Fiction Writing and Mental Health Stigmatisation

You’re crazy. Delusional. Mad. Insane. Nuts. Psychotic. Loony. Off your meds. Around the twist. Freak. Psycho. Weirdo. Schizo. Mental.


We like to think we’ve progressed as a society. In centuries past, humanity liked to just lock away anyone who deviated from the norm, preferring to pretend they didn’t exist. Insane asylums and travelling circuses were where you’d find the humans too “delusional” for regular society. The Nazis aimed to eradicate who they perceived as deplorable and below the rest of humanity, with Josef Mengele, among many in his rank, attempting to normalise eugenics and wipe out what they perceived as defective human beings.

Creative spheres are typically full of progressive people, and literary awards are chock-full of stories about struggle in the human condition, about overcoming adversity and beating the odds. BookTube, BookTok and all the other literature-focused parts of the internet, are always sharing books and entertainment that attempt to fix some of the frankly shocking portrayals of mental illness. In the last few decades, a wealth of literature has come out trying to help with the dismal public awareness of both physical and mental health. Far from the days of WWI vets hiding their PTSD in a locked box and suppressing their emotions, newer generations (millennials and Gen Z) are supposedly more open with mental health and mental illness, proudly proclaiming their diagnoses in their Twitter bios and claiming to be all about empathy and compassion.

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{SimName} gained some Writing skill! Using ‘The Sims’ as a Framework for Fiction Writing

The Sims is the perfect video game for writers.

As someone who first got into the franchise over twenty years ago with The Sims (no numbers) on Windows 98, each new incarnation of The Sims has been more inclusive of telling stories while also escaping from the real world by making your Sim a corrupt detective with six lovers and seventeen kids and a secret side-business drowning work rivals in his underground basement pool…or alternatively, a dedicated single mother who’s just doing her best while changing the world building rockets and rocketing off into space in her spare time.

It was a lot harder back in 2001 to keep the storytelling alive—mostly I was trying to keep my Sims alive with their thrice-daily showers and constant bad moods. However, over time, the sequels have made it easier to keep your Sims, well, alive, contrary to Will Wright’s original goal of making Budget Simulator 2000, it’s become an immersive storytelling tool. I’m not about to wax poetic about how amazing the later games are. Sims 3 no longer has the appeal it did back in 2009—it’s a laggy, bloated mess with empty lots and a map screen filled with Steve Jablonsky’s ‘Expansive Vistas‘ that will give even the cheeriest of folks a traumatising case of crippling existential dread at 5am they never even asked for. Don’t even get me started on the current brouhaha over the latest Sims 4 game pack. We’re here to talk about The Sims from a writer’s perspective. That’s what this blog tends to be about. Writing. Writing accessories. I hope you weren’t expecting a list of songs from Sims 3 designed to give you maximum existential dread. Or a list of reticulating splines. Not today, reader. Not today.

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Ken Wheaton’s ‘Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears’, Reviewing as, Well, A Review

When her sister is injured in a freak rhinoceros accident, Katherine Fontenot is forced from her decades-long, self-imposed exile in New York back to her hometown in Lousianan Cajun country. Katherine, or Katie-Lee to her family down South, is laughing along with the rest of her co-workers at the wacky news, filed briefly away as the weird news of the day for everyone, until she realises her baby sister Karen-Anne is the one who was harmed. Fifty years old and in fear of the constant stream of layoffs, Katherine eventually decides it’s time to return to the place she escaped from three decades ago, and to confront the events that sent her packing halfway across the United States in the first place. Will she be able to bury the demons of her past? Or will she discover if that’s even necessary?

Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears is a 2014 fiction novel by Ken Wheaton, and is something I’d never normally pick up. But in the name of research, and a plotline that seemed interesting enough, I bought this on Kindle and decided to try it out. I started on a slow read-through last year, in the midst of the pandemic, reading like a page a week when I could manage, getting roughly forty per cent through, but it wasn’t pushed to the forefront until this year. I had a bunch of library books waiting for me (the rest of the Hannibal Lecter series, among them) and I decided to pull out my Kindle, considering its portability and how I could just pick up any of the dozens of books I’d downloaded and read whatever took my fancy. Unlike a physical book, I could just decide I wanted to read one book, and it’d be there for me, even if I’d wholly intended on reading another. So I picked up Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears, and read it at a much faster pace this time, immersing myself in the life of Katherine Fontenot for a week. And well, you know what? I actually enjoyed it!

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The Stigma Against Young Adult Fiction


If you’ve ever spent more than a hot minute on bookish parts of the interwebs, then you’ve seen the massive, roaring debate about whether young adult fiction is “proper” literature. The sheer majority of BookTube, the book reviewers and talkers of YouTube, seem to read and review YA, with the odd classic or “reimagined” classic smattered here and there. I came across this issue again recently when Christine Riccio, the biggest BookTuber, released the video ADULT BOOKS VS YA BOOKS. Way back in May, mind you. Thanks algorithm. But it got me thinking thoughts, and boy oh boy are there thoughts to be thought and things to say and words to be written about this supposed stigma against YA fiction.

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Having a Dialogue About Writing Realistic Dialogue


For the past couple of weeks, I have been reading a book that I have tentatively dubbed The Room of novels. I’m just over sixty pages into this 400-page behemoth of a novel with no substance, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to read. No, of course it’s interesting. Despite its unnecessary textbook size, egregious spelling and grammatical mistakes, and gaping plot holes, this as-yet-unnamed book really does have a gripping plot, if not for the so-bad-it’s-good writing style. However, the dialogue is another problem altogether.

Writing good, engaging dialogue takes effort. As someone who has been told she writes effective, down-pat dialogue, I can tell you bad dialogue is glaringly obvious, and it really detracts from the effectiveness of the novel. While similar to real-life conversation, it is not the same. If you recreate a real-life conversation in your work of fiction, it’s going to sound awkward, clunky, and downright unreadable. For example, here’s a scene from my novel Reunion ’92 (its placeholder title):

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