Ramble: Eliciting Emotion Without Details

Recently I posted 3 new chapters to a fanfiction I’ve been writing for a rather long time now (no, I’m not going to link it. It’s embarrassing. If you happen to find it though… well… anyway). These chapters dealt with some very harsh, dark themes such as rape, torture, mental fuckery – among others. One of my favorite readers, who leaves reviews nearly every update, mentioned this in one of her latest comments:

“You weren’t kidding about there being hard things in this chapter, but you did a good job of having us feel the horror without needing to go into gruesome detail.”

And it got me thinking about all of the stories I’ve read over the years that I can remember. Both in regular and in fanfiction And I’ve come to realize that many of the stories I have enjoyed the most leave a great many details up to the reader’s imagination. While yes the basic description of characters and scenes are given, or building up to an event and using language to direct the reader to experience a certain emotion, stories that suddenly jumpcut immediately after making it clear what is about to happen, but not having you read the gruesome detail (especially in horror and suspense situations) – those to me are the best. Not only does it allow every reader to have their own personal experience with the work, but there is nothing more frightening than the worst possible things we can imagine. Perhaps the scene was leading us to believe that a favorite character was about to be tortured to death, but then didn’t let us see/read the torture taking place. When we read the segment that the character appears in afterwards, perhaps having escaped their jailers, how they are described and appear will guide us to imagine the things that may have happened to them. Perhaps the reader is more afraid of water torture – they may imagine that’s taken place to the hero. Or maybe starvation and beating? They’ll imagine that THAT is what may have happened to them.

But later still in the story, the hero may confide in their best friend or lover what truly took place in the jail/dungeon/cavern, etc. And how relieved the reader is that what they feared most wasn’t the thing that has happened… Or, for those who imagined correctly, the overwhelming empathy the reader feels for the hero. This method, which I honestly unintentionally used in my piddling little fanfiction, makes the reader more emotionally invested in the story, and in a way makes them feel like they are part of it. And when a reader becomes so invested in the story, they will keep reading.

That’s my take on it, for what it’s worth anyway.

Filling Time with Meaning

Monday my son starts his special preschool. It’s also his birthday. Today I did double duty shopping – buying him clothes and a book-bag and various school things as well as birthday shopping. But mostly clothes and school things. (Seriously, he’s needed some new clothes for a bit now after a Winter growth spurt. But we were holding out until my mom’s taxes came in. They came in yesterday morning.)

We’ve already planned for the first week or two while he’s at school to finally get some serious cleaning done with regards to the room at the back end of the house, and rearranging furniture and such to give my son his own room and space.

But after that is done, and I run out of things to do at home to fill those few hours each weekday, I’ve decided to take up flash fiction writing. But first, I need to get the practice in before I turn around and submit my work to any publications. (I know, flash fiction doesn’t pay much, but it’s at least some pocket change here and there to treat myself to something nice. Like yarn, or a new book, etc.) But, I don’t want to post it here on THIS blog, because this is my personal space. Where I write about my personal stuff. My life, my kid, my family, all of that.

My biggest problem with attempting NaNoWriMo last year was time, energy, and commitment to large scale projects. I didn’t have all of the time and energy to spend on it. Though I wanted to. So I’ve decided to work on the smaller scale. Because I do have the time, and will have the energy to spend on small things. To start with, I’m going to practice with a 30 day writing challenge, likely sometime in either April or May. I find that starting on the first day of a month helps to keep these things straight and organized. I’ve got a list of prompts to use to start with, ones taken from multiple “30 day challenge” lists that I think would be fun or interesting to do.

When I do decide to move ahead with it, I’ll also be considering platform as well. Do I create a new blog? If so, what service would best suit my need and situation? Do i want it to go viral or do I want it more subtle and homey? Should I give in and get a Twitter and build up a social media presence for the project? These are all things I need to think about and plan out ahead before I start the project, that way I can focus on the writing and let the rest take care of itself.

Anyway it’s mostly just to get me to fill time each weekday. But whatever comes of it, I hope it entertains people.

On Writing (I’ve probably used that title before.)

So I’m taking part in NaNoWriMo this year. Usually I’m what people call a pantser, meaning I write whatever comes and don’t really do any planning beyond “I have this idea, and here’s this character. Let’s see what happens.” Pantsers do a LOT of stream of consciousness type of writing. The downside is that it’s easy to write yourself into a corner, lose the plot entirely, or simply just not be able to find a decent opening to the story. But in order to meet a deadline (NaNoWriMo is from November 1st to the 30th, for those who are not aware) there is no way I can do the seat-of-my-pants type of writing for this. However, I do have an idea I’ve wanted to work on for over 5 years now and just never found a good way to work with it.

I’ve sat down and made an outline – something I haven’t done since college. But due to previous time management issues (a tempermental toddler at the top of that list) I was not able to finish the outline. It sat for months. I went back to it a few nights ago and read through it, intending to continue onward with building the structure of the story. And I hated it. I know that we are often our own worst critics, in everything that we do, but this was plain and simple rubbish. It was kind of interresting. The sort that if I found it online, yeah I might give it a read. But not something I’d think worthy of being put into even an e-book form.

So I started over. I pulled the good parts of the old outline into the new one, and found that I was going to have some key plot points happen out of order and far too early. Now, however, I’ve found a solid opening scene that sets the tone for the overall book and I’m very happy with it. From there I was able to flesh out the plot a little better, adding and removing characters from scenes so that it made more sense and flowed better. I even managed to figure out a simpler, but much better fitting title for the book as well.

I’ve now got the time, energy, and patience for banging out at least a rough draft once I finish the outline. I’m very satisfied with the notes I’ve made, and can’t wait to start the book in November.

Ugh Writing! (Finding software solutions without having to install actual software.)

Over the last few days, I’ve been mulling over the idea of writing a novel. I’ve got a really good concept, a strong character, and a decent premise for at least the beginnings of a series. I’ve also decided to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. Or at least do a test run with it. That said, I don’t usually plan out my stories unless absolutely necessary. But I’ve seen the benefit of such an approach. Thus, I’ve been on the lookout for things to make it a bit easier for me, a bonnafied pantser.

Due to the limitations of my hardware (DAMN YOU ACER CLOUDBOOK!) and my strict financial budgeting, there’s no way I could afford to purchase dedicated software. So my attention went to open source solutions.

Normally, I would be using yWriter5, as I’d downloaded and installed it on my old laptop, and was just getting the hang of using it when my laptop did it’s hot glue in the fan routine. I’d found a few solutions, but they required I install Java. That is something that I WILL NOT do, under any circumstances. Me and Java (unless it’s the drinkable sort) do NOT get along.

I thought I had found a solution with NowNovel. And I do quite like the process they use to help get you motivated as well as helping narrow down ideas and implementing a question and answer system for brainstorming. Unfortunately, it’s a subscription service you pay for, and it only lets you get about 15% through the process before popping up and saying “Hey, pay for an upgrade to finish your novel!” – So, at least I was able to use it enough to get a solid concept nailed down and start brainstorming how I want my character to act, and the emotional and mental situation with the character as well. And it helped me to narrow down my vision to a few pictures in order to help me understand the tone and mood I’m going for. Definitely a service that, if I had the funds, I would throw my money at. But it’s just out of my price range at the moment. Maybe down the road when I’ve got a little more leeway and free money, I might revisit NowNovel’s process and service.

So, I sought another alternative. Checking the NaNoWriMo forums, I kept seeing people suggest Storybook Pro or Schriever, both of which are completely out of my price range. And requires installation. I also saw Snowflake Method software, whatever it’s called, suggested. Once again, out of my range and requires installation. Then, I came across a thread on HackerNews about a site called Litlift.

After Googling it for about half an hour, reading as much as I could about it, some of it from the creator/programmer themselves back in 2009 when they presented the project before other programmers and design pros and sought their opinions and legit assistance, I decided to sign up and give it a whirl.

I am NOT disappointed. It’s free, which is a plus! It doesn’t require me to install anything, double plus – and when I’m done I can export all of my text and stuff into my choice of .rtf or .txt so I can then do whatever I wish with it. What’s more, it helps give me the feel of not planning and outlining, but definitely does the organization with pages and tabs specifically for keeping track of characters (minor and main), scenes, chapters, key plot points, sub plots, and even who currently has what key plot item at any given time (assuming I’ve updated that page with new info such as “Bob now has the idol statue while Frank now has the fake one made of cheese.”). And lastly, there is even a section called “Library” where you can submit your works for feedback and community reviews.

While the “Library” isn’t exactly the greatest, and has the Wattpad level story quality in most cases, it’s the novel building tools that I’m really after, so the Library section really isn’t my cup of tea. But if anyone else wants to explore it, be my guest. (Screencaps below include random page selections for sake of example.)

Ugh. Worldbuilding.

I used to enjoy worldbuilding. It was my favorite part of writing for many years. In a lot of my writing in the past, I’d made very strong worlds, and characters. Plots – not so much. But the worlds the stories took place in were solid as rocks, and worked well with nearly anything I could throw at it.

Unfortunately now, not so much. I’ve attempted to recycle 2 worlds I’ve build for writing, but I just can’t come up with a compelling story to tell in them that doesn’t sound like a hack job.

So, I’ve decided to start from scratch on that end. And it’s soooooooo arduous and painstaking. I have been finding myself putting it off repeatedly. I’ve been trying different methods, both quick and easy as well as detail heavy and lengthy. But I keep drawing a blank. And it’s getting truly annoying. I have so many ideas, but they all conflict and couldn’t possibly coexist even in a fantasy setting. It’s so frustrating.

Therefore, I’ve decided to stop worldbuilding and focus on character building. As luck would have it, during a random google search for worldbuilding resources I came across an old fashioned RPG from my youth, one that had always inspired me to push my creative limits. The world of Rhy’din. So I’ve signed up for it’s current incarnation as a forum and chat based roleplay website, and we’ll see how this goes. This will, I hope, put me back in the writing groove outside of fanfiction and the like.

The Truth Seeker Saga (Or: What holy hell medication was I on when I wrote this?!)

So as I’ve said maybe, oh, a few posts back or some such, I’m going through a lot of my old disks. Recycling old ideas and making them new again. Well, I’ve stumbled across one disk with a specific file I thought long lost to the internet, buried in the deepest pits and bowels that no Wayback machine could ever find. Back in my days of amateur web design, when I was writing fanfiction far too gory and smutty for Fanfiction.net, and Archive of Our Own (AO3) had not even yet been a mere twinkle of an idea. I mention this because I wrote a LOT of fanfiction and couldn’t host it on fanfiction.net due to.. well…. getting banned for a while because my stuff violated site policy. Anyway… Livejournal was a thing at the time, and so was Xanga, but I didn’t want to clutter my blog, and I didn’t want to learn how to use Livejournal (I’d tried at the time and then gave up because at the time, it was far too complicated… says the woman who spent her teen years coding web pages for fun…). So I got a free Geocities, as well as Angelfire and an assortment of other freebie websites. And linked them all together using frames and other such nonsense. In the end though, I bought a domain from Geocities, right before it was bought by Yahoo! and set about creating a website for my fanfiction.

Then I decided to create subsites for other projects. One of which was a series of stories I wrote based on old roleplaying game storylines friends and I would play out in AOL chatrooms. This evolved into a full-on story series. My friends and a few others who read it demanded continuation after continuation. And so I kept writing. It evolved into the screencap posted here.

sneakiback

To break this down, so you can see the full scope of what this single HTML file contains (and yes, it is a SINGLE html file, and it’s freaking MASSIVE)…

The Original Series: 4 stories total.

  • Lost World (prequel): Prologue + 9 chapters
  • Battle Scarred : 12 chapters
  • Missing Mile: 8 chapters
  • Dances of Demons and Angels: 20 chapters + epilogue + alternate ending

Redux: 6 “Books”

  1. Death: 14 chapters + Interlude
  2. Memories: 7 chapters + Interlude
  3. Sex and Drugs: 9 chapters
  4. Pain: 5 chapters + Interlude + 4 Parts (of 1 chapter)
  5. Love and Hate: 5 chapters
  6. Life: 6 chapters + 4 Parts (of 1 chapter)

Holiday Specials: 1 story (Original series)

Side-Stories: Total of 5

Original Series: 1
Alternate Reality: 4

Grand Total Individual Texts
(Chapters plus Stand Alone Stories) = 115

All of this was written between 2003 and 2007. And includes a very expansive and bizarre world combining magic, science fiction, fantasy, reality, mild politics, and religion. And the thing is, I only truly recollect writing about 1/3 of it, due in part to that period of my life being one that was very turbulent. At that time I was severely withdrawn from others, suffering from near-crippling depression, and psychologically recovering from not one, but 2 near death experiences in mid-late 2003. So… it was a wild ride filled at various times with pain medication (which also during this time period I had developed an addiction to. Thankfully, now, I no longer abuse my medications thanks to a very strong support system and a rigid routine.), cold medicine, pure mental and physical exhaustion, and stress resulting in emotional and psychological break downs. It’s amazing I remember writing any of it at all to be quite honest.

So, I’ve been reading these stories, cringing at my own writing and how it used to be. I mean, given my reading comprehension, my writing skills at the time, it’s quite good. But compared to what level I am at now, my gods it’s atrocious! But the story is very compelling, and since I haven’t seen this file or these stories in nearly 10 years, I’m reading them with fresh eyes and a new perspective and wow. The plot, while a bit weak, is keeping me hooked and the character development and world building involved in this… Just freaking blows me away. I had a good solid world with a good solid cast of characters, but the plot is what ended up being the weakest part of it. Hence why with my old writings I’m reading through them and recycling the things I like, and reworking the things that I don’t.

It’s been a very… odd experience for me reading this old story. I’ll likely be posting about it again once I’ve gotten further into it. I’ve been reading it for the past 3 days at every opportunity, and I’ve only just scratched the surface of it.