littlewonder2

Little wonder we stumble in life.


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The Girl with the Mousy Hair

Inspired by this song: Life On Mars

Dawn stole the money from Brenda’s wallet before she leapt through the door out into the night. It was a new city, and she had heard Brenda talk to someone on the phone about the “movies,” and thought this new thing was something she ought to try.

There was plenty about the big bright world she hadn’t seen, that her father had tried to shield her from like some puritanical hypocrite fuck, but she was out here and she was proud to have left him behind, so she bounded into the world, looking for the place.

After wandering around the right vacinity, she found it, and paid her ticket for some random title. There were food stands, and she passed by without even considering them; she couldn’t pass the stuff, anyway. That was the problem with having a partially dead body. She couldn’t even claim blood as a snack, just an occasional necessity. And she didn’t get hungry much, anyway.

Sitting in the dark room, it occurred to her that the effect was lost on her, as a vampire. She could still see the room, in crisp detail, and she wondered if that would lessen the visibility of the screen somewhat. At least there was no glare.

The ads were running for a bunch of other films. She didn’t pay much attention, apart the occasional quip that caught her eye or ear, and waited for the film to begin.

Finally, it did, and the scene began to unfold before her. The black of space was faded at the edges as a ship came into view, intricate and foreign to her eyes. Not understanding what was happening, she was hooked to the screen, already the makings of war earning the film its title. Two men in a small desert hut then came to view, talking. Then they were attacked.

Brenda came and sat down beside her, hooking her fingers into the cupholder as she kept her arm a calculated distant parallel to Dawn’s on the armrest between them.

“Figures you’d choose a film with war in the name.”

“I was curious.” She glanced at Brenda, who was slightly stiff in her seat. Dawn pressed her back more into the cushions, almost as a challenge. She had never been used to comfort. “How did you find me?”

“Asked. Just had to find someone who saw the malnurished girl. You know, I could help you with that.”

“Drinking you wouldn’t help my figure. I’m afraid I’m stuck like this, like it or not.”

“I’m just worried, that’s all.”

“Don’t be.” There was an edge to her voice, and Brenda looked ahead of her at the screen, saying nothing but looking uncertain. Eventually her eyes settled, and she watched the movie with Dawn.

Occasionally, Dawn couldn’t help but glance at her. Eventually, she sighed. “This movie is weird. I’ll admit there’s some weird shit in the world, like what I am. Vampires. But it’s nothing like this.”

“It’s just sci-fi.”

“Sci-what?”

“Sci-fi. Science fiction. It’s all speculative.”

“Yeah, well I don’t like it. Look at that thing. What is it?”

“An alien.”

“A what?”

“An alien. A species from another planet.”

“Another what?”

“Look, it’s a foreign species.”

“Oh,” said Dawn, looking down and up again. She found she had reached out and intertwined her fingers with Brenda’s, and they were hanging over the front of the cup holder. She almost pulled away, but she found she liked it. It made her feel close to someone again, like she had her sister. She looked up into Brenda’s eyes.

“I think I’ve found who I’m like. That Ray person. The eager warrior. You’re the cowardly stormtrooper.”

“Thanks,” retorted Brenda.

“Seriously. Afraid but loyal, till the end.”

“Movie hasn’t ended yet.”

“Yeah, but it’s pathetic. I already know that’s where we’re going. Again. There’s a war, we fight together, I kick their asses, you take their names. We win. I’ll always be happy to fight, and you’ll always complain about having to defend me. And then we be together.”

“Is that where we’re going?” said Brenda.

“It’s pathetic,” Dawn repeated, real venom in her voice this time, but not aimed at Brenda. “We fight, we break up, we come back. Because we’re friends. Because I couldn’t live without you. And now here’s this, this movie, serving it to me like I don’t know, like a neat little package served up with alien monsters like that’s supposed to mean anything, like it’s not some fucking fantasy.” She took a breath, steadying herself. “I know what I am. And so do you, and so do we. I don’t need to be manipulated, or reminded.”

“Is that what you think I do?” said Brenda. “I know you understand, but they don’t. Sometimes it hurts too damn much, to know they don’t. All these swirling thoughts in my head, these feelings… I just want them to know you like I do, to understand. I want them to love you, Dawn, like I do.”

“Is that a confession?”

Brenda blushed, sheepishly smiling, turning slightly away. “Not like that. But you know what I mean.” She forced the smile down. “Tell me I’m not wasting my time.”

“You’re not. Not on me, anyway. Maybe on them.”

Brenda shrugged. “It’s important to me. I have to try.”

“I know you do.” Dawn looked softly at her, as though about to say more, but she didn’t. “I love you too.”

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Back to Camp NaNoWriMo: Things to Remember and Consider

I’ve just started Camp NaNo this year, making it the first NaNo I’m doing while I actually had something else on. In fact, the story I’m doing for it was inspired by one of my Uni lectures, so I suppose that makes it feeding into each other (although, I’ll be honest, sometimes each writing class feed into ideas for another with what I’m learning; so maybe, that’s life). So I’ve been going through old emails, because when I logged on this arvo, I saw a new mail as well as some new cabin mates. So here’s one I participated in from last July’s Camp:

Here at Camp NaNoWriMo HQ, we wish we could give each one of you a personalized pep talk worthy of your awesome, distinct, only-you-could-write-it projects. So in that spirit, we present to you today’s customized cheerleading. Fill out the list below, then plug your responses into the pep talk following:

  1. An awesome superhero name

  2. Adjective describing your main character

  3. Your favorite snack

  4. The last verb your main character enacted

  5. The manufacturer of your favorite snack

  6. The first piece of dialogue in your story that starts with ‘You…’

  7. Your current word count

  8. Adjective describing your inner editor

  9. Adjective describing your best friend

  10. Your favorite supporting character in your Camp project

  11. The last piece of dialogue in your story that ended with an exclamation point

  12. How much time you last spent writing

  13. Your favorite mythological creature

  14. Your favorite author

  15. Write a sentence beginning with the words “Once upon a time”

Once, there lived a writer, known throughout the lands as Flyboy. This writer was seized by inspiration one July, and struck out to tell the tale of one known only as “The angry One.” The first two weeks were full of wonder. Fueled by chips, the writer generated conflicts like vast thunderstorms, and characters so real they jumped off the page only to lay you right in the face. Smiths now aware of the crucial role they played in this writer’s story-spinning, swelled with pride and told the writer, “bitch, why don’t you fix yourself before you start with me. You’re more fucked up than any one of us, so don’t you start preaching to me!” Alas, not all was so rosy. After hitting 588 the writer remembered their last pang of doubt. What if they became blocked once again? What if their story was silly? Maybe… maybe it would be better to stop. They looked into the mirror, and the face they saw seemed almost censor. At the writer’s darkest moment, a busy voice arose. “Hey, you can do this,” it said. “If you don’t, how will we ever find out what happens to mom I don’t want to live in a world with that kind of empty hole. Don’t stop now.” The writer nodded, saying “You are not my son!” No matter how far away from my word-count goal I am, I promise to write for at least 47 min a day.” With that, a rainbow sprang across the sky like a vampire racing toward the newest novel by Rowling. The world seemed to hold its breath, waiting for the writer’s next sentence. The writer smiled, took a deep breath, and wrote “Once upon a time there lived a village ravaged by war.” As well as this, Camp NaNo also offered advice:

I’ve got two tricks for drawing out minor characters.

1. Totally trippy sounding—interview them with a pad and paper in hand. Ask them specific questions out loud and all sorts of interesting stuff comes bubbling out of the back of your mind. Write down their answers.

2. Write a short “autobiography” of the six most important things that ever happened to them from first person perspective. That’s fodder for great vignettes as well as giving you more insight into their motivations, skills and talents, strengths and weaknesses, fears and hopes.

There are also some links, offers writers to ask anything, and even answer specific questions. For example, how to create conflict, or find names. It’s even got a quite interesting pep talk. There’s heaps of content.

Start simple, with one paragraph each for the beginning, middle, and end. Then break down those three sections into smaller chunks, and you’ll start to see chapters fall into place, seemingly with a will of their own!

If you’re having trouble figuring out how two characters mesh, have them interview each other. It’ll definitely give you some new perspective on your story and the people in it.

One last thing, though. A recent pep talk claimed: “Most people are lucky to not grow bored of the world, let alone become cynical or alienated.

“But that’s not you. As readers, artists, creators, and dreamers there’s still hope you will be ambassadors for wonder as a narrative force, making it not only a reason why you write, but also a technique for how you write.”

An interesting point, because I was that person, early on. Maybe not cynical, but certainly isolated, and resentful towards people for it. I often thought of them as liars, in the case of rumours and gossip, and generally malevolent towards others. And I as a person will always carry that with me, including in my writing. I have recently realised that most if not all of my stories are in fact about isolation, because that is how I’ve felt most of my life.

In fact, recently my mom claimed of me that I was “always able to make friends, you just chose not to,” and this can be a disturbing pervasive idea about people like me. But it isn’t true. As I recently have reflected to myself, whether an opinion is positive or negative, if it isn’t true then its just offensive. As in the case of older people assuming that all young people know everything about technology. I am fairly proficient in technology, but I by no means excel in it. Only recently have I truly discovered wi-fi, to give you a picture. So when once I was asked to do something to do with technology, I wasn’t believed when I admitted I didn’t know how and expected to do it anyway. In the end, I got out of it, but that isn’t the point.

The point is, don’t assume things about people. Just treat them as individuals. While it’s true that I’m not bored of the world and infinitely interested in it, don’t idealise me. I am not a perfect model of what a human should be.

I agree that writers should write towards the light, even while writing a gritty reality, even while keeping the emotional truth in a story. But never forget that you can’t write a good story without both the wonder and the truth. Life exists with both, and all you can do is play favourites, but never entirely eliminate either; it’s all about where your passions lay.

And I suppose that was his point. Explore what’s possible, no matter what’s probable. Try anything, and have fun.


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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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Character Freewriting – #1 Dawn

Something OnlyFragments has called Emotive Freewriting.

I’ve wanted to try this for a while, and OnlyFragments did encourage me awhile ago to do it.

Recently, I’ve become a little obsessed with reading OnlyFragments. I’ve been reading entries she’d written back in 2009, and a quote occurred to me; “Write with haste.” It occurs to be that OnlyFragments does that, has always done that. And you can tell just reading her, her emotions, fragments of her, come through.

Inspiring as her pieces even in 2009 are, it inspired this piece about Dawn.

Dawn is the character I’m most obsessed with. Dylan is otherwise my favourite character. In the future, I might write from Dawn, Orion, Brenda, Dylan, Seth, Andrea or Melody. But don’t worry, I’ll definitely mention who I write from if I do this again!

Expect more pieces to come, though I’m not sure when. I intend to try this more regularly.

My version is probably more accurate to call Emotive Character Freewriting. I’m not sure if I could do it otherwise; but I almost take every post OnlyFragments does as Emotive Freewriting; its all emotive, and its all spur of the moment.

I’m probably not doing this right. Oh well.

There is haste in powerlessness, and there is acceptance in all that is ugly. When you finally stop thinking, you are not slave to these desires… When you stop thinking, you can’t finally become yourself, who you were meant to be, who you really are. But you cannot stop chasing what you think you need, can you? Can’t stop because, without this fierce pursuit, you realise you can’t deal with all that’s happened to you, all that’s in your heart. This ferocity has become as much a part of you as that other part, hidden behind that layer. You can’t escape you own consumption now, can you, Dawn? It will burn through you like everything else. It will burn your heart out – unless you find a way to stop it.

Can you? Can you, Dawn? Or will you just keep consuming until there’s nothing left, and everything you love is dead?


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Trifecta – Light

He switched on the light. It flared for a moment then flashed off.

“Dammit,” he swore.

“Seth,” she said, “leave it alone.”

“I want to look at you. This isn’t something to talk about in the dark.”

“We are in the dark, though. All of us.”

He frowned. She had to stare to be sure.

“You can see me just fine here,” she said. “Say what you have to say.”

“I have nothing to say.”

“Oh, come off it,” she snapped. “Out with it!”

But instead of talking, he turned around stalked up the stairs.

“Hey!” she called. “I’m not done with you.”

“Well, I’m done with you! Have been for a while.”

“You pansy,” she cried, “you bloody wuss. Man up and talk to me!”

He turned and glared at her. “Did you really just say that?”

“Yeah,” she dared, “yeah, I did. And I meant it. You men, you’re all just –”

“What?” he said, “Just what? Go on!”

“Scared of women! Deep down, you’re all scared because you don’t believe in your own bravado! You’ll never admit it, but I can see right through you.”

He switched the light on as he moved into the next room. As she followed him, he pulled out what she had been looking for.

“Oh, Seth…”

Tale for Trifecta


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Trifecta – Appear

It might look like a pleasant neighbourhood, a pleasant city, a pleasant lifestyle, but switch on the news, and the surface that would appear was starting to crack. And underneath that… was a turmoil of businessmen overthrowing government.

And among them, was Seth.

She couldn’t ignore it anymore, the evil he had become, even if Dylan continued to deny it.

She still loved her brother, after all, and couldn’t bear to admit him to be the corrupt being. She would speak against the crowd, just like any politicians family ever had, denying claims, true or false, that people charged him with.

No, he was not elitist.

No, my brother cares about the consumer.

No, Seth is a bit upright, but he’s not cold.

No, Seth did not cause hundreds of the lower classes to lose their homes. He is not involved in buying out the government, covering up his company’s losses or scamming his way out of his taxes.

Seth has more integrity than that. Seth isn’t what he appears to be.

But his was the only appearances that were true. Andrea knew it… he was cruel and unapologetic. Who knew if he had already crossed that line? He’d never admit it if he had.

She had to find out for herself. She looked between Dylan and her own father. She couldn’t let them know… However she felt about Seth, she had to do this, even if it meant possibly putting herself in danger. She felt too much for him to just let this go.

Tonight…

She wandered through the big house, while her father slept in her room, while they slept.

As she entered one room, the door creaked. Slowly, slowly, she listened to the sound, careful not to wake anyone up, as she snuck into the room.

His office. Papers, files, photos… What else?

She picked something up. Her eyes went wide as she went through it. What…? How did he get this?

He had her adoption papers.

No.

Tale for Trifecta.

This piece is actually for a longer piece I’m writing. So thanks for the extra push, Trifecta.


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Friday Fictioneers – Winding

copyright - Jennifer Pendergast

The day was dawning. Dawn was heading up at high speed, racing for the top of the tower.

The double doors at the top crashed open with a clatter. Looking around briefly, she saw the clouds turning the whole world grey. Soon the sun would light them golden, the lightbulb inside the building a cheap imitation of it.

She ran around the barrier, searching. Finally she found a last set of stairs, smaller and narrower than the large flight behind her. The cold of the white side rails rippled in her hands.

She climbed to the top. He was ready.

Flash fiction for Friday Fictioneers.