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Writer's Lounge Part 2: An Interview with CrashingCymbal

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Introduction: As Mystreve is a little ‘tied-up’ at the moment [Muffled sounds of a struggle emanate from the background.], I thought I’d have a go at interviewing someone. CrashingCymbal is one of the best writers on this site and his story, Psychologist is in the pasta of the month category and another story of his Alarm has been recently nominated.

EmpyrealInvective: Let’s start this interview with the niceties, how goes it?

CrashingCymbal: Not too bad! Bit of heartburn, but other than that I've been pretty great!

Emp: Good to hear. So tell me a little more about yourself. Any information you care to share would be just fine. (Name, occupation/aspirations, interesting factoids about yourself, credit card information. You know, just some basic getting to know you stuff.)

Cym: Well, my name is Tim. I currently work part-time in hospitality, and have a part-time college course in HR management. My biggest aspiration would be to someday have a novel or a series of novels published.

I was born and raised in Ireland, still live here, but I have this real thirst to travel the world, and explore many different cultures and landscapes of the world. This particular part of me was actually something I loosely based my story Walburton Park on. One place that I've always had a fascination with is The Deep South of The USA, it's a place I'd love to travel to.

Other than that, my favourite pastimes, other than writing short stories, would definitely be camping, hiking, mountain climbing, that sort of thing. I don't have a credit card, will debit do?

Emp: With your talent you'll definitely get a novel if you keep at it. Also, I always have issues with debit, so you can keep that information. (For now...)

Cym: Thank you. Just let me know when you need it.

Emp: Here’s a three-part question so we can get to know you a little better.

When did you start writing? What first brought you to this site that’s populated with intelligent/imaginative writers? What was your first story you ever wrote about?

Cym: Well, when asked to do a creative writing exercise for English in school, I would always pick the short story format, simply because it was always the easiest for me to do. Honestly, the first story I posted on this site is probably the first time I wrote. It could be considered the start of my little hobby.

I first discovered creepypasta through Facebook, actually. A friend of mine posted, in image form, a shortened version of The Rugrats Theory thinking that it was actually real, and loads of people commented on it saying how freaked out they were about it. I saw it, thinking it was kinda stupid.

Then, somebody else I know did the same thing except with the Ed Edd n Eddy Purgatory theory. That was my favourite cartoon as a child, so that one actually struck a chord with me. As ridiculous as it was, I actually found these twists on children's cartoons to be very peculiar, and started looking up more on Google search. That was when I discovered Dead Bart on YouTube, and a link in the video for the version on Creepypasta Wiki. Through that, I just started browsing the website, and I just couldn't stop.

After a while, the typical LE and VG stories just got old and boring, and that's when I started to realise that people actually used this website to post their own Original Content. I had started in October 2012 with a story that was, admittedly, pretty bad. I scrapped it and just continued reading. I ended up re-writing it, and it was the third story I posted on the site, titled The Sweet Shop. That, I guess, could probably be considered the first thing I ever wrote that wasn't a school assignment.

Emp: That surprises me that you started really writing a couple of years ago. Judging from your stories I figured you'd been writing all your life.

To prepare for this interview, I re-read a bunch of your stories and I have to say, you do character development really well. When I read The Beaches of Normandy, I found myself getting teary-eyed as the plot progressed until the heart-wrenching climax. Even after a re-read, I still find that it has the same impact on me.

I think a lot of writers have issues with crafting a story that has an emotional impact because they can’t quite grasp how to do character development well. Do you have any tips for us on how to write believable and intriguing characters?

Cym: Yes, I do. When I read some stories on this website, a common problem I find is that a lot of the main characters are only put in there to, well, have them tell the story. It seems to me that the writer may as well have just told the events as they happened, kind of like a news report. I myself am guilty of it too, because sometimes we're in a rush to just get pen-to-paper (or words-to-screen), without thinking much of the story through.

Exposition is very important when writing a short-story, especially one told through the eyes, and through past or present tense, of an actual character. A character's background, history, emotion, thoughts, and judgments are all very important aspects of the plot.

My main advice would be to try and not make them your average Joe. Why? They're not memorable. Every character, at least the protagonist, needs to have memorable qualities about them. Don't just create the character to tell the story. Have their story within your story, so to speak. This could achieved through pretty much anything. Maybe he has a long scar on his arm, maybe she has a horrible fear of death, or maybe they met each other at a so-and-so convention and they found out they also both love so-and-so.

Also, another piece of advice, never just have your character say what happened. Describe what happened, and give their thoughts and feelings about that said event.

Emp: To expound on that a little, I just wanted to know if you have any model your characters are based off of. (Like yourself, friends, or some guy you’ve been randomly following around and putting into hellish situations?)

Cym: Well, I based Kenneth from The Beaches of Normandy off of a man named "Zoltan Zinn Collis". He is a Slovakian holocaust survivor who lived in Ireland after the war till his death in 2012. He came to my school once to talk about the horrors of the concentration camps, and I got to do an interview with him for a local newspaper. He was such a nice, funny, interesting man, and I could hardly believe how full of life he was despite all the atrocities that he had went through. God rest his soul.

Other than that, I think a lot of my characters are based off of me, really. Like I said, Curtis from Walburton Park is based off my desire to travel the world, and Yvangela from the sequel Yvangela is based off of my sister.

Emp: So why don’t you walk us through your process for writing a story?

Cym: Well, I've honestly tried before to sit down and brainstorm ideas, but for me it has simply just never worked. I have no idea why, either, and it's actually quite frustrating because I believe if I was an effective brainstormer, I feel I could either have a lot more stories than I do now, or have stories that are so much more in-depth than what I have already.

Basically, I'm a spacer. When a lecturer is at the top of the class blah-blah-blahing away, I'm usually away in dreamland, thinking up of mythical sceneries or exhilarating scenarios. Such as this: we're all sitting in the classroom, what would happen now if Dublin was suddenly bombed and attacked by terrorists. How would I escape the city, where else would I go, how would I get out there, and what would I do when I did eventually escape?

A lot of my ideas come to me when I'm daydreaming. There would be a million thoughts flying around in my head, but if one thought occurs that I find to be particularly intriguing, I will write it on my texting app, and screenshot it. Then, I spend the remainder of the lecture/bus-journey (just as an example) thinking of ways as to how I could write this into either a Blip or Bloop, or into a 3,000 word short story. When I have decided, I always try to open up with the experience or feeling of a character, and how the aspect of this plot relates to them.

But it would only be fair to say that real trudging thought-process only really goes into the short stories. For my Blips and Bloops, that's really just me letting loose and being as weird as I can be, because for me, there's just something so satisfying about somebody unleashing their creative side onto a blank canvas, doing whatever the fuck they want, and not thinking what anybody else thinks about it or them.

Emp: I like that blank canvas/tabula rasa concept. Now that we have some insight to your methods, what is one of your favorite/least favorite stories you’ve written and why?

Cym: I would definitely say that The Sweet Shop is my favourite. The reason: when writing it, everything just flowed from brain to fingers so naturally, and without even one moment of writer's block. And when I was writing, this is no joke, I had the biggest grin on my face because this was just the moment that I realised that I just absolutely love writing.

I love creating scenarios, creating mystery and tension, creating characters and the relationships that they have with each other. All these thoughts were flying about in my brain as I was typing a certain piece of dialogue from the story, and when I reread it I realised that this is the kind of thing I want to do for the rest of my life. And when I reread, I have to say to say, that it just really shows.

As well as this, I love the plot in general, I was so happy when writing it that I think that itself made the writing in it brilliant, I love the twist at the end of the story, and I love how inquisitive and knowledge-driven the character is. I would give anything to write a story like that ever again.

My least favourite was called "A Mist in the Park". I had it removed from the website by request. Basically, it was just very purple prosey. The writing and plot didn't really make that much sense, and it took too long to get into, and even for one of my stories was way too overdetailed. A lot of things didn't make much sense or have any place in the story.

Emp: I think it's important for people to be subjective when viewing their own works/stories. As a VCROC(K) you read a lot of newly uploaded stories. What do you think are some of the common pitfalls or issues that new writers experience when starting out? And how would you recommend I -I mean they- deal with that issue?

Cym: Haha, well a common issue I found with you -I mean THEM- was that despite the fact that their story was good, and the idea was good, the story itself was rushed. This is very, very common, and it's something that I don't think has ever been mentioned in the writing boards or the QS guidelines, but it's something I would love to warn people against doing.

Basically, a lot of new writers are extremely eager to get their story onto the website as soon as possible, and are way excited to hear what people have to say about their story. Not only do I sympathize with this, but I actually love to see it as well, simply for the fact that it shows that the person has this thirst for writing and they're turning it into creativity, and that they are always willing to learn and to experience.

My advice, despite having said all this, is to slow down. Seriously. When new writers realise that there's no rush in getting something out there, the better their story will be. Take your time when writing, always re-read it a few times, and maybe even get a second pair of eyes to judge it. Get a second opinion on it before you splurt something out and post it in under an hour. Not only will your story be better, but it will be received better by the readers, and there's less risk of it being deleted.

As well as that, and as Callie already pointed out in a blog recently, be positive towards all form of criticism. It will benefit you as a writer, and give you a slap when you need one. Don't react negatively towards it. Sure, your story might not be as good as you thought it was, and I understand that people will be upset about that. However, you need to channel that frustration into creativity. Focus on becoming a better writer.

Emp: That’s some good advice for them/me to have. I remember you used to do a blog where you would promote stories you thought weren’t getting enough recognition called “CrashingCymbal’s Recommended Reading”. Unfortunately the blog isn’t still going on, but since then, have you come across any stories that you thought were so amazing that you wanted to add to the list?

Cym: Yes, I should really get that blog up-and-running again. I was quite surprised at the amount of messages I got from people asking me why I hadn't done one for the month I discontinued it!

Anyway, there was a story I read recently called Beneath the Garden and it was written by Michael Whitehouse, the same dude who wrote the Bedtime series. It was absolutely incredible, and an absolute joy to read.

The central character is absolutely fascinating. The way he talks about how he is so much more clever than other serial killers and how he detests clumsiness and laziness was magnificent. The combination of racist bigot, ruthless killer determined to get his own, and then of course sophisticated, organised do-gooder, was brilliant. Such a complex, layered character, that you love just how much you despise him, and that you didn't know you could despise something so much.

As well as this, there's mystery, tension, slow, but certainly not boring, build-up that, and the writing absorbed me right in from beginning to end.

Emp: Any advice you’d like to impart to new writers looking to improve their skills?

Cym: If there's something you feel you're not good at, or have been told by a few people that you aren't good at, practice it. For instance, if dialogue is something that you feel you're lacking in skill with, read a play, screenplay, or start writing out fictional conversations. Always find ways to improve and always strengthen your feeble points.

Having people critique your stories either from a friend or family member, or from the WW board is a good-stepping stone to putting this into practice.

Emp: Do you have any last little things you want to say to wrap up this interview? Are there any future projects/stories you’d like to talk about or promote?

Cym: Well, I just want to say thank you for this wonderful opportunity and all the intriguing questions, and that I've actually had a wonderful time discussing these questions, and I actually think I've learned a lot about myself. As well as this, there's something oddly charming about the fact that my thoughts and insights are going to be posted on the website, simply for the fact that I probably never would have done that just on my own, if that makes any sense!

For the future, I have 2 more stories coming out in my Walburton Park series, as well as another story that I have under the working title "Work Will Set You Free" I have also a few ideas for more Blips and Bloops jotted down, and I'm looking forward to letting loose my weird side once again.

Last thing I just wanna say to writers: don't be afraid to be unique. It's what will set you apart from everyone else, and your stories will stand out.

I’d like to thank CrashingCymbal for taking the time to sit down and do and interview with me. Here is a comprehensive list of CrashingCymbal’s works. I really would suggest taking the time to sit down and read through them.

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