Writing for Real(ism)

My brother and his wife recently sent out some new baby pictures and an update on how  they’re doing.  With the baby at 10 weeks old they are getting approximately 5-7 hours of sleep and they declared it “luxurious”.  Oh, I remember those days! If you read my post on Mom’s vs. Navy Seals “Hell What Now?” you know that I’m sympathetic to the trials of sleep deprivation.  But now that I’m a bit more on the other side (next stop – terrible two’s!), I’m intrigued by the idea of how I can apply this knowledge to my characters.

Writers are told to add physical characteristics to their characters and bring realism to the fictional world.  And I think all writers enjoy building a character dossier – eyes, hair, height, tattoos.  But I think until I had my child it didn’t occur to me to build in the psychological effects of physical changes and stresses.  When one gains weight, there are changes such as bumping into things you didn’t used to (I swear I didn’t whack my baby belly with the car door more than 8 or 12 times).  With weight loss people can find themselves turning sideways to go through doorways that fit them just fine.  And what about memory and focus problems that come with hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, or trauma? And as if these very physical realities weren’t enough, I think I should be asking not only “How does my character deal with this physical limitation or stress?” But also “What does my character feel about their reaction?”

Now I just have to figure out how to write all that around a dead body,  3 – 10 suspects, and a three act structure and I’m sure I’ll have a best seller on my hands.