until there were None.

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They were created for Greatness.
The divinity of mankind sheltered in their goodness
Every singular thought, each flowing emotion rooted from purity and good intention.

Yet Darkness descends upon those that were promised the Light
and Pandora’s box opened to fulfil the temptations of the night.
Insecurity was planted in their hearts,
the one seed of all evil they’d unknowingly sought.

And as they fought and plundered for all that was left,
the scent of tainted blood filled their unprotected nest.

The cradle broke
and fell to temptation
Mankind’s greatest cursed
to eternal damnation.

Time and time again, they chased the light
with inklings of goodness that gave way in the fight.
Until Time could not bear
to see their transgressions
and collapsed on the whole of mankind
on their corrupted self-obsessions.

The blood-mist cleared
to the bodies of the condemned
where Darkness had swayed Time itself
for the purest of good men

until there were
None.

 

The Beauty of Character-Mania

“I will go to my grave in a state of abject endless fascination that we all have the capacity to become emotionally involved with a personality that doesn’t exist.” – Berkeley Breathed

I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve heard people say, “If only they were real!” and understood just how deep those words run. Whether we’re talking about characters from books, movies, TV shows, animes etc. at some point, as readers, we all wish that they existed. To some extent, our desire for them to be real is driven by how much we adore the universe/world they are a part of, or how much we are in love with them. To a greater extent, however, it’s because of just how real these figments of our imagination come to be, and how as people, we are able to relate to them and their story.

Just two weeks ago, before leaving for a challenging exam, I decided to catch up on one of my all-time favorite mangas “Shingeki no Kyojin” (Attack on Titan). Half an hour prior to the exam’s start, I was reduced to tears upon reading the latest chapter and facing the death of one of my favorite characters of all time. I couldn’t get it out of my head through out the exam and in the days that followed.

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On Friday, I begun my obsession with an anime called NANA. After hours of practically binge-watching several episodes, I embarked on a Twitter-rant which provided as an outlet for my out-of-control emotions.

(And that’s just to name a few)

It’s two weeks past the mental funeral I’ve attended for a dear, sweet, boy, and a couple days past the emotional roller-coaster NANA put me in and I’m still mourning for these people, that by definition: are. not. real.

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Am I a freak of nature? No. Is it a crime to have an intense emotional attachment to characters? No. In fact, it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me.

Growing up, I related more to the people that spoke through literature, through the television screen or in my mind than those that were actually around me. During the day, I’d immerse myself in the real world but once I lost myself in the pages of a book or the colorful screen of the telly, I was whisked away to a world unlike any other. I was among friends. I was home.

That’s not to say that I love every single character I have come across. There are several I’ve come to harbor intense animosity toward, for example, Severus Snape (Harry Potter), Shou Tucker (Full Metal Alchemist), and most recently Patrick Bateman (American Psycho). I am continuously fascinated by how capable characters are of provoking a wide range of emotions from their observers which is exactly why I decided to write about it.

Why do we care?

Now I don’t want to get into the science of it, because, yes, there actually is a logical explanation as to why  we got super attached to characters.

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In a nutshell, the descriptive language used in a book or the images that jump out to us from the screen all light up a part of our brain that’s responsible for triggering these ideas by linking it to things we’ve already experienced. That’s why when we come across metaphors or vivid imagery in books, it’s easier for us to picture or feel what the writer is trying to deliver to us.

Personally, I believe what makes a character stand out as more ‘real’ than others would depend on the skill of the writer to engage with the reader through said character. To form the kind of bond with fictional people that normally would take years to form with those around us is a testament to how well they’re written. A prime example here would be the case of how people interpret the book version of Bella Swan versus Kristen Stewart’s rendition of her in the movie. I’m not a Twi-hard, but a lot of my friends have commented that Bella Swan in the books was way more ‘tolerable’ than the version brought to the screen.

Whether or not characters are 100% real, the relationships we form with them play a crucial role in deciding how emotionally real they can be. Don’t we look up to certain characters as role models? Don’t we take something away from every person we read or come across?

Writers create characters that are flawed. They give us the reins, as readers, to step into the shoes of different people and learn about them, learn from them as well. Haven’t you ever wondered you could read someone’s mind, know what their thinking or have an insight into their lives? With characters – that’s exactly what happens. They come to be a part of us through the little discoveries we make with every page we turn.

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Why it isn’t the worst thing

Stories are fragments of the very reality we are a part of. Fiction is a mere expansion of imagination that is grounded in the real world, and in what we experience. That being said, although stories belonging to the genre of fantasy, magic realism, or adventure might not be scientifically possible, their characters are still very much real in the sense that their essence is rooted in what the writers know or have felt. These characters help us understand reality.

As a university student pursing a degree in business, the curriculum still requires it mandatory to take up English and Additional Engish (both covering Literature) as two of my subjects through out four semesters. The texts chosen range from poetry and short stories to plays and articles – but each, chosen with a purpose of enlightening us students in one way or the other. We explore characters that are suppressed because of the color of their skin or their gender. We read the impact that a partition of a country or a mass genocide can have on families, on children.  And while, yes, these stories are a work of fiction, by reading about the thoughts, emotions and inner turmoils of these characters – we learn.

Those who say that ‘living in books’ or taking away learning lessons from literature is foolhardy are speaking utter hogwash. To borrow from Phoebe Buffay, what sad little lives they must lead.

Because what better way to gain wisdom than to live a thousand lives?

That’s what every character gives us: an opportunity to let go of ourselves in their reality, in their lives, and in the process come to understand our own.

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The best characters are the ones that are every bit as real as us.

The best way to build a three-dimensional character is to make them realistic, and not just in the minds of the writer who is their creator and therefore, naturally, knows their in-and-outs but also to the reader. The thing that most people who frown upon us, lovers-of-fiction, don’t realize is that every character is based on someone, or something, or some iota of reality that the writer themselves draw from.

For instance, dementors in Harry Potter are actually a representation of depression. And while these soul-sucking guards of Azkaban aren’t actually going to pop out and try to kiss us (which would be the worst thing ever), the darkness they act as a symbol of is very much real. Depression is not make-believe.

“It is that absence of being able to envisage that you will ever be cheerful again. The absence of hope. That very deadened feeling, which is so very different from feeling sad. Sad hurts but it’s a healthy feeling. It’s a necessary thing to feel. Depression is very different.”  – J.K Rowling

The characters we relate most to are believable because they are rooted from reality. As readers, we share something in common with them that way making them every bit as real, if not more, than the people around us.

 

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Captain America (Chris Evans) visiting a children’s hospital proving that our heroes are real.

If anyone ever tries to put you down by arguing with you and telling you that these people that make you laugh, cry, feel joy or love are a waste of time – just shake your head and feel sorry for them. Because these characters they ridicule?

They are capable of inspiring and changing the lives of millions of people. They aren’t just printed text, no. They bleed through the pages and into our lives, filling the gap between reality and something more. And those who don’t feel that and condemn others that do are highly unfortunate.

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So the next time you encounter someone in a book that makes you feel a whirlwind of emotions; don’t run away. Embrace them, and board the feels train. While the journey is not one that most take, it is definitely the one worth being on.

Life-Changing Plans for 2016

Wow.

It’s funny to think that the last time I wrote in this blog was right before I left off to university. Thursday, June 4, 2015. Now I’m back, I’m in the middle of my second semester with my next round of grueling mid terms right around the corner, and oh yes – busy formulating and executing some life-changing plans for 2016.

But let’s get back to that later.

So much time has passed and I’ve certainly learned a lot of lessons from the wonder that is life. Things like how to survive living on my own and away from home, organizing my priorities and a lot of other adultish stuff, the details of which I am not going to bore you with. (Yes, I consider myself an adult now that I know how to do my laundry and manage money, let me have my moment of glory please.)

There’s nothing like coming from home though, and luckily for me, my parents being the wonderful human beings they are decided to shift to Bangalore and got an apartment. Granted, because of the move, our Christmas and New Year’s celebration wasn’t as grand as normal, it still felt just right for me being able to celebrate it with the two people I wanted to most (minus my brother who I missed terribly). With that under wraps, finally coming from home again opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities I could grasp that I used to take for granted before.

Things like cooking again now that I’ve got my own kitchen. Re-starting my blogs and possibly even my Youtube channel (but let’s not get a little too ambitious) now that there’s no more blocked websites and such under the pain of the hostel WiFi. I can finally get back to having my own privacy and creative bubble to focus on my writing – something I dearly missed and almost completely stopped. All of this got me thinking, and I made a lot of resolutions which I am pretty damn sure I’ll succeed at keeping. After all, when there’s a will, there’s a way! One of these resolutions related to my writing, I’ll be sharing briefly with you guys on here.

So over all, I’m planning on doing the following in terms of my writing resolutions:

I’m also thinking of maybe opening up a section for submissions received from other authors who want to display their poetry or work on the blog. I might also hold monthly contests based on different theme. Maybe even interviews with other authors whose work I’ve read on Wattpad or Protagonize are very good and don’t have the reads they deserve. These are just some ideas I’m playing with for now.

  • Wattpad/Protagonize: constantly update both and do not lose touch with my writing. I’ve got stories like The Sparkle Toofus and Change Is Not Enough currently being updated consistently so that’s awesome. Reads, however, are lacking. So if you’re a member on either site, do go ahead and check out my stories if you’re into Teen Fiction. (You’re still invited to even if you’re not a member!)

I’m also planning on starting a new story offline that ISN’T going to be young adult romance. *le gasp* Beatrice writing something other than romance? Shocker, I know. But I’m looking forward to branching into fantasy and sci-fi this year so it’s definitely happening.

  • A poem a day to keep writer’s block at bay: a new poetry collection under the name twenty sixteen has been started. I’m going to try and aim for writing a poem every day this year. Let’s see how long this resolution lasts though (hopefully at least half the year).

  • The Project: as you guys might have noticed, I’ve been rambling on and on about this ‘exciting new project’ I’m starting off for this year. Wattpad members have a better idea of what this is about as I’ve made it public on there already.

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I’m planning on publishing my novel ‘I Promise’. But before it gets to a publish-worthy manuscript that I can ship off to different publishing houses, a lot of revisions will have to be made. And this is the part where YOU come in. Confused? I don’t blame you as I’m being terribly vague but just gear up for the next blog post. I’ll be giving out all the details then.

If you’re not already, make sure you are following me on Twitter, and Facebook where I will be posting most of the updates. Keep your eye an out on the blog too. You don’t want to miss this opportunity!

So yes. That was a very ‘brief’ plan of my year ahead in terms of art and literature. That was as brief as I could get. But I see a wonderful year ahead and I’m definitely grabbing onto every opportunity to make it awesome so that I have something great to look back on. It’s going to be hard work but I can’t wait to get started!

I hope you all had a great Christmas celebration filled with presents and family hugs, and an even better New Years Eve. But now that 2016 has arrived, let’s get the ball rolling and paint a new ending.

I definitely will be.

Why I Stopped Writing

Until quite recently, I had been at war with myself, although that should come as no surprise to any of you. I’m constantly at war with myself. My mind can be a bit of a hellscape, you see. But the thing is, it’s rare for writing to be the reason behind my struggle, and most importantly, for so long.

I’m both a writer and a perfectionist (among other things). And let me tell you right now, when you factor in my perfectionist streaks with the part of me that holds on to writing like a life-line, it is not a fun combination. Handy at times, yes, because that means I never settle for anything less than ‘perfect’. But what is perfection? What is a ‘perfect’ piece of writing? Is there really a combination of words and techniques that can  flow across a page in a way that leaves no possible room for improvement? I’ve been trying to find the secret behind attaining such a standard with my own writing.

But let’s get real: there is no such thing. There is always room to grow, to get better, to be capable of greater things. If a single artist on this planet believed that even one of their works was absolutely perfect as could be, would they have continued to produce more? No. Even if there was, I doubt I’d ever reach that standard because I am never 100% satisfied with anything I produce. Over the years, I have learned to somewhat suppress my overly analytical voice and just write. But like your typical villain popping up in a novel when things seem to be going picture-perfect (pun? ha), it struck again.

It all started about a month before I published my debut novel, A Midnight Reverie. I wrote the book during NaNoWriMo of 2014, and was delighted when I ended up with my first completed novel. Excitement pursued when, upon sharing my works with friends, family and on writing communities, I received good feedback. They all encouraged me saying, ‘you should totally publish this! It’s such a wonderful and heartwarming story!’ I was very skeptical – after all, I wrote this book at the tender age of 14, and I knew my writing had a long way to go before it was anywhere close to being publish-worthy. But the positive feedback continued to keep coming in and I figured – ‘hmm, well, I guess it couldn’t hurt to give it a shot? After all, it’s my first book and I’m only self-publishing it!’

Fast-forward three years later and through the several change of hearts that I went through before I finally hit the ‘publish’ button during late-2014. The book was officially in the market, available for order. And I felt so good. I kept touching the laptop screen, with my name written as the ‘author’ in disbelief. I’d just published my first book. One of my biggest dreams just came true! ‘This can’t be real,’ I kept thinking, and I think that disbelief is what my writing dilemma really stemmed from. Although it was more of a happy disbelief at the time, the seeds of doubt had been planted.

A month after I’d officially published A Midnight Reverie, I started to wonder if I’d made a good decision. I hadn’t been expecting that I’d become a best-seller or something over night. I wasn’t that foolish but…this book would mark my first in my journey as a published writer. Was it really good enough? Was I?

I pushed the thoughts aside and decided to work on my next project: the prequel to A Midnight Reverie. I already had 110,000 words written of the first draft and decided to dedicate my time to completing the story, editing, then finally publishing it. The deadline I set myself for all that? June/July 2015. Why that time?

  • I would begin first year of university in June. Uni sucks up a student’s time, and I, being a very studious one *cough* geek *cough* would make studies my top priority above everything else.
  • It doesn’t help that I’m opting to do a double-degree course: a Bachelor’s and Master’s equivalent combined into the time-span of three years.
  • I’m voluntarily stepping into academic hell. And yes, I am aware of the fact that it sounds like complete insanity. ‘But do not worry, Beatrice! You can surely find a way to squeeze in some writing time amidst a busy course like that! After all, you’ve got the weekends!’
  • I very recently learned that I’ll have classes on Saturdays as well. I get just Sundays off. 

I started to worry about how much time (or lack thereof) I would have for writing that I forced myself to work my ass off on my next book, and to do it fast. There are two F-words in that sentence that are absolutely abysmal for a writer to do: ‘force’ and ‘fast’ (shame on you if you thought anything else).

As I continued working on my novel, I started to grow a little paranoid. I didn’t like what I was producing. I read over the whole 110K I already had, and what I had added to it, and didn’t like it. I needed it to be perfect, and all I saw were flaws.

So then I decided to scrap the 110,000 words (I wish I was kidding) I’d written so far and start from word number one. I started, then stopped again. How could I forget the research? The story’s taking place in ’80s America and to get the descriptions spot-on, I need to know more about that time! Plus, I need to make my characters’ sob-stories realistic.

I did a heck-lot of research, made detailed character bios and chapter descriptions so I wouldn’t go wrong anywhere. I planned everything, almost to the details of what color undies my characters would be wearing (okay, maybe that’s pushing it a tad and completely irrelevant but this goes to show how stressed I was feeling).

After I completed all the research I needed and felt I was ready to start the actual re-write, I sat down and decided to do just that. For four days, I kept a Word Doc open. For four days, I stared at the screen, fingers settled on the laptop keyboard, 100% ready to get this novel written and yet…not able to get the first word out. That’s when I realized what I’d been doing wrong all along.

Writing should never be forced. It should never be a source of frustration and anger, the exact opposite of what it’s been to me my whole life. I’ve always loved creating characters, and discovering who they are and who they’re meant to become along their journeys. They’ve taught me, their creator, as much as real, living people have. After all, these characters are fragments of who I am. Writing out of desperation than actual passion wasn’t just destroying my love for the art, but it shattered my self-confidence and respect for myself as a writer. I was trying to force the story out – and that’s why I couldn’t do it anymore.

I stopped writing. 

I stopped because I didn’t enjoy it anymore. I was too paranoid about making every little detail perfect to actually cherish these characters the way they were meant to be cherished. For several months, a separate struggle had been raging on whether or not I should un-publish A Midnight Reverie. I started to deem myself unworthy to be called a ‘writer’, and a published one at that.

I took some time off to think. It did me a lot of good, and I found a solution to the problem that had been plaguing me for several months.

 

I wanted to write again, simply because I loved doing so.

I wanted to write again, without restriction, without any bounds.

I wanted to write again – just for myself.

So I silenced the voice in my head that kept telling me I wasn’t good enough, that my work would never be good enough and poured my heart and soul into writing again. Into a story that brought me tears of laughter and joy, into characters that never told me to quit writing them unless I could make them perfect. They just wanted me there, and are, till today my life-savers.

This doesn’t mean I give up on the re-write of my novel. I will get around to it when I feel like I’ve gained a healthy balance between my love for the book and my perfectionist side. That story awaits, and I know that when I get around to writing it, I won’t fail the characters. I want to do them justice, but before all that, I need to relight the fire (such a cliche, I know, but it applies)!

For now, I am going to write without a deadline pinned on my calendar. I am going to write without worrying about if I’m ‘good enough’. I’m just going to write because it makes me happy.

Oh, and I’m definitely not going to un-publish A Midnight Reverie. A Midnight Reverie clearly isn’t a master-piece but it’s the first step and effort I’ve made into writing one in the future. I’m not going to take a step back. In fact, hopefully someday when I’m an accomplished writer, I’ll look back on it and see how much I’ve grown.

After all, we all start somewhere. This is just the beginning.