MORE RANTYPANTS: Writing Mental Illness for Fun and Profit

FULL SNARK AHEAD.

Yes, I’m taking my meds. Shut up. Also, it’s my birthday, so I can put on as many pairs of RANTYPANTS as I want. And maybe even go commando in them. That episode of Friends is my all-time favorite.

Sorry, where were we? All that lack of focus must mean I’m ADHD. Maybe a certain self-proclaimed expert can do a fly-by diagnosis for me.

So. Someone retweeted this, and I could not stop myself from clicking that damn link.

writing_insanity

http://www.indiesunlimited.com/2014/09/30/9-tips-for-writing-an-insane-character

How fun was it? Let’s take a look at a few highlights:

You need to get specific. There are about a million types of crazy.

Does anyone else see the WTF in this statement? Just me?

I even took a university class on abnormal psychology….  For those of you looking to lose your fictional marbles, let me share what I’ve learned.

One undergrad class makes one an expert? I shall update my résumé! Let’s see…world religions, astronomy, statistics, juvenile delinquency (A+ in that one! I should write a book!), Intermediate German (there’s a good story about that), visual communications (in which I researched the brilliance of Cecil Beaton so I’m an expert on him too). OH! Also: racquetball! My only A in a PE class; I had a killer serve.

Yes, I changed my major seven times. Shut up and keep reading.

What flaw is splintering your character’s sanity? Is it alcohol abuse, as in The Shining?

Because mental illness is never just an illness. I keep wondering what my Deep Dark Secret or Tragic Past is, because I honestly can’t remember. Maybe I should try regression therapy. Or I could make up something, like…I was kidnapped as a toddler and force-fed mercury-tainted tuna by a satanic motorcycle gang club. That’s crazy enough to justify my crazypants, right?

I detest tuna. Just the smell of it makes me nauseous. I should write a book about that.

…obsession is a side effect of having a screw loose…

Let’s try this instead: …obsession is a side effect symptom of having a screw loose mental illness. Got it? It’s really not that difficult a concept.

Give your insane character these moments!

If only my mental illness was momentary. And deserving of !!!exclamationpoints!!! I feel so undeserving.

Writing insane characters offers a fantastic chance to use dramatic irony.

I shall endeavor to find the ironic moments in the drama that is my life.

5. He shows symptoms of a real mental disorder

Does this really need to be said? Seriously???

Most insane characters seem to have an escalated version of psychosis. This disorder is worth researching, from the early signs (social withdrawal, sleep disturbance, anxiety…) to full-blown delusions, hallucinations, and speech problems.

I don’t doubt the items mentioned correlate with some forms of psychosis (which, btw, is a generic umbrella term and not an actual diagnosis). But calling out common issues like anxiety and equating speech problems with full-blown delusions reduces a highly complex medical issue to nothing more than some potential Amazon keywords.

Insane characters are not like this.

Because all crazy is the same — even though there’s million different kinds of it. [See what I did there?]

8. He was set off by something

What triggered your character’s descent into madness? You may choose to show the trigger in your plot, or mask it as backstory.

Mental disorders have a variety of causes. Why does your character have this disorder? Was her mom bipolar? Is it drug-induced psychosis? Did she have a traumatic experience as a child? Again, use science to inspire you.

OH FOR FUCK SAKE. I just CAN’T EVEN WITH THIS. It just KEEPS GETTING WORSE. Where’s my damn Xanax?

A crazy character’s Snap moment is probably the most fun thing to write. Like, ever. In the history of time.

*~*sigh*~*

Note that an insane character doesn’t have to be doomed.

This is totally true. Insanity can be cured by some vitamin injections. Even if the character has been diagnosed with a real mental illness by a psychiatrist and has prescription meds. No, really.

If you’re preparing to write an insane character, I do recommend you study the books and movies I reference.

*RAGEFACE*

Oh, wait – I hope *rageface* doesn’t mean I’ve lost my non-fictional marbles, or that I’m “one fry short of a Happy Meal.” If it’s only in lowercase, does it still count as insane, or just cranky? What’s the threshold here?

Insanity might seem synonymous with unpredictable, but it does have patterns and symptoms that we need to be mindful of. (pardon the pun?)

Ah, finally. But..this was in response to an actual logical response in the comments.

And what are the author’s credentials, you ask?

I don’t care if you didn’t ask. You should have. Because UGH.

Yes, I’m going there. I’m a bully. So sue me. Is that stupid STGRB site still around? If so, I’m on it.

Two (2) self-pubbed YA books. And that one university class. But she’s read The Shining and watched Fatal Attraction, so she’s got that going for her.

Yes, The Shining is the epitome of batshit crazysauce. I think Stephen King is a little crazypants himself, but in a good way. He gets a pass. You, dear author [collectively, not specific to anyone], are not, and never will be, Stephen King. You’re not even Tana French. Don’t even try to go there.

HOWEVER.  I can only hope this article compels other authors to read A Beautiful Mind or The Silver Linings Playbook. As in actually read them to find all the ways Sylvia Nasar and Matthew Quick treat their mentally ill characters as actual people and not !fun! and !easy! and !lazy! plot devices.

One fry short of a Happy Meal, indeed. To which I say: Bite. Me.

Medieval Mania: Cultural Appropriation, ca. 1960

This is what you get when you do a Google search for “medieval maiden.” Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

1960 Maidenform Bra ad - detail of dog

A high-maintenance dog.

1960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of monkey

A monkey with a roll
of paper towels.

1960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of bunny

A bunny.

2960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of unicorn

A pervy yet submissive goat-unicorn.

1960 Maidenform bra ad - detail of model

Nope, nothing offensive here. Move along.

In all this visual ecstasy, let’s not overlook the all-important ad copy:

I dreamed I was a medieval maiden in my Maidenform bra

I dreamed I was a medieval maiden in my maidenform® bra
The past was never quite this perfect! I’m a legendary figure in STAR FLOWER,
Maidenform’s newest work of art! Genius idea: petal-patterned circular-stitched cup,
underlined with twin elastic bands (upper band expands for
custom fitting cups; lower band expands for comfortable give-and-take).
White cotton broadcloth, A, B and C cups. A collector’s item at just 2.50!

Yeesh. Just the words “broadcloth bra” make my boobs itchy. Let us now praise the inventors of Lycra®, even though they were men.

Medieval Mania: By Royal Command by Laura Navarre

  • By Royal Command by Laura NavarreTitle: By Royal Command
  • Author: Laura Navarre
  • Series: N/A
  • Genre(s): Historical
  • Publisher: Carina Press, July 2012
  • Source: NetGalley ($4.16 ebook)
  • Length: 274 pages
  • Trope(s): Widow, Alpha Male(s), Beta Hero, Big Misunderstanding, Simile Sex, Hair Fetish, Evil Royal Relation
  • Quick blurb: Newly widowed niece of King Ethelred (he of the Unreadiness) is forced into a betrothal with a Norman nobleman – but she’s distracted by the large and tawny Viking assigned as her escort.
  • Quick review: The author has a thesaurus, and she knows how to use it.
  • Grade: D

Grappling with savage urgency in a riot of tumbled cushions, she plunged headlong into rapture in the arms of her wrathful angel.

Status Updates: Read With Me Vicariously

You can tell by the dates that I avoided writing this review.

  • 09/12 – 40%: “…the curving shell of secrets nestled between her thighs” o.0
  • 09/13 – 42%: This book is much more Bodice Ripper than I anticipated….
  • 09/13 – 58%: The metaphors. EVERYTHING is a water, fire, weather or war metaphor. And the interjections. By Odin’s smelly underpants, the INTERJECTIONS! Lots of references to Odin and Thor, but no Loki yet. Heroine prefers to invoke St. Cuthbert and St. Wilfrid.
  • 09/14 – 65%: The book that will never end. I made it this far, but this is taking WAY too long to finish.
  • 09/15 – 78%: Still not done… *whimper*
  • 09/17 – 100%: Finally finished, and I still haven’t quite distilled why this didn’t work for me.

When I finally started the distillation process, I had to put the crankypants on.

The writing style….

I can’t really call it the author’s “voice,” because I never really heard one. Instead, I felt bombarded with every literary device we learned in junior high language arts class. Action verbs. Adjectives. Metaphors. Interjections. Euphemisms. Rinse. Repeat.

As he fitted himself against her, an epiphany burst within….

She opened herself to the storm of sensation, reached for him with both arms as he surged inside to fill her. Their joining brought him toppling down on her, in the blazing splendor of the archbishop’s bed. He gripped her in the same desperate clutch, held her moored against his rapid thrusts. Her tight channel stretched to accept him, ripples of pleasure pulsing through her. Blindly, she struggled toward the conflagration.

Without warning, it ignited her. She dug her nails into his sinewed back and clung with all her strength. The cataclysm flung her high, outside herself, as he went rigid in her arms.

The hundreds (literally) of other examples can be grouped into thematic categories, including:

Continue reading

Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys

As in “The Guys” brand of slacks.

Tight-fitting, polyester manly-man slacks — the “preferred profile pants.”

The Guys Slacks - No Fatties AllowedRead on or get a closer look for the full impact, but don’t say I didn’t warn you. And not just about the fat-shaming — there’s some sexual innuendo (of course) AND a lovely bit of racism in there too!

Random trivia you might need to know: “Best/Prest” = 65% polyester, 35% cotton.

From left to right….

guys_slacks_1If you are 40 or under — around the waist — The Guys are your slacks.

Being able to wear The Guys isn’t a matter of luck. If you’ve been wise enough to keep your chest bigger than your stomach – The Guys are for you. You look good, they look good on you. The Guys are lastingly Best/Prest. Get to wear The Guys!

guys_slacks_2Just 42 pounds away from wearing The Guys

It’s a worthwhile project — slimming down for The Guys. They’re made for guys 40 or under — around the waist. That way we tailor them to look good on people who look good. Naturally, The Guys are Best/Prest, handsomely finished and all those other details you’d expect in pants made only for trim people. Get to wear The Guys!

guys_slacks_3If your dad can wear The Guys slacks and you can’t — shame on you

The Guys slacks are made for special guys. Those whose chests are bigger than their stomachs. Guys 40 or under — around the waist. Guys who fit neatly into a sports car. Or slam a ball a mile down the middle. If you aren’t ready for The Guys — get ready.

guys_slacks_4The Guys don’t discriminate against fat people — just waistlines

It’s true. Not everyone can wear The Guys slacks. We make them to fit men whose chests are bigger than their stomachs. That way we tailor them to look best of guys we are 40 or under — around the waist! (Bigger sizes we leave to Omar and the other tent makers.) Naturally, The Guys are Best/Prest. Get to wear The Guys!

guys_slacks_5Preferred — by preferred profiles

Think of The Guys as a social asset. For elevation to preferred positions. If you are impressive — if your chest is bigger than your stomach — you can wear The Guys.

Oy. Uff da. Bloody hell. WHAT THE FUCK.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Prick McPedestal in all his Full Polyester Glory, shall we?

Mr. Prick McPedestal: Spokesmodel for SMUG International

Mr. Prick McPedestal:
Spokesmodel for
SMUG WANKER INTERNATIONAL

You might think our friend Prick is wearing haute couture slacks designed by Halston or Bill Blass.

You’d wrong. Oh, sooooo wrong.

Little does Mr. McPedestal know, the behind-the-smoke-screen designer is a guy named Marv from Wisconsin. Specifically, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where Marv can be found smoking a cigar while sitting on his plastic chair inside the exalted fashion empire of Oshkosh B’gosh.

I made up the part about Marv and his chair and his cigar, but – I shit you not – this ad was commissioned and approved by the same company who built their reputation with branding like this:

Oshkosh Fits Them All

This whole “The Guys” branding and sales pitch is just SCREAMING to be a Mad Men episode, isn’t it? Get on that, Matthew Weiner.

So, now what?

We now officially wrap up this five-part episode of Epic Mean Girl Rant of WTF Righteous Indignation. I plan on reading only GOOD books from now on, but we all know how well that’s worked out so far.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If you’re joining this rant in progress, don’t miss the beginning and middle of all this WTFery:

  1. World Series of Romance: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
  2. Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)
  3. More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!
  4. Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!
  5. Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys

Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!

The Bonus Round: Skinny Shaming for Power & Profit!

This post is dedicated to a certain romance author who was brave enough to describe herself on Twitter as once being “psychotically skinny and boobless” —  and to all the other “oohmph”-deficient gals (and guys!) through the ages.

You Can't Afford to be SKINNY!

I couldn’t really make a game of out this one, because the messages are painfully repetitive. I guess stick chicks aren’t worth an ad agency’s creativity. So instead, let’s just all wallow in the resulting pit of despair. I’ll bring the beer.

Ready, set, drink!

I brought both light and full-calorie beer, by the way. Because I’m thoughtful like that.

No SEX APPEAL.

To the fuckwad in the first cartoon panel: Happy Sexy Curvy Girl chose the other guy because you say stupid shit like “let’s vamoose.”

Good News for Thousands of Girls Who Have No SEX APPEAL

No EXCUSES.

Yeah, well, Smarmy Guy, you’re wearing lipstick, so STFU.

There's no excuse for being skinny

No OOMPH.

I’m really, really curious why “bring out” is in “air quotes.”

Skinny Girls Have No OOMPH

No GLAMOUR.

American GLAMOR, maybe. But British GLAMOUR? Never.

Skinny Girls are not GLAMOUR GIRLS

No SOLID FLESH.

So, you say “Kelp-A-Malt” makes you feel SWELL. Really?

Girls with naturally SKINNY figures can gain solid flesh

No DIGNITY.

I think they mistyped a vowel in her last name. But let’s be fair — this was long before boob jobs were affordable for casting-couch starlets.

Don't let them call you SKINNY

No CHANCE.

Lucky for him, Lounging Lady has lots of advice ready to share (*wink, wink*).

A SKINNY Man Hasn't a ChanceNo SHAME.

But thank goodness they’re adding on normal, attractive flesh.

You're Gorgeous! How Can I Gain Ten Pounds?

But, in the end, it’s all about….

No NERVE-FORCE.

You have to read the details on this one — it’s wild. And it’s gender-neutral!

Are You Too Thin?THE MAN who is too thin is invariably of an anxious, neurasthenic type,
incapable of carrying out the duties of life with vigour and courage.

THE WOMAN who is too thin is anemic, nervous, worrying, wanting
in self-confidence, and is handicapped alongside her plump,
self-confident rival, who is bubbling over with joyous vitality.

But weight – there’s more!

Heh. That one was so good I had to use it twice.

Don’t miss the upcoming unbelievably, mind-boggingly WHAT. THE. FUCK. weight-shaming targeted at men I found. Just one, but it’s worth every pound you binge down or barf up.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If you’re joining this rant in progress, don’t miss the beginning and end of all this WTFery:

  1. World Series of Romance: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
  2. Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)
  3. More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!
  4. Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!
  5. Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys

More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!

Now the Fun Group Project! Woohoo!

Yes, I know I failed my self-imposed “no-snark” test in the Seminar on Body Issues. But I tried – HONEST. So in celebration of my sincere attempt at writing like a grown-up, it’s time to play….

Choose How You Lose!

Vintage "Fat People" ad

Because, let’s face it, we’re all just pathetic romance readers who must aspire to have a Barbie Body to earn the love of a man. Any man. Or woman. It doesn’t matter, we’re all just one big pity party around here.

The rules are simple – just scroll through the tried-and-true weight-loss methods below and vote for your favorite(s) in the comments. And then make your guess which one is MY favorite (*snerk*).

Ready, set, GO!

Quick warning: Option 10 is NOT for the faint of heart…(er, stomach).

Option 1: Take a bath

It’s the luxurious, Parisian way to creating a flab-free figure.

Choose How You Lose: Take a Bath

Option 2: Take up smoking

And you thought the Mad Men Lucky Strike ads were bad. And there’s a lot more where this came from.

When tempted to over-indulge, reach for a Lucky instead

Option 3: Eat more beans

But not just any ol’ beans – they’ve got to be laxative beans.

Bile Beans: For 1940 - Be Fit & Slim

Option 4: Wear a polyester leotard

But for maximum effectiveness, it must be a full-body footie leotard, available exclusively at Sears.

Choose How You Lose: Sears Beauty Spa

Option 5: Eat more candy

Specifically, candy made from granulated kelp. Yes, really – but these are black-market only due to federal fraud regulations. Stupid government. Almost enough to make me vote Republican.

Choose How You Lose: Candy Plan

Option 6: Eat more sugar

Real sugar, thank God.

Choose How You Lose: Domino Sugar

Option 7: Jiggle-drinking

Hands-free auto-jiggling! You’ll notice the wall mirror is behind them.

Choose How You Lose: Jiggle and Drink

Option 8: Horse exercise at home

Note: Men get to ride astride. Fuckers.

Choose How You Lose: Horse Exercise at Home

Option 9: Plug in and get off

Soothe away those unsightly bulges with a relaxing, penetrating(!!!) massage.

Choose How You Lose: Electric Spot Reducer

NOTE: This is the one I warned you about….

Option 10: Ingest sanitized tapeworms

Yes, REALLY. But don’t worry — they’re easy to swallow.

Choose How You Lose: Sanitized Tapeworms

Polls are closing soon!

Make your choices and record your vote in the comments! Because sharing snark far outweighs (hahahahaha!) voter privacy!

Then stay in your seats….

Because we’re always Equal Opportunity here at Insta-Love, we also have a special Skinny Shaming bonus round for the stick chicks!

And we have one for the guys too – and it’s a doozy.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If you’re joining this rant in progress, don’t miss the beginning and end of all this WTFery:

  1. World Series of Romance: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
  2. Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)
  3. More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!
  4. Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!
  5. Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys

Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)

Sarcasm AND alliteration in the same headline. This is like my best blog day EVER.  Except there’s no flowchart.

I did a pie chart instead:

Fun with Fat-Shaming Pie Chart

A PIE chart — get it? HAHAHAHAHAHA!
DAMN, I’m good.

You had to know I was going to go there, so quit rolling your eyes at me. I couldn’t decide on a subliminal-message kind of color scheme, so I just went with hot pink for Girly Girl Power.

I do have a point, just shut up and keep reading.

MY POINT:

The blatant, nonsensical, unnecessary and utterly fucking ridiculous weight-shaming in Kate Angell’s Squeeze Play  provided a BIG FAT TARGET for my Darts of Mockery — and several people who read the review weren’t shy about borrowing my metaphorical projectiles (see below) or bringing their own to the party:

Storify: The Squeeze Play Twitter discussion

Technical note:

My infamous Darts of Mockery are stocked in three different styles:

  1. Wimpy little foam thingies with suction cups that don’t stick to anything, like the cheap Nerf darts my son bemoans.
  2. The middle-grade Velcro darts that stick if you “throw” them from three feet away, but don’t present a choking hazard for dogs of less than usual brain power.
  3. The big-boy, bad-ass, biker-bar, don’t-fuck-with-me darts with actual POINTS that may cause pain and will hopefully cause intellectual stimulation when aimed properly. You know, like at BOOKS, not authors.

I tend to use the don’t-fuck-with-me darts the most. No, really.

ANYWAY:

I decided I couldn’t let this latest episode of Piss-Me-Offery go without having a bit of light-hearted fun with it — but with some honest constructive criticism as well. I’m saving up all the snark for the group project following the lecture, so here’s the inaugural Insta-Love Online Seminar for Romance Writers:

Using Body Image as a Character Trait in Romance Writing

Fat girls with daddy issues always try harder

Now remember son, the fat girls with daddy issues always try harder.

Don’t. Go. There.

Ever.

The ONLY exception to this rule is making a character’s weight issues an integral part of the story. And that’s a trope that should be touched only by a very select few authors who have the sensitivity AND skills in characterization to make it work.

Helen Fielding did it brilliantly in Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Random Author, you are no Helen Fielding.

If you throw in references to pounds and sizes and scales and muffin-tops and Spanx, it’s going to come back and bite you in the ass. In more ways than one. (Was that snark? I made it a few paragraphs snark-free, didn’t I?)

It seems like a no-brainer equation to me:

Women come in all shapes and sizes.
+
Women are the ones buying and reading your books.

WHY would you take such a low-payoff gamble that is nearly guaranteed to alienate a significant number of your readers? Do the math. You’re not going to come out ahead.

And for the remaining readers who aren’t offended or annoyed, you risk kicking them out of their reading trance as they mentally grapple with the pounds:height:size ratios.

Case study: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell

While Stevie tipped the scale at one-thirty-six…
+
Her size sixes had evolved into tens and twelves
over the years, and the occasional fourteen.

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I estimate that EVERY SINGLE READER will remove themselves from the story to calculate Stevie’s height knowing that she wears double-digit sizes at 136 pounds.

Don’t believe me? The official Answer According to Twitter was that Stevie is approximately three feet, four inches tall. EVERY contributor to that discussion, including me, put not just the fictional character into the equation, but herself as well.

And for what purpose? None. Nada. Nil. Null. After all that bullshit, there was no character change or growth. The weight-shaming was just a superficial and lazy and insulting attempt at defining a non-entity character. It didn’t matter. It doesn‘t matter.

It should never matter.

Fat Shaming - Twitter Discussion

But MOST IMPORTANTLY our lovability is
100% dependent on our dress size & # on scale #iwannapuke

And if you have your “hero” do the shaming….

You might as well just pack up and go the fuck home.

I made it to the end of Squeeze Play without noticeable damage to my Kindle, but I left little chunks of my brain behind whenever the dickhead “hero” offered his “blunt” and “honest” “advice.”

“Chocolate-covered strawberries are great comfort food.”

“Find comfort elsewhere.”

“Why all the concern?” His gaze darkened to jet, dropped to her breasts, then to her belly….

That crosses the line to MISOGYNY, and you’re out on two strikes.

Hey, Mr. Hero — you like it “blunt” and “honest”? Come over here so Betty and I  can give it to you straight:

"Sit down and stfu." - Betty White

STFU = Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

Thus endth the lesson for today.

Got it? Good. Because that shit is NON-NEGOTIABLE.

Now that the boring lecture is done…

Let’s move on to the Fun Group Project: Choose How You Lose!

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

If you’re joining this rant in progress, don’t miss the beginning and end of all this WTFery:

  1. World Series of Romance: Squeeze Play by Kate Angell
  2. Follow-Up: Fun with Fat Shaming! (Part 1)
  3. More Fun with Fat Shaming: Group Project!
  4. Even MORE Fun with Fat Shaming: The Low-Fat/No-Fat Edition!
  5. Final Round of Fun with Fat Shaming: The Guys