I see it all the time in fiction. You see it, too.
A character is scared, angry, nervous, shocked, or feeling some other intense emotion. And then... the character loses it. And by "it," I mean... the contents of their stomach.
In a late draft of TFM, I had THREE different scenes where Seth puked. In the first, he was having this, like, emotional breakdown and crying all violently. In the second, he was nervous. In the third, he was drunk.
My husband read the scenes and said, "Okay, what is up with this kid? Does he have some kind of stomach disorder or what? He's always getting sick."
I said, "No! He's upset! He's very, very emotional sometimes. You know, because he's been trying so hard to suppress these emotions! It all has to come out somehow."
"He's upset so he's puking his guts out?" he asked. "Really? When's the last time you were so upset that you got sick?"
It was a valid question, so I gave it some consideration.
Yes, I thought about it long and hard.
I opened my mouth to speak.
Then I puked.
No! I'm kidding! Kidding, kidding, kidding! That never happened!
I opened my mouth to speak, but no words came. Because to my best recollection, I have never once in my life gotten sick because I was upset. I've been upset because I was sick. (Puking makes me cry every time. I hate that feeling so much.) And I've been nervous enough that's I've wondered if I might get sick. (Like when I did karaoke at that bar that one time.) I realized, though, that over the years I have experienced many real-life moments that might make a fictional character sick. But my reaction to these moments has never come in the way of vomit.
So, really. Is puking as a result of being upset as common as we fiction writers make it out to be? If not, why do so many of us write these scenes? Because of the beauty of a good, literal purge in the midst of subtle symbolism?
Have you ever written a scene like this? Have you ever thrown up because you were upset? Please tell me about it. Because I really want to know!
P.S. After my husband pointed it out, I altered two of my three Seth-gets-sick scenes. The only one that stayed was the drunk one. Because that is a reaction I know very well. And, most importantly, it fit the story and was the most meaningful for the character's arc. A vomitous climax! So lovely.