The fear of accomplishment settles over me like a cozy quilt, and I contemplate whether or not I should snuggle under it. Whatever would I do with future excuses if I actually succeed at writing this NaNo thing? But here’s the deal instead of using my four day weekend to actually getting some real writing done I am getting all self-reflective. Here I am, at the halfway point and I decide to analyze my results. I have decided writing a 50,000 word novel isn’t working. I think my real mistake is I took time out to reread what I’ve written so far.
NaNoWriMo pep talks assure us novel contenders that “No plot? No problem.” Then again if there isn’t a plot, isn’t that a problem? Mrs. X talks about how all novels have to have a plot. No plot is actually a problem. In the “novel” I’m supposed to be writing I only talk about writing a novel, mostly I blather on about me. I know what I am really doing: I am deflecting, procrastinating, and avoiding. I didn’t get inspired by Googling, I got sidetracked. I did homework. I reread Pride and Prejudice. I rewatched Lost in Austen. I cleaned under my bed. I did most anything that involved not working on this. I wallowed in aggravation and regret.
I’m sure this would have been easier had I started out writing a real story. The kind that has a true hero or more likely a heroine, because I have no clue what a guy thinks about. This story I should write about would have all that a true novel is supposed to have. I’m learning this stuff in my literature unit of English. A story should have the following:
- plot–loosely connected events
- characters–one or more people, objects, animals, or even ideas
- setting–a time or place
- point of view–who is telling the story (and this goes into all sorts of directions)
- conflict–the problem
- theme– the underlying message of the author.
After rereading what I have written so far, I have come up with the following:
- Plot: I definitely have some definitely loosely connected events
- Characters: if I’m the protagonist, who is my antagonist? Procrastination? Aah, an abstract antagonist. Mrs. X would be pleased at that literary epiphany.
- Setting: there is a time and place for everything
- Conflict: person vs. person; person vs. society?
- Theme: now there is the stumper–what is my underlying message? That writing 50,000 words is good therapy for someone who never completes anything? How about, “The world is not really made up of girls who have vampires for boyfriends, or few girls have adventures once donning a pair of previously worn jeans.” Most girls (and I figure I am most girls) live uninteresting lives filled with ups and mostly downs.
There is no magic, huge paradigm shifts, or neat endings as most stories make us believe—life just goes on day after day. This I learned is “verisimilitude,” what is known as realism. My life is pretty real. Verisimilitude. That word has such an amazing sound to it. Verra-Si-Milli-Tude. That’s the dictionary pronunciation. I tend to say: vera-sim-all-ill-tude. Each syllable has its own meaning.
Vera: a name I wouldn’t mind having. It’s solid sounding, yet has possibilities because it sounds like “very.” She has very distinctive eyes. She has a very appealing personality. She has a very good vocabulary.
Sim: I think of those video games where you can make life happen like becoming an ant, which was my favorite version when I was a kid.
All: it’s all about including those details that make it all seem real. You can drop a house on a witch and go with that, but it would be difficult to believe a girl from Kansas could take out the witch with Ninja skills. That would not be believable.
Ill: which also means “sick” and that can be taken in two ways. The first “sick” is that yucky feeling that comes just before coming down with the flu. It happened recently; I decided it wasn’t worth writing about. The second “sick” is what the boys mostly say, “Whoa, dude, that was a sick video on YouTube. The guy was like doing the rail and caught the front lip of his board and nailed it.” That sick means amazing, as near as I can figure. “Ill” could also be “I will” as in the contraction, and in writing it’s all about the ‘I” as in “I am in it and I want to believe it.” My teacher, the undisputed Madame X, says, “Reading is believing. The author should be able to make the reader believe this could be happening, and the author is doing his or her best writing if he or she can make you want to have the story happening to you.” This story is happening to me, whether or not I want to live it, so Mrs. X what would you say to that?
Last but not least is Tude: got tude? Most teens, according to adults who do those research finding things, say we have attitudes. Well, who wouldn’t when everything is run by adults who have started wars, shrunk the polar ice caps, upped inflation, shut down big businesses, and decided soft drinks can no longer be sold in schools because it leads to obesity, but build a Starbucks on every corner of America? As if caffeine is the most healthy ingredient in the world to stuff in a body. Come on, attitude? It’s called “defensive coping.” Teens are frustrated. We can’t wait to run the world. But wait, do we really want to inherit the mess adults have made of it? Actually, I don’t think we have much choice.
So for now we will live in our own i-Tuned, X-Boxed, FaceBooked lives and wait and hope it won’t be as bad as it is looking.
Pardon the momentary rant.
I think I have a story forming, yet I don’t know if I can pull it off. I’m going to mull it over before committing to writing it down. That’s right, I said commit. I think I am back in business. Time to move on to more pleasant thoughts than trying to grab an idea and coax it behaving into something with substance.
My pleasant thought right now is how I actually went to and enjoyed Simone’s French party. Here is how it went: I find room 102 and there is a party going on. I don’t do French and I am not taking any kind of foreign language at present. It is much to my counselor’s horror that I have decided I am not interested conjugating verbs in some language of some country I will never visit. What is the point of taking a foreign language? Answer for 100 points: To get into college. Hasn’t anyone noticed that English is the world language? Yeah, I know that sounds ignorant and elitist. But there are little kids in Germany, France, Spain who are at this moment taking English. Most of them will end up speaking it better than USA natives. I wouldn’t want to try to learn our language. We have the strangest shifts, rules, and reasons for putting sounds together to complete a thought. Punctuation is a whole nother matter.
When I walked into room 102 I felt I had fallen into Alice’s rabbit hole. A French rabbit hole. French music, that tune from Sabrina, was playing. The one used in Ratatouille. Posters of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Boulevard, bistro scenes, and a movie poster of Julie and Julia hung on the walls. The French colors of red, blue, and white filled up the room in the form of crepe paper streamers from the ceiling, along with paper tablecloths on pushed together classroom tables. It was manufeek. Yeah.
“You have come!” Simone had grabbed me by the elbow. “I am so glad. You are my guest. Here is your name tag. Here we become a new person. Choose a new name. See I am Giselle, because she cannot be here in America, but today she is. What name will you be?”
Any name? I can transform for a day into any name I choose? That is loaning out the fairy godmother wand in a dangerous way. My hand reaches for the black Sharpie and it writes “Vera” while my brain is going “Stop, Stop that’s not what I wanted to write.” Too late it’s done. I’m Vera for at least an hour. No everlasting damage should be done.
“Good. Come, Vera,” Giselle/Simone pulls on my arm. Are all French people so effervescent? I thought they are supposed to be reserved, almost aloof. I suppose all Americans are perceived as overweight and loud. Overweight in my case, loud not so much. “I present Vera,” this said to Mme. S. The introduction being said in French I’m pretty sure I was introduced. I got the Vera part is all.
“Pleased you could come. Are you thinking of taking French? Or are you like so many other students and are taking Spanish?” the French teacher asks me.
“No, I’m not signed up for any language right now. We only need to take two years, right?” She nods affirmatively to my question. I plunge on. “I think I will be better able to focus as a junior and senior.”
“That is a wise consideration. I have these ninth graders who can’t sit still long enough to comprehend the lesson and then they wonder why they fail my class. French is a beautiful language and should be savored. Squirmy freshmen are not ready to savor. I will look for you next year, Vera.”
I awkwardly smile in reply. If I were to take a foreign language I was thinking Spanish would be easier. I hear French is pretty tough. It is prettier sounding though. I can’t figure how Mme. S sounds French even though she has such an American sounding name. Shouldn’t a French teacher have something more French sounding, like Cousteau? Simone tells me later that Mme. S’s maiden name is Broussard. A long time ago she was engaged to an American foreign exchange student who came to Paris to study abroad for one of his college years.
“It was spring in Paris. She is on an outing, and he is taking pictures and they bump,” Simone crashes her hands together, eyes widening in the retelling. “They become in love,” Simone says. “I would like to fall in love in Paris. So nice.” She continued the story saying it did not have a happy ending. They were to fly back to America and meet his parents, and he was killed riding his motorcycle two days before they were to fly out. The paved streets of Paris can be tricky, especially after a rain, Simone told me.
Mme. S, heartbroken, leaves France and comes to America anyway. She studies and gets her teaching credential and changed her name to his “because she never look at anyone anymore. Her heart die with her American college boy.” Simone thought that tragic and romantic. That would make a good story. I would watch that one as a movie. I was amazed her teacher told Simone something so personal. Simone said because she is French, Mme. S invites her over to her house so she can converse more freely in her home language. They have become friends outside of the classroom.
That’s an interesting thought. Friends with a teacher? Would I really want to get to know any of my teachers beyond the classroom? I run through my schedule and place a big red “don’t think so” next to each one. I then think about the other teachers on the staff, and the only one who intrigues me is Ms. L, the journalism teacher. She wears stylish clothes and has such a creative energy about her. She’s my mom’s age, I think. I can’t see being friends with someone that much older. Mom and I sometimes do things together but to hang out with someone ten years, twenty years, thirty years older seems more than strange.
I want to ask Simone what she and Mme. S talk about but don’t. Instead I nod, saying something like, “It must be nice to talk in your own language with someone else.” Simone said not talking French was like being locked behind a door.
“I knock, like this,“ she knocks on a desk, and pauses. “I wait. No one come. I knock again. And someone open door and I peek out,“ she puts her hands in front of her face and then removes them. “See, you open door, and now I talk. But sometime I still sad. On my side of door all is French. Your side of door is English. It is hard sometime. Today is good day. Today I talk both.” I need to learn French so I can really talk to Simone someday.
The French Club party consists of eating all kinds of student-prepared foods and treats. There are about a dozen students in French club. Most students at our school take Spanish. There are three Spanish teachers and only one French teacher and a part-time German teacher. Hmm, what does that really say? I got the idea that the smarter kids take French. I see a few members of the Honor Society, along with student council members mingling. What I want to know is if French makes you smart or if you have to be smart to take French? “You’re known by the company you keep,” is one of Gran’s sayings. I will give this French some consideration when it comes to signing up for classes in the spring.
After an hour of sampling French food and watching a clip of Ratatouille, the party ends. I stay and help clean up and then say good-bye to Simone.
“You are the first American I like to know well. We will meet again, not just at lunch in the library. Okay?” I nod. Why not? It’s not like my life is so full, and Simone is everything I am not: tall, poised, outgoing, slender, and French. “By the company you keep.” Okay, Gran I hear you, I hear you.
- Character versus Plot: Which Comes First? (ctwesting.com)
- #NaNoWriMo: The key tip to write a much better book (chazzwrites.com)