Update – Mercy Hospital

I thought this week I’d let you know my progress on the sequel to Now Entering Silver Hollow. We’ll get back to The Editor’s Corner pretty soon. But since I’ve had a few people ask how it’s going …

I’d say it’s going pretty well for an indie author with a full-time job. While I can’t give out any timelines just yet, I’ve had an opportunity to pick away at editing and have added a chapter so far.

Here’s a little taste of my progress. Keep in mind this is still going to have massive editing done to it, so the finished product may or may not have this in it:

2017-09-17 progress

So yes, I’m over 66,000 words now, and I still have a couple of chapters that need to be added. Now I’ve been writing this for some time, and I’ve recovered from two data failures, the death of my dog, and a new job that currently takes up to 14 hours of my days (including the commute). But I still pick away at the manuscript when I have a chance.

Once this second draft is finished, I will go through and do a third draft which is the developmental edit. I’ll look for consistency, continuity, make sure the story cycles aren’t too far out of whack, and then make sure my plot makes sense (somewhat, at least).

Then, the fourth draft will be a copy edit. Clarity, grammar, spelling, etc. All that good stuff. After that, I send the cleaned up copy “out” for a professional edit which is both developmental and copy. When it gets back to me, I’ll accept or reject the edits as needed and create my fifth draft.

The fifth one gets sent to my new proofreader, Jay Willison, for scrutinizing. I will also proofread it myself and let my editor take a final look at it. Three sets of eyes typically catch all the proofreading errors.

Then, the sixth draft will get a final coat of varnish, and I will set it up for publishing using the Pronoun platform. Print and eBooks will be available for your eager eyes and hot little hands.

I’m going to take advantage of NaNoWriMo 2017 to help me stay on track and get this process staying in motion, and I will update you periodically.

Until then, catch up on my weird world through Exit 1042 and Now Entering Silver Hollow. Happy reading!

-Anne

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» 9 Famous Authors Who Didn’t Get Published Until Their Fifties (Or Older)

I actually do hear a lot of people complain that they’re too old to begin a writing career. But the fact of the matter is, you’re never too old to do anything career wise unless you’re dead or have developed a form of amnestic disorder/dementia.

Considering I’ve read about and met people in their 50s and 60s going to medical school, sitting down to write every day isn’t a challenge by comparison.

So don’t get discouraged. You have a chance to write and get published. Now, you can even choose to go indie and publish on your own with a platform like Pronoun. There’s really no excuse for not sitting down in front of the keyboard.

Even if you have arthritis, you can use a speech-to-text program to aid you in your endeavors.

Below are nine examples of authors who weren’t published till they hit the big 5-0 or later. Write a lot, improve your craft, and don’t give up.

Source: » 9 Famous Authors Who Didn’t Get Published Until Their Fifties (Or Older)

I’ll be back with The Psych Writer soon, going back to tackling personality disorders and how to write them well.

What to Write When You Don’t Know What to Write

This week, I’m taking a break from The Psych Writer to discuss writing.

Writing is my bread and butter. I have some posts I’ve written about writer’s block, and facing the terror of the blank page. In fact, I’ve written about the blank page twice, at least. But writer’s block still seems to be one of the biggest complaints I’ve seen among young writers or writers who are just starting out.

Recently, I got this in the form of a question. “What am I supposed to write when I don’t know what to write?”

Since I am trained as a therapist, I tend to want to pick apart problems and either reframe them or otherwise deconstruct them in order to help.

So when you don’t know what to write, it could be for a variety of reasons.

  • You may be afraid of failing and not completing a project.
  • You may be afraid of succeeding and not knowing what to do next.
  • You may think your writing will never be good enough, so part of you feels it’s not even worth starting.

There are obviously many more reasons for keeping that page blank, but for this post, let’s just focus on these three. If you have one or two you’d like me to address, please shoot me a message on Facebook if you’d like, and I’ll address them in future posts.

  1. You’re afraid of failing and not completing a project.
    It happens. I have a few manuscripts I’ve abandoned about 3/4 of the way through because the idea wasn’t panning out, I couldn’t write the characters in a way that satisfied me, or a variety of other reasons. It happens to everyone. Think of your favorite writer, living or dead, and I could almost guarantee you they have abandoned and unfinished work.

    The best way to get around this is the “fuck it” philosophy. Say to yourself that you’re going to start a project and if it doesn’t pan out, fuck it. Start over, change direction, whatever. You can also just keep going even if you know it sucks, because the first draft of everything sucks. So go until you’re finished. Write until there’s no story left. You can revise it later.

  2. You may be afraid of succeeding and not knowing what to do next.
    This is one I’ve heard a few times now, so it’s not terribly uncommon. In this case, you’re fortune-telling. Can you really see the future and know you’ll be devoid of further ideas? Well, so what? One book that’s finished beats the hell out of one half-finished story that never got off the ground. Preventing yourself from succeeding because of what might be next cheats you out of the satisfaction of a finished project.
  3. You may think your writing will never be good enough, so part of you feels it’s not even worth starting.
    There’s one thing I’ve learned, and I’ve said it above–the first draft of everything is a steaming pile of crap. Some of it has potential, but every first draft needs to be reworked. You will learn to kill your darling manuscript with a hatchet at first, then come back with fine, surgical editing tools to improve it. Tell the part of you that tells you it’s not worth starting to shut up,  because that part of you cannot know what it feels like to finish a project. You have to get to the end to know what that’s like.

When you sit down to the keyboard, or sit with a pen and paper, block out the future. Block out expectations. Block out everything but you and that page, and tell it your passions, your fears, your world.

Get writing.


I am Anne Hogue-Boucher, and I write books. You can read them here.

The Psych Writer on Major Depressive Disorder, Part One

Disclaimer: This is not a substitute for medical advice and is for educational purposes only. If you read this and any of the below sounds like you, seek the help of a licensed professional in your area.

Depression is a big topic. There are different types of depressive disorders, but for the purposes of this post, I’m going to focus on Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), which affects about 6.7% of the US population. That’s around 15 million adults.

Last week, we reviewed an introduction to MDD, and I still didn’t even get into all of it. So I’ll do that here, briefly. Because of the many sufferers of MDD, there get to be a whole slew of levels of severity and specifiers. While you’re writing about these characters who have these disorders, don’t forget they are a person and they are not their pathology.

Nothing is worse than a character whose only interesting thing about them is their disorder. Remember Forgetful Jones from Sesame Street? Even he had more than one dimension. He was a cowboy. So if a cowboy Muppet with amnestic disorder can be more than just a one-dimensional character, Depressive Jones can, too.

When you decide to write from a place where your character has MDD, decide what type they have. This can be mild, moderate, or severe. They can have psychotic features (delusions, hallucinations, etc.). They can have partial or full remission as well. (Partial remission is having some of the symptoms but not meeting the full criteria for MDD for a period of less than two months. Full remission is an absence of symptoms for more than two months.)

MDD also can come with certain specifiers, such as with anxious distress or with catatonia, but there are too many specifiers to go into without scaring you away from the subject forever. I could likely write a book on each of the specifiers. So, in the interest of time and space constraints (which I will now call space-time constraints to either irritate or amuse mathematicians and physicists), I won’t list them all here. You may wish to skip over certain specifiers, but with psychotic features you can often cross it over with supernatural fiction. This should be handled carefully, though, because otherwise you risk it becoming a trope.

Another important thing to remember is that MDD distorts a person’s perceptions. I used to tell patients that their brains were trolling them. This troll brain is part of the illness. It is best expressed through Beck’s cognitive triad. The person with depression has a negative view of themselves, of the future, and of the world. They often don’t believe they’ll ever get better, this is the way it is, and that there is no one or nothing that can help them. This triad does not necessarily apply to all people with depression all of the time, but there tends to be more leaning towards negative and pessimism during the course of a depressive episode.

When writing from a therapist’s point of view, your character would see the person as ill. They would note things such as poor attention to personal hygiene, being tearful, and a depressed affect (they look “sad” or “down”). It’s an ethical therapist’s job to help a patient process their thoughts and reframe things that happen to them–to teach them how to rethink things. They also do things such as medication education and other interventions. Treatment often consists of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

An unethical therapist would do things such as foster dependency, and interventions that keep the patient depressed and vulnerable to manipulate them into doing things the patient would not normally do. People with depression can be quite vulnerable, and so open to suggestion in order to find relief, a therapist without ethics could possibly ruin the patient’s life further.

I’m not sure if it’s as interesting to write about a therapist treating someone with depression as it is to write about someone who has depression, but even then, it’s important to give your characters full dimensions.

No matter what, though, write your character as a person first, and their condition second. Otherwise, you risk making a flat character that’s nothing more than a stereotype.

If you came here looking for help with depression, please seek the help of a licensed professional in your area. Depression is a horrible, soul-sucking disorder that takes your life piece-by-piece. Don’t let it take control over you. Call for help. It’s out there.


There is little more horrific than what lies in our own imaginations. If you love reading about nightmare worlds and strange happenings, check out my author page. You can also follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

The Psych Writer: Grief – Phase Seven: Acceptance

This is the final installment of the grief section in The Psych Writer series. Last week, we took a look at The Depression Phase. But now we can take a nice, deep breath and look at how far we’ve come. All the way to acceptance.

These phases are organized for the benefit of the clinician. They are not set in stone and the patient will likely not feel these things in order, or one at a time. They might, but they might not. Grief is individualized. There is also fluidity in acceptance. It can fluctuate, just like the other phases.

Oh, acceptance, this phase is so lovely, right? Happy bluebirds sing all around you as you realize you fully accept that x loss has happened and sunbeams arch from your head in a golden halo of enlightenment.

NO.

Acceptance isn’t pretty. It’s not always peaceful. It’s not often a loving, gentle tutor that allows us to smile once again. No. It’s part of the process, and sometimes, perhaps most of the time, it’s ugly before it is fine. The experience varies from person to person.

What acceptance is can be anything from a bitter resignation to one’s fate, to a calm recognition of this is how the way things are, and everything in between. This is the moment where a person says, “my mother is dead. Nothing can change that,” or “I lost my job and there’s no going back.”

Acceptance is the first step to putting one foot in front of the other and rebuilding life without whatever was lost.

Acceptance from the Patient’s POV
The patient feels the loss, though often less acutely than in the other stages. The grief has been replaced with the ability to function without the target of their loss. There may be lingering feelings of sadness, anger, and those feelings may resurge from time to time, but there is a sense in the person that they need to move forward. Acceptance of a non-lethal event, such as job loss or divorce, a spark of interest in other activities may arise. The person may have found a new love interest, or a new job may have them ready to move on from the old one.

Acceptance from the Therapist’s POV
While this is often a good sign that the patient is ready to make significant leaps into moving forward, it is important to check in with them to see how they feel about their newly found acceptance. Is there resignation? Optimism? Pessimism? Fear of moving forward? It will be up to the therapist to help the patient work through those retentive feelings so that the patient can move toward healthy and more helpful feelings.

What this Means for You, The Writer
Getting to acceptance might be a good starting point for your character, and however they get there will be far more interesting than the feelings themselves. Does your character need revenge in order to accept something that was taken from them? Will it help? Will they regret what they’ve done, or will they accept it and move on to better things? Starting a character in the acceptance phase might be interesting if you can flip the acceptance on its ear. What comes next after they’ve accepted their fate? These are all questions you may wish to answer for your character.

If you came here looking for psychological assistance, please contact your local crisis line. Dial 2-1-1 in the US for the United Way, or contact the Samaritans in the UK. For a list of international crisis lines, click here.

Breathe easy, we’ve gotten through this together. Now go write.


Now that we’ve done this in-depth examination of grief, let’s move onto some other topics. I take requests (you can ask via Facebook or Twitter). Next week I’ll do some fluffy topics or post a picture of my cat. Maybe. Or I might drag you further into the abyss. Who knows with me? If you’re in need of some lighthearted diversions, check out my Facebook and Twitter. Or for some entertaining fiction that touches on grief and loss, grab a copy of Exit 1042.

The Psych Writer: Grief – Phase Six: Depression

This has been a dreary series for some, I’m sure, so thank you to all the readers who are stubborn enough to get through it with me. For others, you understand that death and grief are part of the human condition. It’s worth closer examination. Sometimes it even helps.

Last week as part of The Psych Writer series, we took a look at the fifth phase of grief: anger. This week, we examine depression.

Remember (and for regular readers, say it with me): these phases are organized for the benefit of the clinician. They are not set in stone and the patient will likely not feel these things in order, or one at a time. They might, but they might not. Grief is individualized.

As clinicians we have a bit of a conundrum on the use of the term “depression” here, because depression is a clinical diagnosis. It’s more than just feeling sad. Depression is an illness that is typically long-term, can be lifelong, and can be hazardous to the patient. Yet we use the term here because depression not only means feelings of sadness, but a patient can develop Major Depressive Disorder in this phase. Not only that, those who already have MDD can face a downturn in mood or behavior. In other words, grief can push them further down the spiral.

Basically, you’ve got a lot of shit to do in this phase, too.

Depression from the Patient’s POV
Life is empty and pointless without X, where X is the source of loss. This is the phase most commonly associated with grief, so chances are, you’re familiar with it. Life is colorless. Bland. Some of the things I’ve heard from people in this phase have been soul-sucking. The depths of despair when facing a loss can be, well, depressing.

“I cannot live without them.”

“Not even food tastes the same.”

“I’ll never be able to listen to jazz again. It reminds me too much of my [loved one].”

“We used to go for walks together every day. Now I can’t even get out of bed. Without X, it’s just not worth it.”

“If I’m dead, then I can join them.”

Anything you can imagine that reflects the loss that’s depressing as hell can be found in this phase. It is utter disaster for a patient. Some believe they will never recover.

Sadly, some won’t recover. Some will spiral into MDD, and some will get worse if they already have MDD.

Depression from the Therapist’s POV
It is up to you to help the patient move away from this phase. It is not done quickly, and there is no efficient magic trick to make them better. Sometimes, you have to call in a psychiatrist’s consultation, particularly if the patient is already on medication for MDD, or they really should be on something for MDD. No, you’re not giving them a magic pill that will take away their pain of loss; nothing will do that. When you suggest medication, it’s because you are using a tool that may help pull them back from the abyss and give grief clarity.

In other words, you are helping them to just grieve, rather than get sucked down into the horrific abyss of MDD.

Remember some of the things I mentioned that I’ve heard from people in the depression phase? Let’s look at them through the lens of an ethical therapist.

“I cannot live without them.” (Silent warning bells. Find out if the patient is suicidal. Find out if they have the plans, and means. You may have to hospitalize.)

“Not even food tastes the same.” (Anhedonia is possible. Discuss what this means for the patient. Find out if they’ve had any unexpected weight loss. Note it. If patient has history of an eating disorder, consult with treatment team. Work with them and the patient. Work with the patient to help them find a way to remember their loved one through food, but in a healthy way.)

“I’ll never be able to listen to jazz again. It reminds me too much of my [loved one].” (Anhedonia is possible. Discuss the reasons. Let the patient talk and tell you a story about their loved one’s favored music. Help them remember this is a process and that over time it may become a positive way to remember the loved one.)

“We used to go for walks together every day. Now I can’t even get out of bed. Without X, it’s just not worth it.” (Loss of a physical activity can make depression worse. Discuss and explore alternatives, or how to get back to walking, etc.)

“If I’m dead, then I can join them.” (MAJOR ALARM BELLS BETTER BE GOING OFF IN YOUR HEAD. Patient has suicidal ideation. Check for plans and means. Hospitalization may be necessary.)

What this Means for You, The Writer
Of course it depends on where you’re going with the story. Usually when a writer examines grief in fiction, this is the phase that they start at because it’s the most recognizable and seemingly the one that gets the point across. Your character may have stopped eating. They may overeat. They stopped showering and grooming.

But consider writing from one of the different phases or combining a few instead of starting at depression. If and when you do choose to write this part, don’t forget the impact of show over tell. Show me the uneaten dinner in the fridge. Show me the ashtray full of cigarettes and the character lying in bed with a red face puffy from crying. Show me the dirty hair and stench of two-week’s worth of unwashed laundry, piled up in the corner and threatening to grow legs and walk off. Show me the guitar in the other corner just gathering dust. The darkened room. The unmade bed. The broken mirror.

Remember, it’s not the grief itself that’s interesting, it’s how the character faces it, doesn’t face it, or makes matters worse that is interesting to the reader.

If you came here looking for psychological assistance, please contact your local crisis line. Dial 2-1-1 in the US for the United Way, or contact the Samaritans in the UK. For a list of international crisis lines, click here.

Now go write. Go for a walk, too. Get a little fresh air.


Wow, just one more topic and you can breathe easier. We’ll move onto other subjects too, and I do take requests (you can ask via Facebook or Twitter). If you’re in need of some lighthearted diversions, check out my Facebook and Twitter. Or for some entertaining fiction that touches on grief and loss, grab a copy of Exit 1042.

The Psych Writer: Grief – Phase Five: Anger

Last week, we explored the guilt phase of grief as part of The Psych Writer series. Thanks for sticking with me thus far, as we’re almost finished with grief, and it’s a difficult topic to face. But after this, there are only two more left in the series, so hang in with me.

So after guilt, the anger phase often follows. Keep in mind the codicil that you can pretty much repeat with me now: these phases are organized for the benefit of the clinician. They are not set in stone and the patient will likely not feel these things in order, or one at a time. They might, but they might not. Grief is individualized.

Now back to anger. The person who is experiencing the anger phase may lash out in a variety of ways. That will depend on the person, the source of loss, and their current circumstances. They get angry with a person for dying, they get angry with the doctors or medical team for “not doing enough” or making a mistake (whether there was a mistake or not doesn’t matter), or they get angry with people for tangential reasons.

While the anger is a natural reaction and completely expected, it is vital that the person doesn’t get stuck in this phase, and it’s probably one of the most addictive phases to get into. You may already know this, but emotions are handled by the amygdala in the brain, and judgment is handled by the prefrontal cortex, and the left prefrontal cortex can shut down emotions. (This is basic information for the sake of brevity: if you want to read more, about anger, check out this article.) When a person is angry, there are a number of hormones released, including adrenaline and noradrenaline. Because those are “pump you up” hormones to get the body ready for a fight, anger can be addictive. It’s like runner’s high without all the knee blowout from running.

Anger from the Patient’s POV
The patient is pissed off royally. How dare X happen? How could grandma do that to you? How dare she die at a time like this?! How dare Phyllis divorce you?! Who does she think she is? Those fucking doctors don’t know anything! They couldn’t save Uncle Phillip and they’re all just money-grubbing bastards. What were they thinking?

There is a touch of the indignant to this type of anger. Remember, the focus of the anger can be anywhere, even at themselves. Grief is necessarily selfish, so the anger is most likely due to the fact that this person has been left alone, holding the bag as they say. There are underlying feelings that are feeding this phase.

Anger from the Therapist’s POV
As the therapist, it is your job to dig with the patient and find out which feelings are feeding the beast. Sometimes it’s fear. Fear of being alone. Fear of loss. Fear of mortality. Sometimes it’s feelings of helplessness. They were abandoned. They lost their sense of control. Or all of the above, plus ones you can’t fathom at the moment.

All of these feelings, and more, are normal and expected. When someone dies, and the patient is angry, it’s important to let them explore those feelings in a safe environment.

Here, you monitor for homicidal ideation even more (although you always monitor for suicidal as well, homicidal should not be forgotten) than before, because people who are angry may not be able to switch on the prefrontal cortex’s ability to stop them from doing something that could ruin even more lives.

Other things you have to watch for is increased substance abuse and self-harm.

What this Means for You, the Writer
This is the perfect opportunity to get your character set up for starting their revenge against whomever caused their loss. It can also be a good opportunity to write about their anger turned inward, and how they fell into a pit of depression, struggled with addiction, or committed acts of self-harm.

If you’re writing an unethical therapist, keeping the patient in this phase can help them orchestrate a murder, create chaos, or other unsavory ends via unsavory means.

Remember, it’s not the grief itself that’s interesting, it’s how the character faces it, doesn’t face it, or makes matters worse that is interesting to the reader.

If you came here looking for psychological assistance, please contact your local crisis line. Dial 2-1-1 in the US for the United Way, or contact the Samaritans in the UK. For a list of international crisis lines, click here.

Good luck, and get writing.


Just two more to go and then we’ll move on to other mental health topics. You’re almost at the end of the grief series, can you believe it? If you’re in need of some lighthearted diversions, check out my Facebook and Twitter. Or for some entertaining fiction that touches on grief and loss, grab a copy of Exit 1042.

The Psych Writer: Grief – Phase Three: Bargaining

Last week in The Psych Writer series, I covered the second phase of grief: denial. This week, we’re onto phase three: bargaining.

Once again, and you may be able to say it with me this time: these phases are organized for the benefit of the clinician. They are not set in stone and the patient will likely not feel these things in order, or one at a time. They might, but they might not. Grief is individualized.

Professionals put bargaining into the third phase because of the extensive work that Elisabeth Kübler-Ross did with death and dying. It doesn’t just apply to death or dying, either. This phase can be seen in grief over the loss of a job, a divorce, or any other loss one can imagine.

Bargaining happens the moment someone says they would “give anything to X,” where X is the former condition prior to the loss. Those who believe in God will bargain with their deity: I will do charity work for the rest of my life if only you’ll take away this disease. Atheists or non-religious folk may present with: If I had a second chance, I’d never tell Lucy she needed to lose weight.

There is a lot of wishful thinking in bargaining. It is natural, and it will pass.

Bargaining from the Patient’s POV
The patient is often feeling desperate in this situation. They have been given their ultimatum, the “no way out but through” feelings are piling up. They cling to the idea that there is some kind of “trick” that will reverse the undesired condition. He or she will make deals, either with a deity or with the target of loss. Those who are not prone to superstitious thinking or have a belief system may find themselves searching for answers through either science or religion. Bargaining may manifest itself then as “I’d do anything to get X back.”

Bargaining from the Therapist’s POV
With a terminal illness, he or she may express feelings of being trapped. Because of this, the patient will bargain as a way to assuage and mitigate these feelings. Your work as a therapist is to check for suicidal ideation/homicidal ideation and ensure the patient is not turning to any former addictive pitfalls. Additionally, as the therapist you need to allow the patient to explore bargaining however they choose, whether they’re an atheist who asks God for a sign, or whether they’re begging anyone who could help to make things “back the way they were.”

As long as the behavior isn’t self-destructive or destructive to another, it’s best to let it play out as it plays out and help them move forward.

What this Means for You, the Writer
If you’re writing out the bargaining phase, be sure to capture those feelings of ‘no way out’ and your only resource is trying to barter to put things back to the way they once were. This can be bargaining with an ex to try to mend the relationship (which may or may not work), bargaining with a deity to bring back a loved one (which may or may not work depending on your story), or even questioning the order of the universe. I once heard a person say, “I want to build a time machine, go back, and tell X not to get in that car.”

That too, is a version of bargaining.

This is a painful experience for the character involved as all phases of grief are for mere mortals. How your character experiences the bargaining phase will be up to you and your story’s direction.

If you came here looking for psychological assistance, please contact your local crisis line. Dial 2-1-1 in the US for the United Way, or contact the Samaritans in the UK. For a list of international crisis lines, click here.

Good luck, and get writing.


Well that was the third heavy topic, I know, but there are only four more to endure, so brace yourselves. If you’re in need of some lighthearted things, check out my Facebook and Twitter. Or for some entertaining fiction that touches on this subject, grab a copy of Exit 1042.

The Psych Writer: Grief – Phase One: Shock & Disbelief

On August 18, I posted a bit about the seven stages, or phases, of grief as part of an ongoing series of writing from a psychological point of view. So this week, I begin with what is referred to as the first phase or stage: shock and disbelief.

Note that these phases are organized for the benefit of the clinician. They are not set in stone and the patient will likely not feel these things in order, or one at a time. They might, but they might not. Grief is individualized.

This phase is typically considered first because many people have this reaction upon hearing bad news. This can be the death of a loved one, loss of a job, the end of a relationship, a rape, assault, etc. Sometimes it comes back later. Sometimes it doesn’t show up at first and another phase takes its place. Sometimes, it happens at exactly the same time (concurrent to) as another phase.

Shock & Disbelief from the Patient’s POV
The patient, upon hearing the bad news, may experience shock and disbelief immediately. they “go numb” and don’t feel anything at all. They express that they “don’t know what to feel,” or “this can’t be happening.” They feel dazed. “It was like I was punched in the gut. It took my breath away.”

Shock and disbelief are your mind’s immediate defense mechanism in most situations. This phase can last for weeks and lead to denial (remember the caveat that these can also happen concurrently). “I don’t know what to think.” That is shock and disbelief. “It can’t be true.”

Shock & Disbelief from the Therapist’s POV
When a therapist who specializes in trauma is with a patient in this phase, there is a lot of work to be done in terms of assessment. How is the patient’s affect? Usually in shock and disbelief, the therapist will see that the patient reports the trauma the same way they’d read a weather report. There is often flat affect (they don’t emote on any level and it shows in their faces), and it is up to the therapist to help the patient manage the trauma so that it doesn’t get worse or so overwhelming that they turn to damaging coping mechanisms.

The work done in this phase is especially important for those with PTSD so that the counselor avoids retraumatizing the patient. There is a lot of work to be done in terms of containing the shock and making sure the patient doesn’t turn to previous addictions or self-harm.

As the counselor you must also be culturally aware of this phase and how it affects a person inside of their culture. Someone who comes from Northern European descent and is active in that culture may not actually be in shock and be in depression, but their affect seems to reflect shock and disbelief. Avoid stereotyping and be aware of cultural cues.

What this Means for You, the Writer
As you write, be aware of the character’s mind protecting him or her from devastation. If you wish to build a character who is going to develop PTSD, make sure that the trauma is fresh in the character’s mind and during their shock and disbelief phase, the character has severe reliving experiences of the moment that put him or her in shock, and that they keep “re-shocking” themselves. The shock and disbelief may even go so far as to interfere with functioning, or, conversely, the character may throw himself/herself into work or school.

If you came here looking for psychological assistance, please contact your local crisis line. Dial 2-1-1 in the US for the United Way, or contact the Samaritans in the UK. For a list of international crisis lines, click here.

Shock and disbelief is the first phase on the journey of grief. It is not fun, it is not pleasant, and in some cases, it is soul-crushing. It is your brain’s way of saving you from pain. When you write it, think of a time that you were shocked, and go beyond that to put yourself in your character’s shoes. Remember, writing isn’t just about you, it’s about stretching yourself.

Be well and get writing.


Well that was a heavy topic, I know. For some lighthearted things, check out my Facebook and Twitter. Or for some entertaining fiction, grab a copy of Exit 1042.

 

Facing the Blank Page

For some novice writers (and, on occasion, seasoned writers), that blank page is the ultimate enemy. The white screen stares you in the face, and you’re lost for something to put on it.

Sure, it’s easy for me to say “just put your fingers on the keys and start writing.” It’s easy for me because that’s what I do. But I didn’t get to this point all at once. No, I was trained to do it–and you can train yourself to do it, too.

See, for me, I’m a writer for a living. If I don’t write, I don’t eat. That’s not a great plan for effective weight loss, by the way. I don’t recommend it.

In order to keep my stellar figure, that means I have to put words on the page so I can get paid for them. So the blank page has to be eliminated.

Now, for creative writers, especially those starting out, may need a little nudge to get training. One tool that can provide the nudge is using writing prompts. Once you’re trained, you might discover that you even like using them now and then.

These prompts may vary. They can be vague, such as “rain pattering,” or specific, such as “your character discovers an ancient coin on the beach.” No matter what, though, it can be enough to get your brain juiced (yum?).

One of the more valuable tools I found is here at 365 Creative Writing Prompts – ThinkWritten. You can train yourself for a year with these prompts. Agree to a daily word count (start with 500 if you’re a new writer and build your muscles by adding 25 words to that count each day till you’re somewhere between 1500-3000), and use each of these prompts to tell yourself a story. Who knows? Some of these might turn into short stories, and others, a novel.

As always, the advice is: just write. This is one tool that will help you defeat the blank page.

Happy writing.


I write, and I edit like a fiend. You can follow me on Twitter for semi-frequent weirdness, or on Facebook for kicks (not literal kicks).