Sunday, January 15, 2012

re-reading Chapter 4 [scroll down for commentary]

I attempted to write an entry about this several months ago... I ended up getting side-tracked by one thing or another (I have my suspicions about who..) and whatever, the thing just kinda fell apart.

What I did do was map out a little bit of a timeline as to what would happen in the next couple chapters via the calendar. I got as far as the weekend of September 21/22... I'm not sure how I picked my dates in particular... I just have it written that Nina's first day at school is September 13th, a Thursday. That was the day I met "David," one of many inspirations for Jonas... the key ingredient being his pale blue eyes that I simply lost myself in for hours every week (we had one 'class' together: lunch).

It was a little strange, but I guess a little cathartic that once everything happened that year, I'd have drama class with him the following year... when I decided to take drama for two semesters instead of just the one. I don't know what the hell happened because after the first couple exercises, it just turned into a study hall.
And there was this small little, I wouldn't call it an incident, but it was out of the ordinary. One of the seniors gave me a note, commenting on the fact I kept to myself and that she was taking a psychology course, in which she learned that people who come from abusive households develop into loners... I had to write back in saying that she was off the mark.
No joking, and I don't mean to make light of any situation with similarity to that. At the time, I felt a little insulted. First of all, I wasn't even entirely alone. "David" was sitting right next to me most days and we'd talk on occasion. And second of all, I don't know... I suppose its an easy mistake to make, but c'mon... I chose to live my life the way I did. There's no need to analyze that to death. And my decision to live that way didn't come from the household I grew up in. I could say this and that about how things were, how there was a lot of pressure on my part (still is, but in my teens, the weight was a lot heavier).
Ultimately, I've pinpointed the method to my madness down to a single incident in kindergarten, the first time I was told by one of my peers that I couldn't participate. After that, I never intentionally wanted to encrouch on anyone's territory because I never knew if I was wanted there.

I commented how strange it was that I focus a lot of my stories in high school, but I really didn't like high school very much. Aside from the fun I had with the musicals, dramas and whatever else in the performing arts (when I was just another face in the crowd or auditionee), I was stressing out over grades. And I'd be lying if there wasn't once or twice where I thought that it would be best if I just put myself out of my own misery. Ironic how much the notion of teenage suicide and what brings people to those choices fascinates me, I have considered it myself, but never put so much as a plan together. Because once you punch your own ticket, that's it, there's no second chances.

My high school had at least 6 incidents of suicide in the three years I went there... only one time when it was someone that I knew. She was in the peforming arts programs, was in my concert choir class one year and that year, she was part of my biology class. Her aspirations were for West Point. On a trip with a group of her classmates (with similiar aspirations), she was berated by one of the officers and ran off. The next day, around gym class, a lot of people were broken up about something and I suspected that her body was found.

Yeah... when it comes to suicide, I'm under the equal impressions that the people in question have simultaneously been contemplating it or rather, there wasn't just one isolated incident, but several until one proved to be too much.... and that it is a last-minute decision that happens rather quickly.
It's a tough gig.

So yeah,  high school was tough for me. Most grades were tough to a certain degree. I'd estimate that grades 5 through 7 were among the easiest to endure because I had at least one best friend. 8th grade was a little bit tougher, especially when it came to one of my friends and my lack of vision/reality on a certain subject. 9th grade was uber-tough, the first time where I was driven to that kind of depression... the burden was made greater and simultaneously easier to bare because of one band that rocked my world that year 8-)

10th and 12th grade were easier than 11th. 11th and 9th were equally hard to endure because of grades... I fell into bad streaks of getting C's or lower on my tests in my honors classes.
I attempted after news of the first suicide leaked in 10th grade to write about a boy who endured so much pain, between his broken home and his grades, that he attempts suicide, only to find later on in recovery that he didn't have to go through it alone. He has a circle of friendship but too ashamed of his situation to confess anything to them. Certainly, if it was me, my motive would be my grades... hmm... a little too "Breakfast Club"-y?

Anyway, yeah, the way I lived life was because I didn't know how to interact with my peers. Clearly there was a clique system in my high school... pretty much defined by the fact that there are the athletes and the non-athletes... I learned this fact for sure in maybe 9th grade, when the athletic types laughed me off and clearly didn't take me seriously... thinking they were in a class by themselves (one of them, I had a crush on in 6th grade and it took me until our next social studies class together 2-3 years later to realize he wasn't worth it)... then there was the performers and the pretenders... I always figured there was a bias in the auditions towards the extroverted, theatrical types with the big voices and no nerves to speak of. I admired the hell out of the senior class when I was a junior (made one of them a fan site too... that hasn't been updated since he graduated... last I heard, he was part of a theater company in White Plains, NY so he's not entirely in obscurity).

I really need to stop doing that... probably lost all my readers by this point.

I guess one part of the discussion that I had with myself that has some relevence to this... Nina asks Jonas sometime in the previous chapter about his family and when she hears about his "uncle," she first asks if he's nice... as if she's kinda guessing that he's come from that type of household too.
But seriously, the one incident he speaks of when he loses control of his abilities and it generates a force-field around him, moving everyone out of his personal space... that sounds like more than enough to be freaked out about. He doesn't need to come from a broken home in addition to that... although he is very embarassed, it seems, of his situation where he doesn't even know his last name or what became of his parents.

Heck, I could even go the extra mile and have Mai pose a question about his homelife. But I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with that.
I certainly didn't come into writing the story with child abuse in mind for a piece of the plot or background of anything. In fact, I don't know if I'm even comfortable with addressing that with this story.
I already kinda did that with the suicide storyline... at the beginning of the 4 years of reckoning, the character's older brother leaves for college and he's the closest friend he has (in addition to his small circle). Then word gets out that his mom was having an affair with another man, so there's a divorce. It's one thing for him to be bullied around by his older stepbrother, but another that the other man his mom was having the affair was... yeah, there was definitely a bit of child abuse there.
I wrote this with a soap opera like storyline in mind and with suicide as the end result of 4 years of suffering...

GEESH... I was a sadistically, sick puppy at that time...
When I showed that story to my mom and my grandma a few months later, I couldn't help but think they thought I had mental problems. It's kinda hard to write about suicide without people thinking that the mentality of it is based on reality.

That's a story I'd been meaning to work out for years, but nothing ever comes out completely right.

And I'd really gone out of my way to avoid reading this chapter.


Here's what's happened in the story so far:
  • Nina arrives at a new school
  • She is accepted into a group of cheerleaders
  • She bumps into someone in the cafeteria, rendering her helpless. He takes her to the nurse
  • Nina tells the cheerleaders about Jonas
  • Mai points Jonas out to Nina and the two of them officially meet for the first time
  • Jonas shows up at Nina's, and confesses about his 'powers' and why he stays away from people
  • Jonas invites Nina to see her the next day
Chapter 4:

returning characters: Nina, one or both of her parents,  Jonas

introducing: Peter Bronson (Jonas's guardian),iguanas (Sparky & Scorch), horses (Thunder, Windy and Rain)

This commentary is going to be about my latest draft, which runs for about 13 pages (double-spaced) and a little less than 4,000 words.
What I tend to do with each chapter is that I note the events of importance, guidelines from the outline I didn't construct until AFTER finishing the actual story. (It often isn't in my style to outline... my suicidal storyline was the only time I did and the way it turned out makes me cringe in part because of it). Then I paste another copy of my most recent draft and just make my rewrites and edits where they're needed.

Example of my events of importance:
  • Nina meets Peter and the iguanas
  • Nina invites the two to her parents’ house for dinner
  • Jonas introduces Nina to his horses
  • They go riding in the enclosure
  • Nina tells Jonas about riding camp
  • Jonas tells Nina about the “bedtime story” (which is ironically about his past life)
And it seems I'm stuck in writing in Arial font, but that's okay. It's my go-to for all intensive purposes. I'll see how much I can get through before the first game starts (Houston & Baltimore, really no preference on who wins cuz the Patriots can beat either of them).

first, gotta single space it so it's easier to read/get through (makes it 7 pages to get through rather than 13)

huh... that's strange... I coulda sworn a conversation took place between Nina and her parents before she left. The previous chapter ends with her mom insisting that she invite them over for dinner... sort of a "get to know the neighbors" type of thing... but nope, all I have is that she puts on some not-so-nice clothes for when she goes riding.

Having that she's checking her watch to see what time it is might be pushing it. I'm extremely punctual to the point it was my obsession when I was in school, had to get to class on time (yeah, my first semester of college had a few incidents as a result of that... I missed one or two classes completely by oversleeping and I got there maybe an hour later to one of them).

I think between her and Jonas, he is the one that's a bit more punctual, by the clock or whatever... if I knew a little more on the subject, I could have written that he was diagnosed with Asperberger's or a highly functioning version of autism... that would explain his behavior a little more too...
:sigh: but no, once again, I'll have to turn down the opportunity to address it from that manner. Supposing he didn't have psychic abilities he wanted to keep secret, him being diagnosed with anything like that definitely would help support his self-impose isolation.

(okay, this is me trying to keep going with my entry after I'd been away for a couple of hours. I'll leave all the Hollywood/NFL commentary for my other blog, but prognosis is definitely great).

The inspiration for this little trip through the woods that Nina takes to get to Jonas's house... actually, just the whole idea of where he lived... one of my aunts has massive woods in her backyard that goes on for quite a while. On the other side of it, I've seen a couple of houses. There's also a river that runs through it that's about four or five feet wide. I haven't been there in ages, feels like a long time, but whenever I get a chance, I'll be sure to remember to bring a camera. All the more to add to the picture I'm trying to instill into this story. Definitely a few more sentences of exposition and description couldn't hurt here.
There was another instance here, I used the word "assumed" and that's something else I need to cut out. I can't have my characters being that hyper-aware of their surroundings or just me narrating as if the narrator knows what they're thinking. That clairvoyence I mentioned a few entries ago.

I may have miswritten that both houses had a screen door. I can't remember if it was one in particular or both, but I might have done both. And I put that it was white... it's on the other side of these woods that are at least half an acre to an acre. Maybe something a little more earthy than just white for description.

Here, I introduce Peter Bronson as being a man about the age of 55 (which feels kinda weird now because my dad is going to be 57 this year... which would make him close to mid-40's around the time I wrote this... it was meant to be an average age, not too old, not too young)... the age isn't a huge detail, but its been locked in for years. Despite the fact all of these celebrities look damn good in their 50's, I'm not about to change that.
I don't quite remember how much of the original conversation about him went into the previous chapter, but again, I can't help but notice how odd it is that Nina say the things she does. Asking "is [Peter] nice?" and saying to Peter "I'm glad he's well brought up"... those are major observations for a 14 year old girl to make. That might just be me being a little more on that mid-aged side from a mental stand-point

I was hoping to get through this before midnight, but as I only have 15 minutes, I might not be able to do all at the rate I'm going. I'm just afradi that if I let this entry sit for too long I'm going to forget about it...
maybe I ought to break it down into two parts... just need to find a good halfway/cut-off point

Already, I'm rereading this and Peter seems very aloof, unassuming about the whole thing... says nothing but nice things about Jonas. I'm not quite sure what I'm going to do with this conversation, if anything at all. I mean, he practically raised him for the past 13-14 years, so you'd think he'd be a little more concerned for him coming into this age and having this attitude about his peers. I'm not sure how many people would find this type of relationship believable.

Heck, Peter Bronson could be British for all I know, he offers Nina a cup of tea :-P
that might be a little stereotypical of the Brits, but hey, it might make things a little more interesting when it comes to the possibility of casting this part. I was thinking someone along the lines of Peter Gallagher and if I'm really shooting, George Clooney (but last I heard, he's not up for acting too much these days, more on the directing side of things).
Definitely not Michael Caine, he'd be a little too old (plus he played Alfred in the latest Batman franchise, not the direction I want to go with at all). Colin Firth is definitely too young for the role as is Hugh Grant. They're laidback fellows, but definitely not for this type of role. 

Nah, for the moment I'll just stick to Americans... I'm already making things too complicated.
Peter isn't much of a father figure to Jonas and is more or less someone that looks after him according to the marriage vows... you know "for better & worse" and "in sickness and health" that sort of thing... he's very laid-back about things because Jonas has kept up with his grades despite everything he's gone through.
If I were a little more awake, I'd compliment ideas of origin stories... detailing the relationship he has with Jonas.

One thing that is going to stay in place, no matter what goes on, is the fact when Nina arrives that Saturday morning, Peter is the one who answers the door and ushers her inside. Then he comes down the stairs to answer a question Nina poses about her mom's 'neighbors' dinner' idea. I can almost picture him rushing down the stairs to get the door, but stops halfway down the steps when he hears that Peter had beaten him to it... during which he keeps himself hidden until he believes his presence is required.

It's one thing for Peter to be super laid-back and an easy-going type of 'father figure.' But taking into account what happened the previous day, Jonas willingly putting himself out there, telling Nina all about himself in a single afternoon... isn't it a little strange that he has reverted a little bit to his old self when he comes into the conversation later on?
Then there's the whole conversation where Jonas kinda gives away how uptight he is about the fact he doesn't know what happened to his parents. It starts with Peter saying that Jonas doesn't like taking his last name for his own and in Jonas's words "I’m not really your son so I wouldn’t take your last name. As far as I know, I don’t have a last name" strange, I copied/pasted Arial and it came out in serif font...

I'm not sure if there's a way I can completely legitimize this 180, this totally different demeanor coming from my character... it's just... strange. In fact, he even sounds angry when I'm rereading this sentence... considering who I'm dealing with here, that sounds like cause for alarm.
And really, why now is it going down this way? The way I pictured it, with the exception of this scene, the relationship between these two people is great...

and now it seems I'm starting to really overcomplicate things. But it's true... it's a really big reversal here to have Jonas visually upset about clarifying this and bringing this out into the open. Bringing up his parents being more of a hot button than his other abilities leaking to the school's gossip line.

Hmm... there seems to be all kinds of possibilities for this to work out different ways... in one draft, I can definitely see Jonas being close to losing it and Nina's presence reassures him that everything's going to be okay. And if anything, I want to keep the motif of there being subtltes of emotion when it comes to Jonas... he can't be too much far in one direction except in some very drastic situations... this isn't one of them.

Embarassment and shame are the two key emotions I want to play with here rather than anger.

This conversation comes and goes. Jonas introduces Nina to his two iguanas, a short conversation I don't really want to do too much to. Nina and Peter exchange a few words that I'd like to keep in there

After Jonas disappeared up the stairs, Peter commended Nina. “That was very sweet of you to say. It means a great deal to him to have someone support him the way you just did.”
 “I just didn’t want to see him sad… that’s all.”

One key thing about Peter is that he operates from behind the scenes a lot. He and Jonas really don't discuss things after one of those incidents occurs in the rainy season. He knows that Peter knows all about what happens, and they both accept that there's nothing that can be done to change the situation. He's also not the type of person who pushes Jonas into situations he doesn't want to go into... he merely acts as a source of advice, if he wants it, but doesn't allow himself to get too involved in his private life. Perhaps it was because he always knew Jonas was destined for greatness.

I just pretty much scrolled through the last couple pages and not going to add too much... I think the majority of what happens can stay, but I need to polish the narration and the dialogue a tiny bit.

One thing I keep going back to is when Jonas takes Nina out to the stables, she makes a comment about Peter and he changes the subject rather than talking about it. Practicing that whole manevuer of "avoidance."
I can't help but feel this is something I need to iron out a great deal... geesh, and I thought Jonas and Mai had a lot of kinks in their relationship that I needed to work on. Peter is a very supportive character throughout this story so it really doesn't make sense of Jonas to have that sort of disdain for him that he exhibits in this chapter.

Subtly is the key, for sure... figuring out how much is too much... a little bit of embarassment and shame is good to continue with the self-confidence problem. And if they have a good relationship in general, it makes no sense for Jonas to act this way or talk this way when he's in the same room with them. It's a little rude, I guess... yeah, there's definitely a lot I gotta fix with that.
As far as Jonas and his animal companions, all of that seems to be playing out exactly the way it needs to be.

So to conclude this, I have two things to figure out:

-what does Jonas really think of Mai and her rumors?
- how does Jonas feel about Peter and his living situation?/how does Peter feel about Jonas and the way he chooses to live his life...

With that last, it seems that he doesn't want to say it aloud, but deep down, he worries sometimes that Jonas might not to able to live a full, happy life if he continues on along this trek of loneliness.

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