Short Story Submission for NYC Midnight Challenge

Below is my submission for the NYC Short Story competition. The challenge is to write a short story in a week using the three provided prompts. Please comment and share your thoughts if you have time!

Prompt: Thriller, Searching for a Missing Person, a Tourist

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Alice Ronan is running, but she can’t remember why. On the way she finds her family, her past, and most importantly — herself.

 

Escape

Alice didn’t stop running until she reached a park. She paused by a bench and leaned against its back, grateful for a moment’s rest. Her breaths came in great, shuddering gulps. Nearby, a little boy stopped to look at her, entirely forgetting about the slide he was about to go down. She glared back at him, daring him to comment.

Behind her, the alarms screamed. With another desperate swallow of air, she took off again. She hurried down the street with her head bent low, trying not to draw attention. Even so, she knew she must be a sight. She was sweating in the cool spring air, and she could feel her hair beginning to cake to the back of her neck. With a shake of her head, she tried to unstick it from her damp skin.

A bar came into view that was teeming with people, many of which were college-aged. Most of the group was wearing jerseys, and at the moment she arrived, they cheered as one about a recent play on the televisions in the bar. It was the perfect place to disappear into a crowd.

Most people were too engrossed in the game to notice her weaving through their midst, but one young man paused to stare. He watched her with a strange grin on his face. Alice picked up her pace, uncomfortable with his attention. Once inside, Alice pulled a stool up to the bar. She sat with her shoulders hunched, trying to suppress the irresistible urge to glance over her shoulder. The bartender sidled up to her, and after a quick once-over of her disheveled appearance, cracked a sympathetic smile.

“Rough day?” he guessed.

“Nothing a drink can’t fix,” she said. “Scotch on the rocks.”

He cocked an eyebrow, and she scowled at him. She knew the type—they saw a petite, pretty woman and questioned whether she could handle anything more than a fruity umbrella drink. The bartender seemed to take the hint and slid a glass her way.

Alice picked it up and tried to ignore the way it trembled in her hand. She swirled the drink slowly, watching the amber liquid twist around inside.

She’d known to run. Somehow she’d known that the alarms meant danger and that she needed to get as far from them as possible. In that way, she supposed that she’d succeeded. Their piercing whine wasn’t perceptible in this dreary place, and at last it felt like her head was getting a rest. Still, the question lingered. What was she running from and why?

She took a deep breath to calm herself, trying to stay rational. She needed to find help. Her husband Jacob entered her mind, with his comforting smile and his levelheadedness. He’d know what to do. But where was he? How could she get to him?

With a single gulp Alice downed the glass and winced as it scorched her throat. It wasn’t one of her better performances, and the bartender noticed. Defiantly, she pushed the glass back toward him.

“Another.”

A commotion at the doorway drew her attention. Alice glanced toward it, surprised to see two police officers standing there. Their discussions with the bar patrons seemed terse, and they were scanning the crowded bar carefully for something.

Or someone.

With a triumphant shout, one of the men pointed at her. They both started forward, pushing through the crowd of drunken patrons.

Whatever the men wanted, Alice didn’t intend to stay and find out. She stood up and dug madly in her pocket for her wallet, ready to leave cash and run. It was only then that she realized she didn’t have her wallet and, odder still, the clothes that she was wearing were not her own.

The men were closing in, and a glance at the bartender told her that he was too busy to notice her departure. She took off from the bar and dodged into the crowd. Pushing her way through the people, she eventually found herself at the edge of the kitchen, and after glancing back to see both police officers still in hot pursuit, she walked briskly into the bustling prep area.

The key was to look like you belonged, Alice thought. She flashed her most winning smile at a young waiter, who grinned uncertainly back at her. When the cook reached for a plate she was quick to hand it to him, and he nodded his thanks without so much as a glance her way.

Soon she’d reached the back door of the kitchen and exited through it. Outside, she found a dumpster in an alley. As she debated which way to go, she heard the officers talking to the kitchen staff through the door, getting closer all the time. It was doubtful she could make it to the end of the alley before they emerged, so she did what she could and ducked behind the dumpster. It wasn’t an ideal hiding spot, but with luck, they would assume she’d run on without hesitating.

Her bet paid off. When the officers came out they ran down the alley together, shouting that she couldn’t have gotten far. The moment the coast was clear she took off in the opposite direction, eager to put as much distance as possible between her and her pursuers.

Too many questions arose as Alice darted down yet another unfamiliar street. She knew the answers would have to wait until she was somewhere more protected. Out here she was an easy target, a blemish on the otherwise deserted streets of… Where was she?

To her right, Alice saw a police officer. To her left stood a cluster of people, all of whom were carrying maps and snapping photos. They were without a doubt a tour group. Alice joined the group and quickly turned her back to the officer, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. She leaned over to look at one of the nearby maps, and she was surprised to see a familiar name: Topeka.

She’d been to Topeka once before when she and Jacob had first started dating. They’d come to visit the capitol building and the surrounding town.

Still, it didn’t explain how she had ended up here again.

“Can I borrow your map? I seem to have lost mine,” Alice said, looking at a family near her. The father handed over his map, and Alice nodded her thanks.

“While we wait for everyone to get back, I’d like to tell you all a few fun facts about Topeka,” said the tour guide, a young woman with a well-practiced smile. “For instance, did you know that the name ‘Topeka’ actually means ‘a good place to dig potatoes’?” The crowd chuckled and she continued. “Also, in 2010 the name was temporarily changed—”

Alice stopped listening. She vaguely remembered the fact from the last time she’d been here. Jacob had made her laugh when he asked a waiter if the potatoes were ‘locally dug.’ The waiter hadn’t been particularly amused, but the two of them had laughed as if it was the funniest joke in the world.

It was only then as she was thinking about Jacob that she remembered.

On their last visit they’d been all but inseparable, except for one instant. She’d been interested in touring the top of the capitol building, but Jacob hadn’t wanted to go. The tour had involved a trip up a daunting staircase that spiraled to the top, and Jacob was afraid of heights. They had agreed to part ways for an hour and to meet up later at the Westgate Bridge.

Alice checked her map, and then looked to the nearest intersection. She wasn’t far. Sure, it was a long shot that she would find Jacob there. It seemed unlikely that he was even in Topeka, given her current situation. Even so, it was the best plan she had.

As she walked she kept an eye out for the police. She still didn’t know why they were chasing her, but instinct told her enough that she didn’t want to be caught. All she wanted was to find Jacob before they found her.

The more she thought about it all, the more she wanted to panic. To keep herself calm, she went over the things she did know. Her name was Alice Ronan and she was from Hutchinson. She married Jacob right after she graduated college. They lived in a in a white house with their five-year-old son Chris and their Saint Bernard, Toby.

She kept reciting details until she reached the bridge, and by then the list had gotten fairly long. It was comforting in a way. Though she was no closer to answering her questions, she at least felt a little less lost.

The bridge was just as she remembered it—not particularly attractive, but an easy landmark to spot. Even from the edge she could see that Jacob wasn’t standing there waiting for her, but she started walking onto it anyway. It was possible he was merely late, and besides, she had nowhere else to go.

A call behind her made her turn, and as soon as she looked, she started to run. Three police officers had found her, and the moment she made eye contact with them, they began to chase. She tripped and nearly fell, catching herself just in time on the railing of the bridge. Alice’s breathing was labored as she forced herself onward. She listened as hard as she could over her own panting for the sound of running footsteps, trying to gauge how close they were.

“Stop! Alice, wait!”

“Leave me alone!” Alice shouted over her shoulder. She was nearly halfway across the bridge when she heard them close behind her, and she spun around to face them.

The officers approached her, hands outstretched, and she backed away. The back of her knees hit the concrete railing, and she glanced back at the river below.

“It’s okay, Alice. You’re not in trouble. But we need to come with us,” one of the men said. “We’re going to take you back now. Everything will be fine.”

“Get away from me,” she said.

They kept coming, one step at a time, and she pressed herself against the railing, leaning on it with both hands.

“Get away!” she bellowed.

To her amazement, they stopped. Looking down, she saw why. Somehow she’d gotten up on the railing, although she couldn’t remember when.

“I’m not going with you,” said Alice. “You can’t make me go.”

“Alice, you need to come down from there, it’s not safe,” a police officer said. “Please, just let us help you.”

“I want Jacob,” Alice said. “I need to talk to him. Please, someone find him.”

The police officers exchanged uneasy looks and said nothing.

“Find him!” she repeated.

“I’m sorry, Alice, but we can’t,” an officer said. “Jacob died several years ago.”

Alice wanted to shout at him, but a pain in her heart told her that the officer wasn’t lying. She raised a shaking hand to wipe away her tears, and for the first time that day she saw herself properly. Time had carved away at her skin, leaving crevices and cracks. Blue veins were mountains and rivers on the uneven surface. Her fingernails were brittle, and as she mopped her face, she could feel lines and folds there too.

A voice reached her from the end of the bridge. It was as panicked as her own, but there was nothing familiar or comforting about it.

“Mom? Mom!”

The voice belonged to a young man in his thirties. He closed the distance between them in seconds, and it didn’t look like his first sprint of the evening. His hair was flying in every direction, and his shirt was only half tucked.

“Mom, get down from there,” he said. “Please, Mom, come on. Let’s go home.”

“Stop calling me that,” said Alice. “You’re not my son.”

“I am,” the man said, his voice catching. “Your name is Alice Ronan, and you’re seventy years old, and you’re my mother.”

“I know who I am,” Alice snapped. “What I don’t know is why you’re all chasing me.”

“I’m worried,” the man said. “Please Mom, I am your son. You have to remember. Just this once. It has to be now.”

“My son is a child,” Alice said. “Where is he? Where is Jacob?”

“Your son is right here!” the young man cried. “You used to stay home with me when I was sick. You’d make me sandwiches with the crusts cut off, and you always gave me cookie dough when Dad wasn’t looking. When Toby died you got us a cat, and you let me name her, and I named her Snowflake, and even though it was a stupid name, you said it was perfect.”

There were tears in the man’s eyes now as he took a step toward her.

“No closer,” Alice barked.

“This isn’t helping,” an officer whispered. “We need you to back off, Chris.”

“Chris?” Alice repeated.

She stared at the young man, with his puffy eyes and his round face. She could see herself in that face… Jacob too.

“It’s me, Mom,” Chris said. He reached out to her, and she leaned away, balancing herself just in time.

For a brief moment, Alice remembered. She remembered waking up in a building that she wasn’t allowed to leave. She remembered the good days, where she could carry on a conversation about the past, and where she hugged her son knowing who he was. She remembered the bad days too, where she barely wanted to get up, and she saw strangers in a sea of loved ones. Those were the days she cried for her family or, even worse, went entirely numb to the world around her.

“Come down, Mom,” Chris pleaded. He was wise enough to keep his distance, but his hands were still outstretched as if to welcome her home.

But it wasn’t home. It was prison.

It wasn’t the facility itself that she feared, but what would become of her there. She was not afraid of death, but she was afraid of losing something much more valuable than her life—herself. If she was going to die, and it was certain that she would soon, she wanted to still be Alice.

“I love you,” Alice said. She knew this was true, even though the details were already slipping away. Somewhere deep down, she knew that she would always love him… that she always had.

She took one last look at her son. Maybe someday he would understand.

One step back, and Alice was gone.

 

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Steal a Moment

Today I was browsing the internet when a friend of mine posted a link to this article all about the way that storytelling enhances our understanding of a subject.

Having now read the article and thought about it a while, I felt like it was the perfect stepping stone for a post in this blog. After all, this whole thing is supposed to be one large examination of stories on every level, so why not go back to the basics? Not just what makes a good story, but why stories are good.

I did think the article did a great job of summing up the science of it (and I’m not going to sum it up here), but one quote in particular stuck out to me:

What’s interesting about this is that you are very likely to never forget the story of who invented the sandwich ever again. Or at least, much less likely to do so, if it would have been presented to us in bullet points or other purely information-based form.

The reason it stands out? Because it’s true. I will probably never forget the story of the invention of the sandwich. Sure, I won’t remember the inventor’s name, and I won’t remember the time period or the meat involved, but I sure will remember an image of a man playing cards with one hand and eating the first sandwich with the other. While the article looks at the science aspect of this, I’d venture that from a writing point, this isn’t so much about aiming for certain areas of the brain as it is about making a story memorable. Because at the heart of every writer’s story, isn’t there at least some tiny aspiration to be remembered?

When I was younger I remember reading a quote that said being a writer was one of the most pretentious professions a person could aspire to have because it meant they thought that they had something to say that was worth another person’s time to read. Although I can’t find that quote now (if anyone does find it, please link me to it! I’d like to give credit), I still remember it after all these years. Because while it is true some people write only for themselves, I would say that the majority of people write (or in a more general sense, tell stories) to really say something. They tell a story to make a point, or to pass on a meaning, or to create an emotion. Stories are tools used for a greater purpose, to try and convince the audience that the storyteller has a point worth making.

The thing about a good story is that it can really make a point stick. In my time I have read, watched, and listened to countless stories in every type of medium. Obviously I could not possibly recall them all if I tried. Yet if I’m talking to someone and they mention, say, that they drink a lot of coffee, stories that I’ve encountered immediately come to mind. I might mention that my favorite TV show, Gilmore Girls, has main protagonists who drink a ridiculous amount of coffee, and recount the first time we see the mother, Lorelai, beg her friend Luke for an extra cup of coffee. Or I might mention the time my theater director got me a coffee shop gift card as a thank you for being stage manager, not realizing that I didn’t drink coffee.

The reason for this? Because certain words and phrases bring up memories, and memories, at their core, are just stories that have been stored in our mind as important.

I’ve always done better in school with subjects like English and history class because at their core, they are stories. They tell fictional stories, or show history as stories, or paint a picture of life in easy to remember snippets of the past. Perhaps that’s why the only science class I ever really enjoyed was physics because every problem I solved was a story. The more memorable the word problem, the more eager I was to solve it. And it wasn’t just me who realized that; my physics teacher tended to use word problems like “If Tarzan drops Jane accidentally while 50 feet above the ground, moving right to left on a vine at 38 mph, how long would it take Jane to hit the ground?” to get our attention.

I still remember things from high school that were stories– my own experiences, stories from class, and random facts, but I can honestly say that every one of them is a story. And if it wasn’t a story to begin with, I turned it into one. At work if I can’t remember where a certain file is, it only takes one frustrating experience looking for it before it becomes a story. Then, the next time I’m looking I can go “oh yeah, I remember that one time that I took forever, and it turned out to be ___.” And the reason I can find it the second time? Because at that point, it’s a personal experience– a story.

But what does this mean for a storyteller?

Well, it means that we’re pretty pretentious for one. But let’s be honest, that can’t really be news. By definition a storyteller is trying to get another person to listen to them. Even if we’re only demanding attention for a moment, it’s a moment that we stole from a person’s ever-limited time alive.

The neat thing about stories, though, is that while the storyteller might only steal a moment, that moment can last a lifetime. If a storyteller chooses their words wisely and really nails home some sort of point in whatever means they choose, if they really cause the audience to think, then that story never goes away. There are stories still in todays society that are hundreds of years old. Stories that are passed down as “classics” because they have something to teach, or because they’re supposed to be “better” than other stories. Those stories resonated with the right audience at the right time and now they have the possibility of living forever.

The stories that I analyze in this blog are all moments that I will relive for the rest of my life. They are all part of me now. They all influence my writing, they influence what I read and what I study. They influence my life. And what those stories and this article have really made me realize is that my goal in life isn’t to write a story that lives forever.

I just want to write a story that lasts longer than the moment it takes to tell.

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Dare to be a Satirist

Let’s start with an English lesson, shall we? Today I’m going to be writing about Terry Pratchett’s particular use of satire in his writing. Before I can get far in that, though, it’ s important to establish what satire actually is. 

“It’s that English thing,” one of my college friends said one day when I asked them to define the word. “Like when an author is really mean, right?”

Another of my friends piped in and said, “It’s when they suggest horrible things like eating babies. That was Swift that did that one, wasn’t it?”

Well, while those definitions seem to be the more common view of satire, particularly in America, I prefer the official definition:

 1) A literary work in which human vice or folly is attacked through irony, derision, or wit.

2) Irony, sarcasm, or caustic wit used to attack or expose folly, vice, or stupidity.

So basically yes– it’s a work that is “mean” about a topic. It generally specifically attacks a certain topic, or event, or prejudice of society and using exaggeration and sarcasm, points out just how ridiculous we can be as human beings sometimes.

Needless to say, I adore satire when it’s done well. I have never known any other words to both infuriate and inspire quite so poignantly as those by a satirist. There’s just something about extremes and double meanings that gets people up-in-arms, and it’s wonderful. Because when it comes down to it, what is a story really about? Is it about existing in its own quiet bubble, or is it about being listened to, engaged with, and responded to?

Well, each author has their own preference, of course, but I’m inclined to say it is the latter. If you create a story and at the end nobody feels any differently, what was really the point? Every good story has at least one element that will stick with the audience. It might be something happy, or sad, dramatic, or especially clever. But it should be there.

For satire, it basically takes that one element and makes it the subject of the piece. It uses wit to cleverly make the reader think they aren’t reading about social change or the dismal condition of whatever group that our society has forgotten this time– it tricks them into thinking they’re just reading for fun.

The problem with satires, of course, is that they aren’t always understood. They aren’t universal. A reader must both pay attention closely and already have a background knowledge of the subject to fully appreciate a satire. Otherwise it comes off as anywhere from unnecessarily harsh to downright barbaric.

Take perhaps the most famous satirist, Jonathan Swift. His famous (sometimes infamous) work “A Modest Proposal” is the hallmark of everything I love about satire. It shocks, pokes fun, and generally plays with the reader’s emotions throughout, then sweeps in at the end with the “real” solutions. For those who haven’t read it, go google it right now and read. It will take you 20 minutes max, and if you aren’t hooked by the first page by means, put it down. I doubt you’ll be able to.

For those too lazy for that bit of reading I will sum it up in a single sentence. Swift’s persona suggests that the Irish poor get out of poverty by selling their overabundance of children as a food source and status clothing source for the wealthy. Yeah, delightful, right? But as you actually read the work, hopefully you’ll be able to see the humor in the scathing sarcasm. Short jabs at the landlords, wealthy, and those uncaring about the Irish poor make the whole piece really come together as a clear satire rather than a serious suggestion.

Even so, after this essay came out, people were outraged. Nobody seemed to get the joke, and those who got it were not half as loud as those who didn’t. Which of course meant that by the time everyone got it, most people felt embarrassed by the excessively poor plight of the Irish as well as by their own lack of understanding.

This is a good place to pause and point out why many people consider satire to be overly harsh or “mean.” Satire is rarely understood by everyone it is read by, and I am certainly not a person who claims that anyone who doesn’t understand is stupid. Certainly satire requires a very specific audience, and if parts of that audience still fail to grasp it, it’s as much on the writer as on the reader. Satire should be written to the point that if you look for the humor, it should be easily found. Granted, you have to start out looking. Someone has to tell you “No really, read Swift again. He’s hilarious!” before you really start looking for the jokes, but as long as they can be found on a second read, the author has done their job well.

Which brings me to a more recent author: British writer Terry Pratchett of “Discworld” fame.

For the last year a good friend of mine has been trying to get me to read books by Terry Pratchett. She knows of my excessive love for satire of all sorts, and had I not been swamped with all of my reading for English classes, I probably would have gotten to her suggestion sooner. As it was, I ended up reading two of his books this summer. And let me just say, they are fabulous. 

Granted, I’ve only read two, and they aren’t his “best” according to most, but they are amongst the greats. So far I’ve read Small Gods and Guards! Guards! and both were awesome and special in their own way. Apart from being brilliantly written novels which had strong characters, pacing, and plotlines, they both acted as a satire of particular things.

 

Small Gods was a satire primarily focused on religion and some of the silly things that come up there (like wars, rules taken out of context, how prophets are made, etc.). It was great because it was the sort of thing just about anyone could understand. Everyone has had some sort of dealing with religion, positive or negative, personally involved or just as an observer. And since Pratchett was focusing on an imaginary religion that mimicked just about every religion out there, there wasn’t any direct offense to be made except by those easily offended by anything religion related in general.

Similarly, the book Guards! Guards! focuses on satirizing the typical role of guards in fantasy novels. While this one is certainly funnier to someone who already knows about the fantasy genre and can relate to the different elements being made fun of, it’s not necessary to read and appreciate the book. For instance, I’m familiar with the cliches of fantasy books, but far from an experienced reader in the genre, so I was a little concerned starting. As it was, while I got most of the references and satire that was in the book, there were plenty of things I didn’t need to have any prior knowledge of to understand.

That would be Terry Pratchett’s brilliant poking fun at the English language itself. He uses common phrases and sayings to really subvert the reader’s expectations and remind them that anything can follow the start of that phrase. Honestly, I might in the near future do a post all about Terry Pratchett’s word use in enhancing his stories, but for now I’ll just end this very long post with a few choice examples:

“The reason that cliches become cliches is that they are the hammers and screwdrivers in the toolbox of communication.”

“If there was anything that depressed him more than his own cynicism, it was that quite often it still wasn’t as cynical as real life.”

“They felt, in fact, tremendously bucked-up, which was how Lady Ramkin would almost certainly have put it and which was definitely several letters of the alphabet away from how they normally felt.”

“You had to hand it to the Patrician, he admitted grudgingly. If you didn’t, he sent men to come and take it away.”

“A number of religions in Ankh-Morpork still practiced human sacrifice, except that they didn’t really need to practice any more because they had got so good at it.”

“Thunder rolled . . It rolled a six.”

That’s all for now! Thank you to anyone reading this blog. No idea what the schedule for posts will be here but hopefully more frequent than it has been!

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And they lived happily ever after?

MEGHAN ORY, EMILIE DE RAVIN, ROBERT CARLYLE, JARED S. GILMORE, JENNIFER MORRISON, JOSH DALLAS, GINNIFER GOODWIN, LANA PARRILLA

With my posts so far, it shouldn’t be any surprise to any of you that I am a huge fan of fairy tales in all of their forms. That being said, when I heard about the show “Once Upon a Time” beginning I was ecstatic. Watching a show with all of my favorite characters brought to life? What could be better?

Well, now that the show is progressing through the end of it’s second season, there is a trend that I feel must be brought to light. Thus far the characters and the way the story is weaving itself together is refreshing and, although sometimes confusing, adds a new layer to the storytelling of these classic tales. However, addressing the more mundane, run-of-the-mill-TV-show aspects of Once, we can look at the main character, Emma Swan.

For those who haven’t seen the show, Emma is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming, and she was the one who had to be there to break the curse that had been placed on the fairy tale characters. She grew up in the real world, never knowing about fairy tales, and until this show started, her biggest worry was more average-person drama. She dated a guy, he got her pregnant but then betrayed her, and Emma gave the kid up for adoption. The kid ten years later showed up on her doorstep and took her to Storybrooke, the town full of fairy tale characters, where she is destined to break the curse.

It’s a lot more complicated than that (like I said, kind of a confusing show to try and explain) but that’s all you really need to know for this post.

So as this show has gone on Emma has remained the main protagonist, and while she definitely has her faults, she’s a pretty strong female character overall. Which is great. Fairy tales could certainly use more of those. The thing is, it is a show about fairy tales, and so naturally, everyone is waiting for Emma to find her own “prince charming.”

The writers of the show clearly understand this, because thus far they seem to be sincerely enjoying teasing the fans of the show with possibilities. To date there have been 5 possible love interests introduced, each one a little more “dangerous” than the last. In order of appearance in Emma’s life (hopefully, the timeline is kind of hard to follow) we have Neal, Graham, Jefferson, August, and Captain Hook.  I’m going to briefly go into each love interest and say why they are either still a possibility, how likely they are to survive the series (because the odds aren’t good lately), and give my own person preference (because I wouldn’t be a fangirl if I didn’t.)

Neal

Neal– He was the love of Emma’s life for some time. He was there for her when no one else was, and they had an adorable relationship of stealing and living in a car (cause I mean, who doesn’t love that?) Neal got her pregnant, which wasn’t a huge problem, because she thought they’d get married and be together forever, except that then Neal mysteriously left. As it turns out, Neal left because August (another love interest) came up and showed him a slip of paper revealing that he knows who Neal REALLY is (Baelfire, Rumplestiltskin’s son. He’s running away from home… Still. He’s also probably Peter Pan in a weird twist of events.) So Neal’s plan was to never grow up and it was worth it to him to hide from his father over something that happened 300+ years ago rather than staying with Emma and his unborn son. Classy. For these reasons, I will be sorely disappointed if he’s a real love interest.

Graham

Graham–Wonderful, adorable, and also, the Huntsman from the Snow White tales. Really, all the issues I had with him have been explained and resolved, and he remains a lot of fan’s favorite love interest. Problem is, he died in the first season. Since then he’s only been in the show in flashbacks. For obvious reasons, he probably won’t end up being “the one.” RIP Graham.

Jefferson

Jefferson–The mad hatter, very crazy (in a pretty creepy way when he’s first introduced), but overall not necessarily a terrible guy. He’s got a sweet backstory about protecting his kid, and trying to find her, and it’s all very tragic. The thing is, Jefferson disappeared several episodes ago and hasn’t reappeared since. No one really knows where he went or why or if he ever found his kid and got her back (actually, last I checked he may have found her and we just never really saw past that), and it’s terrible. So as far as I’m concerned, I think Jefferson needs to resolve his own issues before he is ready to be the love interest of anyone, least of all Emma who has plenty of messed up life moments going on already.

August

August–Otherwise known as Pinnochio. I mean, really? What is up with Emma getting paired up with overgrown children? First Peter Pan, now him? I’ve never been a huge August fan, especially not after we found out August was the one who convinced Neal to leave Emma and so really, he also betrayed her. There’s some other stuff there I won’t get into as well, mostly because it doesn’t really matter at this point. You see, he’s not really an option anymore. Last episode he was turned into a child version of himself before he went off and did bad things in the real world. Because apparently that’s what redeeming yourself means on this show… Having your memory wiped and turning into a child. But it’s okay, I laughed for like 10 minutes after this happened and moved on. Because we’re finally getting to the love interest I support.

Kid<– August as a kid

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Hook–Hook, or Captain Hook, is a villain on the show who is out to kill Rumplestiltskin for revenge. Other than that, he pretty much looks out for himself first. He and Emma flirt a lot on the show, and it’s adorable. I personally am the biggest HookxEmma fan out there, not because I think it’d be Emma’s real happily ever after, but because as far as an engaging story goes, Hook and Emma banter always beats out Neal moping around the set. Plus, since it’s pretty much down to Neal or Hook at this point, i think we all know which one is cooler.

So now you’re probably wondering–what does this fangirling have to do with stories? An excellent question, and I assure you I didn’t forget. I wanted to show that in a show about fairy tales the writers do fall into some usual show and fairy tale stereotypes, but they also continue to surprise. There is less emphasis on a female protagonist finding her prince charming, and much more on her finding her family and learning to be the hero she was born to be. Especially for a genre with such traditionally weak female characters, this is a huge step up in my eyes.

Sure, the creators continue introducing love interests (and for that matter, really attractive love interests) because it boosts views and caters to their primarily female audience. But isn’t that just a storyteller recognizing their audience? Isn’t that just a storyteller doing anything they can to keep someone watching? It may not be the classiest move, but it certainly does seem effective.

I’ll be interested to see where this show goes with it’s roller coaster of love interests for Emma. Perhaps eventually it will focus on one, and it’ll be about her “happily ever after,” but the way it’s going now, I think that it will be some time before this happens. Emma is the hero of this story, and the hero rarely has time for love until their quest is complete.

Thanks for reading!

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I’d like to end this post with another apology–with school as hectic as it has been I simply haven’t given this blog the time I was expecting to. Having said this, I will try to update once a week rather than twice, as I think that will work out better. Thanks for reading!

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No! Don’t Cut That Out!

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As a kid I never understood why it took so long for the movie industry to make an adaption of some of my favorite books. Sure, some of them simply weren’t popular enough and never were adapted, but then you had others like my all-time favorite series–Harry Potter.

Now I was a Potterhead back before it was cool to be one. I dressed up as Hermione Granger four years in a row, adn by the last year, a few people were starting to catch on that I wasn’t just “a witch” I was THE witch, the coolest witch ever. But now EVERYONE knows what Harry Potter is, whether they’ve read/seen it or not. It’s just that popular and that well received in our culture. 

Harry Potter was probably one of the those books that large companies love and fear to take on. Love because there is almost a guarantee of profit simply because it is Harry Potter, and fear because the fans are ready to rip the movie apart scene by scene to prove why the book will always be better. And let’s be honest–the book usually will be better, but that’s no reason to rip apart the movie. Despite popular belief, a movie can coexist peacefully with its book as entirely different things (Wizard of Oz, anyone?). But then, you can also have a series so ridiculously popular that it simply is unacceptable to mess with the story too far. This is the case with Harry Potter. 

Now the first two movies were near replicas of the book, except for the small detail that the book was WAY too long to portray the whole thing in the movie. Since the writers were unable to tread far from the original dialogue and plot, the first two movies ended up being very similar to the book, but almost as if someone had closed their eyes and removed large, important chunks of plot and character development. 

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But then you had the next movie, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. By now the kids were coming into their own lanky-awkward teenage years, and the movies also seemed to be entering their newly found independence. Most people probably remember that the third movie was less of this: 

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And more of this: 

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It was less about cute kids in wizard’s robes with their pet owls, and more about the adventure and danger these kids face. The costumes were different (suddenly everyone wore muggle clothes… Anyone else find that odd?) but so were the attitudes of the actors and the writers. It was like when they got a new director he just went “Screw this, let’s see how far the fans will let us go” and he just flew with it. Now many people absolutely hate the third movie because of this. They hate that it isn’t as faithful to the book as the first two, or even as later movies. They hate the way it seems to stand out and say “Look at me!” But I’m the opposite, because I like the third movie. It stands on its own as a story and as a movie, and it spices up the things that needed spicing up for a visual storytelling form like the movie industry. Is it perfect? Of course not, but I truly believe it was one of the best things to happen to the Harry Potter industry. It gave the writers freedom to adapt the story when they needed to to avoid the awkward moments where things were obviously taken out and to just let the movies flow. 

I think what people forget with adaptions is that the point of a movie adaption of a book is almost never to exactly replicate the book. Harry Potter was one of the few that did seem to try this, mostly because J.K. Rowling had such tight control over her work. But most adaptions are there to spread the story further, to get more people interested, and above all, to tell the story. Movies are NOT the same as books–they have different purposes, different ways of telling the story, and different ways of being received. People get so caught up in their favorite characters, or lines, or scenes that they forget the importance of the story as a whole. 

So next time your favorite book is going to be adapted, stop and think for a moment. What is it that you like so much about the book? Do you like it because of that one line that better-make-it-in-the-movie-or-you’ll-die, or do you like it because it’s a powerful story that meant something to you when you read it? If it’s the latter, just think about how great it would be if the adaption can take such a powerful story and touch someone else. 

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Midterms

Hey guys. I promise I’ll return to updating regularly soon. I’ve been sick for a week, and now I’m coming up on midterms, so bear with me for the next few days! I’ll try to have an extra-good post Thursday to make up for the missed days. 

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Stealing the Story

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Let’s be honest–no one was surprised that Anne Hathaway won best supporting actress in the Oscars this weekend. No one. They even made jokes about it before the show because it was so entirely inevitable.

The question now, of course, is why? Why was it so obvious? After all, there was some pretty stiff competition, and while Anne Hathaway is a wonderful actress (I’ve personally followed her career since her “Princess Diary” days), it’s not as though she wins an award every time she’s in a movie.

My answer, as I’m sure you aren’t surprised to hear, is that it’s all in the story. Hathaway played Fantine in Les Miserables, a role that can be lost easily and steal the show if well done. Clearly, Hathaway stole the show with her portrayal.

For those who haven’t seen Les Mis (which you should), a quick explanation is that it’s a very long musical about part of a French revolution that wasn’t very successful, and more specifically, follows a large cast of characters as their lives intertwine. Fantine, the character Hathaway played, is really more a plot device than an actual character. She serves as a sign to Jean Valjean that in his focus on his own troubles (avoiding the persistent Police head, Javert) he has neglected to notice when a woman (Fantine) who works in his factory is being unfairly treated. Because of his inattention to the state of his factory, Fantine goes through a terribly sad list of events until she goes from a single mother trying to make enough to keep herself and her daughter alive to a prostitute on the verge of death. It is here that Jean Valjean finds her again, and here that he has fatherhood of Cosette, Fantine’s daughter, thrust upon him. Fantine dies and Jean Valjean begins the next chapter of his life as a father raising Cosette.

In the scope of things, Fantine is there to remind Jean Valjean of his duty to other human beings and as a way for him to selflessly end up raising a daughter by himself. I have seen Les Mis performed where Fantine’s death was the end of it and I didn’t think of her again, but Hathaway did something much more important–she made me care about Fantine. Hathaway took a very small chunk of the movie and made it the highlight. One of the most powerful moments of the movie was her singing “I dreamed a dream,” perhaps because it portrayed so well what the song is really about.

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Many people sing this song every day for auditions, performances, or to show off their vocal talents in general. Generally when I’ve seen it done outside of the movie Les Miserables I have seen it done in an optimistic fashion. People smile at the end, and they make it seem like they’re about to be saved. When Hathaway sang it I realized what the song is really saying–what’s in the lyrics already, but was brought out by her voice and her acting.

“But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather

I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.”

So in other words, Fantine realizes that everything she hoped and dreamed for in her life never came true. She realizes that things really do suck too much to go on, and that even if she’s physically still alive, her dream and spirit have already died. Inspiring? I don’t think so.

lesmishathaway_620_112612This is a woman who has lost everything in her life and has no one else to turn to. She is at her end both mentally and physically and has fallen as far as she can go. That is the Fantine that Hathaway showed us, and that is why it was an award-worthy performance.

So where does this lead the story as a whole? Well, to be honest I was very disappointed when Fantine died in the movie, because it was never the same without her. The rest of the cast did a great job, but the usually inspiring group numbers lost some of their momentum because of the removed intermission and the poor filming choices. Also, the characters introduced for the second part of the show, namely Marius and Cosette, are never going to be as powerful as Fantine’s story because after watching Fantine’s tragic descent, it’s very hard to care about two rich kids who decide they’ve discovered love at first sight.

Hathaway absolutely owned Fantine’s story, and she was rewarded for it. Really, her short screen time owned the epic that is Les Mis, and that’s something to be truly proud of. To be entirely honest, I have never been overly fond of Les Mis, so it is truly impressive that Hathaway captured my interest so well. Congratulations to Anne Hathaway for making me care about a story within Les Mis that I had previously overlooked. I will never think so lightly of Fantine again.

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