Method Writing Experiment: Preparing for 100 Hours Without Sleep

As you may remember, I have been known to engage in something I’ve decided to call “Method Writing”.

If you’re unfamiliar with Method Acting, basically it’s a technique employed by actors to put themselves in the psychological state of the character they’re portraying, to convey a more realistic sense of that character.

Robert DeNiro drove a cab on twelve hour shifts for a month before filming Taxi Driver.

Daniel Day Lewis has gone to extreme lengths to get inside the minds of his characters, spending months learning new skills and getting into their heads.

You get the idea.  Doing things in real life that your character would do.  Living as they would.  Amassing their experiences, so you have the emotions and memories of those experiences to draw on for your performance.

Writers are portraying characters as well.  We have to portray them all.  Every single entity in a book is characterized by a single individual.  Just take a moment on that.  Every single entity in a book is characterized by a single individual.

Good writers will have a cast of stock characters that they can draw from to make things easier.  You change details, mannerisms, speech patterns; the surface stuff that makes us different from one another can be changed as easily as a costume, and is about as effective at characterizing someone.

But the core of characters, the very heart of what makes someone tick, how many of those do we know?  How many people do we understand, really understand in their heart of hearts?  A good writer will have a few.  Enough to get by.  Great writers have more.

Thus, the more people we can understand, inside and out, and truly know, the more effective we can characterize the plethora of people needed to populate our work.

And Method Writing is one of the ways to do that.  You try new experiences, go to new places, learn the things that your character will know, so you understand them better.  Do you think I’d’ve guessed that a good Projectionist in a new building would have a roll of micropore tape in their pocket?  No.

So: getting into the mindset of a character is key to portraying them realistically.

And yes, having similar experiences to that character helps us draw on genuine emotions and thus aids in achieving a level of realism that will translate into a more rich and lifelike individual.

Of course, we are writers; our job is to imagine these things.  But we cannot work in a bubble.  We’re always using our own experiences, the people we know, the things we do, to insert realism into our work.

I’m currently writing a book which requires me to know a lot about sleep.  And insomnia.

I’m already having to invent dozens of people.  I can’t really go be a paramedic, or a sound mixer for Skrillex, or an artist working in Paris.  But I can understand what it would be like for them to be sleep deprived.

My next experiment is to remain awake for 100 hours.

During this time, I will periodically measure five things:

My blood pressure and heart rate.

My mental acuity, using simple math and reading comprehension tests.

My ability to see and sort colours.

My reaction time.

I’ve been taking readings on all these leading up to my experiment, so I have a baseline.

I have excellent blood pressure.  🙂

I see colours pretty darn well.  (Seems by biggest weakness is in the blue area of the spectrum.)

My reaction time is pretty constant.

My math skills are pretty good (always been quick to do basic math in my head, except, for some reason, the eight times-tables, which is apparently the blue of single digits).

My reading comprehension is good (the test itself had errors in it).

So I have a benchmark, because I want to have actual data points to compare to when I’m doing these things on no sleep.  I’ll try to do them every twelve hours.

What do I hope to gain by staying awake for 100 hours?  A better understanding of what my characters would be going through.  I could fake it.  I could probably write a good approximation.  But having lived it will bring an air of authenticity to the work that I will feel much better about.

Understanding people is key to writing realistic characters.  

I’m not going to enjoy doing it, but I will enjoy having done it.

Sometimes I can’t experience what my characters are going through.  But these rare times when I can, I feel an obligation to at least try.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.  

P.S.: (I will report back in one week, when I’m just at the tail end of my 100 hours.  I apologize in advance if it is riddled with insanity and/or is generally a mess.  I will of course do a followup with a more articulate account of how it went.)

P.P.S.: It’s different from Gonzo Journalism, or Gonzo Writing, in that I’m not inserting myself into the narrative.  It is a technique which serves only to help me understand and bring realism to characters in a story.

P.P.P.S.: I’ve been reading up on sleep and sleep deprivation a lot.  I’m not going into this blind.  It is the last step in my understanding, not the first.

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The Ramifications of Creating a New Life Form and a Silly Video of a Cat

Yesterday, I went to a broadcast of a play.  Last year, I went to National Theatre’s production of “Frankenstein” and was delighted to see they were rebroadcasting it.  So I got tickets for me and my friends and we went to see Frankenstein, as directed by a the wonderful Danny Boyle.

I came at it from a whole nother angle; I recently started a new book, one that deals with genetic engineering and the many interesting quandaries that arrise because of our tendency to do things because we can.  I was much more in tune to Frankenstein’s monster this go around; I realized I had been approaching my story from a human-centric viewpoint.  Silly author…

So as I was getting into that groove, my brain did a funny thing.  It started replaying this video of a cat.  And it was funny.  And it almost made me laugh out loud at several, completely inappropriate points during the broadcast.

I managed to get back on track… it was a strange deviation.  Perhaps it was some failsafe, activated when not being attracted to Frankenstein’s monster is impossible.  Because Benedict Cumberbatch.

All that aside, it was a fantastic production.  Really visceral, really physical.  It was tremendous.

And then still, there’s this.  :/

Word Clouds: Silly and Enlightening

I enjoy playing with word clouds.

I made one for a recent short story, “The Darker Paths”:

Word clouds are fun.

But did I really use “Max” and “Brian” *that* much?  Gosh.  Something to keep in mind when I’m crafting.

My next project, “Blood Drop Sonata”, is for a horror anthology featuring classical music.  I’m having good fun with it.  I’m starting to mesh monsters with wild abandon; werewolf poltergeists are a thing, right?  Well, now they are.

And just so I’m clear,

Cat Nicknames Level Up

When I got my cat, I called her many things.  Sometimes I even called her by her actual name, but mostly not.

I’ve decided to document this interesting, and ongoing, change in nicknames for my cat.  This will possibly lower your opinion of my intelligence.  Well, to this, as with many situations in life, there is an XKCD.

XKCD on Cat Proximity.

I also should mention my attitude towards names.

In lore, names are an extremely powerful thing.  Lots of magic has to do with knowing the True Name of someone, or some thing.  The Name of the Wind, Rumpelstiltskin, The Hobbit, The Dresden Files; the list goes on and on.  I employed this interesting trope in my second novel, Trook Hunters, and was excited at the results it yielded.

More on True Names on Wikipedia here.

So, over the years, I’ve practiced up on learning the True Names of things.  Seems silly, but I have an astonishing rate of being able to call the neighbourhood cats to me.  It’s very rare that cats are actually named their true name, but I’ve found at least one case of this being true.  With all the others, I pick a name and try it out, and keep on trying until I say one the cat likes.  Silly, I know, but hey, it works.

The cats in my neighbourhood are named: Brickhouse, Shy One, Handsome (RIP), Tiramisu (Aaron named that one), Grey Cat (not actually his true name, I’m still trying to find that one- Grey Cat is the one he responds to most- he’s still pretty ferral), Houdini (actual name), Sofie (that’s her actual name; I can’t figure out her True Name though, she responds to anything, is super affectionate), and Nice Cat.  I’m still trying to broach several strays near my new apartment; the man downstairs feeds them, but they are feral and scared, and hard to observe.

I like naming things.  When writing, I spend an inordinate amount of time on names.

So, with all that in mind, I give you the evolution of cat nicknames for my cat.

Cat: Echo

Nicknames, in the order in which they were coined and used:

Roo

Brew

Brew Bean

Big Roo

Big Strange Roo

Roo Bean

Smittens

Cat Butt

Big Cat Butt

Cute Boot

Muffin

Muffin Bean

Muffin Butt

Fluffin

Fluffin Butt

…And this week, I levelled up: a four syllable cat nickname.

Dunder Mufflin.

(I’ve been getting into “The Office”.)

So, that’s it so far.  We’ve had her for one year.

No doubt there will be more.
Bonus pic.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.

Flu Symptoms May Include Creepy Minecraft Roleplaying.

Gosh, I’ve been sick for almost all of January.  Not stellar.  Aaron’s been home all week too.

‘Tis a plague house, be gone, be gone!

To distract myself, I’ve been playing Minecraft again.  New worldtype: super flat.  It’s bedrock, 3 layers of dirt, and nothing else.  Oh, except for the pre constructed villages scattered about.  Most are about half a days run (a Minecraft day) from each other.

So I made a survival world to roleplay as a farmer (normal world type, not superflat).  He wakes up- in a snowy wasteland- with no knowledge of how he got there.  There are no other people to be seen.  Some pigs and cows are scattered about the sparse tundra.  He makes a crude shelter and rakes precious seeds from the frosty grass with his bare hands.

After a few terrifying nights spent in his snow shelter, he decides to set off to find a warmer place, where he could grow crops, and try and make a farm, like he had in the before-time.

He takes the meager possessions he’s accumulated and sets off north.  On the frozen beach, he makes a boat and sails, and sails, and sails for what feels like forever.  At last he makes shore on a sandy beech.  There is green grass, and a lush forrest.  He makes shelter in the woods and once again survives a few frightening nights.  The creatures that come for him in the dark fade to nothingness as he falls asleep…

At last he sets off and finds a nice, flat plains area to start his farm.

It was a struggle, but he wound up with a log house, a huge irrigated field of wheat, a pen each of sheep, cows, chickens, and pigs.

When he was content, he explored nearby areas.

There were strange people in a village nearby.  They wondered around seemingly aimlessly, giving him no notice.  The creatures that would attack him in the night disregarded these strange village people.  He explored their village and found books, which he borrowed, leaving them food and some metal in return.

He spent days pouring over the books.

He learned of a strange ‘nether’ place, where strange creatures lived, and glowing stone hung over endless pools of deadly boiling lava.

He learned of strange magics practiced using enchanting rituals and bizarre ingredients.

He even read of strange islands in his own world that were covered in a strange fungus and had giant mushrooms growing on them.  His heart sped up when he read of the ‘mooshrooms’ that roamed them in vast herds.

He prepared for a long journey, taking many tools, supplies, and food.

Once more he set off by boat, skirting continent after continent in search of the mushroom land.

When he found it he stayed the night and was delighted that there were none of the monsters he was now so used to.  Only the mooshrooms seemed to be able to live on the strange fungus land.

He got out his wheat and tempted a whole herd of the animals to follow him.

He swam, leading them back towards his farm.

He set out 9; by the time he ushered them into the pen he’d prepared for them, but 3 were left.

He bred them and made a nice herd of mooshrooms for his very own.

Several days of contentment followed.  But the farmers thoughts turned dark one night, durring a thunder storm.

He dug out a basement for himself and crafted a magical enchantment table.  He began tinkering with the arcane arts.

The farmer would emerge at night, roaming the desert to the west in search of the night monsters.  He slayed them all mercilessly, gathering power to use in his arcane experiments.

He journeyed to the nether and fought even greater foes.  The frustrations of being on fire almost drove him back to the safety of his farm, but he continued on, exploring a strange constructed fortress full of fiery creatures.

With new ingredients, he dared new, powerful potions.

With the eyes of one of the night monsters and the strange substance from one of the fire creatures, he crafted a curious device: when thrown, it hovered up in the air, flying away from him to the south-west.  He followed it, picking it up where it landed.  It took him to the ocean, and he again took to the sea and followed the strange eye-construct.

It led him deep into the earth, to a frightening underground lair.  There he found dungeons and chests and new strange bug monsters…  and the makings of a strange portal.  He’d read that he’d need many of the night-eye devices to activate it.  The books at back at home told of people going into these portals and never coming out…

He went home, still debating what to do about the ‘end’ portal.  He lives on his farm, tending his crops and animals, and taking shelter in his house at night, where the books that tell of the strange places sit on his shelf, staring down at him, tempting him to go back to that underground portal and finish it.

Heh, anyway, that’s the first of my Minecraft sick worlds.

…And then I got food poisoning.  Nothing like Minecraft to take my mind off of stuff like that.

My curent one is a flatland, where I ran from village to village until I had enough material to make an enchanting table.  I vowed that the village that gave me the final diamonds I needed would be transformed into a paradise in the flatland.

So far it has lots of light, is surrounded by trees, has a grassland plains, and a few mountains.  I’m working on a stone (stone!) hall, and have just sectioned off an area free from slimes and lit it well enough so monsters won’t spawn there.  Got a lot of crops growing, and have pens of chickens, cows, sheep, and pigs.  Things are going well.

I like my flatworld.  It’s on hardcore mode though, so if I die, it all goes away.  I’m holding out pretty well so far.  Pics will happen if I don’t die.  🙂

What I Did on Blackout Day: A Pocket Full of Links

I’m sure Reddit will be inundated with posts about the blackout.

F7U12 will be full of blackout related comics.

Pics will be full of blanket forts and other things made out of boredom to fill the gap that is usually so well filled by Reddit.

(And Amy: I wrote this before you told the world that you made a blanket fort during the blackout- how awesome is that?)

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means that, for some people, the one day blackout is actually more like a two day blackout (one actual blackout day, then one day of blackout posts).

This post is not about what I did on blackout day.

Well ok, it’s actually exactly that.

But hey, want to see what I did on blackout day?  Because I was sick and it was still a good day.  This post is full of delicious links to videos, pictures, and various other media.  It’s a journey.  If you want something to do, check out all this cool stuff.

I woke up sick.  It was snowing.  My man went to work.  I bundled up in many layers and planted myself in front of my laptop at my kitchen table.  Ugh, sick.  Cancelled plans to go see a movie I’ve been looking forward to.

Relatedly, I’ve been trying to coin a term to describe having a crush on someone without knowing what they look like.  But not a lusty crush.  Well ok, lusty, but not lusting after their bodies- like, like lusting after their delicious, sexy brains. Cronenberg (see above).  Fincher. Cuarón. I have crushes on a ton of brilliant people, but it’s like a brain-crush, where I love their brain and how it works and everything they make.

Brain-crush?  Hmm, needs more work.  Maybe when I’m not sick it will come to me.

What better way to feel better than to let the pleasing antics of Simon and Lewis lull me into satisfying state of amusement?  Their Minecraft golf episode did the trick while I made coffee in my new Aeropress.

Then, I decided to do my part and learn more about SOPA/PIPA.

I made a FB post about it to try and get others to learn more too: “Stop SOPA/PIPA! I hope the Blackout today will get people to call and write their congresspeople to prevent this terrible, terrible bill from going forward. Would you like to know more? http://vimeo.com/31100268

Then I was amused at myself for my Starship Troopers reference and decided to see what came up on YouTube when I searched for “Would you like to know more?”

Consequently, I learned more about Belgium.)  Amusing.

Then I put on slippers.  My apartment is cold.  Went and found my cat (see previous picture) actually no, see THIS) picture.  Echo tells the best jokes.

I decided that it was actually a good idea to make something to eat.  Something warm and mushy and tasty.  Steel cut oats.)

My mother in law phoned and offered to bring over her plug in heater.  I readily agreed.

I tried to find a gif of this hilarious dancing Russian, and was instead amused at Google’s ‘did you mean’ racism…

But it led me to this), which is just about the most awesome thing I could have found.

My oats were finally ready, and they were delicious.  Extra butter.  Cream, vanilla, cinnamon, brown sugar.  Yes.  Yes, good.  I ate them while looking at gifs.

From there things were just starting to get silly.

So I opened my new Minecraft world (“Flatopia”) and proceeded to try and make a safe area to grow crops in.  Damn slimes.  SLIMES EVERYWHERE.

Aaaan, that’s it!  Once I got into Minecraft the day was Minecraft from here to eternity.

Anyway, hope you enjoyed the links.  It was fun making this.

Thanks for reading.

Heidi out.