On Signing Up for Writing 101 – Free-Writing Assignment

So I signed up for Writing 101 over at the Daily Post, even though I know that I’m seriously overwhelmed – not just by the stuff that I have to do, but by the stuff that I want to do, too. Why? Because I’m a crazy diamond who wants to shine on! And I also know that I’m a whining whiner who whines a lot about not knowing what to write most of the time.

Wouldn’t you know it? I started late (because I got distracted, as expected). But I’m not giving up! I’m posting the first writing assignmnent – a free-writing piece – here for all to see.

Prepare for incoherence (and typos).

Highway
(Image by Caleb George)

The Highways, The Low Ways

She called herself Lucy, because it sounded about right. It wasn’t a name her mother would have chosen; and her father would not have considered it at all. But it was a good name. A safe name.

It’s a name that lets you hide.

Except that Lucy wasn’t really hidden right now. In fact, she was the center of some very uncomfortable attention as she stood at the side of the freeway trying to open the trunk of her black rental car. Her hands shook as she tried to shove the key into the hole, wondering if she’s made a terrible mistake. She needed to be quick. They might find her. They might find them.

She finally managed to open the trunk and pull out the replacement tire.

Her heart sank. The tire is flat.

She checked her mobile phone again. Still dead.

She threw the tire back into the trunk and slammed it shut. She saw a pair of huge dark eyes staring at her from the car’s back windshield, and willed herself to breathe and smile.

“Sorry ’bout that, baby,” she said as she opened the door. “It looks like we’ll have to walk.”

Her son thought his name was Chris – it was a good COMMON name. He was born with another one, a much better one, and Lucy’s insides contracted at the memory of that old name. She sat next to the child in the back seat, kept the door open so they won’t suffocate. “Is it okay if you carry Mr. Grandvi while we find someone who’ll help?”

The boy’s eyes shone with regal seriousness as he nodded and picked up his knapsack and teddy bear. “I can carry your bag too, Momma,” he lisped.

Just then, a car parked in front of theirs. A large man disembarked, strode to their car. He leaned over the hood of the car, casting a long dark shadow.

“Hey,” he said casually. “Need any help?”

Lucy could only stare at the purple whorls peeking out of his collar and cuffs.

Oh no. They’ve FOUND her.

Sometimes Fictional Christians are the BEST Christians

I may not be a practicing Catholic – heck, I can barely be classified as a Christian anymore – but my upbringing was definitely strongly influenced by the teachings of Christ. In fact, some of my favorite songs while I was growing up were actually songs I learned as part of a church choir.

I mean, listen to this:

This and pretty much every Christian ritual I’ve experienced are there to give you a sense of uplifting inclusiveness. Unfortunately, not everyone got the memo – many people in many congregations use their faith to exclude, shame, and outright punish “others”. As wonderful as the actual religion is, as cool as Jesus Christ is, many of its believers suck as human beings. Even priests fuck it up despite all those biblical examples of helping the downtrodden. Pope Francis may be doing fairly well in rehabilitating the Church’s image, but so many OTHER leaders in the Catholic community have trouble with practicing what they preach (which should include “loving your neighbors” on top of loving God).

Maybe that’s the reason why I appreciate FICTIONAL Christians. While a whole lot of them may be played for laughs, many of them still serve as great examples of the principles of Christianity (some even make Catholic symbolism cool).

After talking to my dad, who basically shares my appreciation for fictional Christians, I ended up with a list of my absolute favorite fictional Christian characters:

  1. The Confessor (Astro City) – A Roman Catholic priest who once gave in to temptation, he atones for his sins by fighting as a costumed superhero vampire. It’s less cheesy than you think.
  2. Father Brown (Father Brown Stories) – Also a Roman Catholic priest, Father Brown uses his insight into evil, born out of years of listening to confessions, to solve crimes. I just love how he proves that being faithful doesn’t mean being irrational.
  3. Ned Flanders (The Simpsons) – Homer Simpson’s generally genial neighbor, while the butt of many jokes and the victim of many injustices, still tries his best to be a good person to everyone. It’s very admirable.
  4. Seeley Booth (Bones) – As the hyper-rational Temperance Brennan’s partner in all respects, this FBI agent tends to be more “absolutist” when it comes to questions of good or bad. But instead of making him unbearably righteous, it makes him sympathetic as he tries to be a good person in the face of his job. The complexity is compelling.
  5. Michael and Charity Carpenter (The Dresden Files) – Michael is a Knight of the Cross; he fights demons using a sword with a nail from Christ’s crucifixion. His wife Charity makes ALL his armor, and helps him practice fighting. They do this with SEVEN children and a house in the suburbs. Why do I love them? Lemme give you a Michael quote:

It’s one of the things that makes us different than they are, Harry. The blood on their hands does not make it right to bloody my own. My choices are measured against my own soul. Not against the stains on theirs.

Holy shit, right? No pun intended.

So I guess my point is that sometimes it takes fiction to help you see the best things about having faith, the best manifestations of faith – like recognizing one’s mistakes and attempting to make up for it, like living by your principles, like using your gifts to help others.

Call me a cynic, but having a hierarchical “community” may not be the best way to go about this. Maybe we need to tell more Catholic/Christian stories that are less “preachy”. But that’s just me.

Do you have favorite religious characters? Why do you like them?

Not A Fanfiction Friday: 11th

In an attempt to get my butt moving on my “The Conjuring” review, I decided to write some horror fiction this week. It’s not really as scary. But I’m hoping this gets my writing moving…

This has partial basis in reality.

******

The elevator has been stopping on the 11th floor for months now.

It doesn’t stop for long; it always moves on after a few seconds. It stops long enough someone to get on or disembark. But no one does. No one lives on the 11th floor.

We don’t know why it does that, and we’re not sure why it hasn’t stopped even after we got the repairmen to try and fix it five times over the last three months. There would be times when we’d have no choice but to climb up the dark, dusty stairwells of the building (more often than not, though, we’d wait for a guard to manually control the elevator; even then it stops at the 11th). When we use the stairs, we’d always have this sense of claustrophobic foreboding. Like someone is pushing the walls towards us. Like someone is lifting the stairs, making it steeper.

This usually happens when we get close to the 11th floor.

We asked the head guard about it, but he said he didn’t really notice these things. He just promises that the management is working hard to fix the issues in the elevator.

I, for one, hope that they finish fixing it soon. Last week, I started to see people in the elevator mirrors; they’re getting on and disembarking at the 11th floor. There always seems to be 11 of them inside, at any given time. They’re always in there, pretty much.

I tried to avoid it, you know. Last Thursday, I took the stairs; I told the guards that I’m trying to lose weight. But there were people on the 11th landing, standing there, watching me climb. They all looked so proud of me and I don’t know why they were all looking at me like that, but I avoided their eyes as I squeeze past them. They weren’t cold, like I expected. They didn’t feel like anything at all. They only smelled like old books and dust and, for some reason, roasted pig.

Today, I walked out of the elevator into the 11th floor. I’ve been stuck here for hours. The buttons don’t work. The door to the stairwell is locked, and so are the windows. My phone, from which I’m typing this, is running low on battery–as it is, I’m actually surprised that I have Internet access here; I don’t have enough cellular signal to call my family upstairs. I have my charger in my bag, and pretty soon I’m going to have to break into one of the condominium units to use a socket. I get the feeling that none of those doors are locked to me.

I smell roast pig and old books and dust. Somewhere down the hall is a little girl’s voice: “When will we have sister for dinner?”

If anyone on Tower 1 Island Villas Quezon City is reading this, PLEASE HELP ME.

On Figuring Out My Superhero Story

So I just read a superhero story. A DAMN GOOD superhero story. It’s written by (our family favorite) io9 writer Charlie Jane Anders, and you can read it in Apex magazine.

You need to read it. I mean, right now. I can wait.

Stories you love to read
It’s one of THOSE.

Done? Great, right? By the time I finished reading it, I found my mind racing. The family and reincarnation angle, the POV, the female superhero–they got woven together in a way that engaged me and made me care about the characters. The world building–despite the fact that the setting does not get in the way of plot movement–is extremely solid. In many ways, it reminded me of some of the stories told in Astro City.

It also kind of made me think of my own superhero story and how much of it sucks in comparison. ><

As it is, I’m finding it very difficult to stitch the different little “human” and “hero” moments of my character together. Occasionally, I also find myself distracted by the other superheroes that pop up in the original incarnation of the story; primarily because a couple of them have some VERY strong connections to a major story arc that moves Liberty into a new heroic phase.

I’m specifically talking about Egg and Maboroshii Tofu-sama, who are both genetically linked to the baddies in this specific story. Egg (created by my sister Addy) features prominently in Act 1, in which all hell STARTS to break loose. Act 2 turns Tofu-sama (created by my friend Ren) into one of the catalysts that force a change in Liberty’s superheroics, as he is considered to be a close friend by Ean Garcia–that’s Liberty’s secret identity. I’m currently working with my sister to flesh out everything so I can hopefully make something cohesive out of the mess of ideas I’m dealing with right now.

While I do plan to keep many of the elements of the original plot–specifically the major events that my brilliant sister orchestrated so many years ago–I’m also changing things to allow for some darker themes later on. For example, Ean and Chiaki Junpei (Tofu-sama’s secret identity) started out as pop stars; in the revamped storyline, however, I find it more plausible for them to be something more low-key but still ridiculously flashy. So I’m thinking that they should own an image consultancy business together. Enye, Ean’s lookalike (younger) twin sister, was originally the songwriter to her brother’s pop singer. Now, though, I’m inclined to turn her into a journalist of some sort. She’ll probably be the type who’ll do the fluff pieces so she’ll still have time to look out for her brother. I’m also considering changing the name of the setting. We called it Nuna Payatt, but I haven’t gotten the permission to use it from the person who came up with that (she does awesome cosplay, that girl).

Strangely enough, I can’t imagine changing anything about Egg–who is a kitty that turns into something that looks human–and his caretaker/Mom Ingrid Klein–who happens to be a photographer. If there’s anything I’m inclined to change about their end of the plot, it’s the type of publication that Ingrid works for. Originally, she shot photos for Kakkoii~!! Magazine (which focuses on fashion). Now, I’m considering turning Kakkoii into something closer to a news blog (where Enye also works; see how well it seems to tie together?). It will, of course, still be owned and run by the same people because I simply can’t write this story without the effervescent Love Yamamoto and her long-suffering associate Ludwig Volkakov. I ALSO don’t think I can change anything about Jeun, who works as Chiaki’s poor, put-upon assistant. Because she’s the person who makes that megalomaniac seem ALMOST human.

It’s a lot of work, but I’m hoping that I can do this without screwing it up too much.

Thankfully, Charlie Jane’s short story is inspiring me (instead of discouraging me) with its awesomeness right now. I’m scribbling on my filler notebook as we speak, so I can hopefully jot down some scenes and plot points when I get home later.

Oh, in case you’re wondering about Egg and his human, here’s all you need to know about them:

Egg vs the Bath
Again, drawn by my talented sister.

So you understand the REAL reason why I can’t let these characters go. Thankfully, my sister is okay with using them in the new version.

Writing Challenge 5 – My Best Friend

Right.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m planning to (finally) finish the Writing Challenge originally posted by Mechanistic Moth.  At the moment, I’ve only managed to complete four – this is the fifth.  Here’s hoping I manage to finish this by the year’s end! :))

Now here’s a REAL challenge for me because it wants me to post about my best friend.  My problem with it is that it’s so hard to pick.  I have many people in my life, different circles of friends, and various people whose influence and support I value.  It frankly took me a long time to figure out who can best encompass the definition of “best friend” as I comprehend it, but I eventually came to the conclusion that there is basically one person who’s presence in my life is important.

It’s my younger sister.

My sister and myself - best friends forever
We were adorable children. Our mother must have been proud.

Apart from having shared a ridiculous fondness for silly and admittedly geeky t-shirts (I rocked that Ghostbusters shirt long before she did), we also had the benefit of having spent most of our formative years together despite the two-year age difference.  That’s because a.) we went to the same all-girls school and ended up with the same circle of friends, b.) I screwed up my third year in high school and had to repeat a year, and c.) we both have an appreciation for stories.  Admittedly, we tend to focus on different issues – as far as I could figure, she’s excited by concepts and how well they are executed in different media while I’m more of a genre convention girl who likes to analyze why certain storytelling methods work in some genre/media, but not others.

We made up stories together while growing up, and these days we find ourselves engaging in many conversations that range from the silly (typically to do with our cats) to the intellectually charged (yesterday, we were talking about story point of views and the genres where they’re best applied).  We tend to make up characters together – hers are always cooler – and she has a talent for art that’s so mind-blowing that I DON’T EVEN…

Work drawn by sister
She made this OVER FOUR YEARS AGO for Valentines Day. And her skills have since improved.

I think of her as the quiet eye in the storm of Geminis (and one Aquarian) that make up our rather loud modern family.  She’s one of the very few people in my life who can, with a few words, put everything into perspective without being offensive.

How lucky am I, then, that’s she’s my sister and we’re bound by blood? 🙂

What about you guys?  Who do you consider your best friend?