These are a series of emails exchanged with an ARC reader. As Broken is being launched, the therapy doesn’t pause. I want to show you a few things with these emails. First, this is what it looks like to be a writer. Second, this is the internal struggle I am dealing with even now.
From the reader: 7 July 2015
If it helps, I’ll tell you a little bit about my background:
I am a Licensed Master Social Worker with my degree in social work, and minors in psychology and sociology. I have worked in social services for 13+ years. I have been a behavior specialist in residential treatment, a therapist in child welfare, a supervisor in a psychological ward, and I currently train the military in areas of abuse/neglect, resiliency, and mental illness. I am also well versed in the areas of human trafficking, the neurobiological impact of trauma, and attachment disorders.
I think I probably could handle it. 😉 But, you let me know how I can be most helpful to you.
– A reader
From me: 7 July 2015
LMAO… Yeah! Broken is right up your alley. Here it is! Do you have a copy of Dolor and Shadow? Here is Broken on DOC. Let me know if you prefer PDF or DOCX 🙂 I have both.
May the kindest of words always find you.
From the reader: 15 July 2015 11:00 A.M.
Working steadily through Broken . Just had to send you a quick e-mail to tell you this is worthy of a reward. You have an uncanny ability to capture what most people have no concept of understanding. This is the type of literature that social workers and psychologists are forced to read during their internships to give them some understanding of what atrocities they will face while working in the field. I hope words spreads quickly of your talent, Angela.
So…so very well done.
My only area of concern so far was the variation between mum and mother. Mum is only used about 25 times in the document, and it seems strange for her to change the language in referring to her mother – especially when its used in the exposition. The ‘voice’ changes and it feels unnatural to the character.
From me: 15 July 2015 8:39 AM
Wow! Thank you so much! 🙂 I call her “mum.” And depending on my mental state, I slipped back. I will review the usage when I apply the edits from my editor. Thank you!
May the kindest of words always find you.
From the reader: 15 July 2015 8:00PM
Just finished Broken. I’ll email you later but had to tell you I finished. Very much ready to write a review. It started as a story but after 20 pages or so, it struck me more as a memoir. Very strong core and a book that will touch many, many people. You cannot help but want better for the main character. The scope of the MCs dilemma seems to scope deeper than PTSD.
From me: 15 July 2015
” The scope of the MCs dilemma seems to scope deeper than PTSD.”
In addition to the PTSD, I have been analyzed for Schizophrenia (runs in the family on my mum’s side), Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), CEN, ROCD, and Disassociation Disorder. My therapist is worried the multiple diagnosis will overwhelm me and/or discourage me to pursue therapy, so has only officially diagnosed me with PTSD at the moment. She’s pulling apart the strings there and for now, that is all we are working on 🙂 But yes. PTSD is only the drop in the bucket. Baby steps 🙂
So happy you enjoyed it 🙂 (Enjoy yes? Seems so weird that anyone would “enjoy” THAT story. LOL)
May the kindest of words always find you.
From the reader: 15 July 2015
Sounds like you have a wise therapist. Several of the diagnoses you listed were what I would have considered testing for (along with PTSD), but if this is a story about your own life, I would be opposed to over-analyzing the main character and the diagnosis. Truly, it is hardly the important thing to focus on. Treatment options are easier identified and accepted if they are introduced outside of a ‘label’.
On another note, trauma occurs more frequently than we often want to admit…for all of us. (Section removed to retain the reader’s privacy) By and by, I do not think anyone could read this story without thinking the author has had real experiences and a visceral response to abuse/neglect OR has spent years working with victims and researching the many elements that impact people.
So – in taking off the personal hat, and putting on my writer hat (and tossing my real-world career professional hat in the garbage) – I thought it might help to give my compliments and criticisms (areas for improvement) of the story in the sense of it being something for publication. I’ll give a better explanation on the criticisms. [Feel free to ignore and rely on your editor.]
- Going to have a strong genre and audience for this story.
- Great themes.
- Love the main character.
- Supporting characters are realistic.
- Core plot is engaging.
- Well worded dialogue
- Emotionally charged.
- Satisfying hook, well-structured climax, and satisfying ending.
- Great setting from beginning to end.
MC’s language – In some areas, she speaks as a layman, understanding the events of her life and expressing them in a very straightforward and relateable manner. Then, she falls into talking like a ‘clinician’ about herself or as though she is reading from psycho-educational handbooks. An example is her explanation of metaphysics, love, or existentialism (which I love these topics) but the language in those areas seems distant from the rest of the book. It is like I am reading a different story.
Transitions – Two areas that I struggled with: 1) anytime a ‘voice / personality’ entered the scene, there was little to no transition of them suddenly being there. For the character, this makes complete sense. For the reader, it is confusing. You have to go back and re-read which disrupts the flow in some areas. 2) The break-up of scenes with the *** (which sometimes happens in the aforementioned transitions) is quick without much closing or opening. At those times, I lose track of time and setting and it takes a bit to figure out what happened.
Time Frame – The MC jumps in her stories and changes her age in some instances which makes it difficult to follow. Again, for the MC – this is completely something to relate to and understandable. But, at one point she is 16, and then she talks about being in her 20s, and then she says she is 15 (but the events seem to happen AFTER what she talked about when she was 16, and then she is 16 or 17, again. The time line of events is hard for the reader to follow in some areas.
Oh…and the MC was my favorite character. I did not like the interviewer. I found him to be painfully ignorant, but I think he served his purpose and fulfilled his role for the story well.
Hope you receive this e-mail well. I don’t always know how folks take feedback on their work, Whether based off personal events or from the scope of our imagination, writing a story takes time, effort, and should be cherished overall.
You have done beautifully with Broken.
From me: 16 July 2015
First, I want to ease your mind and let you know, I welcome the insight 🙂 It’s funny…Usually when I receive feedback, I sit down and strongly evaluate the feedback against what others say, but Broken is different. I want to send you the preface that I wrote for the book that covers this very topic 🙂
The events revealed in Broken are based on a true story—my story—and are shown exactly as I remember them best to my ability. Writing Broken was one of the hardest things for me to write and began as a very personal experience. In one week, I wrote 56,000 words. In the second week, I revised Broken and finished the manuscript at 98,000 words. Over the next two weeks, I edited Broken as my beta-reader provided feedback. Within those two weeks, I relived every event all over again.
I am writing to you, dear reader, because there are a few things I wish to say.
All mental healing begins with awareness. Broken was written as the events shown in Part Five occurred. As you will see, I needed to remember. I needed to make myself aware. I needed answers that were dependent on a change of perspective. Perspective. This is all really about perspective. The only way I could gain the perspective I needed was to write Broken. This was all about being honest with myself and coming to terms with what I am.
I wrote this not to berate those who wronged me, to wallow in self-pity, or to help others. I wrote this for me. I wrote this to understand why I was what I had become. The more I wrote, the more I became aware of how absolutely broken I am. Through my writing, I capture my state of mind and the severity of my mental condition.
By the time I finished Broken, I realized certain truths:
- Many others could benefit from this book.
- My children were already affected by my mental condition.
- I needed to be honest with myself.
This third truth is what led me to make a very conscious decision. Broken is raw.
This manuscript has seen one revision, one carefully selected beta reader, and one authorial edit. My editor put Broken through two professional edits. That is it.
Normally, I would subject a book to multiple revisions, more than three dozen edits, and a dozen beta readers before even allowing my editor to see this. This revision/editing process is gruesome and mandatory. However, my perspective and mental awareness changed so quickly after writing Broken that, to edit this manuscript or pass it on to several beta-readers, would be to lose the honesty that I had captured. It is imperative, that I not change a thing.
I did not review Broken for story, flow, or characterization because I truly believe the more I revised and edited this manuscript, the more I would lose what I needed to present here. Near the end of my first and only authorial edit, I caught myself applying changes that I soon realized altered the psychological meaning. Those changes could complicate the process needed for diagnoses and my own awareness. More importantly, those changes could have allowed me to slip back into denial. I removed the additions made, finished that only edit, then cut myself off from this manuscript. If the reading is rough, I ask that you forgive me.
The topics covered in Broken are difficult for some people. I portray a number of sensitive subject matters including animal abuse, torture, graphic rape scenes, violence, strong language, and drug references. I do not sugar coat any of this. Rape, torture, and abuse are true horrors people live through. No dramatization was needed for this part, however, I do not believe in softening the truth. Broken is brutal, ugly, and honest. It was not written for shock factor. I wrote Broken for me. I published it for you.
If you are victim of sexual abuse, I strongly encourage you to speak to a therapist before reading this book.
As always, I thank you for your support.
Angela B. Chrysler
This is very much a friendly debate 🙂 I am not offended at all and I very much see your points.
That being said, I read your advice and at once decided to sit down and review the changes. Then I stopped and pondered. If I was writing my usual fantasy fiction I would jump at once and make the changes…but…the purpose of Broken is to show exactly what I am and where my mind is…for me. Yes. I do very much speak in layman’s terms and I also speak in ‘clinician’ talk. This was a huge compliment, to me by the way…but it shows the extensive…”mental training” my pedophile put me through. I reviewed it with my husband just yesterday. I relayed a conversation I once had with my pedophile (not shown in Broken), and my husband said the process he used to “teach me” was downright abusive, and “ruthless” was an understatement. As a result, today, I jump between the two styles of speech. I do often jump between both modes all day long. I think this is where my personality almost split (I’m guessing). When I become “angry” or defensive and “fight” is triggered over flight, I switch to this mode. When I am not triggered, my defenses drop and I return to “layman’s” terms. My “flight” is a whole other mess.
For this reason, I almost don’t want to change the language she uses as it reveals another part of her psyche. This also applies to the “mum” and mother, which I will still review when my editor returns the manuscript to me.
William being too ignorant to believe. 🙂 William was my sounding board 🙂 He was me simply asking myself the same questions I needed to ask. I was not interested in making him into a believable character nor does he serve any purpose other than a thing for me to talk to. He was composed just for this book and that role, while Erik, Angel, Ian (who is really my Bergen), and Raven are all very real to me. It was weird hearing you say they were “likeable characters.” I was like, “what characters? They’re people!” LOL
I probably won’t change the time frame at all because while her story is not recalled in chronological order at times, the events are related. I speak to my therapist like this where I jump around and pull topics in together where they relate even though they are out of order. If I attempt to edit this change, I think I will end up ruining the MS. Also, mentally, I don’t think I can do that.
This has me concerned. Above all else, I must communicate clearly to the reader. My editor should pick up on this, but I too will go over this and review it for clarity.
And even now…I must stop to ask, is Broken for story? No. Broken is not a book or a story. Broken is my journal. It is for me. It is my diary. When it was done I looked at it and said, “This can help others. I’ll publish it, but I am not changing a word outside of basic spelling errors.” Will this make for a rough read in places? Yes. But it’s absolutely honest. It is exactly how the process feels. Will readers have to go back and re-read at times? Yes. But this isn’t about story. This is about reality.
But the goal of any writer is to communicate to a reader a single thought with such precision and elegance that the reader doesn’t even know the writer is there.
But Broken is real. It is a diary. Would you change the Diary of Anne Frank even if it doesn’t make sense? No. Nor would I—as a reader—want them to.
So this is the internal argument I am currently having with myself 🙂 LOL…I am at an impasse and will mull over your feedback for the next month. In the end…I don’t know what I will decide. 🙂 Thank you so very much for your input. I’m thoroughly enjoying this 🙂
May the kindest of words always find you.
16 July 2015
I wrote this section after my email with the ARC reader. I sent him my response and then I thought, “Why don’t I show them?”
He was talking. I don’t know for how long. All I could think about was how much I wanted him to just shut up. I couldn’t get a word in. Occasionally he used a word I didn’t understand.”
“Now, I’m hanging up and when you’re ready to apologize, I’ll talk to you again!” And he hung up the phone.
I didn’t care. I sobbed, hating him. He had just called me selfish and spoiled. Like it was my idea to spend his money and buy myself those books. I didn’t know he was going to be asking for a “favor” later. He did this sometimes. Okay, he did it all the time. But in so many different forms, I didn’t see it. He would buy me something wonderful then within a few minutes, an hour, days or weeks later, he demanded a “favor.” It was never a question. Sometimes it was sexual. Sometimes not. Sometimes it was wordless. He’d unfasten his pants and shove me down. If I refused, that launched into his lectures on how easy I was willing to take my books, but when it came time to giving back…I am remembering things I don’t want to remember. Not yet. Not now. It’s too soon, but I can feel them emerging.
Sometimes he just wanted me to try some food like raw oysters. It wasn’t about the oysters or the sex. This was all about control. I was supposed to obey. When I didn’t, he threatened abandonment.
“Eat that or I’ll leave you here. You can walk home (I was in Newark, New Jersey. Home was a three-hour drive away in New York State).
“I don’t want to.”
“I can’t be with someone so close minded. Eat this or you can walk home. Don’t give me such a hard time. You know I have heart problems. I can’t have the stress. You were quick enough to take the books, the least you can do for me is eat this.”
In every case I “caved.” In every case, a lecture followed. That day was no different.
“After everything I’ve done for you! Everything you’ve taken from me!”
He had a way of making me feel like I was a fifty-year-old monster talking down to a ten-year-old child. He had a way of making me feel like the pedophile. I shook my head so angry. I was the fifteen year old and he was forty-five. Where the fuck did he get off acting the victim? I wasn’t responsible for the actions of a forty-five year old. Or was I? Why did I feel so guilty and horrible?
Guilt set in and I dialed his number.
“Are you ready to apologize?”
I sobbed harder. I don’t remember what he had said to me. I blocked him out when I heard my father’s words sliding back to me, that I’m selfish. I was right about this. I knew I was, but fear was setting in. What if…what if…
I dialed his number.
“Are you calling to apologize?”
“I don’t understand—”
I released a throaty growl that turned into a shriek. More than ever, I felt like a bully abusing a helpless child, only the “child” was the forty-five year old pedophile.
I dialed his number.
“Are you ready to apologize?”