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Ruination Log # 1 - Post-Release Hangover

I keep promising myself that I'll write up more blog posts to keep this site alive, but it's been another few months since last time... maybe some day I'll be better at keeping that promise. :P

For now, though, I thought it would be nice to update on my newest project, Ruination. It's going to be a Psychological Thriller where, with the exception of the main character, the narrator is never going to explain what characters are thinking or doing. It's entirely up to the reader to interpret. I decided on this early on in writing the draft. At any rate, the story follows Felix, a Director of a research lab which is on the verge of finding a cure-all for cancer. However, things start going wrong for our protagonist, and he slowly descends into a state of mind where he can no longer trust anyone. Is someone, or everyone, out to get him? Or is this how his mind is coping with difficult times?

At this time, I'm about 2/3rds of the way done. This novel is only meant to be 70,000-80,000 words long, so you may think I should be done by now. Unfortunately, aside from some difficult times in real-life, I also have a tendency to get swept up by a "post-book release hangover". I'm sure there's a better name for that, but what I mean is that after releasing a book, it takes me a while to get into the swing of things while writing the next one. I even took a month off from writing, recently. Thankfully, that did the trick in getting me back on the wagon.

The funny thing about Ruination is that it almost never got written. My original idea, that I had pitched to friends and family, was very different. I won't go into too much detail since it would spoil many events that are yet to be told, but let's just say that everyone by default assumed that it would be a Psychological Thriller where the main character believes that someone is out to get him, but nobody believes him. Even though this wasn't at all my original intention, I was reminded of a dream I once had which always stuck with me.

It's not at all realistic, but bear with me. In this dream, I had discovered the cure to cancer. In cartoonish fashion, I was carrying this cure around in a vial. The dream played out in my childhood neighborhood, where I was constantly running around, seeking refuge while trying to figure out what to do with the cure. Yet, no matter where I went, I would be betrayed by either someone looking to take the cure for themselves, or someone who had been paid off to destroy it. Adding insult to injury, these were all friends and loved ones. Unfortunately, this dream never got an official ending where I either succumbed to the betrayals or overcame them, but maybe that's part of why it stuck with me.

Still, I saw this as an opportunity to combine ideas. That dream could easily be incorporated into a Psychological Thriller, while my original idea could be a sequel to Ruination. I had already written out six chapters of my original idea too; so I could pick up right off from there and release two books (Hopefully) in short order.

Anyone who has read my previous three books will no doubt notice that there have been paranoia-infused sub plots. There's always at least one, because that's my favorite kind of horror. It's the type of thing that keeps you on edge; the enemy could be anywhere at any time. Or maybe you're just imagining things. Intrigue tends to play a role in paranoia, but how do we know that someone, or some people, aren't looking to sabotage things? The social aspect also tends to suck me in. You're learning a lot about characters and how they act along the way. It's a good way to show a lot while saying very little.

With that said, my love for paranoia-type horror comes almost exclusively from film. Without question, my favorite horror movie is The Thing. Why? Because the monster can almost perfectly imitate whoever it has assimilated. Almost none of the characters are given their own development, but we know so much about them due to how they're acting under extremely stressful situations. My favorite modern horror film is It Follows. Aside from amazing camera work, the monster can once again be anyone, and there are many subtleties where you need to really be paying attention to notice. Noticing these little things, like an out-of-focus person walking toward the main characters who are none the wiser, makes it a scarier experience.

And I find writing these subtleties into stories challenging. Why? Because processing a visual medium is more challenging for whoever is watching. There is usually so much to digest that the viewer is ignoring whatever their brain is deeming "less important". While in writing, there are two options:

  1. Write as normal and then point out the clues or hints

  2. Describe every little thing to disguise the clues/hints

With that in mind, it seems like option 2 is the best way to go so that the mystery isn't so easily solved, but once again, if you've read my previous three novels, it'll be apparent that it isn't my style to do something like that. I much prefer to give important details and then let the reader fill in the blanks, when it comes to descriptions.

So, then... what to do? My workaround is to use dialogue as small hints being dropped for readers. Because I have no issue with writing long strings of dialogue, I feel that using it as a supplement to hints being pointed out will require leaders to put those things together. Therefore, it's still somewhat challenging and more importantly, it doesn't feel like it's out of nowhere.

There's plenty more to talk about, but I think it's best to wrap things up and save those topics for another post. To summarize, subtext will play a big role in Ruination, and not to spoil anything, but the reader is gonna have to do some work if they want to figure out exactly what's going on.

I haven't forgotten about the Amazon ads push and there are some other topics I want to bring up, so look out for some more posts in the near future!

Before I go, let me leave you with one of my favorite lines from MacReady (Played by Kurt Russel) in The Thing. It somehow feels more relevant than ever, today:

"Nobody trusts anybody now... and we're all very tired..."

- Jim

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