Somewhere Otherness


The process of writing is a process of leaving the place where I am looking from and occupying the space I’m looking into.

When I enter my writing zone I leave everything else behind and move to somewhere new. Somewhere that is vaguely familiar but I’m not really there. I have receded and the writer steps forward to shine a light onto a new place for me. It’s as though the writer holds my hand as I take each reverent step onto somewhere otherworldly.

Earlier today I was discussing the art of writing and it made me reflect upon what I wanted when I read a book or saw a play or film. I wanted to be taken to new places and shown new things.

I couldn’t read a book about my life because I have seen and experienced all there is to see there. I want to be led somewhere new, somewhere I haven’t been before, even somewhere I couldn’t have imagined. I want to be surprised, shocked.

I want my writing to take people away to a place where they discover more about themselves as they navigate a pathway through their own thoughts when reading my pages. I want people to leave behind the all knowing self and discover a part of themselves they didn’t know existed. As if they were meeting a version 2.0 of their own self for the very first time.

So, do I take them by the hand and show them somewhere new? Do I take them to each vista and step aside? Or do I whisper gently into their souls in order that they see the void and wait for the mist to clear?

Maybe this is what I will do, create a sense of otherness as they leave themselves behind.

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It’s Just One Big Game

What if…

It’s 2016 and I’ve been commissioned to create a new game. Money is no object. It has to be lifelike and it has to be easy to use by anyone and everyone. My clients insist on retaining their anonymity. The game is simple but must contain three key elements:

Money

The ability to control all money. The money supply. How and where it is spent. What value it holds. Where it is held and what form it takes. It’s just numbers on a screen. Money comes in and money goes out. Once in awhile, there’s a random game levy to pay. Sometimes it goes wrong, there’s a mistake, money disappears and then as if by magic, it returns again. Your ultimate value to society is defined by the array of numbers flickering at you. Everything is connected to everything else in the game. It’s just a game, right? It can just be digital money. There’s no need for real cash anymore. Money isn’t real in the game.

People

Who is in the game? There are the Players and there are the People.

The Players are playing the game. The Players make the decisions. The Players set the boundaries and the Players make the rules. They control everything that happens. Whatever is at stake amongst the Players, it’s a winner takes all kind of game. The Players can see the People but only a handful of People ever get to see the parts of the game that the Players use to disrupt the game.

The People don’t know they’re in a game. The People are just pieces at play in the game itself. They do life as though they are free to do what they want. They live amongst each other. They form social groups, alliances, allegiances and societies. They are allowed to form societies that have both leaders and low-lives. These parameters have been set up for them. They can buy things, sell things, communicate with each other, build families and earn money. It’s not real money, it’s just numbers on a screen. They call it currency but in reality its a simple medium of exchange.

Game World

A place of infinite wonder. Created by a simple vision that took many years to evolve into the Game World it is now. Perfecting itself over and over as the developer imagined new and wonderful vistas. It appeared to be a soft and gentle place. There were, however, some hidden dangers amongst the hills and valleys. Communities bordered the wide open spaces. It was amongst these communities where the most danger lay. The longer the game went on, the more dangerous Game World became.

The Players each held Game World disruptors that they could play at any time. War, famine, disease, greed, hatred, poverty, fires, flood…there were many disruptors that the Players could introduce as in game plays. They just had to pick one of the most powerful people, one of the most influential and connected people, the person that they thought would channel the disruptor to achieve its greatest impact for the Player. The disruptor affects every part of the game. Players could only use their disruptors once in every session of Game World.

What if it’s 2019 and I’m already just one of the people in the Game World session…?

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Sex Sells

Why have sex in my novel?

This is the question I have asked myself over and over. I find it very hard to answer but let me state from the outset, I will be breaking all of your rules.

I have tackled the subject differently. I have tackled most subjects differently. Yes, it’s sensual. Yes, it’s consensual. Yes, it’s erotic and powerful. It’s in the mind, it’s channelled through thought and intention. It isn’t cliched and it isn’t like you have ever known or experienced.

I have deconstructed the components of sex and reassembled them differently. I’ve taken apart each stage, every element, all parts and addressed them one by one. Unveiling is about revealing layers within you aimed at your receiving liberation by instalment. Liberation from your own conditioned beliefs. Liberation from your thoughts. Liberation from how you experience sex. Liberation from constraints and conditions. Liberation from the limits you have set for yourself and those set by others.

Sex on your terms, with your rules and for your ends…great sex, intimate sex, liberating sex. Mind-blowing sex.

So the only reason I am adding sex to my novel is for you to know the lovers intimately.

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Character Development

I’m ok…let’s talk about you

The best part about writing is getting to know the people I’m writing about. Each has their own specific character, personality, beliefs and moral compass. We all do. The more I learn about them, the more the resulting detail works its way into the story.

It’s really hard to avoid stereotypes and generalisations. I haven’t set out to make life difficult but I really want to avoid the obvious and I want each character trait to unveil itself through what they do. I want to show their character not tell it to the reader.

I have carefully studied psychopaths, narcissists, sociopaths, autism (and Aspergers). I thought they would present in entirely different ways. In fact, they presented in quite unexpected ways. Ways that I have woven into each personality. In my previous blog Personality Disorders – Anyone? I have explained the differences. Here I will explain how these traits have been developed into the characters.

There’s a big difference between benign and malignant narcissism. We all exhibit parts of every condition, but a benign narcissist is more likely to be the stereotypical confident, self obsessed selfish person. The malignant abusive narcissist has three traits that are observable. MANs present zero levels of compassion or empathy, they absolutely need to put people down in order to feel happy about themselves. They feed off the pain of others and they have to push it through to observing pain in others. And the biggest give away is their grandiose self-image. They have no self-awareness and no possibility that they will become aware of how grandiose they are. MANs cannot be aware of it, they simply cannot see their fantasised self-image. They will fake emotions to get what they want. They have no remorse.

One of my characters is a malignant narcissist, they are a nasty and deceptive piece of work. They are subtle and they are very dangerous. They have learned to hide it well and they do until the need to keep it hidden has dissipated. It is this driver that they use to manipulate, to grab power, to destroy other…even those closest to them.

Autism is slightly harder to apply as it’s a spectrum disorder and unfixed. Aspergers is said to be a milder and more functioning form of autism. It is also of huge debate whether it is genetic or learned. They miss most forms of metacommunication and can’t understand another person’s needs on an emotional level. They can show great acts of kindness and are very comfortable discussing their condition openly. Many have to learn how to express feelings as an action rather than an emotion. For example, if I express my own needs to a person with Aspergers/autism expecting them to do things to meet them, they are unlikely to understand how this feels for me but they can change behaviours to meet my needs. They will show remorse at not meeting emotional needs.

Psychopaths are an entirely different thing. They seem to have characteristics that look like narcissists and they show no empathy. One of the main characters is just about as stereotypical psychopathic as you can get. They have learned to disguise it so that they can draw close to their prey. They are manipulative, but the manipulated are left unaware. They are cunning and smart. Nobody knows when the psychopath is near, except when it’s too late. Their psychopathy is unveiled once they have no need to keep it hidden. Usually, this is moments before their prey falls victim to their actions.

There are varying degrees of sociopathy, some displaying psychosis, some with other traits and conditions. All of them twisting and weaving their way through the threads and tensions of my story. There couldn’t be the ending it has without the actions of dysfunctional characters…let’s hope that I can communicate them effectively.

None of this is a diagnosis or expressed as fact. The words on this blog are my thoughts on character development. My characters, my thoughts, my ideas…not facts.

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Ethos, Pathos, Logos…A Persuasive Voice

Grabbing Attention

“Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.” Aristotle – paraphrased.

Many of the founding generations can find themselves locked into ethos based thinking where the integrity of the original thought is paramount. Any writer that has become ethos based and has no clear vision for either the Pathos or Logos elements will find themselves unable to articulate their story. The protagonist must appeal to a sense of ethics, the reason they are set on a course of rescue or heroism. When their ethos is attacked, as we challenge their beliefs, they lose all reason, they revert to passionate and venomous acts. 

Pathos is about connection, buy-in, believing the ethos rhetoric to be strong on promise and clarity (but it isn’t). The existential and past iteration, the reason they are in the story at all bringing meaning to what is otherwise empty existence. It’s the common thread and it cannot be broken or they will have nothing left and no ethos on which to fight for their relationships. The ethos mind is a campfire mind. They sit around the campfire, they watch the flames, they feel its warmth and they fear moving away, less it becomes unattended and goes out. The flames have mesmerised and paralysed them into huddled inertia. The ingredient missing from the leaders of this story is wisdom. So their only course is to revert to sympathy (pathos)…without you guys, we don’t stand a chance, so and so is too powerful…get behind the ethos and help us protect it…pathos has just teamed up with ethos…this isn’t a good place to be when the antagonist is strong and powerful.

Logos, on the other hand, is logical, consistent, strategic and factual. It is based on reasoning, seeing the path to a bigger picture and focusing on the destination. It is the enemy of an ethos-pathos based storyteller. Logos is the dry, emotionless face of the main theme. The dominant thinking of the ruler, the heartless beast that will trample ethos and pathos to death if they are not intertwined with each other.

But if it is handled wisely, carefully, compassionately and kindly, Logos is a powerful and phenomenal invitation to set aside fear and see that the world needs ethos and pathos alongside Logos, it needs to present a belief in all three to reach a new nirvana, a new destination, a fertile land from which we can all feed and nurture each other. Logos will point out the folly of ethos-pathos based thinking, it will attack their lack of reasoning and it will expose their weak underbelly. But when they team up…your message is loud and clear. It is carapace and powerful…everyone who wants to follow the characters through a story possessed by hope and expectation will love you…they get you, they want to participate in the story.

Never Judge a Book By Its Cover

Sometimes I need a break from writing just to think. Unveiling has a plot that is complex. It has threads that range from the visceral to the tenuous. It has relationships that overlay and some that jar with dysfunction. This means that my mind can quickly turn to mush and I need a break.

It feels way too premature and maybe it’s even pointless but my attention switched to the finished novel. How would I publish? Would I use an editor (yes)? How do I find an agent? Do I design the book cover or do they?

The book cover…how will it look on the shelves alongside a million other covers? How will I get it to stand out? Does it need to stand out? Unveiling starts with a U…will anybody get all the way down to U without buying an A, B or C book?

I need to get back to writing. I can’t think of book covers now.

Upwork. Why don’t I get a couple of experienced freelance artists to come up with some covers? I can write a brief. I can position the book in its genre. I can spec out a timeframe and (small) budget to guide them.

So I will. I’ll post a job on Upwork and shortlist 5 artists to pitch for the work. I have used Upwork before and the results have been spectacularly good. But I am not going to ask them to pitch for free…oh no, it’s something I just can’t do. I shall pay each of them a sum of money to pitch and the prize is…a book cover design for a dystopian, pre-apocalyptic, thriller, love/romance, hi-tech/high stakes betrayal that turns our norms on their head and gaslights us into a new reality.

Maybe I’ll write a bit more before I ask for designs so that my pitch to them has a little more clarity about it…but I do think the cover would stand out if they could actually navigate this pitch!!

Work in progress…

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