Antionette’s Newsletter

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Announcement

Hey All! Antionette here.

I am very excited about something new that will be released in the next week. I don’t want to give away too much, but it will be published on all my platforms, so you can choose your favorite social channel to follow what is happening, or just look out for a new page on my website.

Let me know what you think about it in the comment section, once it is released.

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The thirst for knowledge

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Hey all! Antionette here.

I was reviewing a book on Reedsy Discovery called Innerspace by Michael Simon Bodner, a science fiction novel set in near-Earth space. In the novel, Bodner uses the idea of The Great Filter often. For those who do not know, The Great Filter is the idea that every civilization reaches a point where it is annihilated for some reason. This theory is supposed to explain the silence we have been met with from outer space. It basically says: why haven’t we seen, heard, or felt any living thing out there? Because they destroyed themselves.

I have to confess that I have feared much the same thing of our world from the people who are insatiably trying to “save” it: the scientists. There is no limit in the mind of science to stop at some point and say, maybe we are the problem.

As usual, however, I like to turn to psychology to understand the reasoning behind this never-ending thirst that may or may not one day spell disaster for us all. Is curiosity a good thing that will help and develop our lives, or is there another side to it?

Interestingly, perpetual or long-lasting curiosity ignites a person’s primal needs. There is also an anticipation of reward and this anticipation causes the release of a very addictive drug in our brain called dopamine. Anything expected and predictable stops the production of dopamine, but anything new or the pursuit of anything new activates it. So, is it the thirst for knowledge driving this insatiable need to know more and more and more? Or is it as simple and as primal as an addiction?

In my novel Human, science created a dangerous enemy, but that was thankfully just a book. In the past though, science created the atomic bomb and now many countries sit with their finger hovering over the trigger. What else will this never-ending curiosity bring and should we really live with the consequences of one of the oldest addictions known to man?

Follow this link to find out more about the Neuroscience of Curiosity as published in Psychology Today.

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Enmeshment and using it in story building

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Hey all! Antionette here.

Enmeshment in relationships is a serious dysfunctional dynamic that can cause much trauma in any person’s life. It can occur in families, romantic relationships, friendships, cults, and even in political movements. The attachment project defines it as “relationships that have become so intertwined that boundaries are nonexistent or identical.”

As a writer, I often use enmeshment as a tool to explain a dysfunctional group that has an unnatural influence over someone. But what would a character look like that was caught in an enmeshed relationship?

A very subtle characteristic would be a lack of proper boundaries. A person might be in a relationship and the enmeshed group might feel that relationship needs to end. There would always be an atmosphere of secret-keeping and undying loyalty to the group. The individual would have little or no privacy and all their decision would have to be approved by the group.

The character would always fear doing anything outside the group dynamic. In fact, the character would hardly have an identity of his own. He would struggle to make his own decisions, and when he does he would always second guess himself.

There is however a second character to be kept in mind: the enmeshing group or individual. What would an enmeshing group look like? They would demand that everyone in the group think and believe as they do. There would be a strong system of control and a way to monitor individuals in a group. Others would be seen as outsiders and treated as such.

For more information on this topic you can read the article at the Attachment Project where enmeshment is explained from an attachment theory perspective.

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The reasons people commit crimes

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Hey all! Antionette here.

I recently received a threatening email from an unknown source wherein the person told me to stop marketing my novel Human or they would steal the book from me and publish it as their own. My mind boggles at the logic of this statement, and until today I still don’t understand the reasoning behind the threat, but I was deeply gratified by the level of support I received from fellow authors in the communities I belong to. One author, Margot Conor, in particular, gave very useful advice in the form of how to protect your work. In this following link, you can read her blog entry Authors: Why You Should Register Copyrights, where she explains the process and reasons for this important step in publishing.

The entire incident made me dwell on a much-loved and much-written character in novels, the criminal. A lot of study has been done on the subject and there are a plethora of theories regarding the question of why people commit crimes, but there is only one theory explaining why people do not become criminals. Criminals are after all only people, and they too are conflicted about what they do to innocent people.

According to studies, four reasons keep people from committing crimes:

  • The strength and importance of the relationships in their lives
  • The commitment a person has to their lifestyle and the reluctance to jeopardize it
  • The time a person spends practicing the law and doing good
  • The person’s beliefs, which I believe are heavily influenced by religion and morals

So, what would an average criminal look like in a novel? A loner or a person with only broken, unhealthy relationships, who likes breaking the rules, even the small ones. A life without much depth or meaning. Partying, drinking, drugs, empty encounters with people that they can’t trust. And no God …

Looking at that character, I think I understand why most people choose the other way.

For more information on the Psychology of Criminality, I recommend a study by Maryville University where they break down the main theories of Why People Commit Crimes. I especially like the effort they put into making the information visual and easy to understand.

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How to write a Narcissistic character well

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Hey all! Antionette here.

Of all the personality disorders Narcissists are the only ones I know about who gather a crowd around them. This makes them interesting characters to write about because the Narcissist forms part of a dark dynamic of which he or she is the head.

In this dynamic, there is always the Narcissist; who can be either introverted or extroverted; flying monkeys whom the Narcissist diligently recruits regularly; enablers whom the Narcissist recognizes quickly and collects like pearls on a string; and the close family of the Narcissist who are usually the victims if they are not Narcissists themselves.

The average reader and writer probably have a vague idea of what a Narcissist is. Flamboyant, vaguely obsessed with how they look and what people think about them. The average reader or writer would probably say Narcissists are self-centered but harmless. That is because the average reader is an enabler. So, what is an enabler?

In a nutshell, an enabler is a person who makes excuses for the Narcissist. “It’s not as bad as you say.” “You are overreacting.” “You are too sensitive.” These are common phrases enablers use to gaslight anyone who sees the Narcissist for who they are. These enablers can also become the Narcissist’s army when they are turned into flying monkeys.

Because the Narcissist needs their image to remain perfect, they use flying monkeys to do their personal attacks for them. This is usually done by slowly poisoning their loyal base of enablers against a specific person.

Delving into the psychology of character-building is a passion of mine as an author, but I am in no way a professional psychologist, and nothing I write here is meant to be used in diagnosing anyone. The expert in the field of anything Narcissistic is Dr Ramani Durvasula. Here is a link to her website if you need to find out more about this specific trait.

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Psychology in character building

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Hey all! Antionette here.

I have written over a dozen books, many of which never saw the light of day, mostly because I’m a perfectionist. If I’m not entirely happy with a book, that book gets canned. So, as you can imagine, understanding what makes a good book is very important to me.

There is one thing that I have found that makes or breaks a book, the characters. This might be hard to believe, but you can make Mr Peter from next door, (whom you have known for twenty years and try to avoid as much as possible, mostly because you just cannot talk about his petunias again) seem interesting in a book. How can you do that? By understanding the human psyche better.

We are all complex, multi-layered people and it is your job as a writer to build those layers before you start writing your final draft. In Mr Peter’s case, he might only be a minor character, but that character should have developed layers. You know for instance his house is always a mess; although you have never been in there; you can see his lobby from the sidewalk and wow, you can’t imagine how he makes it to the rest of his house with all the junk filling the space. And does he own a toothbrush?

Those are all typical signs of a person whose hobbies have turned into obsessions. If you have an obsessed character in your book, then the “petunias” can’t be the only thing you refer to, even though they are pretty spectacular. But don’t take my word for it. I’m a writer, not a psychologist.

In an article written by Rob Waugh for the Daily Mail wherein Dr Perpetua Neo explains the dynamics of a hobby turning into an obsession, titled “I’m a psychologist, here’s why dreaming about your hobby might be a sign you have become obsessed”, you can read all about it.

So, my advice would be to research all your characters. There might be main characters, but there are no insignificant characters, just like there are no insignificant people.

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The fight or flight response in Human
and in us all

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Hey all! Antionette here.

I had a sleepless night last night, (I blame my love for research) and while awake I thought about one of the main themes in Human, my debut novel. The fight-or-flight response we all have. This fight-or-flight response steered Vin onto a path that would change her life forever.

But we all experience this same choice at some point in our lives. At times it would be better to take flight, but at times it would be better to fight. Unfortunately, our response isn’t always what would be best for us in that situation. Our response is instinctive and we have very little control over it. In the novel, Vin learns to overcome her fear and to face her enemies. Is this a realistic response for all of us though?

In all honesty, I don’t think so. Some situations are just so dangerous that staying and fighting is unwise. I understand however the deep regret one may feel for not standing up for oneself. In those cases, I would mourn that moment. Take some real time to feel real regret. And then move on, secure in the knowledge that you made a wise choice for the benefit of yourself and those who depend on you.

Then there is the other side of the situation where you could have stood up to tyranny or perhaps lies, and your life was not in danger. What might have stopped you was what others might think of you. I know I have been guilty of that. I pray that we all would stand up for what is right in those circumstances and have the wisdom to discern. After all, as Matthew said in the book: “When we can no longer see the difference between right and wrong, we are no longer what we used to be.”