Miss Alexandrina

The thinking-space of a not-quite novelist


1 Comment

Thoughts on A Fictional Future | Fauxpocalypse

fauxpocalypse-front-cover-72dpiYesterday, to mark the date of the speculative end of the world in the anthology Fauxpocalypse, I posted a short piece of fiction following my character as they seek out the stragglers and survivors of the non-apocalypse. Having run from Switzerland through Milan, they enter an almost dream-like Venice, where murky canals are invitations to end one’s life and a community has been formed in search of a Communism of sorts.

Although the original concept for the anthology was to set our stories in the same world, the same universe, I think each writer has created their own universe, their own fantasy. After all, that is what speculating about the future is—a fantasy. It is highly likely that the world would have repaired itself, even a tad, in a year following nights and days like those depicted.

However, the image that came to me when I was thinking about what my protagonist’s future world would look like was one that had been broken a lot more. From ruin of home and religion and society, some people couldn’t stay where they had grown up, couldn’t remain in the cities they’d seen torn. Refugees and barriers became more common as racial tension once again became taut. Who was to blame for the speculation? Who was to blame for the destruction?

Everybody had a different opinion.

So, it followed that communities would try and rebuild themselves—either against the world as it had been, with a kind of hate, or against the world to make lives better, fairer. I guess the notion of floor-length robes was part of the fantasy, utilising one’s stereotype of secret society meetings—but flipping it with a community in the open that only tries for the best.

After all, robes are practical, and easier to wash if one desires so.

As animals, we will always have an evolutionary wariness of outsiders – the scientific phenomenon called in-group out-group mentality – and it is only (evolutionarily) recently that we have evolved reasoning and problem-solving approaches to problems of humanity. To me, from what I have observed of modern societies, it makes sense that an apocalypse, or apocalypse-like state/event, would reset our sense of logical community.

The same way that riots rose, as depicted by some of the other authors in the anthology.

Sacrifices have to be made. As I see it, the end of the world, or not, provides many opportunities for lives to change, to be given up or renewed—or both.

In a way, my character gives up a lot when they choose to cross continents looking for survivors: not family, no, as they were brought up in an orphanage and never wanted adoption, but a life of more ample living in an Oxford community that would’ve welcomed another Chemist back into the fold to help local survivors.

Instead, they opted for hardship, handiwork, and walking.

Of course, it is likely that, if this fauxpocalypse were ever to happen, society would repair itself far better than the communities and cities through which our protagonist has ventured.

But one never knows.

It’s been two years since I wrote the first draft of what would become my story Revelation, and in that time, I’ve had a lot more exposure to the hypothetical cultures that could surround or being involved with the fictional future-time portrayed in Fauxpocalypse and its follow-ups. I suppose I understand more now about the way different people react to different situations, and how this can change the future, hypothetically and in reality. The good, the bad, and the ugly sides of personalities.

For instance, during Eastertime, I went to a gig where Abney Park were playing, a band whose Steampunk-esque music is centred around the journeys of Captain Robert’s crew in a post-apocalyptic world.

After all, the end of days may not have come for the Fauxpocalypse characters, but the aftermath of the non-comet is certainly – at least in my mind’s eye – mimicry of what the apocalypse would’ve been like. And it begs the question—are we humans the ones who turn our world into post-apocalyptic dust?

~

If this kind of thing interests you, you can get a print/ebook copy of the Fauxpocalypse anthology at Amazon and other online retailers – just search. We’d appreciate a review if you have the time. :) We are also celebrating with a Facebook page at the moment the date in which the fictional end-of-days was meant to occur.

~

Alexandrina BrantAlexandrina Brant has a revived hope in independent arts, since performing at the Institute for Contemporary Arts this week. She’s currently surviving off using the university internet, and alternating not-sleeping and not-writing (!). At the moment, she is thinking of posting snippets of her NaNoWriMo project, of Steampunk MRI machine monsters.

As a note of interest, she was inspired to set her story in a ruined Venice, as she is going there next year. Alexandrina has a particular interest in Italy, its past and its future, and its linguistics.


1 Comment

The Dust of Venice | Fauxpocalypse

fauxpocalypse-front-cover-72dpi

Ruin.

It had, for the moment, subsided, passed away, moved on if you will. When one had spent a year trekking until one’s feet bled, one learnt to distinguish between what was simply the aftermath of the shock of a no-event and what was actual ruin, in the form of cities and states and provinces failing to bring themselves into normality again when they’d all but destroyed themselves.

And I’d learnt not to refer to myself in a general sense.

I pushed the passport under the official’s nose and waved it back and forth a few times.

“Look. Here,” I croaked in the poor Italian I’d picked up tentatively hitchhiking through Milan. “Me. Pass I go?”

He narrowed his eyes at me, but nevertheless shucked a gloved thumb behind himself. I nodded a votive of thanks, and shuffled past the camouflaged militant, keeping my head down and out of sight, and my eyes on the half-cement, half-cobbled streets ahead.

I had to keep moving.

Sometimes I hadn’t been blessed with as much fortune. My hair had grown a deal since that passport photo, already a couple of years old, had been taken, and, with the extended checks they did at the continental borders nowadays, sometimes my fate was jail for a few days whilst the militia found an English-speaking official who’d assess me in my own language.

I expected no less, so I pressed on, casting no glance behind me, and none away from confidence. You had to look confident—then people tended to trust that your actions matched your spluttered words.

Yet, the streets of Venice echoed with each of my footsteps. Judging by the sun, I’d crossed the border between the hours of two and four, and the day didn’t particularly come with heat. People should’ve been not swarming, but at least going about their daily businesses with some pace.

Unless this place, too, was haunted by fear.

Some were—but most had found their feet, their bearings, their foundations, and had started putting brick after brick together.

I passed the front of what must once have been an Italian gelateria, where now its canvas covering had been torn by rioting and its large windows shattered as thieves strove to stock up on the icy goodness. Ridiculous in this weather, but the faux-pocalypse had driven people to do strange things.

It had changed my life, and I hadn’t minded that.

Making sure I darted around shards of glass, I petered up a path of stone steps, and ascended further into the city. Around me, the city bore a similar state of disrepair to the gelateria—houses had barely been rebuilt, by the looks of it, and I resisted laying my hand on the bridge-wall. More than moss had marred it. A thin coating of dust discoloured the wall, as if an unlikely sandstorm had hit before I’d turned up.

Sigh. I’d given up pulling faces at the murk after the first couple of months. When you faced over and over the filth that came from rubble and unkindness…

Nevertheless, civilisation tickled my shoulders as I walked. It crept about behind the facades of buildings in taped glass and tidied doorways. The door-paint had faded, but the door-knobs were worn by more than time. One punt – no, gondola – bobbed gently by a bridge. Its tether held strong.

I’d wandered to the end of the pavement before the sense of being watched overwhelmed me. I spun. A flash of darkness scampered from behind me to an alleyway. I knew better than to follow directly.

Now that feeling hit me from above.

I whipped my head up. A face disappeared from an upper-storey window.

I was being watched.

“Hello?” I called to nobody.

The water lapped in response.

“English?”

No.

This time I tried in my little Italian. “English? Supplies. Medicine. Help.”

Sometimes, those were the only words people cared to hear before they made a decision on your life. In Antwerp, I’d stuttered through French with a knife propped into my ribs. In Geneva, the continental militia had drawn hands to their guns at my midlands English, but had shown me their palms when I’d protested innocence in broken German.

My focused wandering had certainly given my tongue a workout.

A figure stepped from a doorway ten metres in front of me. Female in body, though lithe with hunger and not feminine. She had no weapons in her hands or across her back, but that only meant she’d learnt to conceal them. I fingered the shard of glass in my waistband.

As she – for the moment, I presumed she used those pronouns – glided towards me, I took in her appearance.

Her hair, tangled brown, from what I could see of it, had been gathered with twine or elastic into a ponytail. Complemented by a smear of dust across one cheek, her face was as natural as the day she’d been born. Her eyes were small and blue, her lips round and dark.

Those lips opened and she gabbled a bunch of noises my way. I caught the occasional word or article and the syntax of Italian clung to me, but I was no linguist.

I frowned. She changed tact.

“So, English. You speak English I guess.”

Someone in every country knew at least enough English to barter. We and Americans had been the great traders of the world before we’d set fire to our assets and drank them away in what we’d thought were the end days.

“Oh, thank God,” I said, tossing invisible salt over my left shoulder. I’d not been superstitious until the comet had not-hit the Earth, but I owed a lot to that day and I’d do anything to keep my good fortune – or as much good fortune as I’d had travelling so far – on the up.

“Yes. Sorry for watching from afar. Most strangers come to steal or fight rather than offer.”

I nodded. I had sympathy. “It’s the same in many places.”

She set off at a steady pace, strolling further up the canal-path I’d been following, before hitting the corner of a bank of houses and turning sharply. A tight staircase built out of the rock rose above us, but subtly enough that it wouldn’t be noticed unless someone knew of its existence.

As she led me further and further into this city, in tighter and tighter circles, so it felt, we encountered more and more Venetians. Some greeted her with a smile or a nod or others hurried past down the path with a distracted look, but nobody exchanged words in this lost place.

None greeted me.

Some people were tucked into alcove-like spaces or perched on doorsteps. Where they found room, people curled. Most men wore their beards and hair long; a number of women had chopped theirs off. Everyone donned robes, grey, black, brown, colours unwashed, that swished the ground as they walked or kneeled or sat with a notebook and pencil. Everywhere I turned, someone was writing, always writing, and a steady brush of graphite against papyrus soothed me.

“You have quite the revival here,” I said.

She nodded and took a moment to retie her hair. She was rough with it, yanking the thick strands through an elastic band that was due to break soon.

“We’ve had long enough to try. Long enough to find our own little city again.”

“Yup.”

Not so little.

“Do you mind me asking how much further? I’d been walking…” For hours. “…Before I came here, and I could do with setting my pack down, Miss uh…”

I realised we’d not been introduced. Pleasantries hardly made the top of my list.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”

The woman halted and turned to face me. Her lips twitched, but if she was smiling, it was with her eyes alone.

“We don’t use names here any more,” she said. “They call me Raft-Bringer. I was the one who got the gondolas running again.”

“They call me… No, I don’t use my given name any more, either.”

She clasped my fingers within hers, and a small look of surprise crossed her face.

“Welcome to our fold…Worn-Hands.”

~

We were walking through a quadrant of cobbles and grass that was beginning to look like a flower garden again when Raft-Bringer asked me.

“Where do you come from?” she questioned.

I glanced at her, took a minute. Not to hide my answer, no, but to find it in amongst the hand of foreign faces and documentations I’d been given.

I could’ve returned to that orphanage. Once the madness of the apocalypse had taken over, I would’ve had ample time and opportunity to break in and liberate my birth files to where they rightly belonged.

But I hadn’t.

And, surprisingly, I didn’t regret leaving my past well alone.

“From Oxford, England,” I told her.

“Is it like this there?”

I wasn’t sure what she meant. Disused? Destroyed…?

Repairing?

“I don’t know. I’ve not been back for months.”

She nodded, as if she knew exactly my journeying. She’d said she’d arrived, too—perhaps, we were of the same mission.

We’d been walking the incline for fifteen minutes or so when the path flattened out—or the steps did, and I tilted forward to counteract the way I walked. I’d lost track of time, and was running on estimates, but Raft-Bringer walked with a kind of bizarre confidence up these slopes, as if she’d taking this path since the morning after the non-apocalypse. She’d probably once resided in the ‘heights’ of Venice.

We rounded a corner onto a small square when I noticed the darker sides of the fact people lived here. Where in the lower segments and canal-sides of Venice, the way had been decked with houses, now longer stretches of wall and grass sprouted from the townside. Lines of graffiti decked the walls. Painted dripped in numerous colours, in numerous languages.

I stopped next to a particularly dense piece of graffiti. I found myself hunting for the English, despite the part of me that had no desire to know.

The words bled from the wall: Down with the ‘Merican slags. Stop them destroying Gaia’s newfound paradise. And another: The world was built for Italy. GTFO aliens.

“Disgusting, isn’t it?” There was an edge to Raft-Bringer’s soft voice.

“Mm.”

She was looking at me – I heard it more than I saw it – and I rooted my eyes to the libels until she had to lay her hand upon my arm to pull me away.

“I have more to show you. This way.”

So we walked on, slower this time, more reverently, Raft-Bringer holding her ropes a little off the ground here. These upper points had been swept better than where I had entered the city, and, although each corner brought a toast to the water below, the steps and doorways were absent of water-made muck. Even the shop-front I passed had an air of use to it. Its canvas had been sewn, its glass replaced by oversized wooden shutters. Here, the scent of sandalwood and fruit perforated the air.

We wandered through an archway into a square plaza-like area of tessellating pavestones culminating in a church. The centre of the city, but neither of those features made me gawk. My expression was due to the number of figures in dark robes. They lined the plaza, on their knees or bottoms, none on their feet. Some were sobbing, but most bore silence and glass-eyes. I swallowed. I’d only once before seen a gathering of this measure – when we’d thought the world was about to implode in fire and rock.

This was no chapel setting, but it reminded me of that very hour of not-reckoning.

“What are they doing?” I whispered.

Raft-Bringer stared at me as if I’d just announced that the Orient Express was ready for boarding at Milan.

“Don’t you know?”

“I’m sorry.” I shrugged.

“The date. Today is the anniversary. They’re saying a moment of silence for the lives lost to humanity’s violence on the 15th July 2015.”

Hell. Was it really the 15th today? I’d lost all track of days and dates, certainly—but I would’ve thought I’d have known. You know? A sort of shiver through my bones as a clock struck midnight in the middle of the city. A lump in my throat and a wash of memories as sudden as that ghost-on-grave sensation. A something, an understanding maybe, that made me feel.

I should’ve known.

Pushing Raft-Bringer’s hand from my shoulder, I turned and stormed away.

~

How I found myself beside the graffiti, I had no idea. I hardly knew the way back. I’d walked, and now—here I stood.

This sort of explicit black-talk didn’t happen everywhere, but pockets of the land I’d walked, ridden, and even run through had all displayed traces of hate-crime. Because everybody wanted to horde their resources.

For a moment, I wondered if Oxford were the same, or if it had started to offer a hand to the less prepared of British cities. Maybe the government was beginning to come together again, and had a hand over the comings and goings of their citizens.

Maybe I’d go back and be welcomed—

No, I wouldn’t give in to cowardice. I’d worked so hard to get here—

A scuffle of footsteps drew my thoughts back to the present with a bump. I swiped the trails of tears off my cheeks. The rustle of robes joined the sounds of low-soled shoes, and Raft-Bringer wandered her way towards me. The bits of robe over her knees had gained circles of dust. Her face was frustratingly neutral. So much for reading if she judged the way I’d reacted.

“Interesting I found you here.”

“How so?”

She tipped her head to one side, almost thoughtfully. “Your reaction, I suppose. Curious.”

I didn’t repeat my question, but that was no way to answer.

“Mm.”

We stood in silence – I’d lost any thought-track I’d had, and evidently Raft-Bringer had nothing more to say to me – until the setting of the sun doused the scene with yellow-orange and reflected off the water below with numinous fingers of amber. My stomach rumbled anarchistically.

“Are you hungry?” She didn’t ask if I’d travelled far.

“Please.”

“This way,” she said, and trailed through the city. Although Venice had its maze of canals and unified box-houses and every corner I saw had sixteen steps in blocks of four (I wasn’t counting – this was simply what I’d noticed, whether true or indeed false), I began to recognise areas that I’d been led through before.

We returned to the first street on which I’d encountered Raft-Bringer, and the house she used sat central, twenty metres from the lone gondola, waiting, ever waiting, for one of the community to ride it out of here.

But they were never going to.

“You are welcome to the room upstairs for as long as you stay. I’m afraid it has only a mattress and a dresser, but I’m sure—”

“I’ve had worse. Yes.”

I slept soundlessly that night, filled with dreams of robed individuals with flames instead of hands and dials instead of eyes – and a comet that danced, a way out of view.

~

I woke a little after sunrise in the tradition I had built from travelling so much. In England, that would’ve meant I’d be meeting four or five o clock, but in Venice, I had no clue as to the time.

I cleared my face of sleep and relieved myself in the small lavatory opposite my top-storey room, before wandering down the stairs with my pack on my shoulder. Despite having faced days with little but bread –food was but a luxury when one travelled as I did – I found myself wondering what sort of food, apart from the dinner of rice and veg, they ate here.

The door banged shut to the left of me. On instinct, I whirled around, but my heart slipped from throat to chest when Raft-Bringer stepped in.

I had no idea she’d been gone.

She gave me a weak smile.

“Ah. I didn’t expect you’d be awake so soon. Let’s walk.”

She gestured. A dash of yellow paint decorated her wrist. I frowned. When she saw the direction of my gaze, she pulled down her sleeve with more brio than necessary.

“I think I’d rather stay here for a while, thank you. You’ve not shown me around your house.”

I started heading inwards, but she was by my side in a flash. Okay. If she was trying to alleviate my suspicions, she’d done the opposite. I moved towards the doorway to my right, further into the house, and the opposite room to that in which we’d eaten the previous evening. Indistinguishable noises tripped behind the door.

Raft-Bringer blocked my way. First with her hands, then with her entire body.

“Please, no, Worn-Hands, not this way.”

“Why not?”

“There are things…you don’t need to see.”

I dodged to the side, but Raft-Bringer was quicker, and she blocked me again. Her robes rippled about our feet, threatening to trip me up.

“What are you hiding? Woman, let me through!”

I grabbed clumps of her robes in my hands and shoved her out of the way. As a cry escaped her, I stormed into the next room. I was too angry to apologise, too confused to admit…anything. I had a right to see whatever had happened. Didn’t I? I was a guest, someone who’d come to help, and weren’t guests supposed to be treated in the highest respect?

A fire light the room from its centre. Smoke clotted the air, so unhealthy for a living space, but the room looked more like a boardroom for meetings. Four mattresses, stripped of any bedclothes, bordered a square around that unkept flame. It resided in something akin to an empty oil can, sawn to make an opening. A robed man stood as I entered, and his eyes flamed with anger. He went to tuck an object into his pocket, but I leapt forward.

“Give me that,” I snapped, snatching it from him.

An effigy-in-miniature. A doll of straw with fabric trousers and a little fabric shirt. Looking into the fire showed more similar figures, some dressed in camouflage, others in plain-clothes, some with shapes in their arms that looked enough like weaponry to make that assumption. The one in my hand had a rucksack.

I’d say it was almost a piece of voodoo, if a voodoopunk culture was still practised in the continent.

Raft-Bringer entered, one wrist in her other hand I thrust the doll into her face. Hell, I knew exactly what it meant, what with everybody else dressed in robes.

“You knew about this.” Perhaps, she’d even been part of it. Welcoming me in, but calling me names and fuming about my presence in their town.

She said nothing, and I threw the shape into the fire myself. It burnt, and so I did.

“Didn’t take you long to make this one,” I said aloud. I wasn’t sure if I addressed the two in the room, or the city at large. Venice had once been such a beautiful landmark.

The comet had destroyed many landmarks by never even touching them.

For the second time in so few hours, I rushed into the street.

Where was it?

There. The gondola I’d seen, still tethered, still waiting. Waiting for me, I now realised. I fiddled with the rope keeping it to the bridge. A small lip between the base of the bridge and the canal-side held the gondola back. I tugged at it.

“Come on.” But my anger was retreating now, and a plan formed in shards.

I breathed out, more than a sigh. I had to leave. Again. And I’d so been looking forward to Venice. When I breathed in, my outburst had subsided, replaced instead by guilt at such a reaction. I hadn’t needed to fume at their wariness.

For that was all it had ever been.

“Worn-Hands,” a voice called.

I refused to turn—but my head turned automatically. She was swishing towards me again.

“Raft-Bringer.” Even her title sounded less ridiculous to my ears. “I can’t stay.”

Sadness darted through her eyes and onto her soft features. An apology. “I know.”

“Part of me wishes I could. I was too harsh. But when I see objects like those…”

“You would be a strong healer in our community,” she added. Quickly, but not without genuineness.

“But I’m not welcome.”

“No.”

GTFO aliens. We both knew that meant me, a foreigner sprinting across the lands to share what little knowledge they had of medicine to peoples who had less. Venice had rebuilt its populace, albeit in an unconventional community, and, as per my self-assumed arrangement, I had to move on.

“Just answer me one thing—”

“I was genuine,” she replied in that instantaneous twang again. “I meant it welcoming you. I even wanted you to stay. But I talked to the council this morning—”

“You have a council?”

“And they decided you cannot stay. You didn’t even observe. The Silence.”

That damn 15th July silence! So, she’d taken me to the central plaza for that reason, as a test. And here I’d thought she was keen on welcome sight-seeing.

Despite myself, I cried, “I didn’t know!”

How was I to know? She hadn’t even considered the tears I’d hidden…

I’d faced guns and knives and unwelcoming abuse, but never this…prejudice for wanting to help!

“You’ll only change us,” she said.

Right. I shook my head, but said nothing to her. The gondola was untethered now, and I leapt from the canal-side onto it, a movement which send ripples down the canal, and almost upended the gondola.

My gasp spilled from my lips, but I sprang to my hands and knees, eventually with some sense of balance.

Raft-Bringer’s eyes on me made heat spring to my cheeks. I lifted my head, squared my eyes with hers until the blush left my cheeks.

“So long.”

“And fare well,” she murmured.

“Oh, I always try.”

If I had my geography on tap, I’d soon meet St. Mark’s Square and the wall where once the French Ambassador had been received with all the pomp and circumstance my visit had lacked. Beyond that…the open sea, bright and dark.

I’d faced worse.

Without any further words to the woman who’d offered me lodgings and satiation for a day, I pushed off the canal-side, and the water picked me up in its flow.

I wondered if Croatia had yet escaped their ruin.

~

Want to know what happened before our protagonist found themselves trekking the world? This story is a continuation from my short story Revelation, published in the anthology Fauxpocalypse, a collection of tales about what happens when the world doesn’t end even if we’re convinced think it will.

~

Alexandrina BrantAlexandrina Brant just finished her second year at university and turned twenty. In her ‘free’ summer – not spent researching for her final project – she’s been a vocal part of a piece of contemporary art at the Institute of Contemporary Art, London, and is currently striding through one of two July NaNoWriMo projects: a novella about a steampunk MRI machine and the brain someone reanimates to destroy the campus of New Berkshire and the reputation of the Psychobiology department.


Leave a comment

Keeping Up With Miss Alexandrina (Again)

Sorry for my absence from the blog for a few days. I moved into my new shared accommodation, and, as well as adjusting to that, we did not have WiFi and still haven’t got some.

However, this does allow me some writing and reading time – though the latter sometimes eats into the former, a first for me, who, she admits, prefers the former.

I finished EXTRAORDINARY MEANS, and enjoyed it more than I thought. Even the ending wasn’t too sad. I haven’t been getting along with SPLINTERED for some reason; I keep finding myself having to reread to understand character motives and general plot progression. The pace is too fast for my liking.

I’ve started Dexter’s THE SECRET OF ANNEXE 3 – because a) the book was there (‘there’ thusly being in a charity shop for £2), b) why not?, and c) guilt-free leisure Morse + Oxford + mystery fiction. I’m also getting along with – and by that I mean I munched through and finished a couple of days ago – THE WEREDOG WHISPERER, which I got on sale last year, but (as is with me and ebooks) started it but didn’t carry on. I love the voice and the spunk, so it was another easy read.

I wonder why I was attracted to mysteries in the first place… ;) 

In the writing stakes, I am doing moderately. After a slow and somewhat trepidacious start to my new novella (codenamed ASB303), I have, as of writing, so far achieved just over 10,000 words for CampNaNoWriMo this year. Considering that it’s the eighth today, and I ought to be writing 2,000 per day if a) I’m to finish this novella this month, and b) achieve the goal of 50,000, I’m fearfully behind.

At the same time, though, there are times when I try to get into the writing mood and cannot. We’ll have to see. For the time-being, I should be getting on with CampNaNoWriMo. I’m writing a foody kind of scene, where my main character are walking through the stalls of a circus.

Yet, the circus held more than the paraphernalia one might purchase, especially for May. Foodstuffs, if one afforded it – and Summer could, what with free luncheons she earnt as a junior academic – lay in their eyesight, too. Candyfloss, a new treat of spun strings of raw sugar, the size of one’s head. Pork pies stuffed to the brim in goo-filled delicacy. Egg-custard tarts with cinnamon laced on the top.


Leave a comment

Beautiful People: Cathy’s Parents

Let’s talk about Cathy’s parents.

It’s Beautiful People time again, and this month’s theme is parents/guardians. I’m taking a break from WTCB for now, and besides, last month I talked about Mrs. Costello, the mother of the hero of WTCB, so I’m running on two parents addition, sorry.

The thing about writing [non-YA] Steampunk is that protagonists often don’t have their parents around, and so, there is little we know about them, and little we have as interaction. The protagonist of ‘H’, Cathy, is deliberately aloof at the whereabouts of her parents – though they are not dead – and the ‘voice of reason/irrationality’ is her governess, Miriam. But she is only around at the beginning of the novel. After all, Cathy considers that her parents are still part of her life – in fact, they appear in further instalments of the series – we simply aren’t introduced to them in the first novel. Hence why I thought I’d pay an interest to them here.

Onto the questions.

PAPERFURY

  1. Do they know both their biological parents? Why/why not?

Yup, she grew up with both her parents.

  1. Have they inherited any physical resemblances from their parents?

Cathy has her parents brown hair. She also has her mother’s nose and mouth as soft features. Cathy does resemble her mother quite a bit, but general society has not seen the latter for a while, so they would not be able to compare mother and daughter.

  1. What’s their parental figure(s) dress style? Add pictures if you like!

When they were younger, Cathy’s parents were rather a la mode. They travelled a lot for their work as entomologists, and, as such, were more tanned than pale-skinned Cathy. So…entomologist chic.

  1. Do they share any personality traits with their parental figures? And which do they take after most?

She probably takes after her mother most in terms of personality: both are headstrong and can be brash at times, but both also mean well, particularly when they have love in their hearts. The difference is that Cathy’s mother is concerned with keeping those she loves safe, even if that means wrapping them in cotton wool, whereas Cathy prefers to attack situations head-on for those she loves.

As dearly as Cathy cares for her mother, she gets along with her father better, as he is wittier and reminds her of her crush, Alexander. He also tended to take charge around the household, and this meant that there was less pressure on Cathy to help with housework and such.

  1. Do they get on with their parental figure(s) or do they clash? 

Although her parents are pushy, and at times, Cathy gets upset with them that they have cloistered her and kept her from exploring and stress her education, she doesn’t clash with either of them. In fact, I’d say that Cathy has had more opinion-butting moments with her governess Miriam.

  1. If they had to describe their parental figure(s) in one word, what would it be?

Disturbed. :o

  1. How has their parental figure(s) helped them most in their life?

Ironically, I suppose, Cathy’s parents entertained her interest for adventure by being absent on work. They kept her behind when they travelled to places like the Andes and the Amazon. On the other hand, when he was around, her father, before he hired a governess, helped her understand different species of bug, butterfly, and arachnid (though, Cathy always flinched at the latter). He taught her the maths he knew, and both parents taught her proper Lady’s English and geography. These sorts of things gave Cathy a headstart in her education, just as reading to one’s children aids their unconscious and conscious acquisition of knowledge.

  1. What was their biggest fight with their parental figure(s)?

About her education, definitely. Cathy wanted to travel with them once she turned sixteen to see the kinds of exploration and expeditions they were doing. However, her father and mother wanted her to stay with her governess and complete her education to be a young lady worthy of marriage, despite Cathy’s already-blooming crush on Alexander.

  1. Tracing back the family tree, what nationalities are in their ancestry?

Cathy’s father’s ancestry can be traced back to the first settlers on the place we now call England, so the Anglo-Viking heritage. Her mother, however, has mixed blood, having a grandmother who was French and ancestry further in the east, though darker colouring has all but faded.

  1. What’s their favourite memory with their parental figure(s)?

First riding cross-country to Alexander’s parents’ house. Cathy loved to learn to ride, so it was very beneficial for her to make journeys like those from as young as four or five. Her mother used to ride with her, which allowed Cathy to watch the scenery race past, but quickly let her have her own foal, Cacao, who has grown up with her.

Not quite right, but it’s a nice visual point

So, I think I’ve learnt a little more about Cathy’s society and experience of growing up via her parents. Check out the blog hop for more posts about characters’ parents.

 

 


5 Comments

RSW! 29-6-15

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman.

RSW2

  1. How I did on last week’s goals.

Finish polishing WTCB and start query batch for June. Done.

Plan what I’m doing for CampNaNo July. Done. Will be working on a short contemporary romance story about geeks, and a steampunk novella about brains and MRI machines.

Critique chapter one of Critique Partner’s new novel. Nope. Hoping to do that today.

Do some exercise. I did some walking…?

  1. My goal(s) for this week.

 

Critique chapter one of Critique Partner’s new novel.

Do some exercise. Dance workout? Again, I’m moving into the new house, so I don’t know if I can fit anything in.

Start writing first draft for NaNo that starts Weds.

  1. A favourite line from my story or one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

The dirigible docked on the west side of the campus, where the humdrum of the studential-life had faded to a sullen whisper now most of its occupiers had abandoned the towers where they’d lived during general term.

  1. The biggest challenge I faced this week.

I’ve not been well, so I keep starting things, then abandoning them partway through because I don’t have the energy/bother for them. Three times I tried to finish a blog post, and it just didn’t happen. Right now I’m not in a happy writing place.

  1. Something I love about my WIP.

It’s Steampunk, so it allows me to get inspiration from my surroundings when I’m at events. I had ideas yesterday for some side characters who are going to aid the heroine in defeating the monster with their circus skills.

AlexB_owlFrankie4Like so.

 


6 Comments

RSW! 22-6-15

The Ready, Set, Write! hopping occurs on Mondays, so I’ll be moving my Photo of the Week post (note to self: find subject on which to take photo tomorrow) to Tuesdays.

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer writing intensive that encourages goal-setting and accountability, and provides an opportunity for us to cheer each other on wherever we’re at with our writing projects—planning, drafting, revising, or polishing. This year, your RSW hosts are Alison MillerJaime MorrowErin FunkElodie Nowodazkij, and Katy Upperman.

  1. How I did on last week’s goals.

Finish polishing WTCB and start query batch for June. Almost complete. Almost finished and started, respectively. It’s all about the little details now.

Plan what I’m doing for CampNaNo July. No progress.

Do a dance workout at least three mornings this coming week. Done, done, and done. It was easier than I thought it would be.

Make a calendar chart for writing goals. With star stickers. Everybody loves star stickers. Oh! I completely forgot about this. No progress.

  1. My goal(s) for this week.

Finish polishing WTCB and start query batch for June.

Plan what I’m doing for CampNaNo July.

Critique chapter one of Critique Partner’s new novel.

Do some exercise.

– Will be staying with The Boyfriend for a few days whilst I am temporarily homeless, then moving into my new accommodation this time next week, so I can’t make more goals for myself, as I don’t know what I will be doing.

  1. A favourite line from my story or one word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised.

So many lines [that I’ve written this week or edited/polished/come across] have caught my eye, and I think I can finally be happy about the progress this novel has made into the realms of interesting. I am creative – this I have noticed – in mostly imagery. For instance:

“I cared. I still care like a soldier is kicking in my empty gut…”

Anything to rid himself of the hatred running around his mind, throwing flames at every positive thought and sending them to smoulders.

(My hero, Phillip, is a painter and a philosopher, so he gets the best lines :D)

  1. The biggest challenge I faced this week.

Especially the last couple of days, I’ve actually been too physically tired to get on polishing, despite almost finishing. I’ve wanted to read and daydream more than write.

  1. Something I love about my WIP.

I just love how the personalities of all my characters are really coming together. I know the kinds of things they’d say, the right metaphors, the right kind of actions they’d take. It gives me more confidence.

I’m looking forward to this week, though I’ve been finding concentrating quite hard lately. Hopefully, I can catch up on sleep. What about you?


2 Comments

Why I Trunked My Contemporary

I don’t often decide to stop writing novels. I thought I had a strict non deletus est policy – write on til the bitter end and all that. But I recently decided to lock away a novel I’d been writing.

Last summer, I excitedly tweeted that I was working on a new project. I posted ideas and theories to improve my plot. It became my field for extracts and I poured over it in my free time: UTC, an NA contemporary uni romance, set in a fictional British town.

However, I came to realise, rather soon into September/October-time, that I was getting very little done with this plot very quickly. I pieced together ten-thousand, then fifteen-thousand words. I knew the three main axes. I knew which Supporting Characters would have a romantic, diverse subplot that would aid my heroine into making a decision over her wildly aloof hero (as they all are, am I right?).

Yet, despite this, I wasn’t writing this silly thing. I sat in my little plot bubble, planning where to take them, and verbally sketching out the occasional scene; but when it came to making those scenes into a work of contemporary, New Adult fiction, I couldn’t write them together.

Maybe it was me. But, honestly, it was more than likely the book.

No offence, book.

(High five if you also read that gif in Radcliffe’s voice!)

Without trying to over-analyse the situation, I want to think about my reasons behind a) the decline of writing this story, and b) my reasons to finally admit ‘no, this isn’t working’.

Contemporaries. *lets out long sigh of air*

They’re just not the same as SFF fiction, are they?

Okay. That’s the easy way of saying it. But of course, there’s going to be a different way of writing contemporaries as there is to writing fantasy or sci fi. For starters, character traits can’t be reliant on the alien or different as descriptors of their behaviour and liveliness. We’ve got no super-vampiric Cullens here. These guys have to be human. And I mean that in all senses of the word. Think human, talk human, trait human.

That’s a lot harder to write than one would think.

We’re surrounded by humans (probably) every day, but even for the people-watcher, the psychologist, the thinker, we cannot know what they’re thinking separate from our thoughts. Being a human is actually a very solitary job. We know what we ourselves like, our habits, our behaviours – but we have to extrapolate those things onto mannequins of other humans in order to manage realistic characters. As philosopher AJ Ayer said – we only know others exist by inference from their behaviour being similar to our behaviour.

And realistic characters have the added problem of being boring.

That’s not to say I find contemporary writing boring – and that’s not to say that I found writing my contemporary boring… I just…didn’t love the characters. Not because of their likes/dislikes or their behaviours. I cannot say why I wasn’t interested. In them I saw people I knew and would know, the same people I passed every day.

Certainly, we look for, in characters of any sort of fiction, a uniqueness and diversity [of interest], but I think to make contemporary fiction appealing to all sorts of readers, we need an added ingredient.

The thing is, even with their less-than-typical interests – caving, mixing cocktails, ancient history – my hero and heroine were too simple, two one-dimensional. Maybe this would have been fixed during rewriting, but there was something deeper that made me relinquish their scenario.

I’m not the only one to notice how contemporary is not only about plot. One might argue that the point of contemporary is to focus on the characters, as if the genre is a YA imitation of literary fiction but without the gorgeous.

Something about my characters didn’t click. In themselves, in their scenario, in their future. I think they were cute when push came to shove, but I wasn’t actively ‘shipping’ them in my head; nor did I seem to be actively shipping their stories to its page.

They were interesting, but they just weren’t my kind of interesting. Not suited to their fiction. And I think that’s one of the most difficult things about writing contemporary: getting that balance of character and place and having the two fit each other enough to convince not only the reader and the character, but the writer – as perfectionists as we are. In short, a contemporary doesn’t appeal when it slips even an inch from one of those high standards. It’s a tough act.

At least, in my subjective opinion.

So, I had to make the decision: keep going down a path that I knew, in my heart of hearts, was eventually doomed to the back of a drawer; or call it quits on this one, for now or forever.

I quit.

I have nothing against contemporary writing, of course. In fact, that and contemporary fantasy made up most of my under-10-years-old reading. My adult romance/woman’s fiction (completed two years ago, but not yet fully rewritten because I have fantasies bleeding out my ears) thrilled and still thrills me. And there we have the problem of this certain contemporary: despite living directly in their world, I couldn’t relate to my hero and heroine. Part of me wanted to sneer and ask them “what makes yourself better than these other characters?”.

Indeed, what made their world any better than any other world I’d created? Nothing, judging by how enamoured I still am with my big novel’s universe.

Nevertheless, when it comes down to the long and short of it, I am notoriously hard to please with contemporary fiction. Give it me in the here and now, but sprinkle it with murder and mayhem, rather than cliques and chattering. If I want contemporary fluff, I’ll put on Mean Girls or Clueless in the background of an editing session.

What I’m reading.

At the moment, I’m reading and enjoying novella Bride by Mistake by Nicole Helm. It’s a quick read, and the characters aren’t particularly eccentric, but at least they have colour and form in my head, unlike mine.

I’ve started YA novel Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider. It’s nice, but I’m not loving it yet, and perhaps the characters are too young for my head.

My favourite contemporaries remain those I encountered in my childhood. Jacqueline Wilson’s Love Lessons is a poignant novel and breaks my heart every time I read it. In fact, many of Wilson’s novels have and still do entertain me. Her characters don’t tend to be out-and-out eccentrics like myself, but they have heart, and that’s what matters.

Maybe my characters were simply lacking heart.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 511 other followers