sort of. I'm not worried so much about how my siblings will react. No, the reaction I'm most worried about is my mother.

Mom is everything you would expect to find in a sweet, Southern lady. She raised her children to sit up straight, be polite, mind their manners, and eat their vegetables. When we misbehaved, we had to stand with our noses in a corner of the kitchen in her version of Time Out. Having her daughter write about vampire cops tracking vicious serial killers through the streets of small Mississippi towns was not a subject for which Mom ever considered she'd need to be prepared. Naturally, I have discussed certain aspects of BLOOD LAW with her, just to give her a "head's up." I'm not worried about the murders, or even the sex. She's already said she'd skip over the sex scenes. No, I'm worried about "The Shower Scene."

I'm sure we're all familiar with Alfred Hitchcock's "shower scene" in Psycho, one of my all-time fave films. It's masterfully filmed and the transition from the blood (actually chocolate sauce) swirling down the drain to the unblinking, lifeless eye of Janet Leigh's character lying on the floor gives me shivers. Then comes Norman's cry of "Mother! Oh God, Mother! Blood! Blood!" Oh, yes, Hitchcock knew how to create tension and chills.

While I'd never seek to compare myself to the Master of Suspense, I have my own "shower scene." I can't go into great detail because I want to save the full shock of the scene for my readers, but I can say that it is a powerfully telling scene about my antagonist. Yes, it involves my bad guy and not in the way you'd probably think. In all honesty, I'm surprised the scene made it into the final book. I actually expected my editor to ask me to cut it. When she didn't I began asking myself why. After reading it through again for copy editing, I now realize that what I'd considered a late addition scene was one of the most insightful, and yet creepy scenes, in the entire book. The question that is formed in the reader's mind at that moment is very similar to the one that forms in the viewer's mind when watching Psycho: How much of what I'm seeing (or reading) is real?

For me, "The Shower Scene" is a key scene, but it's also the one I worry about the most when I think of my mother reading my book. I'm hitting a couple of different taboos in that one scene, and depending on her reaction, I think there's a kitchen corner with my name on it in my future.


Rebecca Cantrell said...

Welcome aboard, Jeannie!

Think how much WRITING you can get done with your nose in the kitchen corner, undisturbed. Just bring a notebook and a pencil.

I don't have any shower scenes, but I do have a couple in tubs. Mom read them with no comments though. Probably glad the characters washed behind their ears occassionally.

CJ Lyons said...

Welcome, Jeannie!!!

If it weren't for all those hours in time out, I probably wouldn't be a writer today, so embrace it!

Could be worse, your mom could make you go hoe or weed all those cabbages!

Jeannie Holmes said...

Thanks, Becky!

I think standing the corner as a child led to my overactive imagination. Yes, I stood in the corner a lot so I had to amuse myself and made up stories in my head.

You make a good point. At least my bad guy is clean. ;)

Jeannie Holmes said...

Thanks, CJ!

I should thank Mom for putting me in time out so much. :)

You're right. I could be forced to weed the cabbages or worse, pick okra. Talk about itchy! Eek!

Shane Gericke said...

Welcome to Writerland, Jeannie. Very nice post. Your folks sounds a lot like mine, except for the Southern part!

Shane Gericke said...

Tubs? Rebecca, you are deliciously wicked. My scenes are in showers, because I ... uh, I mean, my characters, right, the characters ... would get all crampy-up in a bathtub ...

Kelli Stanley said...

Welcome home, Jeannie!! :)

I can hear Bernard Herrmann's stabbing score right now ...

Of course, knowing that it was all chocolate sauce makes the shower scene even more kinky. Right, Shane? ;)

BTW--I LOVE okra, and can't find it much out here. I'll help you pick! :)



Joshua Corin said...

So your older brother essentially called you a Cabbage Patch kid? Nice.

I look forward to reading this ominous shower scene, Jeannie. Nothing like the combination of nudity, water, and shampoo eyes to create suspense!

Jeannie Holmes said...

Thanks, Shane! My family can be...interesting. I'm sure you'll hear more about them as the subject warrants using them as examples. ;)

Jeannie Holmes said...

Thanks, Kelli! Yes, the "blood" was chocolate sauce. According to Hollywood legend, Hitchcock tried the fake stage blood and didn't like how it looked on film. Eventually they hit on the chocolate sauce and he was happy with the results.

Other Psycho trivia includes the first working toilet seen and heard on film, as well as the first real-life woman's bra. Until Janet Leigh sported hers on film, all bras were either non-functional costumes or not seen. ;)

Yes, I'm a Hitchcock fan, in case you couldn't tell. lol!

Jeannie Holmes said...

Thanks, Joshua! And, yes, my brother called me a Cabbage Patch Kid, among other names.

I'm still surprised my editor was okay with keeping the scene in the book. I completely expected her to tell me to cut it. When she didn't I was shocked. After you read it, you'll see why.