The Strangest Thing I’ve Written Yet…

I had a challenge: Write about a boring character. Someone with pretty much no backstory. Someone who was born, raised in a well-enough family without any real hardships or the money to do whatever, someone who has bland features and you would overlook upon surveying the crowd. She had to be someone without much extraordinary about her.

And this morning, I woke up and had a little narrative voice sighing as it told a tale while I went about making cookie brownies first thing. (Yes I made a pan of chocolatey goodness with salted chocolate chip cookies dropped into the pan, dessert for breakfast basically, and I loved every second of the five servings I had. Might as well live up the childless years while I can, right??) And her story just kind of came out, as though I had walked in on her manning the oven and grumbling about a pretty and therefore unintelligent face pestering her with questions.

What was exceptionally odd about this whole experience was not only that it was highly narrative, but I was surprised at the way the narration slipped into telling the story. It’s not utterly seamless, but it’s far from bad for a first draft. As I want to keep this blog more about the experience of writing, and not so heavy on the stories themselves, I started up a blog to serve as a catch-all of the stories I’m doing. Part of the reasoning is that it is a nice way to keep organized. Another reason is that I don’t have complete confidence that my computer will always start, or in my good sense to remember to back-up the important files.

Another odd thing about Into the Fog is that the main character appointed herself a name. Usually I have to think about it, beat my head, and scour the baby names websites for ideas, accepting then rejecting, then modifying names until it fits just right.  I would say I’m not really sure where this story is going, but as Amelia states the ending right up front, I would more accurately say I don’t know how the story is going to get there. Anywho, here’s a segment of it.

My name is Amelia Baker (I prefer to be called Mel; my given name suggests a pretty woman, or even a woman of adventure, and I am neither) and while I am not much for telling stories, I am tired of people asking how I, the most boring baker on the planet, came to be kneadng seven-grain dough in the bowels of the airship Into the Fog while silently cursing myself falling in love with its captain. I suppose I am not supposed to tell you the ending, but we all know that you would have predicted this turn of events the second Mr. Dreamboat orders me onto his ship. And since I value intelligence–I will assume that since you can read, you are of the intelligent lot, not the beautiful–I see no point in pretending to be ignorant of this fact. So, there. You know the ending. I wind up stuck on a pirate ship, in love with a man who could not possibly return the affection, and I’m doomed to live this way until we all get thrown into a jail cell. But, isn’t that how all stories are? We know the basic ending, but what keeps us coming back is how it happens.

So, here is the tale.  Pirates have largely ignored my bakery because I established a reputation of being the most dull shop in Clocktower Plaza to raid. When they take all of my goods and leer at me, I would just tell them, “It’s only flour. Take all you’d like.”

When one shot crossbow bolts into my ceiling, I said, “At least this place will have a story to tell.”

And when one, the very first pirate, blew open my door with a small charge of dynamite, I only said, “It was unlocked.” And then I continued my kneading.

So, eventually, I was only interrupted from my day by the pirates who stopped by for some bread on their way out of town. And, no, I never worried about being raped or molested. While I was not ugly, I had no time to dress myself up in anything but as was practical. While the fine ladies wore bustles and corsets, I bound my breasts to keep them from hitting on the shelves, and I wore only the cheapest woolen dresses that the elderly ladies had tired of. My hair and body I washed often to get rid of the sweat from the ovens, but I wrapped my locks up and tucked them under a cap so no one would know how they reflected the sunlight with a coppery glint, like red wheat kernels before the mill. It was my one claim to beauty, and I would have no one see it. Beauty was for the girls without intelligence. Beauty would attract boors and the boors would demand control, and I was not going to give up my bakery for any man. I considered cutting my hair off many times. Going down to the barber and selling my locks. They would fetch a good price, I was certain, but there was some part of me that loved my hair, and I loathed that part of me more than I loathed my locks.

In the end, it wasn’t my hair that made me loose my bakery. It was my pride. See, for as plain as I could make myself, I could not make my baked goods any less decadent than those set before the King.

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Can I say that I love her character? It comes across so strongly, and there’s no doubting who she is from the very start. She’s practical. She’s stingy. She is shortsighted, opinionated, as we will find out, a bit of a daydreamer, but she knows she is a daydreamer, and dismisses those daydreams before they can take root. She is also, at the heart of the matter, afraid of relationships and uses every means that she can to avoid facing her fears. She is easy to envision, and the power of her character comes in the contrast. She strives to be boring, but she desires adventure. Adventure is frightening, desires are frightening, and to avoid fear she must avoid desire, which means she has to be as dull as possible and only partake those pleasures which are safe. We all have things that we want to do, but don’t, because we’re afraid of the costs, afraid of the risks, or just afraid of doing it. Of course, we don’t strive for boringness in our life, but Amelia does because she is the essence of that aspect all poured into one character.

Now, might I say that the pirate captain is the yin to her yang. He lives adventurously, does what he pleases, has no fear, and secretly desires the stability that boring provides. I did not think I would enjoy this so much, but the contrasts in the characters is  so fun.  If you have not tried to do this, please do give a try at my assignment. It’s a good romp.

Till later,

Your Dearest Nicolette

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10 thoughts on “The Strangest Thing I’ve Written Yet…

  1. This is such a cool, cool exercise! I’m going to have to check this out! I love the way that sometimes a story just writes itself… I wrote a story like that once and it to this day is still my favorite short story.

    1. I love a challenge that brings me out of my comfort zone. I’m also toying with an Edgar Allen Poe challenge to try to mimic the haunting way of his words. Doing stuff that isn’t your usual “thing” really gives you a punch and an edge that you didn’t know you were missing.

      1. A little of both. He does have a fabulous vocabulary! But, I’m more going for the rhythmic qualities. Jack Kerouac is another writer I admire for that same reason, and I love ee cumings for his imagery.So much to do!! And I love being exposed to new writers. Which ones are your favorites?

      2. Hmmmmm, I would go with Hemingway first because I love his plain style and his goal of using as few adjectives as possible. Then Harper Lee, I find her style choices in TKAM to be just gorgeous. For poetry, I like Wilfred Owen and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. For speculative fiction, I’m going with Douglas Adams.

      3. Oh, man! It’s been ages since I’ve read Hemmingway and TKAM. I’m going to have to fix that on my next day off. I’ll add Own and Ferlinghetti to my reading list, too. I wasn’t a huge poetry reader. What I have read comes mostly from prior class assignments, but I adore the way that it rolls off the tongue. And, hehe! Douglas Adams. I love writers who show personality and a bit of “zing” in their works.

        This is why it’s good to talk books. It reminds me of things that have slipped my mind.

      4. Yeah, I am teaching TKAM so it reminded me of how beautiful her prose could really be. As for Hemingway, he’s been a big inspiration for me stylistically. I’m not a huge poetry reader either but I studied writing in college so I got a big dose of it!

      5. Awesome! I studied writing, too, but it was professional/technical writing, so we didn’t have more than a class or two that were literature-oriented. Lots of classes about writing cleanly and concisely. I sort of lost my creative writing touch after so many hours and pages of “dry” writing. Also lost the desire to read, since I had all those texts to study. So, now I’m going through a massive stylistic growth period,and it is so AWESOME.

        Anyway, I’m planning on doing substitute teaching and I’m super excited about it.Pretty good chances I can do some grant writing for the school, too, so I am looking forward to November very much! I want to get my teaching certificate, but I’m not sure if I would want to be an English teacher or remain a sub. The variety of classes is a real draw for the subbing idea.

      6. Subbing is horrible. Students don’t respect you, you don’t get to know any of them, you don’t get to pick what you teach in any way, shape, or form. It’s all of the bad parts of teaching with none of the good.

      7. If I don’t like it, it’s easy enough to get out of. I’m not too concerned about not getting to know the kids, because the schools I’m going to are tiny (a 50-kid grade is HUGE). At this point, I’m not concerned about what is taught. That might change later, once I develop a preference. As for not respecting the sub, I thought that was all part of the experience. They are kids, and part of growing up and gaining independence is to push boundaries and see what happens, Of course, I’m sure it’s going to be as frustrating as can be sometimes, but doesn’t every job have drawbacks?

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