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Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

I really want to add a part about insanity to my storygame, but I'm not sure how to go about making a sensible transition to insanity. I first thought of mentioning that the main character has been alone to his own devices (without human companionship) for too long, but I don't know if that's a realistic reason for someone to go insane. Maybe he/she would just become depressed. 

Specifically, I want paranoia. I want grinning eyes and wagging tongues in every imaginable direction of the main character's kaleidoscopic vision. How could I, horrible sadist that I am, best induce this kind of hallucinogenic terror? Abuse? Tragedy? Drugs? The genre is horror sci-fi, so adjustments to the main character's mental programming aren't out of limits, although perhaps that is not the most satisfying transition.

Does anyone know of any good pre-existing literature with transitions to insanity, preferably written in first-person?

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago
Yeah, you don't start hallucinating shit because you're alone awhile. Speaking for myself, I fantasize about being away from other people on a daily basis.

Abuse or tragedy can fuck someone up, but not in the way you're describing except in bad fiction. If it's sci-fi though there are a billion possibilities, from drugs to gas to psionic attacks to having a corrupted computer chip wired to your brain to weird alien pheromones.

Read some Poe I guess, but that's more for atmospheric horror than a realistic depiction.

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

Yo, 

Could you clarify for me if you want help in either 

a) Finding a reason for character going insane, or

b) Depicting the transition to a state of insanity.

Regarding literature, E.A. Poe and H.P. Lovecraft both loved insanity. 

Thanks,

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

Both A and B!

Can you recommend any specific H.P. Lovecraft/Poe stories? 

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

As far as stories go, It's been a long while since I've read their works and the main ones that come to mind from Poe are "Nevermore" and "Telltale Heart" (I know, I'm a normie). The first features a man in grief over the death of his loved one, and is confronted about his grief by a talking Raven. Now Poe never establishes if this should be plausible in the scope of the story, but I think the idea is sound: Represent degradation of the mental state by showing outlandish things seriously. A talking bird is goofy, but the gravity with which the author treats it makes for a very interesting event. I can see it being implemented into a CYOA via introducing strange/outlandish concepts (talking animals being one example) but never explicitly saying whether these concepts follow the rules of the world you've created or are just a figment of the characters imagination. This can make the reader second guess themselves and their actions, forced to figure out what is real and what isn't, and make choices accordingly. You could go a step further and never even conclude if the MC was crazy or not, leaving it up to the reader.

Two other examples of media I can think of that involve mental problems are "A Beautiful Mind" and "Fight Club". Only watched the former, but I loved how the twist gives a whole new context to the entire movie. The movie is actually about Schizophrenia but I feel you could apply the same to insanity (hallucinations, assuming the world strange world around you is real). Something like that is probs your best bet, imo.

I've got the Necronomicon on my desk, but that thing is way to imposing and I don't feel like diving into it. Lovecraft does focus on existential horror, and the story generally ends with the character going insane, so probs not that great for a story focused around an insane MC.  

On to the actual questions,

a) Finding a reason for character going insane

I feel everyone else has covered this in greater detail than I ever could. I would like to point out that you don't have to make it obvious to the reader that the MC has gone insane, instead just giving foreshadowing so they could pick out that they were insane in repeat playthroughs (it was so obvious all along/ how did I miss that/ect). Being Sci Fi, you can make up whatever reason you want. Just make sure to decide whether going insane is going to be your major selling point or a surprise to the reader. You can't have both (unless you use some tricky red herrings).

b) Depicting the transition to a state of insanity.

Either understate it and make it a shocking reveal later on or play it out for all its worth. 

Regarding the latter, it could make for a fun game where the MC hallucinates constantly and has to use an understanding of the world around him and clues given to him to identify what is real and what is not. I don't know if it could make for a serious story, but if you do decide to go this way, you need to clearly state to the player that things are not as they seem. As in most cases of showing insanity, making the player see things that aren't there or have sudden outbursts at seemingly inconsequential things would probs be the best way to go about it. Might get annoying tho...

If you're going for the former, oh boy. So many ways.

You could pull the same stunt as "A Beautiful Mind" did, and have the character imaging the driving entities of the story (ie hallucinations that the player doesn't know are hallucinations), then have the stories shift gear into another arc once the MC is aware of their insanity, still fighting to come to grips with it.

You could go for a "Fight Club" or "Jekyll and Hyde" scenario, where the player controls (or the story focuses on) two MCs and it's later revealed that they were the same person all along or one was a figment of the other's imagination. 

You could do a "There Will Be No Peace With The Furies"-like and literally have the player interact with their emotions, fist fighting them, making deals, and having conversations with their 'ghosts' (eg the MC, anger, rational, and empathy are all interrogating a suspect. The suspect only sees the MC, but the MC sees his emotions moving around the room and giving advice to him... and in the corner of the room anger is furiously chugging a protein shake). 

Insanity is so broad a term in fiction, doubly so for sci fi, that you could tackle this whatever way you like. It really depends on the mood of the story you're trying to tell, how many protags you're using, style of writing (I think you mentioned 1st person?), and generally the themes you're trying to convey. 

Maybe providing more details on the type of story you're writing would help people give you more appropriate feedback for the genre you're writing for/mood you're going with. I myself can't really offer up much more in the way of feedback, but I feel others could help you out more if they know whether this is going all grim-dark or is just good fun (sorry if you've already mentioned this in your original post, maybe I've forgotten about it).

If you'd like me to clarify something, let me know. I tend to rant and derail into unnecessary tangents. 

Good luck,

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

PTSD doesn't cause hallucinations as much as it causes events to replay in the mind, so abuse isn't going to create monsters unless it was literally a monster who did it.  The thing about hallucinations is that you don't know they're hallucinations, so you wouldn't be able to tell where your perception differs from reality. From the POV of the character, the reader would only be reading the same scene again as the character remembers of it, or seeing bits and pieces of it as they see other things. Trauma from abuse/tragedy would not be a good choice.

Drugs is better because you can make up all kinds of shit. There aren't any drugs per se that'll cause permanent paranoid hallucinations (there are plenty of drugs that cause paranoia after the initial high is gone, but that's very different, and can also be partially attributed to the fact that most drugs that do it can get you prison time if you get caught.) Long time use of LSD can make people permanently loopy, but there are different moods of loopy that change all the time, and it may not even be related to hallucinating. Much simpler to make up a drug and leave it at that.

Isolation can make people Stir-crazy, but that's really different from real crazy. You may start to see things out the corner of your eye and/or start acting a little bit like an autist/OCD person* after a long time, but it's hardly something that will fuck you up permanently. I mean, even in cases where children are isolated enough to "go feral" they usually have other underlying problems, and most children that don't tend to adjust fairly normally after a few years of learning human languages.

*Not a real autist/OCD person. You may just develop compulsions, hobbies, and habits on your own trying to keep yourself from being bored. I mean, hey, that's enough for some bloggers to call themselves autistic or OCD.

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

Could one of those "hobbies" developed due to long-term isolation possibly involve taking synthetic paranoia-inducing drugs? If so, I've found my solution. 

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

Depends. It's usually something like always cutting carrots diagonally and only moving in the pattern of a knight in chess whenever you're on a checkered floor because they were challenges you devised to keep yourself from dying of ennui and now they'they're a subconscious habit. There's quite a difference between talking to the balls you play pool with because it feels luckier that way and knocking on all the walls in a room because you think there might be Wall Squids digging around in there waiting to drink your blood. Though tbh you could explain anything away with "New Sci Fi Drugs"

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago
Commended by EndMaster on 8/5/2017 11:40:27 PM

My first question would be on how this character ended up with paranoia. 

Below are the general risk factors of paranoia that are agreed upon here.

  • Having confusing or unsettling experiences or feelings that you can't easily explain.
  • The way you feel – if you are anxious or worried a lot or have low self-esteem and expect others to criticise or reject you.
  • The way you think – if you tend to come to conclusions quickly, believe things very strongly and don't easily change your mind.
  • If you are isolated.
  • If you have experienced trauma in the past.

It moves on to talk about the common causes of paranoia.

  • Life experiences. You are more likely to experience paranoid thoughts when you are in vulnerable, isolated or stressful situations that could lead to you feeling negative about yourself. If you are bullied at work, or your home is burgled, this could give you suspicious thoughts which could develop into paranoia.
  • Experiences in your childhood may lead you to believe that the world is unsafe or make you mistrustful and suspicious of others. They may also affect your self-esteem and the way you think as an adult.
  • External environment. Some research has suggested that paranoid thoughts are more common if you live in an urban environment or community where you feel isolated from the people around you rather than connected to them. Media reports of crime, terrorism and violence may also play a role in triggering paranoid feelings.
  • Mental health. If you experience anxiety, depression or low self-esteem, you may be more likely to experience paranoid thoughts – or be more upset by them. This may be because you are more on edge, worry a lot or are more likely to interpret things in a negative way. Paranoia is a symptom of some mental health problems. Many people experience paranoid delusions as part of an episode of psychosis.
  • Physical illness. Paranoia is sometimes a symptom of certain physical illnesses such as Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, strokes, Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. Hearing loss can also trigger paranoid thoughts in some people.
  • Lack of sleep. Lack of sleep can trigger feelings of insecurity and even unsettling feelings and hallucinations. Fears and worries may develop late at night.
  • The effects of drugs and alcohol. Drugs such as cocaine, cannabis, alcohol, ecstasy, LSD and amphetamines can all trigger paranoia. Certain steroids taken by athletes and weightlifters can also lead to symptoms of paranoia. Some insecticides, fuel and paint have also been associated with paranoia.
  • Genetics. Research has suggested that your genes may affect whether you are more likely to develop paranoia – but we don't know which ones.

Now that we know how paranoia works, just construct a reason for MC's downward spiral. I think that you should already have a reason for this 'insanity arc' you're asking about (as in, what purpose does the MC's insanity serve for the story?). Also, if you're writing science fantasy (or you're pulling some other thing off), you might not even need to justify why the MC becomes insane.

P.S. Insanity in Lovecraft is usually caused by the unfathomable horror of the unknowable. LC runs down his style of 'weird fiction' here. Note that, most of his stories deal with 'cosmic horror'. Although his build-up to insanity pays off in that context, it may not fit your story. 

 

 

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago
Come to think of it it may actually be difficult finding the right balance with a main character that's insane. The reader winds up either getting annoyed because the story doesn't let them have any control, or they have the character go for the optimal choice in every situation anyway despite his condition. (After clicking through all the crazier stuff because that's more fun.)

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

If the reader isn't told outright that the MC is insane though... clueing them into the POVs insanity might be an interesting concept - in addition to the 'unreliable narrator' thing that would run alongside it. You could have a story play out from the MC's POV, and have another story underneath it all made for whoever picks up on the clues.

Honestly, insane characters run the risk of being unintentionally goofy.

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago
The unintentionally goofy part mostly only comes in when the author goes over the top and thinks they're being super edgy. In this case the OP is putting some thought into it so that hopefully won't be the case.

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

How about intentionally goofy? 

Like summoning your hallucinations Persona style to fight for you.

Wait, I like that! OC plz dunt steal, mkay??1?

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago
Matt pointed out lots of useful stuff. I think you could have something unbelievably horrible happen to the MC which, mixed with some of the things he mentioned, could plausibly make the MC go insane.

I know that your MC is kind of a lone wolf, but you could add another character (a sibling etc.) who they're close to. It might take a bit of time and I know the bit where you originally put the insanity transition is fairly early on, but you could build up the character(s) and then brutally kill them off or have something really messed up happen to them. That could make the MC go insane, along with the paranoia of someone coming after him after he escapes from those malfunctioned people (can't remember what you called them). It would take a lot more writing and maybe a character you don't want in there, but it would also lend itself to the horror genre.

Transition to Insanity

4 months ago

He is that way at the beginning, but I was always planning on introducing other characters to the story. Without side characters and dialogue, the story would get boring.

Yeah, a lot of the comments here are helpful. While I'm developing the sane storyline, I'll read up on some horror to see what I can put this main character through.