Category Archives: writing

Cucumbers

When I was a kid, there was this funny old German couple who lived down the street from me, with a funny old dog that seemed to be as old as they were. The old man would walk up and down our street every single day with that dog. When they both got too frail to walk that far, they rode together in a scooter, with the little dog happily perched in a basket on the front.

One day, as I went for a walk I saw the little dog running along the footpath. The old lady stood out the front of the house, calling after him. She couldn’t give chase, so she just watched on helplessly as her dog ambled towards the busy main road. I took off after the dog, picked him up and carried him back to her. The lady was overjoyed and thanked me over and over. She invited me into her house and together with her husband she showed me around, telling me I was welcome to borrow their books, listen to their records, and swim in their pool anytime they wanted. I think they would have offered me the world if they could have, they were so happy to have their dog home safe. It was all very strange and overwhelming for me, especially seeing as I couldn’t really understand them.

Eventually, I managed to extricate myself from the house and head home. But an hour later the old lady was knocking at my door. She had gathered up a bag of cucumbers from her garden to give to me as a reward. Just cucumbers. Lots and lots of cucumbers. More cucumbers than any one person could ever need.

For some reason today I just remembered that afternoon, many years ago, when I went out for a walk and came home a hero, showered in vegetable glory.

I don’t know, I just wanted to share that story.


Thoughts

My mind has been racing with thoughts lately. I’m collecting things in my head and can’t let go. I don’t really understand it, but I think it might have something to do with acupuncture.

Honestly, I was skeptical that acupuncture would do anything at all for me. But doctors hadn’t done much for me either, so I figured I had nothing to lose. And I think it might have helped me. But see, I’m really good at experiencing weird side effects from things. Maybe it’s just that I’m feeling better and now my brain doesn’t have as thick a fog of pain to fight through, or maybe that needle to the head opened something up. Whatever the cause something has definitely changed.

Mostly, the things I’m collecting in there make sense; stories and motifs that I’ve always been drawn to.

But I’m also suddenly really into wrestling and I’m very confused about that.

Look at this stupid shit I'm watching

Look at this stupid shit I’m watching

Anyway, back to the stuff that does make sense.

I decided to play through the old Silent Hill games after PT had such an impact on me. I rage quite the first one pretty quickly because the controls were awkward as hell and the graphics just didn’t hold up to today’s standards. Then I played the second one. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since.

Silent Hill 2 isn’t like the other games. There are no nonsensical plots about cults and gods. Silent Hill is not just a spooky town, it’s the personal purgatory for the characters within the game. The monsters aren’t just monsters, they symbolise the emotional state of the protagonist. The game deals with some very heavy and dark themes. The fact that these are horrors that happen in the real world just makes it all the more disturbing.

This scene in particular, despite the slightly shonky voice acting, is one of the most heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game.

So I was already obsessing over Silent Hill 2 when I began to read a book called The Drowning Girl, by Caitlin R Kiernan. It’s a very surreal trip into the mid of a schizophrenic girl trying to figure out which parts of her mind are truth and which parts are… less true. At first I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but by the end I couldn’t put it down and couldn’t get it out of my head. I feel like I need to read it seven more times before I will really understand it. It’s a fantastic piece of weird fiction, quite unlike anything I’ve read before.

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So now my head is full of psychological horror and fog and ghosts and unreliable narrators and surrealism and monsters.

And wrestling! What the fuck!?

What even is this shit?

What even is this shit?

So I really need to do something with all of this stuff in my head. I still have so much work to do on my current manuscript but I can’t just ignore all these thoughts I’m having. I don’t know if anything will ever come from it, but I’ll just follow the thoughts and see where I end up.

Hopefully not back at wrestling.

Oh I give up

Oh I give up


Pace

So I’ve had a chance to read through my manuscript now. I’m happy to say that it isn’t completely terrible! I mean, it’s certainly not great, but at least it isn’t so awful that I wanted to set my computer on fire and walk into the ocean.

I still have a LOT of work to do!

The process for writing this story has been completely different to how I wrote my first novel, so I’m still learning as I go. One thing that’s become apparent is just how messed up my pacing is. When I first write a scene, it feels like it’s progressing at a reasonable pace because my typing isn’t super fast. However, when I actually read it, I can see that things are moving much too quickly. Huge events are happening in a single paragraph. Characters are zooming from one scenario to another in the blink of an eye. I began with such a bare-bones draft that it’s still gaunt even after I’ve put some meat on it. Turns out I need a bit of fat on it too.

So I know what I have to do to make this story flourish. Of course, knowing what you need to do and actually doing it are two very different things. Tomorrow I will commence fleshing things out and slowing things down. Hopefully I will have a strong manuscript at the end.

Also I think I’m going to change the title…


Second Draft Complete!

Second draft of the manuscript is now complete!

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2ee11cb6_lucille-buth-excited

 

I had hoped to finish my second draft before the end of 2014, so I’m only 18 days past my deadline. I still need at least another 10 thousand words to flesh it out, the pacing is all over the place, and my character arcs and their relationships need a lot of work.

But for now, I’m just gonna celebrate!

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The Invisible Author

I just finished reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I made the mistake of reading it while waiting to get my hands on the final book in Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, and my excitement for that book hindered my ability to fully commit to Atwood’s novel. It was still an excellent book and it was completely my fault that I didn’t love it more. It’s not you, Oryx and Crake, it’s me.

But one thing I did notice while reading Atwood’s book is how little I noticed Atwood while reading it. What I mean is there was not a single sentence that stood out among the others. All were weighted equally, all conveyed the precise information they were meant to and nothing more. In most books I will come across a slightly clunky sentence, or an overwrought metaphor, and in that moment I think about the author and see them stumble slightly. This never happened while reading Oryx and Crake. Atwood has succeeded in making herself invisible, leaving her work to stand completely on its own.

I think it’s important as a writer to remember it’s not about you. No one will be impressed by you if they can see you through the pages, trying desperately to be noticed. You don’t want the reader to be thinking about you at all, you want them to be absorbed in the story and the characters.

I know it’s easier said than done. Making something look effortless actually takes an absolute butt-load of effort. But I think invisibility is something worth striving for.

Edit: Oh I forgot to mention, I actually have a signed copy of Atwood’s The Handmaids Tale. I bought it for $7 at a second hand book store and didn’t even notice until I read it months later.


Feminism and Bayonetta

Bayonetta-2

Bayonetta 2 is coming out soon and I’m so excited I could punch a hole through the world with a fist made of my hair. The first Bayonetta is one of my all-time favourite games. It was ridiculous, baffling, spectacular and an absolute blast to play. The reviews for the sequel are already looking very positive, with the exception of Polygon, which was very critical of the intense sexualization of the main character.

Of course, with the frenzied state that misogynerds are in at the moment, they’ve decided to lash out at Polygon for pushing their “Social Justice Warrior” agenda. Because nothing says “I’m really fighting for ethics and transparency in games journalism” like trying to silence the opinions of games journalists.

Polygon’s criticism of Bayonetta is completely valid. The game is sexualized in the extreme. I have no doubt that Bayonetta’s primary intended function is to titillate straight male gamers. However, I believe there is more to Bayonetta than this. What straight male gamers don’t realize as they salivate over Bayonetta’s endless legs and shapely behind, is that Bayonetta is a Trojan Horse. Inside her sexy body is an army of dangerous feminist ideals waiting to burst out.

Despite being a man-hating, Anita Sarkeesian-supporting SJW feminazi, I have always chosen to interpret Bayonetta in a feminist light. Apart from all the implied nudity, spread legs and cleavage shots, Bayonetta has many positive characteristics that are rare in a female video game character.  Despite her sexualization, she retains a sense of control over how she is perceived.  She is allowed to be powerful and strong without sacrificing her femininity. And while she may be a sexual fantasy for straight male gamers, she also doubles as a power fantasy for female gamers.

I like to compare Bayonetta to an equally batshit game, Lollipop Chainsaw. In Lollipop Chainsaw, you also played as a sexy woman wielding crazy weapons. But there was a key difference in the way Lollipop Chainsaw’s protagonist, Juliet, was portrayed compared to Bayonetta. She lacked control over her sexuality. You could pan the camera down and look up her skirt, and she would glare at you and try to block the camera with her hands. The game even rewarded you for doing it. Rescued NPC’s would make comments about her breasts and she was given no ability to retort. Despite her skills with a chainsaw, Juliet was rendered completely powerless when it came to how she was viewed by the player and the characters in the game. Playing Lollipop Chainsaw made me feel like a sleaze.

Bayonetta, on the other hand, seems entirely in control . You aren’t sneaking a look at her butt against her will, Bayonetta is shoving her butt right in your face whether you want it or not. She poses for the camera, winking and blowing kisses, flaunting her goods for all to see. It’s lewd and ridiculous, almost satirical. You see what you see because she wants you to see it, or doesn’t care if you see it. Sure, this may just be part of the voyeuristic fantasy, but Bayonetta is still given far more control over her sexuality than most female game characters could ever hope for.

In the fine tradition of Japanese magical girls, Bayonetta’s power is tied to her femininity. She goes shopping, enjoys pretty outfits and sucks on cute lollipops. She oozes butterflies when she dodges attacks and bleeds rose petals when she’s hit. She is unashamedly girly, and yet this is never presented as a weakness. In most video games, girly girls are confined to the role of damsels in distress and strong female characters reject femininity and adopt more masculine characteristics. When Lara Croft was rebooted as a more realistic woman, she was made weaker and more vulnerable in the process. The producer said they wanted players to feel like they needed to “protect” her. It was as if they were afraid that male gamers would be uncomfortable playing as a female protagonist, so they tried to convince players that they weren’t really playing as a woman, they were just the big strong man  holding her hand.  Bayonetta does not give the player this option. Bayonetta doesn’t need anyone’s protection. If you’re going to play this game, you’re gonna have to strap on your big boy heels and accept that you are embodying a woman, lipstick kisses and all.

When you argue that female video game characters are always sexualized, you inevitably will get an outcry of “WHAT ABOUT THE MENS!?”

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Yes, male video game protagonist are often muscular, good looking guys. But they are not attractive for the benefit of straight female gamers (because of course we don’t really exist, right?). They are attractive for the male gamers who are playing them, so that they can feel like they are fully ripped hunks of A grade man meat for a while. It’s a power fantasy. I would argue that Bayonetta can also be a power fantasy for female gamers.  She’s smart, funny, beautiful and strong. She’s confident in her body and in her sexuality. She cares about her friends and doesn’t take any shit from her enemies. She even passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors! These are all great qualities, the kind you would find in an inspiring Disney princess . This princess just happens to swear a bit and get naked a lot. Playing Bayonetta makes me feel like an ass-kicking goddess. It makes me feel like I can strut down the street with guns on my feet and conquer the world. I’m actually eagerly awaiting the day that my eyesight deteriorates so that I can buy myself a pair of Bayonetta glasses and get my prescription put in them.

 

so pretty!

so pretty!

So I’m afraid I’m going to have to respectfully disagree with Polygon on Bayonetta. Note the key word in that sentence is respectfully. Criticizing Bayonetta’s sexual imagery is completely understandable. But the beauty of mature critical analysis is that multiple interpretations can exist at the same time. Personally, I choose to accept Bayonetta’s sexualization as just one facet of a character who I find empowering. Her agency, femininity and her strength are all characteristics that female video game characters are usually robbed of.

Right now,  as the gaming community struggles under the weight of a misogynistic shitstorm, we need all the lady heroes we can get.


Focus

In this day and age it is  harder than ever to stay focused on a single objective. You’ve got 17 different social media sites to check, selfies to take, angry birds to fling and tv shows to binge watch. How do you concentrate on the challenging task of writing when there are so many easier things you could be doing right now?

I’m probably not qualified to give this sort of advice because I should actually be working on my manuscript right now but instead I’m doing this. Oops.

But anyway, here are some things that are helping me to concentrate a little better.

The Pomodoro Technique

The idea of  the Pomodoro Technique is to break down a task into more manageable 25 minute sections, with 5 minute breaks in between. After you’ve done four “pomodori” you take a longer break, 15-30 minutes. It is much less daunting to jump into writing when you know you only have to worry about it 25 minutes at a time, and it’s easier to resist the internet when you know you can check it guilt-free in just a little while. Any sort of timer will do, it doesn’t even have to be shaped like a tomato (which is where the name comes from). You can even get pomodoro apps for your phone!

 

Binaural Beats

Binaural beats are probably a bunch of new age hippie crap. They’re basically just weird frequencies that bounce back and forth in your headphones.  But I do find listening to them helps me to concentrate. It’s sort of like a slightly more dynamic white noise that blocks out the distractions around you. If you find yourself getting distracted by music when you write but you also want to block out the TV in the other room, try giving this a go. There are plenty of tracks on Youtube and Spotify that you can listen to for free.

 

Video Game Soundtracks

Binaural beats are helpful if you want to keep your mind free of clutter, but what if you want something a bit more interesting to listen to? Video Game soundtracks are great because the music is designed to invoke mood and atmosphere without distracting from the action in the game. Some of  my favourites include Shadow of the Colossus, Journey, Skyrim, and the Alice games. It really just depends on which game best compliments what you’re writing at the time. Here are some to get you started: