29th Feb

It’s that time of the year again.

Or rather, that time every four years.

Funny how, four years ago, I had a sense of where I’m going, what I’ll be doing and how I’m getting there – yet, now, four years down the road, I’ve managed to completely  lose my way. Four years ago, I thought that it’s a fresh start, that things can’t get any worse, and, hey, stupid thing to do, huh.

Life’s really a slope with a negative gradient, now that I think about it – you’ll always look back and realise that, hey, life was better back then.

 

Clouds

Ever just sat on one of those rare and slowly disappearing patches of grasses in an urbanized city and silently panic over why you even exist in this world? Especially in a world where robots are taking over? Well, if you didn’t have even something like this, then you’re probably…well, still human, but as good as not-human.

But freaking out doesn’t help, does it. You still have to get up and get on with life, since, in this world now, you can’t even retreat from civilization to become a hermit.

So, look at the clouds and count the number of sheep-like fluffy ones, then sleep on it – waking up with grass stains is worth it, really. Then, put it behind, go home, and continue living. After all, you’re still alive.

Back Now

So I’ve been gone for really long – between NaNoWriMo and my relatives in a place with spotty wifi at best and none most of the time, there really was not much for me to put up here.

On the track, for NaNoWriMo, I’ve tried it with an original story this year, in fact, with the draft outline I posted a while back, but I really lost steam barely a third through the month, and no matter how much I tried, it just stayed there – I chugged on, obviously, but I barely made the mark.

So I guess what I’m likely saying now is that I’ve completely lost interest in my own story. Which means that it would not only be boring me.

It’s kind of sad, now that I think of it, but I’ll just let it sit for a year, maybe two, until I hit upon something.

On the brighter side, I have more ideas, now, for stuff, and I know what I don’t like writing. Yay!

And I’ll be back to regular updates, too. Wednesdays with lyrics and Saturdays/Sundays with whatever comes to mind.

Notification

Sorry for disappearing for the long while – I’m doing NaNoWriMo and I’ve kind of been slapped over the head by that. Updates will hence be erratic until the end of November, after NaNoWriMo.

On another note, the story’s a struggle right now – it’s hard to grasp the character voice and the side characters insist on appearing before their screen times, causing me to have to scramble. Ah well, I’ll update soon!

Outline Rough Skeleton

I’ve been looking at Chuck Wendig’s outline advices here, and I tried to give it a shot, but the outline I ended up with is kind of all over the place…

Oh well.

Here’s the overarching summary of the whole story, including the bits that’s too unedited to end up here:

In a world where your rank decides everything you can have and everything you can be, entering the Arena to try for the Programme is the only shot at upgrading to a better life. For Alistair, getting into the Programme is the only way to save his sister from being a Delta, the lowest of all ranks – something not even considered, or treated as, a human. Along the way, he met a few who were willing to help him, but their individual motives and unknown origins could, eventually, end up dragging him off the beaten, worn and tough but present path into the gaping unknown.

This outline is kind of mainly driven by character, with the story unfolding around the main character, Alistair Frost, in a colony world on the moon a few centuries after Earth is gone and computers became obsolete, because people could literally plug themselves into the virtual world that is named the Net as of now, because I can’t find a better name. Leave me a suggestion if possible!

There’s quite a lot of localized lingo that would be explained in the story, hopefully.


The story starts with Alistair watching his adopted parents get sentenced to life in Tartarus Colony for treason, and then he was separated from Elysia, his adopted sister. Because they commited treason, they were stripped of their Omega ranks (Omega & Alpha is highest in this world) and their children were demoted, too.

Because, when his parents died, this couple saved him, he decided to repay them by trying for Omega/Alpha so that he could adopt Elysia out of the system, too. However, for someone demoted to being promoted directly to Delta, the slave class, after he hits thirteen, his only way out is to enter the Arena, where he has to play in the game to earn a chance to enter the Institute, and possibly the Academy, to get at least a Beta (normal citizen) place, if not an Alpha/Omega position of power.

The slaves, Deltas, belong to the Council, the ruling board that governs all the Colonies, made of the strongest Alpha/Omega from each Colony. They look at the Arena to find a prodigy to groom as a successor.

In the transport for Alistair to another Colony where he would be raised, he was left in a holding barrack with a lot of other kids. He left the place, saying that he’s going to the shared toilet outside the bunks, with the actual intention of looking for Elysia, to reassure her, even if he has no idea where she is.

However, they were next to the door opening to the empty air and someone was landing that night, apparently, forcing him to hide in the nearest storage facility to avoid detection.

The airlock opened to allow a recently returned spaceship to enter. There was a real buzz because this spaceship has apparently found something on Earth, marking the third return trip from Earth. There was nothing form the first two trips noteworthy, except for a whole new supply of water and some animals to be bred and examined – to see if they’re edible. Nobody thought of going back to Earth because it’s wild there now, uncivilized and dangerous.

The area he was hiding in was dusty, and the door opened while they carted in a pod. When they left, discussing their intention to come back the next day to mark the package and decide what to do with this thing, Alistair got curious and came out of hiding and realised that there was a boy in the pod. He was lit with the soft blue light emitting from the pod. As he got close, he realised that there was a weird board with loads of little pushy alphabets on it, and that when he pressed the circle button with a line in it, the whole thing lit up. The most notable thing was the little hole/depression with a…tree? Cactus? Psi? Trident? Next to it. It matches with the symbol on his key. The one his father gave him and made him promise to keep until it is time to use it.

When he was with Ivan and Bryn (his adopted parents), they have told him about the old world back on Earth, with wonders like computers and phones. He asked about it, but he received no answer. In fact, Ivan and Bryn got warnings for raising forbidden things – he learnt his lesson and kept his mouth shut for them. This key was one of those things he wasn’t supposed to have too.

But anyway, he found the little ‘lock’ matches with his ‘key’ and he plugged it in, startling himself when there was a ‘ding’. Then there was an initialising that asked him to enter his username (?) he wasn’t sure what it was. Hesitant, he decided to type in Acrisio, because it was almost the only thing he associated with his parents, just like the key. Surprisingly, it worked.

The pod split open, and the boy woke up.

They had a real argument, with the boy insisting to meet his parents and siblings and looking devastated and then completely, utterly disbelieving and shocked to find that it was no longer the twenty-first century and him freaking out “You’re a human? You’re alive?”

In the end, the boy apparently ‘remembered’ something, and looked really freaked, then he asked in a small voice, “It’s really been __ centuries since you came to the moon and never came back?”

Then, insert conversation where Alistair figured out that Regin was hosting an AI, a Watcher AI who’s been watching from Earth, with the horrible signals, the buzzy and static version of what’s going on. And he’s updating Regin. And Alastair realised that, with Regin, he’d have a really great shot at winning the game by breaking it, by cheating. He’d be able to hit Omega/Alpha, if he had Regin around. And Regin was just confused and lost and utterly no clue what’s going on, so it wasn’t hard to persuade him that this has to be done, especially since his AI, Sicarius, has not much idea either, having been blotchy and limited to the edge of the Net. AIs are legendary in their ability, and they are dangerous and powerful in the Net, with one on his side, he’d be able to get Elysia. He was willing to manipulate this person for that. After all, Regin was just a stranger. And Elysia was more important.

Besides, without him, Regin wouldn’t be awake.

They logged in, with a port they dusted off in the warehouse, using Acrisio’s hours, before realising that as a watcher, Regin has unlimited access really, and his AI pretty much ensures that he cannot be tracked by any of the other AIs, who don’t see him as a user. That was also when he realised that his house was a fragment of Regin’s AI, a glitch caused by the fact that Regin’s AI was not fully uploaded into his Avatar, leaving behind 2 % that latched onto Ianthe Bentley’s user because Ianthe was Bennett’s friend and they were both hackers. Then Ianthe passed the house on in his family together with the thumb drive – the key to Alistair – in real world so that someday, he could fulfill the promise to Bennett-chan and revive her little brother, Regin.

But the most important thing was that Alastair discovered, from Regin, that this Net was half game-platform (RPG) and half for preserving human memories and imprints, which meant that there were pre-coded choice for you to choose your avatar, and customise the abilities. Because it was not developed, it is up to the individual user to code the online avatar, and without any laptops and pcs and mobiles, there was no way for the people to do so, nor was here knowledge to do so – the Net is entirely sustained by the solar panels and the repair & watcher & guardian AIs who would code the default avatar for every new user, a human replica of themselves in real life. With Regin, however, his AI has knowledge of the old world unlike the AIs who are created every century to replace the old ones who ‘retire’ and become dormant codes, hence the new AIs wouldn’t know what computers and things like that are either, just that they are forbidden directives. Regin’s ability to hack also allowed him to use the computer on his stasis pod to connect to the Net and customise their avatars and mask both of them. Then, realising that they needed to go, Regin plucked the laptop out – surprising the hell out of Alastair – and grabbed a charger and followed Alastair back to the bunk. He hid the laptop – a handheld model that is folded to be the size of a larger book with the book jacket to go with it in a corner and they were scolded. Before, in his hacking, he had already registered himself in the system as ____. Whenever a new person is born, they report to the council who would tell an AI (Guardian/Watcher) who would update the status in the records library, the same for someone who died. Regin simply hacked it and added an entry for himself – it was really easy enough, name, parents, date of birth, status. Pick deceased family and you’re ready to go.

The two of them were sent to Vesta (One of the colonies?) and they tried to stay safe. Met Jack, and, in the orphanage port, found a user named Rhea who is unidentified, too. Regin’s AI identified her as an AI, but also a user, similar to Regin. It worried the two of them.

They signed up for the tournament and entered the arena, given a name each. Minimum of 10 to upgrade to Beta, above 50 for a chance to enter the Institute or the Academy if you’re not already a child of either an Alpha or an Omega. The person you get could be user, could be AI, nobody knows. Except, with Regin, it was truly easy to just breeze through, and with Rhea on their side, it was frankly amazing. Jack, too, helped them.

Except, Rhea wasn’t in the game, but Jack was. And Jack picked Regin’s name out – Aloysius Reginald Chance. And he didn’t know who it was, but he was determined to hit at least Omega/Alpha, and there was only one name left.

He shot Regin out.

They have to spend one month connected, however, they are woken once every week to exercise, and he realised that time that Regin was taken away.

He tried not to feel guilty, because he wasn’t friends with Regin, he just needed Regin to get his sister back, and Regin knew that. He still felt bad, though. And he can’t even hate Jack – Jack was doing this for his sister, too, his twin, Jill, who wasn’t able to participate because she cannot connect. Alistair had never heard of that condition, but he was willing to give Jack the benefit of the doubt, especially since Rhea appears to believe it.

He got into the Institute/Academy.


Any advice? It would be largely appreciated! I’m trying NaNoWriMo for a second time, but this is the first time I’m doing an original work, and I would really love it if you would tell me what you think of this plot. There’s some other characters too, and arcs for the other characters, but this is the first main character.

And, if you could think of a name for a virtual world or a title for the story that you wouldn’t mind me using, please drop it here too!

All Rise

This week, it shall be All Rise, because I’m really feeling it. Except, instead of the other person, I’m thinking of putting all my results onto trail, you know? I’ve been getting everything back and I’ve done so badly for all of the subjects that I’m holding a court session in my head and putting all of them on the stand. Even though it really feels like I’m the one on the stand, with my back against the wall, with all the results accusing me of lying and faking.

Here you go:


All Rise
By: Blue

Your honour please
Gotta believe what I say
What I will tell
Happened just the other day
I must confess
‘Cause had about enough
I need your help
Got to make this here thing stop

Baby I swear I tell the truth
(Uhuh)
About all the things you used to do
(Come on)
And if you thought you had me fooled
I’m tellin’ you now objection overruled
Here we go
(Oh baby)

One for the money and the free rides,
It’s two for the lie that you denied.
All rise
(All rise)
All rise
(All rise, all rise)
Three for the calls you’ve been making
It’s four for the times you’ve been faking
All rise
(I’m gonna tell it to your face)
All rise
(I rest my case)

You’re on the stand
With your back against the wall
Nowhere to run
And nobody you can call
Oh no
I just can’t wait
Now the case is open wide
You’ll try to pray
But the jury will decide

Baby I swear I tell the truth
(Uhuh)
About all the things you used to do
And if you thought you had me fooled
(Come on)
I’m tellin’ you now objection overruled
Oh baby

One for the money and the free rides
It’s two for the lie that you denied
All rise
(All rise)
All rise
(All rise, all rise)
Three for the calls you’ve been making
It’s four for the times you’ve been faking
All rise
(I’m gonna tell it to your face)
All rise
(I rest my case)

So step back ’cause
You don’t know this cat
I know deep down that
You don’t want me to react
I lay low
Leaving all my options open
The decision of the jury
Has not been spoken
Step in my house
You find that your stuff has gone
(Gone)
But in reality to whom
Does the stuff belong?
I bring you into court
To preach my order
And you know that
You overstep the border,
(Uhuh)

One for the money and the free rides
It’s two for the lie that you denied
(Ooh)
All rise
(All rise)
All rise
(All rise, all rise)
Three for the calls you’ve been making
(Yeah)
It’s four for the times you’ve been faking
All rise
(All rise, all rise)
All rise
(All rise, all rise)

One for the money and the free rides
(What you say)
It’s two for the lie that you denied
(Can’t you pay)
All rise
(What you’ve done)
All rise
Three for the calls you’ve been making
(What you say)
It’s four for the times you’ve been faking
(Can’t you pay)
All rise
(What you’ve done)
All rise
(Where you’ve gone)

One for the money and the free rides
It’s two for the lie that you denied
(Oh)
All rise
(Oh)
All rise
(Uhuh uhuh)
Three for the calls you’ve been making
It’s four for the times you’ve been faking
I said all rise
I’m gonna tell it
To your face
All rise, I rest my case
(Uhuh uhuh)

Hide-and-Seek

He knew he can’t win.

After all, the game tested your competency at handling a phaser and those things absolutely despised him.

But he can’t lose.

It’s his sister’s future at stake. Winning this won’t change anything for him – he’d still be the Council’s property, but if he made it, then, at sixteen, he can get her out of Redirection. She’d have a proper life as an Elite.

Thinking it through for a moment, he realised that it wasn’t just about shooting your target – it was also about hiding from your hunter.

And he’s always been the best at hide-and-seek.

Mercy Williams

It used to be just a game.

In fact, it was one that her husband supported. He would pour over newspapers or ask around, helping her find a wedding, before going with her to pick out the dresses and driving her to the venues.

(On their wedding night, he had given her a piece of polished obsidian: small, black and slightly translucent if held to light. Don’t break it, he warned. What you’d be left with would have edges sharper than razors. She kept it with her, always. In her pocket, and in her handbag when there were no pockets for her to slot it into.)

The game began the moment she steps into the venue, the first time she catches the groom’s eye. Depending on how well they do on the initial test, it could be over as soon as it began.

Or it could last until their last night together.

It was always just a game, though. Playing with their hearts and their lives, before cutting the thread and ending it.

(It was fun, smiling shyly at them, giving them a hint of what they could have, luring them into bed – their bed, always. She loved the irony. It would be their deathbeds, after all. And, the looks on their wives’ faces when they discover their husband’s dead body, stripped bare and covered in hickeys, all the evidences there further incriminating them even without the note she’d leave for them to find… She always stayed the night, just for that, to see them understand, before slipping away, swallowed by the shadows.)

It stayed just a game until she discovered her husband in their bed with another.

(Her heart shattered, and, it made sense for her to shatter it – it was poetic justice.)

He was her third kill.

(She’ll never forget the relief on his face when she pulled him into their bed with her, telling her that she’d erase every trace of the other woman from him before muttering the sweet nothings that truly meant nothing now that she saw.)

For a while, after him, she had fallen into a rut – she had truly loved him, after all. Still did, if she was honest with herself, but.

(The betrayal on his face when she dug the shard in and drew it along the median septum, breaking his heart by splitting it – it made her want to claw that look off his face. To yell and scream at him that he had no right to look like she had betrayed him, not when he was the one who betrayed her. He had no right, he was the one who broker her heart and killed her that night, all those promises and vows, their future, the plans, the games -)

He lied.

(He deserved it.)

That was what eventually spurred her back into action.

(Broken hearts weren’t the crippling things people told you they were, she realised – they were scalpels that cut away weaknesses, leaving behind only who you truly were, shielded by an armor of shards.)

So she got back into the game, searching for weddings and dresses and driving there (alone, alone, alone…), except –

(He’d put a hammer to her heart and left behind only this: scalpel sharp pieces that sliced away the useless emotions he had taught her to feel.)

(For him, she’d tried so hard to act nice, like a lady.)

It stopped being a game.

(It became an obsession.)

She would really test them, she vowed. And if they fail, they’d truly deserve this.

(He taught her that it was good to be crazy.)

Didn’t he?

The games, the plans, the lies.

He’s gone, though – the shards aren’t.

She kept them with her, always.

(A constant reminder that no matter how good this feels, it would never compare, ever, but-)

He lied.

(And he’s gone.)

Boom by Jean Tay

This month, it will be ‘Boom’, a play by Jean Tay.

It’s a play in which civil servants wake the dead, corpses are terrified of cremation, old women are besieged in their own homes and ah bengs still dream of being Superman. Oh, and it’s set in 2007, Singapore.

Does this convince you that this play would be interesting?

Well, let me tell you, it’s not. And from here on, it’d be a rant. On just what is wrong with the play.

Firstly, the language.

Alright, it’s not as bad as it could be, since it is still mostly in English, but there’s so much Singlish (Singapore English) in it that it’s hard to read. Especially when every three lines or so, you have to refer to the footnote to understand what is being said, especially in the scenes where two of the main characters are present in. I mean, sure, it makes this authentic, but can’t you just make the whole thing easier to understand by scrapping the Singlish?

And, the characters.

Honestly? They piss me off, especially the main characters. Mother, one of the three main characters I can pick out, is an old hag who clings onto the past so hard that she makes herself unlikeable. She’s so blinded by her past that she absolutely refuse to see her present and her future, her son and her life. She’s so adamant not to move on because of her past, her husband, that she tells her son – her present and her future – to get out and leave her be when he tried to get her to move out of that tattered old apartment that was falling apart, in order for her to be distanced from the past and could possibly move on.

Which brings me to the son, Boon. The main character of this play.

On one hand, it’s clear he’s extremely filial. On the other hand, he’s just so absolutely horrible at being nice to his mother. He’s an active character, sure, one who doesn’t sit around and wait for good fortune, but he’s not, in any way, a character I can sympathize with.

In a way, though, I suppose it was intended. At least, I hope that Jean Tay intended to portray them as one person who is so rooted in the past she can’t accept any changes around her, and another who is so determined to leave the past behind that he makes a point to bury his memories and cut himself off from what he was.

When the characters who are meant to be the ‘bad guys’ are the only ones that are at least tolerable, you have to wonder about the play, though.

The bureaucrats, for instant, are meant to be faceless, nameless people who are ‘for policy, not people.’ but these are the ones that I can actually picture. The Director? For the nation above all. It’s someone you can understand. Colleague? Doing this job voluntarily but not too enthusiastically, perhaps for his family, perhaps for other reasons. Understandable too. Jeremiah, the one who can talk to corpses? Oddball who is pitiful, really. Everyone in the play told him to go away, to scram. Even the corpse. Still better than Boon and Mother. And corpse.

When it comes down to it, though, I suppose it would be good for a one-time read, even if I would totally understand if you would be like my friend and give up on this play after the first page.

Breathe

He wasn’t supposed to die before her.

He promised, he promised that he would never leave her, that he would always be there to tell her to breathe, that she wouldn’t have to bury him too.

That’s why when she first found him, the tears didn’t, wouldn’t fall. The only thing she felt was rage, the only thing she wanted was destruction. Obliteration, of all who did this to him.

It was only far, far, later, when all that was left were ashes and fading memories that it truly sunk in.

He’s not going to be there for her anymore.


[Anika Grace] 250 Word Character #1