by Sharon Stevens

I just love trivia! Don’t you?

Trivia is fact as well as fallacy. With a simple twist an idea can either stampede, or whisper, fly, or flush, all according to the context in which your story begs to be written. Like Scrabble, trivia can draw controversy with each phrase and welcome all who want to dispute or argue, creating drama where none existed before. I think these bits of flotsam and jetsam are akin to Pavlov’s Theory that cause you to react from your point of reference. This is what makes your words worthy to be written.

Take Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”. I came across a filler in the Canyon News listing “Totally Random Trivia”. This specific article related to tidbits about toilets, and I came across several facts I didn’t know, like the statement that people use about fifty seven sheets of toilet paper every day, or that the life expectancy of a toilet is fifty years. But the most interesting fact was that Hitchcock’s movie was the first to include a scene showing a toilet being flushed. In fact this scene received many complaints at the time about being indecent.

Up until that moment I didn’t know this earth shattering bit of trivia. To everyone else this was probably a passing thought that didn’t amount to a hill of beans. In my books it was a call to action meaning I had to pull out my dictionary to look up the definition of trivia and had to fire up my computer to research “Psycho.”

Voila, there it was, and there it wasn’t. My 1890’s Webster’s Dictionary only referenced trivium, Medieval Latin for grammar, logic and rhetoric meaning a place where three ways meet. Much as I wanted to follow that thread I would have to wait for another day and another story. Trivia as a newer word had more relevant expressions such as the ones expressed by Ed Goodgold and Dan Carlinsky who felt “trivia is concerned with tugging at the heartstrings”. They produced a book, More Trivial Trivia, and criticized practitioners who were “indiscriminate enough to confuse the flower of Trivia with the weed of minutiae”.

But back to the flushing of the toilet; in reading between the lines I found also the  motivations hidden within the shower scene.

Marion had decided to go back to Phoenix, come clean, and take the consequence. So when she stepped into the bathtub it was as if she were stepping into baptismal waters. The spray beating down on her was purifying the corruption from her mind, purging the evil from her soul. She was like a virgin again, tranquil at peace.

Ah trivia! This meant water played a part in flushing the toilet AND flowing down the drain.

As writers we are at our best when we can take a common bit of filler, research a thought, find a little background, give it a little life, and weave it into a story. This is all we need. We can take any and all words and follow where they lead. Either for murder or mayhem or love and lust, we are the only ones who can zig or zag, or remain on the beaten path.

And on a final note, did you know that the stabbing effect in the shower scene, a score that will live with the movie going public forever, was accomplished by Bernard Hermann who conducted screeching violins, violas and cellos. Hitchcock like James Cameron in “Titanic” didn’t want music invading the drama of the scene. But after much persuading, Hermann just like James Horner was able to convince their respective directors that THEIR contributions could carry the theme. And, as they say, the rest if history.

Last but not least I leave you with this little bit of trivia, what you do with this knowledge is up to you. Did you know most toilets flush in the key of E flat?

Sharon Stevens

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