I don’t often write full-out bloodbaths, but even the kind of “off-stage” blood I favor requires some intense thinking about blood, guts, gore & goo, too. Maybe it’s “Dexter” or all those police procedurals I’ve read — not to mention the big, fat forensic pathology reference books I’ve had for years — but the directionality of blood splatter, the intensity of blood pooling, the important evidence gleaned from lividity all make perfect sense to me.
I recently stepped on a piece of broken glass in my kitchen. After I hopped into the bathroom — while I fumbled around looking for bandages — I found myself noting the directionality of the blood droplets on the white bathroom tiles.
Since I’m on the squeamish side and look away when my own blood is being drawn, that I can function at all in an emergency is remarkable. Somehow I get faint AFTER so it turns out OK. (Something about adrenaline and having to focus on the task at hand, postpones the wooziness.) So, although I’m not the poster girl for blood, guts and gore, I’ve given some serious thought to how to communicate “bloodiness” in creative and realistic ways.
Lately, I’ve focused on the ooze factor and the smell. There’s a bloody scene in a story I’m muddling with right now. The stickiness of blood is a tactile factor. It is, truly, thicker than water — and tackier and somehow softer, too. My own blood on the bathroom floor was still wet when I cleaned it up, but had it taken me longer to clean the wound and bandage it, there would have been a stickiness to the drops — that half wet, half dry stubbornness you don’t find with spilled water or wine.
In mystery fiction, rooms saturated in bloody messes are always described as having a metallic aroma. Fortunately (or unfortunately for my research), I haven’t experienced that much blood in one place. So blood, in my experience, tends to smell vaguely sweet. A number of years ago when a pathologist friend invited me to watch an autopsy (yes, this is true and I’ll blog about it in detail eventually), blood was only one of the many horrible natural and unnatural aromas. And, as per my friend’s instructions, I focused on the aroma of mint chewing gum to keep myself from fainting.
So those of us who read and write with more than a drop of blood, any suggestions on communicating the bloodiness?