Author Archives: E. Godhand

About E. Godhand

Emily Godhand is a dark thriller author who lives in Denver as Rat Queen. She is an Ambassador for Wattpad.com, where she manages the Paranormal profile: https://www.wattpad.com/user/ParanormalCommunity She utilizes her experiences working at an inpatient psychiatric hospital and as an advocate and educator for Depression and PTSD in her writing to combat stigma and support individuals with mental illnesses via representation. Ignore the Lovecraftian influence and the subsequent nightmares, put your faith in Godhand to write diverse, complex characters who manage to cheat death and come out blood-soaked and laughing.

Saving people. Hunting things. The family business.

The TV show Supernatural has gotten a reputation for being a show about two male models (who happen to be brothers) who hunt paranormal creatures, while repeatedly coming back from the dead. Much like the seasons and story arcs after the end of Eric Kripke’s Era of the first five seasons. So we’re not going to talk about those, or I’d be here all night.

The first season of Supernatural opens with a prologue. Family settles down for the night. Mother hears a noise and goes to check on her infant son, Sam. Father goes to check on his wife, and finds her on the ceiling. Bleeding. And then on fire.

So, hello there inciting incident to the overall story arc! Character motivation and high-stakes villain, so nice of you to join us so soon!

And then it does something very subtle, but important. The father hands off the infant to the six year old Dean, telling him “Take your brother outside as fast as you can. Don’t look back.” Translated? “Protect your brother and keep him safe. That’s the most important thing.”

The child cradles his infant brother and tells him, “It’s okay, Sam.” And then he looks up to the room consumed by flames and the family that was there. He looked back.

His father snatches them both away before the fire bursts out of the windows and doors.

Title screen.

Like oh, wow, okay, so that happened. And then what?

Cut to Halloween at Stanford, ‘present day’. Sam is grown up and has a seemingly normal life. A girlfriend. Excellent LSAT scores and his choice of a full-ride at just about any law school he wants. But then Dean shows up, looking like he doesn’t want to be there, and asks for help. “Dad’s on a hunting trip, and he hasn’t been home for a few days.” And Sam knows exactly what Dean means.

Our only indication outside of the, you know, title, that this is about paranormal hunters is the strangeness of the circumstances in the prologue.

You can tell that Sam and Dean are a bit estranged, and it’s revealed that Sam didn’t like growing up in a transient lifestyle of constantly hunting monsters. Dean wasn’t much into it either, but he saw it as a necessity, because he was old enough to remember the stakes and what he’s lost. And now he risks losing his father, too.

So with a truck full of guns, hatchets, and silver-bullets, they drive off together, on the road again in a black ‘67 Chevy Impala while nostalgic rock music plays in the background.

And as the story progresses, as each new season is introduced, the stakes are raised higher, and higher. ((We’re going to ignore the episode with the possessed racist truck ghost.))

First, there’s the yellow-eyed demon who killed their mother. He is amassing an army of demons, who are near impossible to kill at this point, for God knows what. ((Except God is missing, but we’ll get to that later.))

At first, they risk losing each other. Then their father, who they do lose, and it’s just them. And then they risk losing each other, again, because one’s dead, then not, and the other is destined for hell in a year.

Whew, okay, deep breath.

Stopped the demon army, learned about family and being there for each other, and reinforced the bond that was established when they were very young. Dean will do anything, anything, up to and including “Promise your immortal soul to the enemy that killed your father and mother” to protect his little brother.

Sam is just as loyal to Dean. He wants to try to find a way around

And then an angel literally grips Dean tight and raises him from perdition. Oh, yeah, now there are angels, too. They’re not all good, let alone on our duo’s side. In fact some of them are actively working against them, on top of all the demons they have to deal with.

They get a blade that can take care of demons, and oh look, now there’s another Big Bad even more powerful than the first one! And the seals that keep Lucifer locked away are being broken faster and faster. You gotta move, boys. Gotta figure this out.

So angels and demons are all warring amongst themselves and with the Winchester boys as they try to cause or stop a full on Apocalpyse, and God is still missing.

Until he isn’t.

And you think, oh, wow. So is God going to be on the Winchester’s side and fight the devil himself with a set of unified angels behind him? Are the Winchesters going to have to fight frickin’ God now?

And sadly, no, the God figure is more of a literal author who just organizes the world and lets the characters have free will to play out the story as they see fit.

Which means, they have to take down Lucifer themselves. Together. After all they’ve been through. But to do so, they might have to lose each other (…again.)

Took notes? All caught up? Good.

One of the writing lessons I took away from this series was how compelling, emotionally charged characters with a deep connection to each other (and a lot of humor, rock and roll, and self-awareness thrown in) can still drive a story when the plot seems to consist of the “…and…?” impromptu technique.

Now the series has 11 seasons and is being renewed for a 12th. Tumblr and DeviantArt and every other fandom forum out there are still talking about the show and analyzing the details in it years later. I’m pretty sure half the internet right now is Supernatural .gifs.

So, find something about your story, some aspect that you do really, really well. Work it. Respond to the fans and rework it to give them more of what they want.

Walter White, you monster.

Everyone loves a good anti-hero, right? Maybe they have limited…moral inhibitions, but we root for them because ultimately we believe that even if their methods aren’t right, they are. The thing we wish we could do if only we weren’t constrained by things like “propriety” and “conscience”. The anti-hero becomes a sort of escapist fantasy where the reader or viewer can be a badass who gets what they want (or what ‘needs to be done’, you know, whatever they tell themselves to sleep at night) vicariously through the protagonist.

And they’re memorable characters for that, sure. Yeah. Of course.

…but let me tell you about a villain protagonist. A sociopath who is good at manipulation. You root for him to overcome obstacles because he was a normal person like you. A seemingly loving and attentive father who wanted a place in his family’s hearts. A teacher and brilliant chemist who wanted his contribution to his field to go noticed and appreciated. A victim fighting against life’s unfair cruelty that left him with terminal cancer and against a system that would let him die because he wasn’t rich enough to afford to live.

But with each new murder, each new atrocious act he rationalizes to assuade his own self-guilt, he asks more, and more, and more of your sympathy and support, until you have nothing more to offe-

Wait, you’re saying that Walter White was a compelling and memorable character until the very end?

Once he’s in the criminal underworld, even though he had many chances to quit and turn back, he doesn’t take them. He wasn’t in too deep. There was a way out. But like the Greek tragedies, he had a fatal flaw that lead to his downfall. His perception that he’s sunk so much of his life and savings and good-will into this that he can’t stop now, no matter how much he promises and thinks he can, is overshadowed by the insight that he…he likes it.

What’s more, he can justify his own behavior to himself. He believes himself, in the beginning at least, that he’s the victim, that he is doing what needs to be done to provide for his family before he’s gone. That the alternative is for him to die thinking he’s lived a meaningless life and his family in debt and grief.

But he likes what he does. He likes the taste of power when he previously felt powerless. He likes the recognition for his talents and skills when he felt he had fallen from grace after his contributions weren’t acknowledged and the people he worked with made a lot of money off HIS ideas. Money he really needs now. He had done everything “right”, and he still didn’t have what he wanted.

Now? Now he has nothing left to lose, he feels, because he’s already a dead man, and he can have one last shot at everything he wanted.

The ‘sunk-cost’ fallacy that explains why humans tend to “throw good money after bad”, also applies to the viewers as well. We’ve invested so much emotionally in this character ourselves, we’ve identified so much with them, that we want him to be redeemed…or at least see his goal through.

Because ultimately, as much as we want to be the powerful professional who is finally recognized for their talents, whose name puts fear in the hearts of our enemies under the illusion that that will protect our prestige and authority, as much as we want to be the one who knocks

We want to know that it was all worth it. We want to know there’s an escape from our own mistakes. Because the character has become a viewer-insert, we begin to rationalize their actions on their behalf. Even an atrocious murder is a victory for us, because it was a victory for that character.

We want redemption to be possible for us, because the character was written in a way that we think, “But for the Grace of God goes I.”

And even if it is a tragedy and the main character goes out in a blaze of glory, we find comfort in the thought that we won’t forget their name, or the legacy they left behind.

Making Tea…and time to write.

Here’s a stupid joke:
“How do you identify a writer in a crowd?”

You call out “Shut up and write!” and wait for them to wail back “But I don’t have the tiiime!”

Haha, I’m so funny.

But also, I’m that writer. We all are at times. We think, “Oh man, if I could just quit my day job, then all I’d have to do is write! I could wake up at the crack of dawn, grab some coffee after a nice brisk walk to get my blood flowing to the creative part of my brain, and just sit at the keyboard until lunch and bleed.”

Oh and how I dream, readers. I dream of this idyllic life. All that free time just to sit and write and write and write…

If that’d be the case, if I were so disciplined and motivated, on my days off of my Breadjob, I’d be doing that. I mean, wouldn’t I? 

But what do I do oftentimes? Get some coffee, sit down at my keyboard, and not write a single word.

Oh sure, I’ll type out some things on Facebook. To people. I can tell them all the words. I can tell them all about my story and my thoughts and my feelings and what happens in this particular scene. Meanwhile, my manuscript is sitting all alone in its little folder, quietly sobbing to itself and wondering why, if I love it so much, I tell other people and not it?

So what am I doing, really? Waiting for Calliope herself to descend to this mortal plane and wrap her arms around me, sing sweet hymns into my ears to inspire me? Not even inspire me, just tell me what to write! It’s not like writing is work or anything. Make her do all the work and complain when she doesn’t.

That’s the ticket to success right there.

JimCHines_Writethestory
One of the things that helps is to prioritize what needs to be done today, and what my needs are for the week. For example, on my days off from work, is it more important for me to recover and rest from whatever is going on and spend time on myself, or is it more important to get my deadline done for my long-term goals?

But in our drive to succeed, we can’t forget that we need to nourish ourselves. Not just our bodies with food and sleep, but our connections to the things and people we love. The story isn’t more important than the person writing it, and oftentimes seeking out new experiences or conversations will refill your creative well, so to speak.

Authors often talk of rituals that work for them, and you should find what works for you. I have mine, but they don’t always work.

For example:
“I’ll brew some tea. A little caffeine to help me focus. Also, tea.”
“I’ll just check Facebook while it brews!”
“…Aww those rat pictures sure are super cute.”
“A political argument? On the internet? This is important and I should join in!”
“Ooh, this article my friend linked is super interesting.”
“I should talk to them about it.”
“Well, they’re afk, so I’ll check on Wattpad.”
“Maybe another episode of my favorite TV show will inspire me…”
“Aww my friend is back! I love talking to friends!”
“Oh man! What time is it? Jeez, what have I been doing. I never have any time to write. I don’t know how other authors do it. It’s not fair.”
“I’m going to go write and be a Good Writer.”
“I should make some tea before I write.”
“…Oh.”

But the better one that works involves eliminating those distractions:

“I’ll brew some tea. While it brews I can look over what I have and edit the outline a bit more and organize what scenes I plan to get done.”
~Two Hours Later~
“Well, got 1,000 words done, about half the chapter. I’ll give it a look over tonight before I post it.”
“Didn’t I have some tea? I should make some tea…”
“…oh.”

When I get distracted, what gets me back on track is to realize how much time I’m wasting and eliminate those distractions. I turn off the WiFi and go find a secluded spot where I can put on my noise-canceling headphones and just write. It takes about 15 minutes to get really focused on a task, and then once I’m focused I dedicate the next 45-55 minutes to it, since that’s about how long something can generally hold attention.

Then I like to do something else that doesn’t take much thought, such as walking, errands, or chores. I get my work done so I’m not neglecting other aspects of my life, and it gives my brain a chance to recharge and refresh for when I sit down to write again.

So when are you going to find time to write?

WRITE-NOW-LOGO-AWI make no apologies for puns.

 

“Dear NSA Agent…”

I am not a criminal, I swear.

I’ve just experienced a life with a unique set of events and fields of study that, if one were given enough the correct motivation (and a healthy dose of limited moral inhibitions), the particular set of skills learned could be misapplied to one’s advantage. Fortunately, I’m in a position where the best use of these skills is writing realistic stories where the only people affected or hurt are characters.

There’s always that old writing advice of “write what you know”, but if that’s all writers did, there’d be a lot of the same old. I always liked to interpret it broader: “use what you know to help flesh out your story”.

It does help to have first hand experience with things, but in order to tell characters who know how to break locks, I don’t have to be a master locksmith. To tell characters who know how to use medicines or poisons, I don’t have to be a professional assassin. To describe characters who must infiltrate or use stealth to escape, I don’t have to be a scout or a ninja.

But having a familiarity with these concepts, and the feelings and logistics that surround them, can certainly be used in the stories to provide a more authentic experience.

So how do my characters know how to pick locks, poison, or sneak around? Because someone who was obviously not a good friend once told me to have an interesting life.

Back in middle school, I was your typical latch-key kid. I’d come home off the bus, pick up the mail, and let myself into the apartment. But on more than a couple occasions I forgot my key. Easy enough fix, you can use your student ID to let yourself in (seriously, use the deadbolts). But another time, the deadbolt was locked for some reason, which meant I wasn’t going in through the front door without property damage (and I didn’t have a drill handy anyway).

But I could climb over the balcony. Turns out that door was locked, too. With some bobby pins, tweezers, paper clips, for some reason the metal file on nail clippers, and a rudimentary knowledge of tumblers, I was able to get in.

Another time in gym class, someone decided to put their lock on my locker to keep me from getting my things. I got in, and kept their lock so they could never lock up their things until their parents bought them a new one. When they confronted me on it, it was already in the trash and I could honestly say I didn’t know what happened to it.

“Why would I have your lock? That’s a weird question to ask, did you give it to me somehow?”

Getting gently vicious at the middle-school gym. Add in another skill-set for my characters to learn.

Now, poison…I don’t have a story for poison. I’ve never poisoned anyone without it being a written order from a doctor for a dose low enough to be within the therapeutic range for the purpose of providing medical treatment. So, any medicine, really. Morphine. Chemotherapy.

I liked studying toxicology in the library, hoping one day to help people with overdoses after some friends got into drugs, and drinking was a problem within the community.

There was a greater job market and more marketable skills in medicine, so I learned more about medicines through the certification to be a pharmacy technician and then getting my nursing license. But with those studies comes the knowledge of the “Therapeutic Index”, and the difference between the toxic dose and the lethal dose. The “dose makes the poison” as the saying goes, and the dose that affects the body varies based on the mode of delivery.

Does the liver filter out most of it? Can you add in another substrate that will tie up the cells in the liver that detox the blood, thus leaving the chemical within the system to build up to lethal doses?

There’s a reason they make doctors take the “First, do no harm” oath, ‘cause oh, man, could we ever.
…also, people who took anatomy or who have hunted know how to dissect.
So. There’s that.

Horror writers, am I right? We’re fun folk. I get invited to so many parties. Someone please invite me to a party. I swear I’m charming and won’t bring up dissection again.

Stealth I learned from having to navigate the school, my home, the neighborhood, and the woods.

School because I didn’t make many friends, and if people noticed me it often didn’t end well. Where were the exits? How do you make a distraction? How do you blend into a crowd?

Home because …because.

Neighborhood because I often house-sat with my friend, and she’d often take long walks at night past curfew. I didn’t want her to go alone, so I’d go with her. We’d wander around the neighborhood and hide from passing cars or people.

Woods because I was involved with a search and rescue team. We were looking for people as a group, so obviously we wanted them to know we were coming, in case they wanted to be found.

…Did you know people who don’t want to be found hide in trees? So that’s what I used the night we had a squadron-wide bottle rocket war by the lake one summer.

We took turns ‘defending’ and ‘attacking’ a trailer hooked up with a security camera.
When my team, Bravo, was on ‘defend’, I snuck out to go scout out where Alpha was and what their plans were.

They didn’t expect to find me in the trees. Humans don’t usually have predators above them, so they rarely look up. To start, I was wearing overalls and a t-shirt over my swimsuit. The overalls made noise, so I took them off and kept the swimsuit bottoms. Black stands out at night, and dark blue is a much more natural color, so one of the boys lent me his shirt that I tied at my waist to avoid swishing or catching. I had a flashlight nestled in my chest to not only hold it but keep the noise down from it swinging.

I learned their plans, took off my boots to hide the noise, and took the dirt path back to the trailer to warn my team. Because Bravo was prepared, we could successfully defend. Like having me fire bottle rockets from the trees. They really weren’t expecting that.

When it came time for Bravo to attack, we had already defended, so we learned where the security cameras were and what their range was. We definitely got the better end of that coin toss.

The rule was, defending team started out inside, and we waited 15 minutes to give people time to spread out and get far enough away. I hid in the bushes and avoided the guards, then covered the cameras with my old shirt and overalls by staying just out of range. Sent out a rocket for my team to come out of hiding.

Alpha rushed outside to defend against the ambush, and with the majority of their forces distracted, I got inside and ducked past the guards. Got on the speaker: This is our castle now, and I am its Queen.
Because of all of these experiences, I can describe not only the logistics of what goes into less than reputable character actions, but the feelings they might have as they do so, whether the first time, or after it’s become second nature.

So think of what things in your life might not immediately translate into something you could put on a resume, but you still might be able to use in your story.