littlewonder2

Little wonder we stumble in life.


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The Ghost Story vs The Supernatural

Today in class we focused on ghost stories and the supernatural; and during the portion of the class dedicated to ghost stories, most people in class had some story to tell about hearing voices, dogs reacting to sounds, minor mysteries and the sort. The whole time, I was repressing a story of the night I spent in a haunted house and the gate that wouldn’t open, because I mean, that’s not a ghost story. Freak accidents aren’t ghost stories, at least not to me. There are no ghosts involved in what’s happening here, and there was a rational explanation for every single one.

But then the teacher said, that in writing ghost stories, you cannot rationalise anything you are writing about. The second you do, the story loses its essence and becomes real; that is, it loses its believability.

But the thing is, none of these stories were believable, at all. So when the teacher asked if ghost stories had any place in the modern world, I shook my head and answered with an emphatic ‘no‘.

But that isn’t to say it hasn’t been successfully done. Supernatural, for example, or Ghostbusters. These are both popular fictionalisations of that kind of world, and the world is constructed well enough to be believable. So obviously it can be done. What I think I meant is, I can’t do it. I rationalise things constantly; if I didn’t, I’d think I was a moron and would probably hate myself. So I personally couldn’t write a ghost story.

But then we come to the supernatural, and here is where things change a bit. Because while I don’t believe in either the supernatural or ghost stories in real life, the supernatural is more believable on a fictional plane. Perhaps because practically speaking, the supernatural requires a lot more than just psychological moronic impressions to prove. Yes, the creation of impressions over the rational is probably still required, but not as much.

In Supernatural, although I remain a skeptic reluctant to accept  things like that salt can get rid of spirits, when it comes to the world of angels and demons, that is constructed more intricately, so I can believe it more. That’s the sort of thing I mean.

So in saying that I couldn’t write a ghost story, but I could probably write a fantasy or supernatural story, what I mean is that I could better believe in a fantasy world containing both the impressions of reality and the mechanics of it, rather than just a world of lucidity alone. That’s the kind of story I strive for.


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The Symptom of Individuality

The lobotomy was created in the 30s and later gained popularity for patients displaying things like anxiety, among other things. This was the part that hit me hard; I’ve suffered from anxiety from a young age, and imagining being giving a lobotomy for such a minor problem in comparison to its solution is horrifying. If I had gotten one before I turned 14 (I sincerely hope they didn’t give lobotomies to children), I’d have never become a writer, because it would’ve cut me off from all kinds of creativity or even identity. Lobotomised victims even lost interest in their own lives, not surprising since they were also cut off from being itself.

Lobotomies were used for depressed patients, but it’s little wonder that the treatment didn’t make that problem worse, since both depressed and lobotomised people perceive no point in functioning. It’s likely that the times the treatment was popular in reflected attitudes of behaviour; instead of embracing individuality, it seems as though people prized good behaviour and civility. Anybody who didn’t conform had to be fixed.

This is a terrible attitude to have. I personally find it horrific that people would go to such extremes to control others. It seems to glorify ignorance (seen but not heard) and punish rather than treat those who struggle to fit into society. I personally prefer the idea of shaking the world up and promoting open-mindedness.

That’s why I’m a writer. I want people to understand people, which is the exact opposite of the effect the lobotomy had.


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You’re All Different: A look at fiction and society

Recently I was thinking about a documentary I once saw. It was about Merlin, that wizard of myth originally created by Geoffrey of Monmouth. Towards the end of that documentary, it talked about JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis. It said that the two famous authors used to meet in a pub and talk about Merlin; and that characters in both their writings had a character based on him, the one Aslan, and the other Sauron.

I have since wondered whether the documentary got it wrong, and they were really talking about God. I know at least one of them was a Christian man, and by assumption, so is the other. But that thought didn’t sit well with me, so for a while, I pretended it really was Merlin.

I realise, though, that the reason Merlin sits better with me is because I know he isn’t real, and I’m also assuming other people do too. After all, I watched the documentary; I know he isn’t real. But the fact is, other people won’t have seen it. If those people suddenly started saying that Merlin really was the one who created Stonehenge — Geoffrey’s most famous tale, and one he invented to give Merlin some credibility — it would piss me off. Because I know full well (from another documentary) that Stonehenge was actually created in the late Stone Age by early man.

Another popular story about Stonehenge was that aliens helped. That one pisses me off even more; what does it say about how man sees himself? Do we think we’re capable of nothing? Stonehenge was a great human achievement, and far from the last. And we did it all by ourselves.

But I digress: what I’m really trying to say is that I don’t think people believe in Merlin, but they do still believe in God. And that worries me, because stories have power, especially stories people think are true but aren’t. I write stories myself, but I would never try to pass them off as the truth. And yet, at the very least, the writers of the bible have done just that, in order to persuade — manipulate — people to act and think a certain way. They use fear of hell at the very least to inform this.

What pisses me off about God is that it gives people an excuse not to think for themselves. Like those stories of Merlin or aliens, it gives people something to alleviate either responsibility or pressure, and makes them complacent. Perhaps they want to relax, and maybe that’s understandable, but it pushes down our potential, it takes away from us what we could do, it takes away from us self-belief and puts it into something else, so we become little more than sheep or cattle, following a grand master. And I’m not okay with that.

I’ll admit once I thought I was worthless, when I was a kid I even imagined a God and thus believed it. And then when I was a teenager, I continued to struggle. But the point is, I wasn’t worthless. And the fact that we have to make up ridiculous stories just to cope with ourselves or our lives is insulting to me.

Monty Python’s The Life of Brian put it best:

Brian: You’re all individuals!

Crowd: Yes, we are all individuals.

Brian: You’re all different!

Crowd: Yes, we are all different.

Crowd Member 1: I’m not.

Crowd Member 2: Ssh!

Brian: You’ve got to work it out for yourselves! Otherwise–

Brian’s mother ushers him from the window.

Crowd: Ooh, that wasn’t a minute.

Brian’s Mother: Oh, yes it was!

Crowd: Oh, no it wasn’t!

Brian’s Mother: Now, stop that! And go away!


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Then and Now: Who I Was, and Who I Am as a Writer

Celebrating my first 10 years as a writer… Scott Westerfeld- On Rewriting & Growing Up

I recently read this article/pep talk by Scott Westerfeld in my email. Just like his pep during NaNo, this particular one was definitely insight and memorable — he really knows how to string two words together.

But the point was it really reminded me of where I started.

Here are the most important points he made, to start your revision by answering these questions:

  • Which scenes flowed from your pen, and which were clunky?
  • Which writerly decisions embarrass you now?
  • Which characters were like a bad relationship, and which turned out unexpectedly compelling?
  • Which goals that you started with aren’t worth pursuing anymore?
  • And what startling new vistas opened up?

For the first point, I’m reminded of the first scenes of the first two chapter in the first book in the series I’ve been writing for these past ten years. The very beginning, in short, of my entire story of Dawn, my centre character of it all.

The first chapter details her life on the mountain, living alone with her family. The set-up is that she lives in a house in the mountains in an abusive household isolated from society and dreaming of escape. She has an adoptive sister, her only support, but that doesn’t stop Dawn from gaining a hard shell or from thinking better of the world outside. And through all this, she has no idea just how close town really is, because she’s never escaped that far.

Throughout my drafting of this first chapter, I’ve gone through many different versions. At first, I had both parents, then I had the mother flee at the start of canon, and now I have her gone by the time Dawn was three, because I needed to tie in the details from later in the series, and Dawn discovers she has a biological sister. That was the biggest change.

Nevertheless, through the years, that first chapter and the one that follows is constantly being changed or fixed or edited because I just thought of something else that was wrong, or unrealistic, or that looks terrible. It’s always those two chapters. So I’d say, coming from that perspective, they must’ve been clunky, especially that first chapter. But as Scott points out in his pep talk, I was young and — maybe not so innocent, but maybe I was, if I was innocent in my ignorance.

And through those young dreams of running away (in my case, it was the reverse, though not nearly to the motivations that Dawn had), those first chapters were always, I think, my strongest. As far as first drafting goes, when I first wrote, it did feel relatively that it flowed, better than a lot of think in those early days. Maybe that’s why I’ve stuck to it for so long.

Let’s move along to the second point… embarrassing writerly mistakes.

If I could stick to those first few chapters, I’m sure that those mistakes probably still exist in my first book draft. Well, the way I wrote in those early days certainly held some common mistakes. I remember writing waking up scenes, trying to describe the characters appearance, etc.

Talking more on content, I think in that first draft, I took away from the abuse of the situation by making her escape in smaller ways. I remember a particular description of her escaping the house and going for a bush walk up the mountain, and specifically the feeling of a wall of sandstone under her fingers as she felt along the surface… Then in the dialogue scenes between her father, I don’t really think I had a grasp of what that scene would look like, or how it would feel. And describing her pain was another problem.

There were even small details when she was cleaning up on him and heard popular music on the radio, or when I would try to list the kinds of books her sister Belinda read…

Of course, none of this was as bad as chapter two, when the scenes escalated dramatically to finally escaping, only to meet a worse fate. The boys on the mountain… If I didn’t understand how her father would act, I had even less idea about the boys who wandered in from town, or what they were doing there. All I knew was what Dawn knew and felt.

All this is just the first two chapters, and although there are other things I’ve written, none of them really stick out in my head as strongly. Probably because in the very beginning of my writing, I was in the habit of editing those things over and over again instead of just pressing ahead with the writing. And of course, that’s where NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) stepped in to help me get rid of that habit, way back in 2007.

Of course, that brings me to the relationships with my characters. Well, of course there’s Dawn; me and her go way back, and I’ll always love her. She’s my favourite character to date, though Dylan takes second. Dylan was actually quite a surprise; I didn’t expect to love her as much as I do, but I managed to put more of myself than I ever expected to in her, and I love her for it.

Although she’s different from me in that she’s outspoken and determined, on the inside she has much of the same confusion and insecurities that I’ve dealt with in the past.

And then of course, there’s Seth, her brother. Another character I care a great deal about, he encompasses another side of me. That is, the side that wants to fight my reality, and all the indignities I find follows certain aspects of living. For example, sexuality in the public light. Partly oppressed by his dead adoptive father, he diminishes his public image to one of invisibility so as not to be judged unworthy, a fact that Dylan endlessly fights against. And I understand why, but I understand Seth’s point of view much better.

Now, as far as bad relationships, I do have something of and on-again-off-again relationship with Andrea. When I first invented her, it was as a match for Seth. Given a shaded past, I thought he deserved a companion, and then that relationship grew into something like love. But this was in their childhood, and even then, he had his reasons to keep distant.

But then, after years, when I finally came back to her story (after spending so long on Dawn’s), every time I tried to put them together, they somehow tore apart again. What’s definitely true is that Andrea really desperately cares for him. It’s also become clear that, in his own private way, he cares for her too. What’s unclear is how much, and what form that care takes.

Another iffy character of mine is Brenda. Sure, she shares certain traits in common with me, like her social isolation and her love of books, but Brenda’s one character that falls flat to me as her own person. I can sympathise her reasons for breaking up with her ex, but beyond that, she mostly remains a mystery to me.

Which brings me to Orion. My relationship with him is only a little better, even though I share less in common with him. What I do share in common is his sense of outrage, and his concealed defence of those he cares about. I’ve always hated his brother Alex, one of my first villains, but through his eyes I began to see him in a new light.

I’m not sure if there are goals I had at the start that aren’t worth pursuing anymore. I mean, certainly, the series that I’m writing now were once separate, as well as the characters, so maybe that. But besides that…

As far as startling new vistas… I’m going to University this year. I’ll probably post an entry on that later. And eventually, all my drafts will come together. As far as plotting, that’s something else I have to figure out, especially for the third book.

There’s still a lot to do before my first drafts of the whole series is complete. But as a writer, of course, I’m looking forward to it. Here’s hoping it’s all going to happen before the next ten years passes.


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Trifecta – Reputation in Flight

His friends said he was too beautiful to be a woman; high feminine cheekbones, soft blushing skin, thin curved frame. Women were supposed to be beautiful, that was the whole point.

But his reputation preceded him. Word can fly when petty people whisper.

The man walked through the door, and he was struck by how pale he was. He could see where the reputation had come from, but he was a bit too pale, too platinum blonde. His appearance was stark, not beautiful.

He handed him a slip. He took at it and looked down on what the man had just handed him. ‘Inspection: 7 Sept. 2014’.

“You’re giving me this in person?” he asked the stranger.

“The school asked me to,” he explained. “Caused a stir last week, so I owed them.”

“What did you do?” he asked, curious.

“Indecent exposure. Which wasn’t really my fault, either, but…”

So that was it. The children had spoke about him not out of captivation, but out of scandal. Physical, too…

“What did they do to you?”

“Have you been up to the school? Have you seen the doors in the back?”

“I’m the Superintendent; of course I’ve seen them. Caught you there, huh?”

“I didn’t know they opened. The stalls were all taken. Some school play was going on, and half the grade was there changing too. I thought I could hide in the back room and change, but those doors don’t look. Some kid opened the door. It… was humiliating…”

“Sorry about that. Maybe I can bring it up in my inspection.”

“Thank you,” the man said gratefully.

“Can I get your name?” asked the Superintendent.

“Marley.”

Tale for Trifecta

 


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Friday Fictioneers – Heights

rescuers

She laughed bitterly.

He turned to her. “What?”

She gripped the edge, her palm pressing into the cold metal, as they waited to be rescued. But she was not the kind of girl who got rescued, she was the kind  always fending for herself.

“It would be so easy…” she said, sour giggles breaking out against tears. “Even if we’re not that high up, it would be easy… to throw myself off. Oh, I wouldn’t plunge and die, no…” her smile widened, “no… but the pain, the pain… not enough to die…” She broke down.

“Don’t,” he said.

“I know.”

For Friday Fictioneers.


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Trifecta – Rusty

It was still all rather horrifying. From the moment she got the letter in the mail, summoning her to court, she had been walking around, rather shocked. And now, as she stared warily at the plaintiff’s table, she could see the girl who was suing her pull out a rusty, scrap-paged notebook. Her supposed evidence.

“In this notebook, you’ll see the evidence of what I’ve been saying,” she said, handing it over towards the judge. “The song was not an original work by the band on trial –” a glare in her direction — “but by me. When I was a little girl, I wrote all these lyrics myself –”

“Um –” said the judge, “I’m sorry, but this doesn’t appear to be lyrics. This appears to be a diary.”

“Yes, of course it is! If you will look carefully,” she said, pointing, “you’ll see the opening lyrics of the right at the top of the page.”

“Ah, yes…” said the judge.

After scanning the document more thoroughly, she handed it back, however. “This isn’t sufficient. In order to have a case against Mrs. Lee, you have to have composed the actual music and lyrics. Some similar sentiments when you were a child aren’t enough.”

“But it isn’t fair! She stole –”

“Silence!” said the judge, banging her gavel. “Settle down or I will find you in contempt!”

The girl sank back down.

Amy would almost have found it flattering if the situation hadn’t been so serious. The only thing she was guilty of was writing a song that people — including this girl — connected to. Very deeply, she added, at seeing the adamant look on her accuser’s face. She may not have written it, but her accuser certainly felt it, had probably lived, more than anyone else.

Amy made a move, and announced all this to the court. In the end, it was that speech that stuck at the end of the case. Her accuser simply didn’t have any evidence. Amy was cleared.

Maybe they could be friends.

Tale for Trifecta


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Friday Fictioneers – Deserting Home

Copyright - Janet Webb

There was no going out tonight. Not here, not ever again… I couldn’t even take my writing. I left my dress hanging out over the balcony, and my notebook there on my bed.

I felt a tug from my heart as I left my bedroom for the last time. We could take nothing with us. It was too poisonous, the radiation already exceeding the Ukraine.

I was just a teenager. I didn’t want any of this. Leaving everything I knew and loved. My mama held me in her arms. Within hours, the streets would be empty.

Time to leave… Chernobyl.

For Friday Fictioneers.


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Trifecta – Infect

There was no chance the aliens were going to allow anything to infect the Milky Way. It was a sanctuary; one that was highly guarded from the outside space.

This was an important zoo; and there was much documentation on display at the visitors’ capsule. Andromeda housed it; but humans, the one species testing their barriers, could never know that they were being kept captive in this spacial zoo. It was for their own good.

They sent probes far into space, exploring their world, discovering Andromeda. They were the most fascinating creatures, the smartest of their kind, but they were not ready for the outside world.

“They will never find us,” a mentor of the latest apprentice zookeeper taught him. “Their technology is far too basic, and they are just beginning to explore space. They’ll never reach our capabilities, but they are capable creatures.

“Eons ago, we discovered life. We documented the ages as the dinosaurs evolved into birds, and we watched the mammals rise… but we knew that we could not interact with them. We have to be responsible and let them live out their lives on their own. If we were to interfere, their lives could be drastically altered.”

“Why can’t we just study the animals?” asked a student.

His mentor smiled. “We have never interfered with any of their lives. Know this; even though they have the capability and proclivity to destroy their own planet, every animal is different. They’re fighting to save themselves.  The planet is getting warmer by the decade. But even if the humans die off, there will be other animals to take their place. Hopefully, none as destructive, though.”

“Hmm,” the student seemed worried. “I hope they pull through.”

“Yes,” the mentor agreed. “That is the hope of all zookeepers who keep the guards. But even if they do, there is a long road ahead of them to understanding the world around them. If one day, they do evolve to our level, I’d happily greet them.”

Prompt taken from Trifecta.


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Soft Like Stone

I put my bookmark in
hard as stone
slipping like shale
back into the pages
of my life.

I can’t deal with it now.

I want to believe it’s tough
it’ll hold
just like I do
But I know
stone is soft; it cracks.

It’s cracking up
like my heart.

Inspired by this.