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Half a Year Gone By

  • Posted on December 4, 2015 at 5:23 pm

With half a year passed and no word from me, I can only imagine that some of you imagined my demise. I’m sure my last few posts must have left you with uncertainty as to my status. Well, I’ll try to clear up as much of that confusion as I can, as well as introducing some new, better things about my life and the status of my works. To kick it all of, I’d like to announce the start of my new Patreon! Now, you’ll be able to assist me in my pursuit of getting these crazy stories out of my head and onto paper.

The Anatomy of an Anime Mental Breakdown

  • Posted on February 17, 2015 at 11:58 pm

As defined by TV tropes, Sanity Slippage  is when it is apparent that a character is losing their edge, and slowly sliding down the slippery slope to insanity. It may be that they now have a verbal tic they didn’t before, perhaps they’re spouting a Madness Mantra. Perhaps they’re simply not sleeping, or not eating, or maybe, just maybe, they’ve gone off the deep end, and are completely different from the character they were before.

So, how does one define a Mental Breakdown of this sort? How does one describe and even characterize such a thing? After all, nothing is more interesting than the breaking and splintering of a human psyche. Nothing gets us more than the suffering of another. Perhaps it’s Schadenfruede, or perhaps it’s just a need to see how far a person can be pushed before they break.

That's one hell of a smile you got there, Shinji

See, Shinji knows what I’m talking about.

So, we’re going to break down that amazing phenomena that is the Anime Breakdown.

Step One: Stress

So, How do we take a perfectly normal character, and make them into something broken and weeping? First, we have to start with that perfectly normal character! Whether this is your villain or your hero, or both, you need a base line for them. So start them off at their normal. Perhaps they’re a normal high-school student?

Yeahhh, I'd be bored in geometry too.

Take Light Yagami here. He’s a perfectly normal, bored high school student.

Stressors would be required to remove them from this normalcy state, and into something close to the sanity slippage we mentioned earlier. In the case of our example here, Mr. Yagami is introduced to a book titled the Death Note. This Death Note provides him a literal example of how “With Great Power, Comes Great Responsibility”.

Over time, the toll of his body count, as well as the things he needs to do to keep from being prosecuted, begin to take a toll on his sanity. Light grows paranoid, increasingly so, and emotionally manipulative. He hides from those who care about him, and performs actions that most would consider appalling. He meets people he’d never thought to meet, but can’t really call any of them friends. In fact, he’s withdrawn from humanity so much that he honestly begins to believe he’s a god.

These stressors cause his reactions to become more and more terrifying and odd, until we get this lovely number:

Yeahhhh….

So Stressors. But what happens once stressors take their toll?

Step Two: Symptoms

This is when we begin to show our homework. A lot of this is going to require research, because honestly, every character is going to react differently. Your stressors are different, and while there will be some crossover sometimes, you can’t just slap a sticker on it and call it good.

So, first, take into account the exact stressors. Is your character being spoken to by the whispering voices of dark gods, dreaming in the beyond? Well then, maybe they’d start listening to music, accidentally yell at their friends, maybe they would end up gouging out their ears? Oh, wait. We’ aren’t there yet, are we…

Here are some common symptoms and examples:

Madness Mantra – A character begins to repeat over and over something that was said to them, something they heard, something they thought, some small phrase that means a lot. This could also double as arch words, if the author is thoughtful about it!

Room Full of Crazy – Perhaps the character begins posting pictures of the victims on their walls, writing the connecting facts between them? Perhaps they start carving out a calender, representing all the times they’d lost time. Or maybe they simply don’t control their room any more. Things go missing, they can’t find something, and then it turns up in places they didn’t put it.

Paranoia – They may begin to grow distrustful of those they once loved, and those they cared about. Maybe they don’t quite know who they can trust. Maybe they worry that someone they don’t know at all will turn out to be their downfall? Who knows.

That’s right Shinji, You listen to Evenescence. That’ll fix everything.

Running Away from Responsibilities – That’s right. When a person is pushed to the limit, they often try to escape from the pressures restraining them. In this case, that means they refuse to fight, they hide. There might be a scene in which they lay about, while others do important things, or perhaps the character hides under blankets.

Now these are just a few symptoms, and to be honest, there are as many symptoms as there are characters. Each one is going to have it’s own reaction. But now you have a general idea of what to do.

Step three: The Catalyst

On  TvTropes, this is referred to as The Despair Event Horizon, which basically just means, the thing that pushes them over the edge into complete and utter breakdown. My favorite culmination for this is into what is known as a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds. Which is basically a character who has undergone such a life of misery and woe, that they have decided the only way to end it is to kill themselves and everyone else along with them. It’s a great trope, give it a read!

Anyway, so the Catalyst can be just about anything. From a Woman in the Fridge to a Kick the Dog moment, it really depends. Basically, the final straw that breaks the camels back. This is the thing that will finally cause that “Everything is over” moment that shatters the character’s (and if you did it right, your reader’s) hearts. This should be your climax, the high point in your story, and the culmination of this character’s arc. After this, it’s all downhill, and healing.

So congratulations! Those are the three big ingredients to writing an Anime Mental Breakdown. There are of course other tropes you can invoke, or even revoke, in order to make it more interesting, and more unique, however, these are the three main things you need. I would recommend reading through those pages, if only so that you can get an idea of what’s already been done. You don’t wanna accidentally overlap, after all.

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part Three

  • Posted on August 20, 2014 at 12:46 pm

Hello again, all! Time for Part Three of the Breaking Down Nemesis Series, in which we break down “Miss Marple Takes Action”. For those of you just joining us, the previous two posts can be found by clicking the above posts, or these links right here: Part One and Part Two.

At the last we left off, Miss Marple had just finished reading a letter from the deceased Mr. Rafiel, who provided her with a code-word– “Nemesis”- and instructions to solve a crime. But what crime? Now, Miss Marple must take action, as the chapter title so endearingly states, and we begin to see how the lovable elderly lady whom Murder She Wrote was based upon works!

This gif says everything.

Like us, Miss Marple is startled over the amount of information she received. Or rather, the sheer lack of information. Dismissing the idea of Mr. Broadribb providing her any more information, Jane quickly decides that it was intriguing. And that, perhaps, Mr. Rafiel had meant it to be.

She then goes on to describe it as a crossword puzzle with no clues given. Considering for a moment, that he might have meant her to take a plane or boat to the West Indies or to South America, she decides that if that’s what he meant, he’s insane. Which, I agree. After all, he couldn’t expect her to find something to solve there that had anything to do with him? No, instead, Miss Marple would have to find something from her own stores of knowledge.

Three days later, Miss Marple writes a letter to Mr. Broadribb, letting him know she’s accepted the proposal (and wants that 25000. See Part Two for a visual representation of the money.) and that she really was expecting more information. She asks him questions about Mr. Rafiel’s relationships and connections, and whether or not he’d had a relative that might have fallen on an unjust situation.

Again, we are treated to Mr. Broadribb and Mr. Schuster talking. They seem to have no idea what to tell her either. Now, in this section, Mr. Schuster said something that I find rather offensive.

“-I don’t see the least chance that some old pussy from the country can interpret a dead man’s brain and know what fantasy was plaguing him.-”

-Mr. Schuster

Now, I realize that it was true to the times, as this is exactly how a man of that day and age might talk if he were uncultured swine, and I think it was used exactly to show that this man was boorish and rude. More and more I find myself disliking this man. I hope he ends up getting kicked by a horse or something. He also brings up the idea that Mr. Rafiel might be trying to take Miss Marple down a peg, ‘teach her a lesson’ so to speak, by sending her on a fool’s errand.

Mr. Broadribb, however, doesn’t. He seems to think that something was worrying Mr. Rafiel, and that he was dead serious about all this. Since neither can fathom what Mr. Rafiel might have been thinking, they decide to wait for some development. Meanwhile, Miss Marple waited for something to turn up as well. In fact, she ends up getting yelled at by Cherry for taking walks too much.

Apparently, her doctor has said that she wasn’t to exercise too much. Which honestly sounds odd to me, because exercise has good affects on the health. But well, it was back in old times, so. Cherry, done telling Miss Marple off, goes and has dinner with her husband, Chinese food, specifically, which set me off to craving Chinese too.

During after-dinner tea, she and Miss Marple talk about the house at the end of the village, which has been repainted, done up and someone called Miss Hastings moved in. If you remember from Part One, Miss Hastings is the employer of Miss Bartlett, whom Miss Marple talked about gardens with briefly. Miss Marple decides just then to write a letter. Specifically, to another friend from this previous adventure we still know nothing about, a Miss Prescott, who is sister to Canon Prescott, a clergyman.  She feels much better after sending the letter, because at least she’s done something.

Joan replies quickly, informing her of Mrs. Walter’s location. Apparently, Mrs. Walters DID remarry, and she’s now Mrs. Alderson or Anderson now. Miss Prescott provides her address, and Miss Marple sleeps on whether or not she should contact her by surprise, or write her first. And that night, she has a dream: MissMarpleDreamQuote

“I had a curious dream,…I was talking to someone, not anyone I knew very well. Just talking. Then when I looked, I saw it wasn’t that person at all I was talking to. It was somebody else. Very odd.”

This is the most brilliant bit of foreshadowing I’ve ever seen. Who does it refer to? Is Mrs. A not going to turn out to be who Miss Marple remembers? Perhaps Joan Prescott was not who she seemed? Or maybe something else entirely! I can’t wait to find out. What a lovely shiver from it, it seems so important!

Decided now, Miss Marple asks Cherry to help her set up a sting operation. Cherry is to call Mrs. A, and ask if she’s to be home today. If she answers or if she is going to come to the phone, she’s to say that Cherry is Mr. Broadribb’s secretary and ask if she can meet with him later that week. If she is to be home that day, then Cherry is to find out when she comes back.

Turns out Mrs. A is going to be in all day, and Miss Marple sets off in a cab towards her next clue!

I’ve noticed a trend, as I began breaking down these chapters. They’re quite short, for the most part. Easy to digest in a bus ride or over a lunch break. I find it easy enough to read a chapter, but not so easy to stop. With things picking up the pace, I can definitely begin to see why some have called Miss Agatha’s work addictive. I didn’t go into much detail about it, but even the cab-company gets some expanding on, information that Miss Marple remembers.

The descriptions in the beginning ARE very lengthy and quite detailed, which is definitely a point towards out Agatha Christie Code theory. But what drew me in the most in this chapter is how seamlessly Miss Marple went from having no idea what to do next, to thinking through, logically, onto what she should do next, her next point of contact. It was, again, very organic. It was what I had been thinking about in chapter two, just after I read the letter. Contacting Mrs. A is her best bet, and the logic of it gives the reader a sense of accomplishment, because they thought of it too.

In the comments section, please tell me your opinion on this. Is it a good thing to allow the reader to guess what is going to happen before hand? Or does it ruin the mystery of the story? When was the last time you read something so compelling that it felt as if you were deducing it yourself before the character?

Weekly Writing Update – 08/14/14

  • Posted on August 16, 2014 at 12:56 am

Another week has passed, and with a harrumph rather than any kind of music. As I am now biking to and from work, my legs have put out a hit on me, in an attempt to put me out of my misery. While dodging ninja assassin attacks, I’ve managed to write some! Not on traditional things, unfortunately, but I’ve also managed to READ some! Which is amazing.

You may not know this, but if you are in debt to your library for five or more dollars, they won’t let you check anything out. After paying fifty dollars plus in back fees, I’m finally back in good with the library! *tincan laughter* No, but seriously, I am ecstatic about this. Alright, but here you go:

Word Counts

Kurylian Saga: The Sorcerer and The Swordsman – Edit one – 11 pages

Kurylian Saga: The Prince and The Corpse – Rough Draft – WC: 1,348

Kaimi Rowe Series: Seeker Born – Rough Draft – Restarted – Outline phase

Blog Posts

Nine Ways to Fix Your Stereotyped Character: A guest blog by Cindy Grigg

Researching Mystery

The Day Robin Williams Died

A Breakup Letter from Me to WB

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part one

Books Read

Doll Bones by Holly Black 

Wordcount Goals

(Changed to just goals, because honestly, I haven’t really written anything other than blogposts in about… three weeks.)

Finished Kaimi Rowe Outline

Finish  Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Four chapters of Nemesis reviewed/blogged

Start Tithe by Holly Black

Breaking Down Nemesis: Part One

  • Posted on August 13, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Welcome to a new series of articles centered around breaking down, and understanding Nemesis, a Miss Marple Mystery, by Agatha Christie. If you’re curious, and wish to follow along, you can purchase the book here! (or make use of your public library, of course! <3) We’ll be breaking down several things, focusing on the Tension, the Characterization, and the Plot Threads, while searching out this mysterious Agatha Christie Code that I’ve heard so much about!

Nemesis is a story in the middle of the Miss Marple Mysteries, a series about an old woman, Miss Jane Marple, who happens to solve mysteries in between gardening, knitting, and enjoying her golden years. At twenty two chapters, we’re going to be breaking down each chapter and looking over it. At the end, I’ll give a final post about what I’ve learned from the intrepid Miss Agatha.

In the afternoons it was custom of Miss Jane Marple to unfold her second newspaper.

The cover for the copy I am reading. Clicking will take you to Miss Christie’s Wikipage.

This is the first line of the novel. Odd choice, honestly, but it works, because it shows off a certain oddness about Miss Marple in the first place. Then, odder still, Miss Marple goes off on a tangent about how often her paper is late because the boy delivering it is either late, or has handed off his route for a little while, or has been sacked.

Strangely enough, this drew me in immediately, if only because I really felt like I was listening to the mental ramblings of an old lady. But another part of it shows just how very AWARE Miss Marple is about EVERYTHING. She knows more than just ‘oh the paper’s late, I can’t read it with early morning tea.’ She knows WHY her paper is late, which is something few people even bother paying attention to.

The pacing so far is unbearably slow. I haven’t figured out anything other than what this old woman is doing with her afternoon. Which appears to be reading a newspaper she’s nicknamed “The Daily All-Sorts”. Then, we are treated to another rant, this time about being unable to find anything in the Times. This rant seems devoted to her lamenting how things have changed from when she was young.

A wonderful way to show us her age, and also an intriguingly clear indication that perhaps the so-called Agatha Christie Code is correct. She seems very intent on describing Miss Marple’s thought process in larger-than-life detail.  Here, we find out another odd detail about Miss Marple.

“It’s sad really, but nowadays one is only interested in the deaths!” – Miss Marple

Miss Marple discovers the Internet

She seems to be looking to see if anyone she knows has died, or perhaps given birth, or gotten married. An odd passtime, but when one has all the time on her hands that Miss Marple seems to, I can see why it would become interesting. Everything about Miss Marple at this point seems to be just this side of odd for an old woman. Miss Christie is leaving us hints as to just how odd Old Miss Marple is underneath. This is wonderful examples of characterization. But still, nothing has happened yet.

Finally, Miss Marple comes across a name that stirs some familiarity. Jason Rafiel, listed in the obituaries. She can’t seem to remember who it is, but she has no doubt it will come to her. In fact, we are treated to a long process of her figuring it out. She begins by looking out the window, lamenting that the doctors refuse to allow her to garden. Another hobby we find she enjoyed that now she is restricted. Poor Miss Marple, her old age is catching up to her. Turning away from the window, she picks up her knitting, which appears to be a pink jacket, just missing the sleeves.

Now pink wool, this triggers something of her memory. As we can see:

Pink wool. Now wait a minute, where did that fit in? Yes- yes- it fitted in with the name she’d just read in the paper. Pink wool. A blue sea. A Carribean sea. A sandy beach. Sunshine. Herself knitting and- why of course, Mr. Rafiel. That trip she had made to the caribbean. The Island of St. Honore. A treat from her nephew Raymond. And she remembered Joan, her niece-in-law, Raymond’s wife, saying: “Don’t get mixed up in any more murders, Aunt Jane. It isn’t good for you.”

Do you see what she did there? Miss Agatha Christie just took us through a perfect example of how the mind ACTUALLY works! After scent, touch is the closest sense to memory, followed by sight! Now, Miss Marple didn’t just remember this up, as if it were a scene, no, it’s broken down into actual recollections, actual thoughts. Instead of a flashback, we get a disjointed connection through various memories.

And like any of us, Miss Marple doesn’t just remember everything about that trip at once. No, she has to tease it together, starting with the names. She remembered the elderly Major, whose name continued escaping her. Then she remembers the kind of man Mr. Rafiel had been. Not perfectly, as some people are want to do. She remembers him being an obstinate man, as well as strong, as well as rich. Difficult, irritable and shockingly rude, she remembers. Clearly he made an impression on Miss Marple. And, not only has she remembered Mr. Rafiel, but others too.

Mrs. Walters, a widow and Mr. Rafiel’s secretary. Mr Rafiel’s Masseur-Attendant, Arthur Jackson, who she thought was a rather doubtful character. But instead of being sure of Jackson’s name, she continues to question it. This is a very organic process of tracking down what the thoughts and memories of this time were. And clearly she is remembering the people specifically, not the events. I assume this was Miss Christie’s way of not rehashing the entire events of the previous book, but instead teasing us along into remembering it as well.

Then comes Miss Knight, who was once Miss Marple’s own companion, a young woman she’s rather happy to get rid of. But for some reason, she keeps messing up her name, thinking of her as Miss Bishop. She even quips about it:

“Oh dear,” said Miss Marple again, “I always get all the names wrong. And of course, it was Miss Knight I was thinking of. Not Miss Bishop. Why do I think of her as Miss Bishop?” The answer came to her. Chess, of course. A Chess piece. A knight. A bishop.

I’ll admit, at this point, Miss Christie had me hooked as a writer, although perhaps not as a reader. Such an organic transition, and a clear definition of this character’s mind. Already I am aware that she notices things others don’t care about, and she puts together odd connections, forming them in her mind to remind herself of things. I haven’t even had to read the rest of the series, and I find myself feeling like Miss Marple is an old friend.

She gives us a rundown of how she and Mr. Rafiel had been partners, for a time, but she never gets around to explaining in what. This makes me want to track down the book previous and read it. Well played, Miss Christie. We find out that Miss Marple was quite excited about these events, and it makes us excited too. Already, we’ve found ourselves enthralled by the way Jane Marple sees the world.

Then, we get to meet Cherry, who is now Miss Marple’s Companion. It seems that Miss Marple uses Cherry as a bit of a sounding board. Also, the voices between Miss Marple and Cherry are quite different. I find myself seeing Cherry as perhaps african american, if only because of the vernacular she chooses.

“You did have it in for little Gary Hopkins I must say,” said Cherry. “When you caught him torturing his cat that day. Never knew you had it in you to go for anyone like that! Scared him stiff, you did. He’s never forgotten it.”

“I hope he hasn’t tortured anymore cats.”

“Well, he’s made sure you weren’t about if he did,” said Cherry. “In fact I’m not at all sure as there isn’t other boys as got scared. Seeing you with your wool and the pretty things you knits and all that- anyone would think you were gentle as a lamb. But there’s times I could say you’d behave like a lion if you was goaded into it.”

Also, a wonderful choice there, to show us Miss Marple’s sense of rough justice through the eyes of Cherry, her companion. At this point, I’m also hoping to see more of Cherry. Their interaction seems quite natural, that of a companion and someone of an age beyond adulthood.

Let’s pause for a moment and talk about the syntax of Miss Christie’s work. So far, I’m seeing quite a large number of ‘said’s, and very little added description. She was clearly a follower of the ‘no adjectives’ rule, as well as a detractor from the ‘said is dead’ forum of discussion. However, I don’t feel it takes away from her work. The dialogue itself is well written, as well as showing us little glimpses of what we need to know about Miss Marple. There isn’t a word wasted here. I can see why Agatha Christie is said to be the single best-selling author in the world.

There’s a small break away from the heavy thinking to have a conversation with Miss Bartlett, a companion-gardener to one Miss Hastings. Then, her mind turns back to Mr. Rafiel, and gives us a wonderful description of their relationship. Ships that pass in the night. After that, she resolves that she will probably never think of him again. She’d look out for an obituary, out of what seems an honor for his passing, but she isn’t very hopeful about it. As a final thought, she notes that he hadn’t been anyone of major importance in any industry.

He had just all his life made enormous amounts of money…

All the money. Obsene amounts of money.

What I wouldn’t give to make enormous amounts of money. But on another note, clearly, the foreshadowing here is pretty thick. On the second read through, I found things I hadn’t noticed, such as the Mrs. Hastings reference. Already we have so many characters to follow, and Miss Marple at the center of it all. Red herrings everywhere for a mystery that hasn’t even been introduced, and I’m excited about this book that literally NOTHING HAS HAPPENED IN. All Miss Marple has done is read her newspaper, think about old memories, and talk to two women for five minutes each!

Breaking it down, just a bit, we see already how Miss Christie built up the character for us, showing through thought and action just what sort of woman Miss Marple is. We know she has just a little lion inside her, and is the kind to beat a child senseless for torturing an innocent creature. We know that she has an impeccable memory for detail, although sometimes it takes her a minute and some odd associations to get there.

This entire first chapter was spent introducing the main character. But it wasn’t wasted at all. We weren’t bored to tears by a flashback of what happened in the Caribbean. We weren’t shown her beating the boy, we weren’t even shown her doing anything other than normal things. THIS is an introduction chapter. This is the type of first chapter that will get you published.

Here’s a challenge, then. Take the first chapter of your book, or first paragraph of your short story, or any beginning at all. And have the main character do nothing, but think. Explain who this character is, show it, by their thoughts and actions. Give us a snippet of your results in the comments! And don’t be afraid to tell me what you think about the article either!

Researching Mystery

  • Posted on August 11, 2014 at 2:35 pm

Today, I have a guest blog published over on Cindy Grigg’s website. We’ve swapped guestblogs, and her post, 9 ways to fix your Stereotyped Character is informative and fun to read! Go take a look at it! Also, take a look at the article, Researching mystery which you can find here:

If you’re curious, here’s the first two paragraphs of the article, for your perusal.

To begin with, I’m not normally a mystery author. To be specific, when I was younger, I only ever wrote fantasy novels, or romance. Now, however, I’m trying my hand at mystery novels, which means quite a bit of strife. I have a natural instinct when it comes to fantasy, so I find it easy to fall into. With Romance, I have my years as a fanfiction writer and fandom roleplayer to fall back on, which can both enhance and detract from my writing. (No one likes reading author’s notes, I’ve since learned.)

I came to mystery as a genre because I love the tense atmosphere. Maybe it’s less mystery and more suspense that I enjoy. But recently, I’ve found that I want a challenge. And the best way to challenge yourself is to write something you’ve never in a million years written before. But how can you write something you’ve never written before? How can you make sure that you don’t slip back into writing what you know? And worst of all, how do you manage to make it a GOOD manuscript when you know nothing about your genre?

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