Saturday, July 24, 2010

Selected Works from my Applied Storytelling Theory Folder

In my second term of college I had a class called 'Applied Storytelling.' It does sound quite similar to the plain Storytelling Theory class I had in first term, but the difference appears to be in that it was practical - applied - and not theory - a lot of talking and thinking.

We did the same exact thing in this class, though. We read short stories, then wrote our own based on criteria determined by our professor, who was the exact same one from the previous class. And it occurred to me that it might be a neat idea to do another entry in which I showcase some of the stories I actually wrote.

So here's part II in the whole matter - my selected works from Applied Storytelling theory.

1. 'Running away' story
Not something I was really interested in writing since a piece on running away is so common these days and I've read enough of them, we all had to write a short story based on this theme.

It was easier to leave while everyone was still asleep. The house was quiet.
I’d had enough. No more. If it meant so little to them, I wasn’t going to bother. Or be a bother, rather. That’s how it seemed.
            My life in this household had never been fair to me. In my eyes people cared more about their own endeavours than about anything else. Whenever I needed anything they’d tell me to stop complaining. My older brother, who was always arrogant, never listened to a word I said without telling me what was wrong with it and me, and always concluded I was an annoying complainer who had nothing better to do but bring people down. Whenever I told my father my brother did something to hurt my feelings, he’d dismiss me with the “stop complaining” bit and then my brother would come down on me and tell me he “didn’t like it when I did that” with a cross voice, as if, just for him, that was a blatant offence against his rule, which didn’t really exist.
            If I was such a stupid negative bother who’s needs accounted for as needless complaining, then they weren’t a family that could provide for me. There was absolutely no nourishment or care at this place. Granted I could get things on my own and provide for myself, but if my feelings were hurt or if something bad happened to me, they’d just dismiss it as usual. I always felt extremely small in a household of people who had no capacity for making someone feel better if they got hurt. And lots of capacity for dismissal and putting one down.
            Anyway, that’s the main reason for my departure. I’m not a stupid little kid anymore, not someone who could be, with an annoyed huff, moved out of the way like I normally was in this family. Because I’m not so helpless and sad that suicide would be entertaining, I’m getting away. If I were of age I’d get myself emancipated. They would probably take delight in the idea. But the circumstances being what they are as I’m 13, this is what I’m forced to do.
            I crept down the hall, as silent as possible. The floor, while carpeted, did creak in some places, but I knew where those were well enough to avoid them or step on them gently. After reaching the stairs, I got onto the banister and went down by inserting my feet in between the poles, because they didn’t loudly protest like the stairs did. I climbed over the railing near the bottom, stepped across the desk on the other side, and let myself quietly onto the floor. My destination was the basement, where there was a door that let to steps outside.
            After unlocking the door but arranging it so the lock would fall into place after it was closed, I stepped outside and closed it. It was a mild spring night. My departure was so far successful – my brother was still likely tangled up in his specially-made comforters in his narcissistically-decorated bedroom, and my parents were still wrapped around each other in their own bed. I remember walking in on them once while they were asleep, and it was practically disgusting. How many adults sleep nude these days? Man.
            My destination was a friend’s house. He and I had been planning this for a week. He knew of my situation, and he hadn’t denounced it as useless words of complaint – he’d seen is as a real situation that wasn’t fair or liveable, so he’d agreed to let me sleep at his house for awhile. His parents didn’t know – though, they were quite nice to me – but I would be very discreet. I would be sleeping in his basement.
            I trekked across the neighbourhood streets, which were mostly empty at this time of night. As it was quarter to one am, it was perfect. It would only take ten minutes to get to Leonard’s house. He would be waiting for me there. I didn’t have my bicycle with me, as his parents would notice its sudden appearance and get suspicious. Maybe once or twice I could pretend I left it there, but the ruse wouldn’t last long. I just had to live without it, or use his bike.
            Getting there, I saw a dimly lit main floor window. He was expecting me. I quietly crossed his lawn and as I approached, a door opened a crack.
            “Yeah, Leonard. It’s me.”
            The door opened more and I let myself in.
            “Welcome,” he whispered. “Guest suite is in the basement, follow me.”
            We quietly walked throughout the living room to the kitchen, where the stairs to the basement were located. Lights were already on down there, and a room with an open doorway was waiting. We entered the basement and crept into the room, where a bed with a night table sat, and I put my things down.
            “Well, there you are,” my friend said with a slightly more audible voice. “I’ll be upstairs in my room. Tomorrow I’ll come down and get you some breakfast, though it might be after our breakfast because of, you know, my parents and all.”
            “Yeah, of course,” I said reassuringly. “Thanks for this Leonard. I’m really happy and excited to get away from there.”
            “No problem. Have a good sleep and I’ll be here in the morning. Night.”
            After he crept back upstairs and I’d closed the door, I got into the bed and made myself comfortable. I couldn’t unpack anything because I didn’t really have much to begin with, but I also didn’t want to make this place home because I couldn’t leave a mark of my presence anywhere. From now on I was the itinerant traveller, and I never stayed anywhere or made anything proper home until I eventually got a job, made money, emancipated myself, and bought my own place. For now this was all there was to do. Maybe this weekend I could arrange a “legitimate” sleepover with another friend? With their parents knowing I was there, all innocent? That’s an idea. Anyway. . .
            I went off to sleep with a feeling of adventure and sense of freedom from that family. It was good.

            I was woken up the next morning by Leanard, who had come down after his family ate breakfast.
            “I had to wait until everyone was out of the kitchen before I could get any food, so I’m sorry for the wait,” he said.
            “That’s perfectly fine,” I relented, knowing he had to be careful. “I’m glad you weren’t caught, really, and that’s what counts.
            We left for school that day. I noticed my older brother in the halls but I didn’t go near him nor give him any reason for my existence. All was well. Even classes went well, when they were usually boring. Maybe the lack of my family was part of my feeling better? Probably.
            After school I spent as much time outside as possible. The problem was getting into Leonard’s house without having to leave. Most of the afternoon was spent with Leonard and I devising a way to have me leave his house, then sneak me back in after. I couldn’t necessarily stay out all night until his parents fell asleep.
            I left his house after they had dinner (I was invited so I ate at the table). Then an hour later, Leonard let me back in through the kitchen door and we crept downstairs while his parents and sister were watching TV in the living room.
            “I’ve convinced my parents that I’m sleeping downstairs from now on,” he told me. I was surprised.
            “Why? Now they have a reason to come downstairs when I’m there.”
            “Sure, but I have a reason for going downstairs all the time – my room’s now down there.”
            “Oh. But, they...this is weird. We’ve got both the pros and cons right in front of us.”
            “And besides, they won’t go into my room when I’m in there unless I invite them.”
            “But what if they see me?”
            “They won’t.”
            “So where are you sleeping then?”
            He sighed. “I’ll have to sleep in your room with you.”
            “Oh, no. Not in bed with me.”
            “No, no. I’ll be on the floor. We’ll take turns.”
            “Are you sure?”
            “Yeah, I’m sure.”
            So it was that night that I slept on the floor beside the bed, away from the door, that we were still successful in our ruse. I don’t know if my parents and family knew of my disappearance yet, and if they did, they’d probably just be annoyed, and strictly annoyed at me. Where have I gotten to now? That kind of thing.
            Five minutes after the light was turned off, I heard someone come downstairs to the basement.
            “Leonard? Where’s that book you took from me?” It sounded like a girl.
            Before I knew it, she’d appeared at the doorway. I froze under the covers next to the bed. Luckily, I was hidden from the doorway.
            “Lisa, you know I wouldn’t have it here. It’s in my room upstairs.” He sounded annoyed.
            “Well then can I search it?”
            “Knock yourself out. And please don’t come down here at night again like that, you startled me.”
            Me as well, no doubt.
            “Okay.” She disappeared and retreated back up the stairs.
            “That was a close call,” Leonard breathed.
            “Sure,” I agreed.
            We spent the next few hours tossing and turning before falling asleep.

2. The Children's Story
Again, not something I'm usually prone to write. I didn't like doing that exercise, and what I did end up writing probably isn't perfectly suitable for a child any younger than nine years old to read. Some words I used (like 'craftsmanship') are likely too big for a young child to read or pronounce, and the Madness/In the City/Michael Caine references I based it on wouldn't be subject for anyone, let alone a child, to notice. But here it is anyway:

In The City

Page 1: In the city was where Nelson lived
In a real house, not an apartment block

Page 2: Often he would play with his friends in the street
Sometimes, they’d go far up into his tree

Page 3: For in his tree he had a marvellous tree-house
It was built with excellent craftsmanship by his older brother.

Page 4: Sometimes his older brother would be around
To cavort, and jump, and run up aground.

Page 5: They would always have fun with his older brother
He’d always find time to make their weekends special.

Page 6: One Saturday, with the sun high in the sky
Nelson and his brother were out playing spies

Page 7: Around the bend they peered through some shrubs
Said Nelson, “We’ve got him, he’s playing with those grubs!”

Page 8: Said the older brother, “Let’s get him!”
And off they captured good neighbour Nick

Page 9: And up to the tree-house they climbed and scaled
The interrogation was to begin before lunch went stale

Page 10: Said Nick with exasperation as they questioned him,
“You’ve got the wrong person, I’m not Michael Caine!”

Page 11: “But Michael Caine isn’t who he is,” claimed Nelson with confidence.
“He’s actually someone named Maurice.”
Added the older brother, “Maurice J. Micklewhite.”
Nick looked at him. “You mean that guy mentioned in that song named for him?”
“Yes,” affirmed Nelson. “In the opening credits.”

Page 12: “But alas,” cried Nick, “you’ve found the hint. The problem is I’m not him.”
“Who is he then,” the two brothers questioned.
“He’s on your record, singing his name” said Nick adamantly, for there was nothing else to question.

Page 13: And so the three, after their game of spying
Went inside to listen to the record.
And to their delight and their success
Michael Caine proclaimed his identity.

Page 14: “Well now, the mystery is solved,” pronounced Nelson
“We know he’s there to listen to again and again!”

Note: 'Nelson' is the name of my younger half-brother, and he does have a neighbor friend named Nick. The whole interrogation was based around the confusion of the real name of Michael Caine, the British actor, who uses his proper name - Maurice J. Micklewhite - when not working in his capabilities as an actor. It also refers to the music video of the Madness single named after this actor (and the record, Keep Moving, on which this song also appears) and the fact that at the beginning of the video, in the opening credits, it says 'A Maurice J. Micklewhite production.' Michael Caine himself also provided vocals (simply saying his name) which is also mentioned in this story.

No normal, everyday kid (or world-wise adult) would be able to see that, unless they loved second-wave ska bands as teenagers in 1980s Britain.

3. 'Love Letter based on a synesthetic lover'
Much more fun and interesting, the task was to write a love letter based on someone with a particular interest or hobby or occupation, and I asked if I could write mine based on synesthesia. I've written on here how synesthesia can affect how I feel toward someone (take all those bloody posts on the song 'In the City' for a glaring example) and this was a great opportunity.

Your warm smile, that wonderful personality, it’s all amazing. It brings to mind thoughts of wonderful blue, white, and hints of green. My feelings and enthusiasm for you are greatly amplified when I hear particular songs and certain instruments within that make these images and abstracts flourish, and you come to mind. Not to say that they are the only sources for my interest. They just help greatly. Amid the personalities that I conjure up with these textures and colors and shapes, yours renders the most and the best, it virtually shines. In a world that tends to be filled with grey and shallowness, this world of bright color and the fact that you are desirable to me as well as deep and wonderfully ebullient alleviates that wonderfully and only helps everything along in life. When I think of you, I see the colors and textures and feel one hundred percent ebullient myself, and everything seems eternally bright and wonderful. I want to love life.

I would include a fourth story, but unfortunately, the subject matter is quite inappropriate. Not in a violent or ignorant or erotic way, the timing is just bad, and even if the timing were good, I think it would be too much to certain people who could read it. I'd written it in the winter and early spring (like all of these) and it concerned someone named Ian who travels to a particular western Canadian city to meet a girl in surprise after she got off school. They're both genuinely happy to see each other and...anyway, however warm or delightful it sounds, it currently isn't appropriate. I don't think so anyway.

Had I ever started or finished any of the other assignments and stories, I would have more, but I'd really gotten sluggish that second term. Hope these are enjoyable nonetheless.

Justin C.

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