Today I Wrote

Today I wrote 1500 words. I have been sitting on this story idea for over a year and countless days of self deprecation and laziness has kept me from moving forward in the story. This was the first story that I had ever outlined completely. I thought that having all of the essential answers at the beginning would have made it easier.

In actuality, it made it harder. I kept writing and rewriting the protagonist. I cursed myself for not being able to find their voice. After all, I knew the antagonist inside and out. Wickedness and what propels it has always fascinated me. Getting into that mindset is rarely difficult for me and at some points, the darkness that I can imagine frightens me.

But I digress. Today I felt my fingers run over the keyboard and had the wonderful rush of realizing that I had busted past a self-imposed block. I didn’t stick to the skeleton that I had built. Instead I followed the character as they would have continued their day. What happened were two pages that I didn’t intend on writing, but it felt fantastic.

Sometimes, you have to embrace some of the minutia of your character’s day to help better understand what they will do after something cataclysmic.

No, I didn’t write a lot, but two pages of new material came out of me today. I’m going to call that a win.

Why, True Love, We Are So Deeply In Debt This Christmas Season

 

After this laundry list of gifts, I am surprised we even have room in the apartment. Don’t get me wrong, I love being doted on, but the food budget this coming year will be astronomical!

1. 12 fruit bearing trees. Really? I don’t think in our entire time together I have ever said “Honey, I love pears so much I want an orchard of them. In our tiny two bedroom apartment.” Why a partridge for each one? Will they devour all of that rotting fruit? 

2. 22 Albino Pigeons… If I were a magician, I’d be thrilled.

3. 30 Hens from France? How much did it cost to ship them for ten days in a row?

4. 36 Chirping Blackbirds. I cannot sleep with all of these squawking birds!

5. 40 Gold Rings… I’m strangely comfortable about these…

6. 42 Geese a Laying… Well you’ve eliminated the need to spend $2 every three weeks for a dozen eggs, but you could have at least climbed a beanstalk and got magical ones. With the golden eggs we’d at least be able to handle the massive amount of mouths to feed.

7. 42 Swans a Swimming… Our bathtub is filled to the brim and those little bastards are MEAN!

8. 40 Maid’s a Milking? We don’t have cows! I bet the tavern wench outfits came with the deal, right?

9. 36 Ladies Dancing. For some reason, I think this gift was more for you. Although, the exotic, burlesque and belly dancers are teaching me a few things… Wait! Still mad at you.

10. 30 Leaping Lords?! BAH! Flatley clones!

11. 22 Pipers Piping. Nothing says “I love you, goodnight” like the shrill sound of a piccolo. 

12. 12 People Rocking out Like Animal from the Muppets… We are so gonna get evicted.  

Have a Fantastic Holiday Season Everyone!

-Ali

(Why yes Jamie, I was bored enough at work to make an excel spreadsheet for this. But unfortunately posterous hates excel, so I had to take a screenie.)

Originally Posted 12/22/2009

I Hope This Never Happens

She walked through the cavernous home of the past. She glanced on the walls and made notes of the last names of people that had obviously meant something to someone at some point. This must have been an important place once, she thought.

Her heels clicked against the unyielding tile and echoed through the building where no living person inhabited. Anxiety tugged at her soul and her breathing increased. So many times she had heard tales of predators chasing after unsuspecting victims through confusing labyrinths such as this. She knew that it was probably a mistake, but she could not resist the urge to speak.

“Hello?” Her voice bounced through the oddly crafted halls and joined the percussion only made by the sting of her stilettos against tiles. “Is anyone there?”

“I’ll be right with you,” an aged voice sprang from a direction she couldn’t immediately place. She wondered if she could hide behind something or maybe something on the walls was removable and could be used as a weapon.

“Take your time,” she replied shakily. She ran a hand against the dusty walls and stopped when a glint caught her eye. She spied a set of numbers etched on a metal plate. After observing it for a moment she wondered what it meant.

“What names are you by?” the voice called out. She softly chuckled at the unintentional game of Marco Polo she had started. After shifting the dust from the wall she read the name aloud and waited until she heard a shuffle of movement.

“Disgusting,” she muttered as she clapped her hands together to rid herself of the filth on her palm.

“Sorry about the wait,” a man said as he slowly approached her. He was much older than she anticipated or perhaps it was the pure white of his beard that drew attention to the long lines on his face. She thought about how easy it would be to remove those, but decided it would be impolite to mention that to a complete stranger.

“That’s okay,” she replied. “I didn’t even know anyone was here.”

“Here?” the man chuckled, lightness in his eyes. “This was once a place where people would congregate to pay their respects. Some would only stay a few minutes while others would spend hours.”

“Why would anyone want to spend time in such a dreadful place?” She stopped and slapped her hand to her mouth. She swallowed hard and recollected her thoughts. “I’m sorry. I just meant-“

“Exactly what you said,” he replied with a laugh. “I’m not bothered by it. In fact, I do have some pictures to prove it if you’d like to see them.”

She nodded emphatically and waited for him to share. To her surprise, he turned and started to shuffle away.

“Wait!” She all but shouted. “I thought you were going to show me the pictures! Did you leave your computer somewhere? I have one here if you’d like to use it.”

“They’re old printed pictures. I don’t have them on a computer.” His smile widened and his crows feet became more pronounced.

She cocked her head to the side before shrugging and following him to a corner in the catacombs. A worn and beyond repair wooden door sat next to the door frame. He sheepishly turned to her and explained that no one visited anymore so a door was pretty much useless.

He led her into a room covered in stacks of something that looked like fragile cloth. He tossed something heavy to the ground and it landed with a resounding smack. She could hear the echo travel from the room and dance into the open space. She watched him shift things on his desk and finally he handed her a square of material with a picture etched on it.

The man had not lied. The building was apparently a frequent hotspot in the past. Children and adults reached to the walls and pulled out the name plates. She shivered slightly at the ghost town it had become.

“This is paper, isn’t it?” She ran her fingers over the glossy surface.

“It’s one type of paper,” he said with a nod. “There are about fourty different types of paper in this room.” He gestured at a bound stack of the material on his desk. She leaned forward and looked at the words.

“Gulliver’s Travels?” She exclaimed. “I’ve read this before. On my computer.”

His smile slid into a slight frown and she could see tears forming in his eyes. He swallowed with difficulty and as he spoke his voice broke. “This is one of the last copies in existence.”

Her phone buzzed and she yanked it from her pocket. She sighed. “I have to leave for an appointment. Would it be possible for me to visit again tomorrow?”

“Sure,” he replied. “Thank you. It has been very lonely in here for the last few years. I look forward to your return.”

She stepped out of the building and glanced back at the mausoleum. As she slid into her car and sped off to her meeting, happiness and excitement surged through her. In 24 hours she would return to the building called “the Public Library”.

This Bookstore May Have Something Against the Blind and Elderly

I left today with a desire to do something personal, inspired by a you tube blogger named Kayley Hyde. Have a look at the simplicity of reminding yourself to stay optimistic. Maybe you will be inspired to do the same.


How adorable is she?

Anyways, after leaving work today I stopped by a bookstore and picked up my own little book to record my own version of “Why Today is Awesome”. I think it’ll be an interesting exercise, especially when I’m having a less than stellar day. Finding little bits of happiness are definitely worth it.

Of course, people are still spending holiday giftcards and returning things so I was left to wait in line for a few minutes. My eyes kept scanning the store that was visible to me. I paused momentarily and talked myself out of buying the KidRobot Simpsons blind boxes when I looked over at the reading glasses display and started laughing.

I immediately picked out two things wrong with this sign. How many did you find?

If you liked the video above, please subscribe to Kayley’s YouTube channel!

Black Hat / White Hat

I had heard somewhere that in the great Western films of old, the HERO would always wear a white hat, and the VILLAIN would wear a black one. This color difference made it easier for people to differentiate during the development of the storyline.

Because the colors are so different (one being the lack of any color and one being the presence of every color), it made me think about the difference between HERO and VILLAIN. Honestly, a part of me feels that this is truly in the eye of the beholder.

Yes, there are VILLAINs in stories that are truly outlandish. The power hungry insane scientist looking to drown the world by melting the polar ice caps, the unruly thug looking to take down the police and any so-called “do-gooder” by forming a mob. There are the jealous second sons of Kings wanting to dispurse of their brother and his offspring to ensure they rule the flourishing kingdom.

It all seems very tired. These stories all possess the same formula. Introduce HERO. Introduce VILLAIN. Spend much of the novel dissecting the HERO to form a bond between them and the reader. Many authors glaze over the true intention of the VILLAIN by only sharing the nasty things thus ensuring that the dynamic between the two is as vastly different as black hat/white hat.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I am writing I strive to understand WHY a VILLAIN is so much more than the antagonist to the story’s protagonist. People are a myriad of colors, not just black and white. I often find myself sympathetic to the plights of the “common VILLAIN”. What was the driving factor to their spiral into the negative spectrum of humanity. Why was their humanity lost? Most importantly, how can I convey the point of view to the reader?

In much of American storytelling, there always is a winner and a loser. Sometimes, the end result is not what you expect but there is always some sort of definition.

In the Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the protagonist of the story is Harry Dresden. Harry is a wizard who has made it his lifes work to not be the person that his twisted Uncle wanted him to be. He is flawed, but I believe those flaws to be necessary to endear you to the subject. Harry is not the shining beacon of virtue, nor would he expect you to believe that he is. He is hardened by his past, and when he lets someone in it is an extremely intimate look into the psyche of someone damaged trying his hardest not to introduce this person into a world of pain.

Butcher has done an amazing job in slightly fleshing out his darker characters in the story as well. Marcone is a gritty crimeboss whose soul you wouldn’t want to look into. However, there is something in him that makes you want to learn more of his past. His ties to a comatose teen girl. His desire to keep his own semblance of order in his city. Yes, he does fully believe that it is HIS city and has absolutely no faith in the police or governing body. His means are ruthless, but that fraction of a moment where you see the vulnerability in this character made me always want to learn more.

I digress however. This post isn’t intended to be a Dresden love-fest.

What I would love to see is a story written from the perspective of the VILLAIN. But it would have to be so well crafted that you wouldn’t know the person was actually the assumed VILLAIN in the story. It seems too often that many VILLAINs are swiss cheese. Sure, there is some substance, but it is racked with holes.

I want to see a story through the eyes of Jayne Cobb during his heyday. While I have probably raised the heckles of many a Firefly fan… let’s face it. This guy is a criminal. His main motivation in life is greed. He chose to work with the crew of Serenity because they didn’t judge him for that (which says something about the crew ultimately). But… We approved of the crimes committed by the Serenity crew and made the Alliance the VILLAIN. I did it too.

I think that’s because we force ourselves to make the distinction between HERO and VILLAIN. We want to feel like we’re following the right cause and opposing the wrong ones. In a world of black and white hats… we’re afraid of grey.

NaNoWriMo – Week 1 Sum Up

I don’t really have a picture to encompass my week, but maybe this’ll inspire me. Oh Banksy… .

The first week of NaNoWriMo is coming to a close and I find myself with only 3,914. The purpose of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in a month. It is a hefty goal, one that I found myself falling short of last year. The truth was, I had already written a story and wanted to just spend the month editing it and making it what it was supposed to be. That failed. Like, superfail. Flail your arms around like enraged kermit fail. Okay, enough of the past.

11/1 – This week started off fabulously, with 2950 words just seeping through my fingers on the first day. I was on vacation and sitting in a cafe with no outside interference *coughG4cough* I found myself incredibly inspired. I was floored by the things that came from my head. I knew they were there, sometimes it feels so incredibly difficult to articulate what you are thinking. It’s often like I need a babelfish just to translate what’s muddling around my brainpan.
Here’s a snippet of my favorite part of writing for day one.

“With each drink, the pain faded. Everything made less and less sense, but my inhibitions left me. I was intoxicated to the point that a part of me wondered if someone had slipped something into the countless drinks I was throwing back with reckless abandon.”

It’s not perfect, but I knew that if I worried about run on sentences, my meaning would never translate through my digits.

11/2 (Tuesday) – Uh… I didn’t actually write anything. After I had managed to get that burst of writing out on Monday, I headed to a friends house and did a mini tour de Connecticut (I even made a video of my big day out!) that got me back home at midnight, but left me utterly exhausted. I had a fun day hangover (no drinking occurred, so it wasn’t an actual hangover).

11/3 (Wednesday) – I managed to pound out 443 words during a lunch break. But, I returned to an office of chaos and I have to admit, after a 12 hour workday I had no intention of doing anything else but watch Morgan Webb, Kevin Perreira, Alison Haislip and Adam Sessler. Yep, back-to-back DVRed X-Play/AoTS was needed. Here’s a snippet from the day.

“I stepped forward as if I was under the influence and looked up at the officer. I knew from his steely stare that there must have been a metric buttload of guilt plastered on my face. His nostrils flared as if he were already prepping to smell whatever bulls*** I concocted. I chose to say nothing.”

It’s not Shakespeare, but it made me laugh.

11/4 (Thursday) – Getting better! 944 words during an extended lunch break. I wasn’t going to stop until I had finished the scene. I have three primary characters, all seen through the eyes of the one being introduced into a deeper darker version of life than she was aware of.  All three of them have been included in scenes, but I am about to get down to the job description of one of them and it totally gets me excited. Here’s a snippet:

As the second ring snapped around my other wrist I looked over my left shoulder into his eyes. “I would like a drug test and to speak with my lawyer.”

11/5 (Friday) – I knew I wasn’t going to get any work done on Friday because I made some weird decision early in the morning that I would remove the word “you” from my vocabulary and replace it with “Drew” in honor of my friend’s birthday… Drew have no idea how weird my whole day was. Follow that up with celebrations and I managed to slide in the door at 3am this morning.Oh that kooky Joel…

11/6 (Saturday) – Well it is now Saturday and I haven’t written anything yet, but I have an hour before I’m leaving for another birthday extravaganza.

So, I haven’t hit the goal for the week. The goal is 10,002. I am at a paltry 3,914. I look at my writing buddies on NaNoWriMo and see Megan has almost hit her 50,000 words. It’s a bit intimidating, but I refuse to let it stop me. I should just be proud of her accomplishment (Not to forget all of my other writing buddies! Ya’ll are doing great! Keep going! Stop reading this and keep writing!)

One of the things I miss is that Melanie and I no longer talk via email/facebook/IM during the work day so I stopped sending her stories. She always had the best reply whenever I sent her something.

The two most encouraging words for me to keep writing are “MORE PLEASE!”

What are yours?

 

Daily Writing: Smokey

10/27/10 – Wednesday Topic: Smokey
10/27/10 3:19pm
I am conflicted as to whether the topic is “smoky” as in misty, murky, cloudy, foggy, hazy, opaque, or gray or if it is “smokey” as in the American bear dressed as a forest ranger struggling to prevent forest fires.
I think I’m going to go with smoky. As I don’t really have the full ten minutes to write a bunch, here’s a haiku.
Swirling grey tendrils
A cigarette is waiting
Longing for a drag.
3:23pm

Daily Writing: Cold Ground

10/26/10 – Tuesday Topic: Cold Ground
10/27/10 2:48pm
“Do you know how hard it is for me to walk barefoot on cold ground after spending so much time in hell?” Cormac cringed as he tiptoed over the pavement to me. I let his shoes dangle from my fingers and smiled sweetly.
“Less talking, more walking,” I replied. I laughed at every quick intake of agony as his feet pushed down on the winter tempered cement. Real laughter for me had been different for awhile now. It was never belly laughter. I could only muster a slight giggle when I was supposed to. I hated faking laughter but after everything I had seen and experienced it was so hard to fill myself with joy.
However, the schadenfreude of watching an ageless worker of the Devil pad across the street like it was lined with glass pulled out the humorist in me. Some days were really hard. I guess I had bad days before the deal was struck, but it seems so very long ago. When I thought about before, that led to thoughts of the future, and it was very bleak. I didn’t want to think about the years left to my contract.
I used to live in the moment. I wanted to return to that carefree feeling. Father Andrews said I took the weight of the world on my shoulders. Once I realized that I couldn’t tell my therapist everything and the Devil had no sway on holy ground, I’d been going to Church a lot more.
2:58pm

Daily Writing: Maroon

10/25/10 – Monday Topic: Maroon
10/27/10 2:30pm
Maroon banners waving from the bleachers, pompoms sparkling against the spotlight, people cheering… It was then when Rita decided she wasn’t going to like high school. It was the first pep rally in her first semester of her first actual school. She saw the cliques all around her. Girls that had known each other through previous academic years. Boys laughing and joking with each other.
She was in a crowd of thousands and felt so incredibly alone. Her mother had noted her obsession with talking with people over the internet and insisted that she immerse herself in social situations. She was afraid that she had raised a child who was afraid of leaving the house. It wasn’t that she was afraid of leaving the house. She just didn’t understand why she had to go outside when all of her friends were in her computer.
Her jaw dropped when a boy clad in a uniform stopped in front of her, his shaggy blonde hair swinging in front of his eyes.
“I know you,” he said quickly. “How do I know you?”
“I’m new,” she said, dumbfounded. She realized that she had that bit of familiarity as well. She knew this boy but couldn’t place the face. Maybe they had bumped into each other when she was out buying clothing for school. She could no longer wear pajamas to class, so she practically got a brand new wardrobe. Her mother even insisted she get a hair cut.
“Holycrap!” The boy exclaimed. “You’re the girl with the video blog!”
2:40pm (boo ran out of time!)