Part of being a writer is reading. That is painfully obvious. Reading gives an author the tools necessary to equip him or her to do the job. That said, I find it difficult to find things to read regularly that I enjoy because I’m pretty picky.
I can spend quite a while reading reviews and scrolling through books in genres that interest me, but rarely am I wowed by something. I like originality, hope, and meaning in stories as I’ve indicated in past blogs. That doesn’t mean characters have to be perfect, on the contrary, I like them to have flaws, but not when those flaws are used to create senseless tension. For example, one series I read a few years ago had a character fight and pine for a female. When he finally wins her heart, and marries her he cheats, without a believable motive to do so. It appeared that the entire point of the secondary romance was to create a forced sense of suspense. As indicated, the character had no real motivation and that’s what bothered me. I know cheating happens, and characters can do it to add depth, but there must be a believable reason for it.
I know quality books are out there, but due to limited time I continue to be picky about my choices. I fully admit that it is partially a personality quirk of mine. However, my search for books that live up to the fiction classics continues. For it is the classics that I tend to enjoy the most, yet I know there are good stories out there, I only need to find more of them.
Unlike most who read this, I went in completely blind. I never listened to the podcasts before reading this book, so I wasn’t sure what to expect other than the subject material. I saw previews for the Amazon Prime series and decided to buy the book on a whim when I saw it in the bookstore.
This subject matter is something that has always fascinated me, especially once I had experiences of my own with the unknown. I chew up material like this constantly, in the form of TV shows like A Haunting. Therefore, many of the stories within the book were familiar to me. The tale of Robert the Doll is one example of the stories found within its pages. Lore tends to capitalize on paranormal stories that have been told from dozens of other sources before. Even those who don’t read or watch paranormal documentaries have probably heard at least half of the accounts. While the material is still interesting, the lack of personal stories that were uncommon was a bit of a disappointment to me. However, that wasn’t something completely unexpected, nor did it spoil the read for me.
Since the paranormal and supernatural are sensitive topics that some people not only disagree with, it angers them, I appreciate it when the channel in which the tales are told remain neutral and allow the audience to form their own opinions. I don’t like it when the author or narrator gives their opinion or tries to explain the event. I’m more than capable of doing that myself. This was something Aaron Mahnke did throughout the book which drove me nuts. Look, I know that not everyone who claims to have a paranormal experience, actually experienced what they believed took place. I’m more than capable of looking into things myself and seeing possibilities the claims might be debunked. Mahnke’s explanations and attempts at debunking some of the claims were distracting and annoying.
Overall I found the book interesting and entertaining. Despite the lack of new content, there were a handful of fresh tales that I hadn’t known about before. If you like reading about true stories of the paranormal I would recommend this book, despite its flaws. Overall, I give it a 3.5/5.
I’ve said before that a big part of writing is observing the behavior of people. This observation enables authors to be guided toward more realistic characters. One observation that has become very apparent in recent years is hurt. So many people appear to be defined by the past and the pain that was inflicted upon them.
We are emotional, sensitive beings, even people who care very little for others are still sensitive, particularly when it comes to their own feelings. I do not pretend to know about every type of pain and how to overcome it. I do not know what it is like to be a veteran with PTSD or to give birth to a child. I have not felt the pain of going days without food, or the hurt of being divorced. One thing I am certain of, if you are human you have been hurt.
Pain is as much of the human experience as pleasure. We have all felt it, and not only have we all felt it, we have our own personalized version of it. I know from my own experiences that there are things nearly impossible to get past. My wife too has endured pain and suffering few know about, and she has shown such a level of grace that it seems inhuman to me.
We each know pain, but not all of us are familiar with the same type of pain that may plague another person. That being said, no pain is too great to overcome. Yes, there are hurts that are beyond what humans were ever meant to endure. I do acknowledge that, but at what point do we become stuck and defined by our pain? There seems to be so many people that this scenario applies to. This is seen heavily in identity politics, groups of all shapes and sizes coming out of the woodwork screaming “What about me?! I have been wronged!” Yes, yes you have been. You know what? So have the people you think are against you.
If we identify ourselves only by pain and gather with those who shared similar hurt, then how can we grow? If we continually shout, “what about me?” when someone voices a concern. If we utilize a person’s race, religion, philosophy, or nationality to say they do not understand pain, what are we accomplishing? Nothing, nothing but more hurt and more division. There is no glory in victimhood, and ultimately it will lead to shallowness and loneliness. If we think our pain to be so great that we can in turn shout down someone else then that reflects more on us than anyone else, even if our pain is legitimate.
Previously I wrote how I feel that people often do not want the level of honesty they ask for. Often our friends and family claim they want absolute honesty from us, but if we give it, despite being gentle, it backfires. I recognize this isn’t always the case, but it is something that appears to happen quite frequently. For us writers, feedback is essential to our business. We need to know if our stories and characters are relatable to our audience. Honesty of people also plays a role in characterization. Characters are believable based on their interactions with each other and the world around them in the story.
It is difficult when you spend months or years crafting a tale and making it available to the public. Will readers enjoy it? Will your audience connect to the characters as well as you have? Just as we ask for honesty in our relationships, us writers should not only ask for, but accept honest feedback when it comes. When we put so much of ourselves into a book, we must fight our urge to get defensive when someone doesn’t react the way we would like. A book an author has written is like his child, but that doesn’t mean we should dismiss any criticism.
Sometimes though readers simply miss the point or bring their own presuppositions to your novel and that taints their experience. Sometimes there are things us authors can do to remedy that, but usually not. For my first short story I got feedback that it needed more to the story, but that was at a time when both sequels were published and “more” was already available. Some of my feedback, especially with the first book, was a little disappointing but incredibly valuable. Everyone will form an opinion on your works, that is inevitable, and like all opinions, discernment must be utilized.
In order for authors to create well-rounded characters they must be familiar with real people and themselves. Honesty, and how people react to it is a key component to crafting characters. How well will the cast within the story respond to honesty? Do some prefer lies? No? Why not? There are many people in the real world that do. These are things that we must ponder. Not only though how a character responds to honesty, but why do they react in a certain way? This is where my observations on honesty in the last post ties together with my writing. I hope that as I continue to learn about others and myself I am able to better hone my writing skills.
We are all guilty of it. Most of the time we are unaware of the snap judgements we make about people and our settings. While judgement has an often-negative connotation, most judgements are benign such as which clothes we wear, and the best way to start our day. Others however, are more impactful and can deeply harm our relationships with others. We all know assumptions, especially negative ones, are not healthy, yet we continue to make judgements based on nothing more than our presumptions.
One of the main themes in Crystal Moon is that we should always be careful what sort of conclusions we come to, especially in marriage. It is a part of human nature to assume the worst, especially if there is an argument or a relationship hasn’t been going well. Sometimes there are other factors such as a bad mood, alcohol, or simply an inability to empathize with another person.
Usually, the more negative assumptions we have about a person, the more wrong we are. There are of course exceptions, toxic people do exist and they are more common than we would like to believe. Everyone that has gone to school knows that first hand, and perhaps when we become adults we are on guard against such toxicity. It is easier to assume the worst and be on the defensive then it is to be vulnerable, especially opening ourselves to someone who will betray that trust in the future.
Most of the time negative assumptions do nothing more than get us into trouble, especially if we lash out first before discussing them. I have come to believe that people are more emotional than rational, especially when they are fired up. When we are upset and believe another person has wronged us, in that moment we want to fight, and more importantly win. This is the sort of mess the main characters find themselves in. Both the husband and wife come to conclusions about one another, and instead of discussing their fears and concerns, the real issue at hand continues to spiral out of control. When this happens in fiction it creates plot, but in real life it can cause irreparable damage. When we are accused of doing or feeling something we aren’t guilty of, we feel angry, that there had been an injustice done upon us. May we learn from characters in fiction and be better than that, remembering how it feels to be on the receiving end of untrue assumptions.