That Life II Commentary – Chapter 4

Four is death. At least…according to some Oriental numerologists. Is this chapter death for my writing career…? Of course not! I’ve long since been done with this particular series, but…I may have almost died before getting onto this review.

After a long series of injuries that may have otherwise been amusing, and…OK, they weren’t really that long, but getting hit by a bike was graphic enough, and with all that going on, it barely registers that I’ve actually been allowed back into university, providing I obey the rules and don’t commit any violent scandals, which is good, because I need some stability whilst planning what novel ideas I’m going to write when.

In the meantime, I think it will be good to see what not to do by returning to a story which, whilst superior to the first, has many moments all too like the first to reprieve itself. Let’s take a look. Chapter Four: The Cold Shoulder.

Russell fell against the wall as the knife was thrust at his throat.

Oh, and we’re back to the violence, wonderful…

No, actually, Russell is in fact just dreaming, but, given he hasn’t even appeared in this sequel properly yet (surplus to requirements, I don’t doubt), we can’t even begin to wonder what sort of trauma he’s going through. After all, this nightmare takes a rather disturbing turn.

“Aiden…you’re just…sick!”
“Oh am I?” Aiden replied, chuckling mirthlessly. “Well, here is a gift just to show you how sick I am.”

WHY does everyone have to be on the verge of committing rape in this story…?

We should be thankful that whatever happens next is cut off by Russell waking up. He should be relieved too.

He gave a huge sigh of relief. But he was far from relieved.

Oh.

Well, why breathe a sigh of relief then? It really makes no sense…

This nightmare was now recurring.

This is unfortunate. There’s far too much PTSD in this story already.

We cut to Amber, who, at school, is determined not to act out today. This a hopeful sign – maybe she’s growing out of her selfish behaviours and isn’t angling to get expelled anymore. Whatever angst she expressed in the last chapter must have given her an epiphany or something.

She looked up. Oh.
Summer was there. Why she was at school today when she had concussion only yesterday is anyone’s guess.

Well…actually I have no idea what the procedure is concerning these things. But now I’m imagining a scenario where Summer’s in a coma and has an out of body experience, and, with Whitney weeping over her near lifeless form, must decide whether she should stay or go, rather like that novel by Gayle Forman and it’s film adaptation starring Chloe Grace Moretz. And with Whitney rather than that rather creepy, skinny pallid looking boyfriend that existed in that particular work of fiction. God, I’ve improved it so much already…

I’m actually slightly concerned that my dedication to whatever relationship Whitney and Summer have is going to get in the way of other commitments. It might sound unlikely, but too much isolation and I start talking to myself, so…

We then get yet another scene cut, which make up far too much of this story. And they’re not even that long! It’s actually with Aiden, and it sheds a very limited light on whatever happened in the last chapter.

“Anything more?”
Aiden looked up scowling.
“I’ve told you everything I can,” he snarled. “What else can I say?”
The detective sighed. “You have told us about your…past experience with him, but it didn’t actually make us any the wiser on where he actually is.”
Aiden smiled grimly.
“That’s your problem,” he said. The detective sighed again, and walked away.

So, really, he gave you no leads in the slightest, just something unspecified about his past experience with Seb Kythner. Obviously we know they were part of some overly typical gang, but I don’t really want the details, given the detective’s reaction. The detective who still doesn’t seem to have a rank.

Also, I should point out that the segment up there is the entire scene with Aiden. What the hell was the point of including? It grinds the story to a complete halt, it puts an unnatural cut where it isn’t needed and doesn’t even develop the characters present any further. What we get of Aiden here is exactly the same as last time. The whole thing serves no purpose. I clearly hadn’t learned to economise at this point. Oh, and another thing I hadn’t learnt to do was tone down on the abuse I offered at what I considered Acceptable Targets. Given my rather strong viewpoints on certain matters, this hasn’t entirely gone away, but I really should focus on dropping anvils on issues that matter, rather than ones that are just pet peeves.

What exactly am I referring to?

“RUGBY!!!” screamed Mr Cork.

Yes. That.

I know I had personal issues and self-esteem issues, but I really needed to stop my relentless attack on sports people. They’d never done anything to me…I don’t think, anyway.

Of course, with writing as my primary outlet, both then and now, it feels very much like a Revenge Of The Geek, steering any intellect I might have to my advantage. I still do value brain over brawn, but this isn’t to say that rugby players are necessarily unintelligent. I’m sure most of them are perfectly nice, reasonable people that just happen to have a hobby or career that I could never understand.

But no, I was determined to demonise all sports players, particularly those of rugby, by stereotyping them as thuggish and often pugnacious idiots.

Amber sighed and turned to Ruth.
“Why didn’t you tell me that the PE teacher is deranged?” she asked her.

And again, Amber’s speaking for me…which is a little rich considering she’s far more violent than Mr Cork has proved to be so far.

Although time will tell. Quite why Mr Cork’s teaching method’s involve screaming the name of a sport, I have no idea, but let’s see how else he does it.

“The basic rules of rugby involve this ball,” he said, picking up a rugby ball.

No shit.

Why does he feel the need to explain that rugby is a competitive sport with a ball? Even I know that and I can’t stand sport, so the fact that this year 9 class seems to be full of my Author Avatars doesn’t even stand as an excuse.

“If someone were to tackle me…well, how about I show you? Someone come and try to tackle me!”
Nobody volunteered.

I’m not bloody surprised. He’s two metres tall among a class of 13-14 year olds!

Also, why does he feel the need to explain that rugby’s a ball game, but not explain what counts as tackling or indeed the scoring system? I mean, I didn’t know what the scoring system of rugby is, and I still don’t, so…

“Oh fine. Jack, you try,” Mr Cork said.

Do you have to pick on the resident chew toy? He’s got enough going on! Also, why aren’t Amber or Summer volunteering? They’ve clearly got the confrontational mindset to try and tackle a teacher. They probably have more in common than they realise…

LOVE TRIANGLE!

OK, I need to stop…

“I’ll do it,” Ryan snapped, wanting to seem braver than Jack.

Oh, for God’s sake, Ryan, give it a rest.

He ran forward.
Mr Cork gave him a massive shoulder-barge, sending him careering through the air and landing hard on the grass.
“And that’s all there is to it!” he said.
“Oh, is that all?” Ian muttered sarcastically.

You see Ryan, this is how accidents happen.

Also, is Mr Cork really allowed to do that? He basically just assaulted a pupil. But then again, I’m also not surprised that nobody’s bothered by this particular incident.

The abuse of the sport continues as my point of view characters that you’re meant to root for and feel for are completely lazy and unproductive bastards.

It would normally be easy enough to…err…pretend to play rugby, but not with people like Kurt trying to act like a professional rugby-player and charging blindly into everyone.

Again, I dispute very much that professional rugby players charge blindly into everyone. At least…not their team-mates.

But Kurt was nothing compared to what Summer was doing. She seemed to have a fair bit of knowledge of rugby…but all you need to know is to charge at people and pretty much murder them.
Yeah, that was all.

Yeah, OK, we get it! I hate rugby. Whoop-di-fucking-do. How articulate of me to write it down in this format, what a great change it will have for humanity…this is why I should never have looked back.

So, whilst Summer and Kurt were busy doing very good impressions of human bulldozers, everyone else just sat on the grass and relaxed.

YOU LAZY BASTARDS. YOU WILL BE OBESE IN LATER LIFE, YOU MARK MY WORDS.

And why is Mr Cork not reprimanding them for their apathy? Is he too busy with the human bulldozering or whatever…?

However, it would’ve been easier to relax if it wasn’t so cold. It was only January, and PE kits are not normally made with consideration for the climate.

Well, that’s true actually, although there is the option of rugby jumpers and tracksuit trousers rather than shorts and a T-shirt. No gloves etc unfortunately, but it could be worse. Or are they just that adverse to anything rugby related?

It wasn’t long before everyone starting shivering. The only solution it seemed was to share each other’s body heat. In other words, group hugging.

Well…great.

Now, at this point you might be wondering why I decided to include such strange, mundane details in these stories, and honestly, it’s probably for personal reasons. We’ve already established that I hated sports and those who played them with a burning passion, and the whole group hugging thing was probably a slight against, well…the fact that I had very few friends? I certainly wasn’t close enough to the majority of my classmates in my day to be involved in any group hug that anyone wanted to perform. Inserting myself here was something of wish fulfilment, and this was probably just another example.

This segment hammers it home too…

The only one not joining in this group hug was Amber. Desperate to differate herself from everyone else, she stood apart, trying to ignore her shivering.

Differate isn’t a word, but the point is, she’s taking my role here. Nobody makes her warm, and she will SUFFER FOR IT. WE HAVE HARD LIVES AMBER. NOBODY LOVES US.

When the school day ends, she leaves so abruptly, she drops her mobile phone without realising it and Ross picks it up to return it, but due to her apparent speed, he struggles to catch up with her.

But where was she?
As he left the school, he looked around for a girl without any company.

And there it is again. PITY THE FRIENDLESS.

As it happens, Amber actually notices he’s following her and is convinced he’s some kind of crazed stalker…which is a bit of a jump to make, but…this is Amber we’re talking about.

Meanwhile, Caleb (T.S.A.M) has gathered some friends together.

Caleb put his mobile away. He supposed he could tell Ross later. He turned to Ian, Toby and Jack, waiting expectantly for him to explain.

So, this is something pretty important he’s got to get off his chest presumably? It’s later revealed to be the truth about Seb Kythner, and the earlier line indicates he wanted to tell Ross about it too. He wants to gather the people he feel needs to know, so…

Why isn’t his girlfriend among them? Or any girl, actually? Look, Caleb…you’re despised by your creator now. How does it make you feel to have such a change in role?

So, he eventually reveals that Kythner was the leader of this little gang, and that he managed to leave them without a blip…and then we get an insight from Ian.

“Dude…you’re really hard done by aren’t you?” Ian sighed.

What consoling, heartfelt thing to say to your best friend. Look, that might be how they do it in America, but in Britain we have something called tact. Unless your name is Nigel Farage and you’re describing your political opponents.

And again, he’s pointing out exactly what we should feel about Caleb. OH, POOR HARD-DONE BY BOY, HE’S SO SUAVE AND MAGNIFICENT DESPITE THIS, HE’S ALONE IN THE WORLD, WOE IS HIM, LOVE HIM, WANGST ETC…

It’s so disappointing that Ian reacts this way too. It’s just so ridiculous and blunt. This whole scene, despite the contrived twist, was perfectly set up to feature a heart-warming (ish) moment in which the indication is that Caleb feels that it’s his true friends that keep him going, those that don’t engage in petty criminal acts, don’t use him for his suave magnificence and actually stick by him no matter what. It would have been great if any of that held up, though, because Kythner seemed perfectly happy to induct Caleb into his group with no terrifying ritual, didn’t try to stop him (seemingly) leaving, whereas his supposed real friends didn’t think it worth telling any authority figure when he was getting abused. It’s such a shame, because writing about friendships can lead to all sorts of heartwarming moments.

Anyway…

Amber was having an extremely hard time shaking Ross off. It was dark by the time she had finally given up and sat down to rest by the Thames. Ross came up to her.
“What do you want?” she asked him sourly.

Bloody hell, Amber, if you’re that bothered you can just beat him up. You attacked Whitney for a much lesser offence, and given how persistent he’s been (I mean, it doesn’t take that long to get dark after the school day in January, but…) I would be very concerned too. I mean, surely he could just go home and give her phone back to her tomorrow…?

But of course, he does give it back…

“I wanted to return this,” he replied, holding up her mobile.
Amber was caught completely by surprise.
“Oh,” she said. “Thanks.”

Don’t you just love contrived plot points? As it happens, this particular scene does serve the rather convoluted purpose of giving Amber and Ross time to develop their chemistry. I mean, it’s very poorly written chemistry, but at least set aside time in the story for them to fall in love, something I most definitely didn’t do in the previous story. Although I keep referring back to this, it’s very nice to see that I am showing slight improvements in almost every area, rather than just a few.

“So…how do you like our school?”
“Burnt to the ground,” Amber snarled, pacing up and down angrily.

To be honest, I rather like that line…but how long are these two going to hang here? Haven’t they got homes to get to?

Unfortunately in the dark, she couldn’t see where she was going. She fell right into the Thames.

You see? You hang around in the dark for too long, and stuff like that could happen. And…I know the Thames is a pretty long river, with lots of places to get in, but the banks really aren’t that open. They’ve got like…low walls…or something…

So, Amber’s nearly freezing to death, and Ross starts yelling for help.

He was heard by a young man in his twenties, who was walking on the bank of the river.

I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the only one who heard. The Thames is the busiest river in the entire country, there must have been other people around.

He quickly took in what was going on, and leapt onto a nearby boat which belonged to someone he knew.

Well, that’s bloody convenient. What sort of boat is it though? How can you be sure he won’t mind you using it briefly to rescue some stragglers?

So, through a series of rope hauls and other nonsense, this guy and Ross manage to get Amber onto the boat.

The man began taking notes of her symptoms. She was still shivering uncontrollably, looked very disorientated, and was trying to say something but her speech was slurred.
“Yeah, that’s a moderate case of hypothermia,” the man explained.

Thanks for that. Guess who looked up the symptoms seconds before writing this bit? I still remember, even back then. I couldn’t have been less blunt about it. Also, a moderate case is still pretty severe. You should probably call an ambulance. But of course, the characters in this story are apparently allergic to the emergency services.

“Take her into the cabin and try your best to warm her up. I’ll go and get her a warm drink.”
“Thanks for your help,” Ross said to him, leading Amber into a warm, central heated room, and settling her onto a sofa.

Household first aid! Can’t beat it! Did you accidentally cut off one of your limbs? Never mind hospital, I’ll just get the sellotape.

Not that I’m knocking people who are actually trained in first aid, but still, hospital is a pretty good idea, and it doesn’t even occur to this loser.

Also, please never say to a horny teenage boy to warm up a female friend of his who’s nearly completely inert with cold, alright?

The man reveals his name is Fraser and that he used to be a paramedic. Which…is OK, but still not ideal.

[…]but I know how to treat hypothermia. We’re going to have to remove your wet clothes.”

OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE.

Just stop this. Stop it right now. This could not get any creepier. Actually, no, better not tempt fate on that one…

Amber made a small noise of protest from the sofa.
“Don’t worry,” Fraser said. “I have a sister your age. I’ve got a change of clothes in the wardrobe.”

Yes, except it’s not your fucking boat, is it? And why do you know someone who keeps the clothes of thirteen-year-old girls in their boat? How many before Amber have their been? I don’t like the way this is going…

So, they set about warming up Amber.

STOP SAYING THAT.

The worst part about this is that I use it as an opportunity for Ross and Amber to grow closer together. It’s really upsetting to look back on…

Ross found it hard to leave her side while Fraser walked around, getting towels and things to wrap her in to warm her up. Ross subconsciously found his hand in hers. He didn’t let go though.

Of course you didn’t, creepy pervert. OK, so it’s not as bad as it seems, obviously, but quite why I needed hypothermia to bond these two is a real question…

Amber looked up at Ross. How he reminded her of…

That one rapist from that one TV episode.

She stopped and shook her head. Thinking about him wasn’t going to help. Not at this point.

No, it really wouldn’t. Also, is nobody going to ask why she randomly shook her head to no apparent stimulus?

So, they manage to get Amber’s temperature back to normal, which is lucky for them, otherwise they would have been charged with culpable homicide and possible indecent assault, and Fraser calls the numbers of the guardians they give him.

Amber gave him Terry’s number and Ross gave him the number of the children’s home he lived in, and Fraser rang them to ask them to pick them up.

They do both have phones, so they could probably ring them themselves. Also, rather casual revelation on Ross’ part. Children’s home! They’re not as common though, these days are they? I mean…I might have to get more information on social services, but emergency and more long-term foster care is the more the thing, right?

As Ross walked over to the car that belonged to Roland, the head care worker. However, when he saw who was in the car with him.
Keith got out and began to walk towards Ross, smirking slightly.

See, I would have put Ross in emergency foster care given that he has this lunatic attempting to mount him constantly.

Ross told Keith to do something that hopefully Roland didn’t hear.
“Language!” Keith said, still smirking. “We gotta go.”

It disappoints me somewhat that Ross is just as confrontational as everyone else. Wouldn’t it be much more interesting for him to a be something of a doormat, putting him at a nice contrast with Amber. But anyway, never mind that…

Terry comes to pick Amber up, and still seems to refrain from calling an ambulance just as a precaution, but then again, I had no ambulance following my collision with a bike, so…

They have some father-daughter bonding which is actually just a lot less irritating than before. Most prominently of all, Amber actually confesses to being a bit of a brat.

“Hey dad…I’m sorry about…”
“What?”
“Well, not coming straight home, and of course getting into a fight yesterday.”

Maturity! At last! Oh, it’s lovely when a character admits to being wrong…but then we get this…

Terry sighed.
“I’m sorry too. I guess that perhaps that school wasn’t quite right for you. Maybe I could pay for another private school-”
“No,” Amber said quickly, surprising even herself.

Why is always the way? A cliche when people hold opposing views both come round to seeing the other’s point of view. It’s a trope that’s very common on Waterloo Road, but I think I was writing this before I even watched it, so…

So, Amber wants to stay now, and Terry agrees but would rather Amber stayed at home tomorrow due to…well, hypothermia, which is fair enough. Quite the doting parent he is. Amber also reflects on why she’s chosen to stay.

But it turned out that she’d taking a small liking to Ruth. And Ross as well. She sighed. The problem with Ross is that he reminded her, far too much, of Nathan.

GASP. NAME-DROPPING!! Who is this man, what sort of devil is he, to have me caught in a trap and choose to let me- yeah, well, anyway, we get to find out more about this Nathan at a later stage.

We then get a final scene with Ruth, who, for once, isn’t agonising over Ian not being there, but rather her brother not being there. Yes, she’s waiting for her brother to come home from uni to join them…why in January, fuck knows, but we do get to see her brother eventually.

The front door opened and Fraser walked in.

OMG PLOT TWIST!!! IT ALL CONNECTS. HE ACTUALLY DID HAVE A SISTER AMBER’S AGE!!! WHAT A COMPLETELY pointless coincidence.

Seriously, what is my obsession with nepotism? I’m pretty sure Fraser doesn’t even do anything in the rest of this story, so…?

Anyway, Fraser fills them in on what happened, Ruth is amazed at the coincidence, and that’s where the chapter ends.

Next chapter? I don’t know when it will come, basically…at some point…but please let me know what you think of this one, feel free to share your own writing experiences and…thanks for reading.

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That Life II Commentary – Chapter 3

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that drama sells. People always feel connected to those that are suffering as they might, but there seems to be a line, not always easy to avoid crossing where the drama experienced crosses into the unintentional humour. Thankfully, there’s plenty of that narm-tastic content in this story. Shall we continue the epic chronicles of Amber’s angst, which is now starting to creep into our previous characters’ lives too? Of course. If not, then…well, why are you here? You’re just wasting your time.

Chapter Three: After School…just so we know when it is.

Mr Mothman glared at the fourteen students on the other side of his desk.

Already, we’re starting to see the impressive numbers that this story accidentally got hold of. Just so desperate was I to include many characters, thinking that would somehow make it intriguing, that I ended up going a little overboard.

So, who are the fourteen? Just checking I didn’t miscount, which often happens…

  1. Amber
  2. Whitney
  3. Summer
  4. Ruth
  5. Ryan
  6. Jack
  7. My good self
  8. Caleb
  9. Ian
  10. Queenie
  11. Carol
  12. Kurt
  13. Ross
  14. Naomi

Yeah, that seems to be it. The year 10 randomly mentioned at the end of the last chapter who liked to attacked people was mentioned to ‘make himself scarce.’ How he managed to do that when much younger pupils got caught is anyone’s guess, but having him around would make Mr Mothman’s room even more crowded. How can so many fit into his office…?

Also, 14 is an obscure number. I mean, for those who think numerology is a legitimate thing? It’s double 7, which is generally considered to be a positive, holy number, but it also contains a 4, which is death in the orient. It’s one more than 13, balancing out what is considered and unlucky number, and…y’know what? I’m not going to bother trying to make any more connections…you guys work it out.

Also, in the spirit of avoiding an improbably male cast, the Fucking Fourteen, as I’m now calling them, consists of 7 boys and 7 girls exactly. Interesting…

Anyway, back to the story. Mr Mothman has his hands full.

He ran his hand through his thinning hair. He had at least, more than the headmaster, but still…

I’m glad he’s got his priorities straight…

Also, I’ve just noticed now – do deputy heads tend to have separate offices? He’s one of two, also, so maybe he shares this with Ms McGriffin or…? And on the subject of the headmaster, why isn’t he disciplining the Fucking Fourteen, the lazy oik?

“Never,” he said, “in all my time at this school have I ever seen such a violent fight. And that includes the days of Aiden Gorse and Sebastian Kythner,” he added, seeing the look of disbelief on Ryan’s face.

Given Summer’s piano injury and Whitney’s very violent reaction to it, I’m tempted to agree with him. Again, you should probably accost that year 10 lad…

Although actually, I think some of the more severe injuries from that particular incident might have been avoided if the school had invested in stronger windows in the first place.

And, oh look, Sebastian Kythner is mentioned again. He’s totally not going to be important in this story or anything.

“If one of you would like to explain?”
Amber spoke up.
“Summer had challenged me to a fight outside the music block,” she explained. “I pushed her through the window and into the piano.”
Mr Mothman looked at Summer’s dazed eyes and the lump on her head.
“Summer, go and see the school nurse,” he ordered. She left the room.

Duty of care seems to be a foreign concept to these teachers. I would have thought a pupil with obvious concussion would be a priority rather than herding fourteen of them off to your office. And will poor Summer even be able to find her way there? She needs her Whitney to guide her. 😦

But with the story now out, Mr Mothman is starting to voice what’s probably been on our minds from the start.

“But why?” Mr Mothman whined, sounding pretty pathetic.

Why indeed? I still don’t know what possessed me back then. Also, I love the observation the narrative made…
“Note. This is Mr Mothman. Totally pathetic whiner. Susceptible to briefcase injuries. But at least he has more hair than the headmaster.”

Ross, perhaps unsurprisingly, given the ascended role he’s now been given in this story, comes to Amber’s aid.

“It was Whitney,” Ross explained, picking up where Amber had left off.
“She was provoking Amber, for no good reason.”
“And you know Summer,” Caleb added. “She exists to do Whitney’s bidding.”
“That’s not true!” Mr Mothman said, but he knew that Caleb was absolutely right.

IT’S CALLED LOVE, YOU HEATHENS!!!

I’d also like to point out that they conveniently forgot to mention Amber had decked Whitney before Summer confronted her.

Mr Mothman put his face down on the desk. He made a soft, whining sound and lifted his head up again.

That image is just brilliant, isn’t it?

Mr Mothman flings his head onto the desk and bursts into wet, noisy tears, screaming about how he lost his custody battle, he’s been diagnosed with syphillis, his grandmother choked to death on a cornflake and he is now contemplating ending it all, amidst some of his pupils crying with him and attempting to comfort him whilst others just laugh in his face (even though it’s on the desk) and run out, cheering about how they’ll beat up Whitney and Summer again one day when they’re bored.

But…

At least he has more hair than the headmaster.

Anyway, Mr Mothman then begins to discipline them, being more lenient with Amber, which is I think fairly realistic for someone’s first day.

“Amber, you will have a lunchtime detention today and tomorrow.”
“So, I’m not expelled?” Amber asked, failing to keep the disappointment out of her voice.
“No,” Mr Mothman replied. “Now, please leave, I have to discuss more things with the rest of them.”
Amber got up and left.

I’m still pretty sure that expulsion is the head’s jurisdiction. You’ll have to try harder next time, Amber. Or you could just buckle down and stop being such a spoiled brat about this.

Also, what more things would Mr Mothman have to discuss with the others? If it’s just their discipline, surely Amber is allowed to hear that?

“As for you twelve,” he said, “You will have a lunchtime detention every day this term.”

You cannot make a number that high sound natural when addressing people…just try it.

“As for you Fucking Fourteen…”
“As for you thirty-six…”
“As for you one hundred and twenty-nine…”
“As for you seven billion, four hundred and forty-seven million, eight hundred and eighty-two thousand, four hundred and four…” I mean, for that last example, you can just shorten it to ‘the human population.’

Also, is Summer exempt from discipline because she nearly died…?

“Hold on,” Caleb said, “We seem to have more detentions than Amber. That’s not fair on her…I think she wanted to be expelled!”

Yeah, except detentions and expulsions are not the same bloody thing, Caleb (THE SUE-ISH, CONTRIVED, IDIOTIC AND JUST PLAIN SMARMY).

“Quiet, Mr Byker,” Mr Mothman snapped.

What sort of name is that…? Just putting a vaguely active sounding surname with a ‘y’ in it to a character doesn’t make them more interesting. It makes them more of a Sue. Could I possibly pile any more Creator’s Pet favours on Caleb?

Well, YES, actually. After Mr Mothman reprimands him, we get this…

“According to what I know about the girl, she has a pretty traumatized childhood. You have no such traumas.”

Wow.

Really, WOW.

How the hell did this guy get a senior management position, let alone even a teaching degree? Do the rest of the staff just keep him around for entertainment purposes? It’s bad enough that the school did fuck all about Caleb getting physically abused by his stepfather, but actually saying this to him, WHILST YOU WERE THE ONE WHO KEPT HIM IN DETENTION THAT ONE TIME THAT PREVENTED HIM FROM BEING WITH HIS FAMILY is unbelievably cold. I get that it was deliberate – I certainly didn’t create Mr Mothman’s character with the intention of making him a warm, approachable teacher, but this is hitting below the belt, isn’t it?

Caleb is, understandably, quite pissed off about this, but not quite for the reasons you expect. Mr Mothman’s dismisses them. Upon finding out about what had happened, Ms McGriffin, again, understandably, goes to confront him about it.

“Do you know nothing about your pupils?” she asked him.

I doubt that very much. He’s much too concerned about his hair.

Mr Mothman’s response to this is also worth looking at…

“Well, yes Julia, he was abused by his stepdad. But that is in the past now, is it not?”

THAT’S NOT THE FUCKING POINT. You even said yourself that Amber’s trauma was in her past. On the subject of that, actually, the trauma he’s referring to is actually revealed later, which is a thankful sign of an early understanding of pacing certain revelations and withholding information from your readers.

But bizarrely enough, Ms McGriffin isn’t even referring to the abuse incident.

“You mean you don’t know?” Ms McGriffin asked. “Alan didn’t tell you?”

Well, of course Mr Ealing didn’t tell one of his senior management about whatever this is. He’s bloody useless.

“Well, he told me,” Ms McGriffin said stiffly. “Just goes to show who he thought he could rely on more, doesn’t it?”

That’s just childish beyond belief.

“The head likes me more than you!”
“Well, at least I have more hair…!”

Caleb is in contemplation about this for the rest of the day, because he wouldn’t be a proper Sue without a bit of moping.

Why had Mr Ealing never told him?

Knowing as I do what he’s talking about, I fail to see what Mr Ealing has to do with it.

When the bell rang for the end of the day, Caleb wondered why Ian was following him.
“Err…I’m coming home with you, remember?”
“Oh yeah…” Caleb muttered.

These characters are very bad at remembering who’s coming to their house…

We also get a paragraph with Ryan…

Ryan was walking home. He half expected his phone to go off, with a text message from Charlie, his mum’s ex-boyfriend (also a drug-dealer). Eventually, unable to bear it any longer, he grabbed the phone from his pocket and glared at it.
Why the hell was he doing this?

Yes. Why indeed? It’s really not relevant. Nor was it necessary for me to write about every single bloody character and what they’re doing at the end of the day. Yes, there are a lot of awkward subplots in this story, just like in the first, but they’ll come in time.

Let’s cut to Jack and Carol, a more recent coupling.

“You OK?” Jack asked her.
“Not really,” she replied truthfully.
“What’s wrong?”
“Well…Jack…I’ve been thinking…I don’t think I deserve you.”

Oh, for God’s sake, can we please come up with proper issues for romantic couples to face? This is just…what? And once again, I am bigging up characters too much. I kind of felt I was obliged to, as Jack is in fact based on my real life BFF best friend, so any circumstance that led to romantic difficulties had to be based, at least in my mind, on him being ‘too good’ for poor Carol to handle.

The truth of the matter is that real life writes the plot. I hope Jack doesn’t mind me mentioning this, but during the writing of the original That Life, he was unhappy that he had been paired with Carol. Quite why he thought any other bland character was preferable, I really don’t know, but her name may have been a contributing factor. Look, we were both immature children back then who thought we were the height of maturity. Now we’re better.

Anyway, I listened to his pleas, and tried to kill two birds with one stone in this story – giving him a love interest he preferred whilst adding some unnecessary over-the-top angst whilst I was at it. And believe me, you’re in for a real treat as far as that’s concerned.

She looked over the side of the road where Ryan was walking. Now, he seemed much better for her. He wasn’t as good as Jack and therefore, not too good for her.

That makes very little sense. That is NOT  a good justification for falling for someone, and now it just sounds like Carol is suffering from severe self esteem issues. It’s obvious that she just wants Jack and Ryan to make love.

Although, let’s be honest, anyone would seem ‘not as good’ if they were busy glaring at their phone.

Now for another contrived scene which promptly goes nowhere…Naomi comes across her mother (who is now called Dana for some reason, whereas in the first story, I’m sure it was May) drinking port.

“Oh mum!” Naomi cried in exasperation. “Is this why you’ve been getting migraines the last few days?”
“Probably. So what?”
“So what?! Mum you almost had to get a liver transplant once! You’ll kill yourself if you’re not careful! You’re an alcoholic!”

This isn’t actually as phoned is as it seems. I’m pretty sure it was alluded to in the first story that Sean and Naomi’s mother was a recovering alcoholic, but all the same, the way this is dropped in makes it impossible to take seriously.

Also, ‘almost had to get a liver transplant’? How does that work? I’m pretty sure if your organ has failed, you need a bloody transplant. There’s no sliding scale. You either do or you don’t.

Sean came into the kitchen.
“Look at this!” Naomi said furiously, shoving the glass and bottle under her brother’s nose. Sean’s reaction was very similar to his sister’s. He started telling Dana all the dangers of binge drinking, before pouring the contents of the port down the sink.
“Enough is enough,” he told Dana.

I think it’s a little rich of Sean to tell his mother about certain dangers considering all he does is stalk his sister. On the subject of which, is nobody going to bring up Naomi’s participation in the massive fist-fight?

“Look, I’m not like Caleb’s stepdad am I?” she [Dana, or May or whatever the hell she’s called] protested.

She had to jump to the worst comparison didn’t she? Whataboutisms aren’t legitimate counter-arguments, something I think that people would do well to remember…also, alcohol is hardly mentioned as a contributing factor to Caleb’s stepdad’s behaviour, save for the fact that he had more beer bottles which he hid wills in. I wish I had forgotten about that…

“No,” Naomi agreed. “But carry on like this and you may end up like so.”

Hang on Naomi! That’s hardly fair! Why is everyone such a dick today???

Oh, and then we get this gem…

Just as she was about to leave, Sean called after her,
“Naomi, did Toby break up with you?”
“No,” she replied, barley before he finished speaking. “Sean, he’s not going to.”
Sean raised his eyebrows.
“Oh yeah?” he challenged.
“Yeah,” she replied. Then she left.

Is that an indefinite statement? We’ll just remain together for life, is that it? Considering Sean’s wrath, I’ll probably be too bloody scared to do anything else. Unless of course his statement is a hopeful one, and he just wants the opportunity to get into Naomi’s pants himself. I’m not going to follow up on that idea because it’s just fucking creepy.

I mean, I’ll continue making jokes about it obviously…

We cut to Amber, who’s father seems to be the only decent parent in this story.

“Amber! What is the meaning of this letter?!” Terry yelled at her.
“What letter?” Amber grumbled.
“This letter!” he snarled, brandishing it under Amber’s nose.
“It’s from Mr Mothman, the deputy head. He says you’ve been fighting. Against a girl called Summer? What do you know about it?”

Once AGAIN, why the fuck is Mr Ealing not dealing with this sort of information passing?? He was happy enough to get involved in Caleb’s personal life, it seems!

“It was her fault,” Amber said, not looking up from The Falcon’s Malteser. “She challenged me because I punched her boss.”
“Her what?!”

That’s what we girlfriends now, apparently. Which, for those into that kind of thing, is highly convenient.

Also, that book she’s reading actually exists – it’s a personal favourite of mine, and so I thought it might make sense to have my protagonist share some of my interests. These are the kind of things I think it’s acceptable for an author to include, and can be utilised without making a character Sue-ish and contrived…unfortunately, Amber still has shades of that…

 “According to this, she needed stitches!”
“And? It’s nothing new.”

This girl has SUCH  disturbing mindset that it worries me what I thought to be acceptable at that age. How many incidents of violence has Amber been responsible for? And to what severity?

“Oh yeah, I made a girl a quadriplegic and fingered her girlfriend in front of her, but do you remember that time I gassed a classroom of six-year-olds and blamed it on a ninety-year-old recently widowed charity worker? That’s practically small-fry.”

Well, it would seem my disturbed mindset hasn’t left me entirely.

Terry gave a deep sigh. He walked out, but when he was standing in the doorway, he turned and said to her,
“Look, Amber, I’m trying to keep everything together here. I would like it if you were a little more supportive.”

I agree wholeheartedly Terry.

But, I couldn’t have the audience sympathise more with Terry than Amber! That’ll never do! So, Amber gets an overly dramatic scene. Featuring none other than a photograph! A PHOTOGRAPH! GET YOUR TISSUES READY, FOLKS!

No…no, not for that, you dirty fucker…

It was of her family, in the summer of 2005. They had been on holiday in the south of France. How much fun she had had then! He looked at the smiling faces of her father, her mother…and…
She put the photo down. It had been her favourite photo, until a few years ago. Now it just brought back bad memories. She felt her eyes grow hot and felt tears forming in them. No. She gave a defiant sniff, and went back to her book. But, this time, it didn’t seem quite as funny.

God forbid my BOOK BECOME UNFUNNY! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

All the same, I am at least giving Amber a few more angles than she was originally cast with, and don’t worry, I do flesh out whatever the hell this is later on. It’s pretty predictable, but the fact that I was consciously laying a backstory out is important. I know I keep referring to this, but it’s relevant to my journey as a writer. This is why planning ahead has since become so important, which I definitely didn’t do nearly as much of back in the days of the first story.

The next sequence we get is with none other than Ross! That Scottish kid we know nothing about…time to find out what angsty storyline he has, other than serving as Amber’s satellite love interest, of course.

Sorry, was that not obvious?

Ross lay back on his bed. What a day it had been! He had never been in a punch-up before. What had made him attack Whitney like that? Well, he supposed it must have been because of her attacking Amber. But why had he defended her like that? He hardly knew her. Unless…

UNLESS SHE HAS INCREDIBLE POWERS OF SEDUCTION!!

But why wouldn’t he defend her? It’s called empathy, regardless of whether you know someone or not. Also, why again are these characters conflating lustful obsessions with true love? No wonder Jack and Carol are on the rocks.

 Keith came into the room.
“Hey, Ross…”
“Shut up!” Ross snarled.

Another all these characters have in common, apparently, is being verbally aggressive with people for no reason…and who is this Keith? Do we ever get any explanation? Well, yes, later, but…

Keith…he should have known that he would ruin things. Keith laughed humourlessly.

He’s an antagonist, is case you weren’t aware.

“That’s nice!” he said, and grabbed Ross by the shirt. Ross pushed him off.
“Not anymore,” he snarled at him. “No more.”

…..

Did we just witness an attempted rape?

And here I was thinking that this story would be on slightly saner ground than the previous! Come on, next scene, please return us to something slightly resembling normal life that doesn’t make us feel uncomfortable…

“And that!” Kent said triumphantly, throwing down his spatula “is how to defeat the Nazis!”

Oh God…

This is Kent, everyone – Caleb’s little brother for those who don’t remember. So, we’re back into Sue-ish and contrived territory.

Ian laughed. Kent had been entertaining him and Caleb for the past half hour, by doing his Winston Churchill impressions.

That wasn’t really a Winston Churchill impression, though, was it? Although since the Yoda incident, I’ve had to be carefully about my terminology.

“Do you remember what it was like to be that age?” Ian asked, as Kent marched out, ordering imaginary spitfires about.

The age difference isn’t THAT big, y’know…

Caleb didn’t say anything.
“Oh shoot, that was dead insensitive of me wasn’t it?” Ian said.
Caleb nodded. Yes, he remembered what it was like to be that age all right. But the full scale of the problem hadn’t always been understood…

OH WOE IS HIM.

Is the implication here that, even then, Caleb was under physical abuse? Did NOBODY pick up on this? What the fuck is wrong with these people?

But we’re about to find out what other bundle of trauma Caleb once had, via a flashback! Which comes with a date-stamp for some reason…to the 6th of May 2005. Why is this relevant? I don’t know…

In the flashback, Caleb leaves the flat whilst his stepfather’s alseep and comes across someone.

And now, as Caleb looked, he saw a figure leaning against a lamp-post, with a cigarette sticking out of his mouth.

Cigarette alert! This guy is clearly a villain.

As Caleb moved closer, he saw that the figure was a 13-year-old boy.
“Hey,” said the boy. “What’s your name?”
“Err…Caleb.”
“I’m Seb. Whatchadoin’ out here?”

And there it is. Sebastian ‘Seb’ bloody Kythner everybody. Apart from having the world’s stupidest surname (possibly apart from Byker), he’s firmly established himself as being a young, yet immensely dangerous escaped convict who previously attended Hyde Park Comprehensive. AND CALEB KNEW HIM. WOOOOOOOOEEEEEEEEEE…

Anyway…

A 10-year-old boy had suddenly appeared behind Seb. Caleb must have missed him.
“This is Aiden,” Seb said, gesturing towards him. “He’s my mate. We hang out. With this lot.” Seb gestured towards a whole other group of people. Most of them were older than Caleb, with the exception of one boy, who was the same age.
“You can hang out with us,” Seb said.
“Yeah OK!” Caleb agreed. “Why not?”

Maybe because they’re obvious villains Caleb! Look at their cigarettes!

Yeah, so we’ve established here also that Aiden was basically Seb Kythner’s lieutenant. How bloody convenient. And, in a rushed description, it turns out Seb has a lot of such people. It raises the question as to why Aiden shows no real sign of a different relationship with Caleb compared to the rest of the protagonists, unless of course it’s just lazy writing, making an angsty character even more so. Caleb was once part of  THE DARK SIDE, but he is now reformed. Our hero!

“So…why’s that a bad memory?” Ian asked. Caleb didn’t answer. He hadn’t told Ian those people’s names.

Well, that’s the entire point of relaying the information Caleb…you just wasted time now. You idiot.

Caleb promises Ian he’ll tell him another time, and we then get a scene with possibly the last person you’d expect…although given the previous scene, perhaps not…

Detective Richard Price looked through the window of the interrogation room at Aiden Gorse, sitting there with murder in his eyes.

Aiden hasn’t changed, I see. Nor has my ignorance about police ranks.

His leads may have led him to believe this, but if he was wrong…Aiden would surely murder him.

I presume you’re not talking literally, because it would be a terrible security lapse if an incarcerated convict murdered someone interrogating him. And if figuratively, why would it matter…?

And we never get any information on what these leads are, so I presume he’s just a devout follower of Caleb, the suave and magnificent.

Aiden’s initially evasive, but then Price shows him a news article that apparently Aiden wouldn’t have otherwise seen.

Aiden was about to turn away, when he saw the name on the paper[…]After a few minutes, he looked up at the detective.
“What do you want to know?” he asked.

Ah! No honour amongst antagonists then…

And that’s where the chapter ends. As you might have picked up, the ones in this one are longer than the previous, so I’ll stick with just doing one per post. As it stands, this chapter’s pretty ridiculous, as is what happens when unnecessary drama is inserted. So, the question is, how can you tell when drama’s necessary? Well, having it focused is always a plus…but even now, it’s something I’m still trying to work. I’ve definitely gotten better at it, but there’s still a lot to work on. Let me know what you think of this and I shall see you…whenever…thanks for reading.