I am a great admirer of the writing of Diana Gabaldon. I can lose myself in her descriptions of her characters and of her settings, and of her scenes. I can “see” everything because of the rich detail–not just of scenes, clothes, appearance, etc., but of body language.
I love the various characters coming in and out; I love it even better as the series progresses and Claire’s family begins to grow while she and Jamie age; I love reading how she deals with various dilemmas. I love the storylines/plots.
I love the little details, such as Jamie reading a romance novel and laughing, or the family abandoning Samuel Richardson’s Pamela at various points. (I’ve read the first volume and part of the second, so I know why they abandon it.) Even her sex scenes are better than most (usually I skip sex scenes, feeling like a voyeur).
In short, she makes me feel terribly inadequate as a writer.
In working on my own novel, I feel there’s no way I can measure up, yet this seems to be what modern writing is like: richly detailed, well-researched. This is why so many books since I came of age, have been hundreds of pages long. This seems to be what readers expect.
Last night, I discovered that this is not necessarily the case: Apparently quite a lot of people think that Gabaldon’s writing is amateurish, way too detailed, boring, with little story/plot.
Of course, many people also think Jane Austen’s work is way too boring, with little story/plot. Yet I’ve read Austen’s books several times over, and find them page-turning, with lots of story/plot.
I tend to read more literary-style books, often the old classics they forced on us in high school (I loved them all), but also modern classics. I’m used to books that are hundreds of pages long. I read writing books in the 80s that told us to add body language detail and to make the scene “pop” with all the senses. I came of age reading the books that were popular in the 80s/90s, 1000-page tomes rich with detail about caveman days, or Cleopatra, or 1740s Scotland.
So I get a bit confused by the modern tendency to want shorter books and less detail. But on the other hand, it’s actually a bonus for a writer like me: As an NVLDer, I don’t really “see” scenes very well. Some people see movies in their heads; except for books as detailed as Gabaldon’s, I see shadow figures moving in mist, where the only things that come in clearly are objects that are used at that moment.
Paragraphs full of rich detail are also hard for me to read and picture, because I’m picturing one thing at a time, not all at once. I can’t “hold” the details in my head for very long, so I keep having to go back and re-read the paragraphs. So I’ll end up taking several minutes on one such paragraph alone, making my reading speed very slow.
So it’s hard for me to write details into scenes, the body language, the scenery, that sort of thing. I don’t “see” it myself, after all. I don’t know the little tics people get while talking, because eye contact is so hard for me.
But I get conflicting criticism when I workshop parts of my book. Some people want richer detail so they can “see” the scene better, “taste” the soup, etc. (That person was new and didn’t know I’d already described the cell and the soup several scenes back.) But then I find all sorts of information on the Net that readers tend to skip over all those rich details to get to the action. That it’s not just me getting bogged down in it.
Yet, ironically, Gabaldon’s writing is an exception for me. Yes, it still takes me a long time to get through the paragraphs of detail, but her scenes are so full of emotion and body language that I have a more vivid picture in my head. For example, it’s not just a dress somebody found for her wedding, but it’s a dress that smells of the previous owner. It’s not just a sex scene, but two people who love each other shyly exploring each other for the first time.
Yet, for many people, all that detail is actually a turnoff.
So I’m reassured that I don’t have to feel inadequate anymore, that I don’t have to strive to measure up to writers such as Gabaldon, because lots of people don’t like that style of writing anyway.
So instead I can concentrate on how to make the characters real, and going into their heads to satisfy readers like me, without turning off readers who don’t like so much of that. And not worry so much about infusing scenes with lots of body language or paragraphs of sensory details. The occasional details should be enough.
As I watched the opening statements yesterday for both Ford and Kavanaugh, I paid close attention to their body language and demeanor. Because yeah, I may have trouble with such things, but I’ve been studying narcissism/sociopathy for years now, and how to spot a predator or an abuser claiming to be the victim.
Ford was timid, terrified, quiet, on the verge of tears. Like someone who has been attacked and traumatized and is scared of it happening again. Even Fox News commentators and even Trump are saying she seems credible.
Kavanaugh, on the other hand, was on the attack: loud, raging, gesticulating, snarling. Complaining about how this affects him–but never a thought to how it has been affecting Ford. Instead of welcoming a full investigation, he evades the question, and derides the whole fact-finding process–a process which, if he’s innocent, should exonerate him. Cold, dead eyes and a terrifying snarl.
Images of Kavanaugh are subject to copyright, and I don’t have $300 to pay for the rights to use one, so I don’t have images of him to clip and paste here. So click on these links instead:
Kavanaugh’s snarls are not the face of an innocent man defending himself/his family from attack. They are the face of a predator whose prey has just exposed him.
My post on DARVO has been getting a lot of hits the past couple of days, especially after it was shared by somebody on Facebook. It quotes Jennifer J. Freyd, who writes,
“It is important to distinguish types of denial, for an innocent person will probably deny a false accusation. Thus denial is not evidence of guilt. However, I propose that a certain kind of indignant self-righteousness, and overly stated denial, may in fact relate to guilt.
I hypothesize that if an accusation is true, and the accused person is abusive, the denial is more indignant, self-righteous and manipulative, as compared with denial in other cases.
Similarly, I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior.
DARVO means deny, attack, and reverse victim and offender. It was done to me by Richard and Tracy in their e-mail here. It was done to me by my abusive ex Phil. It has been done countless times throughout the ages to victims by abusers and sexual criminals. This frightening power play keeps countless victims from seeking help, as well, because they are terrified of what will happen to them.
One of the excuses used to not believe and to attack Kavanaugh’s accusers is that they didn’t say anything before. That there should have been a police report if it really happened. But girls and women who are victims of sexual assault or harassment are often too terrified to tell anyone.
If you want to know why they’re so scared, just look at accusations made against Ford:
“She shouldn’t have been at a drinking party.”
“She was going around in a bathing suit.” (1, it was one-piece, 2, a bathing suit or bikini does not mean “rape me,” and 3, it was covered by her clothes.)
“Why was she in that room?” (She just wanted to go to the bathroom, but got pulled into a bedroom.)
“Look how long she took to tell! She’s just doing this for political reasons.”
She’s being blamed. She’s being accused of lying.
Just like happens countless times when victims do speak up. So often, we just stay quiet.
I never told my parents anything that happened to me in school, either. My mom didn’t know that I stopped wearing dresses to school because a couple of boys lifted up my skirt and laughed one day. My parents didn’t know that my high school ulcer and TMJ came from boys sexually harassing me in class and in the cafeteria. They thought that going to classes about stress relief would help.
They didn’t know that–similar to what happened to another accuser, Ramirez–one of the boys pulled out his penis and put it next to me on the table as I ate my lunch, that I think I felt it brush my hand, though I refused to look at it, that the other boys laughed.
They didn’t know how one time, in the line to leave the cafeteria, the boys were harassing me so badly that I crumpled up against the wall to try to protect myself. I don’t even remember what they did or said.
I also didn’t tell teachers about this. I was too shy, too terrified of strangers in general, even though my friends were witnesses and told me to tell.
(That’s why friends should do the telling and not leave it to the traumatized victims.)
My parents didn’t know that my ex Phil tried to force me into anal sex, making me feel raped at least once, or that he forced me into oral sex when he hadn’t even bathed. And no, I never reported it.
No, I don’t remember every detail. I don’t remember who the boys were in high school, or what all they did or said. But I remember it happened.
And I do remember exactly which teacher ridiculed and sexually harassed me in class. There were witnesses. But I never even thought to tell the principal. I just switched classes the following semester.
As for Phil, I told a few friends some of what happened. I don’t remember telling them everything.
I told his new girlfriend, Persephone, about it. I hoped she would be appalled that her boyfriend would rape a girl. Instead, her dismissive reply seemed to suggest that if I were telling the truth, and weren’t just being hysterical or hyperbolic, maybe even looking for attention, that I would report it to the police.
But I was too terrified to tell the police. There was no physical evidence, so how could I prove it, for one. (And this is often the case.)
For another, I didn’t know if a rape charge would hold up in court since I had agreed to have sex–I just had not agreed to have anal or oral sex. I also didn’t want my parents to know we had had sex, because they were fundamentalists who didn’t know about our spiritual marriage, and were definitely against me having sex before marriage. Even when your parents are not abusive, a combination of old-fashioned ideas and parental disappointment can be frightening.
Another reason to stay quiet is hearing “Get over it already!” I’ve been seeing a lot of this in reactions to Kavanaugh’s accusers, when even WOMEN have been saying, “It was 36 years ago! It was just a touch! How can she not have moved on?” or “All teenage boys grope! Who cares? It’s not a big deal!”
(You don’t forget. You don’t move on.)
I had my own version of this a year after Richard’s friends sexually harassed me in a chat room. He saw the whole thing, and how vile their words and behavior actually were. Yet his wife treated it like it was nothing at all, and then Richard tried to mansplain me into believing that I was being “ridiculous” for still being upset over it (and over his continued friendship with these people) a year later. He said it “wasn’t real” and he thought I understood that.
The only one being “ridiculous” here was Richard.
The Kavanaugh hearings are triggering for many of us because we see our own traumas being relived in the accusers, our own fears realized as the accusers are treated just as we were, or as we feared we would be treated if we spoke up.
We see nothing changed, even after decades of feminism and then the #MeToo movement.
We see men treating the hearings as a charade, even going into self-righteous tirades about it: not just Kavanaugh, but Lindsey Graham as well–who seems to have conveniently forgotten how Merrick Garland’s appointment was blocked by the Republicans.
And there was absolutely no legitimate reason to block Garland, while Kavanaugh’s temperament and character have already been proven to be narcissistic and dangerous.
Because yes, what we saw in Kavanaugh yesterday is known as narcissistic rage. This happens when a narcissist or sociopath is called out on their crimes.
Last night, I read a blog post by Libby Anne which reminded me of something I’ve been hearing lately: the concept that conservative women are just automatically “more attractive” than liberal ones. As in, a liberal might be good-looking, but the conservatives are drop-dead gorgeous. From that blog post:
Notreally: Good for you, fire, that Sancty can never be serious. I mean how can a liberal be drop-dead gorgeous? Beautiful, maybe, but not gorgeous, only conservatives can be gorgeous.
Farris’ use of the word “liberal” reminds me of how I saw it used growing up in a conservative community. This fixation on liberals not being able to be actually physically attractive—not like conservatives—is getting repetitive.
Not only does this have entirely no basis in fact–our political beliefs have zero to do with the genes which make up our appearance–but it is very patriarchal.
I wonder if this is why the Left Behind books portrayed Verna Zee–the token liberal who gets terribly abused in those books–as wearing “sensible shoes.” Because apparently, taking good care of your feet is unattractive, so only libs would do it.
Today, last night’s blog post clicked in my head, bringing back to mind a comment the ex-friend Richard once made on his Facebook years ago. In those days (and probably still now), he was into the new Tea Party and anarchism. A woman on his Facebook posted something agreeing with these viewpoints. He replied that many men would find her views very attractive (I can’t give you an exact quote).
That response bugged me. A lot. But now I know exactly WHY it bothered me:
Because you have here a man telling a woman that her political views make her “attractive” to men.
Because they are man-approved.
Because liberal views make you unattractive to men.
Because this is obviously the most important thing: not why a woman has those views, but whether or not they make her sexy.
In other words, you have here a man telling a woman how to think.
Richard used to do that to me a lot, too, trying to tell me how to think about everything from my church not being “Orthodox” enough, to wifely submission, to spanking or screaming at or swacking children, to whether or not I have NVLD, to how I should react to being sexually harassed.
And exactly why did he think it was his business to tell me, to scold me when I didn’t agree? Obviously because of his patriarchal attitudes.
It reminds me of the attitudes I describe here, men telling a young girl in the 1950s whether she should become an engineer or a housewife, rather than letting her use her own brain and make up her own mind.
Geez, I’m so much better off without this guy hanging around anymore. How was I so blind? Must’ve been the spell narcissists put you under. (And yes, he really did hypnotize me, according to him.)
But yeah, this idea that a woman’s “hotness” relates to her political views?
I wrote recently, here and here, about revelations about my ex Phil. To sum up, Phil–my spiritual husband in college, who turned out to be very emotionally and sexually abusive, with a pattern of broken, abusive relationships, story here–was engaged for a third time. (After me, he was legally married to another woman for ten years. It has been about 11 years since their divorce.) I found out about her one day when looking at his Facebook profile, trying to find out why his own sister filed a restraining order against him. I will call the latest fiancée, Doris.
I checked out Doris’ profile a couple of months later–and learned that Phil was diagnosed as bipolar in 2010. He hadn’t been taking his meds for some time, so brain cells were being destroyed–and the effect on his behavior was too much for her. They mutually broke up.
I forgot–because Doris didn’t seem to know for sure at the time, and at that time, mostly posted about Bipolar II–that he also has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). Instead of Bipolar II, she has been posting lately about FAS.
I had no idea his mother had been an alcoholic. I knew she smoked a lot when his brother was born, so they all joked that it affected his brain, because he talked like it was missing a few cells. I also knew that the brother drank too much as well for a time, leading to an accident, leading to him losing his license for a while, so Phil kept having to drive him around. But I didn’t know about the mother’s alcoholism. There was nothing physically unusual about Phil; in fact, instead of short, he’s 6’5. Yet his mother drank enough that it has affected Phil his entire life.
Now, originally, Doris pinned his bad behavior on the Bipolar, calling him Bipolar Phil. But lately she’s pinning it on FAS. From what I’ve learned about Bipolar since, that seems more likely, because Bipolar is not supposed to be a cause of abuse. FAS, on the other hand, is linked to all sorts of terrible behaviors which cause trouble throughout the person’s life.
For example, I’m learning that Phil has not been able to hold down a job for long. Years ago, when he posted about the divorce from Wife #2 on one of those websites that link up classmates, he blamed it on his wife. He said she refused to “support” him by moving to the city of M– when he got a teaching certificate and a contract there.
Being a math teacher was supposed to bring him stability–yet he hasn’t had a job for a while, and was about to go into a new line of work when his brain went haywire. What happened to teaching? A check online reveals that he still has a certificate, so why can’t he do that? In any case, FAS is linked to job instability.
FAS is linked to trouble staying in relationships. Phil’s exes seem to be able to find long-term relationships, while he himself is not. I found a new guy shortly after our divorce, and have been married for 21 years. Wife #2 found a new guy shortly after the divorce, and has been with him for 10 years now. Phil found Doris a few years ago, but they’re no longer together. Admittedly, I don’t know about Phil’s dating life since he divorced Wife #2, but obviously nobody lasted long enough for him to marry her.
FAS is also linked to suicide.
A few days ago, Doris posted that Phil’s mother was bothering both her and him about some petty matter (I won’t go into detail). It reminds me of Phil’s girlfriend after me, Persephone, calling his mother “Dragon Lady.”
Then a couple of days ago, Doris posted that Phil is back in the hospital, “on watch.”
I googled “on watch,” and “suicide watch” came up. 😮
And this all reminds me of how upset and sad I was when Phil broke up with me, all those years ago. I thought he was the One. He was handsome, and we had been passionately attracted to each other. In the beginning, he seemed nice, sweet, caring. He was goofy. Talented. Smart. A geek (a good thing).
Doris wrote, How can she easily move on from someone who said such sweet things about her? He said the same things to me, so I can relate.
During the months after the breakup, he did a few things which suggest that he would’ve tried to get me back, if Hubby-to-be were not already there. After divorcing Wife #2, he told me that he and his mother both thought I was the one girl he should’ve held on to. But by then, I had been married for 10 years.
Well, just think: If we had stayed together, this all would have been MY life: turbulent, Dragon Lady mother-in-law, unable to keep a job or even a profession, living in an apartment instead of our own house, and mental health issues which could lead to me being a widow at age 45 because of suicide.
Heck, even Doris couldn’t handle it. And she is still where I was about 24 years ago.
It makes me appreciate my husband more, despite the ups-and-downs we’ve been through.
At first, Phil blaming his behavior on Bipolar seemed to me a way to manipulate Doris into thinking she should stay with him. But the FAS makes it more likely that his behavior does indeed stem from a sickness.
Of course, there is the usual question: How far should you blame behavior on a disease, and how much should that person take responsibility for? Maybe it wasn’t him being Evil, but him with a sickness. And maybe he knows it wasn’t my fault when–or even if–he remembers what he did to me. It does make it easier for me to forgive him.
And worry about him. After she posted that–and a bunch of Vaguebooking posts about angels and death and what looked like a memorial to Phil–I freaked out a bit. It sounded like somebody she loved had died. Had he already–??!!
But a couple of days later, I see no death notices in the M– paper, nothing on his family’s FB profiles. On Doris’ FB I see a lot about positive thinking, and moving on, and her experiences trying to date again, and sadness about the end of the relationship with Phil–but nothing about him doing anything to himself. So maybe he’s still physically okay. Mentally–another story. Doris posted that he’s “fighting for his life.”
On FAS and whether it can co-exist with other disorders:
RESULTS: Eighteen of the 25 subjects had received psychiatric treatment. The most common axis I disorders were alcohol or drug dependence (15 subjects), depression (11 subjects), and psychotic disorders (10 subjects). The most common axis II disorders were avoidant (six subjects), antisocial (four subjects), and dependent (three subjects) personality disorders.
Alcohol use during pregnancy can cause permanent structural, neurological and functional impairments to the developing fetal CNS. …Functional impairments can include attention and impulse control problems, hyperactivity, learning disorders, memory deficits, and disorders of communication and executive functioning.
…Red Flags for Referral:
Adult was raised in foster care or adopted
History of chemical dependency/child protection
Adult has received many diagnoses such as ADHD, Autism, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Bi-Polar Disorder, etc.
Adult is easily distracted, hyperactive, inattentive, impulsive
Adult has been involved with the criminal justice system
Adult gives inconsistent answers to questions, or can repeat a rule but fail to follow it
Adult makes the same mistakes repeatedly
Adult displays difficulties in holding a job
…Adults may also have many other disorders that come from living with FASD without support. Because FASD can look like many other mental health diagnoses, adults may go undiagnosed for the primary disorder: FASD. Common misdiagnoses for individuals with an FASD include ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Conduct Disorder, Autism, Bipolar Disorder, Psychotic Disorders, Antisocial Personality Disorder, Borderline Personality Disorder and Reactive Attachment Disorder. —FASD: Identification and Diagnosis
According to researcher Ann Streissguth (1996), mental health problems are experienced by 94% of individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD). One of the hallmarks of FASD is poor impulse control. In many cases an impairment exists that warrants a formal diagnosis of Impulse Control Disorder (ICD). …Most individuals with FASD have symptoms of one or more Impulse Control Disorders.
…Impulsive behavior seems to have an underlying pre-disposition which may or may not be related to existing mental health or medical conditions but research over the past decade has stressed the substantial co-morbidity of Impulse Control Disorders with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, eating disorders, substance abuse, personality disorders, and with other specific impulse control disorders.
…Some Major Mental Disorders are often associated with impulsivity while the individual is in a psychotic state. This is particularly true of Bipolar Disorder where the impulsive behaviour is most often associated with the manic phase.
Impulse Control Disorder are often present in a number of specific Personality Disorders, primarily borderline, anti-social, narcissistic, and histrionic. Impulsivity in the form of risk-tasking behaviours, sexual promiscuity, gestures and threats of self-harm and other attention-seeking behaviours. They are less prevalent in avoidant, dependant, obsessive compulsive personality and other disorder types. —Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and Impulse Control Disorders
But then I found this post on a forum:
Sorry, but if this person was born with fetal alcohol syndrome, that is organic brain damage….
His behavior, no matter how bad, is due to this, not mental illness or borderline. If a person has fetal alcohol syndrome, they were PHYSICALLY damaged before they were even born and will need lifelong caretaking as they don’t understand right from wrong which is WAY different from borderlines, who do and can learn to change. A FAS person can NOT change.
Also, doctors who don’t “get it” often diagnose it as something other than the obvious. That is sort of the same as borderline (the only thing that is). I was diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar, never borderline. Same happens with FAS and meds usually do no good. Regardless of whatever else he may be diagnosed with, his brain damage is his main problem. I have to wonder about any doctor who gave somebody with FAS a dx. of bpd.
Beating up this poor man is not the same as taking on a borderline. It’s like picking on somebody with Alzheimer’s for behaving badly. This is a disabled individual who is not going to respond to psychiatric treatment …
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome does not go away nor can it improve. ….fetal alcohol syndrome is nothing even connected to borderline. You will lack the right connections in the brain to make good decisions with FAS.
…Fetal alcohol syndrome has Swiss Cheese thinking…you can remember something one day, forget it the next. You can’t concentrate due to brain damage. You are an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s due to the alcohol syndrome.
…[T]he biggest problem with this person isn’t borderline or any personality disorder or any mental illness…he victimized nobody on purpose. He is the victim.
I think it’s important the people understand there is a big difference between any personality disorder and the victim of fetal alcohol syndrome. —Posted here
Doris is calling it FAS, but the information I find suggests FAE, because of Phil’s lack of physical deformity or retardation. In any case, it is possible that his behavior can legitimately be blamed on this. In which case, as mentioned above, blaming him for it can be like blaming a person with Alzheimer’s. Except that he seemed too rational to me, his actions too calculated, to be blameless….