Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Funnier Than Fiction (Or: How To Dismantle A Doorknob With Scissors)

Whenever I get a few spare moments lately, I work on the first draft of my newest YA paranormal novel, The (Dis)Appearance Of Nerissa MacKay.  This is a tale of a girl, who, like most teenage girls -- nyah, like most WOMEN I know -- has a good deal of self-loathing for her body.  She doesn't like her hair, her flat chest, or her skin.  And she's terrified of gaining weight.
Sound like anyone you know?  Probably.
But I'm not the kind of writer to take this into serious depths.  Nerissa doesn't take up cutting or tattooing. Nor does she have suicidal thoughts.
Nope.  Her family has a history of witchcraft herbal lore, and she gets ahold of her great-great-great (etc.) grandmother's commonplace book.  Mistaking the cryptic clues on a recipe for either an acne cure or a weight-loss tonic, she concocts a drink that turns her temporarily invisible.
Naturally, though, her clothes don't turn invisible with her body, so, if she's to have any benefits at all from her newfound state, she must run about unclothed for some of her adventures.  And she  has to deal with her opinions of and emotions concerning her body.  It's a book about non-self-acceptance and its consequences -- and how to deal with those consequences.
Quite frankly, I'm still wondering if this is going to be acceptable for the junior high audience.  I mean, there's no sex, and no one can see her, but she's still running about in her birthday suit.
Now, I often go to great lengths to research for a book.  I've tromped through closes in Scotland and crawled into ancient burial mounds in Orkney and sweated out nights in shabby motels in Escalante, Utah.  I've also read a TON on vampire legends around the world, and, most recently, LOTS on herbal medicine, the humors theory, and pioneer medicine.
But until last night, I never had to do any research on adventures in the buff.

It's been hot.  Waaaaaay too hot for April.  It was into the mid-90s yesterday and the high 80s today.  The air conditioner in my relo at school is out of freon, so the room is like a car in the sun -- stifling.  My classroom is hot, my house is hot.
Last night, after dark, I had windows open and a small fan in my bedroom to try to bring the temperature down in there at least.
I took a bath to wash off the day's sweat, but even a very quick bath had left the bathroom steamy, so I grabbed a large towel, flicked off the lights, and ran into the guest bedroom to dry off in dry air.  I closed the door behind me so as not to show anything shocking from the light down the hall through the blinds in the room.
Dry, I reached for the doorknob and twisted.
It turned 360 degrees in my hand.
I was essentially locked in a room with no lock.  A room with no phone.  No one else was in the house.  And I was wearing a towel.
I couldn't help it; I smirked.  This was hilarious!
 I actually thought of Nerissa, streaking about in the dark without clothes.  And I cringed.  I most certainly didn't want to be anywhere outside the house without clothes.
However, my options were limited at the time, so I had to dig into the spare closet for some too-small clothes I keep in the hopes I'll lose some weight and fit back into them some day.  (Ha!)  They were uncomfortable, but going commando in too-tight clothing was MUCH preferable to going about in no clothing.  (Really, Douglas Adams' claim about the world being a whole lot safer if you have a towel just didn't seem to apply here.)
At that point, I flicked on the lights and had a look at my choices.
The window is 6 feet off the ground and right over a rather nasty, spider-infested bush.  Choice #1 was to remove the window screen, force my way out the window,  run to the neighbors', call my parents to come with keys to get me into the garage so I could get a ladder and tools.  The bedroom door was installed with the hinges on the inside of the room and the screws to the doorknob on the inside as well.  Choice #2 was to remove either the hinges or the doorknob from inside the room using whatever I could find as a tool.  Choice #3 was to climb out the window, call the folks for keys, and never use that bedroom again.

Well, people, I'd like to tell you that it is indeed possible to disassemble a doorknob using only a pair of scissors.
It took me nearly 25 minutes to take it apart, try to turn the bar inside, accidentally knock the rest of the handle off to the other side where I couldn't reach it, try to remove the hinges with scissors (doesn't work), seriously consider climbing out the window, and finally force one scissor blade into the notch for the bar in the doorknob and jam it to one side to force the release of the latch.
I was completely sweaty and covered in grease.  And I was laughing.
Seriously, if I wrote this scene into Nerissa's story -- her wrapped in a towel and working away at a doorknob with a pair of scissors -- how many readers would smirk at the ridiculous nature of the scene?  Really, what are the chances of the doorknob breaking just at the moment when the protagonist is wearing only a towel?
Well, last night those chances were at 100%.  It may have been once in a blue moon, but I waltzed right into it.
Oh, and "Why scissors?" you may ask.  Well, I don't keep a pipe wrench in the spare bedroom.  And, although I have screwdrivers in the garage, the kitchen, my car, the bathroom, my own bedroom, and in my school bag, (And Dad always carries a pocket knife as well.) I did not have a screw driver in the extra bedroom.
But the room has a desk.  And there were scissors in the top drawer.
Disassembling a doorknob with scissors while awkwardly clothed, under stress, and laughing may not be stranger than fiction.  But it is funnier.
Especially from THIS side of the door.  :)


  1. Sounds to me like you gained some free research for your book. :)

  2. Hilarious! Sorry to laugh at your misfortunes, but you describe it so humourously...
    Your new book sounds really intriguing. I have to admit I've never been into vampires, but herbal lorists are something else entirely...

    Send me some of your heat - we are having an unseasonably early winter here, and it's only autumn!!

  3. You have to include this scene in a book! lololol What a gem!

  4. You have to put that scene in the book.

    As for running around nude, remember a 70s series called 'The Invisible Man' starring david mccallum? Admittedly, he was invisible all the time, but it might help. It may even be on youtube.