Reader Involvement

July 19, 2009

Video games one up books because by their very nature, the player is involved. While I read a lot growing up, when I think back on the stories that really affected me… I think about a lot of video games. I miss Zoe Castillo from Dreamfall like missing a best friend. I still laugh over getting double-crossed by a dancer in Skies of Arcadia. I’m playing through Metal Gear Solid and the dialog drips with delicious tension. Every smart ass comment Snake makes about the situation they put him in–I’m there, literally I’m sneaking around getting shot at ;p

When writing novels, we want to get the reader involved as much as possible. You can break the wall of text and grab the reader through multimedia but for most of us beginning writers that’s not practical. We don’t have the artistic skill, connections or funding to develop something that extensive. We’ve just got a word processor and our imagination.

Instead we focus on vivid characters that a reader can understand–better if they can relate to them. We suggest sympathetic antagonists who meet frequently with the protagonist. But there is a way to take it a step further. It’s tricky and I’m working over in my mind how best to achieve it in the current WIP.

Let the reader know something the characters don’t. Let the characters misinterpret each other. Make the reader want to jump in there and say ‘but, if you only knew….!’

Sounds easy, right? The trick is to avoid coming off as contrived.

In my critique group, Tammy is writing a novel that has a great scene where two characters meet. There’s an instant connection between them. A teacher catches them, is going to write the boy up for fighting. Although they’ve just met, they pretend to be in a relationship because the girl has no history of fighting so her reputation protects him. He sees her staring at him lovingly….. he thinks she must be a great liar. But WE know that she’s interested! We want to step in and say, “Jess she’s not lying, she really likes you!”

She writes this beautifully–there’s a distinct reason why the information is hidden and the misunderstanding occurs. It’s not just fun, it’s believable.

Later on Tammy is thinking about making Jess’ caseworker Cacey’s mom. So Jess has this history of fighting and he wants to see his mom but his case worker, just doing her job of course, is getting in the way. Jess, trying to stay out of trouble but sometimes being forced into it, would naturally complain about his case worker to Cacey. If we know her mom is a case worker and we know he has a case worker…..we can put two and two together and BAM! We’re involved, we want to yell at Jess, “don’t say that! It’s her mom!!!”

I was watching John Tucker Must Die yesterday and there was one of those scenes where girl A is spying on The Guy, pretending to like him. Girl B is helping girl A and sneaks into a car with girl A to give her some advice. But before Girl B can escape unnoticed, The Guy gets in the car so Girl B must hide. As the audience WE know Girl B is still in the car, Girl A knows Girl B is still in the car. The Guy doesn’t. Hilarity ensues as he reaches in the back for CDs, nearly grabbing Girl B. This is a totally cliche set up, but it gets me EVERY time. I just can’t help watch or read on, wanting to know if the person hiding is going to get caught or what kind of craziness will happen as the person tries to avoid being caught. Even better when The Guy and Girl A leave the car……….and Girl B’s skirt gets caught in the door. Now we watch anxiously, wanting to give Girl A suggestions for how she can keep The Guy distracted while Girl B tries to get her skirt free.

The tactic can also be achieved by characters just being themselves and acting out their flaws. My friend Amanda wrote a great Metal Gear Solid fanfiction where Otacon’s awkwardness pretty much makes him shoot himself in the foot and just keep digging the hole deeper. Her original character (who I play in a radioplay based on a different fic), Olivia, is blunt to a fault and thinks his awkward overtures are meant as a joke.

It makes you really want to get involved, to say, Olivia…damnit, I know that’s how you are but poor Otacon!


My Transformers dream was better than the movie so there ha!

July 18, 2009

I was whatsherface–the girl–and Zach Braff was Sam. I started out at the B&B helping a guest who had 10 suitcases. Someone she knew died recently and I was talking to her about it as I helped her. She went out to catch a cab then sprinted back in and locked the door behind her. Some scary hobos pressed themselves against the glass on either side of the window. She and I hid behind furniture, hoping they’d go away but every time we checked…they were still there.

They started knocking on the windows and finally I went over and told them to leave. They started proselytizing to me while hitting on me. They had a huge truck with them that had music controls on the front so they were trying to get it to play a certain beat track. Finally they left me the truck as a parting gift. I was just glad they were gone.

The truck glowed along the edges and turned out to be a transformer, of course. I rode it around the city for a while and everything was okay until I got to work. Somehow I managed to drive both the transformer and my own car to work which somehow was at the mall.

When I finished work, I ran into this deformed one-legged bunny which ripped the eye off a frog and put it on a post along with some other small animal body parts. This bunny was a decepticon. While I was at work, they had begun to take over the city.

I cruised off in my nameless transformer, Sam joined me and we traveled along saving people from decepticons though it was obvious we were only barely succeeding–we were getting people out of danger but weren’t reclaiming the city. Eventually we ended up speeding back past the mall parking lot to see the front half of my car was crushed ): ): ):

We parked for the night. I was worried we’d be discovered out in the open, especially since our windows had no blinds but Zach was confident that since good and bad transformers put out the same radio signal that the decepticons wouldn’t realize we weren’t one of their own.

But somewhere along the way, the deformed bunny had hitched a ride. I saw him peering at us through one of the windows and we tried to hide. Then he snuck in and kidnapped me. Although somehow, despite being kidnapped, I still had a view of what was going on inside the truck šŸ˜‰ and I have no recollection of what happened to me while I was kidnapped.

Zach/Sam is pissed and wants to rescue me but first he’s got to find somewhere to hide for the rest of the night. Turns out that if you go underground, signals are blocked so he drove into a hole and the truck disappeared from the radar.

Then I woke up T____T!

Those roaches are so big you can put saddles on them? They’re “Palmetto Bugs.”

July 10, 2009

hehehehe, rules of Savannah…

This city does have a lot of character, especially since I live downtown. I understand why authors are drawn to it. I am.

Some of my favorite rules:

25. “Abercorn”: An ancient Indian word meaning “traffic light every 50 feet.”

53. Expect your cable to go out when it rains. Or when it’s partly cloudy. Or on any day that ends with “y.”

64. Those roaches are so big you can put saddles on them? They’re “Palmetto Bugs.”

80. The editorial page at the Morning News isn’t really conservative; it’s just opposed to “change for change’s sake” (like those new-fangled horseless carriages)

84. A fistful of quarters comes in handy when you finally find a parking space downtown. We hear they make excellent brass knuckles too.

0. East Liberty Street becomes Wheaton Street which becomes Skidaway Road. Don’t get us started on Bull St aka White Bluff aka Coffee Rd aka Coffee Point…

91. Trying to get somewhere on Bay Street? Top off your tank and take a snack.

98. Yield when you enter a square. Unless you don’t feel like it.

Speaking of “palmetto bugs”… they have crossed the line and they are GOING DOWN. Mostly because they teamed up with ants, rats??, termites?? flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and all other manner of creature bent on invading my territory. The last straw was the one that crawled out of the iron while I was using it.

I never kill bugs, NEVER. In college I would rant at my roommate that she was homicidal because she would kill centipedes in our room–I would take them outside. But this is WAR. I will not tolerate mutant roaches dive bombing me and crawling on the PS2.

So I put my humanity on the backburner and grabbed some deadly weapons–Combat cartridges (made specifically big enough for Savannah style roaches) and Raid. I am reclaiming the apartment for the glory of French Fry Kitties.

(edit: the last few days since I made my first attack, I haven’t seen any alive….several dead, however, including one that had crawled into the bag I bring to work, ugh D: )

Mayuri buffalo nightmare storm

July 5, 2009

Oh wow I dreamed about writing and as I wrote, I was living what happened. I was Mayuri from Deep Within but the plot was changing. She was new in school and bonded with other girls by putting Alorah down. She met the other girls in a co-ed bathroom where there were curtains instead of doors on the stalls. She was not impressed by the curtains haha. Argh it was SO VIVID at the time but when I woke up it took me a couple hours before I was like OMG THAT DREAM!! thus I’ve forgotten a lot of it -_-

There were a lot of things that felt ‘not quite right’…typical effect of nightmares seeping into reality. Outside school (we were in California) there were fields and fields of wheat bordered by a wide river. Buffalo were in the fields. Everyone acted like this was normal, including the two boys from Narnia, but Mayuri had never seen buffalo before. Then the buffalo started freaking out and stampeding. She got that compressed feeling of an oncoming storm and rushed back toward the school with the boys. It was a nightmare storm. They all tried to duck into a tent but it flipped off the ground. We/they were struggling to get into a school trailer with the storm whipping around us when I woke up.

Ananzi and kayak through alligators cloth car

June 29, 2009

I was hanging out with Chris and his friends Toby and Justin in my dream. They were talking about movies and I kept saying ‘Star Wars is on’ because I wanted to watch it. Then I went out and brought home a puppy lhasa apso that I named Christopher somethingsomething it was a long name. I thought it was perfect until I came back and was like…oh geez, I can’t have you both named Chris! Then I remembered I’d decided years ago to name my dog Ananzi. We wrestled with him for a while then realized he had fleas but he was too young for a flea bath so I tried to find tearless or PALs shampoo to soak him in like we had at the pet salon.

I soaked him in water and all his hair shrank until he was nearly bald T_T then I dried him off and his hair came back.

I carried him around and ended up on a really long kayak with Katie (the “You are What You Eat” director I was working with). She was paddling and I was laying down holding on for dear life because we were traveling underground and there were alligators in the water. At one point there were so many they were in a line practically crawling on each other. We bumped into some of them and their movements made waves rock the kayak while I held Ananzi tightly, worrying that he hadn’t learned to swim yet.

We got to the end where there were sarcaphagus faces in blue and gold on the walls. Katie said she forgot that we were supposed to pick some people up on the way here. I really didn’t want to go back for them because we barely made it here safely in the first place but I was willing to go because I didn’t want them stuck with the alligators either.

We started going back but then they swam up to us and climbed up on the walls by the sarcaphagi. The blue mouth of one dropped open and the one behind me opened completely. There were bones, webs, and treasure inside. I thought it was fascinating from a culture/history perspective but could care less about getting any treasure. One of the other people started talking about ‘g— kaigan’ I asked if he knew spanish because the first word reminded me of Mexico and I wondered if the pyramids here and there were connected. I thought ‘kaigan’ meant beach though and then I realized, duh, that’s Japanese. But why would there be Japanese in Egypt? The plot thickens (and then goes nowhere)….

None of us knew but Katie thought she had an idea so she rushed off and I did my best to follow her. We ended up in LA which was supposedly four hours from Atlanta. She drove a “futuristic” cloth car (dull reddish cloth) with no sides that I had to scramble to get into. It was terrifying and somewhat like driving a hammock o.o She sped down hills and around the highway surrounded by regular cars that could crush us with a look. She was telling me hints about the sarcophagi and at a traffic light, we noticed her friend driving a white van with bumper stickers on it. Another friend waved at me and put money behind one of the bumper stickers but gestured that I shouldn’t let the one in the van know it was there. I got the money when we parked but wasn’t sure what to do with it.

We stopped off somewhere that overlooked a valley and had a jacuzzi. Finally, I gave my dog a bath. At first he sank like a rock then he floated upsidedown with his paws straight up and I laughed saying he already knew how to swim somehow. He flipped upright and gave me a big grin–he was sooo the perfect dog. As lively as Oliver (my favorite at the pet salon) but still unique in personality.

Then I got a call from Laura Moss (knew her from Best Job, she writes travel blogs for She said David Spade was going to be in town (Atlanta) for a few hours and she knew that interviewing him would get me on the inside (of what?!) but I didn’t know who David Spade was, Atlanta was four hours away, and I didn’t have any questions to ask him T_T

Die together to end the Haunting

June 25, 2009

This dream went on all night. I would wake up to pee, go back to sleep, and re-enter the dream. I looked and acted like April O’Neil from TMNT1 but had no knowledge of the TMNT. Instead, I found a car with a bunch of money in it and the bodies of two of my friends. The police said the money belonged to my friends and that they wanted me to have it, so I took it.

Then a shapeshifter chased me around and my friends came back to life but they were weird amalgamations of junk from the car rather than people. The shapeshifter was trying to kill us. Sometimes he would look like a person, sometimes like a clump of junk including that creepy monkey with cymbals from Phantom of the Opera. We tore him apart and he put himself back together. He tore my friends apart and once or twice I was able to put them back together but then the life was gone from them.

I thought I killed the shapeshifter but then he possessed the dead junk body of one of my friends. I killed him again. He possessed the other dead junk body.

The shapeshifter got closer and closer to me. I kicked him, pulled his cymbals away and ran into a store. The money I was carrying gave me magic powers but I thought it was a curse. I escaped from the store, closed the door on him and walked out with lots of bags of clothing I magically generated so that I could put on a disguise and look like a tourist.

But the shapeshifter was after me again. I threw the money at him, hoping it would end the curse. I ran back to the police station for help but he killed the police. When he killed them, he became more human. He looked like someone me/April had dated and then I realized he wasn’t after the money, he was after me. He was obsessed. Twin life meters flashed before my eyes and I realized that as long as I was alive, he would be after me. The only way to stop him was for me to die too. So I killed us. I woke up panting.

Usually when I have dreams about being chased I wake up right before the end point. Interesting that this had a resolution.

I fell back to sleep and had a dream with some of the same themes but this time I was Elliot from Scrubs. I was trying to get together with JD but he was being dense. I found a huge bag of candy and money but my brother wanted it. JD and I rushed around, tossed the bag between each other and tried to hide it. I’m terrified of the dark, but I ran down into the basement and shut myself in a pitch black room. Something about the candy bag meant life or death. I think I also passed a produce section of a grocery store in the house o_O

Ryan Reynolds hearts me and we almost drive up a waterslide

June 24, 2009

I had a dream that Ryan Reynolds was flirting shamelessly at me. At first, there were four of us…me, Tramz, Ryan, and one other person. We were in a stone maze with puzzles and eventually figured our way out of it. Then we parted ways. I went back to my apartment but outside was a panhandler and usually I just ignore them and go on my way but for some reason I sat and listened to him. When he asked for money I ran inside and tried to lock the door but he pulled a gun and stared at me from the window above the door T_T

Then my apartment was a restaurant. I was hanging out with Tramz and Pattie and her friends. We were in NYC. Pattie wanted to order something weird but her friends told her if she did they were going to charge her extra for it since usually they split the bill equally. But the thing she wanted cost less than what they wanted. The panhandler was still outside the window with the gun but it was over the door to the restaurant now. In comes Ryan Reynolds =O he is prepared to kick the panhandler’s ass but the guy just runs away.

His friends are at the table next to us, they look like gothy LARPers. One girl is decked out with corset, huge boots, spikes, the works. She didn’t look anything like UltraNeko but that’s who I thought it was. They said she was KonekoNeko and that there was a song on youtube about how way too many girls call themselves ‘neko.’

Ryan beckons me over to his table and tells his friends that he saw me biking across campus and there was something so demure and unassuming about me that he had to get to know me. He was intensely interested in everything about me and wrote me notes asking me how Zhenya and Yulia were doing, how my writing was going etc. He continued to shower me with rather personal compliments and I was really embarressed. I just kinda giggled and shrugged. I wanted to tell him that he should ease off because I ā¤ a Chris but he was Ryan Reynolds T_T and I wanted to be friends with him. I had this epic internal struggle–I wanted to tell him, needed to for his own and Chris' sake but I was afraid that if I did he would run away T_T

He told me that he earned a living playing tennis and across the street there was now a court (and it was also inside a mall). Tramz and another guy went to play and Ryan criticized him as hitting with too much power, not enough style.

Eventually, we leave the restaurant and for some reason I'm the one driving and Ryan and my friends are in the car while his friends (who had gotten drunk at the restaurant) are in a different car. But while driving I accidentally speed through a stop sign because I hit the gas instead of break (this is terrifying because I almost did it once, that's partly why I slow down ahead of time, I always want to test and make sure my foot is on the right pedal T_T). I apologize to everyone, we're fine, and then I do it again. On a highway. In the middle of traffic.

We narrowly escape that and I realize we're on a road that heads in only one direction….up. The road does a freaking loop-de-loop. SEVERAL in fact. The road divides into a bunch of subroads that are twirly tubes like at a waterpark but they go up as well as down and all around T_T I say "HELL no" and put on my emergency lights as I stop in the middle of traffic. I yelled at everyone to call 911 so they could get a helicoptor to pick us up and get someone to tow my car for me.

We climbed out and I told Ryan to call his mom and tell her to get a helicoptor for us. He said she spoke mostly Japanese so in Japanese I said 'I'm studying Japanese. NECESSITA CHOPPER' o_O; Then I said, okay, that's dumb but you're her son, you ought to know the word for 'need' and something resembling 'police.' But it turned out that the road wasn't as high up as I thought and we were able to climb down but I was really upset about leaving my car. I did look up and say 'I will never complain about the Beltway again'

Then I ran off to get the Entertainment magazine Chris got in the mail the other day. It has several pictures of Ryan in it posing with squirtguns XD I figured I could get him to sign it with some cool note since we were friends now.