An impassioned exercise in absolute futility.
That's as confident an answer as I can give when it comes to illustrating what it is to write the odd, sub-genre of paranoid fiction.
It's writing, and writing, and writing, then deleting entire pages, entire passages, entire stories, only to immediately replace them with the same exact phrasing. It's spitting fragments and nonsense on a page, with phrasing so out there it's complete gibberish, not understandable in the least, but it's the closest thing to the gut feeling, the truth of the instance that one can get, so, "It'll have to do."
It's writing something that makes others uncomfortable.
It's writing something that haunts, and leaves the reader even more ignorant of the content than before they consumed the story. It's leaving the reader feeling as though they understand, but wondering if they do.
And above all, paranoid fiction is there to hurt and twist a brain that feeds on it, so that it won't be the same, can't be the same afterwards.
Never, ever, never again.
You've read it - paranoid fiction. I know you have.
If not in whole, then at least in part, a part, some part of a story or book that you've loved, or hated.
It was a suspenseful turn, where you read it.
A break of confidence - your confidence - in having it all "figured out".
It was that time when you doubted yourself and trusted the story, because nothing was making sense. The rope, the plot was unraveling and the strands were too far apart to ever come back together, and you knew that, but you didn't know how to process it, how to make sense of it.
And perhaps, probably, that moment passed in the story, in the book you read. It passed so that, in the end, everything worked out wonderfully, either in finality or in cliffhanger. But end it did, and everything made sense, everything was understood, and the moment of doubt can be written off as a clever writing tactic, a wonderful use of narrative - a literary device.
That feeling, that instance you've probably read somewhere, is what paranoid fiction is.
Only much more.
Paranoia is the story, and the main character.
In paranoid fiction, the uncertainty and doubt is written - must be written - as the main character. It is central to the story. It is the plot, it is the catalyst, it is the conflict, it is the resolution, it is the everything.
Questions are never asked, because to ask a question is to suppose that there is an answer waiting to be given. Instead, things, ideas, concepts must be proposed, but only in a way completely definite, so that the reader forms assumptions and manifests their own doubts.
So, in paranoid fiction, you will never read:
"He'd never been on the other side of the door. He'd never opened it, and was given no hint as to what lay beyond the blase woodwork. Putting his ear to the door, he strained to hear what lay beyond, but no sound reached him, leaving his understanding dark, unfulfilled.
Nothing in the above passage could be considered paranoid fiction. Everything is a question. Everything is fluid. The man's doubts are painted thick. There are no assumptions to be made, no doubts to be had, no wondering as to the reliability of the narrator.
This, however, is what one would read in a paranoid narrative:
"The shut door, the door unopened ever stood before him, and he knew...
This is paranoid fiction.
The door is unopened, yet the main character knows who's on the other side of the door. He knows that it's a specific person, and that person has brought another specific confederate whose presence is troublesome for the main character. None of this is questioned, but it causes questions in the mind of the reader. Even if they aren't aware of the question, they are left with the feeling that something isn't lining up.
And just as the reader begins to assume that somehow the main character knows what's going on, what waits on the other side of the door, the narrator contradicts everything, passively, with the line, "...where he knew they waited." It isn't that the narrator agrees. It's more of a "I believe that you believe it" instance.
So is there, or isn't there someone on the other side? Does the main character know, or is he not to be trusted? Is the narrator reliable, or is the main character?
None of these questions were given in the text.
Everything was stated as a fact, and because of this, when they begin to contradict logic and other facts previously given, the level of doubt rises, while the level of confidence plummets.
By the end of the snippet, nothing can be taken for truth, because everything has been stated as truth, but we know not all viewpoints can be accurate if they aren't lining up.
In this way, paranoid fiction establishes an ultimate goal:
It makes the reader wonder, it builds arguments, and inspires opinion in the face of lack of absolute proof. In essence, for the reader to have an opinion means they are acting on faith alone, and in the face of science and reason, faith is absurd. But when all the evidence is contradictory, what else does the reader have to fall back on?
Thus begins the cycle of paranoia, of insanity.
Proving to establish belief, while believing that proof is there in its clear absence.
Like I said before, paranoid fiction isn't comfortable. It gives no answers to the questions one has, but stands firm, unyielding in its proclamations of ridiculousness as fact.
Not unlike the world, yes?
Then again, what do I know?
Trust me, I ran into many fictional walls (and maybe some real ones). Each one of my manuscripts have had their own issues and difficulties, but I managed to find ways around them, ways to break down the wall, and ways to make the story that I dreamed I could.
When I decided to write my first manuscript Memoirs of a Reaper, I struggled to make the plot and paranormal aspects of it to feel genuine. I had to bridge the gap between life and death in a way that was believable. It had to be in a way which someone could look into the darkness and wonder how many Lost Souls were watching and waiting to devour a human's energy or pass a maternity ward and imagine how many Givers were providing new souls to those entering our world. I wanted people to also feel comfort knowing that the passage to the afterlife could be as comforting as they believed it to be. So where did I even begin you may be wondering? Well, at the root of all questions, of course, the meaning of life.
Yes, I went there. The meaning of life! Writing about this can sometimes be taboo. What was our purpose here? Who created us? Did I believe there was a God or anything bigger than us? Not only did I have to dig deep within myself, but I also had to do a lot of research on what others imagined. And believe me, the options and ideas were endless. I grew up with the Christian belief that there was a God, a Heaven and a Hell, but was it something I truly still believed? The answer that I discovered was in fact, no. I honestly had no idea what I thought was out there, so how could I possibly write a believable version of the afterlife that people could accept (*deep sigh*).
It meant I needed to create my own. So I did.
Sometimes starting from the foundation of creation is the only place to begin. So I put together the ideas that I liked from my research and created my own personal version of Heaven, Hell, and who ruled them. From there, it started a ripple effect of a type of chain of command. There should be someone working under these rulers I created. Right? Just as a Kingdom has its hierarchy, my afterlife also had positions and rules they needed to follow and eventually, after many many edits and rewrites, I completed what I saw as an appropriate afterlife to where we all end up when we pass and it seemed even some explanation of death itself! (whoa, have I blown your mind yet?)
Another issue that I wrestled with, especially in my second manuscript Escape From the Circus, that focused more on supernatural aspects. was trying to stay away from any of them having magical abilities (I save that for my retellings!). My entire novel could be believable and feel realistic until I throw in a quick expelliarmus which shatters the world I worked so hard to create. I had to find the line between reality and irregularities and ensure I stayed on the correct side. As much as I wanted my main characters to cast a spell on someone and get their way, it couldn’t be an option.
So how does one keep the magical realm at bay? I know it’s hard! Trust me, I fought this battle many times. I had to ask myself after every so often when I wondered if I had crossed the line, “is this something I’d see in Harry Potter?” I mean, I seriously had to consider WWRD (what would Rowling do) and try to do the opposite because I didn’t want my manuscripts to be magical in that sense. I wanted them to be fantastically magical in their own unique way.
The research and organization it takes to write a paranormal or a supernatural YA novel that feels like a real life retelling can be the ultimate struggle, especially when you’re just a muggle. Not that writing other genres is any easier, (they all have their rough patches) but trying to find the right balance takes time, constant rewrites, multiple think tanks, and asking yourself the question of “could this really happen?” before putting it into your final script.
Let me say that again. Friends are fantastic!!!
Get some, collect them, put out an ad, whatever it takes. Find some support (your dogs don’t count, I don’t care how cute they are). So, find your writing tribe and lean on them when the uphill battle feels a little too overwhelming. We are all human. We are all in this together. We all struggle. And we all struggle because unless you’ve been blessed with perfection in writing talent (trust me, you haven’t) then you need help.
The whole point is to just push through and never give up. To always tell yourself that nothing is impossible and that it’s okay to hit a wall (hopefully only a metaphorical one). As writers we have to realize that those walls don’t just build themselves. We have to remember that we are the ones that create those walls and we can destroy them with motivation and force which begins with a single word. You just need to find the right word and the cracks will begin to take hold and eventually crumble the blockage to open the path to your final work of art. Always.
Much love and happy writing,
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