Category Archives: Passion Blog

Writing a Book: The Big Date

So, this week, I began writing the section of Chapter 4 devoted to John and Angela’s big date. I began this segment detailing John’s daily ritual once he returns home from work. He changes out of his shirt and tie, and works out in his guest bedroom turned home gym. We also learn that John’s home is his sanctuary. Everything has its place, and every place has its thing. However, something is different tonight for John. He is acting very unlike himself, and is letting his anxiety about his date with Angela seep into various other activities. For example, during his workout-finishing five mile run, John begins to feel short of breath and feel his heart race, now thinking about how he can’t possibly entertain Angela, the incredibly independent and headstrong woman from work, for a night. Why is John so worried? Well, as you can probably tell, he is not one to have company very often. In the ten years he has lived in Atlanta, he has not had one guest over to his house, and he has never gone on a serious date in his life. However, this fact does not upset John. He loves being the one in control of his life. For a good majority of his early childhood, he was under the control of his abusive father, and finally gained control when he watched his execution (If I didn’t share this part of the story in an earlier post, sorry to kind of just drop a huge bomb there). John is a creature of habit, always finding ways to make his life as predictable as possible. So, by never having guests, John ensures that nothing in his home ever has to change, just the way he likes it.

As I write more of this section (this week I somehow wrote a total of 842 words, I know unheard of!), I want to expose more and more of this vulnerable side of John. What happens when a creature of habit is forced outside of his comfort zone? What mistakes in his daily rituals does he make? What little things set him off balance? Again, this is where the incredibly detailed portion of this book will come in, and I think will give the reader a good sense of the thoughts running through John’s head while he prepares for, and partakes in this date.

So, as this is the last blog post of RCL, I want to take a moment and thank you, the readers, for putting up with my ramblings about the characters living in my head. I know some weeks I didn’t necessarily make any progress, and as fun as it is to read about personal development *snore*, it is much more exciting to read about what is going on in a new novel, so I apologize for that. Thank you for providing me with a medium through which I can tell this story to the outside world, and see how it’s received before plopping it down on an editor’s desk for it to be shredded in front of my face.

As for the future of Perspectives, I think, given my incredibly slow progress this semester, I hope to be finished with it by the end of my time here at Penn State. Kenzie, you suggested the idea of keeping a separate blog to keep people updated on my progress. Sadly, I do not think I will be doing another blog about this book. Between writing the book, research in a lab, school work, and Blue Band, keeping up another blog will be really hard to do. However, keep an eye out in your local, soon to be obsolete local book store for Perspectives (Hopefully).

Thanks again.

Connor

Writing a Book: Back on the Horse

I have some incredible news this week. I put words down on the virtual page this week! How many, you ask? 695 words have left my head and been put down into the story. I am so incredibly excited that I made some physical progress on the book this week, and I apologize if the beginning of this post seems a little giddy. I finally had time to sit down (well lie down) and write, and it was an amazing feeling to see words flow out of my head again. So many ideas have been bouncing around in my head recently, and I cannot stress how good it feels to have some of them out. It drives me crazy some days. I cannot sit still, I cannot keep quiet, and I get really agitated when I have all of these ideas floating around in my head, and it is such a weight off of my shoulders to write again.

So, what did I write about? Well, when we left off, we learned of Jacoby’s troubles in the past election after his opponent, Herschel Gallagher, exposed Jacoby’s affair to the public during campaign season. However, using skillful rhetoric and slimy maneuvering, Jacoby was able to turn Gallagher’s smear campaign on its head, and win the election in one of the largest margins of victory in the history of Atlanta. Along with his skillful wordsmithing, Jacoby also brought forth an all-encompassing stimulus package nicknamed, “Joblanta.” In this package, Jacoby promised over ten thousand jobs for the people of Atlanta. I know, what an incredibly lofty promise to make. However, Jacoby has an incredibly successful track record, and the people of Atlanta, especially those who are unemployed, have a newfound love for him.

How will “Joblanta” create so many jobs? It works by pumping massive amounts of funding into bringing Atlanta to the forefront of innovation. Schools, libraries, banks, hospitals, you name it, are being renovated. This creates thousands of construction jobs, and also allows for more jobs to be created in these areas of the economy. More teachers and doctors and stock brokers, etc. can be hired in Atlanta, and soon, it becomes a city of the future. Efforts will be made to make Atlanta a “Green City,” and the economy will flourish.

This stimulus package is great for the one and only John Usher. He is known as one of the most successful architects in the history of Atlanta, and now that so many buildings are going to be redone or built brand new, he and his firm will be receiving a lot of work in the next few years. However, John must focus on his current project, renovating the public library. In this section, we begin to learn what John’s signature architectural style is. John does not like to mix styles in buildings. He keeps his straight buildings straight, and his round buildings round. However, he likes to make the architecture speak for what the building contains. So, he is breaking his rule of “monotony,” and will be combining curves and straight lines in the library. Also, he hopes to find a way to make some spaces look completely different from different angles, capturing the ability books have to teach many different lessons to different readers.

So, that is what I have written thus far. Next up is John’s preparation for his date with Angela. I cannot wait to write more, and let you know how it goes!

Writing a Book: Some Things I Have Learned

Yet again, I have some bad news: I have written zero words since my last post. Life has been really busy, and I have had to set some priorities, something that no one likes to do. In high school, I had my hands in a lot of different clubs, and now that I am here at Penn State, where work and class and activities actually take time out of the day, I have had to cut down on my involvement in extracurriculars. In a way (sadly a way that has negatively impacted my book), this is the first thing that I have learned through writing Perspectives. While it is great to have things that calm you down, or things that you enjoy doing that do not necessarily take a lot of effort, there comes a time where you need to sit down, bite the bullet, and get work done. The things I have had to give up to get work done, while incredibly gratifying in the moment (like drumming or watching Netflix), have to take a back seat to the work that I am doing towards my degree, and my career.

The second thing I have learned in this book is that I actually possess a creative side. All my life, I have never thought of myself as the “creative” type. I have always been interested in science and mathematics, and felt restricted when it came to imagination. In first grade, I remember writing journal entries in class, and one of the “prompts” was to write a story that we imagined. My response was, I kid you not, “I do not have an imagination,” and I then proceeded to write about polar bears and their habitats. Now, it is pretty obvious that I have broken out of my “analytical” shell, and am venturing out into the scary world that Spongebob talked about in his cardboard box. That’s right, I’m talking about the world of…

Now, operating on my own prompt, I am crafting a story from my own mind, and it is really exhilarating. Actually, my expansion into my creative side has helped me take a new approach to the analytical side of my life. It has expanded my capabilities, and I am really happy with how this book has helped me.

Finally, I have learned that it is okay to step out on a limb and try something new. I have lived in a cocoon of familiarity my entire life, and have very rarely taken steps outside of my comfort zone. No matter how much people say how important it is to step out of the familiar, and walk out into the unknown, I never took their advice. I did great in my cocoon, never had to worry about failure, and always knew what to anticipate. As a kid who used to think he did not have an imagination, this venture out into the literary world has been scary. I think every step I take is incorrect, and I think I’m doing everything wrong. However, paraphrasing Thomas Edison, I will not fail, I will only find 1,001 ways not to write a book.

Hopefully I have more physical and less philosophical progress next week. Only time will tell!

Writing a Book: Things Get Saucy

Okay, so before I get to the title of this post, I want to just give a quick update of the progress (if you could call it that) that I have made since last week. Thankfully, I had about an hour to write this past week, and actually put some words down on the page, 233 to be exact. In those words is where things get “saucy,” and will continue to marinate for a few paragraphs, pages, whatever. However, I am more excited about the directional progress I have made. I decided to continue along the vein of John and Angela’s budding relationship. While I have not even reached John and Angela leaving the office after he asked her out, I now know what direction I am going to take the remainder of this chapter in. After detailing the end of John’s day at the office, I will follow him home, and detail his preparation for his date. The thing that will be interesting about this part of the book is that it is one of the only things that John does not have a routine for. So, I think it will be interesting to show this new, non-meticulous side of him. Every other detailed account of his life has been fit into a mold of how he does things – getting ready in the morning, cooking breakfast, at the office, and as we will see later, how he kills his victims. However, because he has never gone out on a serious date before, this is a whole new realm, and I think I will explore how this inability to control his actions shakes him emotionally. Then, we will “join” Angela and John on their date, and see their love start to bloom. Now, that is all the tomatoes being simmered to a saucy goodness; what comes next is all the things that make the sauce extra saucy.

The part of Chapter Four that I actually wrote this past week talks about Mayor Stanley Jacoby, and the struggle he had in his recent reelection. Eight months before the election, news broke that Jacoby had an affair, and his opponent, Herschell Gallagher, jumped at the opportunity to slander Jacoby. Through incredibly crafty wording of speeches, and an unbelievable increase in public events, Jacoby was able to win back the hearts of Atlanta’s people, and get reelected, leaving Gallagher fuming. So, this side of the story gives me an avenue that I could stride down later in the book if I so choose, and maybe I could interweave more characters into this already complex story.

My next big goal for Perspectives, other than finishing the fourth chapter (however that ends up happening), is to concoct the next murder scene, this time, from the point of view of the killer. Two of the hardest things about doing this will be the actual creative way in which the killer does his deed (his mark, how he kills, etc.), along with choosing the right words and stooping down to the dark level necessary to write with the detail I want. It may be a little hard at first, but hey, I watch enough daytime television to know what a good murder scene looks like. Anyway, that is what I have been up to. Hope to share some more physical progress next week.

 

Writing a Book: The Plot

So, I am both happy to say, and sad to say, that I took Emma’s advice, and left my book alone over Spring Break. Sometimes writing this book can stress me out, and I really need(ed) a break from the stress that is college life. While my Spring Break was a lot of fun, I still managed to be incredibly busy, and my book was one of the last things on my mind. That being said, I do wish I had taken the time I actually had to write, and done just that, written. I have hit a roadblock, and I am not quite sure where I want to go from where I am right now. Hopefully this step away from my book, and away from school for a week, will allow the creative juices to get flowing. Again, that being said, with two exams this week and the next project just being assigned for this class, Perspectives will not be a priority until I have more time to work on it.

So, where did we leave off? John has just asked out Angela, and he is preparing for his big, real-life date. While I feel there is definitely a lot more I could flesh out in this chapter to make it longer, as well as make the story a little more continuous, I am not quite sure if I want to do that. I am considering one of two alternative options if I do not continue with Angela. The first would be simpler. In this option, I switch back to the perspective of Commissioner Howell in his search for the killer of Jennifer Rhodes. The second option is having another murder take place, but this time from the perspective of the serial killer.

This is where the title of this blog post comes in. SPOILER ALERT. John is the serial killer. I know you probably have gathered enough information to figure this out on your own, but let me explain what is going to happen over the course of this book. The police are chasing what they believe to be a band of serial killers (five to be exact), each with their own distinct mark, as well as the mark of the group. The mark of the group is the Roman Numeral, V, and a message cleverly placed on the body, like that on the fingers of Jennifer Rhodes (TAG YOU’RE IT). So, as the story progresses, and we learn more about John and his childhood, it becomes clear that he suffers from Multiple Personalities Disorder. In total, John has seven personalities. John Usher, five serial killers, and the Overlord personality. The Overlord is the mastermind behind all of the killings that will occur throughout this book, and he is the first voice heard in the prologue of this book. He instructs his disciples on what to do to the bodies, and make sure everything is up to the group’s standards. Much later in the book, the seemingly separate paths of John Usher and Commissioner Howell cross when the secret of Multiple Personalities is revealed. Along with this complex struggle, I would like to add a love story with Angela, this too being very complicated.

So the second option of continuation would be more difficult, because I would create a time discrepancy between events, and it may give away some of the plot that I would like to hide for more of the book.

So, I am sorry that I gave it away to you so soon, but it is what it is. Hopefully you forget all that I have said so that the surprise can hit you like I intend it to.

Writing a Book: Writer’s Block Hits Hard

So, as this post’s title suggests, this week I came face to face with incredibly strong and unwavering writer’s block. Sadly, I had the time to write, but almost nothing came out of my skull and onto the page. I guess I will fill you in on the small amount I did write, because I know you are probably sitting on the edge of your seat waiting (hahaha not true at all).

So, in the mere 389 words I wrote this week, we learn a little more about the mysterious John Usher. In this portion of chapter four, one of the secrets of John’s success and prolific architecture career iis revealed. Due to his father, John learned at an early age to compartmentalize and put the past in the past. This allows John to completely immerse himself in whatever project he is working on at the time being, and because he is free of distraction from almost everything else in the world, he is able to work incredibly efficiently. John’s disturbingly habitual nature is also fleshed out a little more, which is an area that will add to that “uncomfortably detailed” aspect I want this book to have.

While I have painted John Usher as very robotic, this chapter also lets us peek into his human side through his reaction to Angela’s acceptance of his date proposal. John was incredibly shy as a child (understandable given his father), but has since started coming out of his shell. After Angela says yes to going to dinner with him, John thinks to himself that he has finally reached the final step of becoming a normal social citizen: asking out a pretty girl.

So, because I do not have that much of the actual story to share, I figure I will let you into my thoughts behind some of the “logistical” aspects of this book. So, let’s talk about the title for a second, Perspectives. As I mentioned in a past blog post, I want this book to read a lot like a movie or television show looks. With the tool of a camera, it is very easy to create different views, or perspectives, of the same event. So, in that sense, I want to create multidimensional environments to a lot of the events that take place later in this book.

Along the lines of storytelling, I want to give the perspectives of various characters. By doing this, moral and ethical lines are blurred because you learn the inner workings of each character: what drives them, what they are going through, etc. This is done very well in the Netflix series House of Cards. If you have not seen the show, first of all, crawl out from the rock you are living under and start watching it, it is incredible. Also, this show does an amazing job of blurring the lines of right and wrong, and makes a lot of issues that I previously thought were black and white appear much more gray. So, I hope to accomplish this in Perspectives, because I think this distortion of reality makes the story incredibly interesting, makes it exhilarating, and makes the reader think about their own moral code.

For after Spring Break, I hope to have completed another two chapters, so hopefully I will have a lot more to tell you when we get back.

Writing a Book: Picking up Steam

I have some great news! This past week, I was finally able to meet my goal set all the way back in the first week of blogging. I have completed chapter three, and have completed most of, if not all of chapter four. It was an incredibly exciting experience, and I really just let my fingers go on their own path. So, I think this week, I am going to post an excerpt that gives you a sense of the overall “feel” of my book. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this book is really dark. The topic of serial killers, surprisingly enough, is not one that can be written about in a light-hearted manner, and I am actually surprising myself with how scary some of the thoughts are that are coming out on to the page. Once again, I want to emphasize that none of these are based on my own personal life. They are merely the mode through which I am telling this story. However, I would like to warn you before reading this segment from chapter four, that it gets a little rough. In this segment, we learn more about John’s past, and what led him to his life today. Please feel free to let me know of what you think of the excerpt. Along with this, as I said, I finished chapter three, which dives a little bit more into who Commissioner Howell is, and, in chapter four, introduced Angela Gordon, John’s love interest at work. I am really excited about having gotten so much written, and I cannot wait to continue.

Perspectives, Chapter Four: (For some context, this is right after he hears of the murder on the radio)

John turned off the radio. He had always been incredibly squeamish, and even the slightest mention of anything macabre made his stomach churn uncontrollably. He rolled his window down, and felt the sticky, humid air of downtown Atlanta hit his face. Oddly enough, John found this refreshing. John grew up in Alaska, where the weather was unbearable, and for six months of the year it stayed dark outside. Couple with the bad weather was John’s father, Norm Usher. Norm was a construction worker, with a side gig of coming home plastered and taking out his frustrations on his wife and only child. John still cringed every time he got undressed and heard the sound of his belt buckle jingle. Man, was that dad’s favorite. He would walk into the house half undressed anyway, and his belt was the most efficient and readily available stress management tool. John would hear the door open and close, hear the clunk of Timberland work boots on their linoleum floor, and brace for impact. After a few months, John learned to pretend to be asleep while the beatings occurred. That way, the small sliver of human side Norm possessed would come out. Even he would not beat on a defenseless sleeping boy. This sympathy, sadly, did not translate to John’s mother, Theresa Usher. John would still wake up hearing the screams of his mother. Especially those of 4:23 am, Monday, January 3rd, 1983. That night the screams came to an end, and were drowned out by the sound of Norm sobbing. He left the house, turning himself into the police. It was after nearly a week of hiding out in his room that John was finally picked up by a police officer. He was eight years old at the time; just old enough to know the weight of what his father had done. John was now left with one parent, the man responsible for killing his mother.

Later in the chapter, I used extreme detail to describe John going to see his father executed for the murder of John’s mother, as well as several crimes he committed while in prison. As you can imagine, this part is pretty dark as well, but I think that is the tone that this book needs to tell its story to the fullest.

Thank you so much for the feedback so far, there is much more of Perspectives to come.

 

Writing a Book: Slow, Slow, Progress

Let me preface this post with some good…ish news: I have not quite met my goals from my first post yet, but, I have made some progress that has shown me where I want to take this novel.

As of today, I have completed almost all of chapter three. As I said in my last posts, I have been aiming to make this chapter longer than the previous two, allowing my story to start taking shape. In this chapter, Commissioner Howell returns to the police station, and begins dealing with all of the press surrounding Jennifer’s brutal murder. In this chapter, we meet his secretary, Madison Yates. We also meet the short-tempered Mayor of Atlanta, GA, Robert Jacoby. His temper comes out when Howell tells him that they have no leads on the case, and there is no positive news to tell the press.

While writing this chapter, I realized how oddly detailed I want this novel, Perspectives, to be. For instance, I have already been incredibly detailed with the time of day that events occur. I would like to continue this detail into every aspect of this novel. Also, much like a film director aims to shoot from different angles, providing new outlooks on a scene, I want to create that effect for the reader through words. I think this will prove very challenging, but if I continue on my vein of extreme detail, I think this goal should be attainable.

Now, to the not-book-related way I feel while taking on this project. My life has been incredibly busy these past couple weeks. I think the fact that I am writing this blog post at 2:05 am on Thursday morning is evidence enough of my packed schedule these past few weeks. As a result, I have not had nearly as much time to think about, let alone write this book. Something I have realized, however, is how much of a stress relief this project is. I have to set deadlines for myself, but it is just that: Set by myself, for myself. This project is my way of expressing my thoughts, and telling a story that I think is worth telling. This process has been incredibly cathartic. I have had the dark thoughts of this serial killer in my mind for over a year (I promise this is by no means suggesting I have considered being a serial killer), and now I am finally expelling them from my mind, and putting them on the page. I love having time to sit down and write this book, and if you, the reader, need a new tactic to battle stress, I highly recommend something creative. It does not need to be writing a novel, just something outside of your normal daily routine that gets you thinking about a world you imagine.

All that being said, I need to really start carving out time for this project. So, in the next week, I truly hope to meet my preliminary goal. I will finish chapter three, and write chapter four, as well as have a concrete representation of the direction I want this book to take, as well as the elements I would like it to have. Hopefully I have some more substance to tell you all next week!

Writing a Book: The Struggle

So, I found out this week that it is really hard to write a book on top of finishing work for my normal classes. I think it is also a little challenging to write a lot because my mind is focused heavily on science during the majority of the week, and that makes transitioning to writing realistic fiction difficult. I also found out that writer’s block, at least for me, hits even harder when trying to write a book, rather than a “normal” paper, blog post, etc. Trying to create a world real enough for readers to immerse themselves in is incredibly challenging, and has been pretty discouraging.

You have probably guessed by now that I did not meet my goals set last week. I wrote a few paragraphs of Chapter 3, but that is literally it. In this chapter, I have Commissioner Howell returning to the police station, distraught over what he has witnessed at the crime scene. Throughout the book, I want to add oddly specific details, to make the readers pleasantly uncomfortable, a phenomenon that is hard to explain, but one that I cherish dearly. I want to do this especially for John, as I feel that this awkward meticulousness is integral to his character.

While I have not physically written down my plot plan, I have a general framework in mind. While I cannot reveal too much, as to keep the story intriguing, I will say that I am considering adding a love story element to the book. I think the girl that John falls for will enter the story about a third of the way through the book. This placement is for two reasons:

1. It will add a nice new element to help keep the story intriguing.

2. It will serve as a “catalyst” to keep the story going.

Since I did so poorly following my goals this past week, I really need to buckle down and make up for lost time these next couple weeks. This weekend I hope to have made up for what I wanted to do last week. This includes finishing Chapter 3, writing Chapter 4, and writing the plot plan. I also think that a plan of attack that may be beneficial is sitting down for a few hours and just letting my fingers hit the keys, unrestricted by conscious thought. I think this unadulterated stream of consciousness will really help me see what direction I want to take this book in, as well as see if there are any characters I need to add (which I am more than 100% positive I will given I have less than ten characters right now), and will help me see what sides of the story to highlight, and which pieces to keep more subtle.

If you guys have any tips for what approach I should take to make some progress on this project, I would love any advice. Hopefully I can beat the writer’s block! I am still very excited about this project, and I hope I can follow through and knock this thing out!

Writing a Book: The Beginning

I know what you’re thinking. How in the world does someone decide to write a book, especially someone who is a Mathematics major, like myself? Well, the answer is simple. I had a story in mind, and I wanted to vomit it out onto paper so other people could read the story and see what’s going on in my cramped skull.  Also, I have a very loud mind that is constantly coming up with weird ideas that I need to somehow get out of my head. So, what’s the solution? Try to write a book, of course!

The idea to write this book popped into my head almost exactly one year ago, but I had done absolutely no work on it until about three o’clock in the morning on a Saturday last semester. I couldn’t sleep, so I decided to start the process. I knew I wanted to write about serial killing, with perspectives varying from killers, to the police, to civilians, etc. I began the process by writing down the broadest version of the plot I could come up with, and began flushing out the components of the book – setting, characters, etc. Once I did that, I just started writing, and let my fingers write whatever series of words came out of my brain. This is how I think I am going to start out writing this book, and then later go back and edit the crap out of it.

So, enough about the process, let’s get to the progress.

WARNING: This book is going to get incredibly dark at times. So, if the macabre is not for you, proceed with caution.

So far, I have written a brief introduction/preface, and two chapters. The introduction introduces the Overlord, and a killer, Keith Thompson, who cuts smiles into his victims. The first chapter introduces us to the main character, John Usher, a thirty-three year old architect living in Atlanta, GA, who is consumed by habits. In the second chapter, we meet Police Commissioner Blake Howell, Detective Haley Jenkins, Medical Examiner Linda Anderson, and Victim Number One, Jennifer Rhodes. Along with the smile cut into her face, Jennifer possesses a surgically precise stab wound, and the Roman numeral, “V,” branded on to her stomach. Upon further inspection, Linda finds the words, “Tag You’re It,” cut into Jennifer’s fingertips.

Most recently, I have created the working title, Perspectives, both to symbolize the shift in viewpoint from chapter to chapter, as well as to tie into the major plot twist later in the book.

My goals for this next week are:

1. Write at least two more chapters. Chapter 3 will probably be a continuation in the perspective of Commissioner Howell, and Chapter 4 back to John Usher. My first two chapters are rather short, so I would like the next few chapters to be longer, at least ten pages each.

2. Come up with a firm plotline, and place specific events along it. This will help me stay focused on what to write each chapter about, as well as ensure I do not give away too much information too soon.

The writing is going really well so far, and I am really excited to see how this whole thing goes!