My big project for November is my NaNo novel. I'm writing from multiple points of view; each character gets their own chapter. One of my characters is schizophrenic. I feel as though NaNo is as good a time as any to experiment and play with style, so I want to go with some visual writing for my schizophrenics chapters.
What I'm asking for is some good examples of cleverly written mental illness in fiction. Right now my only reference is House of Leaves. But my character is not Zampano, and I want to avoid sounding like a bad Mark Z. Danielewski. I've also been re-reading the latter half of American Psycho, when Patrick Bateman starts to really lose it.
Any other suggestions?
Classic of 19th century German literature: "Lenz" by Georg Buchner. About the mad poet Lenz, a real figure. One of the most famous "unfinished" masterpieces of all time, and very short.
Alan Moore wrote a character in Promethea that had multiple personalities - one of his multiple personalities also had multiple personalities - and I think some of them were suing one another.
I Know This Much Is True - Wally Lamb. This deals with twin brothers, one who is paranoid schizophrenic.
Also, if we are talking multiple personality disorder, there is always Sybil.
Rather than reading fiction, begin with the definitions and symptoms. if you wanted to learn how the criminal mind operated, would you go to a Ben Affleck movie?
Go to your local library and ask to see a copy of DSM IV. There you will learn about the disorder in its various forms, treatments and all of the symptom with examples. Then create your character. Always start with reality amd then depart using reality as a base for fiction.
They say write about what you know. That includes the study you do to learn a new topic.
Well, no, I wouldn't go to a Ben Affleck movie under any circumstances. What an odd thing to say.
But if I wanted to see a crazy in action, I might look to fiction to help guide me.
Abnormal psychology is a fascination of mine, and I've done my fair share of research on schizophrenia and other mental illnesses, including for this project. I'm specifically looking for fictional accounts though. I'm not worried about portraying it accurately, I'm confident that I can do that already. I'm interested in portraying it aesthetically on paper and presenting the character in a way where she's not defined by her illness, but is clearly influenced by it. Still good suggestions, Simon. I agree that fact and fiction must congeal to produce a good story.
The oldie but goodie standby "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman?
three faces of eve?
I saw the Cronenberg movie but not the book, but check out Patrick McGrath's Spider. Awesome shit.
I've come up with some interesting stuff to portray a character's mental illness, but I plan on using those myself. I will suggest finding some videos or the like of schizophrenic people talking about anything, and try to get into the flow of thought and the cadence of voice. It's pretty interesting.
Apparently I have something called schizo-affective disorder. I have constant ups and downs and I've been on medication for about ten years. That's one of the reasons the novel I'm working on right now focuses so much on mental problems as they affect people in their daily lives.
I'd be interested, when the book is ready, to read it. We can compare notes.
I suggest Strindberg's Inferno, an "early example of the “unreliable narrator” literary device, in which the reader learns that the storyteller is seeing things from a distorted perspective", one of my favourite books ever. Deliciously gothic (1896 gothic) and definitely engaging. If I well remember it shouldn't be a long read.
I actually have a friend who apparently has schizo-affective disorder. What's weird is at first she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, then borderline personality, before they actually gave her this diagnosis; the problem being that the three disorders share so many common symptoms. I personally suffer from depression (Who doesn't, right?) and GAD. My anxiety fuels me at this point.
It's awesome that you're channeling it creatively. Likewise I'd be interested in reading what you're working on. I'm enjoying what I'm writing, so even if NaNo doesn't work out I'll probably continue to work on this project, submit it to the workshop, etc.
@Renfield: That's a fantastic idea. Youtube has a staggering amount of interviews with psychiatric patients, including schizophrenics.
@Flaminia: The unreliable narrator angle is definitely something I was considering. I'll check the book out.
Thanks for the suggestions so far, everyone!
Writing from an ill point of view can be challenging. I accepted this challenge and wrote a story in a diary format of a man slowly losing his sanity over the period of 40 days. Not a pretty situation for him the hard part was learning the pain he was enduring. So for like two weeks I starved myself and slept little to experience his misery. Really works but I had to stop for health reasons of course.
@133 - the diary concept sounds interesting. I like the idea.
@averydoll it was very fun. I actually wrote it on paper to give that authentic feel. The beginning days are the spark of his fall as the days progress his mind shifts from the reality he sees and desires, his handwriting grows sloppy then to illegible fianlly to rambling random (clues) facts to what is happening. I left the last day on a nice cliff hanger.
Secret Window, Secret Garden by King is something good to check out. It's probably the best I've read of King. The way some lines from a disputed manuscript start flavouring the POV is great. For King, this piece is almost literary.
I agree with Secret Window, Secret Garden. Another good one is A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick. It's drug induced mental illness, but IMO, very well written. Anyone who can read that book without feeling like a paranoid schizophrenic with a drug problem...is probably on drugs.