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The Paradox of Friendship


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#151

Stephen ODonohue

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 06:54 AM

With all due respect HJ and ITMOS, I think you both missed my point. My basic complaint was not directed at the cruel and inhuman treatment of Spencer... as I stated I get the premise(it's in the title). It is aimed at the characterisation of the seven and their total day to day disfunctionsl dealings in regard to Spencer(one day torture, the next day help... oh today's Tues, it must be torture day again). I'm complaining because(as I said in my post, in my opinion) a great book was ruined by having Kendall, Reese, Ember and Parker who are portrayed as basically everyday decent kids watch a couple of psycho bullies(Riley and Kendall... Nix is no more than a coward as portrayed early on) physically and emotionally torture a kid on a near daily basis and somehow think it's ok... and then somehow you expect us the reader to warm to them at some stage on the book. Reese doesn't even know the story of Spencer but in some parallel universe we are expected to 'feel her pain' for the terrible thing that has befallen her. She watches as her boyfriend and brother systematically viciously beat(by your own descriptions ITMOS) a kid daily and has negligible reaction. ITMOS, you don't portray mere bullying in these scenes, but something much much worse... but somehow we are meant to 'suspend our disbelief' and go along with the idea that these are just, in some way, regular kids(towards the end, someone mentions that it was all caused by a 'misunderstanding'... ya' think??? The same can be said for the other 3. It is your book ITMOS, and you can write your characters any way you want(and yes, I don't have to read it)... but what a shame you made me hate the(gutless, sadistic) seven. I can't be mad at them, they're simply fictional characters on a page. I can however be mad at you for the feelings of anger and nausea I feel from your depiction of the seven(and Trudy). You left me absolutely nowhere to go as there doesn't seem to have been a single redeeming feature of any of them after you describe them watching on basically disinterested as their friends torture(we're not talking about basic bullying here, much something far more insidious).

ITMOS, I have read hundreds of books on GA, including many far darker and more descriptive than TPOF. Some of them made me squirm, some I put down... but no book I have ever read, has affected me more than this. I feel cheated that in a potentially great book, I just could not form any empathetic relationship with any character(other than Spencer) simply because of your overkill on the School bullying by the seven. I'm mad at you because I as a reader feel that you have failed your characters(yes your characters, not mine... I'm no writer, this is possibly the longest thing I gave ever written) by making them so... evil(by their actions... and I actions). ITMOS, I questioned your humanity(or lack thereof) for no other reason than to try to prick your conscience(and maybe to goad you as well in the hope that you might see an angry reader and perhaps have another look at your extreme characterisations of the seven). I don't actually think you are in any way inhuman, I just feel you turned a potentially great tale(hey I read it in one sitting... seething... it sure as hell had me) into a squalid(again, all my own opinion) hateful story where I felt little or no satisfaction at its conclusion.

Stephen.

P.S. HJ and ITMOS. I didn't demand you delete the story, I asked that you consider it. If I pissed either of you off or made you you angry ITMOS... welcome to my world(during and after reading 'The Paradox of Friendship).
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#152

InTheMindOfSunshine

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Posted 29 January 2013 - 10:44 PM

With all due respect HJ and ITMOS, I think you both missed my point. My basic complaint was not directed at the cruel and inhuman treatment of Spencer... as I stated I get the premise(it's in the title). It is aimed at the characterisation of the seven and their total day to day disfunctionsl dealings in regard to Spencer(one day torture, the next day help... oh today's Tues, it must be torture day again). I'm complaining because(as I said in my post, in my opinion) a great book was ruined by having Kendall, Reese, Ember and Parker who are portrayed as basically everyday decent kids watch a couple of psycho bullies(Riley and Kendall... Nix is no more than a coward as portrayed early on) physically and emotionally torture a kid on a near daily basis and somehow think it's ok... and then somehow you expect us the reader to warm to them at some stage on the book. Reese doesn't even know the story of Spencer but in some parallel universe we are expected to 'feel her pain' for the terrible thing that has befallen her. She watches as her boyfriend and brother systematically viciously beat(by your own descriptions ITMOS) a kid daily and has negligible reaction. ITMOS, you don't portray mere bullying in these scenes, but something much much worse... but somehow we are meant to 'suspend our disbelief' and go along with the idea that these are just, in some way, regular kids(towards the end, someone mentions that it was all caused by a 'misunderstanding'... ya' think??? The same can be said for the other 3. It is your book ITMOS, and you can write your characters any way you want(and yes, I don't have to read it)... but what a shame you made me hate the(gutless, sadistic) seven. I can't be mad at them, they're simply fictional characters on a page. I can however be mad at you for the feelings of anger and nausea I feel from your depiction of the seven(and Trudy). You left me absolutely nowhere to go as there doesn't seem to have been a single redeeming feature of any of them after you describe them watching on basically disinterested as their friends torture(we're not talking about basic bullying here, much something far more insidious).

ITMOS, I have read hundreds of books on GA, including many far darker and more descriptive than TPOF. Some of them made me squirm, some I put down... but no book I have ever read, has affected me more than this. I feel cheated that in a potentially great book, I just could not form any empathetic relationship with any character(other than Spencer) simply because of your overkill on the School bullying by the seven. I'm mad at you because I as a reader feel that you have failed your characters(yes your characters, not mine... I'm no writer, this is possibly the longest thing I gave ever written) by making them so... evil(by their actions... and I actions). ITMOS, I questioned your humanity(or lack thereof) for no other reason than to try to prick your conscience(and maybe to goad you as well in the hope that you might see an angry reader and perhaps have another look at your extreme characterisations of the seven). I don't actually think you are in any way inhuman, I just feel you turned a potentially great tale(hey I read it in one sitting... seething... it sure as hell had me) into a squalid(again, all my own opinion) hateful story where I felt little or no satisfaction at its conclusion.

Stephen.

P.S. HJ and ITMOS. I didn't demand you delete the story, I asked that you consider it. If I pissed either of you off or made you you angry ITMOS... welcome to my world(during and after reading 'The Paradox of Friendship).

 

I was never angered by your previous post. I was a bit indignant but not angered.

 

I purposefully strayed away from addressing the characters in my previous response, because I am reluctant to say much at this point. There is a sequel to this story (which I doubt you'll read). It's not posted yet so I'm extremely careful not to divulge too much information about the characters for fear that I will inadvertently give away parts of that plot. That is the last thing I want to do. So I'm not going to explain this in its entirety. Not because I don't have a response but because there's only so much I can say at the given moment.

 

The story is told from Nix's point of view, and Nix is the protagonist, not Spencer. That means a LOT. It distorts the narration slightly so that the reader sees the majority--but not all--of the story through Nix's eyes. The fairest way to examine Nix's friends (Kendall, Parker, Reese, and even, at times, Ember) is to ignore the character of Spencer altogether. Other than a few technicalities and random instances, they have nothing to do with Spencer for the most part. They're a very exclusive group of people, and Spencer, it just so happens, is not among the exclusive group (at the beginning of the story). Besides, what do they owe Spencer? He's nothing to them--much like the throwaway characters of Jason Mallory or Anthony Johnson. So they don't stand up for for Spencer, but who does? No one. He's an outsider, and, because of his personality, a loner. So maybe they should stand up for Spencer, but that would require them to take a stand against their closest friends. Their inaction doesn't mean they agree with Riley and Dexter. It just means that Spencer isn't more important than their friendships. That's harsh, yes, but it's the truth. It's high school, and this is an area I deliberately exaggerated. They're teenagers. These may seem like broad excuses, but they're not mature adults. They're going to make mistakes and miscalculations. Separately, there is little I can say about Nix's friends at the moment, because this is a topic that appears frequently in the sequel. I'd rather leave a bit out of this response than give away the plot to the sequel.

 

There are many things exaggerated in this story. It's fiction. I took the liberties that were necessary to tell this story. Yes, I realize there are moments of extreme bullying and violence, but that's just part of the story--part of Spencer's life. It's his reality, and it would be awful to sugar coat it. To understand not only the characters of Riley and Dexter (and Artie, if you're referring to the later scenes) but to also understand the character of Spencer, these scenes were necessary. I could have ended this story with the downfall of everyone who ever wronged Spencer, but what's the point in that? How would that make Spencer feel? What ending could have been plausibly better for Spencer? As an outsider, it is easy to think that something could have been different and better, but for Spencer, living in the moment, he got what he's always wanted: friends. It's not perfect, but life is far from perfect. There could never have been a truly fluffy ending for this story. I couldn't do that for myself or for the readers. How would you have felt if all of the characters had went through everything they did only for a pristine and too perfect happy ending? Probably robbed. This was a happy ending for Spencer and for the other characters, regardless of whether they deserved it or not. So do I think I've failed the characters? No. This was their reality, their warped reality at that. Are they evil? No. If they were evil, there would be no remorse. Some have cruel tendencies, but they're not inherently evil. 

 

I know I'm probably not being clear, because I'm not entirely sure how to explain the abstract concepts that are behind the characterizations and the conclusion of this story, especially with the limited information that I can talk about. When the sequel is posted and everything is out in the open (by the way, there is a bit that is left unfinished at the end of this story, including a few things that seems to be already wrapped up), then this will either be clearer or I can explain it better.

 

Does it hurt my feelings that you are mad at me because of this story? No. That just means that you connected enough with the characters to be, at the very least, sympathetic towards them. I like the extreme characterizations of the eight main characters (yes, I include Spencer) because each serves a purpose. Nix, for example, is oblivious so that the reader doesn't know too much to begin with and so that the plot can develop accordingly. The characters aren't random; they each have their part to play in the story and they play it well. Questioning my humanity or trying to prick my conscious doesn't work. I won't change this story, because I firmly believe that there are some stories that should evoke the darker emotions--anger, hatred, etc. I like the darkness of this story, because it challenged me as a writer. Life is messy--maybe not always as messy as it was in this story--but it's not pretty.



#153

Stephen ODonohue

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 06:39 AM

Hi ITMOS. Thank you for your reply. This will be my last post on this story and then I'll leave you in peace.

My grievance is in the reaction(non reaction) of Kendall, Reese, Ember and Parker to watching(and therefore participating in) the extreme violence inflicted on Spencer by Riley and Dexter (I ignore Nix who is both oblivious and a coward earlier on). If the severe violence you describe at school was inflicted by the two in private(toilets, gym, behind the school etc) and the others only saw the general bullying(being pushed into lockers, tripped etc) then I get your point... but as they all witness the beatings and torture you describe(and being inflicted by the boys with glee) in detail(and I'm only talking about Riley and Dexter here), it is inconceivable that any decent human beings could not be troubled. As you allow them no reaction, then I'm left with the conclusion that these 4 are less than human.

ITMOS, I have no idea if you have ever been in a fight. I don't know if you have ever been hit... but if you were subjected to the brutality you describe being inflicted on Spencer by Riley and Dexter), then I can assure you, you wouldn't be turning up in class 10 mins later. You would be severely hurt. In is inconceivable that 40 odd students could watch this without one single person feeling something(I cannot imagine the America I see on my TV/movie screen and read about is so lacking in humanity as to explain your descriptions). It comes down to this total lack of reaction or any sympathy whatsoever from the other 4(especially the girls) to watching this torture, that makes these characters absolutely unredeemable and thus leaving me with nowhere to go at the end of the book, but to detest these inhuman callous cowards) and that just leaves me angry and nauseous. My suggestion that you rewrite these scenes comes from this point-if we the reader(me the reader) have any chance of empathising with these characters at the end, you have to(in my opinion), either tone down the torture inflicted on Spencer by Riley and Dexter on school property... or take the extreme torture out of sight of Kendall, Reese, Ember and Parker(or at least the girls) so that the story becomes
1) believable
2) attainable for the average reader.

As it stands(again, in my humble opinion), a great book has been left as a sickening toxic tale about a bunch of sadistic cowards(the seven) without a single redeeming feature.

Stephen.
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#154

InTheMindOfSunshine

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 10:01 AM

Hi ITMOS. Thank you for your reply. This will be my last post on this story and then I'll leave you in peace.

My grievance is in the reaction(non reaction) of Kendall, Reese, Ember and Parker to watching(and therefore participating in) the extreme violence inflicted on Spencer by Riley and Dexter (I ignore Nix who is both oblivious and a coward earlier on). If the severe violence you describe at school was inflicted by the two in private(toilets, gym, behind the school etc) and the others only saw the general bullying(being pushed into lockers, tripped etc) then I get your point... but as they all witness the beatings and torture you describe(and being inflicted by the boys with glee) in detail(and I'm only talking about Riley and Dexter here), it is inconceivable that any decent human beings could not be troubled. As you allow them no reaction, then I'm left with the conclusion that these 4 are less than human.

ITMOS, I have no idea if you have ever been in a fight. I don't know if you have ever been hit... but if you were subjected to the brutality you describe being inflicted on Spencer by Riley and Dexter), then I can assure you, you wouldn't be turning up in class 10 mins later. You would be severely hurt. In is inconceivable that 40 odd students could watch this without one single person feeling something(I cannot imagine the America I see on my TV/movie screen and read about is so lacking in humanity as to explain your descriptions). It comes down to this total lack of reaction or any sympathy whatsoever from the other 4(especially the girls) to watching this torture, that makes these characters absolutely unredeemable and thus leaving me with nowhere to go at the end of the book, but to detest these inhuman callous cowards) and that just leaves me angry and nauseous. My suggestion that you rewrite these scenes comes from this point-if we the reader(me the reader) have any chance of empathising with these characters at the end, you have to(in my opinion), either tone down the torture inflicted on Spencer by Riley and Dexter on school property... or take the extreme torture out of sight of Kendall, Reese, Ember and Parker(or at least the girls) so that the story becomes
1) believable
2) attainable for the average reader.

As it stands(again, in my humble opinion), a great book has been left as a sickening toxic tale about a bunch of sadistic cowards(the seven) without a single redeeming feature.

Stephen.

 

The violence is an area I took liberties with. I realize in reality things would be different, but this is fiction, and there is a story to tell. The story isn't about the violence, but the violence does play a major part in the story. It's a catalyst for the remainder of the story. Could Kendall, Reese, Ember, and Parker have interfered? Probably. Why didn't they? This has been going on for roughly two years. Why haven't they stopped it before now? Because, as I said earlier, friendship means more to them than an outsider. In the beginning, Riley and Dexter were questioned for their actions, but eventually, it wasn't so surprising. Besides, what does Spencer mean to any of them? Nothing. He's an outsider.

 

Why was the violence in the open instead of in private? Partly because Riley and Dexter wanted Spencer to pay for his past and partly because it highlights the atrocities of Spencer's daily life. It's to the extreme so that it is noticed. Of course any type of violence is noticeable, but I wanted to set up a contrast between Riley/Dexter and Artie, who, in my opinion, is the true antagonist of the story. Everything Artie does is behind-the-scenes (until the final part of the party at Dean's). He's friendly and seems to be everything Spencer wants in a friend, plus Artie's a packaged deal. If Spencer's friends with Artie, he's also friends with Zeke, Hagan, Dean, Liyah, and Trudy. But Spencer didn't know they were playing him. Everything was kept secret. Spencer only caught fragments of information at random times. They were careful to keep him in the dark. Riley and Dexter, on the other hand, were very open and straightforward. So maybe that puts the others--Kendall, Reese, Parker, and even Nix--in a position where they can and probably should stop them, but that's not the point of Riley and Dexter's form of violence. There are reasons the others don't step in, but it's not because they're evil or heartless or less than human. They're none of those things. They're as human as Spencer, which may seem like a far-fetched claim, but it's the truth. At the very least, Spencer knew Riley and Dexter hated him; he was never aware until it was too late how much Artie hated him. The fact that they (as in Nix and his friends) are willing to admit their failures and ask (if not beg in some instances) for forgiveness shows how human they are. Maybe they're not the best people in some cases, but they're fiercely loyal and the best people for Spencer to become friends with. (Oh, and through my experience, American high schools don't lack humanity as seen in the story. The other students standing around just served as another level of contrast against Artie.)

 

So why does Spencer go back to class after each beating? In the "real" world, he wouldn't be able to, but this doesn't take place in the real world. It's fiction and the only way to truly understand this story is to accept the fact that it takes place in a warped sense of reality. The violence in this story isn't the first he's ever experienced. He's learned to categorize the pain and to ignore the majority of it. If Riley/Dexter see weakness, it's a vulnerability that Spencer can't afford--the same goes for being weak in front of Porter and his gang. It's a part of his life, and maybe, just maybe, being at school is better than being at home (referring to Chapter 26: Brothers, for example).

 

I don't know if I've actually thanked you for your feedback, but I do appreciate it. It helps me see this story in a different light and is helping me to decide what needs to be clearer in the sequel or in future works. This story will probably never be rewritten. I may edit it for grammar or typos or to correct a couple of errors, but I will never do a complete overhaul. I'm satisfied with it overall, at least enough to have posted it here.

 

So anyway, happy readings!



#155

Stephen ODonohue

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 04:08 PM

Sorry ITMOS, I obviously lied when I said I wouldn't bug you again. I'm very sad that you cannot explain how 4 supposedly decent kids could watch the sickening violence and torture inflicted on a smaller boy for 2 years and not have any reaction. You say it is carried on in some sort of twisted reality. I can't remember seeing the tag 'fantasy' on the story. It is simply not believable(and I'm totally ignoring the 'suspend your disbelief' scenes of Spencer appearing in class soon after bring half beaten to death) that any normal person could participate in this sickness(and they do participate by watching and doing nothing) because of loyalty to their friends. As you portray them, they are nothing short of pond scum. They are your characters and you can portray them any way you want... but perhaps if you look back on the totality of the posts, you may start to get an idea that perhaps not all is fine in TPoF universe. You have done a brilliant job in telling a hugely compelling story to the point that a 54 yo gay man in Australia is having a heated debate with you about a fictional story(and your fictional characters), but if you are happy to leave your readers(and not just me, read the posts), feeling sick and angry about a complete lack of humanity of your main characters who you claim to be somewhat misunderstood, then that is your loss. It is one thing to show characters with human failings... it is totally another to show a bunch of sadistic animals and expect that somehow we the readers will magically come to your conclusion(as expressed in your posts) that these characters are actually normal American (loyal) kids. It just beggars belief.

This is where I do get personal and insulting ITMOS. It says on your authors page that you are 19. I seriously think you need to take a long hard look at your life's perspective. You have undoubted ability(I couldn't begin to write as compelling a story as this), but if you don't have any empathy at all for any of your characters(you say you love your characters but you certainly don't show that to us the reader), then you have a long lonely future as a writer. I'll state once again, your total inability to show even the smallest amount of humanity in the seven for most of the book, simply leaves this potential brilliant piece of writing as a twisted sickening piece of sado-masochistic trash. Very very sad. you say you write for yourself ITMOS, but if you have absolutely no empathy at all for your readers, then good luck with your future career as a writer... I think it is a sad loss for us the reader that your talent is wasted. I certainly won't be posting again as every time I think of TPoF, I feel nauseous again. Congratulations on making your readers sick.

Stephen.
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#156

Billy Martin

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Posted 30 January 2013 - 05:21 PM

Dude! You said your peace four posts ago, stop beating a dead horse. Clearly by the number of reviews and likes, there's a lot of people that liked her story. You have the right to voice your opinion, but my lord, stick a fork in it, cause it's done.


Edited by Billy Brat, 30 January 2013 - 05:31 PM.


#157

Stephen ODonohue

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Posted 31 January 2013 - 03:38 AM

Well said Billy... you got it.
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#158

seanthomas

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 07:56 AM

Hi Sunshine

I was re-reading some chapters today from your story & decided to check the forum. I was a little shocked at the criticism of you by Stephen. As you know i have repeatedly challenged you over Dexter & Riley being good guys but you have always being amazingly patient in arguing your case & providing awesome insight to the story.  So i want you to know that i totally disagree with Stephen. You are an unbelievably good author who drags every emotion out of a reader. I was shocked he suggested you should delete the story.  I LOVE this story and can't wait for the sequel. I'm checking daily hehehe.  I just can't get enough of Spencer and look forward to his new relationship with Nix, Dexter , Riley etc

Cheers Sean



#159

InTheMindOfSunshine

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 09:26 PM

Thanks, Sean.

 

 

The sequel is still in works, by the way. I hit a few set-backs and my college classes are a bit more work than I'd anticipated. I can't guarantee when it'll get posted, but it will. I can promise that. ;)






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