The End as We Know It

It seems like the right time of year to talk about endings.

I hate endings.

Can’t stand them.

I don’t like the endings in most stories and movies. I really don’t like them in life.

The problem I find in fictional endings is that they aren’t at all like real life. We all know there is no happily ever after. All our problems aren’t ever resolved at one specific point. Even if we get the girl (or guy), land the awesome job, and repel the dimensional invaders – we then have to keep and live with the girl (or guy), work the awesome job, and at least clean up after our battles with the dimensional invaders.

We don’t reach “Happily Ever After” in real life, it just turns to a new chapter.

Until one day, it’s “The End”.

And that isn’t accompanied by resolution and the calm peace of mind that everything is now right with the world. Or even right with the people we care about. Instead it’s just another chapter of your life that suddenly stops midway through. Like you’re a character in Game of Thrones.

Our lives are chaotic, messy, colourful, brilliant, frayed, meandering things and the endings are even less organized.

So, it just sort of bugs me that we cling to the idea that our stories all end with nice little bow tied ribbon endings.

Ever watch a series that was cancelled abruptly? (Hello Firefly!)

That’s more realistic.

No, it’s not comforting or fulfilling. But neither is death. Or any ending I can think about. Goodbyes? That’s like knowing there are more episodes or books but not being able to see them. Oh they’re out there, but you’ve said goodbye – so, you’re not getting any more of that. (And we all are curious about the rest of the story. That’s why we reminisce about old acquaintances and say, “Oh, I wonder what ever happened to them…” and try to look them up on The Facebooks to see how fat they’ve gotten).

I think that’s why some of my favourite films are those that don’t have a firm resolution. Lost in Translation – Yes, they say goodbye – or do they? What does he whisper? How is this friendship going to change what each of them does next? Casablanca – He refuses to say the word “goodbye”, opting for “Here’s lookin at you, kid”. And the last line of the movie? “Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

Endings that tie everything up feel incredibly forced. (Hello Lost).

The truth is that people don’t know when the ending will strike. Because that’s what it does – it randomly strikes. Just last week we pulled a basically dead woman out of a caravan. DOA. Fully coded. Then, after much work, we brought her back. One minute, it was end of the line. The End. Fin. Five minutes later, “and now the rest of the story“. Endings happen (and luckily unhappen) in just moments. And they don’t resolve anything.

No, if something is important enough that you need to resolve it – get it done before it’s too late. Before the end just happens. Endings are inevitable. Resolving the third act? Not necessarily.

Because if you want to get the girl (or guy), land the awesome job and repel the dimensional invaders before the end of the story just happens, then you have to keep

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Story Time: The Day of Reason

There are too many loud ones around.

This is not the right house. This is not even a house. This is a school gymnasium. And there are too many loud ones around.

It has been five days since I have slept in the right bed. The loud ones were not there then. Only James and Mother and Shadow, who is a Canis lupus familiaris of the Golden Retriever breed. On Thursdays at three in the afternoon there is Valerie. She says I am not organized in my head. But I did not see her this Thursday.

On Thursday at three in the afternoon we were running. I had the soft dress on with the good edges. I am supposed to run in the swishy pants that have shoe laces in the top. Mother said we are running from the noise, but sound travels at one thousand two hundred twenty-five kilometres an hour at sea level in fifteen degrees Celsius air. The fastest human has only run forty-four point seven two kilometres an hour. We run at point three thousand five hundred ninety-two hundred-thousandths the speed of sound. We cannot run away fast enough. I could run a little faster if I had the swishy pants on.

There is too much noise here, but Mother does not tell me to run. She says this is our home now, but it is not. It is a school gymnasium with too many loud ones in it. There is James and Mother and Shadow, who is a Canis lupus familiaris of the Golden Retriever breed, but there is no Valerie on Thursdays. Nobody tells me my head is not organized.

I have file cabinets filled with amazing things, but they are in disorder. Mother sometimes tells other people this. She does not tell the loud ones. She talks at them a lot and they are loud at her and James. Some are loud at me. They are always loud at the biters.

Thirteen days in the gymnasium and then Mother tells me to run. We are not running from the noise or the loud ones, who are louder than ever. I think we are running from the blood. Each person has an estimated four point seven to five point five litres of blood in their bodies. It is supposed to stay on the inside, but it is on the outside of people when we run. If it gets on the soft dress with the good edges then Mother will make me change. All of the good clothes are at the house, but Mother says we can not go home. Even for clothes. I do not want the wrong clothes, so I make sure to stay away from the blood. Even when James is getting his four point seven to five point five litres of blood everywhere, I manage to keep the soft dress with the good edges clean.

Twenty-two days since I have slept in the right bed. I do not even have a bed. The floor is for walking on, but Mother says the part with the blanket is for sleeping on. It is not a bed. The blanket is wrong. We are up in a building, in an apartment with watchers. They watch the windows and watch each other. The watchers try to take Shadow, who is a Canis lupus familiaris of the Golden Retriever breed. He can not watch with them. He is soft for me when I sleep and if they take him I will only have the wrong blankets and the floor for walking on not for sleeping. The watchers are actually loud ones too, but they are loud at me and Mother instead of the biters. They are quiet at the biters.

Eight days in the apartment and Mother tells me to walk. There is no blood this time. I am right. We walk from the watchers who are actually loud ones. We walk very slowly. We take many quiet times. We are quietest for the biters. I don’t think they like the loud ones either.

It has been Forty-three days since I have slept in the right bed. I do not sleep in a bed at night, now I sleep in a cot. A fighter gave Mother one and she has me sleep on it. It is not a bed, but it is not a floor for walking. A cot is a pick up and travel with you breed of bed. I think this cot can travel with me and Mother and Shadow, who is a Canis lupus familiaris of the Golden Retriever breed, while we walk with the fighters. The fighters are not very loud, but some of their machines are loud machines.

On the ninth day with the fighters, the loud machines get too loud. The fighters are also loud ones after all. Everything is so loud, it shakes me and the four point seven to five point five litres of blood inside of me. The biters do not like the loud. I am right. There is blood and we run. I think they are loud at the biters because biting is against the rules. We use words not bites. Mother and James said that when I was a little child. But she does not say it to the one that bites her.

I do not like the fighters. They made blood come out of Mother’s head and now she can’t come with us. There is blood on the soft dress with the good edges, but I hide it. They let the cot travel with me and Shadow, who is a Canis lupus familiaris of the Golden Retriever breed. It is Thursday and there is still no Valerie. I am not organized in my head. I think Valerie was an organizer. I think she helped me organize.

It has been sixty-seven days since I have slept in the right bed. When I lay in the cot at night, one of the fighters likes to feel my soft dress with the good edges. The edges aren’t as good anymore and it has blood on it. He helps me wash it when there is water so that I can still wear the soft dress, but mostly he watches me do the washing. At night he watches and touches the soft dress and his hands feel too loud. I don’t like them. Then all the fighters are loud ones and they are loud at the one with the loud hands. They are all so loud and some are on the ground being loud. Then there is blood on his mouth. I run. When there is blood, I run.

I am in the right bed. I am at the right house. Everyone turns out to be loud ones. I like this better. But loud ones turn out to be biters. And biters hate the loud ones too. Am I a biter? No. That’s against the rules. Biters don’t obey rules. They must be more disorganized than me. On Thursdays at three in the afternoon I had Valerie to help me organize a little. The biters need a Valerie. Then they wouldn’t be so disorganized. But they were loud ones before and loud ones are organized. Loud ones turn into biters. Organized becomes disorganized.

I have a mark on my leg from a biter when we were running that first day. Maybe you can’t disorganize my head since it’s already disorganized. I think I can be like Valerie. But help the loud ones disorganize a little. But only Thursday afternoons.

Prompted by Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge here.

I liked the idea of a protagonist with a neurodevelopment disorder, like autism of some sort in a zombie type setting.

Most of those diagnosed with such disorders (not zombies) that I have met are very strong people and I do not mean for this story to be insensitive or offensive to real conditions in anyway.

The Lead Role

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players…

Yes, we all play many roles throughout our lives. We change, we grow, we experience, and we change again and again. But through all the different parts we play, there is one that remains constant.

In our life story, we get top billing.

We are each the star of our own tale.

Remembering this can help in writing and everyday life.

First, the writing. When making side-characters or minor characters, it adds so much depth to just remember that nobody sees themselves as the side-character. That “throwaway character” is the star of his or her own book. They have their own origins and backgrounds, their likes and dislikes and moral compass (or lack thereof). They have their own hopes and dreams and their own feelings about what is going on.

That may seem difficult to bring to the page, and it’s not like you want to spend pages on every single person that enters the scene, but visualizing a full character can help nail that instant impression.

We all label and judge others off of our first impressions of people – despite how many times we are wrong. Even if we aren’t racist or sexist or elitist or any other -ist, our brains are. Our brains like to categorize and organize.

That big guy over there? Looks like a dumb meat-head. Probably works out all the time.

That prissy looking girl there? I bet she’s never known a day of hard work in her life. Gets her money at the Bank of Mum and Dad.

Quiet kid with the bad hair and cartoon-ey something on his t-shirt? Socially inept and probably out of touch with reality. One of those video gamers.

And that type of snap judgement – that’s okay for a story. The main characters can show that they’re human and flawed if they judge someone wrong. If it’s correct, then it’s a quick way of saying who a minor character is. Yes, they’re basically stereotypes, but the reader is going to categorize and judge them as soon as they can anyway.

It even works with main characters. Get the stereotyping out of the way quickly, and then allow the character to grow beyond those bounds. That’s the progression we make with real people, so it only makes sense to do it with the characters in a story.

Speaking of real life, we’re not going to just stop judging and stereotyping others – despite our good intentions. But we don’t want those initial impressions to dictate how we treat others. Remember, everyone is the star of their own story.

And everyone has a story.

We need to remind ourselves that everyone around us has all sorts of pressures and stresses and hopes and dreams. We are all human beings. We could all use a little more empathy.

Take the time to just people watch and try to imagine what part of their life story you are witnessing.

I suppose I might have an advantage in this respect because I am constantly seeing people on some of the worst days of their lives. Sometimes it’s a close call or second lease on life, sometimes it’s the last day of their life.

It’s amazing what people can survive, and surprising just how fragile we really are.

We are each our own comedy and tragedy, drama and adventure.

Try to look beyond just the cover.

The Great Escapist

Most of my childhood was not spent on Planet Earth.

I was constantly and consistently travelling among the stars, exploring new civilizations or visiting ancient times long since past. I was a part of my favourite films and books, not just re-enacting but changing their courses entirely. I lived in fantastic lands where anything could happen.

And I mean I lived in those places.

I wasn’t ever in school or a supermarket or the dentist’s office. No, those places were merely the blank canvas I would paint my own reality onto. And I would stay submerged in that place for weeks. Sometimes months. I would not allow outside distractions to break the illusion. Of course, I would answer politely and appropriately when spoken to – but that was akin to being occasionally distracted from my own world. If at all possible I incorporated it into my fantasy. If it was a temporary break, I tolerated it.

It wasn’t just my early years either, it was the entirety of my childhood. And probably then some.

I actually had quite a few friends as a teenager. The majority were in fact girls, but still I whisked myself away as often as I could. And I wish I meant that in a stared-off-into-the-distance-daydreaming kind of way. No, I was running and jumping and wielding and vanquishing and yelling and conversing.

I quit with the sound effects after a couple very embarrassing instances and kept the conversing down to times when I was alone, but I still couldn’t give up the escape from reality.

Eventually, I had responsibilities and relationships and things that generally ground a person into reality. Things that we associate with the trappings of adulthood. So, knowing I couldn’t live in those places any longer, I escaped instead into the more “legitimate” fantasies of video games.

But those other places never really went away. The fantasy land wouldn’t die. I knew I couldn’t live there anymore, but I would watch through the window of my mind as often as I could. I could still escape.

Even now, with wife, children, career… I legitimize it by being a writer. But really, I’m just looking into those places and recording some of the things that happen. I’m still escaping to those other worlds, still going on adventures. I just tell people that I’m writing.

And if you hear me talking at my desk, I’m just working out a bit of dialogue.

Really.

Now go out because I can’t swing the Shard of the Whispering with you in the way. It’ll disembody you with a single touch.