Horrific Thoughts

My current by-myself-project is a horror story, so I’ve been doing a bit of reading up, trying to get some ideas to take it above mere lameness. But how?

I have this obsession with fear, in case you weren’t aware. The simple horror of our everyday lives. What’s hiding under the bed. Always best when combined.

But finding the right combination? Now that’s the tricky part. Ghosts? Haunted houses? Demons? Witches? Abusive monsters?

Today, I stumbled across this lovely post. It really got me thinking. What’s scary to me? Something that won’t make the average person shudder—just me. What does the great Mac fear?

Hm. Well, let’s see. I hate being taken advantage of, for one. (Anyone here not scared of that? Wow. Nobody. What a surprise!) That extends into so many things. I hate being tricked. Lied to. Manipulated.

I hate being helpless. Not being able to do anything. Especially when someone I care about is in trouble. Like when I had to sit and wait and find out whether my friend who might have killed himself was alive or not (he wasn’t). When I had to sit back and let the vet put my cat to sleep. Or when my sister was arrested again, mistreated by the cops, and I was stuck at work.

I’m scared of going back to what I was before. Being forced to go back to my parents’ house. Back under their control. It’s more than a lack of independence, though. It’s a prison of junk. Impassable walls of insanity. Trapped in an endless maze with no exit. Trapped in that life, where I had no idea how to help myself.

Of course, I am also quite insecure, and scared of not being loved. But also scared of it, because I’ve still got the insane maze of my own mind to navigate. Letting someone in? That’s terrifying.

Well, I suppose we also can’t forget finances. I’m so scared of going broke. But that can go back to having to rely on my parents again, back home, and so forth.

And this lovely session of the Rantings, Ramblings, Ravings, and Musings has given me ideas. I hope I can make them work!

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Friggin’ Depression, and Random Rambles

Welcome back to my Rantings, Ramblings, Ravings and Musings. Aren’t you so glad to be here?

Yeah, that makes two of us. I feel your pain.

My poor roommates. They’ve had to deal with me, since my job ended, being crankier than normal. Crankiness is me in the pits of depression. I don’t get sad, just irritable.

My counselor’s been working with me on this, helping me realize how this is quite often my inner child, triggered by that which I deem to be unfair. Because I didn’t have a very fair childhood, at all, and I wasn’t really allowed to just be a kid.

Oh, woe is me.

Anyway, I’m still cranky as hell. Because life is unfair. I have a headache. That’s unfair. Everything hurts. Also unfair. I don’t have a job. Also unfair. I can go on. And on. And on.

I went to a dance a few weeks ago. It sucked. First, because I had to go alone, and only knew one person there. Second, because depression. I had to go hide in a corner for a while and just chill, and then fend off the awkward “are you okay?” questions from concerned passersby who happened to stumble upon me.

Friggin’ depression.

My cat, Captain, had to have dental surgery, because of unfortunately rotten teeth. I’ve had that cat for twelve years now. He’s quite honestly the love of my life. And every day, I have to face the fact that he’s getting old, and I’m going to lose him one day.

That also sucks.

Friggin’ depression.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Scott, too. (Friend who committed suicide four months back.) It’s really hard, because I miss him, I’m pissed as hell at him, and I still have those wistful suicidal thoughts at night, but I annoyingly promised myself I wouldn’t do it, because he made me realize how freaking selfish it is, and I can’t do that to everyone. I mean, think of the funeral costs. That’s enough of a deterrent. But, honestly, I’m still perfectly okay with dying. I’m just not actively seeking it.

Betcha know what I’m going to say next.

That’s right. Friggin’ depression.

I’m trying to watch my language, as my roommates have instituted a “Swear Jar,” and I don’t want to lose the money I’ve got because of a few strong words. Mormons, sometimes.

But, hey. At least right now it’s just the f-bomb. I can even get away with the blatant use of my middle finger, right now. So I’m okay. My freedom of speech isn’t in that much danger. But you can thank them for today’s use of milder language.

I’ve also discovered that I am a valuable resource to my fellow-writing roommates. For instance, one of these roommates was writing a literary story for a class, and I helped her make it less boring by putting excellent elements of drama into it, such as a narcissistic mother. I am their go-to person for abuse and mental illness research, even if they don’t freaking want it. I will shove it down their throats if need be!

By the way, any aspiring writers out there: RESEARCH IS YOUR FRIEND! ALWAYS DO THE RESEARCH!

Anyway, friends, followers, or random people out there, thank you for tuning in. You may now return to your regularly scheduled programming. (Saying that makes me feel powerful, okay? Don’t judge me.)

And, just once more, for the sake of my amusement:

Friggin’ depression.

On Characters and Mac the Defender (And Ramblings)

Characters are probably the most important element in a story, if you’re me. Without a good, memorable character, a book is bland and lifeless.

So, I thought I’d burden you with my thoughts on characters, today. And other things that tie in, of course. At least in my brain. Aren’t you so excited? You should be.

Now, we ramble.

Every writer, in my limited experience (feel free to correct me), puts something of themselves into a character. If it’s too much, and too badly written, the readers will call it a Mary Sue and be done with it. But we’re not focusing on those, right now. This is about me. Focus. Geez.

Anyway, with me, I have a tendency toward writing male characters, with dark and troubled pasts. Abuse is certainly an issue, and they have a lot of the same problems I have. Depression. Suicidal mentalities. An urge to protect others from going through what they’ve been through. An obsession with not being weak.

Heck, I was writing all my characters with depression before I knew I was depressed. It was the only reality I knew, and I thought everyone was like that. Surprise, surprise, Mac.

In my writing, my characters get better. At least, they start down the road to recovery. I guess that’s me, protecting them the best way that I can. Because I feel the need to protect people (and animals) that are going through, or have gone through, similar things.

My cat, Moe, is terrified of everything. My dad and I found her in an add, and drove out to get her. The first time I saw her, she was cowering in the back of a cat carrier, and she hissed at me. When I picked her up, holding her against my chest, she started to tremble. She stayed quietly on my lap the entire way home.

At home, she curled up under my bookcase and wouldn’t come out. I would have been fine to leave her be, but she had two knots in her fur, so I took her out and cut them out. Imagine my surprise when I realized she was purring. After that, I started taking her out and giving her attention for a couple minutes every day. Slowly, she started warming up to me.

It’s been three years since I got her. She’s still a skittish little stinker. But she sleeps on my bed. And my roommate’s. She attacks receipts in the middle of the floor. She comes to me or my roommates unfailingly when she wants attention. She rolls over and lets you rub her belly. Her purr is audible. Of course, you still have to be careful not to approach her too quickly or speak in the wrong tone, and I’m crazily protective of her, but she’s gotten so much better. It’s wonderful, for me, to see how far she’s come. How far my characters have come.

And yes, how far I’ve come.

I Am The (Anti)Hero

In the past, my two friends and I (best friend and sister) have known our roles. My beloved sister was the Hero—champion of justice, natural leader, Gryffindor. Our best friend, the Sidekick—the loyal Hufflepuff with all the best lines. And me, the Antihero—the brooding loner and pure Slytherin. Not that I had a problem with it. We all knew it was true.

And, in the craziest way, I clung to that identity. Antihero. Doing what’s right, either for the wrong reasons or in the wrong way. Free to leave the side of the Hero whenever I see fit. Cheerfully walking on the edge for the sake of keeping it interesting. After all, being a straight hero is boring.

Alas, how times change. The Hero took a fall.

And my three roommates (one of which is my original best friend, the other two of which have rapidly taken up similar places) have decided for a change of archetypes. One that does not include my sister. And this time, I have been voted the hero and leader.

This is what happens when all your roommates are not only nerds, but writers.

And I think I like it.

In so many profound ways, I need to rethink my life.

It’s My Story

“This is my story. It’ll go the way I want, or I’ll end it here.”

—Tidus, Final Fantasy X

My story. My life.

All our lives are stories, and God is the great author of it all. Want to know what’s funny about it? Writers love to torture their characters. You think your life’s going crappy? Well, God is up there, fanboying about how cute you are when you’re in trouble. Look at Job!

As an aspiring writer, and long time fan of many story mediums, I have made plentiful studies of stories and tropes that within them fall. I know how the story’s supposed to go.

But what happens when it doesn’t go that way? When the heroine of the story isn’t the one to rescue anyone from the villain, but just Hostage #38? The hopeless girl who’s head-over-heels for the hero? The background character?

That thought bothers me. It always has. This is my story. I’m the heroine, aren’t I? I should be saving people! I am not to be upstaged by some jerk in a cape!

This logic has led me to shun my wallflower nature, and do some surprising things. I’ve confessed to my somewhat uncomfortably older (and emotionally withdrawn) former colleague my huge hero-worship crush on him. One of the most terrifying moments of my life.

But, among my two best friends (namely, my sister and my best friend), I am not, nor will I ever be, the hero. I am the antihero. The brooding loner who’s so awesome it hurts. My sister’s the hero. Our friend is the sidekick.

Well, this story is a work in progress. And the author isn’t nearly done getting His torture in. So, days go by. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable in my protagonist role, and be rescuing people from villains right and left. But, my friends, it is not this day. This day, you can find me stuck in my comfortable complacence, dreaming, but too lazy to fulfill those dreams.

I guess I’m just waiting for The Call To Adventure. So, my goal for this year? Live a life that makes a better story!

Happy National Hangover Day, everyone!

Those Writers and The Legend Of Mary Sue

I did something with my life this week. I joined the local college’s writing club, and got to participate in critiquing other club members’ stories. As a natural-born proofreader with sharp, pointy teeth filed to perfection, I was roaring and ready to go!

Before going to the meeting, I got the opportunity to read one of the two pieces up for the workshop. And boy, did I tear into it, mocking it aloud to my roommates at every opportunity. I’ve eviscerated their work, as fellow writers, plenty of times, so they’re used to it, and beginning to learn like good little minions.

Anyway, this piece. . . it was a high school vampire story. Overly dramatic, rushed, awkward and dull. Something all too easy to mock. And I delighted in it.

Then, of course, I got to the meeting. Met the other writers and critics. Got to taste some writer blood. And begin a friendship with another Grammar Nazi.

That, of course, is when the vampire author is brought into the spotlight, and it is this so-called Grammar Nazi. And I began to fear for the future of humanity. Again.

This girl is in college, but the story is based on her and her friends. And even as I—heavily biting my tongue—gave few well-placed comments, she looked like she was about to cry. Even though we were giving her the kid gloves, and giving her praise that she really didn’t deserve, and that we’d had to fight like hell to dredge up. It was poorly written. Plain and simple.

So, to all the aspiring writers out there who haven’t heard it, I have a few words to say. Not everyone’s going to like your work. Ever. Fact of life. Deal with it, pin up another rejection, and keep trying until you get it right. The big bad world doesn’t care about your feelings. It’s about what you can give them. There’s always going to be someone who thinks it’s a stupid story. There are always going to be critics. They keep you in perspective,

Also, some of you just weren’t meant to be writers. If you’re not a reader, first of all, just go ahead and rule yourself out. Writers are a strict, snotty club, and require you to know your medium. If you can’t get beyond the stuff that sounds like the regular Internet drudgery, rule yourself out again. Go for the exceptional, not what’s been done a thousand times under a thousand different names and descriptions—here mostly meaning our good old friend, Mary Sue, and the hackneyed plots that follow her around because they have no will to stand on their own. Besides, don’t you think you’d be better suited putting your talents to use elsewhere? Maybe your writing is depriving the world of future leaders. Doctors. Teachers. Techs. Dictators. Expand your horizons!

To those of you adding to The Legend Of Mary Sue, us who are criticizing you have been there. We got smart. We’re just trying to keep you from making our mistakes.

And, let me just point out, there’s a good reason I don’t often show any of my own stuff. I’m not a bad writer, says me, but I’m a better proofreader.

For the Love of Character!

Just finished an amazing book: Warchild by Karin Lowachee—a science fiction novel. Most genre fiction of my admittedly limited experience focuses on the world. They wow you with ships and space travel, magic and unicorns, princesses and dragons and orcs and ogres and weird new aliens and different planets, Earth as it will be or once was, and so on. The characters themselves are bland—just like a thousand other characters out there. You know little about them besides their names and generally what they look like, and you forget about them as soon as the book’s over.

BORING.

I can’t muddle my way through books like that, which is why I’ve had to stay away from the fantasy/sci-fi sections of the book store lately. But I’m always on the lookout for something to restore my faith in genre fiction. Warchild has been one of those. It’s not perfect, but I’d say the main character is just as strong and interesting and dynamic as the main character in some hoity toity literary novel.

(Note: It’s not a gay romance novel. Goodreads users have listed it as LGBT and m/m romance. It’s not, though the other books in the series might head that way. The main character in this one’s asexual.)

O, genre fiction! O, refuge of my childhood! Where did the character development go? What happened to personal challenges being overcome? Heck, what happened to the people, and why am I surrounded by cardboard cutouts? It’s all about flashy toys, now.  Or, if the characters are passably human, how It Got Worse and Darker and Edgier.

And that’s why I stick to the fiction and literature shelves. But still, I keep hoping. Searching the vast stacks of books at every bookstore and library far and wide, just hoping I’ll find something special that will restore my faith in genre fiction.