Fear in Writing: 5 o'clock coffee

Today in Literary History

Today in Literary History...December 14, 1907: Rudyard Kipling receives the Nobel prize for literature, the first English-language writer to do so.ud

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

5 o'clock coffee

It hits me at about the same time every evening.  Exhaustion.  The weariness that only constant motion and ceaseless "I wants" can bring.  Dinner is still ahead of me.  At least an hour of entertaining the now Lego-ed and Barbie-d out children is still to come.  Then cleanup.  Bedtime.  Readying coffee and lunches for the next day.

Yes, 5 o'clock is the hour.  The point at which my mind starts to close, my patience wanes, and my body begs for a comfy chair and a good SILENT book.

So I make some coffee.  (Or, more likely, reheat a cup from the morning's brew.  Who has time to make fresh coffee?)

That 5 o'clock coffee gives me a moment's respite.  The smell of it revives me just a bit and gives me the caffeinated energy to make it over the last hurdles of my day. 
Like my 5pm hump, I find there is a point of final exhaustion in almost every book.  There is that last great adventure on which the protagonist must embark.  There is one final villain left to be outsmarted.  There is a point where everything seems fine, only for horror or terror or danger to be thrown back into the mix.

How does he or she get to the end?  Most often, they pull from within.  Maybe a child or a loved one is in danger if they don't solve the mystery.  Maybe their own life is at stake.  Perhaps world as they know it will come crashing down if they don't muster this last bit of energy and resolve.

Sometimes they pull from the world around them.  Drugs or coffee to wake their senses.  A weapon to protect them on their quest.  Information gleaned from the Internet or some futuristic device.

Whatever the source, it wouldn't be a satisfying book if the MC just gave up.  If they threw in the towel so close to the end.  If they saw that final challenge and said, "Nah, not worth it."  Who would read a book like that?

Do you have a 5 o'clock hurdle in your daily life?  What is your "coffee?"  How about your characters?  Do you enjoy writing their last journey, their final success?


  1. Michele - Oh, do I ever have a daily hurdle like the one you describe. For me, it's right after dinner, when the dishes are put in the dishwasher, etc. There's almost always still student work to look at, the next day to plan and very often, help to provide with my daughter's schoolwork (Um - don't think that ends with high school. She's just finished her second year of college and still asks for help at times). For me, I get past that hurdle with a cocoa or something like that.

    As for my writing? Yeah, my protag has those final hurdles, too. Fortunately, he's got a good home life, so he "pulls it out" from the support he gets from his wife, and from within himself (he's a former cop). He also cares a lot about victims, so he "pulls it out" from there, too.

  2. Yep, I know the feeling. We've become consumate coffee drinkers in our household, making at least two pots a day, and sipping our cups right up until bed time.

    Not long ago, I was in one of those "Wally-world" stores and had a special on that drink that gives you energy for five hours.

    I think it is called "Five hour energy."

    I tried it, only to find that the energy must come from spending the next five hours trying to purge your body from the putrid awful taste of the product. So, it was back to coffee.

    I think, if I could get past the taste, the energy drink would work, even if only from a psychological standpoint. But hey, I'm Okay with something working for me if only in my own head. Like they say in the Star Wars movies, "The force works well on a weak mind."

    I like to do the same thing with the characters in my stories. In my most recent novel, Azra, the main character is at her wit's end and stuck back in her own world-a prison sentence for her. Her desire to find a way back to the mortal world and seek out the one man there she has come to love drives her to join forces with an unreliable imp and take on the one she despises and fears the most-her demon clan leader, Tarmin. He is a formidable opponent, powerful position, talents, and physical size. She eventually digs deep within her mind and comes through to render him weak, if only for the moment so she can make her escape.

    So, You've made a great point about that 5 O'clock coffee and how it relates to that extra little push we, as writers must give our characters - and ourselves - to get them to the end and find happiness, or simply cheat death.

  3. The arsenic hour! Mine is when I am solo duty right after dinner. Dishes, baths, bedtimes, whining. I just want to crawl in bed and sleep until it's all over. But I don't. When you MC is exhausted, do you also feel that exhaustion? Or does it feel exhilarating to be close to the end of the action?

  4. Forget Koontz and forget his book “What the Night Knows” (a ghost vengeance story, been there, done that), instead read a book that’s been BANNED like “America Deceived II” by E.A. Blayre III.
    Last link (before Google Books bans it also]:

  5. I enjoyed hitting my main character with one last big hurdle!
    And I often hit the gym in the afternoon, so at 5 o'clock, I'm tired but re-energized.

  6. 5 PM the hour of the walk -- inside, outside doesn't really matter.
    MC gets the last hoorah with inner strength and unexpected *inspiration*.

  7. My sleep schedule is never consistent (even if I try to set alarms/set a schedule, my body just will not comply) so the actual time of my 'hour' varies. Some days, I look up at 8PM and say "Is it too late to make coffee?" My family just shakes their heads- and usually, I go for something instant (preferably with chocolate in it...) I try to catch up to my Muse whenever I can, and sometimes, unfortunately, it insists that 4am is the perfect time to write. Maybe I was born on the wrong side of the world...

  8. Mine is mid-afternoon - about three. Unfortunately it is a time I often have clients. I ususally try and write in the morning so it isn't so bad then. I can't drink coffee past noon anymore so...if I can grab a zzzzz I do.

  9. My personal moment of letdown comes about 4PM -- since I can't handle much caffeine after noon, I go for a tiny piece of dark chocolate instead of coffee.

    As for the novels, that final moment of tension and danger is great to write, but the last page of wrap-up is even better. I don't think there's anything more satisfying than finishing the first draft of a novel.