It’s not until she’s actually inside and the water is actually running from the showerhead that she realizes it; something amazing, something profound about something so simple, so petty, that to mention it to anyone else in casual conversation would be to risk getting labeled as a sort of crazy person.
“It’s… clean,” Cecile whispers to herself, starting at the walls. Three walls, one door, one floor, but no hair. No stands of forgotten who-knows-what anywhere to be seen inside the plastic mother-of-pearl walls. No brown scum on the floor created by dozens of feet and their dead skin and used soap piling, piling, piling on top of each other. She understood it in an instant, but marveled over it for minutes: it was her shower, and no one else’s. If it ever gets dirty, if it ever gets hairy, it will be her dirt, and her hair. And she is not afraid of her own hair.
“What about parents?” Luke comments, in a supposedly-empowering voice. “No, I mean, seriously, aren’t we supposed to do our own thing, be our own boss and stuff?” Continue reading
On its own, slice of-life is boring; it’s just average people talking about their average life. And there’s nothing wrong with boring. The success of the old comic series “American Splendor” is predicated on the fact that it was just average people and their average lives; the tagline for the American Splendor movie itself was, “Normal life is pretty complex stuff.” Half the webcomics on the internet seem to be about the college roommates making jokes about everyday things, and while plenty of them are nothing to write home about, plenty of them are, too. Slice-of-life can carry an immense amount of weight, because it’s a fictional account of reality, and there’s nothing heavier than reality, because nothing hits closer to home.
Until I define Believer’s reality, I cannot create a plot for it, because whether or not supernatural things exist in the world of Believer open or close doors for me in creating said plot. It’s true that I would use a very delicate brush in painting the fantasy elements of Believer, and to the reader eighty percent of the story would look exactly the same one way or the other, but it’s the subtleties under the surface which define the way I must write everything in the story. Perhaps a character is secretly a robot in the “fantasy version” of Believer, and perhaps that very same character is just aloof and calculative in the “reality version”, but which is which makes a world of difference to me the writer: determining the subtle hints I draw attention to if they are a robot, and showing unexpected emotion and life if they aren’t.
The primary reason why I stopped working on Believer is because I do not have a plot. But the lack of plot is itself a symptom of a larger conundrum I have: where to put Believer on the scale of fantasy versus reality. I have forever been enamored with stories that seamlessly blend reality and fantasy together so as to not diminish the qualities of either, and so if the opportunity presents itself my inclination is to do the same. In a story where a strong theme is going to be belief, I feel it’s prescient to observe things people believe in that are real, things that aren’t, and most importantly, things that are uncertain, for this is where belief is needed the most. A character may believe in Santa Claus, whether or not Santa Claus exists, and through this belief the character molds their life and becomes a different person who strives to be good all year, because Santa Claus is watching them. Over time, the character may strive to be good because they see the value of goodness in the world and the peace goodness brings to their life, not just because they want lots of presents. In this way, it was not Santa Claus that was important, but the belief in Santa Claus. Whether or not Santa Claus really exists never really mattered, because Santa Claus represented an idea, an ideal to this character, that meant so much more than the physical man ever could. And by believing in this ideal, the character learned something about themselves.
I once posted a daily extoling the “side characters” for their unique quirks and lovable personalities. However, as all too often happens in my life, I give a piece of advice then go on to not follow it myself, because I’m living under the assumption that I’m incapable of making a bad decision about something I’m giving advice on. Believer was initially going to be set up to be a four-part story, each part told in the perspective of a different character in the setting, thus blurring the line between “main character” and “side character”. The four parts would roughly correspond to four seasons, providing a look into a defining year of the characters’ lives. I had good ideas for three of the four characters and a rough clue of the fourth, and decided to trundle onwards and fill in the blanks as I went along.
Until a story is bound and published, there is always the opportunity to change it. And I am very glad of this fact. Previously, much of my adult writing experience has been in online stories posted incrementally, several thousand words at a time. But once these words are sent online, they become set in stone, and cannot be altered. The further I go and the more I write, the more set in stone the story becomes, and the less flexible I can make it.
“Believer” is not this, and for this I am very glad; otherwise I might have made a grave error.