- Ellen Hopkins- Impulse
- Ellen Hopkins- Identical
Week 7 Reflection: Drafting the beginning of the story
For Week 7′s post I wrote the beginning of my short story about socially-withdrawn twin sisters that gleefully project their rage onto others in acts of revengeful crimes. The story is based on the real-life crimes committed by Jennifer and June Gibbons. I had first heard about this story while watching the Crime Investigation channel and it intrigued me because of the multiple crimes by siblings told on this particular episode, Jennifer and June had committed the least dangerous and yet they also seemed to be the most emotionally unstable. As I often watch the Crime Investigation channel, this intrigued me because, unlike most of the stories on this channel that focus on the crimes committed, this segment mainly focused on the twins’ life growing up in a racist society.
Writing the beginning of my short story proved to be a bit challenging because I find the setting and characters’ backgrounds the most difficult part of writing a story. What complicated this even more if the fact that I had to write from, not one, but two main characters’ perspectives. About halfway through writing the first few chapters in ‘Diary Mode’ I realized that I needed to cut myself some slack and ease the pressure I was putting on myself because the point of this assignment is to progress in an area that I have trouble with. I had never even attempted to write from more than one perspective before so I often found myself forcefully splitting the story line in two so each character could have a say. I also feel I should have planned the story line more thoroughly as I often felt stuck moving forward.
Taking from my Creative Writing class (which I am currently majoring in), I understand that there was not a lot of conflict in the real story of Jennifer and June Gibbons because, although they were destructive, they were also very socially withdrawn- meaning arguments would not have been very frequent. This is why I have also included a third character, Marie, who can be seen in a way as the only sane main character. I chose to include her in my initial planning so the reader can trust her version of events, also bringing out the delusion in the twins’ false telling of reality. What I did not realize was the obvious fact that I was putting more pressure on myself for having to write from three main characters’ perspectives, so I chose to work on introducing Jennifer and June Gibbons in the beginning of the draft and will work Marie in to the story line after I feel I have adequately finished working on their backgrounds.
I have also found my weekly plan for Brief 2 to be unattainable as writing a short story takes a lot of time to edit and rework so I have changed the first few posts to submit them, not weekly, but every two weeks. In saying this, my reflections will still be weekly as I will still talk about how I am getting along with the writing of my short story.
Week 8 Reflection: Improvements, re-planning and research
I looked back on the beginning of my first draft and for week 8 I have been working on how I can improve on the introduction of the twins and give an insight in to their backgrounds. I have decided the following:
- Jennifer and June Gibbons’ sister with a sane perspective will be introduced in to the story line only after committing crimes becomes frequent as this will give me enough time to work on better building the twins’ characters and portray their withdrawn states more thoroughly.
- I need to work on including the fantasy lands that the twins have imaginatively created in their own minds to escape dealing with the outside world. This shows the reader just how delusional the Jennifer and June Gibbons can be and that they are mentally incapable of understanding the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
- The characters should have more of a ‘distorted’ view on society. Simply put, I have realized that what is already written so far needs to show that they are more emotionally unstable and enough to adequately explain why they live in their own fantasy land and commit such crimes.
- The main conflict of the story line will be how Marie desperately attempts to protect her careless sisters from any legal trouble they may encounter. This means that the twins’ diaries will see them going through hardships in a racist society and how they process these issues, while Marie writes about her desperation and the frustration with her sisters’ carelessness.
Week 7 began as a bumpy ride but I feel that week 8′s planning has helped me smooth out some of the issues I initially had while working on the first draft. Now I feel i have more of an understanding of where the storyline is heading as I don’t feel that there was enough conflict in the real-life story of Jennifer and June Gibbons so I am relieved to have come up with a way to include more conflict.
Another task of mine for week 8 is to look in to the real-life story more and attempt to understand the mentally of the twin sisters in order to help me build their characters more thoroughly. I referred to an article (http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/features/silent-twins-trapped-by-a-destructive-bond-that-was-broken-only-by-death-1-3880669) about a woman who had built a sort of friendship with the Gibbons sisters and found it very interesting to read about a ‘sane’ woman’s perspective on two mentally unstable girls that she had personally known. From this I learned the following:
- Jennifer and June Gibbons had agreed that Jennifer was the ‘weaker’ twin and therefore, June would have a higher chance of functioning normally in society. This lead to the sisters choosing a specific day for June to die, eventually leaving Jennifer to lead a normal life without what she had described as ‘the dark sister robbing me of sunlight’.
- The twin sisters had come up with their own language in an attempt to further isolate themselves from society. Therapists and psychological professionals could not get the girls to speak and therefore could not help them in any way. Separating the girls, even going so far as to send each twin to a different school, proved to make them even more socially withdrawn.
- The twins were synchronized in more ways than one. The woman who had built a sort of relationship with them, Marjorie Wallace, had said during a visit in prison, “They looked like two mummies, sitting in silence with eyes downcast, but when they moved they both did it together, with complete synchronicity.”
- Marjorie Wallace also explained that there was another way of seeing the sister dynamic between the girls that perhaps we as the public could take from. “The diaries were not just about being twins with this strange relationship. They were also writing about something that was universal in relationships where lives are too closely entwined and become destructive.”
After learning of these facts I was better able to understand the life these girls had lead in relation to each other. This has helped me tremendously in improving my story line as I feel I have more knowledge to get inside each girl’s head and portray the strange dynamic of their love/hate relationship.
I’m looking forward to my finish product more than I was last week and I find myself feeling eager to finish the story but I know it takes time and that I have to be patient so that it doesn’t come off as ‘rushed’. I will also be comparing chapters of Ellen Hopkins’ books to the structure of my story. A few years ago I had written to Ellen Hopkins herself and expressed my admiration of her work and, to my surprise, I had received a response so I intend on writing to her again for any tips or advice she can give me in regards to writing from more than on main character’s perspective. Fingers crossed she replies this time, too!
Week 9 Reflection: How to separate twins, Time spent and Ellen Hopkins
Week 9′s post has definitely been my favorite so far because I got to dive straight in to writing from a perspective new to me, having a mental illness. With the research I had done in week 8 and reading through key chapters in Ellen Hopkins’ Impulse I was able to understand more about how to write from June and Jennifer Gibbons’ perspectives. What I found to be a challenge, however, is the fact that in real-life, the twin sisters were never actually diagnosed with any specific mental illness due to their lack of interest in speaking to people (namely professional psychiatrists) from the outside world. This meant that I couldn’t just Google the symptoms of an illness, I had to use what I had learned about June and Jennifer Gibbons from articles written about them or the people who knew them best. In order to give each character a viewpoint I had to take what I learned from these articles and strategically categorize them in to ‘Jennifer views’ and ‘June views’ which was a challenge in itself due to the fact that both girls rarely spoke and so there is not much information about each girl’s thoughts and ideas. Another difficulty was the fact that both girls saw each other as a mirroring-image, meaning that in many ways they did not see any focal points of separation between themselves either.
Impulse is about several young adults who each tell their story of how they wound up in a psychiatric ward and the reader eventually realizes that all of their lives are intertwined. For example, one character may speak of what happened when they got into a psychical fight and another may speak of passing the fight and their opinions on what happened. This helped guide me with intertwining my characters’ diary entries as I had never written from multiple viewpoints before so I had been incredibly limited in this area.
I also read several chapters from Ellen Hopkins’ Impulse for guidance on writing from a mentally ill perspective and I feel that this helped me tremendously. What I specifically took from this was the constant use of metaphors and similes used to describe how one feels in relation to another person, which I think made Impulse a great choice to learn from.
I referred to http://www.the-writers-craft.com/first-person-point-of-view.html for tips on writing in first person and I found that one of the mistakes that I had been making was telling rather than showing. I found it too easy to write from and get stuck in the characters’ heads which can be a good thing, but only to a certain extent because that gives less time to show and more time to tell. I also appreciated that this reference reminded writers that what the character thinks, feels, acts and speaks like should be consistent with their culture and background.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I referred tohttp://thestorydepartment.com/dual-protagonists/ for tips and advice on what not to do. The writer of this article has a viewpoint that opposes multiple protagonists and, just like a well-written article, gives valid points as to why they feel this way. I took these points as tips to help me with my main goal of this assignment; Write a short story with more than one main character. I feel that this particular article helped me more than any others had so far because I found myself falling in to the ‘trap’ of what not to do. The tip that I took from this is that having two (or in my case, three) protagonists is to serve a purpose. For example, the characters can all have the same goal but their reasons for achieving this goal should be different. This was very interesting as it had never crossed my mind before writing this story. Of course, as I am writing about a true story, it can become very difficult to incorporate this tip in to my writing, but I feel that week 9′s post has been somewhat a success in this area.
All in all, I feel I finally know exactly what I am doing in the week leading up to week 12 and my final story and I’m especially pleased with the references that I have chosen as they have been even more helpful than I initially thought, in regards to deciding how the story line is written.
Week 10 Reflection: Drama, Drama, Drama!
My Week 10 reflection was to add more conflict and drama in to my story line, while also taking tips from a website (http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/multiple-lead-characters.html) on how to write for two lead characters equally.I found that I was able to add equal amounts of drama for both of my protagonists, however, I had to constantly remind myself that each character should have her own voice. This is especially important in order for readers to differentiate between the twin protagonists.I have come to the unsettling realization that, despite being able to separate the twins’ voices in previous reflections, old habits are harder to break than I had initially thought.The true story that I have based my short novel on dwells on the fact that these twin sisters are hard to tell apart, meaning that I feel I have to give each character her own voice based on the limited resources I have from the internet.Despite these setbacks, I have been able to make a list with key-notes for each character-Jennifer;*The more dominant of the two. Jennifer is viewed as the twin with the least amount of weaknesses and, therefore, is more likely to adjust well in society.*Is the more emotional of the two (this is due to feeling conflicted about the death of her sister).*Jennifer writes about her feelings more than setting.June;*Feels the need to go along with what her sister says because she is the ‘weaker’ twin.*June’s diary talks more about setting than emotions. This shows that she is not as emotional as Jennifer regarding her planned death, but more often, lives in the ‘now’.*Both characters care about Marie and equally attempt to console her as much as their emotions allow them to.These points were important for me to refer to in times of confusion, as I needed to pinpoint how each character would react with the rise in conflict.Adding drama in my story line was much easier than I had thought, once I figured out how to give each twin her own voice.The Creative Writing class that I am currently majoring in has given me some very efficient tips for creating drama. I have learned that the climax of the story line should only be slightly diluted (e.g. An important argument to the story line could lead to a character storming off after voicing their opinions, rather than promptly apologizing).I had also looked at http://www.how-to-write-a-book-now.com/multiple-lead-characters.html for advice on writing from multiple protagonists’ points of views. This article discussed the importance of writing from a lead character’s point of view and an ‘impact’ character’s point of view. An impact character (in my case, Marie) is “looked at through the main character’s P.O.V (point of view)”.This helped me come to the conclusion that Marie does not need to be a lead character, but can still be included throughout the story line for emotional distress that a ‘normal’ person might feel in her situation. This helps the reader identify more with her character and adds more emotions to the dramatic story line.
Week 11 Reflection: Intertwining and Editing
Edit: adding or changing final draft. Refer to Ellen Hopkins’ ‘Identical’ chapter 19 on intertwining multiple characters’ story-lines together.
My goal for Week 11 is to change/edit my short novel in order to improve the final outcome, and to merge the characters’ stories.
What I found to be particularly helpful was the email that Karen had sent me, regarding minor changes that I could make to grammar and punctuation. This is because these minor changes help me when it comes to writing my story, and grammar and punctuation is a necessary part of a professional writer’s job.
I found that having other people read what I have written helps, as sometimes I can miss errors in my writing.
I also sent what I had written to my sister, Noor, for advice on what made sense and what didn’t in the storyline. I chose to ask for her advice because she pays close attention to detail and, despite being slightly harsh at times, is generally correct in her findings.
Noor had some red flags concerning the length of the storyline without much mention of Marie, the third character looking out for the twin sisters. I then decided to add minor mentions of Marie’s character in the beginning of the story, when the twin sisters experience racism and bullying at school.
Noor had also advised me that it can be very easy to ramble on about emotions throughout the chapters as my short novel is based on a true story that is limited in research. I kept this advice in mind when continuing the story as I realised that the direction my story was taking could very well end up as one long emotional rant.
This is where I also included the ‘show, don’t tell’ theory to portray the twin sisters in a more vulnerable light.
To conclude, I feel that I was successful in my objective for Week 11, largely due to the opinions of others. Unfortunately, I later realised that I had focused so much of my time on the writing that I had forgotten to follow Karen’s advice and add visual elements to my blog. This will be one of my tasks for Week 12.
(June and Jennifer Gibbons. Image Reference: http://yattix.com/2013/11/june-and-jennifer-gibbons/ )
Week 12 Reflection: Before and After Comparisons and Final Reflection NotesWeek 12 is the final reflection. My main goal was to learn how to write from the perspectives of multiple protagonists. I have compared my writing skills from Week 7 to Week 12 and found that my research and references have helped me advance in my goal. I have mainly focused on the few chapters that are the most important to the storyline (drama, conflict and separation of the twin sisters' personalities). Unfortunately, I feel that I had put too much pressure on myself by attempting to write a complete story multiple times. I soon realized that this was too much work for me, particularly because a lot of thought goes in to the process of storytelling and I found out that rushing my learning process would only have a negative effect on the outcome of my short novel. All in all, I am pleased with the outcome of my short story because I have learned a lot about writing from multiple protagonists' points of views. Despite having to shorten the length of what I had wanted to hand in, I have found peace in what I am to hand in. I believe that I have spent the last 5 weeks wisely, focusing on what can help me improve my skills as a creative writer. Despite this class coming to an end, I do intend on continuing to progress as a writer and found this assignment to be very interesting. In the future I will likely look back at what I have written for guidance, especially regarding the references that I have used.