Or, a recipe for psychologically torturing your characters.
- 250g of resenting dependency of others
- 150g of feeling like a failure
- 100ml of selflessness and being used by people
- 100ml of social pressures
- 3tbsp essence of personal injustice
- 5 medium sized organic unrequited love pods
Mix all the ingredients in a pot and stir thoroughly until fully blended, leaving no lumpy bits of personal injustice. The unrequited love pods need to be completely inseparable from the psychological torment. Inject into characters at will to torture their darkest most inner secrets and thoughts. Then serve!
Ideally consumed with strong adrenaline and a side order of paranoia soup.
Differences between Writing Salmonweird and Phobetor’s Children
Salmonweird was fun from start to finish and rarely felt like a chore. Dead Heat and Dead Lock didn’t take all that long so I never had the chance to really emotionally engage with the characters. But Phobetor‘s Children, which took seven years to write, was an intense rollercoaster ride. It’s probably been my most ambitious and intense piece of writing ever and I do not use that term lightly.
I knew from early on it wasn’t going to be a standard scifi-horror. Not just because it’s set during the 1st century Roman Empire, but because it was never intended to be a big action piece ripe for Hollywood summer blockbuster. I’d always intended my alien horror to be, well, horrifying in the truest sense of the word. I wanted to reach into the darkest pits of psychological baggage that we carry around with us in adulthood.
That is why this book has taken me so long and why there is so much of my own personality on each of the characters:
- Methodius is the side that wants to be helpful but resents when people become too reliant on his helpfulness instead of doing things for themselves
- Livia is the side that wants to stand out and resents the social expectations of gender and class/rank. I made the character a woman for that reason
- Valens is the various coping mechanisms for the broken heart but unlike him, I’ve never slept around after having my heart broken
- Nero is the anger at injustice and hypocrisy, who feels shame at his lived experiences and think people will not even try to understand his torment
- Joseph is the loyalty even though that loyalty has been wasted by some people and abused by others once thought trustworthy
- Seneca is the desire to return to what once was rather than trying to make the best of the situation for now. We all succumb to nostalgia on occasion
At once, I had a reason for why I have turned to the book when I’ve felt low, and in the winter months when SAD hits. I’ve also worked on it when I’ve had genuine flashes of inspiration too unrelated to mood.
It is these very fears and attributes I exploit in the book and at times it has taken an emotional toll. I didn’t quite understand why until I took the time to analyse my characters. So naturally, when I’m psychologically torturing six aspects of my character, it is emotionally draining. That’s why I went through so much angst on which characters to to kill.
It’s different from the physical horror and bloodshed in both Dead Heat and Dead Lock because it’s far easier to distance oneself from the physical act of bloodshed. These people are not real and dismemberment and zombification are not experiences I have either witnessed or experienced personally, but all those above are.