As I do every time I hit my NaNoWriMo minimum of 50,000 words at the end of November, I immediately stop giving a crap about the thing I was working on and tuck it away to either a) not be looked at until like half a year has passed or b) not be looked at ever.
I was not too enthused about my story this year, but after taking a week or so away from it, I think it’s actually something that I could refine and make into an actual coherent story of sorts—one that, assuming a miracle occurs and I am suddenly granted with the ability to write well, I’d like to try to do something with. Publish it or something.
(Wild dreams, I know.)
Getting something I’ve written published has actually been one of my dreams since I was in like first grade and was writing all those coo stories. But I’m terrible at writing and everybody wants to get published and what the hell chance do I have anyway with the garbage story ideas I come up with anyway?
But at least this year’s project might actually work as a thing.
Prime (2009) is a cool little story, I think, but until I figure out the tone in which I want it told, it’s staying hidden.
Googol (2010) would immediately get me sued. Even if I changed the name of the company in question in the story, it would still be bad news, I think.
(We won’t talk about 2011 and 2012.)
Arborhood (2014) is one that miiight be workable, but I’m not sure. Right now there’s way too much exposition.
Earth’s Edge (2017) became character-driven very quickly, but at the expense of the whole main point of the story. There’s really no reason for them to be doing what the whole story was set up for them to be doing, so yeah. I really liked my characters, though.
But this year’s story? Possibly workable.
Maybe that will motivate me to, you know…work on it.
So NaNoWriMo’s done and I won with a relatively decent (for me) margin of time. I usually feel at least some level of accomplishment when I win NaNo, but I didn’t this year.
Which, you know, further confirms that I no longer value anything I do in life, but whatev.
Anyway. Here’s a word cloud.
So the past few times I’ve done NaNo, I’ve made a blog post in which I talk about a “soundtrack” that would be appropriate to go along with that year’s NaNo novel. I don’t really have such a soundtrack in my mind for my ghost story this year, but I heard Owl City’s Silhouette on shuffle the other day and holy hell, does that song capture the mood I’m trying to get to in the sadder portions of the novel when Nick is feeling very much alone, out of control, and aware that he is rapidly losing is fight against a relentless death.
The song itself isn’t about death, but it invokes that exact feeling I’m going for.
It’s beautiful. It’s heartbreaking. I love it.
Edit: zomg, I just listened to this song for the first time on my new Sennheisers and those subtle chords in the line “the fire I began is burning alive”—especially the second time (2:09)—are like daggers to the soul. Gorgeous.
I’m making progress on my story. Slow progress, but progress.
I also decided to make this story set in Tucson (as you probably read from the excerpt I posted a few days ago) for whatever the hell reason, which is giving me a ton of excuses to take pauses in my writing to look up some specific street or hospital or restaurant or whatever in Tucson.
It’s also making me miss living down there, which is kind of weird. I mean, I wasn’t even there a year. But I miss some stuff.
Don’t miss Marana, though.
Alright, you pooper scoopers, it’s time for the “let’s post an excerpt from this year’s NaNoWriMo project so I at least have something to show off for my efforts apart from an 80-ish Word document that will never again see the light of day.”
Let’s get to it.
This year I’m taking another stab at the story I tried to write in 2016 before life said “FUCK YOU” and took away all my free time.
Fortunately, life said “FUCK YOU” already this year and I have had basically zero free time since the start of 2018. But I’ve adapted to it, so it doesn’t seem quite as awful as it did in 2016.
But anyway, I’m a lazy bastard so I’m just gonna copy/paste my description of the story from back when I first tried to describe it a few years ago. Then it’s excerpt time, yo.
The world my story is set in is exactly the same as our world now, except everyone knows and accepts that ghosts are real and exist among the living. In fact, everyone can see ghosts, but when a person able to see them and what types of ghosts they’re able to see depends on how close the person is to his or her own death.
It’s like this: ghosts are classed into one of ten types, depending on how “old” they are (that is, how long the ghost has been a ghost) and the properties that they have. Ghosts range from Ghostlets, which are the “just dead” ones who still resemble the people they were when they were alive and are super clumsy and awkward because they’re not used to being ghosts yet, to White Lights, which are the oldest known ghosts and have the job of ushering people through the final stages of death (which is why many people who survive a near-death experience say that they saw a white or bright light). The closer a person gets to their own death, the more types of these ghosts they’re able to see. People start with seeing Ghostlets and progress from there.
While ghosts and humans get along (in most cases), the government has decided that it’s a good idea to keep humans and ghosts separate as far as living spaces go. This is the job of the Bureau of Death, Dying, and the Deceased. Many of the people in this Bureau basically act like realtors for ghosts, ushering them to dwellings that are unoccupied by humans.
My main character, Nick, is an employee at the Bureau. He goes around making sure that ghosts have proper living spaces and remain out of the living spaces of humans. Of course, he can only work with the types of ghosts he can see—which, at the beginning of the story, are just the three “youngest” types.
However, Nick notices that his ability to see older and older ghosts is progressing very rapidly for someone his age, which suggests that he is quickly approaching his own death. While the progression rate differs from person to person (e.g., one person might be “stuck” seeing a certain type of ghost for a much longer period of time than another person), he knows that his own progression is abnormally fast. So he spends most of the story trying to figure out what might be causing him to progress so quickly towards his own death. He knows he can’t stop the progression, but he at least wants to see if he can slow it. A lot of this involves Nick talking to ghosts of various ages/types to try to figure out what’s going on with himself.
So yeah. And here’s this year’s excerpt! In this scene, Nick has been given a job by his boss to go to Marana (a “ghost town,” or a town inhabited just by ghosts) and deal with a situation where a Screamer (one of the more advanced and destructive ghosts) has moved into a house occupied by a Blue Type (a younger, gentler ghost). Nick has to go in and diffuse the situation and try to get the Screamer to leave. Ben is his coworker, Travis is his boss, and the destabilizers are gun-like things that can be used to “discombobulate” a ghost for a limited amount of time.
Apologies for how downright awful this is.
It had been some time since Nick had to drive out to the satellite ghost town on the edge of Tucson; as he made his way past Cortaro and headed northeast of the Saguaro National Park, he tried to remember the last time he had been out that way. In truth, no living person had any reason to be in Marana. It had been christened a government-sanctioned ghost town nearly two decades ago, which meant for anyone who was still living, there was no reason to pay it a visit. Marana was for ghosts and ghosts only.
There were two exceptions to this. The first exception were those employees of the Bureau of Death, Dying and Deceased who had special permits issued by the government to enter ghost towns. Nick and the other realtors were the main users of these permits, but other Bureau members had them as well.
The second exception were those who were unauthorized to enter ghost towns but did it anyway. This demographic mostly consisted of stupid teenagers looking to impress their friends or drunk buddies looking to show off for each other. Of course, no ghost could deliberately kill a living person, but this fact did not seem to change peoples’ reactions to getting spooked by them. It meant little to those who ever came face-to-face with an aggressive, territorial ghost. But this only ever occurred when people were trespassing in designated ghost areas, Nick felt that they deserved every bit of panic and fear that they felt. They lacked the training to deal with ghosts, so if they actively sought them out, then they were the ones who brought the consequences on themselves. For Nick and other realtors at the Bureau, they had gone through training specifically to prepare them for entering ghost-zoned neighborhoods and had taken countless classes, certifications, and refresher courses on how to deal with ghosts of all different types, temperaments, and sizes.
Still, though, he was nervous as he headed out for his afternoon job in Marana. A ghost occupying the house of a different ghost was something new and therefore something he wasn’t quite sure how to resolve. Especially since there was a Screamer involved.
As he turned off the main highway, his radio switched on. He hadn’t touched it since Ben had been in the truck a few weeks ago, but he’d remembered it had been tuned to a country station. Now, however, it only played static – that haunting, almost decipherable static that suggested that the spirit of a Soul Slick was in the near vicinity. Nick was truly in ghost country now.
He turned off the radio. Marana appeared as dead as its occupants: flat, barren, and not a tree in sight. The long road that stretched toward the horizon seemed to just vanish beyond his line of sight, the pavement wobbling in the late afternoon sun’s heat. Where there wasn’t browning sagebrush there was dust; where there wasn’t dust there were the remnants of those who used to live in the town before it had gotten converted. Broken bottles, half-collapsed yard sale signs, torn up cardboard boxes, other garbage and debris.
He’d forgotten just how flat it was out there. Tucson itself was quite flat but did have some hills and valleys to it. Out here, the horizon stretched as far as your eyes could physically see due to the flatness. There were mountains in the distance, but they were well beyond reach. Nothing but flatness. Nothing but death.
Nick’s radio turned on again, the static even louder than before. He switched it off again, feeling a Soul Slick slide across the back of his hand as he did so. He caught the glance of a few others as they oozed their way into the air vents.
“Easy, guys,” he muttered to them in a polite, amused tone. “I’m not here for you.”
The house in question was on the corner of Branchwater, just off the main stretch. It was, from the outside, just an average-looking house, perhaps a bit more weathered than its age suggested it should be. But Nick attributed this to the fact that it was occupied by ghosts, not humans, and ghosts had neither the need nor the ability to perform upkeep on a dwelling. They had no need for running water, no need for heat, no need for insulation. As long as the house was theirs and could act as a place of protection from the living and from other ghosts, that was all they ever wanted.
There was no visible activity from the outside. Nick chose to not pull into the driveway but rather to park a ways down the street and on the opposite side of the house in question. He didn’t want to startle the ghosts more than he had to.
It was the quiet that first struck him as he got out of the truck. Marana, unlike Tucson or any other city of the living, was quiet. Ghosts, when on their own, had no real reason to make any noise. Noises – howling, moaning, wailing, and the like – were reserved for their encounters with humans. Ghost-to-ghost communication happened through a channel other than sound and was something that humans had not quite yet figured out. Nick was used to the quietness of ghosts in their own places of residence, but a whole town of silence was a bit unnerving. It caused the hairs on the back of his neck and forearms to stand to attention and put him on edge with an uneasy quaking in his stomach. Before he even gave it a rational thought, he reached back into the truck and grabbed the destabilizer from the glove compartment. He shoved it in his back pocket and made his way to the house.
There was still no sign of activity, even as he made his way up the main walkway to the house and towards the front door. He wondered at the state inside. Was the Blue Type expecting him? Was the Screamer? He chastised himself for not asking Travis if he had contacted the ghosts in question to inform them that a realtor was on his way out.
Nick stood on the doorstep for longer than he should have. He was trying to convince himself that he was waiting for some sign of activity to best direct him how to proceed, but in truth, he was having flashbacks to his last job with Ben and how things had gone so wrong so quickly. He then tried to dismiss the thought. Ben was Ben, was his logic. The way he had approached the ghost during their last job had been too aggressive, too demanding. Requiring the ghost to surrender itself was not the best way to get it to cooperate. So Nick decided that he would do things his way for this job. Surely that would be better, wouldn’t it?
He gave the door a firm knock, announcing himself as he did so. “Hello? My name is Nick Hextall and I’m from the Bureau of Death, Dying, and the Deceased. May I come in?”
He knocked again, this time a bit more loudly. “Hello?” The lack of response was off-putting; he took a moment to check his phone to see if he had the right address. Even if he didn’t, he would suspect someone would answer. There weren’t a lot of vacant houses in Marana. The ghost population, despite its quietness, was booming.
He confirmed that was at the right house. So what could he do now? He felt like he was being watched; a quick glance around revealed no visible ghosts, but he knew that some may be watching from within their own dwellings. Hell, the Blue Type, the Screamer, or both could be watching him from just behind the door and might just not be answering out of fear.
He jumped as he heard his car radio turn on again down the street. The Soul Slicks grew to an impressive bunch when they were left to their own devices and didn’t have to hide their abilities.
The station the radio was tuned to was no longer playing static but instead was tuned to the station that Ben had been listening to back on their job together several weeks ago. The station was having a 90s country music marathon, and Nick had to suffer through trying to enter the Screamer-inhabited house with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Passionate Kisses” playing in the background.
Nick turned his attention back on the house. The fact that the ghosts did not respond to his knocking left him with very few options, the best of which was a forced entry. His realtor keys were in the truck, but he asked himself why a ghost would have any reason to lock a front door in a town like Marana, which was as living-free as a town could get. And sure enough, when he turned the doorknob and gave the door the slightest nudge, the latch gave smoothly and without a sound.
He stepped into the house and made the decision to close the door behind him in case the ghosts would be worried about an open door and one or both of them would try to flee. A closed door, he figured, wouldn’t stop a Screamer, but it might slow it down enough to allow Nick to at least try to confront it.
He decided to call again. “Hello? My name is Nick and I’m with the Bureau of Death, Dying and the Deceased. I mean you no harm; I just want to talk with you.” The entry way was rather small and connected immediately with the rest of the house; through the dimness of the unlit rooms, Nick thought he could make out a few couches and an old TV that was nothing more than a dust collector.
There was an uneasy feeling in the air – something that Nick did not usually feel upon entering a ghost-occupied dwelling. Almost without thought, one hand went to his badge, the other to the destabilizer in his pocket.
“Bureau of Death, Dying, and the Deceased,” he said again, trying to speak louder than before but not confident that he succeeded. “Is anyone home?” As he moved ever so slightly forward into the entry way, he held is badge out for proof of who he was, as he always did, all the while keeping his other hand on the destabilizer. He didn’t even think about what he was doing – of course he wouldn’t be using the destabilizer on a ghost – but it gave him some visceral level of reassurance to know it was there and that he could, if he chose to, use it.
There was still no answer, still no sound at all. It was all so unnerving. Ghosts, if given the opportunity, enjoyed making sounds around humans, whether it was to entertain, to be acknowledged, or to provoke fear. So if they knew he was there – which they must have – their silence meant that they didn’t want to be found.
He made the bold decision to enter the living room. If the ghost or ghosts weren’t going to acknowledge his presence in the hallway, they’d be forced to do so once he was technically in the house. But on his first full step forward, his foot caught on something – a basket, a stool, or some other small object he’d failed to see in the dimness of the lightless house – and he stumbled. He fell, actually, toppling forward with a surprised grunt, catching himself with his open hands on the floor as his badge tumbled away from him.
Despite no one there to acknowledge this stumble, Nick felt his face flush with embarrassment. He scrambled up, grabbing his badge, and tried to regroup quickly. For the first time that day, he was glad there were no ghosts in the immediate vicinity.
But that’s when he saw the Screamer.
It had been behind the door, Nick figured, resting in the easy, relaxed state that most ghosts went into when not actively moving about. Screamers were notorious for their ability to remain in these states even during periods of higher commotion and noise, and this one had remained there behind the door, doing the ghost equivalent of sleeping, all through Nick’s entrance to the house and his shouting into the hallway. It was his stumble that had awakened it.
Awakened it? No – frightened it. The Screamer came out of its relaxed state with such a start that in the matter of half a second, it had gone from an innocuous cloud hiding out behind the door to a frightened and frightening entity that swarmed about Nick as he tried to right himself from his fall.
Nick was lucky to have seen the ghost at all, as quickly as it reacted to him. As he righted himself he took a glance backward to determine what he had tripped over, and his eyes caught the deep, smoke-like cloud of the Screamer as it unfurled in a panic.
Both Nick and the ghost reacted to this sudden confrontation at the same time. For Nick, his reaction was to grab for the destabilizer and aim it towards the ghost – not to discharge the weapon, but to try to will it into submission with the threat of the gun alone. For the ghost, its reaction was much more violent and much quicker than Nick’s. It did exactly what Screamers did when threatened: it got large and it got destructive.
Before Nick could even pull the case completely off the destabilizer, the ghost let out a bellow that shook the entire house and was strong enough to knock over all the furniture in the entryway.
Nick topped as well, hitting the floor, the wind escaping him and the destabilizer flying out of his hand to skitter beneath one of the couches in the living room. Gasping from the trauma, Nick had just enough time to roll to the side to avoid an end table as it was hurled toward his head.
“OUT!!” The command was more of a shriek than a word, but it definitely got the point across. The ghost swirled about like a tornado in the small entryway. It’s massive size knocked the already toppled furniture about. Nick did his best to stay out of its way. He covered his head with his arms and curled into a ball. But then he saw the destabilizer beneath one of the still-upright couches, so he uncurled and tried to crawl towards it. His hope was that the debris and papers that were being kicked about by the ghost’s tantrum would hide him well enough for him to be able to recover the weapon.
But the task of retrieving it proved more difficult than he thought. As he crawled, the whole entryway felt as if it was twisting and turning and torqueing, making it difficult for him to keep his orientation. Despite the disorienting headspace he was in, he continued toward the couch, feeling like he was moving through thick molasses. But the ghost was perceptive and was having none of Nick’s trying to crawl away.
“I SAID OUUUUUUUUUT!” It bellowed again, hurling another round of debris at him. The room seemed to tilt and tilt and tilt to the point where Nick felt like he had to cling to the floor to avoid sliding off into eternity. But through the debris, the sliding furniture, the howling of the Screamer, Nick continued to crawl toward the couch. If he could just reach his arm under there…
The ghost gave another loud bellow: “OUUUUUTT!!” and as it did so it picked up the other living room couch and hurled it directly toward Nick.
If Nick hadn’t had been there witnessing it with his own eyes, he would have never thought a ghost – even an irate Screamer – could have the strength to move such a large object, let alone aim it with such accuracy. Fortunately, his fight or flight instincts had kicked in and the whole scenario seemed like it was taking place in slow motion, giving him the ability to actually dodge the flying couch. It clipped him though, as it crashed to the floor; his left forearm taking the brunt of the blow. He didn’t have time to think about it. As the previously couch hit the floor with a tremendous cacophony of cracking and tearing, Nick again set his eyes on the destabilizer. Pushing himself away from the wall with his feet, he practically slid across the floor and drove his arm as far as it would go beneath the other remaining couch. His fingers, in their frantic pawing, brushed the edge of the weapon, pushing it back further and out of his reach.
But the ghost chose that moment to howl once again. The outburst was strong enough to overturn the couch in question. Nick was finally able to grab the destabilizer and, in one motion, drew it from its case, released the safety, and aimed it at the irate ghost. The rational part of his brain was telling him to aim but not to shoot, but it was quickly drowned out by the survival part of his brain, which was frantically telling him him to fire.
So he did.
Despite the ghost’s inhuman reaction time, it was not able to get the destabilizer away from Nick before a surge of electricity the strength of a lightning bolt discharged from the gun. In a fraction of a second, the large, intimidating, Screamer was reduced to a shuddering mass of ethereal material, each atom in its structure ionized, changing it from a ghost to something else. What this “something else” was, nobody knew. And at that moment, lying on the floor, panting, shaking, sweating, Nick didn’t care. It was no longer coming after him, and that’s all that mattered.
He let the smoking destabilizer drop from his hand as he tried to catch his breath, lying in the aftermath of the ghost’s startled outburst.
There was no sign of the Blue Type. There never had been. Nick couldn’t blame it for wanting to get someone out to deal with the Screamer. As far as anyone knew, ghosts could cause harm to other ghosts, and who knows what that Screamer would have done to a small, timid, mostly harmless Blue Type.
Nick’s breath finally having returned to him, he made a move to stand. In doing so, he pressed his left hand firmly against the floor. This sent a bolt of pain up past his wrist and through his entire lower arm.
“Ah…shit!” He winced, drawing air through his gritted teeth at the surprise pain. He pulled the injured arm up towards his body, cradling it with his other hand. His adrenaline had been so high during the attack that whatever had initially caused him injury had not even registered in his mind. But that was all changing rapidly as the sharp jolt of pain started to transform into an aching throb.
After a quick inspection, the rest of him seemed to be fine. The room, on the other hand, was in even more disarray than he’d originally thought as he climbed to his feet. He stepped carefully over broken furniture and debris to head back outside. The light of the mid-afternoon sun hurt his eyes after being so long in the dimly-lit house; he took a moment on the front porch to allow himself to adjust.
He considered how much time he had before the ghost re-stabilized. All the research done on destabilization suggested it was effective on the typical ghost for an average of half an hour. Nick figured he had maybe twenty minutes. With this in mind, he was quick to get back to his truck. Upon getting in, he made sure to lock all the doors. It was a stupid, useless move – a locked Chevy door was no match for an angry Screamer – but it made him feel better nonetheless.
What was his next step? By protocol, the next step would be to call an ambulance, but he didn’t feel like he needed one. The step after that? Call his boss. His phone had been in his back pocket but had somehow remained undamaged in the scuffle. He called the first number on his speed dial: Travis. But his boss failed to answer, so Nick had to come up with a different plan. Number two on his speed dial was Stephanie, His finger momentarily hovered over the “2” on his screen, but given their recent difficulties, Nick decided against calling her and decided instead to call his number three on his speed dial: Ben.
“You stay right there,” Ben said after Nick had explained his situation. “You stay right there until I’m able to get out there. And call an ambulance while you’re waitin’. God damn ghosts.”
“I don’t need an ambulance,” was Nick’s automatic reply. “It’s just my arm.”
“An ambulance is protocol,” Ben replied. “Besides, you might have some internal bleedin’ goin’ on or somethin’, fer all you said about that damn Screamer throwin’ you around.”
When Nick didn’t answer, Ben barked, “Just do it, Hextall. Don’t be stubborn. I’ll be there as soon as I can get goin’.”
After hanging up, Nick heeded Ben’s advice and called an ambulance, though he tried to make it clear over the phone that it was not an emergency and they shouldn’t feel like they had to hurry. While he waited, he also called on one of the Bureau’s containment units, telling them that a large and aggressive Screamer had been temporarily destabilized and needed to be removed and relocated. He gave them the address and had to confirm at least three times that it was in fact, a house in Marana and that this ghost was not, in fact, the registered occupant. He finally got so fed up with their questions that he told them that they had about ten minutes to get out there and take care of things, then hung up and waited a few more minutes for the ambulance to arrive.
Current word count for NaNoWriMo: 4,210
“On pace” word count for NaNoWriMo: 20,000
Yeah, that’s shitty.
Why I want to still win NaNo:
- Winning feels good.
- I already abandoned this story back in 2016 and I keep getting the urge to write it, so I feel like I should at least give it another fair shot.
- NaNo is really the only time where I feel like I have to force myself to write everyday. Which is good.
- I really don’t need yet another failure on my resume this year.
- I feel like I need to do something creative, and drawing’s out because I BLOW AT IT.
Why I want to abandon NaNo this year:
- SERIOUSLY. BUSY.
- I haven’t had free time in like a year and a half and I’d really like a little bit of free time please lord
- It would go with the current theme of “Claudia Fails Hard at Everything She Tries in 2018” that I’ve got going on.
- I’d much rather deliberately quit than fail after trying. I know that’s like the worst attitude to have, but I give zero fucks.
Eh. I’ll give it a shot. Maybe.
It’s three days into NaNo and I’m already thinking of changing my story.
Why do I do this.
Just fucking stick with something for five minutes, you complete bag of worthless trash.
So it’s day one and I’m already behind.
Because that’s the type of loser I am this year, I guess.
In addition to 1) wanting to continue working on last year’s NaNo, despite its lameness, and 2) wanting to retry my 2016 NaNo idea, despite its lameness, I have another (lame) idea that I’ve had in the back of my head for a while. It’s an idea that I’m sure has been done thousands of times…but hasn’t everything? It’s all about how you do it, right?
Anyway. It involves a cruise ship on which it is discovered that one of the passengers has some contagious illness (possibly one that the CDC hasn’t fully identified yet, but is dangerously contagious and deadly) and no port will allow the cruise ship to dock due to the risk of spreading the illness, so they’re forced to remain at sea as more and more passengers get sick and provisions run low.
Yeah, I know, dumb.
IT STARTS SOON
I AM NOT PREPARED
Part of me wants to keep working on my story from last year, even though I know the plot is dumber than dumb and I would do absolutely nothing with that story other than put it in the drawer (or USB) with all the other garbage I’ve ever written.
Another part of me wants to re-try the story that I attempted back in 2016. Like, same idea and stuff, but scrap everything I’d done that year and restart it.
I’ll probably do that, but who actually knows. There’s also a strong possibility that I’ll fail again this year because THAT SEEMS TO BE ALL I KNOW HOW TO DO ANYMORE.
Dudes, I have had such a serious urge to write ever since NaNoWriMo ended. It’s freaky. I haven’t had just an urge to write in a long time.
More specifically, it’s an urge to keep working on my NaNo story, even though the thing is a piece of garbage and will never amount to anything.
Much like its creator.
But still. Maybe I’ll just have to keep working on it anyway. It’s really only like 30% – 40% done as far as the full story goes right now. Which is weird, ‘cause most of my NaNo stories (read: all of them) are at like 90% completed story-wise by the time I hit the 50,000.
ANYWAY. Time to write.
Heeeeeeeeey, guess what? I actually won NaNoWriMo this year! The last time I won it was in 2014, which is way too long ago.
- Total words: 50,250
- Percentage of total story complete: I dunno, maybe 40%?
This is also the first WriMo where I’ve felt like wanting to continue to work on the story after the month was up. It’s also the first time I have a story that would actually work as a novel-length thing. Prime, Google, and Arborhood would all work better as novelettes, probably.
Aloha, bitches! NaNoWriMo is almost over and I have a very good chance of actually winning for the first time since 2014. Which is pretty cool.
So to distract myself from everything (especially Annabelle), I present to you the short but sweet set of songs that I would consider to be part of the “soundtrack” to my NaNo project this year. There’s not much, but there are a few tuned in tracks (ha), so let’s do it.
Clair de Lune (Debussy) – This is the song I hear in my head when my main dude (Apollo) goes out on the main deck during a cool, calm night and witnesses the captain up on the main deck already, staring up into the stars as if asking them what his purpose is in everything. Kind of a special little moment between the two characters without any sort of interaction at all.
Where We’re Calling From (Doves) – This song plays when they finally reach the edge of the earth. It emerges out of the fog; at first they just hear the rumbling of the ocean breaking over the precipice, then as they get closer, the fog clears up a bit and they see the great chasm below that is the abrupt edge of the world.
10,000 Miles (Mary Chapin Carpenter) – This song hurts my soul, but it’s perfect for the one of the main ending scenes (the one I posted on the 15th, actually). I wanted the end to be a very heart-wrenching experience for Apollo, and this song fits it perfectly.
So it’s about that time in November where I annoy you all with an excerpt from my garbage bag of a NaNoWriMo story. SO LET’S GET TO IT!
Context: so this story exists in kind of a future world of ours where science has actually provided proof* that the earth is, in fact, a disk-shaped object rather than a spherical one. Basically, the timeline went from flat-earthers to, as I’m calling them, “round-earthers” (people who were convinced that the earth was a sphere, like we know today) to “disk-earthers,” or people who have come to accept the new scientific evidence that the earth is a disk.
The problem is that (for a number of reasons) no one has ever actually seen the edge of this disk. This story focuses on one crew who is trying to do exactly that: sail to the edge of the earth so as to obtain demonstrable proof of the fact that the earth is flat (and to, you know, explore, as explorers do).
[Edit: I had a different excerpt here originally, but I hated it and like this scene a little bit better.]
So the crew does turn out to be successful in their mission and they do in fact stumble upon the edge of the earth (though it takes them much longer to do so than their captain, McCasey, told them it would). However, once they see the edge of the earth from their ship, they are unable to get very close due to some extreme weather conditions that exist in the tumultuous atmosphere at the edge of the planet. So McCasey (who’s headed three previous missions to the edge of the earth, all of which had failed for one reason or another) has run the ship aground on one of the tiny islands near the edge and selected a group of men to proceed on foot so that they can get closer.
This scene is actually near the end of the story. Due to the amount of time it took for the ship to actually reach the edge of the earth, a lot of the men on the ship started doubting McCasey’s ability to lead (as well as his sanity; he starts getting weird and reclusive as time goes on). A decent number of these doubters are included in the small exhibition group that goes with McCasey to get to the edge on foot. Really, the only two people in the group who don’t doubt his abilities are the ship’s doctor (who’s also McCasey’s old friend) and Apollo. Apollo is the cartographer who’s been brought along to map the edge of the planet. He’s the only “disk-earth skeptic” on board and is one of the only cartographers around who still actively makes globes. He’s aboard because he’s one of the best cartographers in the world and because, upon hearing about the opportunity to sail to the edge of the earth, wanted to go along with it because he wanted to be there with others when it was revealed that there was, in fact, no “edge” because the earth was really round. Despite the fact that he and McCasey had vastly differing views about the shape of the earth (at least until they actually got to the edge), he and the captain became very close.
Anyway. A few days before this scene, there was an accident on their journey and two of the other men got killed. This really divided the group and basically set everyone except for the doctor and Apollo completely against McCasey. With the weather and conditions getting worse, everyone wanted to press on as quickly as possible, but McCasey still wants Apollo to do what he’d been brought along to do: sketch some maps of the edge of the planet. So he suggests that he stays behind with Apollo while the rest of the party continues ahead of them.
This scene occurs after a particularly rough set of days where McCasey and Apollo were stuck in near-blizzard conditions in sub-zero temperatures. They’re both very weak and sick (particularly McCasey) and so Apollo decides to set up their shelter for the rest of the day/night so that they can get a fresh start the next day. So he does that and the two hunker down for the night. Basically what happens here is McCasey knows that he’ll probably be the death of both of them if he keeps going in his injured/sick state, so he chooses to wander off into the snow instead.
I’m being really vague because I hate this freaking story and I know it’s no good, but the 15th is Excerpt Day, so y’all get to suffer through this thing with me. Also, this is me writing about something I know little to zero of (ships n’ stuff n’ exploring) with no time to research much (NaNo is writing, not research!) and zero editing.
(Nate, don’t read this, it’s terrible)
Apollo awoke to the sun blazing its way through the thin fabric of the tent and a looming feeling of dread in the pit of his stomach. That familiar hint of alarm was slight and it barely caught his attention, but it was strong enough that he did notice it.
It took him a second to register that he was alone. McCasey wasn’t beside him as he slowly transitioned from being half asleep to feeling a bit more awake. Figuring the captain had already woken and was outside of their makeshift shelter, Apollo took his time getting up. He was warm – finally – and he had no desire to end the feeling until he absolutely had to. Taking advantage of McCasey’s tendency to rise early and to stay awake after doing so, Apollo helped himself to the captain’s portion of the blankets and wrapped them around himself, reveling in the cocoon of comfort he knew would have to be broken in order for them to continue their journey to reach the others.
He sunk down into the blankets with the intention of staying in them as long as possible, which meant until McCasey returned to the shelter and prompted him to pack up to continue their walking. But as he lay back to try and catch a bit more sleep in the interim before the captain’s arrival, Apollo realized that the barely perceptible feeling of dread he’d experienced upon waking had transformed itself into something stronger. It felt now more like a pulsing ball of worry that was starting to eat at his stomach.
Apollo tried to rationalize this dread that had seemingly come out of nowhere. It was likely it was just a manifestation of his feelings regarding the whole second half of their mission. Ever since they had stepped off the ship to continue their journey on foot, things had seemed to go wrong at a fairly consistent pace. First the shock of how difficult it was to breathe in the thin atmosphere at the edge of the planet, then the rough going through the snow and wintry conditions, then the accident and deaths of Johnson and Davie.
The fight between Pauls and McCasey had truly been what separated the group, but the actual physical separation had come when McCasey had insisted on Apollo’s completion of the map and his unyielding desire to remain with the map maker until he finished, forcing the others to go ahead under the direction of Pauls. There was also McCasey’s second injury of their journey by foot, which had made it all the more difficult for him and Apollo to catch up with the faster moving group of crew.
Still, though, McCasey had remained optimistic throughout all of it, and had assured Apollo that if they got early starts and were able to keep up a steady pace during daylight, they would be able to catch the rest of the crew in less than four days, five max.
Where was McCasey?
Thinking of the captain made Apollo realize that the man had yet to return to the shelter. Surely using the bathroom or just getting some fresh air wouldn’t normally take him so long. Maybe his injury was slowing him down.
“Captain?” Apollo called it from inside without moving, not yet wanting to release the warmth from his cocoon of blankets. He waited for a moment for a response, and when he got none, he called again.
“Captain? Sir? Are you out there?”
The feeling of dread in his stomach was boiling now; Apollo unwound himself from the thick blankets and tossed on outer jacket as quickly as he could to try to contain the heat still radiating from his warmed body. He poked his head out of their shelter to see where McCasey was.
“Sir?” He had to shield his eyes from the sting of the blowing snow, the storm having come in quickly on the fast- moving morning wind. The sun, which had woken him with its brightness, was now muted by the dense clouds above him. But even without the stinging blaze of the sun in his eyes, he couldn’t see the captain anywhere.
“McCasey, sir? Are you out here?” Apollo ventured out of the shelter now, more earnestly scanning around their shelter to see if there was any indication of where the captain was. He plodded around a bit, eyes blinking away the stinging snowflakes, looking. Had McCasey gone back in the shelter behind him, and Apollo had just missed him?
“McCasey!” Apollo spoke a bit louder. He turned to check behind him, and that’s when he saw the footprints. They were unmistakably McCasey’s and were fairly fresh, though were quickly being filled with the rapidly falling snow. For the briefest of moments, the thought flashed through his head that McCasey had gone on without him, trying to catch the group by getting an earlier head start than he could have if he’d waited until Apollo was awake.
But this thought disappeared as quickly as it arose as Apollo realized that the tracks McCasey had left were going off in the wrong direction. Rather than heading in the same direction that they had been going when they’d stopped the night before, the footprints went off in a perpendicular direction – nowhere near where the others were and nowhere near anyplace that Apollo could think was worth going.
“McCasey!” Apollo called. Nothing answered him but the wind and its whipping through the falling snow. Apollo took a few bumbling steps in an attempt to follow the footprints, then called again. “McCasey!”
Nothing. More earnestly than the first time, Apollo attempted to run in the direction of the footprints. He grunted, the newly-fallen snow making the otherwise natural action incredibly difficult and tedious. In a manner of less than a minute, he was gasping for breath and struggling to stay upright.
Had the captain been trying to scout out a route to follow and mistakenly gone off in the wrong direction? Had he just gone outside to get some fresh air and gotten lost in the falling snow? Had he gone further away from the shelter than he’d originally planned, and in trying to get back, gotten lost in the near white- out conditions? The circumstances of the weather and of their predicament made all of these options possible. But as Apollo continued his vain attempt to follow the footprints, which were rapidly disappearing under the falling snow, he knew that none of these were what had really happened.
Apollo was gasping from exhaustion and from anger now, his tear-filled eyes straining to follow footprints that were little more than shallow indents in the thick snow underfoot. He gritted his teeth and, with every ounce of strength and every molecule of oxygen he had in his body, he lifted his head and yelled.
“Coward!” Apollo shouted it into the falling snow, his voice breaking with a sob. “You coward!” But as soon as the words burst from his lips, he regretted them. Stumbling, he finally succumbed to the heavy snow around him and collapsed to the ground. “I’m sorry,” he whispered into the snow, shaking, hot tears falling from his eyes and burning through the cold whiteness beneath him. “I’m sorry.”
The coldness that had been so all consuming a mere five minutes ago had now left him. Through his tear-blurred eyes, Apollo could see the rapidly-building snow begin to pile around his lower arms as he remained motionless and kneeling in the snow. For the briefest moment, he succumbed to it, accepting his fate as the white flakes began to bury him. He was content to be consumed by it.
But in another minute that feeling was gone and replaced with nothing but numbness. Somehow he pulled himself up and out of the snow. Somehow he made his way back to the makeshift shelter and climbed inside. He made no effort to warm himself in the blankets and instead remained on the cold, hard floor, shaking from cold and fear and anger.
Time passed. Apollo knew not how much. His eyes were glazed with tears, his mind clouded with a numb feeling of shock and fear. But the cold finally returned to him and, shivering, he crawled beneath the shelter of the blankets that he had left to go search for the captain. And as his body warmed, his mind seemed to come back to him.
Perhaps McCasey would return. Perhaps this was nothing more than a mistake. A quick survey of the captain’s belongings suggested he had taken nothing with him when he departed. It had been a scouting mission, Apollo thought. It had to be. He would return, hopefully before dark.
But the approaching night showed no inclination for lenience. Beneath his cocoon of blankets, Apollo watched the shadows as they moved along the walls of the shelter, bending as the sun traveled on its low arc through the sky. Around what Apollo assumed to be five in the evening, he consumed his portion of the dinner ration, his eyes never moving from the door of the shelter, keen still on seeing the shadow of the captain approaching from outside.
McCasey was not back by nightfall. The sun sank, darkness filled the void left by the departing shadows, and Apollo used precious lamp oil to keep the tent’s hanging lamp as bright as possible all night—a lighthouse in a sea of snow and cold. As much as he tried, Apollo did not make it through the night awake, and was ashamed when the sudden brightness of the abrupt morning of the edge of the earth startled him into a wakeful state. Momentarily panicked, he glanced around to see if any of the inside of the shelter had been disturbed, suggesting that the captain had returned in the night. Finding nothing, he stumbled free of the blankets and unzipped the shelter door to get a glance outside.
The snow drifts had piled up so high during the night that Apollo actually had to push away a decent amount of snow from the other side of the door to even be able to see out, but this and the fact that there were no visible signs of footprints outside suggested what Apollo feared but what he had seemed to know all along.
McCasey had not returned.
*This involves a whole bunch of nonsense that I’m not going to get into here, so just take it as fact in the story.
So NaNoWriMo’s actually going decently well this year. I got way behind on like day 2 but was able to catch back up and have been pretty steadily on pace for the rest of the days.
The thing that’s the best, though, is the fact that I’m doing a lot of my writing at night after Nate goes to bed…which means that half the time I’m in my weird half-awake/half-asleep state of mind where I do and say things that I later have no recollection of doing or saying.*
I’m only about 17,000 words into this thing, but here’s some nonsense that has snuck its way in due to my weird half-sleep brain.
- I spend half a page talking about Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts has absolutely nothing about this story. I’m writing about explorers on a ship. No Girl Scouts. But my idiot brain made this really dumb transition from talking about the usefulness of the scientific method to talking about whether or not it’s a good idea to force little girls to join Girl Scouts. Because the two things are so related.
- Pretty sure phrases like “tender throat” belong in erotica, not in this particular story.
- HAHAHA, so my main character’s name is Apollo, but apparently there’s been at least three separate instances where my half-asleep brain has misspelled “Apollo” so terribly that auto-correct has changed it to “appalling.” I agree, auto-correct. Appalling.
- Semicolons; so many semicolons.
- Parts of this really read like a bad porno and it’s making me seriously reconsider the genre.
- Genre: “Adventure.”
- There are swaths of this thing that I honestly don’t remember writing. When in the hell did I write half of this?
GOD THIS STORY IS TERRIBLE
*For example, not too long ago I was browsing Reddit on Big Compy late at night and the next thing I know I’m waking up on the couch having zero memory – zero – of when and how I got on the couch. It’s actually kind of scary when this kind of stuff happens.
UGH I’m already way behind on my NaNoWriMo words. I should be at 6,667 words today to be on pace, but instead I’m at 3,407.
The worst part of NaNo is just getting started. Like, once I’m at 7,000 to 8,000 words, I feel like I’ve got some momentum and some actual substance to a story and can go from there. But until then?
Me @ 9:00: I should do some writing.
Me @ 9:30:
Me @ 10:00:
Me @ 10:30:
Me @ 11:00:
Me @ 11:30:
Me @ midnight: WELL I GUESS THIS DAY IS OVER
Get on it, Mahler.
That starts in a few days, doesn’t it?
Well, I have an idea, even though it’s a garbage one. Though that kind of describes all my NaNo ideas, so…
I’ll give it a shot. Might not be able to win this year because of the combination of work, my walking goal, and the fact that Nate and I just bought Rock Band, but hey. WE’LL SEE I GUESS!
I deleted my NaNoWriMo novel because IT IS GARBAGE AND SO AM I.
Edit: I also deleted my NaNoWriMo profile because EVERYTHING I WRITE IS GARBAGE AND SO AM I.
I’m super into my dumb NaNoWriMo story right now. I know it’s early in the month and I have very little written right now, but like I always do, I have a few songs that I think “match” well with the tone/theme/goings on of my story. So here’s the list for Ghost Town Realty:
- I Died So I Could Haunt You by The Five Ghosts. Kind of an obvious choice, of course, but how many songs about ghosts/haunting are this upbeat?
- Hello by Adele. I like how wanting this song sounds. There’s a yearning behind it that I think matches really well with the relationship between one of my living characters and one of my ghost characters.
- Indigo by Epica. I don’t know what the climax of my story will be yet, but this would be the song to go along with it.
- Life is Beautiful by Vega 4. Another kind of mournful/yearning song, but with a slightly different feel. My main character and his struggles with live vs. death needs a mournful song.
- When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die by Moby. The right-after-the-climax song or the sad-but-resolute-end-of-the-story song.
So I don’t have too many “large” sections of my story yet, but I did kind of write out short descriptions of the ten different types of ghosts featured in the story. So that’ll be my excerpt I suppose. ONWARD! And keep in mind that this is all rough draft, unedited nonsense. And it probably won’t even be in the “final” draft of the story anyway; it was just a good place to kind of stop and describe the ghost types.
The encounter with the suspected Drone that afternoon had left him shaking; upon returning home, he quickly dug out his Bureau manual – something he hadn’t touched in years – to check and see if he had actually seen a Drone and not just an unusual looking lower form of ghost.
However, he was familiar enough with the lower types that he suspected the latter not to be the case. The lowest type of ghost, the Ghostlet, was one he had seen since he was 21 years old. His first encounter with this type of ghost involved all the typical encounters with Ghostlets. Nick had been playing video games in his basement when he’d heard a commotion upstairs. Upon investigating, he found an odd, clumsy being stumbling about in his kitchen, knocking over things on his counter and opening and shutting every cabinet it could find.
Luckily, Nick’s childhood fascination with ghosts had carried on into his teen and early adult years, and he was studying to become an employee of the Bureau of Death and the Deceased. He recognized right away that the being was a ghost and, specifically, that it was a Ghostlet. The characteristic clumsiness, as well as the way it stuttered when it finally spoke to him after he’d calmed it down, suggested as much. After much stuttering and sputtering from the ghost, Nick eventually gathered that he wanted out of the house, but had forgotten how houses worked since becoming a ghost. He had been opening and closing the cupboards to try and find the exit. Nick had led it to the door and the Ghostlet, clumsily grateful and apologetic for the mess he’d made, disappeared down the road. Nick had never seen him again.
But he’d seen many Ghostlets since then. Apart from the clumsiness and stuttering, he knew them to be characterized by their close appearance to their human counterparts. They were, of course, the ghosts closest to the living in terms of timeline. Thus, they held on to their physical human forms, sometimes even appearing indistinguishable to humans for those who were near enough to their deaths to see them. In fact, the Ghostlets had been one of the last recognized ghost types, as those who didn’t see them felt no experience – good, bad, or otherwise – from them, and those that could see them would often confuse them for living beings rather than ghosts.
But the Phantoms were different. The next step up, the Phantoms were the “stereotypical” ghosts that a lot of people thought of when they heard the word. A Phantom ghost was one who had lost all the “flesh” of a human and, unlike a Ghostlet, stood like an almost transparent projection of a human being. Social, drawn to humans, and naturally curious, the Phantoms were the ones most often accidentally photographed and the ones that many haunted house claimers used to justify their assertions that ghosts lived in a property. As harmless as a ghost could get, the Phantoms were usually the most benign of all ghost types. Their friendliness led to a particular law being passed that stated any house occupied by a Phantom could also, should both parties agree to it, be occupied by a human or multiple humans as well. Of course, as is the case with any other ghost, only those close enough to their deaths could see the Phantoms. They were common – not as common as Ghostlets, but a ghost that was seen frequently by the common person and by those in the Bureau.
Standers were Phantoms but with social anxiety disorder. That was the lighthearted way Nick’s manual had treated them and how it explained the difference between them and the step from which they evolved. Shier than Phantoms, Standers were usually stranded amongst people solely due to the reason that while many felt as if they could float through walls and floors at this stage in their existence as a ghost, moving through solid, non-organic objects was something that didn’t happen until a ghost was, at the very least, a Blue Type. But the Standers always seemed to be confident in their ability to warp physical space around them and were always disappointed when they’d planned to use this ability to escape sticky situations but were instead left to deal with the people around them, many of whom able to see them.
The next progression, Blue Types, were another general ghost stereotype. Blue Types were the first ghost stage able to transfer through matter, and thus were the ones that often appeared sliding through walls or beneath rugs or between stories in a house. True to their name, these ghosts emitted a soft, blue haze about them. Blue Types were commonly lonely and liked to be around people, but were more elusive than the Standers, as they could finally fade through a wall or drop through the floor when they no longer felt like being social.
Blue Types, like most ghost types, were often very quiet, their presences felt more by sight and touch than by audible cues. However, as they progressed in age, the Blue Types became Drones, the loudest of all the ghost types. The sign that a person hadprogressed from being able to observe the Blue Types to being able to observe the Drones – and thus, the sign that a person was that much closer to their own death – was not seeing this new type of ghost, but rather, steadily becoming aware of a low, persistent, unreal hum that seemed to be emanating up from the ground wherever the person went. The sound came from the sidewalk, from the pavement, from the garden, from the trees. It was all-encompassing and, for many, something that was difficult to deal with during the first year or so of having to get used to it. In fact, though it took a couple of years to do so, doctors and psychiatrists finally correlated the relationship between when many individuals progressed enough Witness Levels to be able hear the Drones and when many people tended to experience mid-life crises.
Ghosts that progressed past Drones quieted down once they entered their next stage: the Haunters. Haunters floated. They floated everywhere. They followed people, followed cars, followed flocks of livestock around farms. Perpetually curious about the human world they’d left behind, Haunters were always observing, and doing so quietly. In fact, a great number of people nearer to their deaths than most tended to appreciate the Haunters the most, as they were the calm, quiet sanity that followed at least a decade of having to hear the Drone’s low, mournful whine.
Once a ghost progressed to a Soul Slick, they stopped being bound by many of the laws of nature. Soul Slicks were small – the smallest, usually, of all the ghost types – and failed to resemble their original human form even in the most basic sense. Abstract, elusive, and commonly quick to move from location to location, the Soul Slicks were usually the ghosts responsible for misplaced items, objects moving without seeming to be moved by anything that could move them, and for many mirror experiences involving ghosts.
Soul Slicks, after a substantial period of time, became Whispers. Television static that seemed to talk, voices on the phone line that seemed to be there behind the steady drone of the dial tone, garbled words that crawled out of the sink drain as the water sucked and spun down – these were the work of Whispers. This form of ghost was fragile, fleeting, and difficult to capture, even by someone who was advanced enough towards their own death that they could clearly see them. Most were too fragile to attempt a possession, and the rare Whisper that managed its way into the being of a living being usually had little time to do anything with the body before the being’s life expelled it as if it were a poison. In general, as it stood, Whispers possessed no desire to interact with living things. They were, in most cases, a higher level version of the Standers.
As gentle, fleeting, and shy as the Whispers were, Screamers were the exact opposite. It was common knowledge that a ghost could not cause the death of a creature in any way (apart from, perhaps, a human having a heart attack from fright – which in itself was rare, since everyone spent their lives with ghosts and thus were rarely startled by them). However, if a human came into contact with a Screamer, it was not unusual for them to feel like this common knowledge was about to meet the ultimate test.
Screamers were aggressive. As such advanced ghosts, many of them were attached as strongly to their respective residences as any human would be. It was widely assumed that Screamers, like every other type of ghost, knew that it could not cause mortal harm to a human. However, very few of them acted without the restraint provided by this knowledge. Reports of Screamer encounters usually involved some sort of struggle or trauma – being thrown down stairs, getting slammed against walls by the ghost as it hurled itself through behind, furniture thrown about and causing blunt force trauma, and various other injuries that resulted from the interaction of an overly aggressive ghost and a terrified human.
Then there were the White Lights. The top level. The end. The point at which there was nothing beyond. Nick’s manual had had a surprisingly thick chapter on the White Lights, despite the fact that the first sentence of the chapter somewhat shamefully admitted how little humans knew about this final ghost form.
All information about White Lights, he’d read, had had to be gleaned from those rare and often traumatized individuals who had, for some reason or another, seen their White Light as they faced the brink of death but who had then been grabbed and pulled back into the world of the living. These people, few and far between, all seemed to have slightly different experiences with their respective White Lights. Some said their Light spoke to them. Others said that their Light was silent, but had beckoned them closer with a cold, bright, finger – like appendage. Even others said that their White Light had appeared so far off in the distance that they had the compulsion to run towards it in order to not let it escape.