Paula Writes

Paula Puddephatt – Author

Writing About Mental Health in Fiction: My Approach — November 15, 2017

Writing About Mental Health in Fiction: My Approach

mental-health-realitiesAs someone who suffers from both physical and mental illness, my own experiences definitely influence and inform my writing.

I deal specifically with many issues, including drug and alcohol addictions, and rape and sexual abuse, in my fiction.

Not every subject that I write about is one that I have experienced personally, although I can always relate, on some level. I have never had drug addiction issues, for instance, although I have had problems with alcohol, in the past.

When it comes to mental illness – yes, definitely, I cover that too, as a writer, but not in the usual, neatly packaged way. For myself, it’s a priority to reflect realities that are not usually represented.

Most of my characters are either not diagnosed with mental illnesses, or the diagnosis is not mentioned.

It’s idealistic to suppose that everyone who has a mental illness is diagnosed – and correctly diagnosed, at that – and also, that everyone who is diagnosed with a mental illness necessarily has a mental illness at all.

I refuse to endorse the psychiatric system by going along blindly with the “this diagnosis treated by this type of medication”, textbook version.

I have also had enough of the myth that, following a suicide attempt, people are routinely admitted to psychiatric hospital.

I have never been an inpatient in psychiatric hospital. When I have taken overdoses, for the most part, no-one has actually realised at all. My parents, and others around me, have assumed that I must be sick from drinking too much.

On the few occasions when I have been treated for the physical effects – far from being admitted to psychiatric hospital afterwards, I have simply been sent straight back to full-time work, as soon as physically able. Literally. In fact, it was the same after being raped.

I have not had therapy, and any dealings with the mental health services have ended up causing more distress than if I had simply “got on with it”, and not sought help at all. And, yes, there are others in similar positions. Mine is, by no means, an isolated case.

The lack of support received is effectively then used against those of us who have been denied help, since we receive fewer “illness points” than others who have received medical attention – which, in turn, affects subsequent decisions about medical care, or lack of.

I do have a character who attempts to take her own life, and others who experience suicidal thoughts, and my characters don’t receive the “textbook” version of the NHS service, which is not the reality, for most of us.

I understand that many people have traumatic experiences within psychiatric hospitals, but this is already represented in literature. The experiences of those who are forced to “get on with it”, and offered no support whatsoever, need to be portrayed, as well.

My protagonist, Lucy, has symptoms of anxiety, which I convey in the “show don’t tell” tradition.

The subject of whether or not she has a diagnosis isn’t mentioned. She doesn’t.

Her mother, Helen, does have anxiety too, and is diagnosed – and this can be seen through the fact that she is addicted to prescription tranquillizers.

I have the benefit – the extreme privilege – of being a writer, and as such, I believe, a responsibility to speak out, on behalf of others.

I have done this, at times, through my poetry. As a writer of realistic, modern historical fiction, I hope to achieve more, in this respect. I shall certainly try.

Writing is my therapy and my passion. It has enabled me to survive. There is no greater blessing.

 

Believe in yourself and your dreams – always.

Find me on social media.

My post about Sylvia Plath, and my feelings regarding the term “suicide poet”, might be of interest.

Some thoughts on addressing controversial subjects in our writing

hemingway-quote

 

Describing Locations in Realistic Fiction: 5 Tips — November 12, 2017

Describing Locations in Realistic Fiction: 5 Tips

describe-location-fictiondoctorow-writing-quote

 First things first: Why in realistic fiction, exclusively?

Because that’s what I write myself, and the majority of what I’ve read has also been realistic fiction. I don’t feel qualified to give advice relating to speculative genres.

Reading-Berkshire-UK

1. Keep descriptions brief.

This does vary, depending upon the type of story, and your own particular writing style – but, in general, modern readers don’t appreciate page upon page of descriptive writing. Mixing it up with other elements, such as dialogue, can help, as it does make it much easier to consume.

2. Use specific details.

Yes, this does come under the “show don’t tell” umbrella. If there’s a tree, is it an oak tree? Lime tree? Birch tree? It makes a difference, and makes the scene feel more authentic, if we have a little more information – and it doesn’t exactly require many additional words.

writing-quote-Chekhov

3. Use all five senses.

A sound or aroma, for example, might be the extra touch, that brings a visual image to life.

4. Be inspired by real places – but, at the same time, not confined or restricted by them.

The amazing aspect of writing fiction for me, is the blending of fact and fiction, so don’t be afraid to mix it up.

5. If you find that you don’t naturally include much description in your first draft – don’t worry.

I personally tend to write mainly dialogue, and minimal narrative, initially. It’s easy enough to add more description during rewrites, and anything that slows down your writing process should probably be avoided. My post on White Room Syndrome is particularly relevant to this point.

 

I hope that this short post has provided some useful suggestions, to help you with the important task of bringing your realistic, fictional settings to life. 

For further related reading, I would suggest my brief posts about avoiding filter words, and using foreshadowing.

In addition, I’ve covered how to create atmosphere in your fiction, and how to build suspense and tension.

 

Find me on social media.

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

Chawton-Hampshire-cottage

 

Writing Dark Fiction — November 11, 2017

Writing Dark Fiction

dark-write

I wish that I could write consistently, but this isn’t possible for me, for various reasons.

Apart from anything else, there is one week in every month when I cannot write, due to the severity of my PCOS and endometriosis. I also have other restrictions, caused by my physical and mental health, and personal circumstances.

There is another reason for the slow progress on my novel, and believe me, this is frustrating – but I do have other ongoing projects, and everything ties in, anyway – so I’m not achieving as little as I myself often feel.

The other reason for my lack of progress is that I do write dark fiction.

I wrote a post some time ago, on my previous blog, regarding why I write about so-called “depressing subjects”.  Note: Updated version, on this blog, now exists, also.

I know that I can never make it “easy” for myself, because my heart is in control, and insists that I write about what really matters – that I do not ignore the darkness, but face it, head on, in my fiction. I will never churn out cutesy romance novels – and, no, I have nothing against such novels, and part of me might even envy authors who can write commercial genre fiction, that fits in and sells. It isn’t me. My plots and characters do overwhelm me, and I don’t feel able to write every day.

I’m terrified that I won’t be able to do justice to the stories that I have to tell, but I must try.

It’s my vocation, my passion – so much more than a career, which it is not, as yet – and definitely more than a hobby. Please don’t refer to anyone’s writing as a “hobby”, unless you know for a fact that the writer in question regards it as such – because it is honestly the ultimate insult, for most of us.

I feel that this was “all over the place”, but hopefully it made some sense. I wrote a short post recently, which included details of my various social media sites, and this is currently the best place to find out where I am online: my different pages and projects.

Keep believing.

How I Schedule Social Media Posts For Free – Part 1 — November 1, 2017

How I Schedule Social Media Posts For Free – Part 1

automation-1

I’ve started to schedule social media posts this year, and it’s awesome.

I’m on a very limited budget, and have only ever used free services, which currently works out fine for me.

As a slightly related side note, I have to say that disconnecting Twitter from my Facebook profile page was the best thing I ever did.

Shortly after, Tumblr randomly “decided” to disconnect from Twitter, also – and, again, this has turned out to be a blessing. Each platform is different, with its own audience and atmosphere, and I really never tuned in to Twitter or Tumblr before. I used them both principally as ways to indirectly post to Facebook. My approach to social media has completely changed, and I now regard Twitter as my main social media site. That said, I am more active on my Facebook poetry page, Vibrant Darkness, than I have been in previous years, and I have also launched my author page, focusing more upon the fiction side of my writing, and a page dedicated to retro music, from the 1980s and 1990s. I also have a blog and Twitter page, covering the retro music side of my interests.

The main scheduler that I use, on a daily basis, is Twittimer.

I use it for updating my primary Twitter account, and I can’t speak highly enough of it. It’s straightforward to use, and meets all of my requirements. You can schedule up to ten Tweets at a time: text, images and links. I’ve only ever had a handful of “failed Tweets” with this app, and have always, in these cases, been able to do “send now”, after which my Tweet has been posted.

I also use Buffer, and this is set up to post on Twitter (main account), my Facebook author page, and Google Plus.

Again, they allow up to ten posts to be scheduled for free, and text, images and links are all fine. I’ve had slightly more failed posts than on Twittimer, but still an extremely low number, as a percentage of the number of posts sent. In general, the failed posts do eventually send, although there have been a handful that were lost entirely, and a few posts that didn’t make it to one or more of the connected networks. On the whole, however, Buffer works beautifully – and their customer service is excellent.

I’ve recently joined Social Oomph, and so far, that is working fine, but I can’t see it taking over from Twittimer or Buffer.

If you do want to use this as a free scheduler, I’ve got a quick tip. It gives the impression that you won’t be able to upload images, unless you upgrade to the paid version. This isn’t the case. You have to initially save your post as text only, but later, there is an option to add an image. I’ve only linked Social Oomph to Twitter.

I use the native Facebook scheduler for Vibrant Darkness, my author page and 80s/90s Music.

It’s easy to use, and there is the option of scheduling posts further in advance.

After not touching Tumblr for approximately ten months, I recently went back on there, and discovered their queueing system, which I absolutely love.

Currently, my Tumblr posts ten times daily, during the time frame I specified, and it’s working out well.

A couple of days ago, I tried out Tweet Deck, for posting to my 80s/90s Music Twitter page.

I found it slightly awkward to use, but it did work, and I will hopefully use it again soon.

So, there you have it: a few highlights from Paula’s Adventures in Social Media Scheduler Land.

The adventure will continue and, if my systems change over time, I might write another post on this topic, at some point.

Quick update: There is now a Part 2 for this post.  You can also find me on social media.

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

Character Development: My Process — October 17, 2017

Character Development: My Process

character-development-my-processFor me, characters are the make or break factor, in a work of fiction – more so than any other element, such as plot or description.

My own characters are real to me.

This doesn’t mean that I know everything about them. It means that, what I don’t know, I can potentially discover. I know some of my characters much better than others. That is the way with real people, after all.

I don’t consciously “make things up”.

My process is more intuitive. I would say that I “realise” details about my various characters. I learn as I go. I might be daydreaming about something unconnected to my story, and then something will occur to me. Sometimes I even have a thought, or experience an intense emotion, and it takes me a moment to understand that I am inside a particular character’s mind. Because some – okay, most – of them have been through hell, their minds can be scary places, at times.

Ultimately, all of my characters are myself, and yet, none are entirely me.

There is a part of me in each of them. We are on parallel life journeys – my fictional people, and myself. They do sometimes shut me out, but I can usually get through to them eventually. I am closer to them than almost anyone in real life.

This is just a brief introduction to my personal character development process, and hopefully, I will write more blog posts about aspects of character development, in the future.

My posts about creating believable characters, and naming your fictional people, might be of interest.

Find me on social media.

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

Sylvia Plath: Not a “Suicide Poet” — September 26, 2017

Sylvia Plath: Not a “Suicide Poet”

term-suicide-poetpoetry-prose-Sylvia-PlathFirstly, I would like to dedicate this blog post to my friend, and fellow survivor poet, John Hirst, who passed away recently.

John and I discussed this subject via Facebook, not so long ago.

sylvia-plath-poetry-quotes

Speaking as someone who has been deeply inspired by the works of Sylvia Plath, I don’t find it acceptable that people refer to Sylvia as a “suicide poet”.

For a start, many of the writers whose works we still enjoy, are no longer with us – and yet, how many of these are referred to by their causes of death?

You don’t hear them spoken of as “heart attack novelists” or “stroke poets”. Why, then, define Sylvia by her cause of death? It is often assumed that she wrote mainly or exclusively about mental illness, suicide and death, but that just goes to show that many are judging, without having read much, if any, of her actual work.

The most dangerous aspect, for me, is the glamorization, for want of a better term, of Sylvia’s suicide.

Anyone who has actually read her, heavily autobiographical, novel, “The Bell Jar” – and, yes, that does deal with the subject of mental health – will not come away with the impression that there is anything glamorous about mental illness.

And that ties in with my final point – that Sylvia was a writer, and not exclusively a poet.

“The Bell Jar” is a fine example of moving, and beautifully written, prose. I would imagine that Sylvia’s mental health was a factor in why she was not more prolific, and this is definitely something to which I can relate. She was so much more than a “suicide poet”.

If this was of interest, I would recommend reading another of my posts, in which I explore the subject of mental illness, and my approach to the issue, in my own fiction.  Also, my piece about the challenges, as well as blessings, associated with being a writer, whilst struggling with both physical and mental health issues.

Find me on social media.

Believe in yourself and your dreams.

 

 

Posts From My Previous Blog — July 31, 2017

Posts From My Previous Blog

previous-blog-posts

The following are links to three of my most popular posts, from my previous blog:

Why Write About “Depressing” Subjects?

Writing Modern Historical Fiction

My Writing Journey

See also, on this blog:

Writing Dark Fiction

Why Write About “Depressing” Subjects?

Writing Modern Historical Fiction (Updated Version)

My Writing Journey (Updated Version)

Find me on social media.

Keep believing.

 

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