The Books We Read Make a World of Difference

 

Reading will always go hand in hand with writing. Current reads are the tools we use to find what works for readers. Sometimes it’s easy to forget during the solidarity of the writing process that we write for others to read. The accepted content varies over time. For example consider a novel like Vanity Fair. In the 1800’s, extensive backstories and drab descriptions of settings were in good form. Exactly like Shakespeare. In the 1600’s, iambic pentameter or heptameter of George Chapman was popular. These days it’s concise prose without too much unjustified extra content, like backstory and description of the mundane. This will be about a few books I’ve read recently. I won’t keep you in suspense. They are The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon, Sharp Objects and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, and Storm Front (Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher.

 

One of my writer friends recommended The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, a Pulitzer Prize winner. The story is nearly an alt. history of the heyday in the comic books, the 1940’s through 1960’s. Along with Stan Lee and Sam Kirby, add Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay. Kavalier is a Jewish refugee from Nazi-controlled Europe previously the apprentice of an escape artist. Clay is a misanthropic writer interested in comic books and becoming the next great American writer. Clay penned the inking and Kavalier did the illustrations. The story followed their lives for the next two decades.

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This book taught me a few valuable lessons. Literary prose works for established writers. Getting people to read literary prose from a yet unpublished writer is asking too much. Chabon used lots of words that were new to me like prestidigitation, opprobrium, and razz among others. A pre-collegiate vocabulary isn’t enough to write at a high level. Chabon frequently went on tangents, devoting page space to the stories written by Clay. Large parts of the book detail the fictional comic book heroes, The Escapist  and Luna Moth. I liked these parts a lot. Chabon made me wish to actually read the comics he described. The Escapist thrilled me. Luna Moth was perfectly hot and written with style. Going on tangents can work if done expertly.

 

Two books by Gillian Flynn taught me a lot. I’ll start with Gone Girl, the one I read first. The story started with Nick Dunne waking up next to his wife, Amy Eliot Dunne. We follow along as Nick left their house that morning. We watch the events as he discovered his wife is missing. Nick’s experiences through the investigation is chronicled. In the meantime, we read through Amy’s journal from the night they first met onward.

 

Gone Girl was amazing. Flynn found a way to justify an incredible amount of backstory. In Amy’s journals, we are looking for an evidence that Nick is capable of killing his wife. Amy left a series of limericks as part of this anniversary tradition they have. This allows Nick a chance to relive even more memories as he follows Amy steps before her disappearance. Throughout Amy’s journal, she wrote a series of multiple choice questions. After all, she was a quiz writer at some magazine. The story is allegorical to the dynamic within a marriage. Strong writing brought the story through easily to the reader.

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This novel taught me a few important lessons. Great writing with a great story sells. Gone Girl was on the New York Times Best Sellers List for over two years, won two awards, and was made into a movie. A well selling book is relatable. Intense literary tendencies can work if done really well or above par.

 

Sharp Objects is about a young reporter returning to her hometown, to follow-up on a serial murder investigation. Going home, brings back a lot of old memories. Everything is creepy in a way that adds character to a small town. The end is nearly impossible to figure out.

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A few lessons saw me through to the end. There is place for complicated sentences in modern, non-literary fiction. Feel free to include introductory, dependent, independent, and concluding clauses as long as the coherence or smoothness doesn’t reduce. Details are okay if it adds something like a feeling you want to convey, hints, misleads, or does something to make the story better. It doesn’t matter who you are, traditionally publishing a first book over 200 pages is incredibly difficult, if not impossible without something else going for you. Gillian Flynn was a reporter for Entertainment Weekly and her first book is 200 pages long.

 

Station Eleven is a literary science fiction novel that redefined what sells. The story follows the creator of a small batch comic titled as Station Eleven. The comic was about a lone doctor on space station destined for destruction. We follow the comic author’s life through her relationship with a previously famous actor and beyond to death. The actor connected with a young girl on the set of a play. We follow this young girl after some type of apocalypse. Another character is followed through the cataclysm. Basically a literary novel without an easily defined plot but gives a feeling of actually being there.

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Emily St. John Mandel is a great writer that has a lot to teach. I remember this one sentence that, simply put was amazing. I read this one sentence that perfectly summarized the work duties of an executive assistant. This sounds boring but encapsulated in a richly complex sentence made it interesting beyond belief. After reading the paragraph, it was stunning to see it was all of three sentence. I have a ton of work left to be that good, especially that smooth. Literary novels follow characters, things, and places through a series of event to shed light on existential questions. Keeping the reader oriented can be difficult, but when it works, you can do anything.

 

The Goldfinch follows the young Theodore Decker after his mother dies in a tragic museum explosion. He spends a years with his gambling father in Las Vegas. Then we see years an apprentice and an antique dealer. Finally married to a beautiful woman. Through it all, we feel his emptiness and longing for what he lost all those years ago.

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This book is dense. For maybe the first time, a modern book required me or the reader to slow down and take in everything. I can’t imagine writing and editing a book for ten years. My motivation wouldn’t survive that long for one project. Literary novels create experiences with beautiful imagery. This can be done by making the ordinary pretty or choosing events that allow lavish imagery. Donna Tartt does this through a series of drug experiences and smoky, dark scenes with nothing happening very fast. There is literary and then there is great literary.

 

Infinite Jest is the longest book I’ve ever read. David Foster Wallace wrote a book that’s a traumatic experience to read. It incorporates a little of everything from drug addiction, depression, film theory, world diplomacy, tennis, and North American diplomacy among other things. The story follows a family that owns a tennis academy, a rehabilitation center just down the road, and a meeting between American counter-intelligence agent and a double agent from a Canadian terrorist group. That meeting got annoying with the frequency Wallace returned to it and its length. The use of parentheses to denote the antecedent of pronouns was frustrating. The ending left me disappointed. There was such a long build-up and the ending was outside the time frame of the prose. Wallace doesn’t hold our hand through to the end and shoves us to figure it out. The length made me really struggle to put the ending together. All that aside, Wallace gives us an almost unabashed look into the human psyche at its worst.

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Wallace gave me a few irreplacable tips. Merging different styles can slow a read down but you need literary clout to keep a reader in it. Infinite Jest uses ebonics, first person, third person, monologue, footnotes, and various other styles throughout. Detours are again okay. A grasp of words beyond most, makes a book really hard to read.

 

Then we have Storm Front (Dresden Files #1). A wizard/private detective investigates two different cases. The plot is rote. The two cases have to collide right? Add in wizardry, a police detective, a overseeing wizarding board breathing down his neck, a few rules about what’s allowed, and dark magic to get Strom Front. The language simple and easy to digest. The wording steps out of the way and puts the story front and center.

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I learned a lot that supports everything I’m getting into. Simple construction works really well. Readers like familiarity. The woman characters are femme fatales with a slight variation, usually. We have a hot reporter with a pen instead of a gun. A pretty detective with a badge and gun. A true femme fetale with information and no gun. I really liked a scene where the wizard questions the woman with information. Butcher does a really good job describing her smoky, contralto voice. I did something like that but not really well in my first book. I need to keep working on maintaining a feeling for an extended period of time. Keep the action coming and use the lulls wisely. Choose when to give exposition and what to say with care. Add something new to the genre like the present day, vampires, and sex as used by Butcher.

 

Reading is invaluable to a writer. It has always been a big part of my life and will continue to be. These books were read over the course of a year. Another year of reading will bring more lessons and interesting worlds. I look forward to it. Come back in two weeks for the next post. Until then, Graham Kar out.

 

GK

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The Schizophrenic or (The Pessimistic Voice that Says No.)

I liked Birdman in general.

 

The casting added something that felt real to me, Michael Keaton (Riggan). I remember him well from that 90’s Batman franchise directed by Tim Burton, That was the only time I remembered who he was apart from the character. I recognized Naomi Watts (Lesley) from somewhere, probably King Kong. The character that really got me in the story was Sam (Emma Stone). I found the problems in her attractive, probably because I wrote a similar character a few months ago.

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The cinematography drew me in. It was a window into the normal world, walking and how everything looks from that angle. I sit or lay down throughout my day. Every rarely am I looking from eye level of someone standing. The camera shifted in and out of third person to different character perspectives. I liked the closeness to the characters talking. The frustration of Sam when spoke about how outdated her father was became visceral in a way that movies almost never have for me. I sit all the time. People are either right next to me or in front 4 feet away. Imagine never directly facing someone when you talk or being 4 feet away. Looking over railing is impossible for me. I have to parallel park my chair or look at the railing from feet away. This was shown once in Birdman.

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The rooftop scenes were scary. Heights are down right scary if you can’t stop yourself falling. I can’t. Truth or dare seems so unrealistic and overused. Do people actually play that game in situations of hidden attraction or friendship? That part where Mike (Edward Norton) describes Sam as special, “burning the candle at both ends”, sounds written. The options there are either call it out or change that part into something else. I would have described it differently. Still good.

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The superpowers were interesting even if we couldn’t be sure they actually existed. Levitation, telekinesis, and flight. Everything the fictional Birdman could do. Riggan became so invested in the character, it became a part of him as a voice that degraded him. We all have a little voice in the back of heads, telling us everything that could go wrong. It was an interesting plot piece that severed as an easy source of motivation.

 

A great movie.

 

GK

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Ella Dawson, A Letter from a Fan

 

(For those of you that haven’t heard: Ella Dawson is internet famous for various reason. Being an optimistic person, fighting for a better future, her writing,  and blog make her famous.)

 

Dear Ella Dawson,

 

You are a great person. You have an optimistic outlook for the future interaction between different people. Despite the opprobrium, you continue to fight for your vision of the future. There is no reason for the stigma against STI’s except personal fear.

 

I learned about you through a creative non-fiction piece you posted on Medium. It, put simply, was amazing. Your simple, clear language brought an extremely complicated concept into focus. It drew me in and gave me something to think about. A quote stuck with me. “it sits on my tongue like a sugar cube” That phrase so clearly depicts what was going on.  I knew from that moment, I had to learn everything I could from you.

 

I was only previously affected by heavily literary works like The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. This pulled my earlier writing too far in the flowery, literary direction. This trend caused confusion and reduced my potential audience. For a relatively unknown author like myself, too much complex language becomes a problem. I needed a new goal. Didn’t Mark Twain say something about simple language?

 

I started reading your WordPress blog from the beginning. That Medium piece was too advanced for me to see the underlying technique. I needed more and earlier writings. The second blog post about your college thesis caught my eye. It was a definition of feminist sex writing. Basically, you were saying the feminist part comes in when the writing questions the social mores around sex. For example, what constitutes acceptable sex? What types of relationship work and how do they function?

 

A really surprising thing happened. I had been writing a book for the previous 6 months that started to ask those questions and provide what I believed were my answers. I have never tried to label anything. I find it extremely frustrating to squeeze myself into boxes. I stopped trying long ago. That definition you provided was something new, expansive and inclusive.

 

I also read a book you reviewed and liked. It gave me a window into your preferred genre. Reading helps me figure out what fits into a genre, the characteristics that make something good, and the established boundaries. Finally, I look for what works and try to incorporate those into my own writing.

 

The three short stories you guest blogged on Exhibit A gave me a chance to learn about your approach to writing fiction. I read Homecoming first. The relationship descriptions were so on point. ‘There was some Peter Pan syndrome to explain why she was here, lurking in the back of the library at just after midnight.” The story was real. There were the good things and a little grunge on the edges. The entire piece was about familiarity and comfort.

 

Camille was great in a different way. I left it with this picture of Camille through the eyes of another. I imagined a petite woman possessed with unbelievable strength. The true description of a character should be by someone that loves this person.  A couple of lines stuck with me. “She reached out with one of her tiny hands and brushed his hair out of his face, and she smiled as she poked some of the freckles littering his cheek. He grabbed her wrist and kissed her thumb.” That last line felt especially real to me. I suspect that originated from an actual experience. This story had a fierceness to it, paired beautifully with reverence.

 

The last one was Slush. It felt a little angry, frustrated, and wrapped up in itself, but isn’t that the way some relationships go. The two people are stuck between the end of psychological intimacy and the end of everything. The entire thing was evocative and filled with emotion. Your use of simile was superb. “Anger keeps them tangled like the links of a snagged chain. She knows eventually something will give and let them swing free with stunning ease but that day has not come yet.” I have yet to crack that.

 

A prerequisite to creative writing is going to different places and seeing ordinary, more importantly, relatable things. Having those physical experiences also helps. Consider those the raw materials for simile. Instead of loosely associating like with brainstorming, jump through ideas with an over-arching similarity. I can do that in social interaction but not yet in writing. Asking what could be a simile for things I’ve written about and things I feel, might be exactly what I need.

 

The metaphors were educational. It’s the precursor to the things that wowed me in that creative non-fiction piece mentioned earlier. “They used to love each other. The memory is a splinter driven too deep in her palm to dig out with tweezers: a dull and irritating hurt, worsened by the temptation to pick.”

 

Handy mnemonic device. A simile is like Red (Taylor Swift, Red). A metaphor is Clean (Taylor Swift, 1989).

 

Awesome writing. You are doing good things, not that anyone has to say it. Hopefully, everyone will see that soon. Keep fighting the good fight. Rock on!

 

Thank you for everything you’re doing.

 

Graham Kar AKA Girish Karthikeyan

 

GK

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The 25% Solution: Characterization that Shines

 

Character development is a big part of any story. Each character should be well understood by the reader and distinguishable from other characters. Establishing a strong character starts with a defined back-story. What events and personality traits make the character found on the page. There are several ways to build up a basis for understanding what internal and external factors form certain behaviors.

 

I employed the method of understanding every aspect of my own personality. Each of these components can be added to others found in the world to create a whole, realistic character. Another way to get there is by observing others and writing out a hypothetical life story that accounts for everything observed. I did this a lot in secondary school, during my anti-social period. Then, there’s the conversational method. Talk with people, have deep conversation, and try to understand this person. Share yourself and it should go both ways. Find someone that is comfortable with it, first. I did a horrible job explaining that.

 

The novel I’m writing now, there are four main characters. Their story arcs will mimic each other to some extent and have vast differences in other ways. Isn’t that how life is? There is Inslee, the proverbial third-wheel to Sloane and Dominic. Duncan is one of Sloane’s children. Dominic and Sloane have been together for the length of their 2,000 year interstellar trip. Feelings and reactions evolve a lot in 2,000 years. Each character has POV parts that make up the entirety of the prose. Now, the character descriptions of these four characters. We have Inslee, Dominic, Sloane, and Duncan.

 

Inslee is a sexy, savvy doctor that knows what she wants and is willing to do almost anything for it. She is currently in a situation where, everything she has tried results in nothing changing. From the first time she meet Dominic, she has been attracted to him. This eventually became unrequited love. That feeling would undoubtedly change through the centuries. Remember Dominic is almost religiously devoted to his life partner, Sloane. Inslee’s love, becomes longing for what she can’t have, which makes the feeling of love stronger. Then it makes absolutely no sense to love a person that much. She falls then for the idea of him. Finally she realizes she never actually loved Dominic, but simply what he has with Sloane.

 

Their relationship is complicated after 2,000 years of friendship, most of it crammed into an interstellar spaceship with a crew of 12. Consciously, she found other relationships to bury her feelings for Dominic. Even though she consciously released those feelings, her unconscious mind still holds onto hope. Unconsciously she sets up situations to accidentally be close to him and test his loyalty, basically flirting without being aware of it.

 

Each of these immortals has a method to unite body and mind. That is a required part of their existence due to that fact their consciousness is grafted into a new body. Each method of body/mind connection is trained into each blank clone body and practiced by each consciousness. A deep truth is inherent in what the practice is. In Inslee’s case, that is love.

 

Dominic is a happy go-lucky guy that doesn’t appreciate what he has. He connects with his body by re-experiencing his past. The best way to get him is to deconstruct his relationship with Sloane. After being with the same person for a while, most relationships loose the spark they once had. Each half of a partnership has to evolve and merge for the relationship to constantly redefine itself to work in any situation. I lost you in abstraction there. What about an example?

 

For that, there’s the history of the relationship between Dominic and Sloane. She protects him during Remember. Dominic helps her get accustomed to their new life without the support she is used to having. They are separated for a time and their feelings intensify. Then Dominic protects her. The feelings of love they have gets old. Based on who they are, two things can happen. Their relationship falls apart or they grow together the only way possible for them. They grow co-dependent in an almost healthy way. Everything is great when both are together and aware of each other. What happens to someone like Dominic when this separation takes place?

 

That is his central question in this new book. He becomes depressed and at times suicidal. Been there before and know it well. Either way, I am really good at describing emotional states without naming them. I could probably teach a master’s class on that aspect. That’s for another time.

 

Then we have Sloane. This character is almost a spitting image of me. Sloane is the person I would be if I was alive in this future time period. Sloane is as I’ve thought of her a compassionate person that tries everything to help others. This isn’t the mold for a likable character. It’s more likely I choose the more accurate personality. Sloane wrestles back her emotions through meditation. Meditation is her connection tool. Succumbing to these emotions is terrifying. In the influence of these extreme emotions, she is unpredictable. Showing both sides makes a more likable character. Sometimes she falls into the trap of recursive thought and abject abstraction, and she struggles to reconnect with realty. On other occasions, she falls into the other nectar trap, becoming the person people expect her to be and loosing herself in the process.

 

Duncan in the son or daughter of Sloane and Dominic. The fusion of his parent’s personalities results in a strong, silent type that meditates in private and deep religious roots. Dominic doesn’t appreciating what he has and along with Sloane propensity for extreme emotions, this results in the silence of their son.

 

Writing each character through the entire story works for me. Two characters interacting gets tricky, but that’s the trade off. I’ll probably write out a full plan for this one. More story ideas to come.

 

GK

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Generating Ideas is the Most Fun I have All Day

 

The plan for my next book is underway. Planning is the most fun thing about the creative process. Ideas trickle in from everything going on around you and in your head. Somehow this all comes together to make a cohesive story. The first mental draft and that point where the words flow almost on their own are the other times that writing feels like something that shouldn’t be possible. How can anything be this fun?

 

Creating the character profiles comes before any plot construction. Characterization is something I like a lot, reducing a character to a deceptively simple phrase that means almost nothing if the character isn’t from your mind. The journey is more important than the destination, but the destination still means something.

 

The story is a generational ship. Watching Star Trek: Voyager, the term generational ship sounded like the holy grail of space travel. I started to wonder why a generational ship wasn’t something that appeared more in science fiction. It then, started to make sense. Basing a story on a revolving cast of characters can get confusing and doesn’t work well. The author builds a character that the reader is invested in then that character is dumped. Roots by Alex Haley is a good example of that. The book became exceedingly long and a little difficult for me to keep the characters clearly defined.

 

Long term space travel is frequently framed in the context of cryogenic preservation. The character sleeps from point A to point B. It works well from the story standpoint. A boring journey goes away with that addition. I don’t believe cryogenic sleep is possible. What about that frog that freezes solid and thaws out still alive, you ask? Cryoprotectants or a special chemical saves the tissues from ice damage. These frogs are so different from humans. Most likely this method can’t be used with warm-blooded animals. Frogs don’t regulate their internal temperatures unlike humans. That’s out for me.

 

The problem with a generational ship is the revolving set of character. Making the same character survive the duration fixes this sticking point. Immortality or something close. Something close to reincarnation is what I came up with. The mind survives through a succession of cloned bodies. In effect the ship’s crew is immortal for as long as they are traveling through the depths of interstellar space. The current plan is a 2,000 years journey spanning three galaxies. At the end, when the story takes place, the crew have an unmatched breadth and depth of experience and there’s more to come. Four characters POV’s will be artfully blended.

 

What happens over 2,000 years? Human bodies are changed to be more representing of all the creatures of Earth and more human. UV sensing eyes, melanin variable skin based on UV exposure, telepathy, compassionate, and a few other more complicated things. What changes mentally for an immortal? Personality differences are amplified along with an increased appreciation for other points of view. Basically a more enlightened human or hyper-human. Each person behaves slightly different the longer they have been around. Add that to my unique execution and the sequel to Remember is born.

 

I’m planning to write one character all the way through and then do the same for each character. There is some loose connection between three of the characters in Remember and the sequel. For the sake of brevity their names are Inslee, Dominic, and Sloane. Then there’s Dominic and Sloane’s son, Duncan. I might eventually change Duncan to a young woman, we’ll see. Woman are generally easier for me to write. I’ll give you a quick description of each character later.

 

GK

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Inspiration for a Novel: Frustration with Science Fiction

Remember started as a novel written just for me, addressing my issues with most fiction published today. Every science fiction novel or tv show I’ve seen except with the notable exceptions, has elements that are easily disproved. For example, electricity can’t reanimate that dead but does kill the living. Reanimation requires a few things. The reverse of everything that happens after death. First stop decay by somehow sterilizing the body (probably take a few pages to describe everything rationally needed). Remember features details not easily dismissed without field specific education or research.

The shallowness of most fiction. I find it extremely difficult to reread or rewatch almost any content. My memory precludes anything except fictional worlds that appeal to my sense of aesthetic. The repeat experience usually lends no new insights except in rare cases such as The Life of Pi, The Matrix films, Mission Impossible (the first movie), and maybe Inception. Remember is a novel that shows something new with almost every read. My writing opens itself to multiple interpretations based on the reader’s perception and point of view, but still with a clear ending.

The experience of the protagonist doesn’t match well with the reader’s experience. If the protagonist is confused, shouldn’t the reader be just as confused The protagonist forgets the past, but the reader knows what happened. The numb feeling after killing someone. The listing of emotions without the effect apparent. Remember shows everything, usually before saying anything explicit about the situation.

Throughout the revision several changes took place, namely the transition from passive to active verbs. A good portion of the writing was removed to focus the novel further in the best direction. Trimming unnecessary sentences and redundancies helped along the way. A two month break highlighted issues with flow and rhythm. Everything led to the finished Remember, or so I thought. A beta reader found a lot of small errors. I’m writing another book before digging out those errors.

Remember needs work. That’ll probably happen over the next six months.

This is the back description as it stands now.

Conor Abby’s life as a research scientist disintegrates with the murder of Irena Mekova, the second closet person to him in this world of 2417. His life was complicated enough after a brain damaging vehicle accident. Working for a clandestine organization doesn’t help matters. A relapse of retrograde amnesia leaves the truth of what really happened locked away somewhere in his mind, if only he can Remember. Are their suspicions true? Did Conor murder Irena? Why can’t he remember?

Stay tuned.

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Inception of Remember, a First Novel

 

Remember basically reduces to an internal struggle against slow and complete corruption, until escaping the hands of these corrupters. This central conflict works best considering the other options. A protagonist versus antagonist battle doesn’t reflect much of daily experience away for the criminal justice system, military service, politics, and criminal element. The ability to justly exert force over the antagonist feeds too much into existing works. The rivalry between two people competing isn’t something I’ve read but enjoy on the silver screen.

 

The struggle of protagonist against the environment reminds me of long-haul fishermen, Ernest Shackleton, and movies (not many books yet). Not something I want more of from writing. The stories that really interest me end up protagonist versus self, psychological thrillers. Remember has always been a book focused first on something I want to read then adapted to the masses. My existence omits most kinds of physicality, let alone physical or environmental conflict. The psychological conflict is more familiar to the majority of possible readers from experiences with body image and lifestyle. The need to change something but not always the ability or motivation to do so. Examples include prevention of type II diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. That is what I settled on.

 

The title of Remember means two possible things in my mind. The protagonist, Conor goes through a verification procedure for his murder conviction, involuted by a memory erasure and recovery process. This works on the principle of removing a majority of the ego, stripping away the entirety of the super-ego, and leaving just the id or complete innocence. In this state, anything remembered comes through as honestly as possible. As remembered memories return, I posit they feel less immediate (something remembered from a movie or book, not something from firsthand experience). Toss this to the fact that memories incorporated after the fact lack the full emotional and adrenal force accompanying events happening right now. This effect dissipates over time. People going through this procedure recount events freely and openly.

 

Remember also means remember what love is if a parallel storyline enters consideration, the one between Conor and Claire. In popular culture, the idea of love just means a few complications. One partner says it and the other partner wrestles their emotions until the decision falls out. Relationships are constructed into fragile, mercurial, ghostlike objects for the most tension, impact, and uncertainty. Love isn’t sex. Love isn’t physical. Love isn’t desire. Love isn’t vengeance. Love isn’t selfish. Love is connection. Love is psychological. Love is need. Love is forgiveness. Love is wanting the best for someone else without regard for self. Remember that.

 

Remember experiments with the idea of duplicity, showing one side to everyone and hiding your true self away (everybody does it to some degree). Agent 7429 must be someone close Conor, but we aren’t sure who. The clues dribble out, while Claire (Agent 7429) lies at every turn, masking her true self. Dr. Mekova plays the role of pitiable victim until the clandestine meeting where she makes a compelling oratory about Conor’s situation and alludes to possible reason, from her point of view as a member of a “terrorist group”. These double identities present a criticism of the axiom “perception is reality”, which means how others view a person determines what that person is to them. This makes sense and works to some extent, but is it the best way? Those of us plagued by shyness at some point or cynical of the way things are view this as rewarding the sycophants and refusing the hard workers. In truth, external validation means nothing beyond material gains so valued by society. Personal equity comes from internal validation. Countless studies agree that monetary gains don’t equate to happiness. In Remember, this duplicity puts the duplicitous in a position whereby they need the forgiveness or trust of others, now hard to come by.

 

The idea that dreams have importance permeates the text of Remember.  The memory therapy works by recovering lost information through dreams. This is an extension of the way dreams incorporate memories and events from everyday life; we just can’t control them well enough, yet. In other places, dreams affect daily life by influencing decision making. Take the choice to accept the “offer” from the Division (his employers). A dream just a few days before mused the opportunities and risks of this choice. The possible control of dreams shows ambivalence towards who is really in control. Each dream throughout features meaning.

 

Each part, chapter, and segment focuses on a central theme. The chapter titled Romanticism places importance on what the author feels than anything else. It contains the conversation about the end of Claire’s relationship and the dream about blowing up the Institute with Irena. Things that I feel should happen without much reason, especially that dream. The part called Blank Slate repeatedly returns to that idea. Remember is a novel that allows in-depth analysis.

 

Still working away at Remember. Some time away and little soul searching told me I wasn’t finished. Back to the editing table for now.

 

GK

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Getting Something Good Down on Paper

 

How did I come up with the novel? What inspiration triggered everything? Like most stories, it started small then took a life of its own. The beginning sparkle forms at the heels of problems people face every day. In a futuristic sci-fi novel, the prose should solve a verity of these problems. Throwing in the issues confronting society as a whole doesn’t hurt.

 

Keep in mind, my views border on extreme optimism. No post-apocalypse here. How to solve traffic, losing a phone, and lackluster entertainment? The disconnect between living in the suburbs and working in a city – true for most of us – can easily be dismissed by both occupying the same building. Would losing a phone really matter if an infinitely powerful computer lived symbiotically within each of our bodies? Simulations could use these systems to deliver an entertainment system into the brain itself. The possibility grows with each passing decade or even century.

 

The voice/style of my writing brings these ideas forth unto the page. The dissatisfaction I have with reading stems from the authors need to convey their intention. Are my imaginings of a toaster from fifty years ago less than the writer’s? I think not. This idea prioritizes content over description. My first draft read more like a play than a novel. Through extensive critiquing, I turned this into a proper novel with minimal description.

 

The contrast to this enters the surreal dreams. My ideas that psychoanalysis will return like a conquering hero, entails the interpretation of dreams as messages from the unconscious or subconscious mind. These passages approach literary vignettes disguising messages. Better authors seamlessly combine these two styles, a perfect example in Robert Ludlum.

 

These ideas are currently being ironed out for a novel worthy of agent perusal. Stay tuned for more.

 

GK


 

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How to Scare People with Writing

 

The scariest moments of my life are when I can’t breathe because of coughing or ventilator/tracheotomy issues. Reading an article about that woman without fear (i.e. lesions of amygdala, the fear center) revealed that increased carbon dioxide level trigger such a deeply ingrained that even she wasn’t immune. Throughout my reading experience, not one writer did the choking strangling experience justice. They failed mentioning the mind-numbing cold, relentless sweating, and floating above the body (the literal out of body sensation). The farthest book experiences end with the protagonist choking another person and the throat soreness.

 

Now the subject of this post, how to scare someone through writing? The art of frightening someone ends up a deeply seated manipulation no matter how you approach it. The following methods below differ only slightly in that. First you need the reader vested in the character that you plan on scaring senseless. Try watching a horror movie halfway through on mute. The scary stuff should seem completely fake or even funny because you are detached, an outside viewer. Second you need a relatable situation, anything from a single family home to a poker game. This may not sound scary, but it allows the audience to feel a little comfortable before the terror begins. Last you need contrast, something between the adrenaline rushes.  Non-stop action works for an action film, but what you want is contrast. A comfortable picnic before the zombie apocalypse, then a weapons depot before the next attack, this makes the fear that much greater.

 

 People read and watch horror for a couple of reasons. For me it is that jolt of joy after the heart-stopping fear. Then some people go for something all consuming, pure emotional experience, because apart from laughter and sadness, fear is an almost inescapable feeling. Maybe also to prove something to themselves.

 

The easiest method of freaking someone out doesn’t work that well (most easy things don’t), set up a scary situation or event the reader sees a mile ahead and force them through it. Here’s an example. Show an ax murderer waiting in a broken into home, because this is ax murderer the movie we know what’s going to happen. The family returns to slaughter. Having the murder kill another before makes the next death more frightening somehow (no escape, no one coming to the rescue). This works well for widely held fears: thanatopobia (fear of death), capture/arrest, and algopobia (pain).

 

Less democratic fears like claustrophobia or arachnophobia need something different for translation across the page. With claustrophobia transition it to thanatopobia by describing the inability to breathe, because fear sometimes causes breath holding. Maybe add the perception of the walls closing in. For arachnophobia extrapolate the spider out to unnatural proportions, 3 feet tall, etcetera. Try making it more visceral by adding the feeling of spiders crawling all over the person after just seeing the thing. These things all happen under the condition of fear. I should know. I was a scared little kid. Lygopobia, aquapobia, acropobia, arachnophobia, and possibly agoraphobia all long past abandoned but not forgotten.

 

Now the esoteric fears like fear of elevators and flight pobia need a more explanatory identifier. Try the rational approach of explaining why the fear came fo be. Take elevators. Maybe the character got stuck in an elevator alone as a child for a couple of hours. Or experienced very bad air turbulence with a few seconds drop that triggered the oxygen masks. What defining moment solidified that fear? The anxiety thought mechanism should prove effective otherwise. Lists for the audience what could possibly go wrong. Dying from extended time trapped onboard. Choking to death if a fire starts downstairs. An extreme utilization of this ends with pretending one of these situations is happening, then “realizing” it actually isn’t. These methods should handle any fear situation you need to write.

 

There is going to be change in the direction of this blog. From now on, it’ll be mostly autobiographical and short stories with my writing slant. Feel free to contact me with any opinions.

 

GK


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