In Which Things Start to Get Real

A dozen pieces of twisted metal shifted and clinked next to each other, a mortician’s rattle.

When I can’t sleep, I try to diligently follow the rules set out for those suffering chronic pain by our ‘Snooze Expert’.

1) Get out of bed within 15 minutes.

2) Do something outside the bedroom that doesn’t involve anything strenuous or heart wrenching or sharp implements.

3)  Do said non-violent activity for a half hour or until sleep grabs you in a choke hold.

4) If sleep does not grab you in a choke hold, just dope up. For serious.

In defence of the Snooze Expert, I might have made #4 up.  Despite that, I like to utilize these moments in the middle of the night to break into the creative part of my brain that insists on becoming active sometime around 1:00 in the morning. I used to be a night person. I could stay up until 3:00 writing every last little idea down until my finger tips bled and my mother begged me to take up a different hobby.

Something happens in the middle of the night, when the house is creaking and I can hear my fiance’ breathing quietly from down the hall. My mind finds itself in a different place, wandering labyrinths and battling dragons. This usually makes for an interesting update given that there are no dragons in The Code and I have been told to keep pseudo-Greek Mythological References to a minimum. Apparently the audience ‘won’t get it’ and I should ‘stop swearing so much’. Pfft, whatever.

Sometime in the middle of the night I stop worrying about what I can do to a character, a setting, a plot, and start worrying about what I haven’t done yet. We spoke about it in my Peer Mentoring Class. There is something that limits our creativity, and it is, in all simplicity, our own fear to cross an invisible line we have drawn for ourselves. X, Y and Z are perfectly acceptable things to make your character suffer, but throw in G, H and I, and suddenly you’re a monster. That’s good. We should be monsters. We are monsters.

As writers it should be our job to make reader’s uncomfortable with our stories. We should push buttons and deal hands that are generally unfavourable. Our reader’s should hate us, not just for the story we’ve written, but for making them think, and rethink, everything that they’ve based their lives on.

It’s deliciously evil in its own way. I love the idea of being that figure that people love to hate, or even hate to love.

I had always hoped I wouldn’t be trapped by my own creativity, that there would be no limits. But just as there should be no limits to what we can do, there should just as easily be limits to what we want to do. Case and point – just because you can describe a vicious killing scene where a mutant preying mantis eats an entire Navy SEALS team doesn’t mean you should. I mean, sure, there’s a time and place for something like that, but dammit, if I finish your book with a fear of all mantoids, there is clearly something wrong!

Courtesy of
I will destroy everything you hold dear, puny human

Seriously, screw mantoids.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that one of the most important things I’ve learned about writing over the last few years is that you shouldn’t be afraid of writing whatever you want. On the other hand, know your audience, know what is creative and what is senseless.

And for the love of all that is good and holy, keep the mutant preying mantis references to a minimum.

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