1. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    Insanity

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TheSerpantofNar, Nov 1, 2012.

    How do you make insanity work best?? Ive been looking at Lovecraft's horror elements recently and I still wonder how he got the story's are creepy as they are.
     
  2. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe start by learning about "insanity" first - of course, that depends on whether you're talking about Hollywood's "insanity" or reality's mental illness.

    Sorry for sounding snarky but I get so tired of this...
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I liked the technique Charlotte Perkins Gilman used in her short story The Yellow Wallpaper -
    It's taken from the heroine's point of view and she makes us believe that there's something
    wrong with the yellow wallpaper. We feel for her - and then get the rug pulled out from
    under us.

    - Paranoia
    - the absurd as realism
    - nobody believes a thing you say despite the fact you can see it
    - the fact that a crazy person never knows they're crazy
     
  4. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    You'll need to be far more specific. I mean, how would you make disabilities work best?
     
  5. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    I guess what im saying is how is how to describe how it affects the mind.
     
  6. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Insanity is a wide subject. The term can cover a multitude of co nditions. It's easy in fiction to use it as a reason for a character acting in whatever way the writer chooses, but very often, unless extensive research has been done, it's not only inaccurate, but an insult to those who suffer from these conditions. To use a condition that causes great distress to many in such a way to merely make a story 'creepy' is a cop-out.

    Like any trauma, tragedy or human condition - if you want to write it honestly and believably, you need extensive research and you need to be able to write about it with understanding. That's not to say that you need to make the character weak or diminish the effects of his condition, but you do need to know what you're writing about. And you won't get that without much research.
     
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  7. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    Sorry, double post. Pressed the wrong button.


    Insanity is a wide subject. The term can cover a multitude of co nditions. It's easy in fiction to use it as a reason for a character acting in whatever way the writer chooses, but very often, unless extensive research has been done, it's not only inaccurate, but an insult to those who suffer from these conditions. To use a condition that causes great distress to many in such a way to merely make a story 'creepy' is a cop-out.

    Like any trauma, tragedy or human condition - if you want to write it honestly and believably, you need extensive research and you need to be able to write about it with understanding. That's not to say that you need to make the character weak or diminish the effects of his condition, but you do need to know what you're writing about. And you won't get that without much research.
     
  8. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    I mean, to a certain extent, you have to do some research, pull from others experience, absorb it.

    Read up on paranoia, hallucinations... Read works that contain similar effects... Poe is a great person to start off with, considering a lot of his stories are simply metaphors for one locked in their own mind, a level of insanity, if you will.

    What are your fears? What happens when you're panicing? Panting? Feel like you're choking?

    Have you ever experienced any type of hallucination? A shadow you thought you saw? The surface of a wall ripple, or patterns/shapes form and rearrange in grass? in walls?

    Ask yourself some more questions. How do you think it feels to have a voice, different from that of your own, speaking to you inside your head? Giving you commands? Telling you secrets? Their own fears, hates, loves, and wants? Would they differ from your own? Coincide?

    When it comes to mental illness, I'd say the realm of insanity is rather broad... Hallucinations of all different shapes, colors, mediums can happen. Be creative, but not over the top. We're not talking floating green monsters with antennae and a hawk-like beak. But shadows may stalk about the room, jump from wall to wall. Blinds may close themselves. Doors may open on their own. Sounds can be heard. Whisperings, scratchings, maybe footsteps.

    As the above poster stated, over-doing it will come off as insensitive. The things that happen are obviously metaphysical, to some degree, but are perceived, interpreted, and experienced as real.

    Read about schizophrenics.

    Read about hallucinogens, such as LSD, Peyote, DMT, and Psilocybin.

    Use your brain, homie. And read those who have written POV's of the insane, and done so successfully. I'm not very well-versed in the genre of horror, so aside from Lovecraft and Poe, I can't make any suggestions. Maybe some others can?
     
  9. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    Yeah I have been doing that I like psycological things anyway.
     
  10. zeemer
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    zeemer New Member

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    I know that I've experienced aspects of what going crazy must feel like, and it's not easily translatable into prose at all. I don't think that this can happen to everyone but you may have an inkling if you have a certain kind of mind, and have smoked too much marijuana. Or perhaps you might have something to relate to if you've ever stayed up for 30+ hours. The best, and I mean the absolute best, chronology of insanity that I have ever read is in 'The Eden Express' by Marc Vonnegut (Kurt Vonnegut's son by the way). This memoir is absolutely incredible in its own right, but Marc's depiction of his own psychosis is somehow highly accurate/bizarre and yet still accessible to any reader. The book's been touted by many other sufferers of mental illness as a very telling depiction of the condition. Maybe try to give that a read and you'll find some inspiration.
     
  11. Fatback
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    Fatback Banned

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    Just what is it your trying to tell me Zeemer? If you think I'm insane because I went on a six week trip to the Bahamas with my house cat and after many wacky adventures we drew dangerously close culminating in a candle lit spaghetti and meow mix dinner where I revealed my true feelings and fell into his open arms weeping while he brushed the hair from my eyes and kissed me tenderly instigating a twelve hour love making session ending abruptly when a group of bandits who dealt in fine poached cat furs accosted us and shot my dear sweet cat in the face but then I realized I had never been to the Bahamas and I was indeed in a Wal-Mart and I in fact didn't own a cat but was holding a terrified elderly man hostage constantly referring to him as a cat and groping him endless against his will only to be arrested crying and indeed wearing a dress.... Well then your just the worst kind of judgmental... I cast shame on your face and other.... stuff... I guess... Wait what were we talking about? Was it Pie?
     
  12. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    The very best way to learn about a mental illness is to talk to someone who has it, without a doubt. Even psychologists/psychiatrists can't give you that perspective and knowledge.
     
  13. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    As far as I remember the 'madness' in Lovecraft's fiction was mostly described like the effects of syphilis, which is something Lovecraft's father and mother had, with his father having to be treated at a psychiatric ward in Providence when Howard was young. He had some limited contact with what was then called 'General paresis of the Insane', and it's easy to leap from this term to thinking it an apt description for any form of mental illness. Good writer H.P. Lovecraft might have been he knew next to nothing about psychology, and he wasn't much better with other sciences either.

    In short: please don't use Lovecraft as a reference.
     
  14. Gallowglass
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    Gallowglass Contributing Member Contributor

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    As others have pointed out, 'insanity' as a broad-brush term is used as a cheap cop-out for character's actions. It seems to me you haven't given it much thought. Think about what kind of insanity you want your character to have, and research that. Then things may become clearer.
     
  15. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Two good references come to mind. One is Shakespeare's King Lear, and the other is Dostoevsky's The Double. You may want to check them out.
     
  16. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    I would go so far as to say don't use fiction as a reference as very few get it right. Unless it's based on fact and has some darn good resources behind it, that is. Most don't.
     
  17. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    Ahh I see what your saying i'll do that :)
     
  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can't believe I read all that... and understood :D Great run-on sentence haha!

    Insanity - could you perhaps visit a low security psychiatric ward, perhaps? My sister worked in one for several years as a health care assistant - they all had alarm bells with them at all times and there was at least one attack per day on the staff. One of the patients set their own room on fire. They also often get the police calling that one of their patients was wandering lost in the streets again. There was one patient once who booked herself into the Mariot Hotel and then refused to pay, and since she has a mental condition, the hotel couldn't sue or charge her. I'll bet my sister has more stories if I ever asked her. Apparently they also do a lot of emotional blackmail, making accusations against the staff - like "He refuses to feed me" and you have to be really careful what you believe. The patients were prone to pitching the staff against one another.

    My ex's mother also worked in a psychiatric ward as a doctor, and apparently once found a patient of hers standing fully dressed with a suitcase in the corridor, in the middle of the night. The doctor asked the patient "What are you doing?" and the patient replied, "I'm waiting for the bus." Apparently the best way to deal with that is to go along with the illusion, so the doctor said, "Oh but the bus isn't coming today. It comes tomorrow." And the patient went back to his/her room.

    Not sure if that helps. None of it is "creepy" - just tragic, IMO.
     
  19. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Bradbury has a short titled, "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl."

    It's a rather great depiction of the mind of someone suffering from some type of mental illness, and a great piece of insight into the mind of a sociopath.

    Insanity, or some type, is usually depicted through some type of skewed reality. The run-on-sentence about the cat and the bahamas is a good example of what someone suffering from an illness might go through, as far as believing a lie.

    Near where I live, there was a horrible bath-salts episode, where a man came home, heavily under the influence and in a state of psychosis, and murdered his entire family, without knowing he did.

    He came to the next day and found out the truth. He was horrified, not only because of his actions, but because he truly believed he was ridding the world of demons.

    The incident was chemically induced, but I feel it paints a good picture. In regards to what I think the OP's idea of insanity was, people suffer distortions in their reality that are so vivid and real to them, they believe the happenings are real.

    Bringing it to fiction, personally, no matter what you do, as long you create a feeling that what your character is going through is real, or at least, write the POV as if he believes it to be real, with nothing really alerting the reader things are not what they seem, there's really not much for the reader to question. You're being assertive and stating things as they are.

    Besides, 'insanity' is not what always makes a story feel 'creepy.' The setting, the tone, the use of tension, or of dramatic irony, the weather, the use of vivid imagery that is dark, all play more important roles than what the character is actually experiencing.

    "The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl," is a good example, considering the story is about someone who is obviously crazy, but overall, no where near creepy or scary.
     
  20. markwaters
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    markwaters New Member

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    A dark and lonely place
     
  21. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    This might be much better/the best advice for this thread.
     
  22. Madman
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    Madman Active Member

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    -snip-
     
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  23. Griplan
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    Griplan Member

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    With insanity, most writers just seem to state it. The way I'd do it would be to have the character do things that would be incomprehensible to normal people and have the character do it without thinking wrong of it.
     

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