Fictional characters have always fascinated me, and I can’t be alone in that.
I’m not just talking about the obvious intrigue for those who love shipping and violently attack those who don’t like their favourite pairings (maybe more on that another time), but also the obvious intrigue to authors, who can ruthlessly torture their creations for the greater good, or weep for them when they themselves turn their paths sour. I bring this up because by this time into the That Life saga, I was seeing my characters less as tools and more as people that I cared for. How could I care for such bland personalities? Well, they were gradually becoming less bland and I think that may have contributed to it. The more substance you give, the more real a character becomes, until eventually you’re starting to wonder if all will see a character journey this way. As we know, a lot of characters are open to alternate interpretations…
But don’t worry – although I share this particular bit of information, this next chapter isn’t as profound yet…there’s still plenty to make fun of, so let’s dive in. Chapter Two: Badly Tuned.
Amber opened her eyes. Then she remembered it was the first day of her new school and she closed them again.
In all fairness, I think I’ve captured the attitude present in us both then and now when we have to get up pretty accurately. This recognition of basic human emotions is a good sign, and probably started with my attempt to direct a narrative through a protagonist. In many ways, Amber is more of an Author Avatar than my actual Author Avatar…
Eventually Yeti comes and wakes her, and on the subject of alternate character interpretations, we get this delightful line.
But Yeti’s wake-up call had certainly stimulated her.
Now, Amber, stop it. Yeti won’t appreciate what you attempt to do to him, because you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Amber’s in quite the grumpy mood, but what really pisses her off is how ridiculous her uniform is. Am I gender stereotyping here? No, probably not – first off, I’m very sensitive to ridiculous looking clothes, and secondly, we helpfully don’t get a description of whatever she’s wearing. It’s the Hyde Park uniform, and most of our main characters will be wearing it for a lot of the story, so I’ll leave it to your imagination as to just what it looks like.
They’re 14 at the oldest, you pervs…
This next line is great…
Angrily, she marched into the kitchen, grabbed a piece of un-toasted bread, and walked out.
She’s expressing her anger through defying toast! Genius, Amber, that’ll bring down ISIS!
The defiance of toast sadly doesn’t last that long…
As she walked to the bus stop she noticed a pigeon following her.
“Have it your way,” she grunted at it, and threw it the bread.
The entire slice? So now she’s overfeeding pigeons, despite being established as one who gets on better with animals than humans…yeah, I’m starting to see why this girl has been expelled so often. If she’s prepared to kill pigeons, God knows what she’ll do to her fellow students…
Oh wait! We found out in this chapter. Great.
Amber’s still pretty sore about getting the bus, and it seems that even I was getting fed up of her constant internal complaining. Take a look at the rather fierce bluntness of this sentence.
Eventually the bus came and she got on it.
Thanks for not over-complicating things. I wouldn’t have enjoyed a scene where Amber glared at the bus driver, screamed quite loudly how nobody understands her, and pull him forcibly from the vehicle because only she understands the buses, and ends up driving all the way to Bournemouth to have a go at me for writing this. I’ll probably not get out of it alive.
Eventually, some other Hyde Park students join her, and in the true sequel fashion, we actually get physical descriptions of characters from the previous story before they are named.
On came a girl with long fair hair and talking animatedly to her friend, who had long dark hair.
I mean, it’s less of a physical description as so much as the briefest profile we could probably get, implying that the only physical difference between the two of them is their hair colour, but y’know…
Also, if you’re not sure who these two are…there’s no reason you should. This is probably the first physical description I’ve given these characters. They are in fact Ruth (the girl who spent too much time moping over her not-quite boyfriend’s departure to America) and Naomi, the girl who wanted to bang me but had a brother with a sister complex, respectively. What role will they have to play in this story? Only I will tell…
A few more people joined the bus afterwards. The girls seemed to know them, and began talking to them as well. Amber knew that some of them were talking about her. Well, they would, wouldn’t they?
“OMG! Have you seen the new protagonist?”
“She seems to be mildly psychotic…”
“She’ll fit right in with us then!”
So the party arrives at the school and Amber is determined not to go to her lessons for as long as she can help it…well, until…
Amber looked up. It was the fair haired girl who had greeted her on the bus. She nodded.
Isn’t a little counterproductive to stay lost by admitting you’re lost? Just wondering…
It seems we finally get a new side to Ruth though. Rather than spending the entire book pining after Ian because America was calling him, she gets to be…well, mildly nice and helpful, and willing to open up to this weird little whatever.
As luck would have it, she’s in the same form group as our heroes. Amber dislikes the noisy form room, so goes to sit on her own.
We then get a change of perspective completely out of nowhere.
Sean ambled into his form room, thinking about sixth forms.
Come on Sean, do you have to interrupt? I guess this is your idea of trying to make up for being a near enough stalker in the last story, trying to add some layer to your character by the NEXT BIG TRANSITION IN YOUR LIFE. But why is he ambling? Did somebody dissect his spleen?
Sean thinks that a college in Hammersmith might be his best option academically, but true to his small number of character traits, he’s too worried about leaving Naomi.
But presumably he won’t be boarding there, that’s more of a uni thing, right? So, he’s so paranoid, he needs to be in the same building as Naomi every single day? He really hasn’t changed at all…oh, character development, where art thou?
Also, why is the Hammersmith college the best option academically? Now I may be wrong, but colleges tend to be more vocational, whereas sixth forms tend to be academic. Unless he meant a sixth form college, but it’s already established in a previous line the Hyde Park Comprehensive does in fact have a sixth form (although we never seen any of the sixth formers), so, what’s wrong with the academic nature of that?
Like I really need to ask! The teachers are shit…
Anyway, Sean decides to discuss his problems with Alexis, a girl in his class briefly introduced in the last chapter of the previous story, setting up another very obvious romantic subplot.
We then return to Amber, or at least, her classmates’ opinions of her.
Ruth went and sat down next to Naomi.
“What’s her name?” she asked.
“Oh. She didn’t seem very happy.”
“No. She says that moving schools isn’t new for her.”
Well…it’s less malicious than it could have been, but I think it’s very true to these guys’ minimal characters that all they do is gossip – remember, in the last story, hearing girls talk about boys was a bloody spectator sport.
We then get a line from Caleb (THE SUAVE AND MAGNIFICENT, THE WONDROUS CREATION WHO I DEFIED ANYONE AT THE TIME TO NOT BOW BEFORE HIS SHEER AWESOMENESS, BUT NOW IS REALLY SUE-ISH, CONTRIVED AND FUCKING ANNOYING).
“Just until Amber settles in, we need to keep her away from Whitney.”
Well, that’s homophobic.
I’m joking of course. In the absence of Aiden the terror, Whitney finally seems to be living up the reputation she’s designated in these stories, rather than just being the butt of everyone’s jokes. We all know who remains the butt of the jokes though…
“Right,” Toby agreed. “So, where is Whitney?”
Whitney was already marching towards Amber.
“Nicely handled,” Jack growled.
Oh, I doubt I’ll ever get tired of this double act…
Whitney leaned over Amber’s desk and got right into her face.
“Watchadoin’?” she asked, loudly.
Into her face? That sounds…erotic…is she trying to make Summer jealous now? I hope they repair their relationship soon…
Why am I shipping two characters from a story I’m not even writing any more, and for good reason…?
Amber tries her hardest to ignore Whitney, and so Whitney goes straight on the offensive.
“I bet you’re one of those types who never washes,” Whitney continued.
Where the hell did that come from? That has got to be the most bland playground insult I have ever heard. Couldn’t she be slightly more creative than that…? Her heart’s obviously full of grief for fear of losing Summer.
“I can smell you from here. You’re such a-”
Amber had finally flipped and had punched Whitney hard round the face. Shocked, Whitney stumbled, and fell, knocking a desk over.
Oh great. Starting as I mean to go on!
A few things though…
- Whitney is right in Amber’s face (or into?). The fact that she can smell her from there is hardly surprising, whether she washes or not.
- Finally flipped? Whitney barely said more than two things. Although this seems to reflect what we know about Amber quite well.
- Too many commas.
- Is that the first use of onomatopoeia in these stories? Intriguing…
- I’m once again really curious to see what Whitney was going to say before she got cut off.
“You’re such a ridiculous choice for a protagonist.”
“You’re such a violent young woman, what the hell is the deal with that?”
“You’re such a friend to the animals, your dog stimulates you in the morning.”
“You’re such a beautiful, amazing girl and I want you.” (Only in an attempt at making Summer jealous, of course…
But hey, she may not have needed to, because…
Summer, who seemed to exist to do Whitney’s bidding, marched angrily over.
Aww, bless her!
She was about to start a fight when Mrs Marsh came in, and she stopped.
I don’t see why. That teacher seems completely oblivious to any scenes of violence that take place under her watch.
“Breaktime near the Music room. Be there,” Summer growled in her ear.
That was mildly suggestive…are they going to have a threesome with Whitney…?
No, of course she means a fight, because apparently people have to arrange such things. Amber is quite pleased about this, because not only can she let out her aggression, but it means she’s more likely to get expelled…
Amber! Do you not spare a thought for your poor father? Or indeed anyone else…? Why do I have to dislike this character this early on…?
As the class filed into their first lesson, Ruth turned to Amber.
“Don’t go,” she advised. “You seriously don’t want to get on the wrong side of Whitney and Summer. They’re lethal.”
Ruth apparently has superhuman hearing. Nevertheless, it’s nice again to see a caring, nurturing side…and for someone who’s probably not even worth it.
Amber ignores her advice, and then we very quickly cut to Naomi and I.
“You alright?” Toby asked Naomi.
“Hmm…? Oh yeah. I’m just thinking about this morning.”
“Well, on Thursday, you’re coming round for dinner. Sean wasn’t sure how to react.” She sighed. “He’s still really clingy,” she complained.
“Don’t worry about it,” Toby advised.
It would appear that I took my dialogue lessons from Tommy Wiseau. Also, I love how I only find out about this now. And she doesn’t even open the conversion with the fact that I’m meant to be meeting her family, she just sort of drops it in as a sort of ‘BTW!’
We then get this entirely pointless scene.
“OK,” Jack whispered to Toby as they sat through a geography lesson. “The blog’s up and running. We need you to do your Yoda impressions.”
“Right,” Toby agreed, and began impersonating Yoda.
“Quiet!” Mrs Guernsley shouted.
Everyone stared at Toby, who went red.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
I feel like profoundly despairing…
- A blog is a form of the written word. There is no reason that doing a voice impression would be needed. That’s more for a vlog.
- Why the hell would I need to start doing those impressions then and there? In the middle of a geography lesson? Not the place to be blogging/vlogging!
- Impersonating Yoda? Does that mean I took on his identity and tried to pose as him in Jedi Council meetings? I think there’s a wrong word usage there…
- Never mind why I’d need to do it in the middle of a lesson, why did I start doing it in the middle of a lesson?
- What is the point of this scene?
- What is the point of this scene? I know I’ve already asked that, but I think it needs asking again.
- There is no point to this scene.
- Glad we’ve sorted that out.
So, at morning break, Amber marches straight over to the music block to fight Summer. However, it would appear more are concerned about her than she thinks.
Ruth turned exasperatedly to Ryan who was grinning broadly. She gave him a big kick in the shins.
“Ow! What was that for?”
My thoughts exactly! Ruth, when did you become so hot-blooded? We don’t need more of this incredibly graphic violence, thank you…
Ruth tells Ryan he needs to help her sort this issue out…and so Ryan does, probably out of fear he’s about to be killed. In fact, quite a big party makes it’s way there.
So, Amber was eventually followed by Ruth, Ryan, Naomi, Toby, Jack, Caleb, Ian, Ross, Queenie and Carol.
Oh, the Mighty Ridiculous Power Rangers! Reunited at last! And this time Ross is with them, that random Scottish kid from the last story who played virtually no role. Take a wild guess at what role he plays in this story…
No doubt this is a quite a large party, certainly compared to who Summer has backing her. It’s just Whitney (TOGETHER 4EVER!) and Kurt, that guy from the last story who was just there for me to vent out my hatred for sporty guys more attractive than me. Why is he there? Well, firstly, I needed to even the odds as best I could…and secondly…
“Why’s he there?” Ian whispered to Ryan. But Ryan was grinning again.
“Kurt fancies Whitney,” Ryan replied.
Ian almost fell over in shock.
“Wha…her?” Ian spluttered.
“Think about who we’re talking about,” Ryan reminded him.
Ian thought for a moment and then said,
Wow. RUDE. I know Whitney’s no saint, but it seems to be tit for tat more than anything else…
Also, despite the superior numbers, Ruth’s party seems to be making no attempt to stop this brawl…
“Alas! The peace of the world pivots around women,” Caleb said to Ross.
“How true!” Ross agreed.
I refuse to comment on that under protest that we are better as a species.
So, do you think you’re match enough for me?” Summer challenged Amber.
Summer seems to have gotten slightly better at her opening taunts. Slightly.
And so, they begin their fight. It’s interesting, because I decide to go into detail about every little move that each of them make…interpret that as you will. But it doesn’t last too long, and concludes without anyone intervening. Thanks guys…
Amber managed to scramble to her feet and pushed with all her might and fury and Summer fell backwards and smashed into the window for the music block. Glass shattered everywhere and Summer didn’t stop there. She then smashed right into the grand piano and stayed there.
OK, once again, the windows at this school are some of the cheapest in the world and seem to shatter at the slightest impact. Not to mention that hitting your head on a grand piano really isn’t a laughing matter, except it’s so weird that it might as well be. What’s with it with these stories and the most bizarre head injuries?
Amber’s supporters cheered.
You’re supposed to be trying to stop the fight, you fuckers!
Amber suddenly felt a pain in her scalp. She looked and saw Whitney, who was dragging her by the hair. Amber struggled to get free, but Whitney slammed her into a wall[…]
Wow! Don’t fuck with Whitney’s girlfriend. That’s the one thing you must NEVER do. Well, I’m hoping this life-threatening experience will repair their relationship. If Summer hasn’t died that is…
[…]only to be immediately thrown off by Ross, who had decided to join the fray. Kurt immediately came up and started fighting against Ross.
Oh, look, Ross. You’re helping a damsel in distress. I wonder what relationship you’ll have to this girl by the end…
Soon, everyone seemed to be fighting. Whitney’s forces were hopelessly outnumbered…
It’s not a war…
But yeah, I’d say! Two against seven? Not even at all…is it supposed to be a fight? It’s more like a beating…
At least they were until a big year 10, who knew Kurt from rugby came along and grabbed Carol’s hair…
Just for fun.
Am I trying to cast aspersions onto rugby players? Would I do such a thing…? Well, yeah, obviously…
But the point is, this character comes completely out of nowhere and is never seen again. He was literally there to make the fight more even. In hindsight, I really should have given Whitney a bigger posse. That would make these scenes so much more interesting!
Whitney’s posse! With Whitney as the head bitch in charge; Summer, her lover and closest crony; Kurt, the incredibly dull sports nut who’s there to provide comedy, a rival to Summer and eye candy for androphilic audiences; Uriah, the slightly weedy and possible untrustworthy evil genius, who has eyes only for Kurt; Minerva, a foil to Uriah, whom wishes to stage a coup to take over the school, and last but not least, Xenia, the obviously half-alien exchange student who spends her nights protecting the planet from a hoard of Lovecraftian horrors.
Anyway…the only significant things that happen in the rest of the chapter are Jack and Ryan both reacting violently to seeing Carol getting attacked (you’ll hopefully remember their rivalry) and Mr Mothman (OH HOW I’VE MISSED YOU!) and Mr Cork coming to break up the fight, with Amber delighting in how this will likely get her expelled.
So, that chapter was…about what you’d expect really, but in hindsight, this chapter, in it’s place in the narrative, really wasn’t that bad. It established Amber’s relationship with the other characters in a dynamic and interesting way, strengthening their bond by opening with a pretty intense scene. This first day could have been really boring, but I knew instinctively that that just wasn’t right. It’s an early sign of me evolving as a writer, and that’s pretty intriguing. Hope you enjoyed this, let me know what you think, and I’ll see when I can get the next one to you…