Category Archives: Writing

Character Exercise One

I don’t know if there will be further character exercises, but during a conversation at work today I imagined combining Stockholm Syndrome with what I’ll call addictive personality disorder.

From Wikipedia: “… Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will — prisoners — develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.”

There is some debate as to whether Addictive Personality Disorder is real, but for the purposes of this exercise, I define it as follows: A psychological state in which a person is inclined to addiction, whether to substances, people (personality types) or situations.

Combining the two, we have a person who has been involved in some manner of hostage situation during which he or she developed a relationship with and/or sympathized with his or her captors. After the situation is resolved (whether peacefully or otherwise), the person returns to his or her routine. Now, however, when our character waits in line at the bank to make a withdrawal, they hope that men wearing ski masks and brandishing automatic weapons will storm the bank. They yearn to hear a voice behind them demand that everyone lie face down on the floor. Our character never uses the drive-up window or an ATM. They insist on entering the bank at every possible opportunity in the hopes of being held hostage at gunpoint.

At work, our character scrutinizes his or her co-workers, trying to determine which of them is most likely to snap and show up at work with a high-powered rifle. Perhaps they even attempt to push the most promising of these unsuspecting individuals over the perceived “edge.”

Now that I’ve built certain aspects of the character’s personality, the exercise part (at least for me) is to write a scene or a short story featuring the character, filling in the rest of their personality and creating a situation in which their (hopefully) unique flaw is developed or revealed. I’ll post the result in the near future.

Heroes

At the monthly meeting of the Cleveland-area NaNoWriMo group this past Thursday, I began working on the first of seven short stories I plan to write over the next seven months. These stories will tell the origins of eight superheroes I created in City of Heroes. Here’s a quick rundown of the stories:

  • MarchCardelion: The Gladiator’s Tale. Max Barstow is a former television star attempting to reinvent himself as a costumed hero, despite a mountain of legal difficulties.
  • AprilQR7: The Android’s Tale is the story of an android whose origins are shrouded in mystery. A covert organization wants to find out who built the crimefighting automaton, who controls him now, and whether he can be recruited for sinister purposes.
  • MayDr. Garabiton: The Scientist’s Tale. Experimental physicist Patrick Nguyen finds himself thrown into a brutal conflict with CHAOS Factor, the supercriminal group responsible for the death of friend and mentor. When the mild-mannered scientist dons the Gravitas Mark IV battlesuit, gravity itself is bent to his whim.
  • JuneKaryx & Karykeion: The Tale of the Twins. Gifted with strange abilities to both heal and harm, Alexandra and Daniel Cahill kept their mutant powers a secret from the world, until a fateful car accident changed their lives forever.
  • JulyConflagrante: Phoenix Reborn. An arsonist falls into his own trap and is reborn as a costumed crimefighter, but who is pulling his strings, and what will happen if his past is ever revealed?
  • AugustKim Mak: Temporary Hero. Sometimes the difference between a hero and a villain is simply the outcome of a bet. When a world-renowned assassin loses a “friendly” wager with one of her peers, she must battle the forces of evil for a year.
  • SeptemberMajor Dorque: The Old Soldier’s Tale. Major Jeffrey “Torque” Abrams served his country honorably for most of his adult life. Now, unable to adjust to being a civilian, Maj. Abrams has decided to come out of retirement to assist in the battle against those who would prey upon the weak, the helpless and the downtrodden. But someone at the Office of Hero Registration has a chip on their shoulder, and now the old soldier fights for his dignity against the most implacable of foes… bureaucracy.

Rabbit Hole

When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t open my left eye. I didn’t notice it right away, not until I looked in the bathroom mirror and saw that half of my face appeared to be asleep. I screamed like a girl. Laugh if you want, but I’ll bet you’d do the same thing.

It’s not like my eye is stuck, or anything. I just can’t open it. It’s like there just aren’t any muscles in the lid. I can’t move the eye, either. When I touch my eyelid, I can feel my fingertip. If I pull on the eyelashes, I can feel that, too. When I look left, right, up or down, I can’t feel my eyeball moving behind the lid. And if I gently pull the eyelid back with my fingertip… God, it’s just creepy. It’s like looking into a dead man’s eye. Honestly, when I pulled back the lid and looked into the mirror, I almost threw up.

I can’t open my eye, I can’t move my eye, and I can’t see out of it, either. It’s still there, but it doesn’t work at all. Standing in front of the bathroom mirror, I looked at my left eye with my right eye, and my left eye didn’t look back. It just stared off at who-knows-what, and whatever indescribable quality lends life to the ocular organ was simply not there. I couldn’t look at it for more than a second or two before feeling like I’d lose what was left of last night’s dinner.

Something has happened to my brain, I think. Not a stroke, but that definitely crossed my mind. That and about a thousand other neurological train wrecks. Whatever it is, nothing else feels different. I can talk and move all of my limbs and extremities. Every other part of my body is working as it did yesterday. But my eye… my eye has been turned off somehow, and whatever part of my brain processes visual input doesn’t seem to miss it.

I’m aware that my field of vision has decreased, but where it seems like there should be this … I don’t know, this black space, there isn’t. Does that make sense? Go ahead, close your left eye, or just put your hand over it. See that? Blackness on the left. Dark. A definite area of darkness. Your left eye, though covered, is still … on. Mine isn’t. There’s no black area. Just as there’s no black area around your normal, both-eyes-open, field of vision. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but I’m not sure how to better explain it.

My depth perception, which should be shot to hell, is … different. Once I (abruptly) moved from that early morning almost awake phase into full blown, in-your-face consciousness, I started thinking about these things. The world seems to have many layers to it right now. If I focus on what I’m looking at, I’m aware that I’m not really seeing in three dimensions, but it’s not exactly two dimensions, either. Instead, there are layers, like those old plays where the scenery is all cutouts and there are layers of ocean wave cutouts between which the boat cutout moves, and further back there’s a sea serpent cutout gliding between more layers of ocean waves.

I’m sure that made absolutely no sense, but the point is that I’m not bumping into doors or knocking over coffee cups because I can’t judge how far away they are. If I don’t think about it, everything feels normal. My subconscious has made some crucial adjustment that my conscious mind can’t quite handle.

Are you with me so far? Because this is where things get weird. This is where you’ll want to call the men in white suits.

Laura, deep sleeper that she is, slept right through my little panic attack. I shook her awake, and she got out of bed. Well, one of her did. One Laura sat up and put her glasses on, but another ignored me and kept right on sleeping. The Laura who got up was solid and whole, while the one who stayed in bed started out solid, but quickly faded from sight. By the time Awake Laura stood up, I could see right through Sleeping Laura. When Awake Laura asked me what was wrong, Sleeping Laura was almost gone. When Awake Laura asked me what I was looking at, Sleeping Laura disappeared entirely, and I wasn’t sure I’d seen her at all.

As I explained what was happening with my eye, I kept seeing strange things. When Laura talked, her lips seemed blurry. Sometimes, a phantom arm would reach for my shoulder, only to disappear like smoke in a breeze. When she said we should call someone, I saw her turn to pick up the phone, yet she was still looking at me. After a moment, the Laura on the phone (With who? I wondered. Her mother, maybe?) faded and disappeared. Laura suggested that we go to the Emergency Room, and immediately there was another of her in the bedroom, hurriedly getting dressed, while the first speculated that I might have nerve damage. I wasn’t sure which was real until the dressing Laura started to become transparent. After a few moments I realized that I was seeing Laura’s choices. Everything she might do, she was doing, and I saw every option play out and those that weren’t exercised dissolved like cool mist in the sunlight.

Sometimes, it was easy to tell what was really happening and what wasn’t. Minor decisions, those with little or no consequence, appeared as only faint, spectral images, while choices of more importance seemed solid and real. I quickly learned that however real one of the alternate Lauras might seem, they were insubstantial. Trying to touch a choice not made would result in it dissipating into nothing.

Laura didn’t run when I told her what I was seeing, but I know she thought about it. I saw her phantasmal form jump back, scramble over the bed, and disappear just before it passed through the bedroom door. She saw me watch the ghost dash across the room and said, “I’m not going anywhere, Kris. And I believe you.”

“I know,” I replied. “I could see right through you.”


January 27th is the anniversary of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s arrival on Earth. He has since departed, but before doing so he wrote several interesting tales under the pen name Lewis Carroll. The above post is my contribution to LJ Rabbit Hole Day.

(Cross-posted from my LiveJournal, obviously.)