Tag Archives: emotions

Expelliarmus

I know I haven’t updated in ages. I suck at the online presence thing. Most of my life, would you believe, takes place outside of Twitter and Facebook. I know. Such a Luddite.

But after some prodding from a friend, who is the only one who regularly reads my blog apart from J (who can’t help but see it when it shows up in his update feed) here I am. I have two weeks off work and while my free time is filling up fast, I should be able to fit in some blogging. And writing.

With that in mind, please enjoy the following video. I have known about  2Cellos for a while but this video in particular had Rivka and I in fits over breakfast. We couldn’t help but notice their resemblance to the Winchester brothers from Supernatural and this led to me thinking about an amazing end of era plot twist: Sam and Dean are concert cellists in the NY Philharmonic where their dad is the musical director. They are so bored by their lives spent touring the US that they invent a Walter Mitty style alternate life for themselves where they tour the US killing demons. So there they are in the orchestra playing on autopilot but both staring out into space because they’re in some shared delusion where they are drenched in blood and spreading salt all over the place. With guns! And Bobby! And pie!

So Rivka suggested I write the fanfic to go with it. I don’t often write fanfic and if I do get round to it I will not be sharing it here, but it’s nice to be feeling creative.

 

 

After that musical interlude, let me share with you a tale of rage. I thought I’d mentioned this before but I couldn’t find it anywhere so maybe I was too upset about it. A couple of months ago, I was part of a quiz we did at lunchtime. It all sort of spiralled out of control, but someone dared to imagine they knew more about Harry Potter than I did. That. Shall. Not. Stand. Then a couple more people got involved so we ended up all making up five questions and having a round robin quiz thing. I lost, and did not cope very well with it. I don’t like failure, as you may remember, and failing at something that was Knowledge-based nearly killed me. It threw off my whole weekend, and I know how ridiculous it seems to be so hung up on something that is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things, but I say again I do not deal well with failure on any scale.

WELL, last week I was at a party with one of the other quiz participants, who revealed to me that there had been some cheating. The other two people making up questions had shared their questions and answers beforehand, reasoning (quite correctly) that if they hadn’t they would have lost miserably. I was raging. My disproportionate rage matched my disproportionate depression at losing. It really shook me up. Something I took seriously was treated like a joke to everyone else. So I felt just as humiliated and like people were laughing at me as I did the first time. On the other hand I was vindicated!

And at the end of the day their questions were rubbish and not at all plot related. And half of them were film related. So they were doing it wrong from the very beginning. Double win.

Time to make myself presentable. And listen to more cello. Happy Saturday, beautiful people.

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Whatever the weather

Saturday morning… a glorious time. The morning after the night before… And to top it all off, a new month as well. I’m feeling pretty positive today. I have a ton of work to do, but I PROMISE I will do it. Honest Injun.

But first…

Let’s talk about the weather. As an Englishwoman I feel pretty well attuned to the weather. Having an opinion on the elements is hardwired into the DNA of my national stereotype, after all. This morning, helping my mood, the sun is out. Inspired by this I have opened my bedroom window (gasp!) though I’m sure I will regret that soon because it’s not actually that warm outside.

I think about the weather when I’m writing (if I’m writing. Sigh.) because it’s all part of the experience of the story. Just like in film. Even though it might not be as obvious in writing – a thunderclap isn’t quite so epic, come on – all those little atmospheric details go in and register in the reader’s brain.

At school, writing stories in English would inevitably make the teacher ask us “What was the weather like?” “What time of day was it?” because we were so focused on the action of the narrative nothing else occurred to us. It might also have been another way to boost word count. But mainly, it was to help us to realise that the reader does not automatically see from our writing what we saw in our heads when we wrote it. I can tend to have the opposite problem. I’ve written things before (yet another unfinished something) that I’ve shown parts of to friends who told me it was quite dense, quite description heavy. Well yes. I wanted them to see what I saw. Exactly. Exactly as I saw it. No. Other. Option. Yet as a reader I am happy to get into debates about what characters look like and how it differs from perhaps an official author-description or an actor who plays them in a film, or the cover art (see Chris McGrath’s Aragorn version of Logen Ninefingers on the cover of Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself).

I think I have to let go of that sort of thing. The weather on the other hand, can be fairly explicitly portrayed. And it can affect how we see a character or a plot point and the way we perceive the emotions tumbling out on the page. The weather can match or counter point a character or event.

When something awful happens: it’s more likely to be raining, or threatening rain.

When something cool is happening: sun, warmth, clear skies

That’s the basics. Obviously you have to take the season into account. Also, snow makes everything magical (I think this is a The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe cultural hangover – the Tumnus part, not the Jadis part).

Take this morning: I was jazzed! The sun! The warmth! Vibes! If it had been raining my mood probably wouldn’t have been so good, OR I’d have been bouncing off the walls to banish the gloom and keep my high. Same with the above. It’s almost as much of a stereotype to go against the weather for dramatic effect now as it is to go with it to enhance the overall emotion of a scene.

Something awful happens: The sun is a spiteful ball of joy in the sky. The warm summer breeze could not lift the chill in his heart.

Something good happens: Not even the darkest clouds could spoil the day! Electricity in the air from a storm just makes people more excited!

…aaaand snow makes everything magical.

The weather is so important to storytelling. Thomas Hardy was a big fan of scene setting. So much so that when we read Far From the Madding Crowd at school our same English teachers who told us to add weather details told us to skip three pages because it was all just Hardy waxing on about the bucolic joys of the countryside in spring. You win some you lose some.

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A tale of two journeys

Last week (and wow, how has it only been a week?) you may recall I went to a ceilidh. Go back one entry. Tada!

On my way out I was running late. I had been faffing around as usual, and was just about on time for being fashionably late when I made the mistake of texting an acquaintance and inviting them to dinner (I was feeling brave and empowered possibly because I had a razor in my hand ready to get my legs all smooth and womanly). Then I swanned off into the shower. On my return, with one eye on the clock, I checked my messages and had this rambling spiel from the guy spelling out FRIEND. OH GOD, FRIEND in massive neon letters. So I had to ramble back, with some wit and some half-truths, to save myself a little embarrassment. That meant that when the ceilidh started I was sat half-naked on my bed with a damp towel wrapped around me and a tablet computer in my slightly sweaty hands, frantically tapping out a carefree, it-was-just-a-suggestion-calm-yourself message. So I went to action stations.

Luckily, I already knew what I was wearing, and since I don’t wear make up anyway and my hair was going to be left down, I was ready pretty quickly. I also thought I knew where I was going. I left my room looking like a hurricane in Dorothy Perkins and off I went. It was dark and the roads were quiet, though the next round of major roadworks was getting set up so there was a bit of a hold up on the bridge and a bit of impatient steering wheel tapping. The sky was littered with lilac fluffy clouds. I had a hairy moment on a large roundabout because the idiots round here have no concept of lane discipline (there are no roundabouts on farms) and then I was up in the estate, looking for a village hall. I found it, exactly where I expected it to be. An old man in a spectacularly patterned piece of knitwear came out and helped me to reverse park (without me asking him to, and without me needing him to) further making me think I was in the right place. I wasn’t. I was exactly where I expected to be but that wasn’t where I was supposed to be. There are two community halls in that estate and I was in the wrong one.

I was flustered, I was even more late, and I was now following sketchy instructions that I was trying to remember as I drove down roads I’d never been down before. Every time a car got close behind me I got more frustrated because I didn’t want to be that driver who makes sudden turns or crawls along clearly lost and gets in everyone’s way. I found the place, eventually, after having done a circuit of the one-way system, and parked up. Then I couldn’t find the door of the place. I was seconds away from going home. I could see through the window a whole host of people I didn’t know and if I’d been in the wrong place again I think I would have had a breakdown. Luckily it was the right party. I crept in, searching for anyone I recognised, an hour late, sweaty and anxious, cross, embarrassed and tired. No wonder I had trouble getting a dance partner.

The way home was different. I gave some guests a lift home through the roughest estate in the top end of the town, and hoped I could find my way back out again. Once I was back on the main road, and homeward bound, I felt myself relax. The clouds had cleared and as I turned off the main road and trundled along the Firth, I was the only person around. Above me, Orion was striding across the sky leading me back to the village. I found myself grinning. I sang along to the radio and rode the curves of the tarmac. I saw no other moving vehicle. It was the witching hour and everyone sensible was in bed, where I wanted to be. The village was deserted and the street lights were urging me into a parking space. I was almost too tired to climb the stairs but after one last look at the stars I closed our rickety front door and made it to my room.

I very nearly just crawled into the pile of stuff and slept there.

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Happiness – July 2011

“Happiness,” said Maria, “is that kid down there on the skateboard pretending he’s Superman.”

“No,” said Jack leaning over the balcony to look. “Happiness is that blonde girl trying to catch bubbles.”

“Stop being philosophical,” laughed Maria, squeezing his arm.

“You started it.”

The bubbles drifted higher as a flock of boys on push scooters swooped towards the swings.

“Maybe happiness is that boy on the climbing frame,” said Jack after careful consideration.

“No, that’s just a broken arm waiting to happen,” answered Maria with a grimace.

“Alright then,” shrugged Jack, taking Maria’s hand. “Happiness is the warmth between our fingers.”

They sat in silence for a while, watching the swings and wincing at the shrieks of the blissful.

“My palms are beginning to sweat,” announced Maria wrinkling her nose.

“Delightful.”

“Maybe happiness is that girl in yellow?” she asked.

“The one doing laps of the slide?” he replied. “You think happiness is running in circles?”

“No,” said Maria. “Happiness is the part where you get dizzy.”

Written from a Spanish balcony, dodging a million ants, looking out over a busy playground. July 2011.

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Books and emotions

In the same way that there is a Meat Loaf song for every occasion, there is a book for every mood. I read to medicate my soul. Books are comforting and familiar, they don’t look at you in disgust if you haven’t showered, they don’t run away and they don’t talk back. Neither does a well-trained dog, but since I rent and I’m not allowed pets, books will have to do.

When I’m really feeling lost and out of touch with myself, I read Gemmell. Echoes of the Great Song or Winter Warriors usually. The stories are classic good-vs-evil, heroes-of-the-golden-age adventures and the derring-do of the main protagonists inspires me to take action in my own life. Gemmell anchors me to my late teens and a particular band of friends where I feel safe, and loved, and like people believe in me.

If I’m feeling sad, I find Pratchett. I need cheering up, but in a dry, dark way, and something like Jingo or Men at Arms does that. You know when you’re outside your own body, watching yourself lying on your bed listening to REM and feeling all Young Emo of the Year 2013, and you know how useless you’re being but you can’t snap yourself out of it? When you even sarcastically congratulate yourself on how productive you’re being in the hopes of angering your way out of a slump? That’s when I read Pratchett. Humour and satire that isn’t too silly, because in that mood silliness is contemptuous.

In an empowered mood, I read Valley of the Dolls. It’s glitz! It’s glamour! It’s actually quite bleak! But empowered-me pretends not to see the horrible parts. Valley is a guilty pleasure in some ways. It’s on my list of favourite books and I’ve read it many times. I sometimes feel like a hidden, fourth protagonist, if I’m really feeling puissant, observing the other three and carefully judging their actions. I sympathise, I cringe and cheer alongside them, but I secretly know I would have done it far better.

Anger makes me read angry books. Joe Abercrombie is my go-to for bitter rage. The First Law trilogy has a host of grotesques who are either as angry as me, or who give me a target for my unjust wrath. Barbarians, torturers, duellists, mages… all have their own grudges and agendas. All are out for what they can get and they don’t care who they tread into the dirt to get it. I do feel sorry for Major West, though. He’s always in the wrong place at the wrong time playing clean up for people who have royally messed up, or doing the difficult thing because someone has to. Major West makes me angry on his behalf.

On the seemingly rare occasion that I am in a happy mood, I read The Pyrates by George Macdonald Fraser. It’s a romp: an anachronistic, swash-buckling adventure with pirates and the Spanish Main, and natives and treasure and romance and sword fights and blackguards and the briny deep and silly accents. It takes historical figures and events, a bit of fluffing the actual year, the best of every pirate story you know, peppers them with awful jokes and modern references, and fires it at you from a cannon. My dad and I each own a copy – he got sick of me borrowing his and bought me an identical one.

When I get an attack of the romantic feels and I feel like wearing my ovaries on the outside for once, I have a few options. 1. Chocolat, which I will gush on and on about whether people want me to or not, 2. The Time Traveller’s Wife because oh, goodness, the feels, 3. Memoirs of a Geisha for its slow-burning love and lifetime of dedication. All three are guaranteed to be read snuggled in a blanket with chocolate to hand.

Of course, books can also evoke the whole gamut of emotions within me. I think the last book that really made me weep buckets was The Book Thief. It even tells you at the beginning how it’s going to end because most of the book is a “how we ended up here” thing, but somehow you manage to forget and then with a sense of impending doom you realise ohnonononononono… but it’s too late, you’re hooked, and the last few pages are blurry because of all the tears. Brilliant!

My friend Rivka is an author and her books have been known to provoke a strong reaction. She has an ongoing series called Masquerade which is at its most basic, a cautionary tale about vampires and sociopathy. The male protagonist of the first book, Tristan… my God, when I finished the book I wanted to hurl it across the room in unadulterated rage! Then I realised I was reading an ebook on my laptop and that probably wasn’t a good plan.
I see strong reaction – positive or negative – as a good sign. It means that I care one way or another. I have opinions about the characters or the story. I rarely these days read books which only garner a “meh”. Either I’m very easily-led or I’m extremely good at picking books that provoke a reaction. Reading a book is like signing a secret contract with my soul that states that the experience will teach me something. Whether I’m put through the wringer in a happy, sad, or ragequit way, it’s always a worthwhile experience. It shows me my limits. It pushes my limits. Reading is a way of navigating the dark forest of my insides where each book is a tiny fragment of the map.

…and now I’m feeling introspective. What’s my choice for that? A long stare at my nine shelves of maps before I give up and watch Avengers instead. Lovely.

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