Breaking Rules, Part I

Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe appeared in 33 novels and 39 shorter works. He is one of literature’s most perfectly delineated creatures of habit. Some things I know about Nero Wolfe’s household:

  1. Wolfe does not leave the brownstone.
  2. Wolfe is not to be interrupted between 9 and 11 a.m., 4 and 6 p.m. each day, when he is in the plant rooms.
  3. Wolfe will not discuss business over meals.
  4. Food for Wolfe’s table is procured to his specifications.
  5. Wolfe considers it an abomination for anyone to skip a meal.
  6. Archie (assistant), Orrie (operative), Theodore (orchid tender), and Fritz (cook) work for Wolfe.
  7. Archie requires eight hours of sleep to function.
  8. Wolfe does not take Archie seriously when he speaks of getting married.
  9. Wolfe does not shake hands.
  10. Wolfe, being terrified of women, does not converse with them except in fulfilling the requirements of business.
  11. Wolfe does not take cases, except when the bank balance is low and the fee is high.
  12. Wolfe’s clients come to him.
  13. Wolfe’s clients are innocent.
  14. Wolfe does not allow himself to be used.
  15. Wolfe, being a genius, determines the identity of the killer before Archie.
  16. Wolfe does not use his operatives for any job requiring simple manpower. That is left to the police.
  17. Archie and Wolfe maintain a strained relationship with the police, particularly with Inspector Cramer.
  18. Cramer calls Archie by his last name.

I could go on, but that’s enough to make my point. If you’ve read more than one Nero Wolfe story, you should notice something about this list: every one of these rules has been broken. Stout kept his series fresh by never letting the routine become routine. Every single story he wrote happened on the edge of his characters’ normal lives. He never stopped messing with them.

Not a bad piece of advice for any fiction, really.

Update

On the upside, despite having migraines and not knowing what they were, I’ve thrown a party, completed my book revisions and started to distribute betas, and gotten a compliment from Steve Brust since my last post in September. Not too shabby for a defective kid.

Migraineur

I added a new word to my vocabulary last night, but I’m not as thrilled as you might think. I’m apparently a migraineur, whether I like it or not. I mean, I already knew I got migraines–not much to like there. But migraineur makes it sound as though I’m a purveyor, like I cause the stupid things.

The phrase I added along with migraineur is migraine variant, which is much more useful. It means all those migraines I get without the headache. Didn’t know you could get migraines that don’t hurt? Neither did I until a few years ago. That was when I discovered that I wasn’t getting 3-4 migraines a year. I was getting 3-4 of them a week.

Sure, they didn’t hurt (unless I had a tension headache on top of them, which did happen). I was just photosensitive, sleepy, and unable to think beyond about two steps of complexity. The surface of the world sort of rippled with light. My face was numb and my fingers were cold. I didn’t hurt; I just felt like crap. Then I took a nice little beta blocker (adrenaline antagonist) for a year, which made them mostly go away.

Last night I was reading a post on Science Blogs about Alice in Wonderland syndrome, in which people feel like they’ve been obeying the “Eat me” and “Drink me” signs. Their bodies seem to have changed dimensions. My reaction was “Wait. You mean not everyone feels that way? So why am I waving to my feet right now?” Then the article mentioned a link to migraines, and I knew why I’d felt like crap for the last few weeks. It explained the two days of dizziness and sleepiness over my birthday and a whole host of other weird symptoms that didn’t quite fit allergies or a virus.

Sigh. So now I have three choices.

(1) I can rearrange my life to avoid adrenaline. I suspect my very stressful spring and summer have a lot to do with undoing the progress the beta blockers made. But I’ve learned so much since I’ve taken on my more stressful job, and I’ve accomplished things I don’t want to turn my back on. This is my least favorite choice.

(2) I can try to rebuild my response to stressors–stop producing so much adrenaline. I’ve taken so much of my life apart and put it back together that this seems possible, but I’m not sure. I’ve been shy since birth, phobic since not long after, and somewhat emotionally abused. Weird to say, but I’ve never really not been stressed, except when I was on the beta blockers. Even then, I was producing adrenaline, I just wasn’t sensitive to it. Still, I think it’s worth a try, at least until “not being stressed” becomes just one more thing on my to do list.

Then it’s back to (3), my lovely little blue beta blockers. They’re not bad, really. I just have to remember to take a deep breath every time I sit or stand up. They only made me pass out once (not a recommended work activity, by the way).

One way or another, migraineur no more.