That Life II Commentary: Chapter 8

Well, Happy New Year to whoever the hell’s reading this…some people, potentially.

I’ve still got a little while to go before going to back to university, which is probably a good thing, given that I’m stressed out of my mind even without it. Technically I should be doing an essay right now, but I am on a break, and I am more on top of it that I like to think. I mean, admittedly, even if the word count’s getting there, it doesn’t mean the content’s any good, but I’ll deal with that as and when.

I’m hoping to make 2017 a pretty decent year, given the circumstances, and so I want to get on with posting other things on here on the off chance that someone might find it interesting, but first I need to finish the commentary on the incomplete sequel to That Life. I shall probably end it (in like, two more chapters…?) with a summary of what sort of distinction this holds in my life and writing career, and then get on with other things, including more general talks about writing and more anime reviews. And maybe reviews of other things. Because I can branch out. W00t.

Anyway, let’s get on with it. Chapter Eight: Careless. Interesting thing about the title, I have no idea what it’s referring to within the story, but it does actually make sense on a retroactive, meta level. Up until this point the story has been mostly focused on Seb Kythner casting a ridiculously interconnected shadow over everyone and everyone mostly ignoring it in the exchange for the angst of everyday life. This chapter marks the point at which I was trying to make everything far too convoluted just for the sake of ensuring I used all of my characters and plot points and by God, it shows…

It starts off simple enough – where the last chapter left off.

The news of Jack and Carol’s breakup and then the fight that had issued between Jack and Ryan afterwards spread quickly around the neighbourhood.

So, they all live in the same neighbourhood then? That’s convenient…was Jack then arrested for grievous bodily harm  and a death threat? Of course not! This is the same neighbourhood which decided to ignore child abuse, so…

Oh, and then there’s a brief return of the wacky hijinks…

When Sean had first heard, he hadn’t heard the names and thought it was Toby and Naomi who had broken up, and had given Toby the scare of his life.

Oh, Sean…

OK, time to analyse this…

  1. That is incredibly selective hearing to hear all the details of the incident but not who was involved.
  2. Even if he didn’t hear the names, why is his automatic assumption that is has something to do with me and Naomi? I understand he’s protective of her, but does it not occur to him that given that, I dunno, they live in the same house, he would hear it from her if her boyfriend had dumped her? This is starting to sound like Sean was just making up excuses to come and beat me up.
  3. The whole ‘scare of my life’ is left completely ambiguous, and given that I’ve dealt with wandering through a burning building and facing the prospect of Aiden kidnapping and nearly killing my girlfriend, giving me ‘the scare of my life’ must take some doing. What did Sean do? Turn into Donald Trump? Send me pictures of Mr Mothman and Mr Cork in coitus? Show me photographic evidence of Whitney and Summer being heterosexual?

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

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4. It’s interesting to note, actually, that after doing a quick search I discovered that this is the last appearance Sean makes in this entire story. Obviously its incomplete, but that’s still pretty funny. Maybe he was arrested for doing something unclear to me. Fucking bastard. It was only a matter of time…

So, obviously, being the gossipy hens we are, we discuss this latest development.

“It’s odd y’know,” Caleb remarked to Toby. “The two of them would be, in my opinion, the least likely people to break up. Well, apart from Ian and Ruth of course.”

Caleb, why exactly did you create a ranking system for who’s going to be the most likely couple do break up? That’s a little cold isn’t it?

Secondly, what’s so special about Ian and Ruth? They’ve barely interacted since Ian returned from America. Ruth has spent more time with Amber than with her boyfriend…obviously, I was trying to emphasise the idea of them being soul-mates with the whole star-crossed lovers ideal, but I could have done better…

Thirdly, what’s so special about Jack and Carol? They took ages to get together, and according to my slightly rough calculations, they were only together for just over a month, and Carol spent too much of it angsting about how she wasn’t good enough and Jack spent too much of it flirting with Ryan and making poorly defined blogs with me (I know this is a poorly defined blog, but shut up). They’re not exactly the pinnacle of romance either, are they? If I were to pick a romance that worked the best on this, (barring Whitney and Summer obviously), it would probably be Naomi and I. True, it’s predictably to pick yourself, but given all the shit we’ve gone through and we’re still together, I think that stands amongst the rest of these dreary tales. We’re also very protective of each other (OK, so she’s very protective of me, whatever) and have probably had sex.

By far the most amusing thing about this is how Caleb doesn’t seem to think his own relationship is particularly strong. You’d be forgiven for not remembering that Caleb and Queenie are an item, because they do absolutely nothing together. Caleb, you’re an arsehole. Did you not think that maybe the other redhead was traumatised by the whole ‘my-sister-shagged-a-matricidal-crackhead’ thing? Or did he break up with her too, and was too suave and magnificent for anyone (including her) to notice?

At first I appear a bit concerned over my BFF using a blunt instrument during his fight, but then my priorities get skewed…for some reason…

“This is Ryan we’re talking about,” Caleb reminded him. “The two of them have never been on the best of terms have they?”
“But this is really serious,” Toby mused. “The two of them have never gone as far as to insult each other’s families.”

I doubt that very much. And I would say that family related mud-slinging really pales in comparison to the whole cricket bat thing. Am I alone in that? Well, apparently…

Ryan meanwhile, was sitting in his own house with Carol. Apparently, his mother had been quite angry.

Well, I would be too. But here’s the reason for her anger…

“What has gotten in to you?” she demanded as she examined Ryan’s bruised eye.
“You always told me to defend myself,” Ryan retorted.
“But you weren’t defending, you were attacking,” Olive snapped.

What, and Jack wasn’t?

“How dare you get nearly killed by a cricket bat, that’s really insensitive.”
“I managed to steal his redhead off him though…”

Speaking of which…

It was now blindingly obvious that Ryan was now going to go out with Carol[…]

Sorry, blindingly obvious to whom?? Just because Carol’s now single doesn’t mean she’s going to go out with the first person who flings himself at her, although given the terrible self esteem she’s displayed so far, she might be tempted…I still cannot begin to fathom what positive and desirable traits Ryan has. For the most part, he’s just been a racist, sexist, self-centred, pugnacious, surly and uncompromising little twat. A description that would fit the president-elect too…

I’m serious – as poorly written as most of the other protagonists’ are, they at least have shown some air of decency on occasion. Ryan? Nothing…

[…]and Jack seemed quite moody about this.

Well, you’re the one who broke up with her, you fucking idiot. If you weren’t sure about it, you shouldn’t have said, ‘go run into Ryan’s arms.’

He complained that everyone was sticking up for Ryan and not him, just because Caleb had told him that hitting someone with a cricket bat was pretty ruthless.

That’s one way of putting it, yeah. I would add to that – dangerous, unnecessary, insane…Ryan did attack first, and for a pretty stupid reason, but so fucking what? CRICKET BAT. SERIOUS BRAIN DAMAGE. DEATH.

Eventually, Toby decided to confront Jack about what he was doing.

Don’t I mean done rather than doing? Unless he’s going out nightly to beat up more people with cricket bats…OH AND LOOK AT ME, TRYING TO TALK TO MY BFF EVEN THOUGH HE PROBABLY DOESN’T DESERVE IT.

Disturbingly, Jack doesn’t seem to regret hitting Ryan with a cricket bat in the slightest, and once again, my priorities are a little fucked.

“So…what’s this about insulting each other’s families?” Toby asked, hoping he sounded off-hand.

Oh, give it a rest, will you? Our families don’t even appear in these stories!

Jack seems to regret the whole family insulting thing more that the whole assault thing, which is pretty worrying…

“But the reason everyone’s sticking up for him is because you seem like you’re in the wrong because you hit him with a cricket bat.”
Jack raised his eyebrows.
“Oh yeah?”

WHY IS THAT SO HARD TO COMPREHEND?? AND IT’S NOT A CASE OF HIM ‘SEEMING’ TO BE IN THE WRONG, HE IS THE WRONG!! WHY IS NOBODY GETTING THIS???

I refer to it as a ‘spur of the moment’ thing, under the assumption that Jack didn’t actually mean any severe harm despite his promise to not relent should Ryan ever come back and his lack of remorse…evidently I was very forgiving of my closest friend. I probably wouldn’t have done the same if Jack had been on drugs though.

Oh, and this exchange at the end is pretty funny…

“Right,” Toby said. “I’m going for lunch at KFC.”
“Yeah,” Jack replied. “I’ll go too.”

So, just as Amber and Sofia’s favourite haunt might give them diabetes, ours will cause morbid obesity. Lovely. What is it with Heterosexual Life Partners and junk food…?

Speaking of which, we return to Amber and Sofia now…

“Hey, he looks a bit like Nathan,” Sofia said to Amber when they were in Thornton’s.
“Really?” Amber looked over and gasped. “It’s Ross!”

So, Ross’ resemblance to Nathan is close enough for Sofia to notice it from a distance after Nathan’s been dead for about five years…? I mean…that’s uncanny. Amber’s desire for him does worry me a little…

Oh, and apparently Sofia has no brain to mouth filter and thinks it’s perfectly OK to talk about someone’s beloved late brother so casually when you’re in their company…

Amber and Sofia go over to talk to Ross, and Ross explains that apparently some people at the children’s home he lives at planned, completely spontaneously, to go on a day trip to Tunbridge Wells. How convenient…Ross, laments, however, that Keith had to come as well.

“What’s so bad about him?”
“Well, technically he’s my step-brother. He ruined my entire life.”
“How?”
“Do you only ask questions, Sofia?”

Of course she does. How else are we going to get a belated backstory? Once again, Sofia seems a little innocently insensitive. Yay! My characters actually have some character traits…

“Basically, my dad died when I was three[…]

What is my obsession with nobody in this story having biological fathers…? My parents separated after I had finished writing this, so it wasn’t daddy issues. This isn’t Disney, 13-year-old me, you can have characters with two parents, it’s fine…

“I didn’t know it at the time, but my stepdad was extremely uncaring. He didn’t really love my mum, or me, or even his own son, but Keith didn’t seem to mind. He seemed to have inherited his dad’s lack of care for anyone except himself. I don’t know who Keith’s mother was. Possibly someone who my stepdad divorced as soon as she had ran out of sex appeal.”

You’re assuming that, though, aren’t you? Based on the fact that your stepdad wasn’t very nice. His first wife could have been the one to divorce him when it occurred to her that he was a shit. What I don’t quite get is how this guy was capable of winning any custody battles, given how awful he was. Maybe Keith’s mother was even worse and decided to abandon her son, or had no choice because she was imprisoned, either for something he had done, or for something Keith’s father framed her for, maybe? And how does one run out of sex appeal, exactly? Obviously, the standards are going to be different for everyone, but I have no idea how old these people are supposed to be. Maybe Keith’s dad’s an ephebophile, and Ross’ mother was teenaged when she fell pregnant?

I’m overthinking this…who’s to say Keith’s mother and father were even married…?

“Anyway, Keith bullied me a lot. Fortunately he could never do it when my mum was around. However, when I was eight, my mum began to see through my stepdad, and eventually she left. I didn’t go with her however. My stepdad wouldn’t let me.”

OK, that’s not how these things work. Like, at all.

Article 9 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states quite plainly that a child must not be separated against their parent against their wishes except in cases where it would be against the child’s best interests (in the case of abuse, neglect, etc), which it clearly isn’t. It’s the stepdad that’s abusive, not the mother. Article 12 also states that a child’s wishes must be considered in a given situation and surely Ross would want to go with his mother. If the stepdad is actively keeping Ross in false imprisonment, then she can go to the police. The law would side with her in a heartbeat, her being non-abusive and Ross’ biological mother, and quite rightly. She’d probably even be allowed to adopt Keith, given the situation. But no. Apparently, she made no effort to try and rescue her son from this guy’s clutches, implying she’s just as awful…

Anyway, Ross continues his tale…

But one day, Keith was pestering him. I told him he shouldn’t done, because he had quite a short temper, but he didn’t stop. Not even after he was hit round the head. He disowned us that very same day.”
“He did WHAT?!!?” Amber shrieked.
“Disowned us. He had to go to a children’s home in London, which is where I still live now. I don’t know where my mum is. She could be in Australia for all I know. My only hope now is to get fostered.”

I don’t quite know why Ross doesn’t think taking legal action is a possibility. Does he also not have any other relatives who would take him in?

Also, I don’t think you mean ‘he.’ ‘He’ would have been better off being imprisoned. You can’t just abandon children. This isn’t the 1800s.

So, that’s Ross’ backstory. And by God does it make no sense. To be honest, I think I got to this scene when it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t entirely sure what Ross’ backstory was…so I made up some nonsense. Not only does this make no sense in and off itself, it doesn’t make an awful lot of sense regarding Ross and Keith’s hostile relationship. Surely Keith realised they were in the same boat now? It’s all a bit unclear.

There’s also the implication that Amber and Sofia are the first people he told this. Does he not trust Caleb, (TSAM)?

“Or I could ask Ian if he knows,” he added as an afterthought.
“How would he know?” Amber asked.
“’Cause he’s my mum’s cousin. He may know.”

Well, actually, no, he’s not. Ross was described in the first story as being Ian’s second cousin, meaning Ross’ mother would be his second cousin once removed. They share a pair of great-grandparents, but that means very little. Would you know where you second cousin once removed was if their own child didn’t know? I doubt it…

“You’d better hope Whitney doesn’t hear of this,” Sofia said.

Is that the only sympathy you have to offer, Sofia?

Ross snorted.
“What do you take me for? Of course I’m not going to let her know! She’ll twist it into some tale that will never enable me to show my face again.”

How, exactly? Ross somehow deserved to have his universal rights ignored? I fail to see how this could be twisted, except for being so beyond recognition you might as well have just made it up to begin with.

Amber’s reaction is pretty funny too…

Amber sat quite still for a moment before standing up and saying,
“Well, I’ll see you on Monday.” Then she walked out.

SUCKS TO BE YOU, ROSS, BYE!!!

Is she really happy to leave Ross and Sofia there to flirt…? They already have more chemistry than Ross and Amber. I know that’s not saying much, but…

So, on Monday, things are a little different. Jack isn’t talking to Ryan or Carol at all, content with glaring at Ryan and awkwardly looking away from Carol whenever they make eye contact.

But as Ian, always the optimist, said that this was perfectly normal for newly broken-up exes, and they would be on normal speaking terms again soon.

And you know that, Ian, because you’ve broken up with so many people? Aren’t you and Ruth meant to be soul-mates or something…? Also, really, what counts as normal speaking terms for these two? Before they got together, Carol spent most of her time ignoring him and Jack spent most of his time getting into contrived cock fights.

What’s most interesting about this is the way I wrote Jack and Ryan’s behaviour. Whilst Jack glares at Ryan a lot, Ryan behaves as thought Jack’s not there at all. Why I chose to make this distinction is unclear, particularly with Ryan being the stoic one, but I don’t have time to divulge in it…

But of course, Sofia has recently transferred to Hyde Park Comprehensive, and the affect this has on Amber is immediate.

In her normal arrival, she would be not talking to anyone unless they engaged her in conversation and a dark unsmiling expression on her face. This time, she was chatting and laughing animatedly to a girl who nobody but Ross recognised.

This was very true of me back in the day, actually. Surly and unassuming to anyone except my best friend, and which point I showed a whole new side. Yes, I’m writing from experience again, most writers do it. It’s a beginner’s way of giving a character depth.

They two of them sat down at the back completely ignoring everyone else.

Love it.

“Fuck you and your love triangles and cricket bat assaults! We’ve got a book to discuss!”

They are in fact discussing a book…

The two of them seemed completely unaware that most eyes in the form-room were on them. Eventually, Whitney got fed up of this and marched over.

“My God! Amber actually has a friend! What is this madness?”

Whitney seems very interested in the new arrival also. Is she still trying to hook up with as many girls as she can…? How does Summer feel about this…?

“Who’s this bi-?”
Before she could finish her sentence, she was on the floor having been just been hit by Amber.

OK, so that was obviously going to be ‘bitch,’ but…Jesus, Amber, calm down…

What I quite like about that though is that Amber was much quicker to strike out when Whitney was insulting her friend, rather than herself. Don’t know if it’s deliberate, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless.

So, Whitney’s on the floor! Is her girlfriend going to defend her honour??

Fortunately for her, Summer didn’t see her, as she was glaring at Carol for being on such good terms with Ryan.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

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DON’T MAKE ME DEAL WITH THIS RIGHT NOW, YOU BASTARDS. WHITNEY AND SUMMER CANNOT HAVE BROKEN UP. FUCK JACK AND CAROL, THIS IS A MUCH BIGGER TRAGEDY.

Of course, if Summer actually had a thing for Ryan, she would have viciously attacked Carol. She’s obviously just pissed that Ryan isn’t as easy a target anymore to get information out of.

Yeah, that’s it…

Sofia is as helpful as ever.

“So that’s Whitney?” Sofia asked Amber.
“Yeah,” Amber growled, cracking her knuckles.
“Wow. She’s nicer than I expected,” Sofia remarked.

God bless you, Sofia.

Then we get a completely pointless scene, which I literally put in on the fly. No wonder I lost control of the story.

At Woodgreen Primary, the school Caleb’s brother Kent, attends, he’s called out of a lesson to meet with none other than his stepdad. Yes, the abusive one, who is apparently out of prison now, and says that he wants to make amends. Kent, unsurprisingly, isn’t having any of this, and a teacher has to take him somewhere to calm down. Well, great…

We don’t need more of Caleb’s suave and magnificent family, OK? Amber’s meant to be the protagonist, and Caleb has already swallowed half of the story. At this point, there are too many subplots as it is. Most of them are romantic, yes, but…

This scene is only good for two things. Firstly, the head of Woodgreen is called Mr Gold, which is fantastic, and judging from his brief appearance, he’d make a much better head than Ealing. And then there’s this:

In his year 4 class, Kent was playing up as usual, acting like Winston Churchill on steroids, having just kicked over a chair in his haste.

Just go with it.

Fortunately, everyone but Whitney and Summer had taken to Sofia. Now they were all walking home discussing stuff that teenagers discussed.

That’s a pretty broad category, isn’t it?

“Did you see the match last night?”
“No, because we’re supposed to hate sports…”
“Oh yeah. Apart from cricket. Although I prefer to hit people with my bat.”

Caleb gets a phone call from Woodgreen telling him of what happened, so he quickly scarpers to be suave and magnificent elsewhere.

Eventually, they all went their separate ways and Ian thought he heard the sound of himself being followed.

“Ian, I’m here to assassinate you, because you are superfluous to the story.”

No, I’m joking. I really wish it was true though. It would be so much more straightforward.

It’s actually a policeman. Who then arrests him. I’m not even joking. Why? Well, all will be revealed in the next chapter…sort of…

I remember consciously making this decision because I knew Ian wasn’t doing anything. Here was my attempt to make him a more useful character. Obviously, it doesn’t work like that, you can’t just include a random subplot for the sake of it. I had too many characters in this to begin with and was trying to phone in too much plot. This was the beginning of the end for this story, for obvious reasons…

Let me know what you think, and I’ll post the next commentary…at some point…

 

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