How I Transformed Helplessness into Art with Detached – Alisa Burris

by | Sep 5, 2022 | Author | 0 comments

For the last few months, I’ve regularly written blogs examining different aspects of my upcoming murder mystery titled Detached (Running Wild Press). These short pieces help articulate and describe the connections between various thematic elements within this story.

When the Authors’ Lounge invited me to write an article to discuss my novel, I realized there is one facet I haven’t explored in extensive detail yet. Upon further reflection, I believe this element actually represents the underlying inspiration behind Detached’s existence. In fact, it serves as the motivating force that encouraged me to keep writing this story, reshaping and refining its central tale.

Through the creation of Detached, I confronted the helplessness and depression that had seized me for so long. As a result, I transformed my misery into a fictional work, which I think ultimately offers a hopeful message within its layers. Perhaps the story could even supply reassurance to those who face similar circumstances, at least in terms of asserting mental control over terrible chaos and alarm.

When I first began weaving this work together, I’d just survived an unbearable living situation of helplessness.

At that time, I had been surrounded by constant, intrusive noise and questionable activities that continually frightened me without any foreseeable relief. Loud, drunken parties right next door, literally inches away from my home, a steady stream of vehicles that lurked in the shared driveway for mysterious reasons that always felt like a looming threat, and music pounding through the walls on a near-constant basis severely compromised the quality of my life for more than two years.

Unable to stop the endless invasions and perceived danger that surrounded me, I became fixated on every facet of this menacing environment I could witness outside my bedroom window and hear as harsh reverberations against multiple walls. It reached the point where I felt as if I lived in an easily dented tin can, with little protection from the perils that floated so close to my personal space, forever on the verge of decimating this fragile safety. To rectify these ongoing problems, I’d tried to find productive avenues out of this perpetual wretchedness, even joining the homeowners association to address the numerous issues and somehow purge the neighborhood of its disruptive, potentially criminal commotion. But nothing changed.

My closest relationships began to suffer, becoming visibly strained because of this singular obsession with terminating the unjust encroachment on my life that never improved. Trapped due to a recession that had unfairly devalued my home, limiting the options to flee, and more alienated than ever because of my compulsive preoccupation, I withdrew into pure powerlessness. It seemed to me then that the people who cause the most persistent problems, shamelessly imposing their dramas and thoughtlessness on everyone else, possessed more authority than the victims of their offensive behavior. 

With this realization in mind, I reacted through the only authentic means I knew. I started to write. 

Applying my anguish as the foundation, I devised a story designed to cleanse all of the poisons out of my system to grasp the control I had previously abandoned. Because of depression, I’d felt helplessness overcome me. The plot is much different than my experience, entwining a fictional murder into a narrative texture that exaggerates, distorts, and redefines the actuality I’d originally endured. Furthermore, three main characters tell the story of this unexpected violence from divergent perspectives in alternating chapters illustrating the investigation’s traumatic advances. Wanda Lindstrom, Charlotte Murray, and Marcy Seele are each acquainted with the controversial murder victim, but their contact emanates from contrasting quite troubling angles. All three women struggle with the shock of learning about this brutal homicide, discovered after a fire almost destroys one of the neighboring townhomes. 

But while Wanda, Charlotte, and Marcy share certain connections to the victim alongside complicated links to one another, they suffer in isolation. No meaningful commiseration over the investigation’s developments occurs as each neighbor tries to comprehend the dreadful circumstances now endangering their security. So the horror gradually unfolds at a terrifying pace without the availability of any emotional support or social resources, whether behind closed doors or within the broader community itself. The women each witness this escalating threat alone, vulnerable to the case’s evolution and unable to control its potentially devastating aftereffects.

Alisa Burris’ Thoughts

Although the story’s plot bears no resemblance to my own experience of helplessness, it is a direct expression of how defenseless I felt while living in an environment that stirred such fear in me. Through writing this novel, I actively determined how to view this profound episode in my life, modifying it as a therapy of sorts. Indeed, when I first looked at the overall affair, which ended quite unlike my novel’s conclusion, I recognized one key reality.

If I didn’t utilize my feelings of helplessness and distressing circumstances in some creative way, it would be a colossal waste. I needed to turn it into a representation that could thrive beyond my memory and perhaps provide meaning to others who have also been forced to withstand similarly distressful events. Despite my obvious bias and with the open acknowledgment that others might disagree, I regard Detached as art derived from a painful chapter in my life, which I won’t soon forget. Considering this novel from such a stance, the entire experience has much greater value to me, a clear sense that these struggles embodied an essential purpose. 

I’m thankful that Authors’ Lounge gave me this wonderful opportunity to describe my novel, where I could examine Detached’s origins from such a personal place. The process has enabled me to appreciate my journey out of immense darkness due to the psychological comfort that powerfully blossoms through the act of writing.


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