24 May 2017

BEES! (Or, Stupid or Symbolic?)

I hate hate hate all my characters they're terrible they're always doing things that make no sense.

*heavy sigh*

I'm sure I'm not the only writer who's gotten a weird idea during the early stages of a novel. One of the things you should figure out before you start writing are character traits. You'll probably decide on what the character looks like, their hobbies, family members, job, etc. But what details actually should go in the story? And why?

This is what I'm dealing with. The good thing about working on Book 3 while still not even being done with Book 1 is that I have a lot of time to iron out all the kinks. I may get an idea for 3 and I can spend a lot of time figuring out if it'll work or not. But sometimes I get hit with an idea, and I don't know if it's any good. I don't know if it serves a purpose.

So a lot of my brainstorming comes from running endless conversations in my head. I just have my characters talk and talk and talk and if they actually say something good, I write it down. I was picturing two characters on a date and trying to get into some deep conversation (one was very reluctant--GUESS WHO). But then the other character had an interesting response to a question about fears:

          “What are you afraid of?”
          “You mean besides this conversation? Commitment, probably.”
          “That’s not exactly a secret.”
          “Why, what are you afraid of?”



At first I was like, huh? Then I just thought it was kinda funny and cute. One character talks about being afraid of commitment, then the other says bees. It was good for a chuckle. But then I started thinking about it. Why bees???

I sort of went with the thought process, and thought, well, maybe he's afraid of bees because he's allergic to them. That's a good reason, right? Ok, but why exactly is this important to the story? Is it just something to make him seem vulnerable? Will bees ever show up in the story? Does it somehow parallel the fact that another character puts honey in his tea?

I have no freaking clue. I'm at that weird limbo phase where I'm trying to decide if I should run with it and figure it out, or just cut the idea completely. I can't remember ever reading about a character with an allergy, so I'm not sure what exactly it should be doing for the story. But I think that everything in a story should have a purpose, right? If I mention a bee allergy, don't I have to sting him by the end of the novel? (CHEKHOV'S BEES???) Or can it be something more symbolic?

I guess I'll just put the bees on my to-figure-out list.

Ever had an idea and weren't sure if it would work? Know any characters with an allergy?


  1. There are lots of possibilities for that one. Maybe he refuses to go into a place with a beehive nearby? Maybe one enters a room at a crucial point for him and he goes crazy?

  2. The fear of bees/allergy thing makes me think of that movie My Girl.

    Maybe your character just answered 'bees' because he didn't want to admit to the truth and that was the first thing that popped into his head because there was a bee bumping into a window somewhere in the background. Or maybe they just freak him out, without any rational reason why. Isn't the fear of bees something like melissophobia?

    I say keep it in and see if it leads anywhere interesting. It can always be removed later, if you don't find a reason to love it.

    And yes, I've had an idea and wasn't sure if it would work. It's called "Book Three." :)

  3. Interesting reply. Could be flippant - after all, bees are very committed to their queen, aren't they? Perhaps the other character is revealing they are equally scared of commitment?

  4. My characters don't bother talking to me. They're mostly the quiet types.

  5. Interesting. I always enjoy reading about your process and the way your characters talk to you. Mine just wander about doing their thing and it's up to me to watch and notice the right things. Yours seem to grab you and shove your head in the direction they want you to look :-)

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  6. I think it is an interesting character trait, keep it for now and see where it leads something may occur to you that fits the story line perfectly.

  7. I think it can be symbolic or maybe due to some small childhood trauma. When one of my daughters was in pre-school, she got a bee trapped in the armpit of her sweater. It buzzed and buzzed trying to get out until it finally stung her. She is still terrified of bees and the sound of bees. Fear can be just fear and not related any actual danger.

  8. I chase a lot of ideas around too, but unless I can pretty quickly tie one into my plot, theme, or the character arc, I move on, otherwise I'd waste a lot of time. So unless you can see an important use of bees for something (either as a real danger to be faced during the climax or a symbolic one maybe about not being a drone, for instance) I suggest you move on. (But I'm a die-hard outliner, not a pantser.) Good luck!

  9. Anaphylactic shock can be a killer. And someone with that kind of allergic reaction must always be prepared with the medication to counteract a bee sting. That could lead to a character who is ultra-organized and over-cautious, maybe fearful of flowers or spring. I can see all kinds of quirky potential with this. Good luck with finding your character.

  10. There was a moment in Hurricane Crimes with a poisonous snake and Beth says she's afraid of snakes. Donovan then shares he's afraid of spiders. It was a cute moment. A big, strong man who can behead a poisonous snake but was afraid of spiders. Since then, I've used Beth's fear of snakes again...but never spiders. Maybe I'll have to fix that.

    Anyway, leave it. It's a fun fact about your character. And you could end up adding a scene later. Maybe he'll see a bee and run away screaming and flailing his arms. lol

  11. My husband is allergic to wasps. We found out only after he was stung and developed hives all over his arms. Now he had to carry around an epi pen. When something happens out of the blue like this, I'd be tempted to keep it at least until later edits. Maybe your characters will go outside and bees will show up in the story. Or maybe something will happen with the epi pen being lost or left behind as an excuse to move your characters from one scene to another and back. Who knows? Your brain will be percolating the bee angle even if you are not aware of it.

  12. I think that's so interesting that the whole bee thing came to you. I say go with it. I've never been stung by a bee so I have no idea if I'm allergic. I hope I never have to find out.

  13. Since bees can sting, there is a bit of wisdom in having a certain amount of fear for them. If a bee allergy is mentioned then something in the plot should probably have to do with bees and bee stings. Maybe not necessarily a death since that could be considered a bit cliched.

    I've never in my life been stung by a bee even though I used to catch them in jars. I doubt whether I have an allergy to bees and actually don't think I'm allergic to anything. I guess I'll know if I ever have a reaction to something.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out