Little wonder we stumble in life.

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The Ghost Story vs The Supernatural

Today in class we focused on ghost stories and the supernatural; and during the portion of the class dedicated to ghost stories, most people in class had some story to tell about hearing voices, dogs reacting to sounds, minor mysteries and the sort. The whole time, I was repressing a story of the night I spent in a haunted house and the gate that wouldn’t open, because I mean, that’s not a ghost story. Freak accidents aren’t ghost stories, at least not to me. There are no ghosts involved in what’s happening here, and there was a rational explanation for every single one.

But then the teacher said, that in writing ghost stories, you cannot rationalise anything you are writing about. The second you do, the story loses its essence and becomes real; that is, it loses its believability.

But the thing is, none of these stories were believable, at all. So when the teacher asked if ghost stories had any place in the modern world, I shook my head and answered with an emphatic ‘no‘.

But that isn’t to say it hasn’t been successfully done. Supernatural, for example, or Ghostbusters. These are both popular fictionalisations of that kind of world, and the world is constructed well enough to be believable. So obviously it can be done. What I think I meant is, I can’t do it. I rationalise things constantly; if I didn’t, I’d think I was a moron and would probably hate myself. So I personally couldn’t write a ghost story.

But then we come to the supernatural, and here is where things change a bit. Because while I don’t believe in either the supernatural or ghost stories in real life, the supernatural is more believable on a fictional plane. Perhaps because practically speaking, the supernatural requires a lot more than just psychological moronic impressions to prove. Yes, the creation of impressions over the rational is probably still required, but not as much.

In Supernatural, although I remain a skeptic reluctant to accept  things like that salt can get rid of spirits, when it comes to the world of angels and demons, that is constructed more intricately, so I can believe it more. That’s the sort of thing I mean.

So in saying that I couldn’t write a ghost story, but I could probably write a fantasy or supernatural story, what I mean is that I could better believe in a fantasy world containing both the impressions of reality and the mechanics of it, rather than just a world of lucidity alone. That’s the kind of story I strive for.

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The Symptom of Individuality

The lobotomy was created in the 30s and later gained popularity for patients displaying things like anxiety, among other things. This was the part that hit me hard; I’ve suffered from anxiety from a young age, and imagining being giving a lobotomy for such a minor problem in comparison to its solution is horrifying. If I had gotten one before I turned 14 (I sincerely hope they didn’t give lobotomies to children), I’d have never become a writer, because it would’ve cut me off from all kinds of creativity or even identity. Lobotomised victims even lost interest in their own lives, not surprising since they were also cut off from being itself.

Lobotomies were used for depressed patients, but it’s little wonder that the treatment didn’t make that problem worse, since both depressed and lobotomised people perceive no point in functioning. It’s likely that the times the treatment was popular in reflected attitudes of behaviour; instead of embracing individuality, it seems as though people prized good behaviour and civility. Anybody who didn’t conform had to be fixed.

This is a terrible attitude to have. I personally find it horrific that people would go to such extremes to control others. It seems to glorify ignorance (seen but not heard) and punish rather than treat those who struggle to fit into society. I personally prefer the idea of shaking the world up and promoting open-mindedness.

That’s why I’m a writer. I want people to understand people, which is the exact opposite of the effect the lobotomy had.

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Back to Camp NaNoWriMo: Things to Remember and Consider

I’ve just started Camp NaNo this year, making it the first NaNo I’m doing while I actually had something else on. In fact, the story I’m doing for it was inspired by one of my Uni lectures, so I suppose that makes it feeding into each other (although, I’ll be honest, sometimes each writing class feed into ideas for another with what I’m learning; so maybe, that’s life). So I’ve been going through old emails, because when I logged on this arvo, I saw a new mail as well as some new cabin mates. So here’s one I participated in from last July’s Camp:

Here at Camp NaNoWriMo HQ, we wish we could give each one of you a personalized pep talk worthy of your awesome, distinct, only-you-could-write-it projects. So in that spirit, we present to you today’s customized cheerleading. Fill out the list below, then plug your responses into the pep talk following:

  1. An awesome superhero name

  2. Adjective describing your main character

  3. Your favorite snack

  4. The last verb your main character enacted

  5. The manufacturer of your favorite snack

  6. The first piece of dialogue in your story that starts with ‘You…’

  7. Your current word count

  8. Adjective describing your inner editor

  9. Adjective describing your best friend

  10. Your favorite supporting character in your Camp project

  11. The last piece of dialogue in your story that ended with an exclamation point

  12. How much time you last spent writing

  13. Your favorite mythological creature

  14. Your favorite author

  15. Write a sentence beginning with the words “Once upon a time”

Once, there lived a writer, known throughout the lands as Flyboy. This writer was seized by inspiration one July, and struck out to tell the tale of one known only as “The angry One.” The first two weeks were full of wonder. Fueled by chips, the writer generated conflicts like vast thunderstorms, and characters so real they jumped off the page only to lay you right in the face. Smiths now aware of the crucial role they played in this writer’s story-spinning, swelled with pride and told the writer, “bitch, why don’t you fix yourself before you start with me. You’re more fucked up than any one of us, so don’t you start preaching to me!” Alas, not all was so rosy. After hitting 588 the writer remembered their last pang of doubt. What if they became blocked once again? What if their story was silly? Maybe… maybe it would be better to stop. They looked into the mirror, and the face they saw seemed almost censor. At the writer’s darkest moment, a busy voice arose. “Hey, you can do this,” it said. “If you don’t, how will we ever find out what happens to mom I don’t want to live in a world with that kind of empty hole. Don’t stop now.” The writer nodded, saying “You are not my son!” No matter how far away from my word-count goal I am, I promise to write for at least 47 min a day.” With that, a rainbow sprang across the sky like a vampire racing toward the newest novel by Rowling. The world seemed to hold its breath, waiting for the writer’s next sentence. The writer smiled, took a deep breath, and wrote “Once upon a time there lived a village ravaged by war.” As well as this, Camp NaNo also offered advice:

I’ve got two tricks for drawing out minor characters.

1. Totally trippy sounding—interview them with a pad and paper in hand. Ask them specific questions out loud and all sorts of interesting stuff comes bubbling out of the back of your mind. Write down their answers.

2. Write a short “autobiography” of the six most important things that ever happened to them from first person perspective. That’s fodder for great vignettes as well as giving you more insight into their motivations, skills and talents, strengths and weaknesses, fears and hopes.

There are also some links, offers writers to ask anything, and even answer specific questions. For example, how to create conflict, or find names. It’s even got a quite interesting pep talk. There’s heaps of content.

Start simple, with one paragraph each for the beginning, middle, and end. Then break down those three sections into smaller chunks, and you’ll start to see chapters fall into place, seemingly with a will of their own!

If you’re having trouble figuring out how two characters mesh, have them interview each other. It’ll definitely give you some new perspective on your story and the people in it.

One last thing, though. A recent pep talk claimed: “Most people are lucky to not grow bored of the world, let alone become cynical or alienated.

“But that’s not you. As readers, artists, creators, and dreamers there’s still hope you will be ambassadors for wonder as a narrative force, making it not only a reason why you write, but also a technique for how you write.”

An interesting point, because I was that person, early on. Maybe not cynical, but certainly isolated, and resentful towards people for it. I often thought of them as liars, in the case of rumours and gossip, and generally malevolent towards others. And I as a person will always carry that with me, including in my writing. I have recently realised that most if not all of my stories are in fact about isolation, because that is how I’ve felt most of my life.

In fact, recently my mom claimed of me that I was “always able to make friends, you just chose not to,” and this can be a disturbing pervasive idea about people like me. But it isn’t true. As I recently have reflected to myself, whether an opinion is positive or negative, if it isn’t true then its just offensive. As in the case of older people assuming that all young people know everything about technology. I am fairly proficient in technology, but I by no means excel in it. Only recently have I truly discovered wi-fi, to give you a picture. So when once I was asked to do something to do with technology, I wasn’t believed when I admitted I didn’t know how and expected to do it anyway. In the end, I got out of it, but that isn’t the point.

The point is, don’t assume things about people. Just treat them as individuals. While it’s true that I’m not bored of the world and infinitely interested in it, don’t idealise me. I am not a perfect model of what a human should be.

I agree that writers should write towards the light, even while writing a gritty reality, even while keeping the emotional truth in a story. But never forget that you can’t write a good story without both the wonder and the truth. Life exists with both, and all you can do is play favourites, but never entirely eliminate either; it’s all about where your passions lay.

And I suppose that was his point. Explore what’s possible, no matter what’s probable. Try anything, and have fun.