Progress and Decisions

So I got back into revisions again today, and did a pretty good job making progress. Well, five pages got revised, which isn’t a whole lot. Not out of 443. But progress is progress, especially after I was kept from revisions for so long.

I managed to fix a couple of very important plot holes today, each of which was small but crucial. Some threads from earlier in the novel are being brought together in the end, which is working out nicely. I’ve still got a large stack of notes to work through, but I’m confident I can push through them, little by little.

The main issue I’m facing right now is some important decisions that need to get made. Specifically, there are a few things I am now convinced may need to be cut. Some were things I realized on my own, others were things a trusted person suggested needed to be cut in order to make the story work. In each case, they’re things that I really really like and don’t want to cut because they’re some of my favorite parts. But despite how much I adore certain parts of the novel, they might not be helping the story. A scene or section that is great as a stand-alone thing might not actually be what’s best for the novel as a whole.

It’s going to be hard to decide what definitely does or doesn’t need to be cut. I still have to consider a few possible angles. But sometime in the next few days I’m going to need to make a decision.

Wish me luck.

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Storytime Mondays: What Memories Do To Us

“What Memories Do to Us”

“No.”

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“No.  You can’t go out with him.”

Trish put her hands on her hips and gave her brother ‘the look’.  The same look their mother gave their father when he was really in trouble.  “I’ll have you know, big brother,” she said, “that I can go out with whoever I want, thank you very much!”

“Not when it’s one of my friends,” Alex replied.  He knew what his friends were like; he’d cheered them on in their ‘conquests’ often enough after all.  The last thing he wanted was Trish becoming just another one of those conquests.  Sure, Jeremy wasn’t like the other guys, not really.  Alex thought of him as more or less harmless; he listened to the other guys’ stories, the same as Alex did, but never shared any of his own.  Alex didn’t have any problem with Jeremy, but that still didn’t make him good enough to date Alex’s sister.

“Well, hold on a second now,” their father stepped in, holding up his hands to forestall any more arguing.  “I’ve met Jeremy.  He seems like a nice young man, and I’m sure he’s a perfect gentleman.  Unless there’s something you’re not telling us, Alex?” His father gave him a questioning look.  Alex hesitated, glancing at Trish.  She was definitely what you’d call a ‘Daddy’s Girl’, and their father was just as protective of her as Alex was.  Lately Trish had been drawing more and more attention from the boys, with her shimmering brunette hair, deep blue eyes, long eyelashes, and charming smile.  Quite a few of Alex’s other friends had been commenting lately on her beauty, and a few of them had made some comments about her body that had earned them beatings from Alex.  Of course, Jeremy hadn’t been one of the ones saying these things, but it wouldn’t be hard for Alex to say he had.  One wrong word from Alex and their father would never let Trish go out with Jeremy.  The only problem was that he couldn’t actually think of a real reason Trish shouldn’t be able to go out with him.  He just simply didn’t want any of his friends near her.

“Well…” Alex thought about it for a long moment.  All he had to do was tell a story of one of his other friends, and unjustly insert Jeremy’s name, and the date would be off.  “No,” Alex sighed.  “Jeremy’s a fine guy.  There’s nothing wrong with him.”  He couldn’t bring himself to lie about it just because he was being overprotective.  It really was Trish’s choice, after all.

Trish was now giving their father a hopeful look, trying to hold back her smile.  He looked at her for a moment, still hesitant, then nodded.  “Alright then,” he clapped a hand on Alex’s shoulder, a sympathetic look in his eye.  He obviously wasn’t happy about his ‘little girl’ dating a guy two years older, or even dating at all, but Trish was fifteen now, and starting to get past the point that she could be sheltered.  Like Alex, their father was forcing himself to accept that it was Trish’s choice, at least so long as he knew that the guy was trustworthy.  “You can go out with him,” he told Trish.  She started bouncing on her toes happily, then gave their father a big hug.

“Thank you Daddy!” she squealed.

“But,” he continued, Trish pulling back from the hug and putting a pout on her lips, “first you and I need to have a little talk…”

“Oh, Daaaaad!” Trish pouted.  “We already HAD ‘that’ talk!” she gave him her most disappointed look, the one that usually got their father to cave and give her her way.

“I know sweetie, but humor your old man,” their father led Trish into the other room to have ‘the talk’, while Alex went to his room to call up Jeremy and make some veiled threats about what Alex would do to him if Trish got hurt.

*                      *                      *

“No!”

“Trish, please…”

“No!  I don’t want to!”

“Trish sweetie, come on.  You need to go.  We can’t have you getting sick again,” Trish’s mother was holding Trish’s jacket in her hands, trying to convince the little girl to put it on.  “I know you don’t like going to the doctor, but you have to.”

“But Mooooom!” Trish pouted.  She was eleven years old, and quite used to getting her way, most of the time anyway.  But Daddy was at work, and she always had a harder time getting her way with Mommy, especially when it came to going to the doctor.  “I don’t wanna go!  I’m not sick, honest!  I haven’t even thrown up or nothing!” she put on her most adorable pout, batting her eyelashes, though she had a feeling it was hopeless.

“I’m sorry honey, but you have to.  Come on,” her mother took Trish by the shoulders and started steering her towards the door, handing her the jacket.  “If we don’t take you to see the doctor, you might have another relapse.  Your T-cell count is getting low again, and you know that’s when you start to get sick.”  Trish didn’t entirely know what ‘T-cells’ were, except that they were white blood cells that did something to keep her healthy.  She knew they fought off bacteria and viruses and stuff like that, and when there weren’t enough T-cells in her blood, it made it easy for her to get sick.  Though she didn’t know what made them get low, and even the doctors didn’t know what was wrong with her.  All they knew how to do was give her medicine to fight the symptoms.

“It’ll be okay honey.  You know the doctor is just there to help you,” her mother patted her on the shoulder as she led her out the door, though Trish didn’t say anything.  She kept her head down, wishing she had some other way out of the visit to the doctor’s office.  She thought about trying to run away until Daddy came home, though she didn’t think that would do her any good.  So she just kept her head down and let her mother lead her to the car, wondering why it was that she always had to get sick.

The ride to the doctor’s office wasn’t a long one.  Trish spent the entire ride staring out the window at the buildings passing by.  Her mother kept talking the entire time; encouraging words, empty sympathy, all of which meant nothing to Trish.  Her mother didn’t understand, and Trish couldn’t find the courage to tell her.  It was just too embarrassing.  At first she thought this was some kind of punishment.  This was what sick girls have to go through.  But none of her friends had to go through what she went through.  None of them feared going to the doctor the way Trish did.

She had thought she was finally getting better.  It had been over two months since the last time she’d had to go.  Her parents still insisted on testing her blood every day, and every day she sat there scared while she waited to find out her fate.  She had been trying so hard to stay healthy, and doing everything they’d told her to do.  She was eating the right foods, and getting plenty of exercise.  She’d convinced her parents to let her start taking self-defense classes, and they’d agreed that the classes were a good form of exercise.  Trish hadn’t told them why she really wanted to take the classes.  She’d been practicing hard every day, and was already at the top of her class.

As much as Trish hoped for the car ride to last longer, all too soon it was over, and her mother was leading her into the doctor’s office.  She kept her head down the entire time, barely listening as her mother said hello to the receptionist.  While her mother made small talk, Trish wandered over to the waiting area, dropping down into a seat.  There were a few other kids there, most of them younger than Trish, playing with the toys and video games in the waiting room.  Trish was getting too old for the toys, and the games didn’t interest her.  Being here didn’t put her in a playful mood.  She ignored the other children, ignored her mother when she tried to cheer Trish up, and ignored the sick sensation in her stomach that had nothing to do with illness.  Then, as much as she tried to ignore it, she heard the receptionist call her name.  It was time.

“Everything will be fine, sweetie,” her mother said as Trish dragged her feet towards the door, where a nurse waited to lead her back to the examination room.  She said nothing during the usual preliminary tests: blood pressure, temperature, measuring her height and weight.  The nurse then handed her a gown and left so Trish could get out of her clothes.

She sat there, holding the folded robe in her hands, staring at the floor.  She didn’t want this to happen again.  She saw tears falling onto the light blue cloth of the gown, then her face was buried in it, stifling her sobs.  It was in this state the doctor found her a few minutes later.

“Good morning, Patricia,” Dr. Simmons said, smiling in the way that always sent a chill up Trish’s spine.  He showed too many teeth, and even when his mouth was smiling his eyes never did.  His eyes were looking at Trish, and she fidgeted in her seat.  She pulled the gown down from her face and clutched it to her chest, staring at Dr. Simmons with no expression on her face.  “How are we today?” he stepped forward and brushed his fingers across her cheek, brushing her hair back over her ear.  She held perfectly still, breathing slowly and carefully.

When she didn’t respond Dr. Simmons lifted her chin with his fingers so her eyes met his.  “Not feeling very talkative today?” he asked, his voice still in the same steady tone he always used.  Trish swallowed a lump in her throat, concentrating on her breathing.  “You didn’t change into your gown, Patricia,” Dr. Simmons said, taking the gown from her hands and placing it on the examination table next to her.  She held her hands in her lap, her fingers tightly closed.  “Here, let me help you get that off…” Dr. Simmons slid his hands down her arms, and reached for the bottom of her shirt.

“No!” Trish felt her heart racing as she brought her arms up in between the doctor’s, sweeping her arms to either side in a rapid motion that knocked Dr. Simmons hands away.  He stepped back, a stunned look on his face.

“Patricia, it’s alright,” he put the smile back on his face.  “I just need to give you an examination.  We’ve done this plenty of times, it’s alright,” he stepped forward again, and Trish pushed herself off the table, her feet hitting the ground and her fist hitting Dr. Simmons stomach.  She was a small girl, but she’d been taught to put her full body weight into a swing.  She’d been taught where to strike to do the most damage.  She let out a fierce scream as the doctor bent over, the wind knocked out of him, his hands clutching his stomach.  Before he could recover Trish continued on through the motions she’d learned in self-defense class, stomping her heel down on his toe, then shoving him hard while he was doubled over in pain.  Dr. Simmons slammed onto the ground, grunting in pain, caught so off guard by the sudden assault that he hadn’t had time to react.  Trish didn’t bother to wait and see what he would do; by the time he hit the ground she was already running for the door.

Later that night, Trish was sitting alone in her room.  Her mother had been both furious and worried for Trish, begging her for hours to explain why she had attacked Dr. Simmons, but Trish had refused to say a word.  Her mother had asked her over and over again: Did he do anything to you?  Trish hadn’t been able to tell her mother anything; she had simply said she didn’t want to go back there, ever again.  She was sure her mother suspected what Trish wasn’t telling her, but she wouldn’t admit to it.

Now, Trish’s father was home, and her mother was downstairs explaining to him what had happened.  Trish wasn’t sure what was going to happen, but she fully expected to get grounded at the very least.  She sat on her bed, staring at the floor, and realized she didn’t care.  She didn’t care what happened to her now; she never had to go back to see Dr. Simmons again, and that made it all worth it.

She heard a knock at her door, and looked up to see Alex standing there.  Her brother was thirteen, and starting to be a bit of a pain, but she still looked up to him.  “Hey…” he said, stepping into her room.  “I heard mom and dad talking…”

Trish simply nodded, looking back down at the ground.  “So what happened?” Alex asked, coming in and sitting next to her, a concerned frown on his face.  Trish looked up at him, her eyes growing moist.  Alex frowned deeper, then put a hand on her back.  “What?” he asked again.

Trish got up and went over to the door, looking up and down the hall to make sure their parents weren’t upstairs.  She heard their voices coming from the living room downstairs; they still seemed to be deep in conversation.  She shut and locked the door, then went back to sit next to Alex.  She looked up at him, tears in her eyes.  “Promise you won’t tell Mom and Dad?”

*                      *                      *

Trish came home from her date with tears in her eyes.  Alex was downstairs, watching an old movie.  Their parents were already in bed.  Alex looked up at Trish, his fist clenching in anger, Jeremy’s soon to be bruised face flashing before his eyes.  “What happened?” he asked, getting up from the couch.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Trish headed for the stairs, wiping at her eyes.  Her hair was a bit disheveled, and Alex noticed her blouse wasn’t tucked in.

“Trish…” Alex stepped towards her, his tone a mix between concern and anger.

“I said I don’t want to talk about it!” she screamed at him, rushing up the stairs and into her room.  Alex watched her for a moment, then grabbed his jacket and headed out the door.  The city was a blur in his vision as he sped towards Jeremy’s house, blocking out everything but the image of his former friend’s face.  By the time he got to the house, he was in a blind rage.  He pounded on the door like it was Jeremy’s face, and it took only a moment before Jeremy answered.  He still had his jacket and shoes on; he must have just gotten home a few moments before Alex got there.

“Alex, wha-“ Alex’s fist cut off Jeremy’s question, knocking the other teen back into the house.  Between blows from Alex’s fists Jeremy managed to get out a few protests and yells for help, “Wait…I didn’t…Stop!  Stop man!  I didn’t touch her!”  Alex was beyond listening to any excuses.  No one touched his sister.

It was only a few moments before Jeremy’s parents were roused by the sounds of their son being beaten and yelling for help, and Jeremy’s father pulled Alex away, his arms still swinging.  It wasn’t until then that Alex found his voice, “You son of a bitch!  She’s my fucking sister!  Get off me!” he struggled against Jeremy’s dad, but he was a construction worker and far stronger than Alex, even with all the adrenaline pumping through him.

“Calm down, son, just calm down,” Jeremy’s father sounded surprisingly calm, though he looked at his son with a concerned expression.  “Just settle down and we’ll all talk about this…”

“There’s nothing to talk about!” Alex finally pulled himself from the man’s grip, though his rage was expended and he simply stood there, clenching and unclenching his fists, staring Jeremy down.  The other teen was still on the ground, though his mother had helped him to a sitting position.  His eye was swollen, his lip bleeding, and the shape of his nose told Alex he’d broken it.

“Alex man, I swear, I didn’t…” Alex didn’t even listen to Jeremy’s protest of innocence.  He stormed out of the house, his steps slowing as he went, his energy spent now that the adrenaline was fading.  By the time he got in his car he felt ready to collapse; he leaned his forehead against the steering wheel, taking a few deep breaths.  Jeremy and his family were standing in the doorway, looking out at him.  Shooting them one last glare, he started the car and drove away.

Alex drove for hours, his mind in a daze.  He was surprised at himself, but he didn’t regret what he’d done.  He had to protect Trish.  He knew she could look out for herself now, but memories didn’t fade easily.  He drove with his thoughts and memories for a long time, finally pulling back up to his house late in the night.  No lights were on, and everyone seemed to be asleep.

Alex went inside, and headed to the kitchen, pouring himself a glass of ice water to cool the burning in his throat.  It wasn’t until then he noticed how cut and bruised his hands were.  He had never been in a fight like this before, had never attacked someone before.  The skin on the backs of his hands was split, and covered in a mix of his blood and Jeremy’s.  Letting out a sigh of defeat he went to the sink to clean up.  Then the lights in the kitchen came on.

“What did you do…?” It was Trish, and she was staring at his bloody hands, and his face; he must have gotten some of Jeremy’s blood on his face as well.  “Alex, what the hell?  What did you do?!” she had a look of horror on her face.  His sister had never looked at him like that before.

“Trish, I’m sorry,” Alex hung his head, not ashamed of what he’d done, but of how his sister was reacting.  “Maybe I took it too far, but Trish, look at what he…” he stopped, not really sure what Jeremy had done, looking up at Trish with the hope that she’d understand.

“’What he’ what, Alex?” Trish had her hands on her hips, glaring at him.  “Jeremy didn’t do anything!  He only got to second base, and that’s because I wanted him to!” her delicate face was turning red with embarrassment and anger.

Alex gave her a confused look.  “But…when you came home…” A sick feeling started building in his stomach.

Trish crossed her arms, clenching her teeth for a moment to keep herself from screaming at him.  “I came home upset because I made a fool out of myself,” her voice was tight and strained.  “All Jeremy did was kiss me, until I took his hand and…well, y’know…” her face flushed deeper, and she clenched her teeth, taking a deep breath.  “Anyway, I wanted him to, it was my choice…but then…” tears started to fill her eyes, her breathing growing erratic, “then I started…remembering.” She turned her eyes away, wiping a hand across her face.  “And then I freaked out, and I hit him, because for a second I thought it was him,” Alex didn’t have to ask who she meant, “and then I felt like the biggest idiot, because I’m the one that…started, and I couldn’t even go through with it…” she dropped her arms to her sides, a look of embarrassed defeat about her.  “And then you,” she glared at him, her defeat turning to anger, “you…!  Alex, I can’t believe you!” she stepped forward, her fists raised, then collapsed against his chest, smothering her face in his shirt while pounding her fists against his chest.  “How could you!  He’ll never want to speak to me again!  Alex, how could you!” she collapsed in tears, soaking his shirt, clinging to him weakly.  He wrapped his arms around her…mute…lost…

“I’m sorry Trish,” he finally whispered, his voice hoarse.  “I was just trying to…” she pulled back, looking up at him, her face stained with tears.  He saw the pain he had caused her in her eyes.  He couldn’t make any excuses for what he’d done.  Jeremy, he would have to apologize to, explain things to, make excuses, and hope to fix things.  But Trish…looking at the hurt in her eyes, he couldn’t even make an excuse.  All he could say was, “I’m sorry…”

Trish nodded, wiping her face with the sleeve of her pajamas.  “I know, big brother,” she whispered.  “I know…” Without any more words she gave him a hug, kissed his cheek, and then headed back to bed, leaving Alex alone with his thoughts, his memories, and his regrets.

Storytime Mondays: The Awakening

This story was written for a creative writing class I took in 2000. The inspiration was a D&D campaign I was playing at the time. Thus there is a wizard, a dragon, and some really cheesy names like a volcano called “Mount Sear.” Don’t ask me where I came up with that, I really don’t know!

———————————————————————

The mountain was smoking.

For years now it had been quiet, and everyone in the town of Redwind Gale had thought there would be no more tremors, no more reason to fear.  Decades ago, Mount Sear had erupted, killing many of the villagers; human, elven, and dwarven alike, and scarring the memories of many more.  The survivors had rebuilt the town much farther from the mountain’s base, but there were still those who remembered the fiery carnage wrought by the mountain’s fury.  When the tremors had first started up again, almost ten years ago, they had frightened the villagers to a near panic.  Everyone was afraid, especially the children, whose imaginations ran wild with images of flaming rocks, molten lava, and stories of the destruction that had occurred for miles around.  After the initial tremors passed, the people had calmed, realizing that they might not be doomed after all.  But the mountain had never slept peacefully since then.  As the years passed, the villagers lived in a silent fear, awaiting the day that the volcano would wake.  Each time the ground shook, the people stared into the distance with fear, praying that it would pass.

Even when the volcano was silent, people still thought of the day they knew would come.  The elders’ stories had become all too real in their minds, and with each quake they pictured their beautiful town in flames, and saw the burning bodies of their friends and loved ones.  Many of the elves had moved back into the distant forests, seeking safety in nature’s embrace, while the dwarven citizens had begun digging new tunnels in the surrounding hillside, hoping to make a safe shelter in which to hide.  Some people, however, refused to flee their homes, despite their fears.

Then one day, the tremors stopped.  For months the mountain was silent, and everyone thought that this time it was for good.  Everyone lived peacefully for a time, and the nightmares of their envisioned end had soon ceased.  The preparations that had begun, either for some form of defense or a plan of escape, were all soon forgotten as the threat seemed to vanish.  The older villagers eventually stopped telling their stories to the children, and everyone was able to live free of worry.

Until the day several of the children came running back into the village, full of panic and shouting.  They were all gathered in a confused huddle, all of them crying and shouting at once.  It took a few moments for them to be calmed down, and by then everyone nearby had gathered around, putting aside their daily chores, to find out what was wrong.  The oldest boy, Clancy, a lad of eleven summers and full of imagination and mischief, had done most of the talking.

“The mountain’s exploding!” he shouted, sending the people gathered around into a panic.  “We’re all doomed!”  At first no one believed him, and a few of the adults laughed and muttered under their breaths about the child’s imagination.  Sen, the blacksmith, stepped forward to find out what was wrong.

“Calm down, m’boy,” Sen took the boy by his shoulders, trying to soothe Clancy’s nerves with his own calm, steady presence.  “Take a few breaths there.”  He waited a moment, giving the boy a stern look when he appeared ready to jump right back into his tale without waiting.  Once Clancy looked to be calmer, he asked “Now what’s all this ’bout the mountain exploding?”

Clancy opened his mouth to speak, but by then a shout had risen from the gathered crowd, and he was cut off.  “Look!” someone pointed, and everyone’s attention was pulled away from Clancy and his friends.  They no longer needed to hear his tale to know it was true.  A pillar of smoke could now be seen, rising up from Mount Sear’s peak.  Everyone stood in silence as the sight was absorbed, and forgotten fears began to resurface.

“We was playing on the slopes, that’s all,” Clancy continued, drawing the villagers’ attention back to him.  “We didn’t mean nothin’ to happen, honest.”  The boy was on the verge of tears, and some of the other children had already begun to cry.

“It’s all right, m’boy” Sen told him, squeezing the lad’s arm.  “T’isn’t your fault.  We all knew it’d start up again someday.”

“No, you don’t understand,”  Clancy shook his head, tears streaming down his cheeks in earnest now.  “It’s Philip, he’s….”

A scream from the crowd cut him off.  A desperate arm shoved Sen aside, knocking the burly blacksmith to the ground with a thud, startling those nearby.  “My Philip?”  the woman screamed, grabbing Clancy and shaking him.  “My son, my baby where is he?”

Clancy tried to respond, but she was shaking him so hard, he couldn’t speak.  It took three men to pull Philip’s mother back, trying to calm both her down.  It took a few moments of gentle reassurances to soothe both the mother’s fear for her son, and Clancy’s fear of Philip’s mother.  Once both the boy and woman stopped crying, Sen took charge again and asked Clancy to continue his story.

“Well,” Clancy choked a bit, still afraid he would be blamed, but Sen’s reassuring hand on his shoulder urged him to continue.  “We was just playin’.  We didn’t mean no harm.  But then the ground started to shake.  We didn’t know what to do, and we was all scared.”  He looked at the ground, ashamed to admit his own fear.  “The mountain exploded on us,” he whispered without looking up.  “We all got burned.”  For the first time everyone noticed the burn marks on the children’s hands and faces.  Most of them weren’t bad, but some looked to be serious.  One of the girls had a bald spot where her hair had been singed away, and one elven child had taken a horrid looking burn to one of his pointed ears.  “Philip was the closest.” Clancy muttered, sniffling back his sobs.  “He was burned real bad, and…and he didn’t get up, and…”  The boy broke down into tears now, and Philip’s mother screamed, a cry of heart wrenching anger and sorrow.  She had to be held back down, to stop her from running towards the smoking mountain, trying to save her son, who was surely long dead by now.  After a few moments all of the fight drained out of her, and she collapsed, sobbing, held up by the arms of the men who had restrained her.  One, her husband, held her close, pressing her head against his shoulder, his own tears flowing with hers.

The other villagers were looking at the mountain now, and realized that the plume of smoke was getting thicker.  A tremor rocked the ground around them, and the other parents suddenly saw visions of their own children being caught by the same awful fate as Philip.  Fear began to grip the townspeople, and everyone started talking at once, everyone making panicked suggestions.

“We have to run!  Flee into the forest!”

“We should go east, towards the ocean.  We’ll be safe there!”

“Call the wizard!  His magic can protect us!”

“Grab everything you can carry!  We have to get the children to safety!”

Before the crowd could erupt into total chaos, a voice from the back called everyone to order.  It was Benal, the village mayor.  With a calm, steady, persuasive voice, he began giving directions, bringing everyone to order, and calming them with the focus of duties that needed to be done.  He became the calm center, trying to guide his people, so as to save as many of them as possible from the approaching catastrophe.

In the distance, the mountain rumbled…

*  *  *

 

In a tower in the distant hills, a hooded figure watched the scene as the villagers became aware of the mountain’s awakening.  As the waters from his scrying pool lost their energy, the image of the frightened townsfolk was replaced by his own gaunt reflection.  He grinned crookedly, a laugh emerging from the back of his throat.  It was all working according to plan.  Soon, the beast would emerge, and in its fury lay waste to all the surrounding lands.  The people of Redwind Gale would simply be the first to experience the carnage that would follow.  They would be his test subjects, so he could see how powerful the destructive force really was, before unleashing it upon the rest of the world.

It had been chance, really, that the old wizard had stumbled across the ancient text, telling him of the mountain, and the secret held within its bowels.  Then it had simply been a matter of time.  The time it took to discover how to unleash that secret, and harness its power.  For years he had studied, learning all that he could about the art of enchantment, and growing ever more powerful.  And now, finally, he was ready.  Over the years he had worked from afar, only occasionally visiting the mountain to directly work his magic.  He had slowly tied the beast down with chains of magic, and now he had it completely under his control.  Soon, he would awaken it, and then the world would feel his wrath.

Rubbing the old wound in his side, the wizard smiled.  Soon he would have his revenge against the world.  And then he could rest, and forget the pain that had plagued him all these years.  He would sleep, and he would no longer feel the bite of the old wound, remembering the pain of the steel that had pierced his flesh.  He would forget the shining eyes, the triumphant smile, and the burning touch of his enemy, who still plagued him now, even from beyond the grave.

It had been decades ago that he had sworn revenge.  Years since his plans had been foiled by the holy knight, whose name the wizard had never learned.  The paladin had been sent to stop him, right at the most critical juncture in his ritual.  The ritual that would have granted him the power to enslave the world.  It had been a magic that was passed down, generation to generation in his family, waiting for the right time when all the cosmos were aligned properly.  The spell had taken months of preparation, and only he could have cast it.  It would have granted him power beyond belief, even more power than that which he was now awakening.  But somehow, someone had learned of his plans, and had sent the paladin to stop him.  The ritual had been ruined when the knight arrived, disrupting the carefully wrought energies of the place, and plunging his sword into the wizard’s side.  He had destroyed the paladin moments after the near-fatal wound was brought upon him, but even in death, his enemy had been victorious.

Because of that moment, the world could no longer be his.  And if it couldn’t be his, he decided, he would destroy it all. All would suffer, and feel his wrath.

Soon, he would have his revenge.

*  *  *

 

Come to me.

The voice was there again.  The same voice that had plagued his sleep for years now.  It whispered in his dreams, unwelcome, uninvited, unwanted.  But there was nothing he could do to stop it.  For a time, he had shut it out, and his sleep was undisturbed, but then, suddenly, it was back again, and it angered him now more than ever.

Come to me, the voice whispered, and the sleeping beast writhed in anger.  The ground all around trembled with the force.  He had slept for a long time, and didn’t want to be disturbed now.  But the voice wouldn’t go away.

Come to me, it called.  He tried again, unsuccessfully, to shut it out, but it remained, buzzing in his head like an annoying fly.  Come to me.

Finally, it was too much.  With a loud roar that shook the ground for miles around, he awoke.  For millennia he had slept, undisturbed, until now.  Someone would pay for disturbing his slumber.  He was enraged, angry at the intrusion into his rest.  For this, he would wreak a vengeance upon the one who had disturbed him.

But first, he was hungry.

*  *  *

 

The people of Redwind Gale all stopped at once when they heard the explosion.  The tremors had grown fiercer in the time they were preparing to flee.  Under Mayor Benal’s direction, they had decided to head for the old dwarven tunnels, since they were the closest, and most likely the safest place to hide from the volcano’s destruction.  They had gathered everything they could carry, loading every cart and wagon they could find, and were finally ready to move out.  But just before the word to head out was called, the moment they had been fearing arrived.  With a thunderous KABOOM! the mountain exploded, sending flaming rocks and debris flying for miles around.  Smoke billowed out of the newly formed crater, and magma began oozing over the side.  Luckily, the village was far enough away to be outside the range of the initial explosion, but no one knew how far the magma would spread, or how much would be consumed in the fires that had already sprung up in the forests and plains.  The townspeople knew they were still in danger, and they had to reach safety as quickly as possible.

Before the panicked villagers could be reorganized, though, someone in the crowd screamed in pure terror.  Most of the people had turned their attention back to the tasks at hand, wanting to get away as quickly as possible.  But their attention was pulled back, and it took only a moment for the cause of the scream to bring about many others.  People dropped what they were carrying, forgetting all sense of organization, and simply ran.  They ran in pure terror of what they saw.  A legend brought to life before their eyes, a beast of such lethal beauty that some of the villagers could only gape in awe and fear.  Some of the women, and even a few men, fainted dead away.  Others began to sob, too overwhelmed by fear to think or act.  But most of them just ran from the huge, winged terror that now flew towards them, the sunlight glinting fiercely off its red, scaly body.  What they saw was death, flying towards them.

With an angry roar, the dragon swooped down towards its prey.

*  *  *

 

The mortals fled below him, screaming and crying out in terror.  He laughed, a great rumble that echoed across the sky, delighting in their terror.  It refreshed him, to feel such fear after such a long sleep.  But it also made him hungry.  Fear alone could not feed him.  He needed blood.

He swooped down close, knocking the humans down with the force of the air as he passed, pulling up just before he crushed them beneath him.  Their terror amused him, but he had more pressing concerns now.  He needed to sate the gnawing hunger in his belly.  The humans fled from his salivating maw, thinking he intended them for his breakfast, but he had never had a liking for human flesh.  The delicacies in his time had been wild unicorns, griffins, pegasi; creatures of magic.  He hoped such creatures still existed in this time, but for now simple animal flesh would do.  The livestock kept by these humans would suffice, until he could find a mystical beast or two to snack on.  Diving towards a nearby field, he snatched up a startled cow in his jaws, killing it with a snap of his mighty teeth.  He swallowed the beast in two bites, then swooped down to nab another.  Blood dripped down his jaw, barely visible against the red of his scales.  He roared in pleasure, satisfied for now, and flew off to the northwest, leaving the pathetic humans behind.  He had more important concerns than them.

He had to find the voice.  And when he did, he would silence it forever, and make it pay for awakening him.

*  *  *

 

The wizard watched with glee as the ancient dragon flew at the townspeople.  Unprepared for such an attack, they simply fled in terror beneath the massive beast.  He cackled in pleasure at seeing the fear the creature could bring, just by its mere presence.  No one alive had witnessed such terror in a thousand years, since the last living dragon had supposedly died.  But now this long-sleeping terror was awake, and angry, and fully under the wizard’s control.

As the dragon gulped down a few stray cattle, the wizard decided to flex his newfound power, and see what destruction he could bring about.  Grinning, he spread his arms out over the scrying bowl, drawing from the energy he had stored.  Chanting softly, he focused the magic he had chained around the beast while it slept, seizing control of the leash he had made.  His fists closed around invisible threads of magic as he focused his will towards bringing the dragon around.  The magical ties he had forged would allow him, with mere thoughts, to force the dragon into doing whatever he wanted.  He could safely, and easily, guide the dragon on its rampage, all from the safety of his tower.

Feeling the magic chains tighten, he used his mind to force the dragon to change its path.  Looking down in his scrying bowl, he waited for the image to shift, to show him the dragon as it turned back upon the frightened villagers.  He waited…..

And nothing happened.  The dragon was still flying away from the village, its course unaltered.  Grunting in frustration, the wizard flexed the chains of magic again, but to no effect.

“Impossible,” he muttered, trying again to bring the dragon under his control.  It didn’t work.  He couldn’t understand why.  Everything had been perfect.  Every spell, every incantation had been masterfully executed, and the unprotected, sleeping beast should now have been his slave.  But somehow it had resisted.  The magic had failed.

The wizard cursed his failure, then swore again when he realized where the dragon was now headed.  Moving over to a window, he saw it now with his own eyes, a red speck closing in from the distance.  His own death flying towards him.  For he had awakened the beast, and set it free, but he had no way to control it.  Fear gripped the wizard as he envisioned the dragon’s rage at being awakened.  For a moment he considered fighting the beast, using his magic to destroy it, but he knew it was useless.  His powers had already failed him, and he was too tired now to conjure any more spells.  There was nothing he could do.

He gripped the old wound in his side as the dragon flew towards him.  It throbbed in time with the beating of the beast’s huge wings, and he gritted his teeth against the pain.  For a moment, the throbbing seemed to echo in his head, like a mocking laughter from beyond the grave.  Then everything went numb as the dragon reached the tower, and all the pain, and fear were replaced with simple acceptance.  Standing tall and proud, the wizard refused to cower before the beast as it crashed into the tower, knocking it askew with the force of its momentum.  He staggered a moment, but regained his footing on the now tilted floor, standing in defiance of the winged death that was now before him.  Maybe, he thought, his courage would be rewarded in the afterlife.  Maybe….

The dragon roared, and the tower was engulfed in its fiery breath.

*  *  *

A week later, the people of Redwind Gale returned to their homes.  The fires had stopped short of the town, though much of the land had been scorched all around.  Much of their livestock had been killed, or had run away, and some of the townsfolk were missing, most likely killed in the fires, when they panicked and fled.  Those who had stayed together, heading for the caves as planned, had all escaped the fiery death they had feared so much.

There had been no sign of the dragon, and for that they were all glad.  Some said it had merely been a hallucination, and denied that the beast had existed.  But everyone had seen it, and they knew it had been all too real.  But while many of them would have restless nights, plagued by nightmares of the fiery beast, none of those nightmares would ever come true.

For beneath the ancient mountain, the dragon slept again.

Now, where were we?

So, how about those revisions, eh?

I made a post, oh, three months ago, about how I wanted to get revisions done by March 1st.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

School got in the way. I was uber busy, having trouble just keeping up with school work alone, without any spare time to revise. I’ve done a page here, a page there, but nothing major. There are still several major scenes that need to be substantially changed, some stuff to be added, and a good 200 pages of general line edits to get through. It’s a mess, and it hasn’t been touched much in awhile.

School ended last week. I’ve spent the time since then getting caught up on overdue errands, worrying about bills, and generally trying to settle into a new routine. A new routine that leaves me with THREE full days off a week now (days which used to be filled with classes). These days SHOULD now be filled with revisions.

So I’m giving it another go. There’s no excuses left now other than general laziness or depression, neither of which is a valid reason  not to write. I need to get back into the “write every day” zone I had going for awhile. Not that I haven’t been doing ANY writing… about five days a week I’ve been writing for the Rowan University Admissions Blog, which is a paid writing job and thus a very good, very high priority gig. It’s also the main reason this blog has been neglected (aside from Storytime Mondays posts) since most of my school-related thoughts have been going over there. If I have a post to write about the burdens, trials, and events in my academic life, I write them where I can be paid to do so. I haven’t had anything to write about OTHER than school stuff for the most part, so I haven’t blogged much here.

We’ll see how this goes from this point on. Revisions are going to be getting a high priority again. Blog posts here might become more frequent (though blog posts at Rowan will still be continuing multiple days a week). Storytime Mondays should continue for awhile, since I still have TONS of old stories and poems I haven’t posted yet. And the sequel to “Manifestation,” which will be titled “Contamination,” will continue to be slowly written as a side project while the first book is being polished. With any luck (and a lot of determination), I should have the current draft of revisions done by the end of summer.

Let’s shoot for July 1st. That’s six weeks to revise a little under 200 pages. Can I do it?

Storytime Mondays: A Caribbean Adventure

The following is a true story. While the story took place in 2000, this story was written in Spring of 2012 for a creative writing class at Rowan University.


A Carribean Adventure

              In 2000, my family took a cruise to Bermuda.  On the first day there, I set off to explore the island with my sister Dana, and my young niece Ariana.  The island is small enough that you could easily walk from one end to the other.  Buses run across the island, ferrying tourists from one destination to another, but they are small, sweaty, and bounce a great deal on the rough island roads.  Since the island is both quite small and extremely beautiful, we decided to simply walk to our destinations, enjoying the lovely weather and scenery.  It was our first time in such a gorgeous place, and we were excited and eager for adventure.

We first set out to explore an old fortress leftover from when the British navy held a presence in the Carribean.  The fortress hadn’t been used for centuries, and was now a tourist attraction.  We got a free map of the island from the cruise ship, plotted out a route that would take us to the fortress in a short, twenty minute walk, and set off on our adventure.

The journey started out beautiful but uneventful.  We didn’t see many travelers along the way, since most people had taken the buses, or gone to a different part of the island.  We hiked up a short, uphill road, and found ourselves at the base of the cliffs where the fortress stood.  The road curved around to our right, following a meandering path that would eventually wind its way up towards the fortress.  Ahead of us, off the road, we saw what seemed like a more direct path across the land, which seemed like it could save us some time.  Even with a map, we didn’t realize this was more complicated than it seemed.

When we cut across and reached the side of the cliffs, instead of a path, we found a broad tropical lagoon.  We were left with two choices: either admit defeat and turn back the way we came, or attempt to cross the lagoon and take the riskier path.

We decided on the proverbial ‘path less traveled’.

The lagoon didn’t seem very deep, the coral making a rough and treacherous, yet navigable path.  I scouted ahead, walking across the chest-deep waters, searching for a path that remained shallow enough for us to walk across the coral.  It would be impossible to swim across while holding our cameras and wallets above the water.  Dana soon followed, carrying Ariana piggy-back because of the deep water.

Unlike the smooth, soft sand one might be used to finding beneath one’s feet in the ocean, the coral under the lagoon was hard, rough, and jagged.  This proved no problem for me, as I was wearing sneakers for the walking and hiking we had planned for the day.  Dana, however, wore sandals, and one of them slipped off under the water.  The sharp edge of the coral cut her bare foot.  Amidst perhaps irrational fears about sharks in the waters, we continued onwards until we reached the base of the cliffs at the far side of the lagoon.

There was no apparent path up the cliff.

After resting a few moments, using some napkins to tend to Dana’s wounded foot, we searched for a way up.  We eventually found a steep but navigable section of the cliff, where we could climb up some vines to the top.  The climb was especially difficult for my wounded sister, but we managed nonetheless.  At the top of the cliff, we finally emerged, wet, filthy, bedraggled, my sister bleeding from the foot… on a golf course.

A pair of golfers, putting at the ninth hole, stared at us incredulously as we slinked across the golf course, uncertain whether we were trespassing on private property at some sort of country club.  I walked with my limping sister off the golf course, until we found ourselves once again on the original road leading up to the fortress.  Our detour, between wading, injury, and climbing, had saved us no time on the journey.

We made it to the fortress, an old, weathered stone structure, complete with cannons and historical artifacts from colonial times.  It was a fascinating place to see after all the hard work getting there.  Though since we had no bandages, the wound on Dana’s foot kept bleeding sporadically during the tour.  We decided it was safer to take the bus on the way back.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.

Crustacean Nation Communication

This paper was originally written for an Interpersonal Communication class at Rowan University. The goal was to analyze a movie from an interpersonal communication perspective, including things like nonverbal communication, listening, and how communication affects self-concept. I decided to write my paper based on Disney’s “The Little Mermaid.”

——————————————–

Crustacean Nation Communication

 

The 1989 Disney film “The Little Mermaid” is an excellent example of the challenges of interpersonal communication. In the film, a young mermaid princess named Ariel falls in love with a human prince named Eric. There is a major cultural clash when Ariel’s father, King Triton, refuses to allow her to become involved with a human. King Triton disapproves of human society, and most of the undersea kingdom views the humans with fear and disgust. As a result, it seems at first that Ariel will never be able to be with the man she desires.

Since she cannot gain her father’s approval, Ariel decides to visit the sea witch, Ursula, in order to find a magical means to attain what she desires. The witch manipulates Ariel’s emotions in order to persuade her to take a dangerous and unfair deal: Ursula will turn Ariel into a human, but as the price she will take away Ariel’s voice. To make the deal especially dangerous, Ariel has to agree that she has only three days to receive “the kiss of true love” from Prince Eric. If she fails, her life will become forfeit and she will become a slave to the sea witch forever.

Ariel takes the deal and for three days she attempts to use nonverbal communication (since she has literally lost her voice and cannot speak) to win Eric’s heart. Ursula, of course, decides to cheat when it seems like Ariel is close to succeeding. She disguises herself as a human and uses Ariel’s “borrowed” voice as her own, then casts a spell to force Eric to fall in love with her. Ariel and her friends fight back, but they are unable to stop the witch in time before Ariel’s deadline arrives and she is forced into slavery. Then, in order to save his daughter, King Triton agrees to take her place. He allows himself to become enslaved in order to set Ariel free. The climax of the film then involves Ursula claiming the King’s magic scepter and trying to conquer the sea, until Ariel and Eric manage to defeat her.

In the end, King Triton has a change of heart, turns Ariel into a human once more, and allows her to marry Eric.

Communication plays a big role in the outcome of all of the major events in the movie, particularly with regards to the main character, Ariel. One of the key communication ideas that affects Ariel’s early decisions is that of self-concept. In the book Interplay: The process of interpersonal communication, Adler, et al define self concept as “the relatively stable set of perceptions you hold of yourself” (p. 66). This includes a person’s perception of their own emotions, tastes, values, morals, place in society, and a variety of other facets that make up who a person is. A person’s self-concept continually changes over the course of their life, largely because of the communication that takes place with their significant others. Adler, et al describe the self-concept as a “reflected appraisal” (p. 69), meaning that a person’s self-concept reflects either the positive or negative traits that been communicated to them by others around them.

Ariel’s relationship with her father in the film shows in a powerful way how the king’s treatment of Ariel has affected her self-concept. Early in the movie Triton berates his daughter for her fascination with the human world, even going so far as to destroy her collection of human treasures. Since Ariel’s father is such a significant figure in her life, his negative reactions have an especially potent impact on her sense of self-worth. She is crushed emotionally, and seems to no longer feel she has any value as a person.

Ariel’s crisis of self-concept was in large part responsible for why she chose to flee to the human world. There is a massive cultural difference between the human world and the undersea kingdom, one which is similar to the cultural differences between Western and Eastern cultures in real life. In a study titled “Self-concept clarity: Measurement, personality correlates, and cultural boundaries,” Campbell, et al describe how Western and Eastern cultures have vastly different constructions of self-concept. They say that Western cultures (such as the United States) “view the self as an independent, self-contained, autonomous entity” (p. 143). By contrast, Eastern cultures (such as Japan) “view the self as an interconnected entity that is most meaningful when cast within an interpersonal context.” Essentially this means that a member of an Eastern culture is more likely to view their self-concept as it relates to a group, such as their family or their job, while a Westerner is more likely to view their self-concept as a self-contained, individual entity. Their research suggests that this difference leads to “apparent inconsistency and instability in Japanese self-concepts [which] probably appear as a consequence of their interdependent and contextual nature” (p. 153). They even suggest that an Easterner might find it odd to be asked to evaluate their self-concept purely as an individual, since their culture defines the self largely through their interactions with others.

The undersea kingdom in the film has many similarities to an Eastern culture. The merfolk and other sea creatures are highly interdependent, as is evidenced when Sebastian the crab tries to convince Ariel, in a song, that her home is “Under the Sea.” The lyrics to the song repeatedly use the words “we” and “us,” such as in the lines “Nobody beat us, Fry us and eat us, In fricassee, We what the land folks loves to cook, Under the sea we off the hook.” The song also suggests a need for group survival, implying that someone who ventures off alone away from the safety of the group is likely to get eaten. This demonstrates that the sea creatures are bound in an interdependent society, and implies that their sense of self-concept is likely defined by their role in that society.

The human kingdom in the film, however, is more similar to a Western society, where individuals define their self-concept based on their own individual traits. It is there that Ariel flees when she feels lost and lacking in self-worth. More than just seeking to connect with her romantic interest, she is seeking independence from her father and her society, so that she can learn to define herself as an independent individual.

Another communication factor that plays a big role in Ariel’s decisions throughout the movie is perception. Adler, et al explain that a failure to understand our significant others’ views of the world can lead to feelings of despair and isolation (p. 108). Ariel clearly felt isolated after her father destroyed her treasures, and this directly led to her decision to visit the sea witch Ursula. There is a deeper complexity, however, to Ariel’s perception of the world around her and of the human world, and this is a large part of what leads to her desire to visit the human world.

Ariel views the world under the sea as bland and dull, and early in the film she becomes fascinated with human culture. Her perception of that culture, however, is flawed. A person’s perception of reality is divided into two levels: “First Order Reality,” which is the tangible, observable properties of an object or situation, and “Second Order Reality,” which is the meaning or significance that an individual attaches to an object or situation (Adler, p. 109). It is Ariel’s personal second-order reality that influences her strong fascination with the human world. She collects a variety of “whozits, whatsits, and thingamabobs,” which are the names given to various human creations like corkscrews, silverware, and other common household goods. Scuttle the seagull explains (inaccurately) the purposes of the objects Ariel collects, such as describing a fork as a “dinglehopper” and describing its use as if it were a hairbrush. The first-order reality of the fork, such as its shape and the length of its tines, are unmistakable since they can be seen and felt. The second-order reality of it, however, is perceived in a vastly different way than it is by humans that use it as an eating utensil. All of Ariel’s differences in perception are the result of Scuttle’s communication about each object’s supposed purpose.

The meaning Ariel attaches to these objects as part of her second-order reality goes beyond just Scuttle’s inaccurate descriptions of the items. She also views them as treasures, since they are rare and exotic items that aren’t normally found in her world (despite the fact that they are commonplace and worthless in the human world). Because she attaches a deeper meaning and value to the objects, she begins to view them as something much more significant than a human would, and the result is an obsessive fascination.

In his article, “Dialectic of Deception,” Ackbar Abbas goes beyond the standard dictionary definition to describe fascination as “any experience that captures our attention without at the same time submitting entirely to our understanding” (p. 347). This definition accurately describes how Ariel’s attention is consumed by the human objects that she never fully understands. Abbas further describes the concept of fascination by recalling the classic story of Ulysses and his encounter with the Sirens, maidens whose magical songs were said to lure sailors to their inevitable deaths. Ulysses conquers the Sirens by having his sailors clog their ears with wax, which Abbas says “makes them deaf to fascination and inured to distraction in order to make them good, practical workers” (p. 351). This is similar to Triton’s attempts to “cure” Ariel of her fascination; he destroys her treasures in an attempt to make her blind to their fascination so she will be a good, practical girl. Both of these examples are rather extreme cases of what Adler, et al describe as the process of “negotiation,” which is the way in which people try to influence each other’s perceptions (p. 114). Adler, et al say that most people use personal narratives to attempt to influence each other, such as by telling someone “your side” of an argument in the hopes that they will agree with you and vilify the person you were arguing with. Triton attempts this when he first tries to explain the “evils” of the human world to Ariel, but when that fails he destroys her treasures in an attempt to force her perception into conforming with his views. This doesn’t break Ariel’s fascination with the human world, however, despite Triton’s wishes.

Since Ariel’s fascination remains strong, Ursula the sea witch is then able to manipulate her more effectively. During the song “Poor Unfortunate Souls,” Ursula uses that fascination to trick Ariel into taking the deal to trade her voice for legs. Ursula also uses a twisted version of what is called “empathetic listening” to trick Ariel into thinking that the sea witch is on her side. Empathetic listening is a method people use “when they want to show that they identify with a speaker” (Adler, p. 229). Normally this type of listening is meant to show genuine concern and understanding, but Ursula twists it and hides her intentions with lines like, “My dear, sweet child. That’s what I do. It’s what I live for. To help unfortunate merfolk like yourself.” Once she has tricked Ariel into believing in her (false) empathy, Ursula then engages in a type of listening called “stage hogging” (Adler, p. 218). She doesn’t truly listen to Ariel’s concerns, and repeatedly interrupts her in order to continue pushing Ursula’s own agenda. She also asks questions that aren’t truly meant to be answered and instead merely continue to trap Ariel into agreeing. Such “counterfeit questions” (Adler, p. 225) aren’t used as a type of listening to receive information, but instead are used to push the asker’s own agenda. For example, when Ursula asks “after all dear, what is idle prattle for?” she is not truly expecting Ariel to answer, but is instead trying to persuade Ariel to accept Ursula’s view that a voice is not, in fact, worth all that much.

To further push this agenda, Ursula engages in sexist language use intended to diminish Ariel’s sense of self-worth, at least so far as her speaking ability is concerned. Adler, et al describe sexist language as that which “includes words, phrases, and expressions that unnecessarily differentiate between females and males or exclude, trivialize, or diminish either sex” (p. 152). They further say that sexist language can negatively affect a woman’s self-concept. Ursula claims that men aren’t interested in a woman who can talk, and instead “they dote and swoon and fawn on a lady who’s withdrawn. It’s she who holds her tongue who gets a man.” This is blatant sexism, which Donna Lillian describes in her article “A thorn by any other name: sexist discourse as hate speech” as “relegating women to a lower rung on the social hierarchy than men simply by virtue of their femaleness” (p. 720). Ursula’s song reflects Lillian’s argument that sexism is produced through language.

Lillian further argues that language of this sort can be used to inflame emotions, discredit feminist principles, and force women to become powerless against men (p. 735-6). Ariel remains unaware of these dangers as Ursula’s aggressive language affects her emotions, pushes aside her feminist independence, and leads to her submitting to the loss of her voice, which in turn makes her powerless when she reaches the male-dominated human world. This powerless state plays right into Ursula’s plan, since it makes it impossible for Ariel to achieve what she wants. When this is combined with Ariel’s confusion about the strange new world she finds herself in, the result is the loss of her strength of character. While on land, she becomes much more docile and submissive, no longer demonstrating the independence and willpower she had when defying her father under the sea.

Because she lacks not only her voice, but much of her earlier strength, Ariel ends up being limited in what she can do to win Prince Eric’s heart. The result is an attempted seduction using only nonverbal communication. Adler, et al describe nonverbal communication as not simply communicating without words, but as “messages expressed by nonlinguistic means” (p. 177). Normally this includes things like vocal tone, pitch, and volume, though in Ariel’s case her missing voice limits her to body movements. Adler, et al explain that body language can be a mixture of facial expressions, eye movements, posture, and gestures (p. 189-92). While on a boat ride, and with Sebastian the crab singing the song “Kiss the Girl,” Ariel uses all of these methods to try to get Eric to kiss her: she adopts a submissive posture, smiles seductively at Eric, uses her eyes to express a welcoming expression, and raises her lips towards him in invitation to a kiss. Eric responds with similar nonverbal communication, showing that the couple doesn’t need words to establish a connection. In the article “The Courtship Dance: Patterns of Nonverbal Synchronization in Opposite-Sex Encounters,” Grammar, et al describe this synchronized pattern of communication as “the precise timing and coordination of movements to coincide the timing

or rhythm with the movements of another” (p. 3). They also say that this type of synchronized movement can “reflect an active and involved type of positive rapport associated with feelings of high positive affect, motivation, interest, and talkativeness” (p. 4). Thus Ariel and Eric’s synched movements demonstrate their mutual attraction to each other, building up to the moment when they almost kiss, only to be interrupted by Ursula’s evil minions.

In the end, Ariel regains her voice and wins Eric’s love. However, there are several important lessons that can be learned from analyzing her communication with the other characters throughout the movie. Her poor self-concept clearly opened the door to the dangerous and potentially destructive behavior that followed. It also left her vulnerable to Ursula’s manipulations, which used that poor self-concept and added to it with sexist language that made Ariel even more vulnerable. Better self-awareness could have helped Ariel realize this vulnerability and given her the tools she needed to resist the manipulation. Also, had she maintained a stronger sense of self, Ariel might have expressed her doubts and fears more fully, instead of allowing Ursula to control the conversation and badger her into submitting to the bad deal. Despite these problems, however, it was clear that Ariel and Eric were able to effectively communicate their feelings for each other without the need for words. Ariel also reclaimed her strength at the end of the film when she defied Ursula and refused to submit to the witch’s fear tactics any longer.

 

References:

Campbell, J. D., Trapnell, P. D., Heine, S. J., Katz, I. M., Lavallee, L. F., & Lehman, D. R. (1996). Self-concept clarity: Measurement, personality correlates, and cultural boundaries. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 70(1), 141-156. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.70.1.141

Adler, R. B., Rosenfeld, L. B., & Proctor, R. F. (2010). Interplay: The process of interpersonal communication. New York: Oxford University Press.

Abbas, M. (1999). Dialectic of Deception. Public Culture.11(2), 347-363.

Lillian, D. (2007). A thorn by any other name: sexist discourse as hate speech. Discourse & Society. 18(6), 719-740.

Grammer, K., Kruck, K. B., & Magnusson, M. S. (1998). The Courtship Dance: Patterns of Nonverbal Synchronization in Opposite-Sex Encounters. Journal Of Nonverbal Behavior, 22(1), 3-29.

Storytime Mondays: Code Poem

I recently had an assignment at Rowan University to create a generative code poem. It was a rather different experience than I’m used to; I write more formal poetry, and I’m normally very particular about form, rhythm, rhyme, and so forth. The generative poem, however, doesn’t allow me to control such things (at least, not without a greater understanding of programming).

Instead of writing a poem from scratch (and since the class was a writing class, not a computer programming class, most of the students didn’t know anything about coding), our assignment was to choose the words that would be fed into the poem. The code itself was written by someone else and mostly stayed unaltered. The result is a poem that generates lines randomly in a fixed (but somewhat randomized) pattern. The creative/artistic aspect of it was in trying to choose the right words or phrases to be displayed, while understanding that the results would be mixed up and unpredictable.

I decided to craft my generative poem based on Manifestation. My word banks are based on the characters of my novel, along with some of the most common words, phrases, feelings, themes, and emotions that can be seen in the story.

The results can be found here. The poem should load in your browser window and generate lines at a steady pace. It will continue endlessly until you close the window.


mani_promoManifestation is available on:

Createspace in paperback

and Amazon in ebook and paperback.