On the day job – as a software tester – we refer to those derailing incidents that leave what you’d planned to do in ashes as “bombs”. Possibly because they bomb your plans and schedule to hell and gone.
I’ve been juggling the bloody things for way too long.
This, of course, is a big part of a writer’s art, throwing bombs at the hero and forcing him, her, or it to juggle them while continuing to protag and generally get on with the plot. I can say from experience that if you get too enthusiastic about tossing bombs at the poor sod, you’ll break him. Or her. Or it.
The progression goes much the same regardless of whether it happening to Manly the Hero on the Great Quest of Whatsis or Joe Schmoe going about his perfectly ordinary life as a mailman. Or me. If the background stress level isn’t too high, the first bomb gets handled pretty much without blinking. If there’s a second one before the first one is fully dealt with, there’s some grumbling, but it will still be handled.
It’s after you’ve got either three or more bombs exploding all over your schedule (whether metaphorically or literally), or a constant succession of bombs so that you never quite manage to catch up after handling them that things get… interesting.
That’s when Our Hero – or me – starts lurching irregularly from crisis to crisis. It’s when normal commitments fall away as the poor sap – or me – starts to cut back on anything that’s not essential. Gradually the person getting hit with all the bombs stops caring and just does the bare minimum to make it through to the next one. And eventually, they give up altogether.
Exactly what the progression looks like depends a lot on the person involved. Some get aggressive. Other withdraw. I get sleepy.
While I know I’m far from the worst off, the current set of bombs include the Bugger-cat’s cancer – he’s improving, but we’re still talking 500-ish in medication per month plus about 300 in vet bills. It’s worth it to have a healthier Bugger-cat, but I’m not all that sure where it’s coming from, so that one’s kind of a rolling bombardment at the moment. Work’s in the process of a merger, so there’s a lot of chaos, confusion, and bombs flying. My health is mostly okay, although the whole female at that time of life deal is a pain in the backside.
That lot combined with being narcoleptic is quite enough to run me out of spoons. I’m looking longingly at the vacation time I’ve scheduled over Christmas/New Year, and I’m thinking I’ll probably be just about recovered from the bone-deep tired by the time I have to go back to work.
Such is life. I keep reminding myself it could be worse (and when your hero hits that point, for crying out loud give the poor sod a bit of a break and finish the book with a nice satisfying victory over the enemy. Your readers won’t thank you for driving said hero to whining).