Wednesday, January 7, 2015

When Real Life Affects Our Writing - IWSG Post

When Real Life Affects Our Writing

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Happy Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day!  A time to talk about our fears and doubts, or inspire others by sharing our success and happiness.  We’ve got a great bunch of people in this group and we’d love to have you join in on the fun too.  A big thank you to it's creator, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Don’t forget to stop by and say hello to our fantastic co-hosts:    Elizabeth Seckman, Lisa Buie-Collard, Chrys Fey, and Michelle Wallace!

Not too long ago, my critique partner shared some valuable insight about my writing with me.  He said my main character needed to react to the situations happening around her.  She needed to show emotions and let the reader know what was going on in her head.

It wasn’t until my rockin’ counselor asked how my writing was going that something clicked in my head.  That light bulb went off as the words tumbled out of my mouth.

“I need to show more emotion,” I said.

My rockin’ counselor asked me to explain.

“Well, like, all this stuff happens to my character and she doesn’t say much about it.  Like she’s just kinda rolling with everything…oh my gosh, that’s what I do.  I turned my character into me!”

While that’s well and good that I made that discovery on the psychological front (and have since changed my ways), it sucks terribly on the writing front.  Sure, I believe we write what we know but when it comes at the expense of shorting our readers, heck, ourselves, of a good story, well, that just stinks.

Just like I had to learn in my real life to share my emotions rather than trying to keep them in check, I have to go back and do that in my story.  I have scene after scene where something major is unfolding before my main character and she just sits there like an outsider, not giving the reader a chance to know what going on her head.

As I go back and add her inner dialogue, I’m reminded of why this is so important. Character development. One of the reasons I loved Breaking Bad was how it took a normal, run-of-the-mill man then turned him into a bad ass, tough-as-nails drug dealer.  Watching his character evolve from innocent to evil was what made that series such a success.  Taking that journey with him was riveting.

That’s what I want to do with my character.  Start her off as a typical young woman trying to find her way in life, then make the slow transition over to her toughening up as she works for the mafia.  It’s been a slow process but it’s been a ton of fun to get back in her brain and play.

What important things have you forgotten in your first attempt at writing?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Gaslighting vs. Reality

As always, I start with the warning that this will ramble as I sort through my emotions. This morning, I’m going back to my blogging roots.  You’re welcome, cat and Dan.  I know you love a good long-winded post from me. 

It’s been a long time since I’ve done a journal entry and the ol’ brain needs a good mental cleansing. I’m sure it’s due to the culmination of several things; Devin’s slip, this is the anniversary week of disclosure, and our wedding anniversary.  

It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since I discovered my husband’s addiction.  Seems like forever ago.  Seems like yesterday.  And, that is an odd place for my brain to be, but, with the help of a good old fashioned word vomit, I’ll be right as rain soon enough.  Plus, I don’t have high expectations of myself this week.  Now is the time to be gentle with me and not rush healing.
During my talks with Devin about his slip, I asked if he knew the “why” of it all.  I was curious if he saw the same insight I did (the death of his dog) or if he was minimizing the event.  It wouldn’t be the first time he minimized a slip and while it’s common for an addict to do so, I wanted to know where his head was in all of this.

The first time we discussed it, he said there was no why.  It just happened.  I let that excuse slide because well, one: I was too drained to go into a debate, and two: I understood the shame he felt at the time and didn’t think it’d help matters to push him too hard.

When I broached the subject a few days later, he said it was human nature.  When I called BS, he hemmed and hawed, then I told him we’d have to agree to disagree at which point he said, “Well, you’ll just have to ask our counselor because she’s the one that said it was human nature.”  That didn’t sound like anything our rockin’ counselor would say and more like a need to feel right, but I agreed to let it go until then.

Then was yesterday. 

I spoke to our therapist and she said she’d never tell one of her clients with an addiction that a slip was human nature and too ignore the reason behind it.  She felt she may have said it was natural to have a slip, especially early in recovery, but four years in she felt he should have better clarity, control, and insight.

She asked if she could talk to him about his perception of “human nature” after their group last night. I agreed she could disclose our session.  On his drive home from group he told me about their brief conversation.  That call confirmed my suspicions that I’d been gaslighted by Devin.  For those not familiar with the term, it means to have someone try to distort or manipulate someone’s reality.

An example of this from our long ago past:  I walked into the room to find Devin looking at porn and masturbating. I saw this with my own two eyes.  But, Devin had the ability to convince that what I’d seen didn’t really happen.  By the time we finished talking, he had me believing it was my imagination.  All in my head.

Yes, it sounds utterly ridiculous (especially in hindsight) but when you live with an active addict, your mental perceptions become distorted through time and manipulation.  I asked our counselor yesterday if having experienced that made me hyperaware or hypersensitive to it – was I more likely to suspect gaslighting and prevent it or more prone to being manipulated?  She said it was probably a bit of both. And, I agree.

Being gaslighted is literally crazy-making.  It is a form of mental abuse.  Do I feel Devin sets out to make me feel this way?  No.  I think it’ something he learned along the way to cope with his emotions. It was also easier back then for me to believe his distortions of the truth than the reality of our marriage.

Having experienced gaslightedness (my word), I’m able to see it for what it really is, Devin’s first defense and a way for him to avoid thinking too hard about his slip.  

And, as I said earlier, having written this out, I feel better.  I know I’m not going to fall into the same pattern I was stuck in four years ago. That terrible codependency I experienced.  There’s been too much time, healing, and recovery for that to happen to me.  And, to him.

After the reminder of the trauma of this week passes, so will my feelings of unease.  And, I think his recovery will take a turn for the better.  It always does.  I just need to give him a bit more time and a bit more patience and do the same for myself.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, my Hooligans.  I feel better getting those emotions out.  

I’m grateful to each and every one of you.  Now go on, enjoy your week and I’ll do the same.

Got any cool plans for the upcoming weekend?  I plan on digging in and getting some writing done.