Tag Archives: writing

Changes …

I suppose I should have probably put this in the ‘Inane Thoughts’ category, but it really does have … something … to do with writing. Obviously, I’ve been making a lot of changes to this place recently, and I’ve been through a lot of changes in the past nine months or so as well.  I don’t really know how relevant any of that is. But the more I look back at old pieces, the more I’m starting to consider whether these changes in my life have actually been reflected in my writing.

I’ll start with style and tense, though, because to me, this is the most obvious change. Upon looking back at things written pre-2012 I’ve noticed mostly that it was almost impossible to tear me away from third person past tense. I wrote everything in third, I guess because it was comfortable, because it was what I had been used to reading and it was comfortable enough for me to write in.

Now, I just can’t stand it.

I don’t mean for this to be insulting to anyone who writes in third person past, because I don’t mean I hate this type of narration. I’m just not comfortable writing in it anymore. And for me, this is more than a little strange because it’s all I wrote in for nearly a decade. Like I said, it was comfortable. It was straightforward. I liked that as much as anything else.

Really, I couldn’t tell you what my issue with it is now. I feel slightly out of my comfort zone when I try to revert to it, not that I wouldn’t like to try, and as though there’s something missing. There’s a connection I’m not making because of the way I’m writing the story. And I start to consider how each story could have been so different if it was just written in a different way; I mean, there are some that probably wouldn’t have worked, but a number that would have, and these seem a little like missed opportunities to me. I also feel as though there’s something I’m not quite reaching or tapping into that I desperately want to, and that the narration is important in relation to this.

Anyway, self-indulgence over for the time being, I suppose what I’m really getting at is how much does narration and style really govern? As I’ve stated above, there are times when I feel as though the direction of an entire story hinges upon it. But then, are there novels that would remain almost the same regardless of how they’re told? I’ll use a very well-known example here; how different would the Harry Potter novels have been if they’d have been written in first person? Considering J.K. Rowling followed Harry for the most part (and yes, I did read these, even though they’re not my usual ‘bag’, but it was quite a while ago now, so the details are probably off anyway), how much would this have impacted the story? Then, on the other hand, we have a favourite of mine, American Psycho, which would not be the same novel if written from a different perspective, and there is no way around this. If Tim Price was telling the story, it would have been impossibly different. It probably wouldn’t have been titled American Psycho either, though, because in Price’s mind, Patrick Bateman doesn’t butcher women in his apartment. Price just doesn’t know anything about this. 

I digress (if only slightly). The easiest answer to the question would be that it depends entirely on the novel, and to some degree, it does, but I do think it also depends on the writer. There are certain hallmarks we come to associate with certain writers; so it’s not too far-fetched to guess that this is also the case from a more personal standpoint. Part of writing, in and of itself is, after all, establishing your own voice as a writer, as well as allowing your characters to establish theirs. I would guess that this has a little something to do with knowing yourself before getting to know anyone else; knowing yourself as a writer before getting to know the people you’re writing about. Because no matter which voice you use, it’s never entirely possible to shake the feeling that you’re still telling someone else’s story. You’re writing  about them, not  as them. (Oh, look, I switched into second for a while, there).

And I have to wonder, is this really anything more than drunken rambling?But it’s been bothering me for a while now. So I suppose I just had to get it out there.

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Filed under Writing & Literature

Short Story: Circa 1988

Note: I had some spectacular, all-singing, all-dancing post planned for today (well … I didn’t really, but I was thinking about it, I swear). I finish work, get in the car, get the news that we’re going out tonight, and unfortunately, I haven’t been sleeping well. So, because I was out late, and because I’m lazy and probably tired, I’m going to post a ‘short’ tonight from all the way back in November. Enjoy or don’t, I’m not too sure as yet … I mean, I could easily tell you what I think in retrospect, but I’m also too lazy to do that tonight.

Circa 1988

Mark Sullivan remembers 1988. He remembers the summer, the kid sitting almost silent in front of the television screen, inexplicably drawn to the glass. He remembers how the temperature was rising, how she used to sit out on the balcony of their apartment and fan herself, staring listlessly up at the sun. He remembers he face, her smile, her golden-blond hair that she got from a bottle. Mark Sullivan remembers 1988, and the story that made headlines that year.
Mark watches this kid, day in, day out, waiting for the moment he turns eighteen. Waiting for the moment the college funds, saved up year after year, life insurance, a final payout, can be blown on whatever the kid cares about most. This kid, he doesn’t know much. He doesn’t care about much. He just sits in front of the screen, staring at reruns, at movies, at cartoons, at whatever a thirteen-year-old boy is supposed to watch. The kid, he doesn’t have too many friends. He forms bonds through the glass, phased through layer after layer of an invisible something, perhaps a million miles away from whoever it is he’s watching.

He has a thousand and one things to do before the end of the day, before the end of the week or the month. Most of it, paperwork to sign, print his name and that immortal date. The month. He can’t forget because the legal documents say he can’t. He’s trapped in this moment forever by the numbers written in his own hand, some unspoken agreement between himself and his late wife, a promise. A pact. Nothing quite so clandestine. He wants to stop signing but he can’t, not until this kid is old enough to go out on his own.

Mark knows this kid’s secret, after all. This secret that the boy staring at the screen doesn’t even know, how he came to be. How it was that his mother first got the idea, planted in her head by some screen bimbo or another, some brunette who’d starred in maybe two or three more movies than she had, who said she had all the answers to keeping your career alive. On track. Making sure that you were the only one those headlines talked about, the only one that women from here to Connecticut knew about. Gossiping. Whispering. Exchanging facts, rumors, things they heard from some unnamed source, about how Callista Vaughn was due to marry a big money producer. About how Callista Vaughn’s dress was going to be a Vera Wang original, but then, whose dress wasn’t a Vera Wang in this day and age? About that producer, how he never thought he’d get so lucky in all his sorry life.

This much is just about right. Mark doesn’t know and doesn’t care how he managed to hook up with that screen legend, that sex goddess. A woman thousands of boys, now men, had grown up fantasizing about, jerking off over until she disappeared one day. Then, when they were maybe married themselves, with kids, she came back in the exact same position as they were in. They could still fantasize. That bride to be, that aging screen princess, she’s the woman they walked down the aisle with. That honey blonde, or golden blonde, or maybe platinum now, the best way to hide gray hairs, they shared their first dance with her. They spoke their vows to her. Each one of them looking for their perfect replica of Callista Vaughn, or better.

No, Mark Sullivan doesn’t know how he got so lucky, or how he got so unlucky. What it came down to was that she wouldn’t take his last name. The kid, his surname is Vaughn, so that he could get ahead in life. So that her legacy would make sure he got whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted it. The kid staring at the screen wouldn’t even have to lift a finger so long as he kept her last name.
With a surname like Sullivan, though, he’d have to fight just like the rest of the kids his age. No leeching of momma’s reputation for him. Mark knows that this is the only reason she insisted, only to have the best for her son. The kid stares at the screen, still, flinching every so often at every flash of light, at every scream. The heroine gets kidnapped and he looks lost in the moment, a boy who doesn’t know what to do because he realizes that he might just be about to lose everything. He turns to Mark. Mark, sitting at the dining table with his head down, squinting at papers, trying to make out tiny inscriptions on the document which illustrate loopholes. Ways for the company to get out of it. Not many do that unless a real star is involved, or if they know they’re talking to a schmuck.

“Dad,” the kid pauses, licks his lips, his shirt too big for him, making his frame look even smaller than it did already, sunk into the plush sofa. “Why would someone do that?”

“Do what?” Mark, dad, mutters back at him, not paying attention, suddenly wishing that his son was still staring at the screen. He doesn’t quite watch as the kid twists in his seat to face him, leaning forward, squinting. He keeps looking down at the paperwork, not seeing, not bothering to read it anymore, just in search of a distraction.

“I saw it. What they cleaned up and took away. That’s all that was left of her, isn’t it?” still, Mark doesn’t listen much, but he knows now what his son is talking about. Mark, who could care less about his son’s questions, because the kid reminds him as much of her as anyone can. He’s as close as he can get without being her sister, or mother. Without being a daughter instead of a son. Some days, he doesn’t even want to look at the kid, forces him into school each day to make sure he doesn’t have to spend time with him around. This small ghost who just stares at the television screen.

“Don’t tell me they don’t teach you physics in school,” out of the corner of his eye, Mark sees the kid shake his head.

“No. They do. Only, they don’t teach us that,” the kid pauses, or Mark thinks he does, maybe for breath, maybe to think about what exactly it is that he’s saying. That he’s asking about. Some things a kid doesn’t need to know right away, not just yet. Mark knows this. Learn too young and it breaks something inside of you, something important; you stop being who you thought you were, not so much a kid anymore as a shell. Growing into the teenage years too fast hurts more than any growing pain. Than any insult. “They don’t teach us why someone would do that, either.”

This time, Mark looks up from the paper he’s stopped reading through, looking directly at this brown-haired little ghost sunk into his sofa, this kid who has everything Callista used to have but doesn’t even know it yet.

“You want to know why a person kills themselves?” he repeats this like he doesn’t already know what the answer will be. Like telling a story to a small child, pretending that everything is new, exciting, not tiresome and pointless like it all suddenly seems. A prime reason to end it all right there; that life just isn’t new and exciting anymore. He watches the kid nod his head slowly, almost looking entranced, not tempted to glance back at the screen anymore. This kid could be any six-year-old he’s tucking into bed and reading a story to, only this story doesn’t have much of a happy ending. “It’s because they don’t want to live anymore. Alive, you’re aware of everything you’re doing wrong, and if you’re the kind of person to make a lot of mistakes, sometimes, death is the only way to put an end to that.”

“You think she made a lot of mistakes?” just like every question this kid has ever asked, this one floors Mark. He doesn’t know what to say. It’s as if this kid is interrogating him. Wanting to know why he decided to answer this way instead of telling him how kind and beautiful his mother was. Exactly the kind of thing any thirteen-year-old boy wants to hear.

“I don’t think it was that,” he tries not to choke. “I think things just got real hard.”

“Was it because of me?” exactly the kind of thing no kid wants to think about. It’s like telling a kid whose parents have just divorced that they got divorced because of something bad he did. That now his entire life has been thrown into chaos, because of that one little lie he told. Because he withheld information. Because he was sneaking extra snacks at recess to sell to the other kids for small change.

“Why would you think that?” Mark just wants to get back to his paperwork. Filing, insurance policies, a payout. Mark just wants to get to the end of this so that he can forget she ever existed afterward. He wants it to end so that he can sell the apartment and move out, move on, somewhere he doesn’t have to be constantly confronted by the small ghost in his sofa, images flickering across his face in the darkness. The kid shrugs. He doesn’t have an answer to the question, but he expects answers all the time. It’s just like a kid to expect answers that an adult doesn’t really have.

“Jason always tells me about how his mom says things were going just fine for her until he was born. That she wishes she’d never had him,” whether or not that was Callista’s reason, it was hard to say.

Once they were married, this starlet wanted a kid more than anything else in the world. Mark remembers how they locked themselves up inside the apartment whenever she wasn’t busy doing magazine features about her supposed comeback. When she had the time to want for the things she didn’t have, they sometimes spent whole days and longer locked up inside their room, refusing to even eat because they were that desperate to conceive. He slips off into a world lodged somewhere between reality and an intangible past, looking back as if he’s glancing at a reflection, a mirror image that lies while simultaneously being real.

Months and months of trying this, of Callista telling every imaginable source about how they were trying so damn hard for a kid, how they were fucking like rabbits just for that one chance. She talked to daytime TV hosts about it, who had to wave their hands and whisper small, insignificant asides about how this was supposed to be a family show, and she couldn’t get away with saying the things she was saying live. About how she would have to cool it for those shows that came on after dark, after half the world was asleep, safe from profanities, from the suggestion that any actress had such a progressive sex life. She told them about the different positions they’d been trying, about the best times of the month to try. About how the fucked at just the right time during her cycle to ensure the highest chance of her getting pregnant.

It was a wait that seemed to go on forever. Every home pregnancy test, every visit to the gynecologist, seemed to drag on forever. Whenever Callista heard the word no, she was inconsolable for maybe a week or two before they were right back on it again, picking up from where they had left off.

“You have no idea what we went through to get you,” Mark mutters this almost to himself, so the kid doesn’t really hear it and can only stare for a minute longer before turning his attention back onto the television screen. Just a new cartoon. A new episode of a show based on some comic book from the sixties.

Sure, Mark went through hell trying to give Callista a kid, but the only reason she wanted a baby so bad was to give her career an extra push. Already columnists were lining up to interview her about the recent nuptials, but Callista knew the media better than that. She wasn’t a naive twenty-something any longer, already able to tell that as soon as coverage of her wedding and everything that happened since wasn’t hot news anymore, she’d be history again.

In short, Callista wanted a baby to make sure she stayed in the spotlight.

The one test that came through positive, that day she whipped the media up into a frenzy.

Any talk show we could get on, she was on the waiting list, ready to drag him on set and scream ‘we’re pregnant’ at anyone who would listen. Any middle-aged man who grew up masturbating to her pictures in magazines could imagine Callista in stirrups, maybe the way he’d seen his own wife giving birth, screaming and sweaty, but somehow still glowing, forcing a head, shoulders, a torso, an entire human through that entrance, that exit, that had been pounded so many hundred times by that same guy, that same dick. Any lonely housewife, bored and flicking through glossy magazines would be able to hear every agonizing detail of Callista Vaughn’s sex life, her tips. That you couldn’t get pregnant if you had sex standing up was a myth. Same as if you fucked in the shower.

This kid, all he’s ever done since he tore kicking and screaming out of Callista’s vagina is stare at the same television screen. He learned to stand trying to reach that screen. He learned to crawl towards it. This kid loves TV more than he loved his own mother, because those fictional characters are just so much easier to connect with.

“Son?” the kid shudders and tears his blinking eyes away at the demand, the sound of an address he knows all too well. It’s rare he hears his own name. Now, Mark refuses to call him by it. “Your pal, Jason? His mom’s really fucked up.” He doesn’t wait to hear the kid’s response. Instead, he turns away, moves towards the kitchen. There’s beer, spirits, but what it comes down to is, Mark doesn’t want any of that. He just wants an excuse to get out of the room for a few minutes. He knows he should have taken the papers with him, pulled up one of those high stools and started writing, signing at the kitchen counter.

Mark, his hands press up against the marble counter-top, eyes rolling up at the off-pink ceiling, a mottled, strange color. The only room in the house not painted white. The only room in the house with black marble counters, with neat sets of utensils lining the far wall. Easy enough to run someone through with a butcher knife. Callista would only ever buy the best.

None of them ever cooked a meal in this room, but only one member of staff ever did it anyway, the one member of staff Callista could afford to keep on after her career started to pull down the drain. Even after she made her comeback, they still had this one maid come cook come nanny, this one woman who had nothing to do with the family except for the fact that she was being paid to be there, to do all the menial tasks Callista didn’t know how to do.

Used to be her face, Callista Vaughn’s face, lined billboards, shop windows. In theaters, all you could see was her face next to some handsome male co-star, the hero and the heroine side by side. She wanted to take on more challenging roles, she said. Wanted to show the world that she was more than just a sex symbol, that she really could act as well. One night, one slow night when they’re done trying and she’s massaging the small bump that is her stomach, a curve underneath the sheets, Callista looks at Mark and tells him,

“All I ever wanted to be was an actress,” he watches her sigh and slip down beneath the sheets. “Ever since I was small. That’s all I wanted. Is it any wonder I’m still hanging on so hard?” Mark, he doesn’t answer, just switches the light off next to the bed. One flick of a switch, and they’re both in darkness. The truth is, Mark doesn’t know what to say to that. He was raised in a family where you marry someone, you have a kid with them, because you love them. Not because you want to keep your career on track. As he closes his eyes, rolls over on one side, he hears Callista whisper through the darkness again. “It’s funny, isn’t it? Once this kid’s born, I’m quitting movies for good.”

Quitting something you’ve done for most of your life, like smoking, isn’t that easy, You’re already addicted. Mark knows this because it’s only recently that he stopped drinking.

It’s only recently that he stopped asking for that extra glass of Cristal at parties, downing vodka, whiskey, in huge, fiery gulps. It’s only recently that he stopped staggering out to the taxi or the limo, he forgets which they could afford at any given time, thankful that he didn’t have to drive home. Instead, he carries around tall glasses of bottled water with ice. Virgin martinis, or a flute of coke. He stopped because Callista asked him to, but really because he couldn’t stand the headlines. The tabloids referring to him not as a drunk himself, but as Callista Vaughn’s drunk husband. His one vice not his own. His every action scrutinized, bot not to degrade his own merits. Callista asked him to stop because he was damaging her reputation, but couldn’t divorce him because it would look even worse than having a drunk husband. Because the baby was on the way and the kid needed a father. He didn’t stop. She had to keep going. After nearly thirteen years of coming home stinking sour, booze on his breath, Mark stopped.

When you’re addicted to something, a lifestyle, a drug, drink, you can’t just turn your back on it.

You’ll always know that you left behind something that made you feel good, no matter what it cost to feel that way. Like the kid’s addicted to TV, and tearing him away from it will mean he’ll just go back and sit on the sofa again. The next day, he’ll be back there again, and you’ll tug him away, only for him to go back. This goes on for a while, until one day, you walk into the room, and he’s not sitting there anymore, but it’s hard to say where he is. He might be wandering, lost, from room to room, barefoot and wild-eyed because he doesn’t know what to do. He might be out on the street with his fucked-up friends for once. It’s hard to say what’s changed, but somehow, you know everything has changed for the better.

Mark knows this, but he’s still tempted to reach inside the fridge and open a bottle of beer, the first in months. Weeks. He doesn’t know how long because he hasn’t been counting. He doesn’t much care, either. All he knows is he really could use a beer.

“Dad?” even now, the expression is foreign, it almost hurts his ears to hear it. For a moment, it’s almost as though this kitchen, this pink-tiled hell is his heaven, a cocoon he doesn’t want to leave. It’s a room where words can’t hurt him, but he still can’t escape the truth. His guess is right; that if he has a beer it might make things better just for a while. He might be able to put these things to the back of his mind where he wants them to belong, but they never will.

When mark looks at the paperwork still sitting where it was on the table, limp, lifeless, he’s back where he was fifteen minutes ago. He’s back faced with the reality of things, not a memory, something he has to deal with, to know, not to ignore. When he looks over at the kid sunk into the chair, sunk and staring expectantly around, not at the screen this time, he’s a part of this life, this thing, a length of time that goes on and on with no sense of stopping until you reach the very end. Until you know you’re going to die.

“Dad,” the kid repeats the word, and Mark knows he’ll answer this time, because he’s sick of hearing it. “How many movies was mom in?” Mark doesn’t know what to say.

The kid’s mother was in a lot of movies in the late sixties. She so desperately wanted to be a Bond girl, but didn’t every twenty-something in those days? Every girl who knew she was attractive enough to do it. She settled for a role in a prime-time series first, something to do with special agents, spies fighting for the good of the country. It was only natural that she made her name here, formed her reputation, running around in high-heels and skin-tight cat suits, her dyed, bleached, teased hair cropped because it was hard to manage otherwise. Silky and smooth for the camera, bobbing about her neck, the sharp cut threatening to slit her throat every time she slid across the floor.

Boys growing up with this series knew what to expect from Callista, the secret agent they always wanted to fuck, but could turn on the TV at six and see some other guy about to fuck her instead. Some actor whose name they couldn’t remember, but who all the girls in class swooned over. Some dick with long hair who got to get up close with their beloved Callista.

By the seventies, Callista had just started out in movies. She was already a household name, so most directors had no trouble finding a film to cast her in, no screenwriter would turn down the chance to write a part especially for her. Some leggy, sexy blonde who was undressed for most of the time she was on screen, or wearing something that clung to her flesh. A second skin. A fourth-degree burn covering most of her body that she could slip on and off at will. In casting sessions, most of them would just say ‘you’re that hot spy from TV, right?’ and she’d just nod, give them a little smile, read her lines and fuck up every one of them but it didn’t matter because she was great to look at.

“As many as any actress makes before she decides she wants to settle down,” this was the official lie they’d agreed to tell him. Mom settled down because she wanted to. Because she fell in love with some rugged, young producer who made promises and got her pregnant instead. Behind the scenes, this official lie was the first line of some black comedy, where they both laughed bitterly in bed about how their lives had turned out. About how she’d only settled for Mark because he was there, because he had money, because he’d worked on a number of reputable projects and she knew that this could work for her. It really could work. Because she knew that this was someone she’d have to spend the rest of her life with, she found the most handsome guy she could, but one desperate enough that he’d propose to her, marry her in a heartbeat.

Mark never bothered to tell her how he wanted more than that. He was just glad he got so lucky.

“But how many?” the kid repeats, impatience rising in his otherwise placid voice. “Like ten? A hundred? How many did she make?” the truth is, it’s impossible to say how many she made. It’s impossible to say how many movies Callista Vaughn made because about half of them flopped at the box office. Sure, she had legions of adoring male fans going to see her, visit her in what they considered to be her domain, but they were the only ones. Most of her fans were too young to get in; the ones that got caught out while using their fake IDs, not old enough to see a film rated R. This was what killed Callista’s movies nine times out of ten. The rating. The critics, for the most part, did the rest.

“A lot,” Mark’s answer cuts across the low rumble of the television set, the sounds of his own breathing, their own breathing, him and this ghost on the sofa. He looks back down at the papers. But can’t bring himself to sign anything, just him and the papers at a stalemate, refusing to do anything. Sitting silently, he stares out across the room. The curtains are still drawn across the balcony door.
For a while, that door was a crime scene. For a while after, a shrine. Now, the door is just there, but hidden, so that he doesn’t have to face reality.

He doesn’t sleep in their bed anymore. He sleeps on the plush sofa the kid is sunk into, a world all on its own, away from dark drapes. He keeps the television on, screen playing the same few scenes of softcore porn over and over. The same woman gasping, butt naked, moaning, only nobody’s really fucking her. They’re just there. This actor, paid to hump her without even getting his dick wet. Mark doesn’t care. The television is the last thing he turns off at night because the sound of a fake orgasm brings him some kind of comfort.
It’s like being in a room full of people. You don’t care about what anyone’s saying, you can’t even bear to hold a conversation with most of them, but the soft, low buzz of the conversation makes you feel safe. Makes you feel like you’re a part of something, even if you’re sitting alone in a corner. You know that nothing is wrong, nothing is really wrong in this room because the conversation is still going on, because nobody has stopped talking. Because there’s no reason for anyone to stop talking right now, not really. You wait a while before approaching anyone because you’re so at ease.

“Mom was really famous, wasn’t she?” these days, it’s all the kid can think about, all he can talk about. His mom. His absent mom. He doesn’t care that a copy of The Lost Boys was playing at the time, but he’ll never watch the film again. He doesn’t care about anything much, apart from watching the same images play over his face, ghosts playing over a ghost, neither of them really there any longer. Mark can’t make sense of the kid’s behavior most days, has got him booked in and seeing a shrink about it, but it doesn’t seem to be doing much good. At night, the kid won’t go to sleep without the television set still playing, only Mark can’t do anything about that or care because he knows he does the exact same thing.

“Pretty famous, yeah,” he sounds tired. He sounds tired and looks tired, but he knows it. He is. He doesn’t sleep much at night. He wants to get out of the house, to sell up and move away, but the kid’s shrink says it would be too much. All this suffering for some thirteen-year-old boy. “Way back when.”

“Before she had me,” a moment of silence hangs in the air, and Mark doesn’t want to admit to it, but he can’t tell the kid the truth, either. That she only had him to become more famous than she already was. That she only tried so hard …

“She wanted you more than she wanted to be famous,” letting a kid know he’s loved. The only way to handle a head case. The two things were always mutually exclusive – she couldn’t have one without the other. Callista always wanted her own way, though.

Way back, there was an episode of her show that was pulled from the air. You can catch it every so often on late night re-runs. Callista wanted to do something more edgy. Not content with her closest to nude scenes being her barely dressed in a silk slip, Callista, she wanted to film a topless scene. And the company, they said no. They said they had a strong following. They had a strong following of teenagers, kids just learning about sex, or kids raised in liberal America by hippies. Kids, younger than teens, whose parents didn’t care much. Kids of hippies whose parents didn’t like them watching it, not for the sex, but for the strong pro-War message.

The episode never aired, but eventually, Callista got to do her scene. Said she made a few sacrifices, but said that she was doing it, not for the ratings, but for the liberation of women everywhere. Spiel that’s still hard to believe, even eighteen years on. The show was coming to the end of its last season, though they didn’t know that yet, and Callista was intending to use the episode as a springboard. When they cut it, she was beyond words. Her perfect, pink nipples never made it onto prime time television, because the censors wouldn’t let it happen. Now, that episode, lost for almost two decades, swims around in the same time slot as the softcore films, the B-movie violence. Bad special effects. When they air episodes in blocks of two or three or four, the same length as a feature, you can see Callista Vaughn’s breasts, immortalized on television forever. The only part of her that wasn’t going to grow old.

Callista Vaughn never really got old. She got to maybe middle age, still cutting her hair and bleaching it platinum to hide her gray hairs the best she could. Still using the latest anti-aging serums, refusing cosmetic surgery but seriously considering it as, year after year, she got older.

“Do you think mom fell?” when the human body hits a hard surface at terminal velocity, the end result is an unrecognizable mess. A body is either like a water balloon with viscose fluid, not-quite solids floating around inside a fleshy exterior. Upon impact, the skin, the rubber of the balloon, gives out because of the force it hits a hard surface at. Because of how fast it’s traveling on the way down. There’s too much inside, held inside by flesh and bone maybe, too much water inside the balloon, and the sides split, everything splits. When a body hits the sidewalk at terminal velocity, you can bet you won’t be able to recognize who it was that fell from that height; you’ll see the intestines spread out along the ground, five feet long and not curled, packed tightly inside anymore. The stomach has burst, undigested food slathered in blood. You can see what used to be a ribcage sticking out, up, the way that they do in horror movies like a cage, arms, legs. Clumps of hair. She must have fallen headfirst, because you can’t really find her face, all you can see is what used to be platinum blond and gray hair, now red and matted with slow drying blood.

“Probably,” Mark doesn’t know how to talk about it anymore.

The limbs, what’s left, stick out at odd angles, not attached to anything anymore. There’s a six-foot trail of blood in a rough circle, the limbs are still pumping out the rest. Veins knotted and tied, only the bonds are broken now because the impact blew them off. If you could find Callista Vaughn’s head, if she hadn’t jumped, fallen headfirst, the eyes would be closed, and it would look like the head of a doll that’s been dragged around a few too many times, but sticky and dirtied with blood rather than dirt and fingerprints. Most people won’t know what happened until Mark sells the story to People magazine.

“But what I don’t get, is …” the kid pauses again, like he can’t figure out a way to say it. Like these word get lost in his head before he can get them out. “Mom was so pretty. But that mess on the sidewalk, it … it wasn’t her, you know?” Mark hauls himself up from his seat, step by step getting closer and closer to the sofa where the kid, the ghost sits, paler now, while he thinks about it. Mark catches a glimpse or two of what it is he’s been watching. Callista’s pale green eyes stare back at him through layer after layer of invisible glass. Callista, the way she looked once, young, golden-blonde, whole.

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A Late Start To The New Year …

… although it is a start, nonetheless. Allow me to explain. Admittedly, there is still no improvement on the employment front, which in part was the focus of my leaving. In all other senses, however, things aren’t so bad. Okay, so I haven’t done half of the things I intended to do, but all the same, things aren’t terrible right about now. In fact, things haven’t been terrible for a while – unfortunately, Rootkits happen to be some of the most annoying things known to man, and just about as soon as I got my laptop up and running, yep, one of the damned things burrowed itself so far into my system it was a factory reset. Which kind of left me stumped.

Now, my laptop appears to be on the straight and narrow again (that has no bearing on the paranoia I experience every time I log on, though), and I have an awful lot of books to go through in the next few months … and of course, my first draft of Free Fall is still sitting in a box file under my bed, waiting to be edited.

So Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you all so much for bearing with me – this place will be back up and running before you know it, hopefully without a plethora of absences this time. Coming soon: a number of book reviews and fanfiction-related rambling.

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Two Hours Until NaNoWriMo 2011

That it is. So, with only two hours left until the madness begins, I’d like to say a few words.

I am possibly more excited for NaNoWriMo this year than I ever have been before, although exactly why is difficult to say. Every year, there’s a fantastic energy about the forums, so huge that it’s impossible not to get excited over the thought of this 50,000 (or in my case, 200,000) word venture.

Naturally, I have my concerns. This is the first year I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo that I haven’t had other things to do simultaneously – by other things, I mean coursework and other such commitments, as opposed to the social aspects. For this reason, I’m terribly frightened that I won’t fully take advantage of this opportunity, as though I’ll have too much time on my hands. Without that constant battle, finding times and places to write at every given moment, I fear I might slip off the beaten path and into procrastination hell. I mean, what’s stopping me from just writing for one or two hours a day and just sleeping for the rest? I can’t afford to do this, of course … I need a routine!

On the other hand, this might just be the concentrated effort I have been in need of. What I mean by that is that it’s simple enough for me to sit down and hammer out perhaps a thousand words in a few short sittings, and do this maybe two or three times a month. It’s not so much that I lose my way with projects is that I’m easily distracted, and yet every November until now, NaNoWriMo has ensured that I am not nearly as easily distracted as I usually am. Sitting down to write, knowing that I only have thirty days in which to write all of it, and seeing my stats page come to a standstill is unsettling enough to give me a brief kick and force me to get on with it. Perfect, in other words.

Fears and aims aside, I feel reasonably at ease with the prospect of starting my project within the next two hours. I haven’t prepared as much as I usually do, though I put this mostly down to the fact that, in the cases of most of my characters, I’m starting from a single idea and just running with it throughout their stories. The direction is always a killer for me; as long as I have a fairly concrete plot, which I do, I feel ready to tackle that mountain of words!

Or fall from halfway up said mountain. We’ll see what happens.

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Underworldly: The Start of Something Very Strange …

Once upon a time, there was a slightly disturbed twelve-year-old girl. This girl liked to write. She liked to write, and she liked to watch anime, and she somewhat liked to read, although most of the time she only read Harry Potter, and some assorted fan fiction written by people she knew on online forums. This post, as well as the Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain inspired me to go digging around for this story again. I remembered the URL vaguely, and was actually quite stunned to see that the Freewebs site I created is still up and running after 5 years of neglect … quite honestly, this isn’t the first time since its creation in 2006 that I’ve visited, just out of a strange, nostalgic curiosity that takes me back to what was an even stranger time, in my eyes.

Nanuko: an example of the villain protagonist.

So I’ll start with this: if you want to read it, you can read it here, but I really wouldn’t recommend doing it for your own sanity. Or if you value your eyes, because this is most likely to make them burn. Unlike most of my earliest writings, this is something I made very easy to access, because it was so damn good. I was assured that this was the best thing that I’d ever written – perhaps somewhere, some part of me took this to mean that this was the best thing written by any twelve-year-old ever. I was encouraged to write more, and write more I did … in a way, Underworldly grew into something that became more and more difficult to control, and this, combined with my computer dying spectacularly one day (I, too, have a venomous hatred for the Blue Screen of Death), and what my fourteen-year-old self considered quite a serious relationship (ha!) was probably what drove me to abandon it.

I was desperately proud of this story, though. It was my finest work, at the time, a story I was most definitely going to get published, that my parents encouraged me to get published, that was going to make it. I find it funny, actually, how this seems to be the case with every new piece I write; Dragon Badlands was going to be an incredible breakthrough piece. Underworldly, as I have just mentioned, was going to sell, and sell, and sell to people like me. Butterfly Black was this incredible, inventive idea that nobody else could write … nobody else, it seems, but Chuck Palahniuk. Contempt for The Blind is … a difficult one to place, but I had a great feeling about it, so positive, yet when I was describing the entirety of it to my ex it just seemed a little asinine. Where Jackals Lie was just something I was desperate to get out on paper, and I’m not sure I ever really felt as though it would go anywhere.

Anyway, I didn’t know, at this time, how much of a hack the idea was, or how cliché the characters were, and the historical accuracy? Well, my young self didn’t see much of a need for this at all. The names were made up ones that sounded Japanese, and bore a striking resemblance to the names of some of the characters from Naruto (I never really watched much of it as they pulled it from TV over here before I could) … never mind the fact that it was, essentially, a re-hash of Samurai Champloo. Never mind I stole heaps of plot devices from Bleach. Never mind countless other references, and probably a lot taken from Fullmetal Alchemist somewhere along the line … I really used to be quite obsessed with anime.

Unlike Dragon Badlands, though, I don’t really want to let Underworldly go, not just yet. If I’m being honest, it was the first piece I ever wrote that really enabled me to come to terms with who I am as a writer; it was the first piece to give me some genuine form of direction, that time when I knew what I could and could not write, and ever since then, I’ve been playing up to the idea that what I write always will be very dark. Of course, everything was still a little convoluted – in terms of writing, I wanted too much, too soon. I was trying for more complexity than was really needed for, or was of any benefit to the story, adding in themes and ideas that only a really messed up twelve-year-old could think about.

For the most part, Nanuko, the central character, turned out to be a Freudian nightmare with serious mommy issues. Of course, I thought I was being quite original, having the once-normal-if-slightly-messed-up boy’s soul being ‘tainted’ by a vengeful Hell-demon, thereby making him the villain protagonist, who then goes on to join forces with the assassin hunting him, as well as the attractive female action girl who shouldn’t have any real reason to follow him, seeing as he slaughtered the entirety of her home town. I’m not denying this one thing, however; I thoroughly enjoyed having my good guy be the bad guy. In terms of protagonists, since this point, I have never really been able to settle on a central character who always has truly altruistic motives, or does things that are considered ‘good’ all of the time. It is not so much that it’s just that much more fun to be the bad guy, or shall we say, to write the bad guy, as it was that by this point in my life, I think I had become disenchanted just enough to know that life is not black and white. Why should I have characters that are?

Similarly, Nanuko was always the outcast, when he was human, that is. He was ‘that weird boy from the village’ at fourteen, although later on I would note that he was most likely deemed the weird boy because his father was the King of Hell. I know. I know. Not content with having him be an evil demon himself, I had to make sure that he was an evil demon before he got ‘sewn’, too.

Even after all this time, though,  the strangest thing is that I have this warped desire to rewrite Underworldly. It’s not something I’d ever consider publishing, or even self publishing, but may prove to be either a challenge, or just a little nostalgia and a little fun. I want to rewrite it because I see at least some potential there, masked by dust, bad characterization, a lack of research and a lot of influence. I feel that there are still places I could go with it, even if I’m not going to take it far, and that I could, almost, show my twelve-year-old self what-for. Strange and a little pathetic as that may sound, there is something at the back of my mind (not the salvages soul of a Hell-demon) telling me that I could take this somewhere – that it’s a disservice to abandon it. 

There have been several attempts to revive this, though, since I originally abandoned it in, I believe, early to mid-2007. The first, notable attempt was during an art course at college that I later quit … I do believe this attempted rewrite had something to do with it, but that could just as easily have been my growing dissatisfaction with the course coupled with the feeling that I had made the wrong choice. The second attempted rewrite came after I had changed colleges and courses; after I had become a little too obsessed with Assassin’s Creed II and took Nanuko out of his home base of what was probably feudal Japan and placed him firmly as an artist in Renaissance Italy who is killed and then revived for sleeping with the woman he was supposed to be painting (daughter of some wealthy land owner or something like that). This rewrite was probably just an excuse to do some research on the subject of Renaissance Italy, and never worked out, although the concept is something I’ve brushed over time and time again since. Unfortunately, setting anything in a time other than the here and now has never really been my strong suit.

Speaking of which, I have a feeling I tried to resurrect Nanuko in the world of Where Jackals Lie once, too. Characters and everything. A hack in and of itself, and one that I hand wrote maybe ten chapters of before realizing nothing exciting had happened. At all. I dropped it.

It’s a strange feeling, though, having a work I keep coming back to. It doesn’t happen often, though this is mostly because I’ve shelved the works I have finished and mostly forgotten about the ones I haven’t. I’m not denying that Underworldly was pretty terrible, but I’m not denying that I wrote it when I was twelve, either – I had a lot of growing to do as a writer. This is no excuse, of course, but it makes sense of it. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is that causes me to keep such a soft spot here for Underworldly By all accounts, I shouldn’t. I should want to bury it deep and pretend it never existed. I can’t. Perhaps it is because I received such good feedback for it, or perhaps just because I felt a significant sense of having evolved. Suddenly finding my way, even for a brief second – and it was around the age that I wrote this that I started to develop some kind of identity for myself. Ultimately, I was desperately proud of Underworldly, for all its faults, for everything that shouldn’t have belonged in that manuscript.

I’ve loved the projects I’ve worked on since, but they’re all done and dusted. Underworldly isn’t. It has somewhere to go, and I doubt I’ll forget about it until it has gone there.

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Challenge: Writing Is Like …

So, darkjade68 over at The Written Word has passed this challenge onto me. Me being me, I couldn’t help but accept! I love a challenge. I’m told that Renee A.S Jacobson was the original creator of this challenge at Lessons From Teachers and Twits. So, without further ado, I shall set about completing this challenge, the objective of which is to complete the sentence, ‘writing is like …’

So, what is writing like?

I could answer this ever so literally, but I won’t.  I could tell you that writing is like playing God, but I’ve never been God, so I can’t liken writing to it.

Writing is like existing. At least, to me it is … a combination of existing and feeling, really. Those short stories I’ll never show a soul, those are cathartic in nature, everything within me spilling out onto the page. Those that I do show are usually bleak enough to reflect what’s going on inside my head, the things that I’d never openly show myself to be, because I’m not the same person when I write. What a hack of a sentence. I’ve mentioned before that I do my best to be positive; that my writing is the polar opposite.

Recently,  in a fit of frustration that decided to visit at around the same time as they tend to, I broke down. I told my mother that people, they can take anything from me. Anything at all. I don’t care (speaking within reason, of course, and referring mostly to material possessions, not people), and I wouldn’t care until the point that someone tried to take away my ability to write. To imagine. Destroy my computer, burn my notebooks, take away my pens, I’ll speak it. Cut out my tongue, I’ll still imagine it. Hell, I’d even try writing with my elbows or something. It would be pretentious of me to say that writing is my thing, it is not, it is something that many many people can experience and I am happy for them to. I often try to encourage my younger sister to write more, and often fail in doing so. Anyway, it is not mine and mine alone, but what it is is my livelihood. And at this point in my life, it is one of the only things keeping me relatively sane.

Writing is a fairly recent thing for me, though, something I will visit in greater detail in a post written for tomorrow’s Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain and so, I would be lying if I said that I’ve always felt this way. I’ve come to feel this way, though.

I’ll openly admit that I don’t write as much as I should. I spend more time thinking of ideas than I do actually executing them, which is why NaNoWriMo is something of a savior to me here, and why the main brunt of what I write during the other eleven months are usually short stories, rants, scenes that I transfer from my head onto paper only because I’m running out of head space and feel it is more practical to take up disk space instead (my external hard-drive takes care of all that) – I’m not so much nervous about showing my work to others as I am conscious of the fact that it is never good enough. But sometimes, it being good enough isn’t the point. It helping me to feel something, or even get rid of a certain feeling, was the intention, and if I achieve what I set out to do, I’m happy.

But writing is also like existing, at least for me, in that it always has its ups and downs. There are days when things are so plain sailing that I can’t get the words down on paper (or an Open Office document) quick enough. There are days when I’m straining to write every single word down, because it doesn’t seem to want to come. Life is mostly like this. There are days when you wake up, and just know that today is going to be a good day. You wake up with a good feeling, and can’t wait to go out, and do what you need to do. Then there are those days where you struggle to even get out of bed. From the moment your feet touch the floor, nothing seems to go right. You put your slippers on the wrong feet (though for me, this us usually accounted for by lack of sleep), the kettle won’t boil fast enough, you’re out of coffee, the milk’s gone sour … those kinds of things.

The thing is, much like living, I’d never want to give it up. It gets tough sometimes, and I wonder why I ever bother, but then something will happen; I’ll write something and feel so good while doing it, or after I’m done, that I’m suddenly reminded of exactly what it is that made me start doing it.

I feel as though I’m rambling and being impossibly positive here, and my glasses haven’t come through from the opticians, yet, so I’ll cut to the chase. I’m going to challenge the following bloggers (whether or not you accept, guys, is totally up to you!) –

Megan at verynormal, because as I’ve already said, I really enjoy reading her blog, and would love to see how she completes the sentence, and John Hansen at The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer, because, similarly, he always has something interesting to say, and I’d love to see his response to the question.

As I said, you don’t have to accept. Enjoy, all!

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NaNoWriMo 2011

Just because I haven’t harped on about it enough already, the NaNoWriMo website resets today. Planning is well underway already (Free Fall Fridays #1), but I thought I’d basically just copy over to here what is already due to be posted on my profile, as well as a few added extras.

The Word Count

The more I try and think of ways to approach this, the more I’m feeling as though I’ll come off as arrogant for detailing it, but please, please bear with me – I’m not saying it to be cocky, but hopefully, what I’m about to write next should explain it somewhat;

The first year I participated in NaNoWriMo, 50,000 words seemed like this impossible stretch that I’d never, ever, achieve. My longest work up until then clocked out at around 33,000 words, collectively written over a period of two, nearly three, years. I made it, eventually, after about ten days of not writing and simply lamenting the fact that I couldn’t come up with anything to keep the story flowing. I got to around 53,000 words in the end, but the latter half of the story is one of those things; I just don’t talk about it, it’s that bad. Nonetheless, I came away with my first, complete story that wasn’t fan fiction, after a battle with myself to keep plugging away at it. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I didn’t give up.

With this in mind, I came back with a vengeance in 2009, a plot that had been sparked by an advertisement about the Swine Flu vaccination, and eventually, an outline of each chapter, character profiles, and quite a lot to go on. ‘I’m aiming for 75,000, if I can manage it,’ I said. I hit 75k somewhere around week 2 with no idea of how I had done it – last year, it had been so damn hard, so why had it come so easy this time around? In the end, I continued on to the end of the story, seeing as I had the time, which took me to somewhere around 121,000. With the month still not over, yet, I pushed on to 150,000 with a variety of random character background stories, and one of those works I tend to start but never finish.

When it came time for last year’s NaNo event, it only seemed sensible to set myself a similar target as in 2009 – part of the enjoyment, for me, is the feverish rush of typing and frantic coffee/energy drunk guzzling that comes in the last few days of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t quite have that in 2009, so wanted to up the ante this year to 200,000 words. I think I got complacent somewhere around week 3. I’d exceeded my total from last year, I thought, is it really the end of the world if I don’t hit it? I sat back. Relaxed too much and ended up around 20k short of my goal … this would have hit me harder had I not actually finished my story. Which, by the way, is still as terrible as ever.

So I’m reprising last year’s goal this year. 200,000 words by 11:59:59 pm GMT on November 30th. I have my doubts about hitting it this year, of course; I don’t want to spin my story out to meet my goal, but rather pick up another story if my first one ends in time. I estimate that Free Fall should take me up to around 120,000 if I’m lucky, so the other 80,000 could easily become a short novel in itself, and I’m guessing this is what I’ll do. What has let me down in the past with these post-NaNo Novel Novels is that I haven’t planned them out at all, so I feel that if I have two solid plans (Free Fall being my primary one, the one I intend to focus most upon) I might just make it.

If not, I’ll be downing energy drinks, coffee, and possibly even rum, deep into the night.

The Cover

I enjoy designing covers … not enough to warrant me finishing that Art & Design Btec, but enough to do it in my own free time. Unfortunately, these are a little rough around the edges, being as my Photoshop free trials have all run out now, and I can’t really be bothered to sort it out yet, I had to create them with GIMP. Which is all fine and good, but the image quality always suffers every time I use it, and, oh, yeah … I can’t make more than maybe one or two edits before it decides to inform me that it has ‘encountered a problem and needs to close.’ It took me maybe an hour longer to create these than it should have done.

I had a more complicated design in the works for a while, but honestly, it just looked shabby. The quality of the image I was using wasn’t too great, for a start, so, after putting it through the filter a few times, I came up with something that vaguely resembled the designs below, minus the stick men.  Why choose stick men? I figured that the subject matter was heavy enough already; the stick men seem to lessen the impact while still conveying the message I wanted. I don’t know, make of it what you will.


The Story

I’ve already gone into some detail about this, so I’ll spare the rambling and skip to my synopsis (which is, incidentally, also on the back cover, so you could always just read it there) – please be warned, this most likely contains some sensitive material, or an approach that could be construed as controversial. Skip if you’d like:

‘Just one step, and all your troubles go away.

Courtney Vaugn is familiar with what happens to a human body when it falls from the hundredth floor of some high-rise building. What he saw when he was thirteen, the image still burns, vivid, in his mind, no matter what he does to try and forget it. When he asked his father why someone would do that to themselves, his father explained that the person falling, they probably black out before they even reach the ground, and even if they don’t, it’s just ‘one step into nothing.’ Less painful than bleeding to death. Less risky than hanging. Easier than drugs.

Twenty-three years later, and Courtney is a rising star in the local investigation squad, a college educated crime scene investigator with a reasonably comfortable private life and a series of successful investigations under his belt. Then, what the team thinks is the mangled body of a woman, the pieces of her spread six feet in diameter, shows up. Haunted by what he saw as a teenager, Courtney throws himself into the case with a fierce determination that threatens to unhinge him. He wants answers. He wants to know what happened that night when he was thirteen, when he found what was left of her body.

A series of tales intertwine with Courtney’s own as he investigates the conditions for each suicide, desperate to know what drove them to it. Desperate to finally understand the event that triggered it all, and to face up to a lifetime of denial.’

The Conclusion

I’m looking forward to NaNoWriMo this year, as always, but I think it might be significantly stranger to do … unless I’m employed by the time it rolls around. If not, then every day will most likely be feeling like the weekends always have; wake up, write, shower, get dressed, write, eat, write, sleep (eventually). It’s a bizarre prospect, doing this, the idea that there is little else to do, but at least I’ll be doing something that I know I enjoy. Nobody’s forcing me to do this, after all.

This threatens to break me, though. I’ve never written anything like this before; read plenty of it, yes, which is part of the reason I’m sliding in such a direction. It never has been a case of stomaching it. Just reasoning with myself that what I’m writing actually works on the page.

Nonetheless, roll on November!

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Not Plotting.

So … on any normal occasion, I can’t glorify the benefits of having a sound plot outline before starting a new project. Such benefits should be obvious; channeling numerous and varied ideas into a coherent structure, having a sound knowledge of the plot direction and pacing, and having a thorough understanding of the project’s cast of characters.

Therefore, I doubt anybody could be more surprised than I was when I jumped headfirst into a new project without doing any of the aforementioned things.

I don’t tend to outline the short stories that I write, the main reason being I begin writing them with every intention of seeing where, exactly, they might take me; the term ‘short story’ may even be incorrect considering most are quick writing exercises to make sure I keep up the habit, not that that always goes according to plan. I have fun with them. I start with an idea and let that lead me on, allow the characters to adapt to the situation that is, essentially, dictated by the first line of the story in most cases.

Perhaps it is this, then, that had led to a new, slightly foreign, habit of mine. Perhaps it is because I’ve chosen to write at a much slower pace than usual, too, and that I don’t feel as much of a need to have some … slightly more polished thoughts at hand this time because it’s something I’m focusing on more as I write. Perhaps it is the fact that I have, essentially, written this story before, albeit with a different protagonist, a different antagonist, and a slightly different chain of events but when push comes to shove, the basic motivations of my characters remain the same. Some of the concepts are more believable, and the narrative viewpoint has changed, but the intention was always to take something I wasn’t so pleased with and rework it into something I’m at least halfway proud to put my … pseudonym on.

So for all I’ve said in the past on various forums about having a concrete plot outline, I can say just as much for not having one. I lost faith in this after my first year of NaNoWriMo; the resultant story was a mess, something I had wanted to put into action for a long time, but once I did, I handled badly and didn’t particularly want to look at it when the month was over. I still consider it irredeemable. There are a multitude of reasons why this is so, which I won’t bore you with.

I don’t feel quite so restrained to taking my story in a particular direction, said direction being the one I already set for myself perhaps a few weeks or days prior.  I had thought I might actually feel quite lost without anything to refer back to; no doubt once I get past maybe chapter three or four and things start to spiral a little more out of my control than I might like, I’ll get back to the drawing board with the outline, but by this point I think it might become something that is beyond me. All or nothing, if you will. Either I outline before I start writing, or not at all.

And who is to say where this will lead anyway? Most likely to the middle of a story that will be mercifully abandoned in the near future, forever damned to the depths of my ‘Writings’ folder, which in itself is a hellish place to be. It’s a kind of limbo between the story graveyard and the projects that came to life; anything that is still stuck there and hasn’t already been relocated to its own folder will most likely remain there for ever more and may never see the light of day again. Inadvertently, by writing this, I have probably assured that they will. I’m curios to see what I left there.

At this point in time, I can’t fully grasp what I would really need to put into the outline for this project; the most I have is a few bullet points written after harnessing the setting of the first chapter, brief things like ‘the detective’, ‘the shrink’ and ‘the tapes’ – I know what they mean, and this should suffice. The character work was mostly already done. I’ll start giving people heart attacks if I mention Jannah one more time, I’m sure, so none of that. Suffice to say, however, I look upon this more as breathing new life to characters I can’t abandon rather than recycling them; their first less-than-stellar outing, while not quite being tossed into novel limbo, is in a file that I very much doubt I will touch again for quite some time. It’s not a failure, but I’ve already shown myself what it could be, had I gone in a different direction … a direction I probably wasn’t ready to take when I first wrote it.

In conclusion? I’m not plotting. Actually, I very much refuse to until things start going awry. For once, I’m giving myself the benefit of the doubt.

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A Suspicious Lack Of …

Work. No, I’m not talking about the job market I am so inclined to complain about, but simply there being a suspicious lack of work here.

On the plus side, I find myself having increasingly more to say, and now that the school year has started up again, an increasing amount of time in which to say it. Whether or not this is actually a good thing is down to you; the pointless jabbering of a waster might not seem all that illustrious at all. It is fun though.

Anyway, by work, I do mean things other than posts about writing. But, that’s normal for a writing blog! Yes, of course, but both my Excerpts & Short Stories, and my Book Reviews sections are seeming a little neglected at present. The Excerpts & Short Stories more than the Books Reviews, of course, as I am taking a little time to write more reviews at present. Perhaps it is a certain lack of conviction that holds me back from submitting anything else. Perhaps it is a lack of direction.

Pointless musing, really, and a small feeling of guilt that perhaps I should try harder in this respect. It’s one thing to constantly write about writing, and quite another to actually write.

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Why Write?

For me, this question inevitably pops up time and time again; and every time it does, I see fit to answer it rather than ignore it in the hopes that it will go away. After all, what is the harm in doing so? Every time I think about it, I recall more and more things that I thought I had forgotten over the passage of time. That’s always entertaining, if highly embarrassing at times.

Now, there is no real need for me to point out the obvious, but of course, I will go on to do so – the obvious being that there are a great many reasons why people actually write. I won’t bore you with a list, but I will say that such reasons can be both selfish and selfless, and I don’t feel that it particularly matters which as long as the process itself is enjoyable.

I could make this an extremely short post and state that this in itself is why I write. Because I enjoy it. But I’m a little more self-indulgent than that, and yes, I am going to take the time to make what might have been a simple response into something more like an essay. Besides, I have the feeling that I might look back upon this answer in the near future and wonder what, exactly, I was taking when I decided to write this, or else whether or not my perspectives on this have changed. While it may seem highly unlikely now, there is always the chance that I will quit writing forever; while I would like to think this an impossibility, the fact remains that nothing or this ilk is inevitable.

On with the show, however. I started writing through a simple need to place myself in the story. Yes, I was a shameless fan of this, I did it to death; the worst part, possibly, is that I didn’t even notice that I was doing it until it was too late. My excuse is that I was perhaps eight or nine when this idea started, and twelve when I actually penned this, and so, it was an occurrence that did not seem so out of place. Nobody pulled me up on it, either. Ultimately, this did not matter to me at the time because there was an incredible kind of fun that came from writing this character – essentially writing myself into the story – that made me feel untouchable in this respect, regardless of whether or not I decided to share this with the world. In the end, I did.

Fanfiction was never going to be enough for me, however. The unfortunate limitations of a world that someone else has labored over begin to feel a little cheap after some time, and it is always possible to feel like a cheat for using them. Of course, I did not have such adult emotions and conflicts to guide me at this stage, simply the notion that I wanted to continue to have fun, because this was what it was for me; if I could ‘create’ (I say this under duress) a character and a plot to revolve around her inside this world, then could I not create something entirely from scratch, utilizing what entertained me?

Praise, I will admit, spurred me on somewhat. Honestly, what twelve-year-old wouldn’t want to be bolstered by credit to both their own ability and feeling of self-worth, especially when my self-worth generally lest a lot to be desired? My writing back then was not exceptional by any means, but of course, I was not aware of this. What mattered was that people enjoyed it. I did not have any particular message to send, or any complicated, adult emotions to deal with, only a sense of what entertained and enthralled me which I used for my own dealings. I supposed late adolescence changed all of this somewhere along the line.

And so, in time, I would learn that nothing stays the same forever.

By the age of seventeen I felt a contrived need to place an excessively political message in anything I wrote, undercutting what might have been a story. All of the social injustice I felt, the cruel truths I had come to learn, the things that I was so blissfully unaware of young came to be, and honestly, any writing I did shot through with what I considered to be a just cause did not come out well at all. There will always be factors in our lives that influence our writing. It is learning to harness them, not allowing them to overwhelm us that is the complicated part, and something I so clearly missed I am stunned that I did not see it sooner. Such is life, however. At this time, I was writing because I felt like I had a message to send, that I needed to stand up and say something and the world needed to listen. Naive? Me? Inconceivable.

I cannot say I have ever resented writing, however. I have had varying reasons to do it, but the reasons I have kept doing it aren’t particularly quantitative; I enjoy it. There is more to it than this, of course – the most prevalent part is the freedom I feel it gives me, just like when I was younger,  my imagination, for the most part, has free reign. There was the stage where I had no concept of an audience, the stage where I wanted nothing but an audience, and now I feel I am at the stage where I am ambivalent towards this. There is some work I am willing to show off, and some work I write purely for my own amusement. There are short stories I write for the sake of writing them, for the sake of stretching my, uh, fingers and getting back into the habit after time off. There are articles I write to do little more than boost my own ego, fantasizing that I am a well-paid journalist whose work is in high esteem with most readers. There is little else I do to entertain myself; that portion of writing I do not do anything with is, quite simply, that.

Now for the part that is not particularly novel. Writing is an escape for me, too. Like most people, I have hopes and dreams. Like most people, I also have things that I wish to escape. When concentrating on a life so far removed from my own, this is exactly what I am allowed to do.

So I suppose you might say that I am one of those writers who is mostly selfish. There was, and to a lesser extent, still is a spark within me that hopes that my writing might just touch one person out there, like the works of various authors have done for me. There’s the idea that my writing, one day, might give someone something to look for again, something to aspire to or hold on to, because losing faith in everything is dark, it is a dull and hopeless place to be. The smallest of passages can re-ignite a spark and thus the notion of caring for something – anything – once again. I would be lying if I said I didn’t write for myself. I would also be lying if I said that I thought this was likely to happen any time soon, as it most likely won’t.

It might though.

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