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  1. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    That Awkward Scene ...

    Discussion in 'Research' started by cutecat22, Oct 12, 2014.

    Hi Guys,

    I was reading something the other day about scenes that are important but hardly ever written. With the inclusion of practically every conceivable sex position getting into various works and every other facet of life entering into literature, why does there seem to be a desire to shy away from birth scenes?

    The article I was reading raised some good points, how most birth scenes in books are glossed over, even to the point of a chapter ending with a pregnancy and the next chapter starting with a babe in arms and on the screen, these scenes - when used - are almost so clichéd that we have practically come to the conclusion that all births require a flood of biblical proportions when the waters break followed by lots of fast driving, screaming, minimum amount of blood and fainting fathers.

    Thirty minutes on YouTube will tell you that's not the case in most births. (and I'm discounting the one in Twilight because that deals with non-humans).

    So, have you ever written one? What clichés would you keep (if any) and which would you get rid of? Would you even consider writing one if your story needed it or would you simply gloss over it and skip ahead to after the baby had been born?

    I'm interested because, I've done one and I'm doing another one and in all honesty, they are turning out to be the hardest things I have ever written. Bar none!
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2014
  2. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Are birth scenes important? The main character in such a scene is a newborn, and therefore has nothing to say. If you want to focus on the mother or the father as a main character, the birth scene is not the most important thing. What is important is character.

    There are a lot of things that can happen to a pregnant woman that create drama. There are a lot of things that can happen after the birth, and there's a newborn baby to take care of. The actual birth itself is not the major issue.

    There's a reason why most of these sequences are glossed over. As you say, one scene ends with the pregnant woman, and the next begins with the babe in arms. Is the actual birth important? I know it's an amazing thing, and highly stressful for the mother, but is the actual scene of the birth important? Not usually.
     
  3. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    I have to disagree - slightly.

    I think it could be important to the story depending on some things.

    1. The character being born - OK, they may not have anything to say now but how and why they came into the world could make for a great continuation in the storyline. It can also be something of a miracle depending on the circumstances of conception, have the character's lost babies in the past, have they been trying for so long they'd given up? Has the pregnancy been surrounded by bad luck?

    2. A birth scene - done right (don't ask me what I mean by done right) - can add drama to the story and can also create an affection between the reader and the characters.

    3. It can show (not tell) the love and devotion between two characters, depending on how the scene's played out, of course.

    Just like sex, marriage, courtship ... birth is a massive part of our lives, we wouldn't be here without it, the future of our race, of us, depends upon it so why gloss over it?

    I do agree that if you don't want it in your story, don't have it in your story but if it can add something, why leave it out?

    Consider this, the film Chariots of Fire - about runners - imagine watching the trials and tribulations of these runners, training their asses off for the whole of the film, then in the last ten minutes, you see them at the start of the final race, the starting pistol goes off and they start running ... fade to black and the next time you see them, they are on the podium collecting medals, you never actually saw them cross the finish line. How cheated would you feel?
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2014
  4. AlannaHart

    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    I don't see any point at all in writing or reading a birthing scene, unless something goes horribly wrong enough to be crucial to the story, or something miraculous happens. No one really wants to read about a lot of normal, natural occurrences for the sake of it.
     
  5. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Funny you should say that as I was recently discussing a well known book with a friend of mine who said, "I think the author rushed the ending to get it out there. I was really disappointed that there wasn't any more of her pregnancy and what was with her friend? one minute she's snogging a guy, the next she's married and expecting, when the hell did that happen? No, she rushed it and spoiled it for me."
     
  6. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, this is an interesting topic for me, because the book I'm working on now will have a birth scene in it. It's very important to show what happens, because the baby in question is a difficult birth, and what happens during and just afterwards is crucial for the relationship of the two main characters in the story. So I will need to put in some detail. FORTUNATELY my niece is a midwife....so I'll be able to get pointers from her. I've never had children myself, although I have been a birth partner for a friend of mine. But that's my only experience. A birth scene can be just as important as any other scene, really. And like any other, it's important to get it right.
     
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  7. Howard_B

    Howard_B Active Member

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    I think that like sex scenes, birth scenes should be just enough to convey the basics and outcome, except where the book is one where by it's nature this scene is specifically significant.
     
  8. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Unless the POV is that of the mother, being a birth partner should be quite adequate preparation...as long as you were taking notes at the time! And if the POV is that of the mother, a midwife's advice will be no improvement!
     
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  9. AlannaHart

    AlannaHart Contributing Member

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    Everything in a story should advance the plot. If the relationship details felt rushed, it was because a number of crucial emotional developments must have been left out. I don't think the details of pushing a baby out of a birth canal counts as one of those crucial details, unless, like I said, the birth itself is particularly significant.
     
  10. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Well, not exactly. The birth I attended went like clockwork. My fictional one won't. So being able to call upon an expert, who has seen all sorts of births, for advice will be fantastic. It'll save me doing tons of research. I can just tell her what I want to do in the story and ask if it's possible. And if it's not, what would make the situation work?

    Having that kind of expert on hand is a resource not to be sneezed at. I also have two friends who are doctors, who have given me invaluable advice during the writing of my first story. I mean, I've been sick before, and have been around people who have been sick ...but the fictional situation needed more info than I had gleaned on my own. Short of going to medical/midwifery school, asking a friend or family member who has already studied the subject can really do the trick.
     
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  11. GingerCoffee

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    One of the most fascinating things to me when I started working as a nurse was watching births. For me they brought an emotional response I couldn't help. But I was also amazed that I was watching something hidden from most people. Mothers and fathers are present for the births of their own children, but how many people outside the medical profession see a birth, let alone a lot of births?

    That can work two ways for the reader. Some people don't want to be around during a birth the same way people don't want to see blood. So I'm not surprised people in the thread aren't interested in the scene.

    Having been there for many births, I have the opposite reaction. There is a lot of material there that might belong in a story, and not just births with tragic outcomes. But I can imagine such a scene would be hard to write if one had no first hand experience.
     
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  12. jazzabel

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I must say I'm guilty of this. In the novel I'm working on, one chapter ends with a pretty detailed sex scene, and the next starts with mother and baby alone in the room. For me, the main reason why I don't write detailed birthing scenes is, unless something important other than the birth happens, it's not all that interesting. I delivered several dozen babies, normal and complicated births, and truth be told, it's like any medical procedure, predictable and clinical. Not to say it isn't amazing or interesting, but to me it's more 'work' and I don't write fiction about 'work' because I find it boring.

    However, I've seen and done a wide variety of births, cesarians, assisted (vacuum), water, normal vaginal, in A&E, twins, you name it, so whatever details or ideas you need, or help with believability, let me know, I'd be happy to help.
     
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  13. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    Do you have friends who have given birth? They may not have been through the same situation but their experience will, non the less, be very valuable to you.
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm surprised that birth is seen as so unimportant. I've never given birth, and I've never wanted kids, and I've never seen a birth, but all the same, I'm surprised.

    Birth can kill you. It can kill the baby. It's the big thing that you've been preparing for for nine months, and now it's here, and you can't escape. And, again, it can kill you. And it's painful, and it can take weeks or months to recover, even if all goes more or less well.

    It's when you meet the creature that you've spent those months creating. It's when your role as a parent has a child to direct itself at. It's when you find out for sure that you're going to meet that child alive.

    And based on the toxic families forums I've read, lots of people may feel that they should get a piece of the birth. People may want to be in the delivery room, whether the woman giving birth wants them there or not. The father may want them there. The medical staff may or may not cooperate in keeping them out.

    If you go a few decades into our real-world past, the woman's wishes and experience weren't treated as all that important during the birth. If you Google

    "mad men" "birth scene"

    you can read a whole lot of what it was like in the recent-past-bad-old-days--and if you watch the Mad Men episode you can see a birth scene that isn't just there for scream, blood, awww how cute.
     
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  15. Howard_B

    Howard_B Active Member

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    I didn't see anyone refer to it as unimportant. And everything you describe confirms the opinion that it is the significance of the birth that really matters and not necessarily the detailed process or act.
     
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  16. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    To me, that would mean that fight scenes, for example, also aren't worth writing, because what really matters is the aftermath. Fight scenes, weddings, arguments--all of them are just a path to an end. But we write them, because there's information inside the event, over and above the information of how the event came out.

    Summary of Fight One: John attacks Joe, and Joe at first tries to flee, but he's backed into a corner. He takes the first really painful blow and suddenly comes out of that corner fighting, and fighting, until he's got John backed into a corner, he beats John unconscious, and has to be stopped by his friends, one of whom calls the ambulance.

    Summary of Fight Two: John attacks Joe, and Joe comes right back at him, with well-trained blows, knocks John out cleanly, and steps back to wait for someone to call the ambulance.

    Those can both be described as "John and Joe got in a fight, and Joe won." But they're not the same.

    Summary of Birth One: Jane and Joe arrive at the hospital. While they wait for a room, Joe divides his attention between filling out the admittance forms and trying to call his mother, because he promised that she could see the birth, and he talked Jane into agreeing. They get to the room, and Jane's talking to the doctors, while Joe is huddled in a corner talking to his mother. Joe's mother gets there an hour into labor, and now Joe's interested in the process, explaining to Mom about the breathing, frequently saying, "Just a sec, Hon," to Jane when both Jane and his mother need something at the same time. When the baby is born, Jane finally snaps when Joe is about to give her to his mother to hold first. She receives the baby, and forever after she's angry that the first sight of her child's face is associated, in her mind, with the decision to divorce Joe.

    Summary of Birth Two: Joe and Jane arrive at the hospital. While they wait for a room, Joe divides his attention between filling out the admittance forms and asking Jane if she's OK, if she needs a cup of water, if she'd like him to ask what's holding things up, trying to kiss her cheek, stroke her hair, while she tells him with increasing firmness that she doesn't need anything and she needs to focus. When they get to the room, he keeps fussing, arranging things, abjectly apologizing for having forgotten the iPad with the birth music, trying to hold Jane's hand when she needs it for something. Jane loses it halfway through the birth and screams Joe into a corner, but when the baby arrives she calls him over and we have a sweet slushy scene of the first moment of the family.

    Those can both be described as "Jane gave birth, and she had a fight with Joe in the delivery room." But they're not the same.
     
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  17. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I take your point, but if the birth itself does not go according to plan, or something of importance to the characters besides ending up with a normal baby happens during the process, the birth event can be incredibly important to a story. It's just like any other life event, really. When you're telling a story, anything can be 'important.'

    I think if you speak to women who have had children, many of them will describe giving birth as an incredibly important time in their lives. It's not one they are usually encouraged to talk about, though. Still a lot of squeamishness around.

    For many years, fathers were not allowed to be present, so their wife went into labour, they went elsewhere and drank cups of tea/coffee or beer/ and then a 'cry' split the air and whoopsie, there's a baby. What actually happened to bring this about was glossed over as far as stories went. It's only recently that this is starting to change.
     
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  18. cutecat22

    cutecat22 The Strange One Contributor

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    The word "unimportant" may not have been used but just by the fact the some have said it shouldn't be there means they think it is unimportant, regardless of whether or not it progresses the story.
     
  19. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd say that even if it does go according to plan, it's going to be a huge experience for the mother, packed with uncertainty and risks. Most weddings are pretty routine, boring and drama-free compared to births, but they are still depicted in fiction fairly often.

    Hmm. Is it possible that we're societally invested in the idea of giving birth being really routine and low-risk?
     
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  20. jannert

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm reminded of something my sister just told me a few weeks ago. (She's had two children; I've had none.) She said that during her first pregnancy, she used to get moments of total panic. Not because of any specific fears about the birth itself, but simply because it was something she had to see through to the end, no matter what.

    She said the realisation that she couldn't back out if she wanted to was scary. Most anything else you do, there is always the possibility, however difficult, that you can abandon it. You can quit college, divorce a husband, call off a wedding, pull out of a house sale ...but once you're pregnant and have gone past the time when you can have an abortion, that's you. You're stuck with it. You will have to go through the process, and suffer whatever happens.

    Of course she was fine, and loved having kids, and didn't find the actual birth process particularly difficult, but that was an interesting insight. And she's right, of course. Once you're pregnant, that's you stuck. For better or worse. It's not a feeling I was aware of, but from a writer's standpoint, it's good to know.

    I imagine these feelings can overwhelm a mother during the birth process, too. They are in pain, the birth is taking forever ...and they just have to ride it out. That would be even more likely if the birth was not a modern one, and the possibility of an emergency C-section wasn't available. When things went very wrong, the mother must have been totally terrified. And very stuck.
     
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  21. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    Never been in either scenario, but I would imagine it's a bit like when you step off the top of the building and then have a few seconds to regret getting into this mess...except you've got longer in which to agonise over your decision.

    And even if you do decide to abort, you know that you're risking mental trauma with that.
     
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