Undue Fear

Imagine you’ve found yourself in a Dark Room. Whilst you recognise it as a somewhere you’ve been before, the sheer size of it and the lack of light means you only have a passing acquaintance with its dimensions. You don’t know just how big it is, or whether a single step beyond what you’re used to will send you plummeting to your death, or whether something in the corner is lying in wait for you. You have every reason to suspect that there might be. After all, there are other people in this Dark Room, people whose faces are obscured, people who make unfriendly noises and whisper threats every single time you make a step. It’s not often they carry out their threats, but sometimes if you take a step too far, they’ll push you, shove you, hit you, just enough to give you an impression of their strength, not something you want to push to the limits judging by how it feels.

And each time they’ll sneer and mutter derisively about how you brought this upon yourself.

They could well be right – after all, you never planned to be here. But every so often you find yourself back here, through no planning and no foresight, with no expectation to arrive. You don’t even know you got back here, but back here you are, and it’s your fault. Surely, you have to find a way out?

Well, you are aware of a way out, and it’s the way you’ve used when you’ve been here before. A panelled door, with the slightest of lights from the outside world finding its way in. The door is not often in the same place, and often you’ll have to take drastic steps to find it, but it’s there. And you can see much friendlier faces on the other side, assuring you that stepping through the door is all you need to do.

It should be so inviting, so pleasant. But you fear the door almost as much as you fear the Dark Room.

Because the door is unpredictable, not only in its location, but also in its mechanism. Sometimes it will be harder to open than others, sometimes the process of allowing you through it will be marked with booby traps and hidden dangers that only allow you to leave once you are bleeding and shell-shocked. Sometimes it will be easy to open and you leave feeling rather foolish by how much it concerned you. But one day, you’re sure, based on what you’ve heard, that the door will just refuse to open, and the message will be clear: you have to stay in this Dark Room forever. Never again will you be on the other side in the light and with those you care about. In that situation, why not take many drastic steps you’re not used to, and allow the Dark Room to take you to your death?

For whatever reason, the people on the other side of the door don’t understand why you can’t just open it and join them, and still others scoff at the way you fear the Dark Room, thinking you’re just a coward. Generally speaking, this is from those who’ve never been in the Dark Room themselves. So far, you have left the Dark Room consistently, and among the pleasant warmth of the light and the friendlier faces, you have often begun to feel ashamed with the way you felt before. But of course, you’re fully aware you’ll be back in the Dark Room one day, possibly when you least expect it, and then you have to go through it all over again.

*

That passage above is my current best attempt at illustrating what it’s like to live with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or GAD. I’m fully aware that my experience might not be exactly the same as everyone else’s, and yes, there were a few mixed metaphors in the description above, what with actual worry being used to illustrate worry, but you know, I’m still hoping that one day my writing will actually be better.

In light of Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, I think it’s important that I share my experiences, just in case there are other people who need this kind of thing to help them through whatever they are currently experiencing. Whilst this is a fairly recent diagnosis, it doesn’t seem to be a recent incursion. These symptoms have been familiar to me for years.

So, what is GAD? Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s characterised primarily by worry – and I know that everyone worries to some degree, but what makes GAD distinct is the nature of excessive worry, worry that comes to you virtually all the time, so much that you often can’t think of a single action taken even in the ordinariness of everyday life without worrying about something, even something tiny. Furthermore, there’s the nature of uncontrollable worry, that you often can’t dismiss the concerns outright without extensive research, or even just taking the plunge and doing the damn thing. Even worse is when you find yourself worrying about that which you have no control over, like the possibility of catching something contagious, or the ramifications of hawkish geopolitics on the other side of the world (thanks Trump, you fucking half-witted tool). And you’ll always get those people who’ll say, ‘Well, you can’t do anything about it, so you don’t need to worry.’

Ha.

Ha ha!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

OK, come on, guys. I know you mean well, but this as about as helpful as saying to someone who has injured themselves rather badly, ‘you don’t need to bleed.’ Not needing to worry doesn’t stop us from doing it. Telling us to stop worrying is also about as helpful as telling an injured person to stop bleeding. If we had any control over it, we would have stopped by now.

Another notable point about GAD is the notion of irrational worry. We are fully aware that many of the things we worry about are so unlikely to happen that it would be reasonable to call them impossible, but we have those uncertain voices in our ears, the proverbial unfriendly people in the Dark Room whispering to us, ‘but what if…?’ ‘But you never know…’ ‘There’s always a first time…’ And this is often enough to stop me, at least, in my tracks.

So, if GAD causes, essentially, worrying all the time, then what’s the deal with this Dark Room? Surely a fitting analogy would be someone stuck in that room all the time? Well, not quite. Again, just talking about my own experiences here, but whilst I do worry all the time, there are often cases where I can sedate it with a ‘well, I’ll be able to sort it by doing this,’ in that the worry seems so distant, or hypothetical enough at the given time, that I can put it to the back of my mind in some situations, so it’s not directly affecting everything I do. However, this is equivalent, I would say, to constantly being in trepidation of being back in the Dark Room, because I always know it’s there, waiting, often catching me unawares, usually as the result of something unexpected happening to complicate my concerns. And that’s when everything begins, because when I lose all sense of rational thought. This unexpected something is insurmountable. It’s the my worst fears confirmed all in one event, because it can or will lead to this, and then this, and then this, and I can’t do anything about it, because this, and this, and no, I do need to worry about it, because this, and this, and no there’s no point in carrying because this, and this, and oh my fucking god, it’s over, what the fuck am I going to do?

This is when I become insufferable. My nearest and dearest are probably very familiar with that particular mindset, when I act as though the world is ending because of something that you’d probably dismiss as trivial, or problematic, but not hugely. Or at least, you wonder why I don’t just do the thing you suggest about it. Well, I’d love to. But then this might happen, and then this. Or my fears will go from hypothetical to absolutely certain, and I’ll be well and truly fucked. In the bizarre, masochistic tango I have with GAD, sometimes the uncertainty is helpful, because if I haven’t examined that glimmer of hope to discover it’s just an illusion, and maybe, just for a moment, I can entertain the possibility that everything still might be OK.

For those who have to deal with me in those cases, I want to apologise and thank those who are patient with me and recognise that these are things beyond my control.

So, what do I worry about? Well, as I said before, everything. But I’d say the two biggest things to steer me to the edge are the worries about my academic work (concerns I’m sure everyone gets), and probably the most severe, worries that the friends I care about and depend on are going to leave me.

Ridiculous, you might say. And yeah – I’m sure you’re right. My very closest friends would never do that, surely? They care about me too much. But still the doubts whisper, still any signs of no-contact for a certain number of days make me speculate on what could have happened, and I end up disgusted with myself for even daring to think like this. How can I doubt people who have been nothing but kind and loving to me? What have they done to deserve this treacherous mindset? Of course, it might not be their fault. Maybe they’ve died. Or maybe my messages to them haven’t got through. But if that’s the case, how will I stop them from thinking I’ve abandoned them? How else will I contact them? And what if my computer crashes and contact becomes impossible, even when I need them for next time I have a little breakdown?

And so it goes on. Sometimes, it’s even smaller things than that. The amount of times I’ve lost sleep over a noise in the house which means there’s an intruder, or that strange smell I came across before I went to bed means that there’s a noxious gas leak, or that the unfamiliar aches I’m feeling means my heart has failed. Or what about the time I was convinced that an incorrectly ordered reference in a bibliography essay meant I was going to fail my course? Or the many, many times when a strange blip happened on my PC meant that I could never do XYZ with it again? If I haven’t showed up to something I was invited to, chances are it’s not a reflection on you, it’s because I’ve been too worried about what might happen if I do. (Or I generally am just busy…)

If anyone’s reading this who hasn’t been diagnosed with GAD but recognises the major symptoms within themselves, I’d advise going making a doctor’s appointment, or potentially an appointment with a therapist who specialises in mental health. Knowing what it is that’s causing you so many problems is the first step on the road to making things better.

How has it worked with me? To be honest – not all that well. First, I went to a private therapist who most of the time ended up making me feel worse, not least because of the hefty prices I had to dish out following each session. Secondly, I went to an NHS service dealing in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which managed to provide me with my diagnosis, and give me a few pointers on how to dissect the kind of worries I had, but otherwise didn’t seem to alleviate my particular concerns completely. With them of course I still had lingering worries, such as the concern that if I were late to a session for whatever reason, often by no fault of my own, they’d discontinue the sessions, and because I couldn’t contact them properly to let them know if I’d be late, I do remember one occasion being gripped by an anxiety attack, thanks to those who were supposed to be helping me relieve my anxiety.

Following that, my doctor prescribed me SSRIs, which, due to, yet again, worries I had (this time about the potential for long-lasting side-effects of the medication) prevented me from taking them for a while. Once I did, I didn’t experience any side-effects, but didn’t really experience much of anything. They certainly didn’t suppress my worries, just maybe occasionally dulled my reactions to them, which, whilst definitely helpful, didn’t leave me feeling much achieved.

The current situation is this – my doctor prescribed me some different SSRIs, which I’m currently too worried about the consequences of side effects to take, and I’ve been suggested looking for a slightly different CBT session to help me, but I’m too concerned about not finding that and not being able to do the dates they suggest to even take that step. And so, as is often the case, I’m avoiding the door to the Dark Room for fear of being let down by it, whilst simultaneously cursing myself for my cowardice.

You may be detecting a lot of resentment here, and it’s true. I hate the fact that I have to worry all the time, that there’s not a day that I can just take off from my worries. I hate the fact that all my attempts to keep them at bay have not worked, and in some cases have led to more worries. I hate the fact that I often can’t express why I feel so worried to people that might otherwise be able to help. I hate the fact that my family don’t always seem to recognise it as an illness and just dismiss it as something stupid I occasionally do. I hate the fact that I can’t always have the people who care about me and understand me the most by my side whenever I break down and need them the most. And, as pathetic as it sounds, I hate the fact that I don’t have a partner, i.e., someone whom I won’t feel guilty or invasive about sharing my innermost and deepest concerns with constantly, someone who can ensure me that even with my anxiety I’m still worth loving. And I seem to be incapable of getting one. What does that tell you?

Just so we’re clear, this isn’t to downplay the role my friends have played in making me feel important and consoling me when I need it, because you are so important in that and I love you more than can be accurately said. This is, I guess, one of the reasons I feel so guilty about off-loading everything onto you.
Virtually everyone, from my therapist, to my doctor, to many friends I’ve shared this with have told me that they’re sure I’ll defeat this some day. As grateful as I am for the optimism, I’m not sure I agree. Maybe it’s just that I can’t remember a time where I haven’t been a worrier, and so I can’t conceive of a time where that won’t be the case. So far, nothing seems to have helped, and my worries have just continued getting stronger. It may very well being the case that I’ll be like this for the rest of my life, going through a constant cycle or worry, panic, relief, then back to worry again. It’s a pretty bleak image, and yet the fact that it isn’t exclusively so does make me wonder. If amidst all this pain there are still times that I can feel calm, cared for, happy, even, then I don’t think it’s worth giving up. Not yet, anyway.

For all those who are struggling with mental health issues, please know that you’re not alone. I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep about it necessarily getting better in the way you want, but I can tell you, without hesitation, that you’re not alone, and there are people out there who care for you, and will try and help you in every way you can.

That thought alone should be enough to make the Dark Room seem a little bit brighter.

Conclusions and Associated Writing Woes

OK, so the last time I made a post here was like…Christmas, or something. I guess things really have gotten in the way. But hey, according to recent emails I’ve got, more people have started following this blog, and even fellow writers have started following me on Twitter. What are the odds? So, now I’ve got to appease them give those nice enough to take an interest in my poorly constructed blog a bit of context and a bit of news.

I’m in the final throes of the first draft of my novel, which, even though it means a lot of work in working out what I want to keep and what I want to change, is still a bit a milestone, and one I’m no doubt going to feel accomplished about when it comes. As for actually publishing the damn thing, that’s a whole different ball game, but one I’ll get to when it comes.

It’s convenient too that over the last few days I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my major script project for my university course. A feature-length (or slightly less) screenplay, the writing journey of which I do actually have to write an essay for as well. Do the examiners really want to know how near the end I actively started resenting the whole bloody story I’d been crafting for so long? Perhaps it would give me a higher mark, in which case, I’m all for it, because my script probably isn’t going to do very well…but how did it happen? How did such an idealized story of star-crossed love, existentialism and utilitarian ethics become a plotline that I just groan at and want to see out of my direct line of concern? I get the feeling it might have to do with how you get a conclusion to a story. And, given that I’m approaching the end to my novel, I think it’s an appropriate time to talk about how to conclude a story.

As if I know! Anyone who’s read or heard me read one of my short stories can attest that I actually need to mention when the conclusion has taken place because the sentences I choose that best rounds the story out aren’t always that obvious, and others think I could have ended it earlier. In all honesty, I doubt I’m the only person who has this problem, and actually, choosing a conclusion for a story is much easier than deciding exactly what you’re going to end on, which scene, which line, maybe even which characters. A weak or uncertain ending can leave an audience, who were otherwise very much invested in the characters and story arcs, feeling unfulfilled, and may retroactively put them off the entire thing. I may have spoken on this blog before about particularly endings that have felt weak in comparison to the rest of the product, but I can’t remember exactly. Feel free to search through for them yourselves – I’m not your slave, I’m not getting paid for this!

Which, given the sporadic nature of my posts, is hardly surprising.

And actually, if I were your slave, I wouldn’t be getting paid for it, so…

I find that the endings that satisfy me the most are the ones that draw reference to whatever theme the story was trying to get across, either through narration, or something the characters are doing or saying. This can often be done helpfully through an epilogue, like the one from H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, which talks about how, even though humanity’s future of being divided between the hopelessly naive Eloi and the cannibalistic but ultimately more intelligent Morlocks seems pretty grim, the essence of humanity, and the appreciation for things we hold dear are still there. Now, a lot of people might find such ending choices a little cheesy, and whilst I can definitely see that argument, it’s a far cry better, in my opinion, than ending a story that you’ve long been invested in abruptly stopping on a sentence that could easily be in the middle of a scene.

She let’s her head down and kisses the sand.

Those are the last words of Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora. For context, I’ll hopefully review that at some point in the future, but I remember feeling disappointed in the time, especially given what took place before this line. There are plenty of earlier places this book could have stopped, but instead we get this rather sporadic end-point, which in no way feels particularly narratologically significant. Apparently, ‘narratologically’ isn’t a word, but it should be, so there.

H.G. Wells? Kim Stanley Robinson? Am I becoming a science fiction buff? Well, I’ll have you know I’ve always been a science fiction buff, but for a while I was never able to find science fiction that accurately reflected my tastes. Science fiction, being as it is a genre of the future, or challenging established norms, should be postmodern by design. Instead, particularly in the field of space opera and military science fiction, we just get very modern settings and attitudes that happen to be in a setting that looks kind of different. The fact that Robinson in particular is very eager to show the social and personal affects of technological progress is what makes his science fiction a particular eye-opener for me. Again, more on that another time. I seem to be going off on a tangent here…

One way of avoiding the difficultly of ending a story is to leave a hook, a cliffhanger for a future installment, therefore avoiding the need to conclude everything in this one. Cliffhangers can be terribly effective, and, given the appropriate amount of build-up and investment, can drag you into the next installment like the gravity well of a neutron star, which works terribly well for TV writing if nothing else. Unfortunately, on the other end of the cliffhanger, you do have to resolve it in a fulfilling way, otherwise the unpleasable masses will get annoyed again. Apparently unpleasable isn’t a word either. This is getting quite upsetting.

As is perhaps appropriate for a post about the difficulty of conclusions, I’m going to conclude this post in a unsatisfying way. Basically, there’s no easy answer to endings, so just write what you want.

Oh, and I’m hoping to post more regularly from now on, but I absolutely cannot guarantee that will be the case, so…yeah.

Yuletide Musings

Oh, look. I’m still alive.

So, it’s very nearly Christmas, and as most people will assert, it means that you’ve got to talk about it, because evidently you haven’t had enough. But it’s OK, because nobody actually reads this blog…

Of course, I am actually very fond of Christmas. It gives my rather hectic life some structure, and that’s always nice, and also gives you the opportunity to shop excessively, eat, drink and be merry but this time with an excuse. How exciting!

However, this isn’t to say you don’t run into a few problems when Christmas rolls around. Anyone who owns a cat knows what I’m talking about. Whether your tree is a genuine botanical feature or a purely synthetic imitation of coniferous perennial plants, cats will see fit to have a climb, because they see everything around them as belonging to them. And you know, strange branches, whether natural or artificial are so much fun to sit in and gaze bemusedly and the irritated humans trying to remove you and failing dismally. And then when they’re not wrecking Christmas trees, they’ll curl around your legs and you’ll forgive them anything because you’re a massive pushover when it comes to cats purring at you. And by the way, by you, I mean me. I am definitely a huge pushover. My cat has come into my room unannounced, ran away from me when I’ve tried to pet her and once ran over my laptop keyboard, sending a weird message to someone. And yet I can’t stay angry at her. Those eyes. 😮

Anyway, another issue is presents. Last year I think I covered all the problems one might experience when buying presents, and yes, they certainly haven’t gone away. I do remember one distinctive occasion going to shop for presents this year, and only coming back with stuff for myself, because evidently I don’t trust anyone to buy for me, or else don’t think I have enough books on my overstacked shelf. Had I the time, I imagine I’d move into Waterstones. I could always get a job there, but I doubt I’d actually work. I’d just read all the books.

But the real problem I discovered came after all my presents had been bought. I had to wrap them. I’m dyspraxic, and that means that any task that requires a basic level of dexterous motor skills, I have to approach with the mindset of a military raid, knowing that it needs my full attention, and that I’m likely to die in the attempt. Normally my sister wraps my presents for me (barring those for her, obviously…) because she knows I’m completely useless that I struggle with such things, but this year it occurred to me that I actually need to be proactive, and so, after learning the craft from my sister, I prepared to wrap!

Some went OK, others…not so much…

Honestly, I think for any decent wrapping job, you need at least four hands. Because you’ve got to fold and hold onto corners and tear off tape and stick it somewhere where it actually sticks, not on a loose bit of paper, or, more commonly, yourself. It was going bad enough in some cases, but then my brother tried to help me and neither of us helped each other very much. I’ll see if I get any better at that next year…

But all that aside, I should probably take a little while to talk about how this year has gone. Has it been as bad as last year? Absolutely not, although there have a still been moments where I’ve been wondering whether or not it’s all going to go smoothly, and very often, we have the orange president person to thank for that. But hey, I’m going through my final year of uni education (unless I cheat and do a master’s or something…) and I need to be prepared for the horrifying thought of REAL LIFE. Am I ready? Well, no. But I’ve still got time. I don’t really have any resolutions for the New Year, but I think about that…maybe my productivity will finally reach it’s decent point. Already it’s pretty good (although apparently not enough to use a new picture…), which I’m quite pleased about. Maybe next year I’ll blog more. Maybe I won’t. It’s all up in the air. But already, I’m writing more and reading more. With any luck, that’ll pay off…somehow.

For whoever’s reading this, I hope you enjoy your holidays and have a Happy New Year. Know that you can make something of yourself, and…umm…brush your teeth twice a day. Seriously. Especially at Christmas that’s important, because of all the chocolate…

Stunted Creativity

What is it about the intense need to do things that makes you not want to do them…?

Procrastination is a topic that, fittingly enough, I don’t think I’ve gotten round to talking about yet. On the one hand it should be easy to talk about – most people do it after all, but let’s face it – I could be doing a whole host of exciting and useful things. Preparing myself for university, filling out what I’m supposed to be filling out for university, writing a profoundly good short story or contributing to that novel thing. I could even be writing a better blog post, a review of a book or show, or something. But no, mindless ramblings are better.

And the worst thing is is that you know there are no benefits to procrastination, and yet you do it anyway. What’s the purpose behind all this? The only answer I can come up with is simply that my creativity has been stunted.

The more I try and engage my brain with the dealings of demographic-approved film narratives and the workings of a novel about a teacher engaging in intercourse and intercourse-inspired fun with her students to get to the roots of their personal issues, the more my brain sneers down it’s nose at me (because my brain has a nose, apparently), and laughs in my face about how I can’t possibly do anything right, not least come up with something people want to read!

“You stop it!” I sob pathetically, as my brain laughs again. Then I stop, because this analogy is getting really silly.

The point is, I do find myself thinking about these things a lot. It’s advisable for script-writing students to absorb as much visual media as they can, so of course that’s what I’ve been doing, like the faithful dog I am. The things I have seen have retrained me to think about plot, narrative, character, representation and all the rest of it, but instead of writing out my own, getting to the hearts of my own characters, and wondering how decent my representation is, I’d rather listen to repetitive music while prancing around in my room, occasionally doing a pseudo-pirouette when I feel the soundtrack calls for it.

Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it.

So, if you came here because you wanted advise on how to reduce procrastination increase productivity, my answer to you is, ‘hell if I know.’ I’m even struggling to write this…

Perhaps I just need to calm down. Bursts of creativity do seize me randomly from behind, a bit like someone at school once who, to this day, I still haven’t identified…

But, I digress. Really, I’m sure if I set tasks for myself, at very the least, things to focus on at specific times, I can work through whatever issues I’m currently having with writing anything. So, what should I write first? God knows, but I think I’m going to stop writing this, because there’s nothing left to say…

OK, except this – perhaps I should make myself write something every day. Doesn’t necessarily have to be something big, just something. Will that work? I don’t know…I may decide to forgo this idea. Right now, the idea of writing, my primary form of escapism, is looking like a leering bastardly monster of some kind. This isn’t a good place to be in, but maybe monstrous looks can be deceiving.

Ugh, I’m out.

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.

 

Greetings fellows – this is me…

Well, hello. I see you’ve found this. And that’s half of the battle.

In all seriousness, hi guys! This is my blog. I’m quite new to this whole blogging lark, so I’m just sort of working my way through this. I’d better start off by legitimately introducing myself. My name is Toby Martin, an 18-year-old screen-writing university student from the United Kingdom, and whilst not quite befitting my title of wastrel, sometimes I feel that way. Spending weeks hunched over my computer in the gloom, and suddenly realising nobody wants to talk to me, I figured I might as well find some ways to occupy myself, which I guess is what this blog relates to.

My major hobbies include writing, which this blog will probably include multiple posts about. I’ve been writing since a stupidly young age, and whilst my writing then was understandably abysmal, I’m hoping to make improvements in time to come. In later posts, I’ll probably discuss my upcoming plans for my written fiction, may share some of it, and even share some of my old, horrific stories which should hopefully give us all a laugh.

My other hobbies include watching anime, watching movies, reading and musical theatre. In regards to that, some of these posts may also include reviews of anime series, reviews of movies, my thoughts on styles and genre in general and maybe just some insights into what on earth is happening in the world. And perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s a lot happening, so potentially a lot to get through. Where this all goes remains to be seen, so I hope you’ll enjoy this malcoordinated (should be a word) plunge into the world of blogging, and I hope to hear what you think of my other posts, when they arrive…