That Life II Commentary: Finale

See him sitting there.

In his mind, the Timid Tubby one is alone. He has nothing but his own creations – nobody really cares about him, as much as he wants them too. Fictional worlds are his way of imagining, what if people did…?

“Look at all we’re going through, together!” he’d say, grinning at who may have been his only friend in the world, the Weird Wiry One, who, to his dismay, may not have even liked his story at all. But he had to press on.

But Timid Tubby was wrong – he didn’t need to press on, because he was wrong about being alone. He was actually so much more liked than he realised, not only by Weird Wiry, but also by many people. He’d have real friends and the closest of companions in them. He wouldn’t need his fictional friends anymore.

All truth be told, this dip into fictional personal fantasies gave him an unexpected gift. New styles and perspectives of storytelling and writing, some he’d never considered before now. It had ignited a spark, one that would never be fully extinguished.

Welcome, one and all, to the finale of the That Life Commentary.

Endings are important – they are, by definition, the last impression of a creative work an audience is left with. They need to matter. Some endings move you to tears, like that of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, or piss you off greatly, like that of Haganai. I don’t know which one this will be. But I started this commentary for a bit of fun – I was having a bad time of it (I remember, BREXIT had just happened. That’s a joke of course – Brexit still hasn’t happened) and I needed something to cheer me up. And we’ve kind of come full circle, because just yesterday, America got itself a new president! And already the climate change section of the official website has been removed. Oh, we’re in for a fun few years.

But I don’t believe in despairing. OK, I do actually despair a lot, but never permanently. The alt-right are losing their hipster effect now that they’re actually starting to run things and people realise how empty their words are, and seeing protests and demonstrations going on in both the United States and my own country is truly quite reassuring. How is this relevant to That Life? Well, it’s not really, but I’m going to try and make it as such.

Where did we leave off? Well, Jack and Ryan, who are by this point, close to dominating the story completely with their Foe Yay, have done each other one solid each. Jack saved Ryan from getting run over in the most conspicuous attempted murder I think I’ve ever seen, and Ryan called him an ambulance after his leg got crushed. Let’s get on with it. Chapter Ten: Unravelling.

The first line of this chapter is pretty revealing…

As a frosty January melted into a wet February[…]

Virtually this ENTIRE story has taken place in January, which considering how much the first story seemed to stretch out, is really something. To my memory, I was planning to have this story terminate at the end of the school year, meaning I’d have had several more months left to fill. This story might have ended up being really long…but of course it wasn’t.

[…]the topic for discussion was, of course, the car incident.

Of course, because all we do now is gossip.

“Hey! Did you hear? Jack saved Ryan’s life!”
“OMG! TRUE LOVE AT LAST! Sorry, Carol, Sofia…”

It’s a shame there wasn’t any reference to Whitney attempting to twist this story actually…

“I bet Jack was actually to trying to push him in the path of the driver, and accidentally saved his life instead. If he can assault him with a cricket bat, why shouldn’t a car work just as much?”

At which point Summer would flutter her eyelashes, marvel and her girlfriend’s intelligence, and they go off to…I don’t know, it’s always fast food, so let’s say Subway.

When Sofia had heard, she had managed to get to the hospital in ten minutes flat[…]

Now, I may just be imagining things, but is there an implication there that nobody else bothered to visit? Including family…? Perhaps we had other things on our minds…

IAN: I’d love to visit, but I’m still trying to find more plot points for myself.
CALEB: I’d love to visit, but I’m so suave and magnificent it seems like I’m there anyway.
TOBY: I’d love to visit, but Sean found out that I got Naomi pregnant and he is slowly flaying me alive. If this gets cut short, I’ll see you in A&E myself…

[…]to find Jack lying in a bed with his leg in plaster. 

Now, I won’t claim to be any expert on skeletal traction, but I’m pretty sure such a thing takes quite a bit longer than ten minutes to sort out. I mean, I don’t actually know, I never bothered to research it…

One thing I did know, however, was that traction, is, for the most part, pretty outdated. But I handwave this…

Apparently, this procedure was needed as supposed to pinning the leg, as Jack’s leg was broken in a complicated way.

Pinning it is a thing right…? I’m really glad I’m not a doctor…

Also, complicated was the only way to describe it…I suppose, given it literally went under a car tyre, if definitely qualifies…

“Complicated?” Sofia almost laughed. “You’ve had a-” she swore “-car roll over it!”

See? Sofia agrees with me completely. Well done. Now I can see why we wanted you participating in the elusive blog we’ve mentioned a few times in this story. Although you could have actually cussed, you didn’t need the narrator to do if for you…

The scene finishes pretty much at that point, so I’m assuming they made merry there, given what else we know about Sofia.

The next scene features the rest of us, apparently forgetting most of our current strife and simply complaining about having PE in the wet weather, even though in the last story, wet weather was enough to have our lesson cancelled…? You know what, I can’t be bothered to question the logic anymore. Perhaps we’re doing mud-wrestling.

“You know, I almost envy Jack,” Caleb said.
Queenie laughed.

It’s really not that funny…

C’mon Queenie, I know Caleb is suave, magnificent, sue-ish, contrived and whatever, but seriously, get out more. Obviously Queenie’s fed up of now being more redundant than Ian, so she’s desperate to utilise whatever screentime she can get. Screentime isn’t the right term here, but I can say what I want, it’s my blog.

Caleb has another subject he’d like to broach with Queenie, though.

“Actually, Queenie,” Caleb said, lowering his voice.

Oh, he is going to break up with her as well? Seems to be a trend…

Oh wait…that’s it.

Yeah, we get nothing after that. That’s the last thing I ever wrote of the story (or stories, rather) of That Life. Hmm…that’s a bit anticlimactic, isn’t it? No fire, no explosions, no gun-fighting…interestingly though, the first story did start with a voice coming up the corridor, and this one ends with the mentioning of a voice, so…we’ve kind of come full circle?

Though I know it is a bit of a disappointment. All the terribly amusing angst I wrote in as a 13-year-old, and I just sort of left it there. Like a half-eaten meal. That deserves a sharp slap on the wrist. So, with it finished, should I just wrap up this post?

No. See, there are still interesting points to discuss about this weird series of stories, including revealing what I had in mind for the rest of the characters and it’s conclusion. The best place to start is with an enlightening little notebook I found the other day. I have a lot of notebooks lurking around in my drawers, some of which just have really crude cartoons, others things I considered a little more important. Including some of the earliest stages of planning for That Life. They are terrifically enlightening, showing me planning Ruth, of all people, first out of the entire cast, and a summary of her character basically referencing her love for Ian, but also including elements I had apparently planned to include, but promptly forgot about and never made it into the final cut. Such things include…

  • Whitney and Summer’s surnames were Waverly and Lentfield, respectively, much more interesting than Queenie and Carol’s ‘Scott.’
  • Mr Cork’s first name was apparently James, which is rather dull…
  • Meena’s surname was Macintosh, which is very odd for an American…
  • Charlie’s surname was Chasm…
  • Ruth’s mother was called Oceana (yes, I’m serious) and she was supposed to have an iguana named Bob. He could have been the ultimate hero…

Other information I find as I search through this notebook include things a lot less trivia-based, an are more related to the characters as they are, and their personal histories. In the case of Amber, we pretty much know it all, but get a few more interesting elements, such as an acknowledgement that she was three minutes younger than Nathan, and that she got Yeti for her 11th birthday, two years after Nathan’s death and Tabitha’s departure. Was Terry simply trying to get a suitable replacement…? Well…Yeti did stimulate her…

I’m going to move on from this. Sofia also gets the same treatment I gave Amber (that sounds rather dirty actually…), and, because of her limited development in the story proper, we get some rather interesting information from this notebook – apparently, she’s a fan of science fiction, has a stepmother called Esmé and a half-sister called Opal. Finally! Somebody has a stepmother rather than a stepfather and a sister-figure rather than a brother. Shame we never got to see them…

Other weirder elements include the fact that she had a boyfriend when she was 8 (never a good idea!) and after he broke up with her, she attempted suicide…OK…Her mother also leaves her at this point, which is rather horrible now that I come to think about it…

I was trying to be very mature and write in a depression storyline…shame it didn’t work…

None of these notes actually contained a clear plan of how this sequel was going to pan out, so I’m relying on my memory more than anything here, but basically, here’s what, I think, was going to happen.

I’m pretty sure Caleb was going to tell Queenie he feels like he’s being stalked, and they’ll connect that somehow to people attempting to kill Ryan.
Whitney was going to make a discovery about Nathan and is untimely departure, something that pisses Amber off supremely and provide even more friction. What all this was going to lead to, I’m not sure. I think I would have remembered if it was meant to try and make Whitney more sympathetic…

Aiden, using whatever ingenious plan he had come up with, was going to break out of whatever young-offenders institute he was in to go on a hunt for Kythner himself, only to run into Sean, prompting the two of them to have another one of those intense fights. In my mind, it was always in the rain for some reason…I don’t know whether Aiden ever even bothered to tell Sean of his intentions either…

Amber and Ross were obviously going to start dating at some point, but I honestly can’t remember if I had ever planned when that would be. I seemed to be too focused on the convoluted nature of everyone from Kythner to Aiden to Fraser of all people were trying to out-gambit everyone else…

Sofia was supposed to have a depressive period, corresponding, at least somewhat with the way sufferers of bipolar disorder shift between extremes in mood, that was probably going to be mostly callously dismissed.

All of this comes to a head, however, when Kythner and his cronies (probably including Charlie and of course Caleb’s stepdad at this point) manage to track down our ‘heroes’ and have them all abducted. Yes, all of them. And I’m not just talking about the Mighty Ridiculous Power Rangers here – I remember being distinctly sure that I wanted Whitney and Summer to be with them too, caught in the crossfire, in the wrong place at the wrong time, which is interesting. I think I was planning to have them redeemed somehow, just not focusing on redeemable qualities until they’re in sheer peril.

Of course, abducting fourteen 13-14-year-olds is a rather demanding task, isn’t it? Why just not kill them? But no, I decided to have them all together in a cellar, being threatened for no real reason and bonding…kind of…

They manage to escape (no shit) and I think I was actually considering at one point to have Mr Mothman find them in the middle of the night and let them stay with him for a bit, proving he’s not just a teacher who doesn’t care…even though he clearly doesn’t care…you know what, forget it.

The climax I had in mind featured our heroes breaking into the school for unspecified reasons and Kythner following them for unspecified reasons and there being a massive shoot-out, possibly culminating in the death of some redshirts, and, in at least in one vision of the finale, Russell, who hasn’t done anything in this story so far, shooting Kythner dead, and ending up sharing a cell with his brother who is much more ready to forgive him this time…

Right…

Given all the plot threads I needed to close, including Carla and Kythner’s daughter, it probably would have been a lot longer than that. (She probably would have been conveniently fostered/adopted along with Ross, let’s be completely honest.) But that was the basic picture. Clearly I was more willing to have personal confrontations and increase the peril our characters faced, which included the death of an antagonist, by the way. Well, at least I understood the concept of serial escalation. These things are all coming together.

A few points to consider here, are, obviously, me putting Aiden through a redemption arc. I know it doesn’t make any sense in the context of this character, but I do believe, as I mentioned, that I was also planning to do the same to Whitney and Summer. Redeeming antagonists is a long standing habit of me, and honestly, I do quite like it. When it’s done right that is…and Whitney and Summer felt far more like proper candidates, with their petty schoolyard bullying (if you can even call it that), compared to Aiden’s attempted murder and arson.

Now, bear with me a minute, because I’m not sure whether this is something I genuinely considered including at the time, or if it’s something I retroactively told myself I considered, but at the time, it may have occasionally crossed my mind to have Whitney and Summer pair up. It would have made sense certainly – more so than many other couples, and I had never featured LGBT characters in anything I had written before. For how I was then, it would have been pretty progressive. Forget Kurt, you’re supposed to hate him, because he does sport.

If I did consider this back then, it wasn’t something I lingered on, as by that time, I had decided to move on for other things.

So, how should this have ended? Well, I’m going to write out a brief scenario now…

Naomi discovers that she’s pregnant with my child, and we panic because we think it means Sean’s going to kill me. Sean however, has his own problems, struggling with his GCSEs and having many erotic dreams about Alexis. Alexis is getting through her own studies thanks to cannabis, supplied to her via Charlie. Sean gets very upset when he finds out, and takes it out on me, learning that I have impregnated her and I have to go on the run. Jack gets out of hospital and attempts to join me, along with Sofia, leaving Amber mostly alone. Whitney finds out about Nathan, and makes some neutral comment that Amber takes the wrong way, and she nearly kills her, only stopped by Summer, who gives Whitney the kiss of life and they hook up. Charlie, annoyed at having his best customer rumbled, takes it out by joining Kythner and abducting Ryan. A string of abductions follows this (because I can take inspiration from my 13-year-old self, why not?) with Jack and I being discovered God knows where. Upon being imprisoned, Sofia insists she should be pregnant too, and it all gets really awkward really quickly. Let’s keep the shoot out the same, but instead let’s kill off the redundant cast (read Ian and Queenie) and the suave and magnificent, leaving a wound on everyone’s hearts. Everyone leaves the country, it being too painful to continue there, with Naomi giving birth to our daughter, and us hiding from Sean in Canada, Jack and Sofia continuing their very active sex life, also in Canada, Ryan and Carol joining some cult in Japan, Amber and Ross doing something else with Ruth (probably raising iguanas) in Argentina and Whitney and Summer being the only two who haven’t fucked up completely, being happy together and adopting several children, including Carla and Kythner’s daughter. Probably in the Netherlands.

And that’s how this should have ended…

Of course, it’s fun to speculate. But that’s all I can do – speculate. As fun as it has been to go back on this defining chapter in my writing career, and as fun as it may have been to write back then, I can see quite clearly how much I’ve evolved since then. As a writer, I plan more carefully, I conceive much better stories and utilise characters the way they should be used. Point is, I think I’m ready to take on the world. The Timid Tubby one still exists in the darker corners of my mind, but externally, he’s grown up, he’s wised up and if he plays his cards right, he can do anything he wants.

That Life was really the first time I considered the possibilities of me writing a mature narrative, and of course the first time I ever finished a long-ish story. Everything after that, while it certainly wasn’t perfect, echoed these sentiments and I’d never go back to anything crude. But nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed looking back on how hilariously awful it could be at times as much as I did. Thanks for reading.

Next time I post, I’ll be returning to reviews of creative works and discussions of general writing things. Hope you’ll join me there too.

 

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