Archive for January, 2012

On Writing

I am currently impossibly high. No drugs. No anything. My problem is writing. I’d stopped writing fiction for a while– lost the time, lost the inspiration. I’ve picked up the pen again and remembered why I tend not to write around other people.

Writing is both a mental and physical process. We think, we hit the keys, move the pen, the issue is that on top of it, when I’m in the head state of a character, something happens when I’m in a good place. I’m removed from all of this. I feel everything they do, from chill of the air where they’re being kept captive to the scent of the tea and the wool of their coat against their neck. My thought and speech patterns mesh and combine with theirs and physiological responses start to match. You can see where this could be problematic– on the anger side, I look like I’m ready to murder someone. On the sad, I feel as hopeless as they do.

My favorite flavor of this intoxication is young love. Not love between two idiot teenagers, but that sense of affection moving into something that pushes irrational impulses in the most rational of human beings. Those days where you fret about what the hell they think is wrong with you, if they know, if you even know what in fuck’s name is wrong with you. This is especially fun with cerebral characters because I identify with them so– While they’re looking up the physiological symptoms of arousal, I was the person that when someone asked if I truly liked the guy I was dating at the time, I of course said yes… but I also went home and thought for about a half hour, checking my pulse, for pupil dilation with him held in my mind.  You probably don’t believe that anyone could be that dense about their own emotions and responses to stimuli, but I was. I saw pictures of love, I could act the parts just fine, I was happy with this person, but if someone is staring at me going “but you LIKE him, right?” I don’t know how I’m supposed to know without some type of concrete indicator.

I’m better now, granted, but it takes me back to those moments where I tended to be completely oblivious to internal cues of emotion. Depending on the situation, it can take me back to the horror and cursing everything that I was apparently in love with this person because I simply didn’t know what to do. I knew external cues, but I could only know what was demonstrated to me. I didn’t know how to demonstrate any type of affection without being false. I eventually settled on giving gifts– it seemed to work and is one of the most common expressions, almost everyone gets that you like them if you give them a present, correlating how much you like them with how much value they perceive the gift to have.  Even a socially awkward penguin like me could manage that much.

Going back to those moments where one has no idea what to do to show affections, deciding if one should even try to show their affections is amusing, nerve-wracking, and difficult. It’s nice to say “Ha! I know that now!” but it also never fails to show how far I have left to go. Gifts, apparently, aren’t the end all and be all of affection– after a while they become a careless short hand. That leaves being affectionate by other means, words, actions, and when you’re still cripplingly anxious that you’ll do something wrong at times, it just makes you want to hide. It makes you lose hope for your character– how the hell can you get them through this? If the ending is to be happy, shouldn’t they at least be able to stammer that they care for someone, even if it feels like speaking Mandrin? And what if they’re interacting with someone much more normal? What then? What the hell does a more normal person think when the general affection consists of less kissing, hugging, and flattery and more of mutual company, perhaps sitting a bit closer together, and trying your best to remember the odd things that make them happy? What does a normal person think when you’re a writer, you love romance, but when it comes to love letters and poems you come up with “Roses are red, violets are a purplish color, not blue, and I hate everyone in the world but you?”

I’m not sure. Still not, three years into a relationship. All I know is I have an extremely wonderful, tolerant person by my side that acts as a wonderful consultant when I’m staring at a problem like this one. It’s nice having a model when my character manages to find someone that is tolerant of their being as much of an idiot as I am with romance or more:

“This scene isn’t right. All of them end with the other one upset. I know I’m doing some bit wrong– it all feels rushed.”

She’ll listen as I talk through it, and then: “Foreplay, maybe?”



“Yeah. Explain it to the person with no concept here. My brain goes from A to B. You know that, and for that I’m sorry.”

The truly fabulous part is that instead of sighing like the long suffering girlfriend with an idiot for a partner, she’ll just start laughing. She’ll explain. Again. She’ll help me with the scene. I’ll file away the knowledge for future reference, forget bits or think I have it wrong, and then it all seems to start again. I’ll write embarrassingly personal fiction and blogs on the internet all while awkward penguin-ing at her any time I try to do any explanation of my own emotions in any form other than indirectly and in text. Joys of being /dating a writer, I suppose. Everything makes sense on the page and in meat-space we bumble about, trying to think of what the hell we had a character do to solve this same problem and looking insane.

To think, this is my drug and passion. Sometimes I think it would be easier and more socially acceptable to have a drinking habit.

Final Fantasy and Familial Groups

Since the first anatomically modern humans were ambling about, they have moved in groups. Small family groups, larger tribes, extended family groups… you’ve all heard the trite phrase “man is a social animal” and it does happen to be true, scientifically speaking.

I’ve been watching Jess play Final Fantasy XIII and all the story lines seem to have something to do with family or a family group. One character’s mom dies. One is missing his son. Another, her sister. Due to all these unfortunate circumstances, a they have a suicidal drive to either avenge their fallen families or reunite them. It makes sense, given that the characters are human based, according to everything I’ve read in psychology and my dabbles in sociology and anthropology. It also makes sense that most people would be moved by these stories as a result, as they should have similar feelings. After all,  “blood is thicker than water” and “family is forever.”

It’s like watching a movie I don’t speak the language of, so I only understand pieces. I do love my sister dearly, and while I don’t think that if I was abducted my family would leave me to die, I don’t quite understand a lot of the emotions and phrases playing out on screen. My family was never the feeling expressing sort. Feelings existed and were there, but were not spoken of. Not the more positive ones, anyway. It makes me wonder about us: Would we have been different in a different time? One with more catastrophe, like in this game? What is it about people that makes them pull together in difficult times, or long for their families? What makes them fear they’ll never see them again?

I can tell you the scientific answer, and it all has to do with genes and the fact that if a species wants to survive, its genes need to be passed on. Best way to ensure the genes pass on is to install a mechanism to force one to take care of genetic offspring and those that share your genetics, even if it is only by 50% or less. I can’t tell you the emotional answer, and that troubles me for a cold, self involved reason: It makes me a poor writer if I can’t synthesize a full range of emotions in my mental alchemy lab.

Of course, I’d be lying if I said that was all it was. You know it, I know it. I’m both fascinated and repulsed by the fact that I don’t understand what seems to be a basic knowledge that you put up with your family because they’re your family. I can vaguely understand tolerating idiotic behavior from someone with 50% of my DNA that I see often or has influence over my life. It makes things a fuck lot easier if those that see you often are happy with you, and I’m terribly socially lazy. A lot of the time it’s just easier to ignore it all than bother to fuss about it. However, when people describe relationships with those outside of the 50% range, things become puzzling. I always wonder if I’m seriously missing out because while family seems to bring a lot of headaches, it also seems to bring people a lot of joy.

As I’m watching with the fascination of someone watching an ant farm, I wonder if the reason this game was so family based is not because a lot of people are not like me, but because they are like me. The world is smaller than ever, and now it isn’t uncommon for kids to move away for jobs, to abandon the lands where their family first set down roots, and rarely see each other in person. It used to be that you were with your family all the time, working beside them, running from predators with them, protecting them, feeding them, and taking care of their children. Now, we see each other through screens and talk to each other with keyboards. Humanity isn’t all that way, but where virtual communication has become more possible, people are moving farther and farther away from their families because they can worry less about “keeping in touch” with the new tech. But what happens when your only contact with someone for years is through a screen? Would you run after them if they were cursed with a horrible disease that could infect you too, just to try to save them? Or would it be easier to just weep for them, far away from them, the problem, and having not felt them elbow you in the ribs in play or ruffle your hair for years?

Maybe that’s why this game seems to be more focused around actual blood families than the Final Fantasy games I’ve known in the past, maybe we need some type of reminder.  Our playmates are taunting us from a half world away, our families are on the opposite coasts, and our friends exist on the internet.

I’m betting more people feel as unsettled and alien as I do watching this dedication to others actually being acted upon and not just paid lip service. Others that feel they’re failing the test of whatever it is to be human. With all this technology working its way farther and farther into our lives, it makes sense that we’re in danger of becoming part machine ourselves.


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