Mental Illness Questionnaire, Critique, and Line Edits

Mental Illness Questionnaire, Critique, and Line Edits

*Note: Anyone who contributes will be going in the acknowledgements of this book.

I am nearing the end of His Vanity and very much want to rally my Stars on board to help me with the line edits of this thing once I get around to them. I don’t have an official blurb for the novel, but here’s one I threw together: Gene White is a suicidal teen rescued by a puppeteer and doll maker who wants to protect him from a man in a gold suit. But this proves difficult when this man in a gold suit torments Gene’s own mind in an attempt to make him his. Feel free to critique the blurb. It is something I just threw together but would love comments on. I did mention in one post what I wanted to accomplish with this novel, so I’ll list those again.

  1. To get across that mental illness is serious and real and should be treated as any other illness.
  2. Mental illness is chronic. For many, it’s forever, and sometimes medication and therapy aren’t enough, especially if the illnesses are resisting medication.
  3. Illnesses that aren’t being effectively treated are pretty much terminal. Especially those who suffer from suicidal ideation, mental illness can be a cancer of the mind.
  4. Some pain doesn’t get better, or it gets better, but only for a short amount of time. But that doesn’t mean one should just quit fighting.
  5. Let’s be honest: Mental Illness sucks. It really sucks. There is nothing heroic or beautiful about being mentally ill and being able to live IN SPITE of it. You’re simply living with a sucky illness that can make your mind turn on you at any moment. And then you’re left helpless, and even if you do overcome it, you’ve sustained some trauma just from your own mind betraying you.
  6. It doesn’t matter why someone is mentally ill. What matters is that they are ill at all and need help, whatever help can be given.

If there is anything profound you’d like to mention about mental illness, particularly suicide or depression, feel free to add to the above list because I would like to make HIS VANITY a contemporary fantasy with literary elements that says something about the universal human condition of coping with pain and why we fear pain so much. Okay, now that I’ve listed what I’d like to accomplish with the book, let’s get down to the nitty gritty. In list form, again.

  1. Some of Gene’s idols, ironically, include people who have ended their lives by suicide. He doesn’t idolize their suicide but idolizes them for what they did in life. They include Van Gogh, Virginia Woolf, Edgar Allen Poe, and Sylvia Plath. Would you be interested in Gene including some of their quotes at pertinent points in the book, quotes that relate to suicide or mental illness in some form?
  2. Just how much do you want Gene to delve into depression and suicide? In my current draft, he delves into the nitty gritty of it and is as real as a teen can be about it. A note: I don’t want to sugar coat these intense topics.
  3. Gene develops a crush on a girl who looks his age but is in fact a few decades older than him. Obviously no relationship is going to develop between them but Gene holds on to the crush because it feels good to him. Do you want it to stay just a cute little crush, or do you want me to really delve into Gene’s sexuality to show that in spite of his depression, he is still capable of feeling and feeling deeply? He doesn’t want to deny himself any good feeling he can latch on to because he doesn’t experience good feelings that often.
  4. Claude is the puppeteer and doll maker who rescued Gene. He is about tough love–mostly getting Gene to do what he should be doing, like taking care of himself. However, Claude does have some natural fatherly feelings toward Gene. Claude has his own POV chapters. How deep would you like me to delve into these fatherly feelings?
  5. Why do you think life is valuable?
  6. If you had to live the rest of your life in pain (serious pain), what reasons would you have to keep going?
  7. I want the title to be literary in nature. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars came from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Knowing what you know about Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, and Edgar Allen Poe (especially Poe) and applying the universal human condition of pain, throw some title ideas out there for me.

I would appreciate all answers in the comments below!

13 thoughts on “Mental Illness Questionnaire, Critique, and Line Edits

  1. For question 6: Family and friends. Also: Is there any ambition? Even the smallest possible inkling he has that he’s going to make it? For example: I want to be a librarian: that’s keeping me in school: The only reason. A reminder that sometimes there’s a bump but it means there’s a bigger prize at the top of the hill.

    For question 7: I don’t know why, but the quote “Death be not proud” showed up in my mind. Or “Do not go gentle into that good night.” Hope it somewhat helps. I also find bouncing ideas off of people helps tremendously.

    1. Gene does eventually find a reason to keep going. Like the biggest theme in the book is the acceptance of pain because we naturally fear pain but it is as natural as happiness, so that’s what Gene struggles to accept throughout the book.

      I love John Donne, so I will certainly check out that poem and see what it can reveal to me. I’ll also check out the other poem as well. Thank you so much for responding!

  2. Oh man, I have a lot of questions before I could answer your points:

    I wonder who is your fist audience? (Of course we all want everyone to read – but, first?) Is it those who are struggling or is it those who love those who are struggling? I guess I’m wondering what is priority #1 – showing sufferers they are not alone or demonstrating/teaching to those who do not have mental illness. You have to pick one. Of course we all hope with these themes we can reach across, but I feel the answers to your questions above will not be the same for each group.
    Is Gene’s primary diagnosis depression or is it something more specific? Bi-polar, PTSD, OCD, Borderline…?
    What time period does this story take place in? Is it contemporary?

    1. I’ve got the theme ripped out from the book, so the book isn’t just for those who are struggling. The book, really, is for anyone afraid to get hurt. The theme is about the acceptance of pain because we’re all so afraid to feel pain but it’s as natural as any other feeling we may experience so we shouldn’t try to push pain away.

      Gene’s primary diagnosis is psychotic depression, but he also struggles with suicidal ideation, which often goes in tandem with depression. It is a contemporary fantasy.

      1. If the book is contemporary, maybe use some more recent artists as well, like Kurt Cobian (sp?) and Amy Whinehouse and…?

        Acceptance of pain as part of the whole picture, that’s an important theme. And I think your goals of showing mental illness is “real” and should be treated like any other medical issue is an important point to validate the struggle so many people are going through.

        I guess in my struggles and those I’ve witnessed is that sometimes it takes an outside voice to remind a person in the depth of the darkness that it can be light again, or even that it ever has been light before.

        Good luck, I look forward to reading about your progress.

      2. Oh – sorry – this will come backwards – but one more thing…

        Several years ago I had a friend who was in so much pain from her own mind/soul – it was overwhelming to us all. At some point even I began to think I could forgive her (like that’s my right) if she just “let go.” Witnessing her spiral and self harm was, well indescribable so you have a job ahead of you, but anyway, one time I remember saying to her. “You know, we don’t know what happens to your soul when you die. Do you really want to take this torn and pained soul into the next dimension? Maybe you should stay and try to fix it here, first.”

        I was grasping at straws by this time, but it was something we talked over time and again.

        Incidentally, she is still with us. Her pain has shifted forms, but doesn’t drown her like it used to.

      3. That’s an incredibly beautiful quote. That really moves me to tears. I tried so hard to justify my existence so many times in the throes of suicidal ideation that I could never think of something as beautiful as you brought up. Thank you so much for sharing it.

  3. Quotes related to suicide would be good. I’ve found some good ones in Sylia’s Plath Journals.

    As for a title, you might draw from this quote by Plath – “I have the choice of being constantly active and happy or introspectively passive and sad. Or I can go mad by ricocheting in between,” and use “Ricocheting Madly In-Between as a main title, with something more descriptive as a subtitle.

  4. 1) I love quotes! Use them!

    2) Keep it nitty gritty. It’s a tough topic, but I don’t think it’s something that you can only ‘sorta’ do. Keep it real, friend.

    3)If this crush is the only source of good feelings, or the most powerful source, the crush could also turn obsessive.

    4) As deep as you need to for your story…I really don’t have an answer for this one.

    5)Life is valuable because you only get one. You get one shot at this crazy ride, and the trick is trying to make the most of what you got.

    6)I would have my kids to live for. My kids are everything. Everything I do is for them. And even if I didn’t have my kids, I’d have my family and my friends. I’d also have myself to live for.

    7) I’ll have to think on this one and get back to you.

  5. 1. I think adding quotes from Gene’s favorite authors would be a nice touch. Perhaps you could have a quote open each chapter or be part of the chapter title. I think that would be an elegant way of broadening the focus on mental illness/suicide.
    2. I would want Gene to face the nitty-gritty truth of mental illness/suicide.
    3. I think you answered your own question here? I don’t see what point there would be to the crush unless it’s used to develop Gene’s character more fully. You might have some lightheartedness for the sake of humor (to relieve what sounds like a pretty heavy novel) such as humorous exchanges between Gene and the woman. But I think your idea of using the crush to help describe Gene’s sexuality and struggles is also important.
    4. Delve as deep as you can. Trying to help a troubled suicidal teen-ager is no easy task, especially for a stranger. The reader will need to understand why Claude becomes so interested in Gene and so willing to help. Is he trying to compensate for not having a father when he needed one? Or is he trying to do for Gene what his own father did for him? What motivates Claude to help Gene?
    5. Life is valuable because of the people in my life, the ones who stayed with me and believed in me when I was at my lowest. But I do remember that when I was at my lowest, the pain could overwhelm any support I was offered. Ultimately, I made bargains with myself: agree to get through the next day or the next week, to allow for time to heal.
    6. My husband, my friends, my cats.
    7. I am very, very bad at titles 🙂

    Hope this helps, Amber!

  6. Hey Amber, I’m interested in this movie that wants to be. I thought you may be too.
    Sorry to put a link in your comments, cause it’s really aimed at your eyes, so feel free to delete this after you see it if you want to.

    Only 5 more days to raise the funds – We gotta do it – eek!

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