Curdled Words

See that thing in the back of the fridge?

Yes, that thing. The thing you forgot about.

It’ll be quite a bit of work to get that cleaned out. It may be easier to just throw it away.

Or deal with it later.

Kinda like this blog.

And how I handled this blog for the past year and a half… by not handling it…

I could throw excuses out that I was busy and going through a fairly existential crisis, but that doesn’t much change how neglected this space became.

How I neglected my writing as a whole.

This scares me a little since I am always full to the brim with ideas, characters, and plots. Did I stunt and rot my creativity by bottling it up this whole time? Or maybe just stunt and rot my soul a little?

 

Stephen King once said that life is not a support system for writing, writing is a support system for life.

 

Since I could use a little self-support right now, I’ll be writing a lot more on here again. Regularly. Consistently. Not forgetting or brushing aside.

*gulp*

I can do this.

 

 

Story Time: Seven Stars

It’s a Chuck Challenge! Here is my “Space Opera” with very strong influences from some rather old stories. Enjoy!

“Why should I help you?”

“You must! We have no-”

An aged, gnarled hand reached out from behind and firmly squeezed the young man’s shoulder. He bit off his words immediately and bowed his head to let the elderly man shuffle forward to gain audience. The young man wanted to run, wanted to scream and yell. He wanted to do anything to keep from watching his grandfather degrade himself into begging for a stranger’s mercy. With the ridicule and shame of everything they had endured, this was almost too much to bear. Of course, the only thing worse would be the shame of abandoning the elders and his grandfather.

No, he would be strong like them and swallow what pride he had left. It was the only chance they had.

“Let me apologize for my grandson, please. He is young and fills his lack of experience with spirit and vigor. Would we have more like him then our need for help would not be so great. But, alas, ours are a meek and timid people, not accustomed to excitement.”

Calmly, the stranger spoke.

“You paint yourselves as helpless. That does not bode well for me, should I help you. Those who cannot help themselves are a bottomless well for others to pour their charities into.”

The words of rejection stung the young man, but his grandfather smiled politely and nodded.

“So true. So true. One does not soar high being pulled at by the jealous hands of those who cannot fly. But as always, those who lead the way make a path for the rest to follow. So it was over a thousand years ago when the bravest and the boldest forsook their ancestral homes to forge a path into the stars. They cleared the way for the Empire of the Sun to rise into the heavens. They had the honour of enabling the survival of mankind itself. More so, they strengthened men for the rigours of living among the stars.

“So it was when the barbarians and godless men threatened to break apart the Empire. It was the boldest, the most honourable among man who pledged themselves to protect the Empire and its people. Those brave leaders embodied honour and strength, showing the way for others by the example of their lives, thus strengthening the people of the Empire. They became masters of their domains and their great presence drew in others who would uphold the same standards of honour, bravery, and strength. Thus grew the Shoguns, their great houses and their sworn lords.

“And so it is with those warriors who swear allegiance to the noble houses. Their strength, their bravery and their honour shine like stars among men to lead others out of squabbling darkness and pettiness. They keep us from falling back into barbaric ways. They keep mankind among the stars.

“This is who we seek. Not a seeker of fortune, for we have none to give. Not one hungering for glory, for we are insignificant and will not be remembered. Not a saviour, for we must learn to save ourselves if we are to survive.

“No. We seek a leader with the strength, courage and honour to forge our colony into a better people. A people no longer to be bullied by cowards.”

Hearing his grandfather speak with such solemn determination filled Rikuto with pride. This hadn’t been part of the original discussion when the four of them were sent out seeking help, but grandfather seemed to speak as though he had planned for it all along. As Rikuto glanced sidelong at Yasu and Tarou standing next to him with the same respectfully bowed heads, he caught the looks of confusion and concern on their faces.

The stranger, a very handsome woman with streaks of white in her auburn hair and tired lines beginning to form around her noble features, nodded slowly at grandfather.

“You speak well, Elder Gorou. Were you to speak at length, I think you would stir even this old soldier’s heart. But words such as ‘honour’ and ‘bravery’ are easily spoken, yet scarcely witnessed. Teaching others discipline and the means to fight is no easy task, even for the willing. Which, I gather by your associates’ reactions, you would have some convincing of your own people ahead of you. Perhaps a band of mercenaries is what you should seek.”

Grandfather firmly shook his head once.

“Gathering tigers to chase away the dogs would only invite greater trouble in the end. This is the better way. You and I know it. The others will come to see it.”

“And you assume I am the right person to help you?”

“Yes,” he said without hesitation.

“Why?”

“You base your decision on a judgement of our character. You inquire about our plight and the type of people we are before even considering a reward. Everyone else we have spoken with is primarily concerned with their fee. You have proven what you hold valuable with only a few words. That is why you will help us.”

The woman smiled.

“Very well then. Since you bring it up, what reward are you offering?”

“A hundred thousand kilograms of grain.”

Rikuto blanched, but held his tongue. He saw the other two men beside him visibly stiffen. Grandfather was offering more food than the raiders had ever demanded. It was far more than they could afford to give and would mean the starvation of their people.

“That is quite generous of you. I accept this task, but by the way you have described your dilemma time is short.”

“Indeed it is,” Grandfather said.

“Then I will need assistance. Fellow warriors that will strengthen and lead with authority. How many are in your colony?”

Grandfather looked to Tarou, who did not look very pleased with what was transpiring.

“About fifty men, mostly farmers and mechanics. Then there are the women and children. Will you turn them into soldiers too?”

“If it means their lives, yes,” she said evenly, “I will need at least six that I will recruit personally. Perhaps seven. Be prepared to leave for your colony within the next two days.”

They had, for better or worse, just placed the fate of their people in the hands of a stranger.

Story Time: The Rogue

It’s about time I come up for air from “working on my manuscript and totally not procrastinating the crap out of it all”. You know what that means: Chuck Wendig challenge! Luckily, this week is an easy one. One character. 250 Words. Here we go.

“So, you deny kidnapping the Princess of Briel?” The big man eyed the shackled woman sitting across the table.

“I was embarking on a well deserved holiday when I found her wandering the White Forest with Captain Viscetor. Well, sort of with. By day she was a lynx and by night he was a bear.” Her tone conveyed growing boredom.

“Right… and it was supposedly the three-eyed monks that perpetrated this?”

“Monks of the Order of the Third Eye, but mostly their High Preceptor, Count Dev…. Devillerus. Something like that. Creepy type fellow. Real baddie.”

“Count DeRovius. Found mauled to death in the King’s Treasury, where you were trespassing.”

“Oh, is that what this is all about? The Treasury holds the only Pearl of Purity to lift the spell. Or curse. I’m not really sure what the difference is between the two. Either way, this is really a waste of time. Any minute I’ll be pardoned and released by the Princess or the Captain.”

“Not this time. The Princess of Briel is a foreign dignitary with no authority in this jurisdiction and Captain Viscetor is under administrative investigation for his absence without official leave. He is thus stripped of rank until a judiciary committee has convened. Which leaves nobody to rescue you.”

She tucked her long auburn hair behind an ear as she grinned. The iron shackle was missing from her wrist.

“You should know better by now. I’m Cossima Renhaus and I’m not the type to need rescuing.”

Story Time: Gold Lion

Well, I learned that moving really puts a crimp in regularly putting my deposits down here on the ol’ blog. I get a back log of blog-bog.

Nothing quite like a Wendig flash fiction challenge suppository to get the blog words unstuck.

Go words, GO!

The world wanted to make prey of us. The adults said we were children. The strong said we were weak. The experienced said we were naive.

We were supposed to be scared.

But we didn’t listen. We laughed at their painted faces and ran out into the night.

We saw the drunks that couldn’t drive home, stumbling to navigate their way through the maze of arteries under the city. We saw the poor that just wanted to stay in the pungent, humid air until morning. We saw the cast-offs that would never fit in and the rebels that refused to.

And in our way, we loved them all. At least they were real.

During the day, everyone was always telling us who to be. We spent eight hours a day getting brainwashed and form packed into “productive members of society”. I mean, sure, we were born in a century that allowed us choices and life options, but everyday was a reminder of our limits.

I think it made us crazy.

Sure, blame it on hormones or youth or whatever. If it makes you sleep better, say it was “a phase”.

All I know is that we were invincible.

We were feared. We were hunters.

We were lions.

Sixteen year old girls aren’t supposed to ride the subway at night. Or drink whiskey in public. Or get in fights with wannabe gang bangers. Or lose teeth in said fights.

At prom, Samantha had the smile of a hockey player and a dress that she stole from Macy’s. She was happy out on the dance floor, even by herself. When the maths teacher told her that the slow dances were for couples, she told him to screw off. He kicked her out. I helped her light his car on fire.

Yeah, so we learned that there are consequences for breaking some of the rules. But we also learned that a lot of the rules are just handed down by the fearful. Like the gazelle telling the lions what to do.

We were labelled because it made them feel better. We were diagnosed so that it wasn’t really our fault. If there was somewhere to put the blame for our behaviour, then the system was still functional. God save the system.

Kaylee was expelled for continuously wearing a shirt on which she had printed with the phrase, “I like sex, but I don’t like you”. It was her favourite thing to say to guys when she broke up with them. She said it was the same thing guys were thinking when they broke up with girls.

We burned every bridge we could just to prove we could build our own. Some things worked out. Sometimes we failed spectacularly. But at least it was spectacular. We wouldn’t do mundane.

We roared like lions.

How Sir Isaac Newton Can Improve Your Writing

Everything is in motion.

Such are our lives and so should be the stories we make.

I’m very much a proponent of character driven stories. The idea that we forge our own destinies and embark on grand, life changing adventures is one that I find wonderfully appealing. What does not float my boat is the notion that a select few are the lucky bastards chosen by destiny to suck up all the good fortune and exciting times while we mere mortals are reduced to so much background wallpaper.

Of course, not many of us randomly make life changing decisions without some sort of influence. Things, for better or worse, tend to happen to us and it is that which causes a series of actions and reactions.

Newton’s first law of motion basically posits that every object in a state of uniform motion or rest tends to remain in that state of motion or rest until an external force is applied to it.

This is an underlying, basic mechanic to our stories. Something happens involving or around our protagonist that changes their usual course. We all understand it so fundamentally because it is what constantly happens in our own lives. We even found a way to sum it up in a two word bumper sticker: “Shit Happens”.

I know it can be really fascinating to dream up various scenarios and complicated schemes that happen to a character. Once this thing happens to our character, then more story must happen. It cattle prods our protagonist into more situations and more story. And more is better, right?

Good and bad things happen to people. Good and bad decisions make people.

Newton’s oft quoted and summarized third law of motion states for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

How valuable that is in storytelling!

Like amateur billiards enthusiasts, our characters aim for one thing and are found suddenly dealing with so many more unintended consequences. Or maybe, like a pool shark, they see an angle nobody else does and set everything in motion on carefully calculated paths. Either way, it’s the force of the protagonist on the story that should leave the most lasting impact.

Because, isn’t this what we want to see in our own lives? Slogans and catchphrases and scenic photos with bold lettering slapped on are constantly screaming at us to be the agents of our lives. Be the change. Live, Love, Laugh. Carpe diem. Follow your dreams. YOLO.

Some ideas work better than others… because a lot of people tend to misunderstand motivation.

Motivation is what you use to set a goal. “I want to go here.”

Strong motivation will make goals more specific. “I want to go here and I want to reach it by this time.”

It is willpower that is the active force. It takes willpower to turn that desire into reality.

We, as an audience, like to see our heroes get pushed to the edge of their willpower. Sure, they want to save the day, but do they have it in them to do it? Or is their willpower finally broken?

I like my villains to have a similar impact on the story. Their decisions and actions should be a big part of the troubles our hero is going through, but not necessarily with the sole purpose of impeding the hero. Instead, we have two opposing players in a billiards game. Playing on the table simultaneously. They are both putting things in motion, some on deliberate paths to impede the opposition, and other things are completely unintended reactions. All of it stems from their own motivations and the one with the most willpower makes the biggest impact.

And everything is in motion.

Story Time: A Man Unwoven

After a bit of an unscheduled hiatus, I jump back into the Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenges. This one required I pick a random sentence to use in a story. Glutton for punishment that I am, (or maybe I just like threading together gibberish) I went ahead and used them all. Of course, that put me about 100 words over my goal but you can’t break a few omelets without making some eggs. Or something like that.

BZZZZZZZAAAAAANK! The shrill noise made Conner cringe uncontrollably. It wasn’t enough that this place was filled with the noises of metal doors clanging and the wailing of the insane, they had to make you jump out of your skin occasionally with alarms that jabbed at the primal part of your brain.

The part that screamed at you to run from places like this.

He took a deep breath and stepped into the lock-down unit.

The undecorated hallway was wide and rather mundane. Or it would have been, had Conner been able to keep from imagining what sorts of deranged and unhinged minds these walls had harbored. The feeling of being a lone, sane pilgrim in the land of madness made him feel a little light-headed. He wondered what it would take to push his own sanity over the edge and land him in a place like this. Then again, what would anyone say if he told them the real reason he was visiting? How could he explain the strange path of events that had led him here?

Hell, maybe he should make a reservation.

He reached the metal door marked with double sixes, hesitated for a moment, then knocked lightly.

“The bakery is closed!” a baritone voice rumbled inside the room. Or was it considered a cell?

“Hey, Christian…” Conner started, “it’s me.”

“Damnit man! I said the bakery is closed! Seek carbohydrates elsewhere!”

Conner gently cracked the door open.

“Christian? It’s your friend, Conner Oshiro…?”

There was a flurry of activity behind the door then a gaunt, wiry bearded face appeared in the slight opening.

“Oshiro? The musician?”

“Musician?… Oh god. You mean that dorky band in college? That was ages ago.”

“Rock music approaches at high velocity.”

“Close. The band was Rock=mc2.”

“Yes… I deployed the lower frequency harmonics.”

“Bass. We call it bass guitar.”

The wild ice blue eyes of the thin face seemed to find recognition.

“We… kicked ass. Come in Oshiro!”

The door flung open and with it came the smell of long unwashed body. The towering, stick built man beckoned Conner into the small empty room.

“Welcome to my sanctuary! I do apologize for the baked goods misunderstanding. Sixty-Four comes asking for bread. Terrible misunderstanding involving a discussion of bagel shops in the greater Manhattan area. He’s quite pedantic in his views.”

Conner shuffled about, trying to figure out the best place to stand a room void of furniture.

“A rather obsessive fellow, I admit. Lost in the minutiae of grains and ovens. Poor counsel in the debates regarding the fabric of the tapestry we consider our universe. It’s our pride, Man’s, that says this is our universe. Hardly. An unwelcome guest playing host. The stranger officiates the meal. Such self-appointed Maitre d’.”

Christian was getting very animated and it made Conner nervous. The psychiatrist had allowed the visit only if Christian didn’t get ‘too excited’ by the event. Conner did not want to test how excited was “too excited”.

“Okay, Christian. How bout we talk about the, uh, tapestry. Especially the strings. You were working on String Theory, remember?”

Christian regarded him dubiously.

“Of course I remember. Of all my short comings, this is not one of them.” he stated, tapping the side of his head. “The old apple revels in its authority. Woe is the body undergoing a slow death, but the crown of knowledge rules on.”

“That’s great, Christian. If I could just…umm… beseech that crown of… uh… knowledge.”

The tall man raised a bushy eyebrow.

“Confound it, man. Spit it out.”

Conner let out a flustered hiss.

“Fine. You were working with the particle collider before the accident. What were the parameters you were using?”

The tall, older man frowned deeply.

“It wasn’t strings. Strings are too linear. Pulling and tugging. They propose connections immaterial, when reality is far more permeating. But I won’t try to delude the concept to your level. Abstraction is often one floor above you.”

“Gee, Thanks.” Conner lifted his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Humor me, Christian. I have an idea of what you were trying, but I need-”

“A glittering gem is not enough! You would need a treasure trove of ideas pulled from my mind. An epiphany cannot be imbued upon another! A river of knowledge cannot be swallowed in one gulp! Especially this. Never this! The river… the river stole the gods! Divinity is cast from heaven!”

Christian’s voice was now booming in the small room. If this kept up, Conner knew his visit would be cut short. Very short.

“Jeez, man. You always assume, like an ass, that I won’t get it. Even crazy didn’t change that.” Conner paced the few steps he could in the confined space.

“I am not crazy!” Christian bellowed, spittle flecking his beard.

“Yeah, right. Gonna win my vote for sane with that!”

“You’re singular existence cannot fathom my experience! We are comrades no longer! We barely share the same plane of consciousness! The memory we used to share is no longer coherent!”

“You said it! No longer coherent. Nailed it! I don’t even know why I bothered to come.”

Conner made for the door.

“I was stupid for believing your diary.” Conner muttered.

“…I wrote nothing. What is this mysterious diary?”

Conner paused, hand on the doorknob.

“You’re right. You didn’t write jack. It was very helpful. The ‘mysterious diary’ records the voice. But then, turns out its no mystery, just pure psychosis masked as genius. Who was I kidding?”

Christian was no longer listening. He stared off and barely seemed to be aware of another presence in the room.

And to think, this man had been so close to the answer.

Conner began to step out of the room, but Christian grasped his wrist suddenly.

“The answer you seek invites danger, Oshiro. Inevitably. Every choice on that path leads to a finite branch. The shooter says goodbye to his love.”

Conner wrenched his wrist free, but Christian’s intense face closed in until their noses nearly touched.

“I have seen, I see and I will see. I succeeded, but at the cost of success. I broke through the tapestry and wove myself into the fabric. I have not traveled the river, but it has flowed through me. It has carried me away.”

Conner opened his mouth to respond, but could not find any words. Christian whispered something in his ear, then shut the door.

Sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Arlington Behavioral Health Center, Conner couldn’t shake the feeling that Christian wasn’t actually crazy. Unhinged, definitely. Crazy? Well, if Christian’s experiment had come anywhere close to success, then maybe crazy was inevitable.

Still, he couldn’t forget those strange, whispered words.

“I am a man in and out of time.”

Story Time: The Human Equation – Part I

This month I’m trying out another one of Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenges. This one is a collaborative type that will find stories in four parts by four different writers. It will be very interesting to see where this goes. Here’s Part I of my contribution to the challenge.

“Dad, I think it would be best for my emotional growth if I moved into my own apartment. You are always pushing me to be more self-sufficient and independent, but I can’t reach my potential if I’m still relying on you for so much. Please, take a moment to think this through. Isn’t this the next logical step?”

The girl gave her best pleading look.

“Absolutely not! What’s to keep you from having drug filled sex orgies and becoming a delinquent? I’m not having my daughter get pregnant at sixteen!”

“Oh. My. God. You are ridiculous.”

“I’m your father! I didn’t raise you to-”

“No, Rory, I mean you’re being ridiculous. My dad would never react like that and you know it.”

“Hey! You’re supposed to stay in character!”

“Rory, I’m not a character! I’m supposed to be myself in this scenario! And you’re supposed to be my dad, not Leave it to Beaver’s dad. Come on… delinquent? Who says that?”

“Well…” Rory started, her large dark eyes glancing around her room sheepishly, “My mom says it all the time. She says if I keep putting up posters of guys on my walls, that I’ll get boy crazy and become a delinquent.”

“Ha! You already are boy crazy! You’ve been boy crazy since you were, like, ten!”

“Shut up, Chloe! I am not! I’m just looking for Mister Right.”

“Again, you are ridiculous. You should be looking for a driver’s permit”

“Whatever. Why are we even practicing this? We both know your dad is going to say yes. You have, like, the coolest dad ever. He lets you do anything you want.”

Chloe rolled her eyes. None of her friends ever seemed to understand when it came to her dad.

“First, he is like the farthest thing from cool. He spent my entire ninth birthday party explaining how the light photons from the candles worked. Everybody got so bored after two hours they left. I didn’t even get a chance to open my presents until the next day.”

“Well, nerdy is kinda cool now.”

“He wears socks with his sandals!”

“Well, he does let you dye your hair any color you want.”

“That’s because he tried to invent a nano-programed shampoo that styles your hair as you wash it.”

“That actually sounds kinda cool.”

“It made all my hair fall out! I spent all of fourth grade getting tons of ‘get well soon’ cards cause everyone thought I had leukemia. Yeah, he lost all rights to say anything about my hair after that.”

Rory grimaced.

“Yeah, that sounds really sucky.”

“Your family at least watches movies and TV together. When I try to hang out with my dad, he won’t shut up about String Theory and Quantum Tunneling.”

“I’ve never heard of those shows.”

“They’re… never mind.” Chloe slumped on the bed and ran her fingers through her green and white hair, feeling suddenly exhausted. She didn’t resent her dad, or at least she didn’t think she did. But the past couple of years had been so difficult. They used to laugh and talk and go on ‘scientific adventures’. Hell, she had paid such rapt attention to him during his diatribe on photons that she hadn’t even noticed that the other guests had left the birthday party. Now, they struggled to say more than a few words to each other.

“I should get going.” She sighed.

“You okay Chloe?” Rory asked, genuine concern showing in her large eyes.

“Yeah. I’m fine.”

“You gonna ask about the apartment?”

“Yeah. Probably tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it goes.”

As Chloe drove her father’s ’79 Volvo wagon, which weighed more than a Sherman Tank, she couldn’t stop thinking about how much things had changed between her and her father. Deep down, she knew Dad hadn’t really changed. She had been the variable in the equation– she had been the one that changed their relationship simply by growing up. Part of her still wanted to just see him as the hero that knew everything. But a growing part of her was so frustrated at how little he knew about people, especially her. It was like he still saw her as that little girl that drank in his words and not someone nearly a full adult – a near equal.

She parked the Volvo in front of the brick apartment building she called home. Grandpa had left it to them in his will free and clear when he had passed. There were seven living units, but none of the original tenants had stayed more than a year after Dad had become the landlord. He had a habit of neglecting, well, everything. The last straw had been when he converted the basement laundry room into his own personal laboratory. Now it was just the two of them in Unit 1, and if he agreed to her request, she would get her own unit.

Swinging the front door open, she stepped into the main atrium stairwell. The large room was strangely dark, the only light weakly sifting through the glass in the ceiling. Her footsteps echoed loudly. She noticed the sharp smell of something burned wafting through the air.

“Dad?” she asked weakly.

Still no sounds but her own breathing.

The lab. Of course, he would be in the lab.

Walking to the metal door stenciled with the words “laundry”, she opened it and made her way down the concrete steps to the basement. His lab, normally a disastrous mess, looked as though a hurricane had swept through. A single light flickered in the corner, flashing distorted shadows across the room. Something glass shattered on the far side of the room.

“Dad? Is that you?”

She took a tentative step.

A hand gripped her shoulder.

“Chlo-bo!”

“Jesus H Christ, dad!”

He stood next to her, smiling broadly. There were dark smudges on his face and one of the lenses in his glasses looked cracked.

“Sorry, didn’t mean to sneak up on you.”

She looked around the room as something metal clanged.

“Dad… what happened?”

“Something great! Well, probably great! Here, I’ll show you. Just…” he held his fingers up and started towards the far end of the room, “just wait there.”

When Jon Urquhart returned to his daughter, her eyes bulged and her mouth went agape. When she didn’t say anything for nearly a minute, he laughed anxiously and ran his hand through his receding hair.

“So…Chloe… What do you think of it?”

Finally, her mouth closed and with effort she planted her eyes on him and not the… other thing.

“Dad… I’m moving upstairs.”

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

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.