Tag Archives: characters

Changes …

I suppose I should have probably put this in the ‘Inane Thoughts’ category, but it really does have … something … to do with writing. Obviously, I’ve been making a lot of changes to this place recently, and I’ve been through a lot of changes in the past nine months or so as well.  I don’t really know how relevant any of that is. But the more I look back at old pieces, the more I’m starting to consider whether these changes in my life have actually been reflected in my writing.

I’ll start with style and tense, though, because to me, this is the most obvious change. Upon looking back at things written pre-2012 I’ve noticed mostly that it was almost impossible to tear me away from third person past tense. I wrote everything in third, I guess because it was comfortable, because it was what I had been used to reading and it was comfortable enough for me to write in.

Now, I just can’t stand it.

I don’t mean for this to be insulting to anyone who writes in third person past, because I don’t mean I hate this type of narration. I’m just not comfortable writing in it anymore. And for me, this is more than a little strange because it’s all I wrote in for nearly a decade. Like I said, it was comfortable. It was straightforward. I liked that as much as anything else.

Really, I couldn’t tell you what my issue with it is now. I feel slightly out of my comfort zone when I try to revert to it, not that I wouldn’t like to try, and as though there’s something missing. There’s a connection I’m not making because of the way I’m writing the story. And I start to consider how each story could have been so different if it was just written in a different way; I mean, there are some that probably wouldn’t have worked, but a number that would have, and these seem a little like missed opportunities to me. I also feel as though there’s something I’m not quite reaching or tapping into that I desperately want to, and that the narration is important in relation to this.

Anyway, self-indulgence over for the time being, I suppose what I’m really getting at is how much does narration and style really govern? As I’ve stated above, there are times when I feel as though the direction of an entire story hinges upon it. But then, are there novels that would remain almost the same regardless of how they’re told? I’ll use a very well-known example here; how different would the Harry Potter novels have been if they’d have been written in first person? Considering J.K. Rowling followed Harry for the most part (and yes, I did read these, even though they’re not my usual ‘bag’, but it was quite a while ago now, so the details are probably off anyway), how much would this have impacted the story? Then, on the other hand, we have a favourite of mine, American Psycho, which would not be the same novel if written from a different perspective, and there is no way around this. If Tim Price was telling the story, it would have been impossibly different. It probably wouldn’t have been titled American Psycho either, though, because in Price’s mind, Patrick Bateman doesn’t butcher women in his apartment. Price just doesn’t know anything about this. 

I digress (if only slightly). The easiest answer to the question would be that it depends entirely on the novel, and to some degree, it does, but I do think it also depends on the writer. There are certain hallmarks we come to associate with certain writers; so it’s not too far-fetched to guess that this is also the case from a more personal standpoint. Part of writing, in and of itself is, after all, establishing your own voice as a writer, as well as allowing your characters to establish theirs. I would guess that this has a little something to do with knowing yourself before getting to know anyone else; knowing yourself as a writer before getting to know the people you’re writing about. Because no matter which voice you use, it’s never entirely possible to shake the feeling that you’re still telling someone else’s story. You’re writing  about them, not  as them. (Oh, look, I switched into second for a while, there).

And I have to wonder, is this really anything more than drunken rambling?But it’s been bothering me for a while now. So I suppose I just had to get it out there.

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Free Fall Fridays #3


So, first of all, my apologies for the absolute lack of posts recently. Things have been getting a little crazy in the run up to NaNo, and since the start … and for the time being, they seemed to have cooled off, at least a little. In part, this has been very much my own fault. I don’t know when I decided that I’m crazy, but somewhere along the line, I resolved to write 50,000 words in 3 days. so, I’ll start off by  saying this:

I can’t feel my rear end or my wrists. There, I said it.

Moving on. I have quite a bit to say about the first three days of NaNoWriMo, the first being that it feels more like three weeks than three days to me. It’s a strange sensation that I’ve never experienced while NaNoing before, although this might just be due to my crazy goal. Similarly, I’m really feeling the passage of time slipping by in my novel in a way I never expected it to. I’m getting the same feeling writing it as I get when I’m reading a novel I enjoy; I want to press on, read or write further, but doing so means I get closer and closer to the end all the time, and this is something I really don’t want to happen. These characters, for some reason, I just don’t want to leave them behind at the end, which kind of relates to my next point. That I’m absolutely terrified about what is going to happen when I hit the 100k – 120k mark.

I’m a little bit in love with Free Fall, more than I thought I might be in the end. My initial plan was that, once I was done writing it, I’d either revert back to writing Strictly Business or  move on to a new project that I haven’t planned at all. But I just don’t want to stop writing Free Fall. I know I’m going to have to, eventually, but I’m scared of that happening.

Courtney hasn’t turned out exactly the way I’d planned him, but I’m finding that I’m really connecting with him, however warped that sounds. The entire novel is supposed to be his downward spiral, and  today especially, I’m really feeling this happening. Perhaps this is why I’m so apprehensive about what happens next, but it really feels as though things are starting to fall apart; there’s a sense that Courtney just wants to go back to the beginning, to the way things were, but of course, this cannot happen. Otherwise where would the story be? That said, I am tempted to write a ‘prequel’ of sorts that won’t be included in the end product, just for my own sanity/satiation. It’s not just Courtney, though. I’ve felt a little bit sad and a lot more like wallowing in my own sadness every time I’ve come to the end of every short story thus far, like I just can’t bear to do this but have to. It’s a good feeling, if depressing, because simply put, it means I’m engaging with the story, which was something I was scared I wouldn’t be able to do.

What else … oh, yes, strange things are happening in the world of my novel, too. Normally, I have to plan out every twist, and yet something revealed itself quite early in the day today that was just too good to pass up. These stories weren’t supposed to be linked quite so explicitly, not because it wouldn’t work, but mostly because I didn’t think I had it in me to link characters from one story to another and so on. As it turns out, the story I was most worried about writing has probably been the easiest to write thus far.

Anyway, I’m very, very conscious of the  fact that I’m gushing about this. I’m on something of a high at present, and I’m sure that it’s showing, either in my terrible sentence structure throughout this post, or because the only negative thing I’ve said thus far is about not being able to feel certain body parts.

Every November has its highs and lows. The lows that stick out for me in particular, are always the same; there’s the insinuation that what I’m writing isn’t any good because I’ve written it quickly. Not entirely aimed at me of course, but at ‘overachievers’ in general, and I think it’s unfair to seek justification in the devaluation of others’ work. I know that there are parts of my novel I’m going to look at and cry over, and not in a good way. But I also know that I have something here, I feel good about it, so to be told that there’s no possible way it’s good is a little disheartening, especially this early in the month.

Because here’s the thing: the goal of 50,000 words in thirty days is not a  goal to be sniffed at! It’s terribly hard, especially if you’re doing it for the first time, and I recall that my first NaNoWriMo was steeped in despair. I saw these excessive word counts and wondered how on earth it was possible. I wallowed for ten days, refusing to write, almost unable to write, until a friend snapped me out of it, but those ten days, I was convinced I would never make it.

I especially admire the people who take on the challenge of NaNoWriMo with busy personal and professional lives, a thing I have avoided most years. I respect these people, because I know that this is something I would never be able to do; juggle all of these things simultaneously. I can’t tell you how great these people really are. They balance everything and still manage to write a novel within a month. This is not to be looked down on at all.

My only reason for pitching a goal as I have is the fact that I’m unemployed, and would have changed it to suit had I managed to land a job. As it turns out (which reminds me, my characters are developing strange little catchphrases, a la Snuff) I’m probably not going to land a full time position in the foreseeable future, so here I am. I’m whiling my days away by writing.

I’m still just as excited about the remaining 27 days of NaNoWriMo as ever. Here’s hoping that everyone else is, too!

 

 

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Free Fall Fridays #2

First of all, yes, I did forget to do this last Friday, but honestly, there wasn’t much of an advance in plot anyway.

Last time, I mentioned how this story has hijacked my thoughts. This has only gotten worse over the course of the past couple of weeks, to the point that, not only am I dreaming about people falling from great heights, but my subconscious appears to be leading me to watch television shows where a similar thing happens. This most likely isn’t great for what little sanity I still have … I am looking forward to NaNoWriMo quite a lot, but it’s almost as though my mind sees fit to remind me that, ‘hey, you’re writing about people jumping off buildings this year’ every chance it gets. This would be fine … if I wasn’t almost done plotting. By almost done plotting, I do mean that the basics are all done; I have my short stories, and I have the story that ties them all together written down.

What comes next? Characters! I feel that it is more integral that I know my characters well this year than it has been any other year, or with any other project at all. This is not to say that I’m normally lazy when it comes to character construction – it’s a process I genuinely enjoy, half the time I create characters without needing to, so it’s not as though I find this an arduous task. There’s a whole other level of engagement I’m going to need with them, this time around, though.

My usual style of narration is third-person, past tense; this doesn’t discount the need to get to know characters so well, but it does mean that the narration is, distinctly, in my own style. I use language as I usually would, without too much deviation from what would be considered the ‘standard rules’ of grammar and spelling. While not being necessary for spoken exchanges between characters, it fits in well enough with the style of writing.

For a series of short stories, each centered around a rather different character each time, however, I feel that this has to change. I plan on playing around with the narration in each story; most being first person, some being second person, and the storyline that runs throughout being third person limited. This means that I am tasked with making each character ‘seem’ different, or taking into account the fact that not every character will narrate their own story in the same way. What does the way in which their story is written say about their personal background? Their level of education? Their career choice? Does it suggest an accent other than where the story is set? Why or why not? For the most part, these are things that I’m taking into account as I embark on the next step of my novel journey; characterization. It’s normally something I do right away, but in this case, is that much better left until last.

For me, creating a character starts, primarily, with a character sheet. How detailed the sheet is is mostly dependent on the character and their role; a primary character will usually have a more detailed sheet than a character who only has, maybe, two lines of dialogue and a paragraph description in the entire novel. That said, I usually try to avoid characters that are this minor, unless I’m placing my main cast in a densely populated area; a packed out bar or club, a roadside, a protest march … other than that, I don’t see the point in needlessly inserting ‘that twenty-something with the blonde hair who Bryson glimpsed once and never saw again.’ The things I like to get down first are their personalities, and how I think they might react to a certain social situation. The Myers-Briggs personality test is a handy resource for this, as are the multitude of personality tests floating around on the Internet. Of course, the results don’t always have to be followed to the letter, and the tests always work best if you have some idea of the character beforehand, but they can give some useful insight; for example, my primary character this year, Courtney, is an ESTJ, the polar opposite to my own result of INFP. This does not mean that all I need to do is make him react in a directly opposite way than I would to certain things. It just means that he might be considerably more impulsive, and self-confident than I am, and these are things I will need to bear in mind while writing.

Something else I’m dealing more heavily with this year than in the past is the idea of family. In every NaNo novel I can remember writing (which is all of them), I have neglected to have characters really interact with their parents and families, the exception being in Contempt for The Blind, however, it wasn’t so much an interaction as Justin fighting his ‘mindless drones of the government’ parents and sister. In some cases, this is because of the lives my characters lead, but more often than not, it’s just because I forget that they need parents and all, my characters being well into middle age themselves. The idea of family is something I started to deal with more extensively in Strictly Business, my as yet unfinished novel chronicling Jannah Reid’s dark past, and even more so in Free Fall. Of course, my biggest fear is that, should my family eventually read it, the less positive elements (most of them) could be seen as a well-aimed kick at them. They’re no such things, of course … but it occurred to me a little late in the day that someone in Courtney’s situation would still strive to have regular contact with his father. Being that he moved across an entire country to escape his past, this will most likely be consigned purely to phone conversations … all the same, however, it counts as contact.

Finally, here I feel that I have a set of characters who are significantly more authentic than I’ve had in previous years.  Butterfly Black’s cast was intentionally zany (mocking Hell, or the idea of Hell, kind of calls for it), Contempt for The Blind’s a stab at reality mixed with a kind of hyper-reality, and Where Jackals Lie mostly consisted of a contrived cast of Noir stereotypes. I’m not denying that this year, I have a set of characters who have been … extremely unfortunate, or made terrible decisions and done terrible things. But don’t we all make mistakes? Here, the challenge lies in trying not to make them, or indeed, anyone in the stories who inflicts suffering, an exaggerated form of villain. Even the worst cast members have some kind of redeeming quality, insignificant or significant, and this is where I think I may start hitting roadblocks. The idea that not everything is black and white.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on enough. On a slightly unrelated note, I’m looking forward to this year’s effort rather a lot, in part because I feel I am trying something newer, more different, than I have ever tried before.

On another slightly unrelated note, I’ve been NaNoing for exactly three years today! Hooray!

Roll on November!

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Badlands, Bad Writing, and the Best Damn Thing.

Something went wrong, didn't it?

This post is a part of the Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain for October, the question being; ‘What is the first thing you remember writing of your own accord?’ Delorfinde kicked off yesterday with an excellent post, Escape! A Play and set the bar for the posts to come this month. I’m sweating right now.

 So, first of all, how many of you remember this show?

Okay, second, you’re most likely wondering what in the heck Dragonball Z has to do with answering the question, or writing in general, right? Essentially, everything. The short version of the story is as follows; when I was eight, I couldn’t sleep, so I got up, and decided to watch TV for a while. My dad was still awake and watching DBZ … it may seem a little odd for a man in his late thirties to be watching this, but my dad was always a fan of Martial Arts films, so I can see what the draw would have been. Anyway, I started watching it with him. It was great for me and dad to have something we shared an interest in. This interest, as they often do, gradually grew into an obsession that sometimes bordered on the insane – I missed a week of school to re-watch video-taped marathons of the show. At eight, this was as far as it went. By ten, I was scripting my own episodes, with a (Mary-Sueish) character I’d created. By thirteen, my first ‘masterpiece’ was complete – a fan fiction following my character, Kerroi, and her exploits.

For a while, my dad insisted I send the scripted episodes, and later, the fan fiction, to Akira Toriyama and get him to create a new series from them. This inspired something rather different; obsessed as I was with Dragonball Z, I thought … what if I could write something new, something original on the basis of what I’d already done?

Dragon Badlands didn’t follow the plot of Dragonball Z but looking back, the most obvious things I lifted from the series were the characters – sure, I gave them all spiffy names like Ekaia, Zehio, Jalkie and Nelisha, but at the very bottom of their character sheets, I likened them all to characters from DBZ. The plot didn’t really bear any similarities. The intention was for it to be a ‘journey’, sure … I mapped out the entirety of the Dragon Badlands and it had everything I could have possibly wanted to traverse; a city bordered by a jungle, on the other side of which there was a seaside town, surrounded by a desert which led to a canyon, a lake to cross, and finally, the mountain range. Oh, and there was a castle somewhere, too. The plot was loose, something along the lines of ‘The Embodiment of Evil has broken free of the Dragon Star and you have to stop it before it reaches Dragon City by crossing the deadly Dragon Badlands’ … yeah, I liked dragons. Anyway, nothing too complex for my eleven-year-old mind to handle, a nice little journey with some possible death and destruction, romance, secrets, the usual. Looking back, now, I’m surprised by just how warped my brain at eleven years old was, but I’ll spare you all the details of that.

This story was truly amazing. It was the most innovative, original idea I’d ever had. Sure, I’d written a few violent crime thrillers in school, and something I vaguely remember that concerned a nun bludgeoning someone to death with a candle holder (see, warped), but this … this was amazing. It was going to be my debut work, and I was going to be rich and famous like J.K. Rowling.

I stopped working on Dragon Badlands around the same time as we got hooked up to the Internet here at home (dial-up … that thing where you have to turn off the Internet to use the phone, or vice versa) and I found all these really wonderful Dragonball Z related websites, and later, MFG Forums, which prompted me to start work on Dragonball KK. As I said, obsessed. I’d also just started high school around this time, and found myself distracted, enough that I didn’t have the time to sit down and write anymore.

It’s a bit presumptuous of me to call Dragon Badlands a story anyway. There were a few chapters floating around the house, written in red ball-point pen, but I never got much past the ‘gang’ establishing that the Embodiment of Evil had broken out of the Dragon Star. No traversing jungles, deserts, canyons … no, nothing. Essentially, most of it happened in my head which, truth be told, is about as far as most of my stories get anyway. It wasn’t my first complete story, let’s say that.

It was my first, real, original story, though, all … two or three chapters of it. I don’t count anything I wrote before this time, on the basis that there was always some assignment it was tied to. Write this way, or that way. Some specification.

Dragon Badlands was more than an idea, though. More than a story, even. It became a place for me to retreat to; this escape from school (I had a medical issue at the time that, essentially, warranted people staring at me like a circus freak), and a time when I could actually feel … like somebody. To have fans of my work that were as obsessive as I was about Dragonball Z. To create something that meant that much to others, as much as it did to me … in short, all the insanities of a pubescent girl (yes, I said that) who felt like nothing and wanted to be something.

So. I now urge you all to check out this month’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain. It includes a plethora of great teen writers, all of which, I am sure, will have their own unique take on answering this question;

October 15th — http://delorfinde.wordpress.com – A Farewell To Sanity

October 16th — https://thelitjunkie.wordpress.com – Eat, Sleep, Write, Repeat

October 17th — http://taystapeinc.wordpress.com – Tay’s Tape

October 18th — http://noveljourneys.wordpress.com/ – Novel Journeys

October 19th —- http://greatlakessocialist.wordpress.com/ – Red Herring Online

October 20th —http://kirstenwrites.wordpress.com/ – Kirsten Writes!

October 21st — http://incessantdroningofaboredwriter.wordpress.com–  The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer

October 22nd — http://herestous.wordpress.com – Here’s To Us

October 23rd — http://teenscanwritetoo.wordpress.com – Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for the next month’s chain)

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Not Plotting.

So … on any normal occasion, I can’t glorify the benefits of having a sound plot outline before starting a new project. Such benefits should be obvious; channeling numerous and varied ideas into a coherent structure, having a sound knowledge of the plot direction and pacing, and having a thorough understanding of the project’s cast of characters.

Therefore, I doubt anybody could be more surprised than I was when I jumped headfirst into a new project without doing any of the aforementioned things.

I don’t tend to outline the short stories that I write, the main reason being I begin writing them with every intention of seeing where, exactly, they might take me; the term ‘short story’ may even be incorrect considering most are quick writing exercises to make sure I keep up the habit, not that that always goes according to plan. I have fun with them. I start with an idea and let that lead me on, allow the characters to adapt to the situation that is, essentially, dictated by the first line of the story in most cases.

Perhaps it is this, then, that had led to a new, slightly foreign, habit of mine. Perhaps it is because I’ve chosen to write at a much slower pace than usual, too, and that I don’t feel as much of a need to have some … slightly more polished thoughts at hand this time because it’s something I’m focusing on more as I write. Perhaps it is the fact that I have, essentially, written this story before, albeit with a different protagonist, a different antagonist, and a slightly different chain of events but when push comes to shove, the basic motivations of my characters remain the same. Some of the concepts are more believable, and the narrative viewpoint has changed, but the intention was always to take something I wasn’t so pleased with and rework it into something I’m at least halfway proud to put my … pseudonym on.

So for all I’ve said in the past on various forums about having a concrete plot outline, I can say just as much for not having one. I lost faith in this after my first year of NaNoWriMo; the resultant story was a mess, something I had wanted to put into action for a long time, but once I did, I handled badly and didn’t particularly want to look at it when the month was over. I still consider it irredeemable. There are a multitude of reasons why this is so, which I won’t bore you with.

I don’t feel quite so restrained to taking my story in a particular direction, said direction being the one I already set for myself perhaps a few weeks or days prior.  I had thought I might actually feel quite lost without anything to refer back to; no doubt once I get past maybe chapter three or four and things start to spiral a little more out of my control than I might like, I’ll get back to the drawing board with the outline, but by this point I think it might become something that is beyond me. All or nothing, if you will. Either I outline before I start writing, or not at all.

And who is to say where this will lead anyway? Most likely to the middle of a story that will be mercifully abandoned in the near future, forever damned to the depths of my ‘Writings’ folder, which in itself is a hellish place to be. It’s a kind of limbo between the story graveyard and the projects that came to life; anything that is still stuck there and hasn’t already been relocated to its own folder will most likely remain there for ever more and may never see the light of day again. Inadvertently, by writing this, I have probably assured that they will. I’m curios to see what I left there.

At this point in time, I can’t fully grasp what I would really need to put into the outline for this project; the most I have is a few bullet points written after harnessing the setting of the first chapter, brief things like ‘the detective’, ‘the shrink’ and ‘the tapes’ – I know what they mean, and this should suffice. The character work was mostly already done. I’ll start giving people heart attacks if I mention Jannah one more time, I’m sure, so none of that. Suffice to say, however, I look upon this more as breathing new life to characters I can’t abandon rather than recycling them; their first less-than-stellar outing, while not quite being tossed into novel limbo, is in a file that I very much doubt I will touch again for quite some time. It’s not a failure, but I’ve already shown myself what it could be, had I gone in a different direction … a direction I probably wasn’t ready to take when I first wrote it.

In conclusion? I’m not plotting. Actually, I very much refuse to until things start going awry. For once, I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt.

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Book Review: The Rum Diary

There are those books that you read, and that have an impact on you; either you empathize with the protagonist, or the events haunt you for long after you read them, or you can feel an inexplicable connection with the author. Then there are those books that you read in the blazing hot sunshine in an impossibly beautiful foreign country, where it feels as though, in a strange twist of fate, you have somehow landed yourself within the narrative. Where the sights and sounds, walking along the beach at midnight, looking up at palms and a clear blue sky and walking dry, dusty roads all seem to have spilled right from the page into reality. Where, whilst sitting poolside in the incredible heat with a cold drink in hand, you read, and read, and cannot possibly put down the book because you are trying to figure out exactly when it actually started to happen. The Rum Diary was this book for me. After reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, I was desperate for more Hunter S. Thompson, and finally extracted this gem from my hand luggage after boarding the plane. Within the first ten minutes, Paul Kemp was doing the same. Not … extracting The Rum Diary from his hand luggage. But he was boarding a plane, with, honestly, more hilarity than my own journey contained. (aside, perhaps, from the episode involving my mother and a lost-but-not-really-lost passport)

Undoubtedly, this has led to the book having a certain resonance for me that I have never been able to shake, not that I would want to. I can,  unashamedly, state that this is one of my favorite novels, even if Thompson himself initially had little faith in it, and some critics appear to agree. This is, perhaps, owing to its pre-Gonzo nature, and thus, is not as widely received as Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – mention Hunter S. Thompson to almost anyone, and this work will be the most natural conclusion to all but those who absorb themselves in his work. The style, too, in decidedly one of a younger Thompson, but as Paul Kemp is essentially this, it is unsurprising. The unfortunate truth is that plenty of readers have put this down, and that I find this difficult to stomach, while not wanting to seem so intolerant of their opinions. There is the chance that this appeals more to me, that I enjoyed it more, because I am both a young reader and writer – approaching twenty myself (faster than it seems, I am sure), and reading something that was written by Thompson at twenty-two, is most likely going to have more of a draw for me than had I read it well into my thirties.

Ironically, this is something that underpins the entire novel. Paul Kemp’s own fear is that of going ‘over the hump’ as it were, a quality he sees clearly reflected in photographer Bob Sala. Similarly, his youth is reflected in hot-headed Yeamon, who seemingly ‘has life by the balls’ and whose girlfriend, Chenault has Kemp ‘stewing in his own lust’. It is this sense of weariness brought about in but a few short years, however, that dominates throughout; that Kemp is aware of the fact that many of the journalists around him have given up already, and that he acknowledges that he will most likely do the same gives the reader a sense of ambivalence, not towards the prose itself, but more towards the narrative.

Another overarching theme is that of ‘trouble in paradise’, that appears to permeate the entirety of the novel, right up until the point that Paul Kemp eventually leaves Puerto Rico.  Often, this is paralleled with vivid descriptions of natural beauty, conveyed in a more visceral manner, the most prevalent being the initial view of Vieques where he describes both a ‘wild desire to drive a stake in the sand and claim the place for myself’ and the need to ‘take of all my clothes and never wear them again’, both sensations elicited by the island’s natural beauty, white-as-salt sand and turquoise water. Here, he counters this with the ‘ugly chattering’ of Zimburger’s voice, which not only brings Kemp, but also the reader, back to earth, and reinforcing the idea that even the most gorgeous of landscapes can be ruined. This then takes on a more literal meaning when we learn that Zimburger has plans to redevelop the land and build a hotel on top of it. Chenault’s eventual fate, too, is at complete odds from the way in which her relationship with Yeamon is at first projected; their ‘idyllic’ moments standing waist-deep in the water and clinging to one another that cause Kemp to feel so old and frustrated, for example, as well as the way in which Kemp views her every time he encounters her. While she is supposed to come across as wild, both innocent and promiscuous simultaneously, the eventuality is that she almost seems to fade away, something perfect and beautiful that brings more heartache than joy.

I’ll take the time, here, then to say that Chenault was probably one of the characters that intrigued me most, not least because Thompson’s precision with the characters in this work is something that struck me right away. She is the exact kind of character that I have always found myself captured by; I recently read a review that argued against her being labeled a ‘whore’, and the injustice of this (unfortunately, they skirted over everything else in favor of focusing solely upon this) – I could go so far as to say that her personality shows some signs of histrionic tendencies, but I am no psychologist, and it would be presumptuous of me to say it. She’s daring, certainly. The aforementioned wildness of her character is displayed in multiple ways, from her behavior around Yeamon to her subtle and not so subtle promiscuity that seems to take root in a kind of exhibitionism rather than anything else. (sunbathing in the nude being the most vivid example) By the end, when we see her weakened, it is difficult to tell whether or not she is actually remorseful, or whether she is simply moving on through boredom, restlessness … she is described frequently as a child, or shows a plethora of childish tendencies, and so it seems only natural that she is constantly on the move, not in the same way as the many journalists are, but instead because everything suddenly seems new and exciting.

The supposed romance here is not played up to a point that it actually feels like romance. While often referred to as a ‘love triangle’ between Kemp, Yeamon and Chenault, the fact remains that there is little or no romance there at all. Initially, Kemp’s feelings towards Chenault come across as a kind of obsession – not unrequited love, but instead, the notion that he is drawn to her and wants more. The relationship between Yeamon and Chenault is somewhat reminiscent of most fleeting love affairs; undeniably sexual, and fueled by changeable personalities, restlessness, and a need for something akin to adventure. We know that they will not make it to the end of the novel together, an admission that Yeamon goes on to make in a less-than-pleasant manner, and while there is an element of wanting to root for Paul, too, there is a sense that nobody will get the girl. She’s virtually impossible to pin down; Yeamon’s temper shows quite often when dealing with her, yet she taunts him by suggesting the ‘natives’ watch her sunbathe in the nude. Kemp says nothing during these conversations in an awkward, evasive way. It is never so much a question of who deserves the girl as who is actually to blame for the events that later transpire.

As I have already stated, the voice is undoubtedly one of a younger Thompson, and yet even while reading there is some semblance of who he will grow to be, rather than who he already is; the madness I had grown used to after reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and to an extent, The Great Shark Hunt as well is strangely absent, and yet, this initially seemed to define the book for me. Once I grew accustomed to this, the experience became rather different to the ones I had had before. And, very much in spite of the fact that I was already in what I deemed paradise, it certainly inspired a need to move on further afield. In the end, this was purely limited to promising myself I would take a trip up to the pool minutes before I turned eighteen (this never happened), and having an overwhelming desire to break free of my planned route wherever we went (the actual ‘breaking free’ never happened either), but it is this that is far more prevalent. Naturally, there is the undercurrent of danger, of disappointment and of broken dreams or maddening lust. In the very same pages, there is a feeling of being in a place that is supposedly untouchable, something that is set up for a fall by pressing on with coverage of hotel development and political corruption.

In the same way, I have been attracted to characters who do things that are considered ‘bad’ or ‘wrong’, or sometimes ‘evil’. As such, what might have struck me as despicable instead hits with a kind of dull impact; I found it difficult to find any character completely abhorrent, even for all their faults. There is something morbidly intriguing about Moberg, for example, especially in a particular moment of insanity where he remarks ‘once down at the jail they beat a drunk until he almost died – I asked one of the cops if I could eat a chunk of his leg before they killed him …’ all the while laughing. Striking as this may seem, he follows it with a short comment about human flesh being no more sacred than any other meat, the twisted logic almost seeming to take away any of the shock built up by the facts he has already stated. Moberg is, perhaps, the most vibrantly illustrated of all the characters, if only in his supposed insanity, however, it is this, more than anything, that comes across; more than the locale, there is a care taken with the characters. In some ways, almost all of them are exaggerated when it comes to the finer points of their being, yet I could not bring myself to look upon this negatively, if only because it made San Juan, and in particular, the San Juan Daily News seem like a breeding ground for drunks and misfits from every walk of life – the exact thing Lotterman makes clear. And virtually the very first thing we learn about Lotterman is that he is an ex-communist.

There is a distinct draw, for me, to The Rum Diary, but now I feel it only prudent to bring up something that I originally intended to at the start of this review; in part, the release of the trailer for the film adaptation of this novel caused me to make a quick decision about what my next book review would be, (I was idling between Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Lunar Park) and I can only hope that I am taken back to where I was when I first read this. So far, however, multiple things have become clear, the most obvious being that very few people are willing to give the film the benefit of the doubt.

Personally, I cannot seem to make up my mind just yet. I have grown to become wary of adaptations, but I doubt that this is at all uncommon; oddly enough, most of the time, I seem to discover novels after the film adaptations have been made, (sometimes after watching, sometimes without truly knowing about it) and so, this is something of a rarity for me. There are things that I adore about this novel that the film will not capture; I doubt so much emphasis will be placed upon Chenault as a character, and instead it will come across as romance for all kinds of censorship and viewing related reasons. That said, at first glance, I have a feeling that I’ll be gripped with an urge to wear my sunglasses and swim shorts to the cinema … in spite of the fact that this the film is slated for a November release here.

The Final Summary:

Appealing to me for a variety of personal reasons, it is clear that this is an early work of Thompson’s, irrespective of publication date. This novel will demand that you read it, or want to read it, in a hot country, and later demand that you find the nearest beach and go swimming at midnight (something I wouldn’t recommend if you happen to live in the UK and it happens to be Autumn), and later make you realize that the most perfect of places, or the most perfect of moments cannot truly be perfect; this biting realism is what may cause this book to seem bleak at times and apathetic at others, but the pace is constant and like most of Thompson’s work, will have you in tumults of laughter or will leave you questioning why, how, and most importantly, what just happened. A great read for Thompson fans, even if some reviews concerning it have been disparaging.

A Few Links:

The Rum Diary on Goodreads
The Rum Diary (Film) on IMDb
Hunter S. Thompson on Amazon.com

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Insistent Characters

First of all, forgive me; it’s not that I intentionally neglected this place for two weeks. It’s not that I actually expect forgiveness, of course. Don’t you just love figures of speech? Anyway, I don’t have much of an explanation for the lack of updates, other than I really didn’t have much to say.

So now let me get down to it. Now, I have discovered, I have much more to say than I initially thought I did. One of my favorite parts of the writing process is designing characters; I wouldn’t call it inherent, but I will say it is something I have always enjoyed, much like a child who creates imaginary friends and thus refuses to grow up. Now, however, these friends take form within a world, within a narrative, and they suffer from all the ills that humanity is used to. Now, the characters become somewhat less imaginary, and begin to exist on the page as though they have always existed.

Sometimes, however, a particular character whose piece has long since been put to sleep, refuses to go. This is paraphrased, to an extent, in Bret Easton Ellis’ Lunar Park, but I am reluctant to call my experience with this a haunting, because it is not. It’s more to do with a character who is dissatisfied with her post; who deserves far more credit than she has received, and she knows it. Being the character she is, she wants an entire story devoted to her, and she’s going to get it.

Already, I have made the effort to place her in a short story (Girl Talk) in which I, unknowingly, did something akin to Ellis’ eventual manner of dealing with the Bateman-esque spectre. This was a mistake. She will not forgive me for it until such a mistake is rectified.

Jannah, herself, was actually one of the few characters I have written who insisted upon this, although it does seem to be a common trait in anyone I have placed in Where Jackals Lie. Maybe it is because I feel dissatisfied with the way the story turned out, and am looking for a way to re-vamp it without entirely re-hashing it. Of all the characters in that story, though, Jannah was the one who enticed me most; and, in a fit of resolution, refused to give such attention out of fear that she would detract from Bryson’s limelight. The fact remained, however, that she was simply a more interesting character, and having started her story, I have come to terms with the fact that she comes across effortlessly; that the events in her world come more naturally than I expected them to. Instead of her being the unreasonable, cruel and eventually, one-dimensional antagonist, she has become human, not just a prop, a driving force for Bryson’s misfortunes.

So, given the context of her first appearance,  it would be so easy for this to take a similar track. Yet, and I say this with caution as I have only just started working on it, there is something far more real and honest that comes across with her, that I have been unable to achieve in the past. Before, given both my age and the nature of my writing, it was all too easy for my work to come across as slightly hyperbolic in nature, unrealistic, a kind of hyper-reality that was born of a childhood immersed in anime and manga. Teen years that branched out to graphic novels and video games. Now, edging towards my twenties, my tastes have changed (though not digressed entirely) dramatically, and in a way, my work is forced to reflect this. Yet, I think this still has everything to do with Jannah. Her reasons for cruelty, for socially unacceptable behavior, for materialistic urges that border on the insane and for her capricious nature are, incidentally, all symptoms of brewing personality disorders, and also born not of any unrealistic trauma, but simply rooted in her childhood (as so many are). They are not the result of biological warfare, or any kind of trauma too far removed from what the average child may or may not go through.

But all of this would not stand if I did not have a desire to return to the character myself. While I feel that, to an extent, she is forcing my hand (yes, that sounds insane and yes, I am aware of it) I also feel that this is the only viable way for me to go, right now. A character I have become somewhat comfortable with, in spite of the fact that she almost inspires discomfort, means that I can now take the chance to observe the goings on around her, rather than, as seems to be a recurring fault of mine, taking the entire novel to get to know the character for myself.

In short, I’m enjoying this outing perhaps more than I should, given that it is yet another attempt at exploring human indecency.

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