About Monday Night

I swore I wouldn’t get political. I swore that I would keep my opinions about what’s going on in America to myself. I swore to not let it bleed out onto social media.

But after Monday night and seeing some of the fallout from the presidential debate, I have to say something because this is galling.

I do not make it a secret that I am someone who lives with a variety of mental illnesses that debilitate my ability to live a normal, functional, adult life. The doctors, therapists, school counselors, and teachers I have encountered over the past twenty-three years have described it as thus: generalized anxiety with social phobias and some shades of agoraphobia, chronic depression or bipolar type II, sensory processing issues, and “(vague gesturing) Somewhere on the autism spectrum” due to elements of ADHD and Asperger’s being expressed, chronically, as early as four, five years-old; since all three (well, two, with Asperger’s expulsion from the DSM) exist on, well. A spectrum.

What a rat’s warren of words. It’s easier to lay everything out in the context of day-to-day functionality. I’ve found that examples and comparisons work the best when explaining it to others.

After Monday night’s debate, I now have a short-hand way to refer to how I interview for job positions: Donald Trump’s performance in the first presidential debate, without the interruptions, talking over, and snarky comments.

Bullet points are nice and easy to read, so please allow me to explain this comparison further:

  • Persistent and uncontrollable tics. Trump’s snorting is practically a meme at this point. My hand-flapping and frequent gesticulation, most especially when I’m anxious and trying to collect my thoughts in a conversation, is just as noticeable.
  • Inability to answer questions. Trump went off on tangents and, from all appearances, seemed to forget the question while trying to navigate through the sheer mess of what he was saying. This is likely my biggest problem when interviewing: My brain is in panic mode, “fight or flight and I just want to flight from this room” so I can hardly listen and process what I’m being asked. But to sit there in silence while trying to pull my thoughts and understanding together is an interview no-no; I need to say SOMETHING so I will go off on the first thought I have that may or may not result to the bulk of the question. For example: “Where do you see yourself in five years?” My brain is like “OKAY so we need to say STUFF RELATING TO THIS COMPANY while also EMPHASIZING STRENGTHS” so I will talk about my writing and computer abilities. Only that’s what I get stuck on talking about. I catch myself, mid-tangent, but I cannot remember the question. I remember “FUTURE” and so I talk about how awesome learning to program would be or maybe becoming a therapist to help people who are like me and HOLY SHIT I cannot stop talking until I manually cut myself off. And leave the point awkwardly hanging.
  • Similar to that mess up there, I over-emphasize the points that my panicky brain thinks are good. So the answer might just turn into “In the FUTURE I will be a published author while still advancing the FUTURE goals and mission statement of your company all in the FUTURE.” Complete, of course, with physical hand gestures and syllabic stressing. How much did Trump want to emphasize his PROPERTIES and ENDORSEMENTS on Monday night?
  • Inability to control facial reactions. Trump read, to me, as contemptuous but overwhelmed, just on facial expressions. I saw no composure, no poise, and, certainly, not a shred of dignity. When an interviewer asks me a question that prompts thoughts of “oh shit how do I answer this” my expression is…”oh shit how do I answer this.” Just as composed, poised, and dignified.

It’s no small wonder, then, that every single job that I have interviewed, with only a resume preceding the interview, I am never called back. After all, with the job market the way it is, someone with my education, my capabilities, my capacity to learn, my writing abilities…Most certainly, that candidate has also applied. But that candidate doesn’t have a panic attack in the interview room. That candidate is able to approach the interview as a conversation, a dialogue, and present themselves as someone who doesn’t crack under pressure. Me? I’m trying to end the experience as quickly (but politely) as possible so I can have a panic attack in the car and thank every God and angel I can think of that it’s over. I certainly won’t get the job but the interview is OVER and the danger is GONE. And, in that state of mind, that’s all that matters.

The only jobs that I have held had tests to complete before submitting the application. The teller job? Mathematical test. Call center job? A multiple choice test navigating heavily-idealistic inbound customer calls. Data entry job? They wanted a minimum 30 WPM and I just tested at 80+ WPM. I would not be surprised that those who have hired me, even after the catastrophic interviews, they look at the tests and say, “Well, she’s a disaster in-person, but holy crap does she kick our testing standards in the teeth.”

With all this in mind, I have to admit, I’m shocked that people looked at Donald Trump’s performance Monday night and declared him the winner. Not even considering Hillary Clinton’s performance. They saw Donald Trump press his case for becoming President of the United States of America with all the grace of a young woman with a debilitating anxiety disorder.

And people judged him capable of being the President.

So, I would like to ask the job interviewers who judge Donald Trump’s performance as acceptable, even laudable:

How about you hire me?

Skilled Characters

My dearest friend texted me yesterday about a character who is an aspiring author who adores libraries and books about as much as she enjoys origami, self-styling herself as a paper sculpture artist. She worried that it was “too much” for the character, perhaps on the basis that female characters who openly celebrate their talents and hobbies are more likely to be criticized than their male counterparts (see: accusations of writing a Mary Sue). For a character in a modern setting, however, it would make sense if she, perhaps, listened to audiobooks while keeping her hands busy with paper crafts. Especially since said-character, as my friend revealed later, lived with a very sensitive and severe case of asthma, thus barred from many outdoor and physical activities. These are reasonable skills for the character that complement her personality and capabilities without disturbing the harmony of her characterization.

It left me thinking on some old writing advice I read years ago: Each character should have three hobbies, at the very least. Now, ignoring the blanket aspect of that statement (let’s just say I have that opinion concerning a lot of writing advice, that anyone reading tips and tricks for any aspect of writing should carry a huge bag of salt and take those grains regularly), I was, at first, skeptical. Wasn’t three hobbies too much, especially for characters who were very young, had little time/energy/ability to devote to these hobbies, and/or their environment was not conductive to cultivating the skills that accompany these hobbies?

But then I considered myself and could think of those three minimum hobbies in a heartbeat. I enjoy writing, reading, and trying to break video games. I then considered my parents: my mother enjoys watching movies, gossiping on social media, and reading; my father enjoys reading, woodwork crafts, and trying to break operating systems. Look at enough people, at their skills, at what they enjoy, and you can see patterns emerge that complement who they are. My mother is sociable and enjoys a good story (and, from my observation, the trashier the better), while my father is inquisitive and contemplative. I struggle with activities beyond my room, especially if they involve other people and the outside world, and I like to think of myself as curious and intelligent.

As people, they make sense. For writers, characters that make sense, that don’t trigger the reader’s “oh, bullshit” reaction and shatter their connection with the story, are what we should aspire for.

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8/1/2015 – Acceptance

Nearly a year since I started this space of screaming into the void, ostensibly as a daily exercise, but then my capacity to write anything I would ever feel comfortable with the thought of others seeing evaporated. Tears in a desert. I am not okay and I am not well, but I told someone important that I would keep writing, so here it is. Me, writing. Raging internally because the truth is a weapon that will slit my throat as surely as any act of self-destruction. If I must die, then I want to, at the very least, exercise control over the way in which I leave the world.

So maybe this is less a potential resource of writing things, or coping with neurodivergence, and maybe more shitposting akin to Tumblr, though I have to say, that particular medium scares the shit out of me. I won’t stress about writing “engaging material” or something that will make what I blather about more of interest to a usual audience. I don’t think I ever displayed myself as any sort-of authority on writing, or anything else, but I loathe the thought of it anyway. If I ever taught writing classes, it would be in a forum like the alleged philosophical trades of ancient Athens. Every writer has a fresh perspective on the medium. Yes, you too. If I insist that is true of all writers, then I must insist it is true for me, as well as for you, imagined reader. There are no teachers, no students, among writers seeking to learn. There is only experience and observation to be traded.

Well, beyond the groundwork of grammar and the mechanics of writing. To best break the rules, one must know what the rules are, and what is communicated in breaking those rules.

Anyway, this is more of a “I’m alive and will be trying to post daily, though those daily posts might be kind-of soft and silly” but hey. Maybe this is a living will. Maybe is just a way to immortalize my observations and insight so another may benefit from them, that other being someone like me, or a casual observer watching the flaming car crash with polite interest.

Today I will rest, read things I enjoy, and maybe start the process of making Baldur’s Gate playable on my machine. For, as ill as I’ve been lately, I have done things that are fun. And I thought about sharing my silly ruleset for the Sims 3, as well as my tips for people struggling with Nightmare mode for Inquisition. Maybe I’ll put those together and…Who knows.

So I’ll end this with something this important person tells me all the time, even though I can never make it true. But maybe you’ll have more luck?

Be kind to yourself.

First Day in the Trenches and My Desk is Covered in Sticky Notes

In case if it wasn’t readily apparent, prequel week turned into “four bits of varying quality” until I won the gold prize for feeling both sick and realizing that, if these pre-story events could be easily summed up in a sentence, trying to stretch them into a three-four page one-off that doesn’t completely suck is an incredible challenge. In fact, I can pretty much tell the stories that were missing Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Hold onto your butts because these were major doozies.

Wednesday: Rilke, with Ava’s support, challenged Uriel for the Emperor job. Rilke won. The denizens of the Court of the Moon barely reacted because they are pretty much a bunch of blank-faced apathetic jerkoffs with unspecified magic and awesome clothes. Seriously, that drabble was all about talking about how awesome the Court of the Moon dresses. I want black dresses with shifting rune symbols on them.

Thursday: Queen Artemis of the Court of Summer and Helena, High Druid of the Triune, bum out on some ramparts at Summerdawn Keep. They’re observing a patch of the Wald shifting about while also talking about Princess Lorraine and Lysander, Helena’s student. The Great Eclipse happens. We know from the letters on previous days that Queen Artemis is going to die during this, so this bit had all the narrative tension of cottage cheese. Next.

Friday: Lysander is running around the Dawn’s Rest while Wald rips it apart because, spoilers, the Great Eclipse made the Wald and Wastes extra pervasive and extra nasty. He finds Princess Lorraine, they spat out a bit, ends on a hang with them trying to evacuate the Dawn’s Rest while also getting their asses kicked. Of course, a previous day revealed that Lorraine survived the Great Eclipse. Not much of a cliffhanger when someone can just scroll back and go “Oh, yeah, she survived because she’s getting letters from Natanael.”

Basically I was unhappy with Monday and Tuesday’s entries, especially compared to Saturday and Sunday, because I was trying to stretch out little sentence summaries into actual stories. If there’s anything the spectators of the Internet can learn from my past week of flailing, it’s that trying to put a lot of extra wheels on a unicycle, especially if you want to keep it a unicycle, doesn’t really work.

On the plus side, Shadows in Summer is turning out to be a delightful romp and I’m sure I won’t keep to that thought past the end of this week. National Novel Writing Month is really just my self-loathing writing process in full-out overdrive where there are days where I can kick out thousands of words and they’re all as awesome as brownie lava cakes, and then there are the days where I stare at the screen while my eyes roll upward and I go, “Holy fuck this is really awful” and I find someplace to curl up and hide from Microsoft Word lest it decide that I really need to pay for the transgression of being awful by making my computer explode.

But I’m finding, in the craziness of these first dozen or so hours, that post-it notes are beautiful and miraculous things. Seriously, due to the amount of beloved relatives who decided to have birthdays on the first day of November, I have spent more time dotting out little snippets of dialogue (either overheard or happening in my own head) and little ideas to be tossed into the storm of nonsense as I work.

So I guess my newfound NaNoWriMo knowledge is to invest in a butt-ton of sticky notes. No joke, there’s a pad by my computer, a pad by my bed, a pad in the car, and a pad in the purse. The desk is all ready more pale-yellow than oak now.

Anyway, best of luck to all the other crazies out there and…I might get back to posting daily, now that I’m feeling less sick and less hatey towards stuff that I don’t have to force myself to write.

Hoorah.

Prequel Week

I’ve been super excited for this year’s NaNoWriMo, in case if that wasn’t evident in the week of worldbuilding and the little bits of the idea taking form. Given this is the week leading up to the first of November, I decided to take my ridiculous file of notes and images and start writing. Not the Shadows in Summer story itself, but of the events that lead to it. In essence, seven days of prequel freewriting.

I’m also giving myself the rule that I am not going to edit them at this time. I will sit down with the little bit of information and just write like the wind, like, you know, you’re supposed to be doing in November. The impulse to go back and edit is a powerful one for me and, in much of daily life, I’m encouraged to do so. So it’s getting the same treatment as the entries.

As such, they probably won’t be the best writing to ever drip from my fingers. But damn it, if I am not excited for this.

So excuse the mess, and excuse the meaningful entries until about, oh, December. I have not been as excited for NaNoWriMo since my first year in 2005 and it is showing.

Idle Thoughts on Naming

So, as I continue drawing the notes together for Shadows in Summer, I find myself reflecting further on worldbuilding.  Though I’ve written the most crucial points to the subject, or the points I name the most crucial, I still find myself examining the process upon which I give names to characters.  The trap of worldbuilding is realizing when you need to stop, for if you think too much on all the things that can be uniquely designed for your fictional culture, you drown yourself in the sheer weight of details.

Such as I am where gathering name pools for this story.  Typically I default to foreign names stemming from a superficial comparison drawn between the real-world entity and the fictional “sort-of but not really” counterpoint.  Or else I tap into the great portfolio of names assembled by authors who are resonant with a larger culture; the aesthetically-oriented Court of Spring taps into Shakespeare, with certain groups deriving from the same play (specifically, a trio named for Othello and a pair from Midsummer’s Night Dream).  Sometimes I break out my d10 and tables (such as this one) to try and create distinctive, unique names.  The majority of times, the names I create on my own sound like utter garbage.  I think Olmoro has the only name I’ve created that I actually enjoy; that stemmed from a lot of odd mouth movements while playing with the om utilized in meditation.

But is it laziness in worldbuilding to default to given names, rather than styling each process of naming individually into its culture?  Such that some may only have a syllable at birth, with others added through their life to reflect their accomplishments and deeds, or perhaps one where all children born in a certain year share the same name, where individual names are unofficial and traded between friends and family?

The hardest thing to do with fantasy worldbuilding is realizing that your humans do not, necessarily, need to be the same humans found in reality and, in fact, that they have the same naming schemes, the same marriage traditions, the same familiar structures, seems rather distracting in its laziness.

On the other end of the scale, of course, is overcomplication for the sake of overcomplication.  And there is the fact that humans in a fantasy setting are often a baseline, the bridge to connect the reader with the strange and otherworldly of the narrative.  Where would A New Hope be without Luke Skywalker, someone framed as so ordinary and human, to ease the movie viewers into a galaxy distinctly not our own?

So I will bite my tongue and fight the urge to scatter more deck chairs upon this ship.  I will have my queen named Artemis who, yes, should be connected to the real-world Greek goddess with her associations to women and the sport of hunting.  And she will have her daughter Lorraine, for the name is frivolous and sweet and prone to obnoxious nicknaming, which is certainly at the crux of Artemis’s motives for naming her child thus.

If a name works, a name works.  Don’t sweat the devil loitering in the details.

Worldbuilding: Integration into Narrative

Part I: Beginning the worldbuilding process with motifs.

Part II: Faith, religion, and mythology points to consider.

Part III: Diverse power structures to highlight individual cultures.

Part IV: Using “if x, then y” logic to color cultures based upon previous notes.

You have your world bible, carefully constructed from hours of research and self-reflection, with details pieced together.  There are pages upon pages describing significant dates to the culture and the specific festivities and rituals that accompany it.  You’ve sketched out the royal seal that integrates motifs of divine and mortal authority.  You cannot wait to walk your reader through the ceremonies where another partner is integrated into what the reader understands as something analogous to a wedding ceremony.

You may want to sit down for this.  For as lovely and wonderful as the story bible is, not every part of it is going to have a place to shine in your story.  In fact, I would hazard to guess that only a handful of details will have their place.

Welcome to the challenge of restraint for the sake of the narrative.

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