April 5th, 2012


No One Is Safe

It turns out that I really dodged a bullet with those storms. Just a few miles north of me, they had baseball-sized hail. There were leaves and twigs all over the ground from the trees being shredded, all the houses had tarps on the roofs, especially over skylights, and there were a lot of cars with smashed-out windows that looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to them. The preschoolers were very excited about the whole thing. Kids are so resilient. I could tell from the way they talked that they'd been really scared when it was happening, but by the next day it had become something really exciting to talk about. I have a clay tile roof, so I don't have to worry much about hail damage (my contractor neighbor says it could probably take a direct strike from a meteorite), but I do have a skylight. Maybe I should get a tarp to have handy in case the skylight ever gets knocked out.

I had my own tiny bit of storm damage: when the ground gets really wet, the ants decide to take shelter in my house. Oddly, they only go to the front of the house. I've never seen one in the kitchen where the food is. This time, they were marching along my bedroom wall, behind my bed, and I couldn't figure out where they were going because the trail stopped behind my nightstand. I don't eat in my bedroom or keep food there, so I wasn't sure what was drawing them. And then I opened a nightstand drawer and saw that they were swarming on my cough drop stash. I guess they had sore throats. I threw out the cough drops, took everything out of the drawer and cleaned it out, and that seemed to do the trick for a while, but then they were back, but wandering around kind of confused. And then I remembered a Phineas and Ferb episode about ants where they'd talked about them communicating with pheromones (see, it is educational!), and I figured this was the ant equivalent of there being a lot of tweets about this really rocking party. These ants were the ones who showed up after the cops had already broken up the party, and they were just wandering around going, "Dude, where's the party?" I needed to delete those tweets. So I took everything out of the drawer again and rubbed the whole thing, inside and out, with furniture polish, then polished the whole nightstand, including the back, and I sprayed rug shampoo on the carpet in the area where the ant trail was. That seemed to do the trick. There were a few stragglers this morning that I let live so maybe they could tweet that the party had been broken up. And then I got a new can of ant spray (I had just run out) to spray along the likely entry points. I guess you could say I found my inner Dalek: "Exterminate!"

But now since that part of my room is ridiculously clean, it makes the rest of the house look bad, so I think today will be a cleaning frenzy day. It's already mostly clean, but it's at that mostly clean state that makes any clutter or dirt look even worse. Then I can spend the weekend relaxing in my clean house.

Speaking of killing things … After finally finishing A Game of Thrones, I found a commentary that made me think of another plot-driven vs. character-driven issue. The commentary mentioned the fact that in these books, it becomes clear that no one is safe. Any character, no matter how major that character seems to be, may be killed at any point in the book. Some of the commenters on the post thought that was one of the great things about the series. Other commenters said that was why they quit reading because they reached the point where they just couldn't take it.

I would suspect that it's the plot-driven readers who love that no one is safe because it makes the events more exciting and suspenseful if you don't know who will live or die, if even a seemingly main character is as much at risk as the secondary characters or villains. But character-driven readers may have a problem with that. Up to a point, it's kind of cool to have that degree of suspense -- until it's one of "your" characters who gets killed, which then greatly diminishes your emotional investment in the book or series. Plus, if you get the message that no one is safe, then you're going to emotionally withdraw from all of the characters, for fear of really suffering if they die, and if you aren't letting yourself care about anyone, you'll stop caring about the book or series. Some of the commenters to that post mentioned reaching a certain point in the series and then reading the Wikipedia summary to find out what happened to the people they cared about without having to actually go through it all. I can kind of see myself heading in that direction. Nobody I really cared about has died yet, but there are some characters whose deaths would send me to Wikipedia, depending on how/why/when they happen and whether any new characters have come along to start taking their place. If you're going to kill the "hero," I need to know immediately who the new hero will be.

That's a big part of the appeal of the romance genre -- whose readers I would guess are more likely to be character-driven because they're reading for the characters' emotional responses to situations. You know that the two main characters will be alive at the end and that they'll end up together. It's more about the journey of how they get to that place than about the destination. I don't need quite that amount of guarantee. One of the reasons I liked the chick lit genre was that there was a guaranteed happy ending, but you couldn't tell from the first scene exactly what the ending would be. I can even take character deaths if they happen for the right reasons and at the right points in a story. If my favorite character dies heroically near the end, I can deal with it. I probably won't finish reading the book if my favorite character dies near the middle for no good reason other than to make it clear that nobody is safe. Pulling an Atonement -- the "Ha, you thought you were reading a romance, did you? Well, get a load of this!" thing -- is Right Out. (Seriously, that book pissed me off so very, very much. I actually threw it when I got to the end.) Then there's the issue that in order to make readers care about someone dying, the person who dies has to be someone who is liked. The counterargument to that is that if you kill off all the characters people like, then they have no more reason to be interested in your story. If the people you wish would die are the only ones left, it's no fun anymore.

Now to go make the rest of the house be as clean as the now ant-free zone.