Tag Archives: characters

Team Edward Team Jacob

So unless you live under a rock, you know the terms “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob.” They’re shorthand to differentiate between the two Twilight camps. Those in the “Team Edward” camp rooted for Bella and Edward. Those in “Team Jacob” decided that Bella’s breakup with Edward was actually a positive thing, as it brought her to Jacob.

Why am I, a non-Twilight fan, talking about this? It’s because the Team Edward, Team Jacob phenomenon doesn’t just apply to Twilight. Since the dawn of time, storytellers have tugged listener’s heartstrings between two potential love interests in romantic tales. Think of Luke, Leia and Han in “Star Wars,” or Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton fighting over Cate Blanchett in “Bandits.”

We almost always “take sides” in these stories, rooting for the hero (or heroine) who, in our opinion, deserves the protagonist more. Some of us remain staunchly loyal to the first love interest, experiencing vicarious jealousy when the second shows up. The less sentimental among us don’t play by such first come, first served rules, and we’re willing to accept whichever person seems more awesome.

I’m sentimental. Unless the story makes it clear from the outset that the first lover is a complete loser, I’m going to root for him to the bitter end. In other words, I am always a Team Edward.

Until now.

The magical web comic that changed my mind is Red String. *spoilers imminent* Red String, an online American manga at strawberrycomics.com, tells the story of Miharu, a tenth-grade Japanese girl who is unwillingly thrown into an arranged marriage. As luck (or fate?) would have it, she falls in love with her intended. But things get tricky when a second guy shows up, also claiming to be her arranged fiance. It turns out to be a misunderstanding, as he’s actually betrothed to her cousin–but unfortunately, he’s already fallen for Miharu!

Following my usual pattern, I rooted for First Guy. He and Miharu fell in love in chapter one, after all, and Miharu believed it was fate. Second Guy was first presented as an antagonistic threat to true love.

So what on earth made me switch teams?

When First Guy’s parents change their minds about Miharu, they browbeat him to break it off with her. Feeling that the situation is beyond his control, he gives up. Miharu is crushed, and Second Guy is there to help her get through it. At first I thought this was just a red herring, the author instigating a love triangle even though she knows perfectly well that First Guy will be back. But as I read on, I noticed something interesting; Miharu and Second Guy have a happier, more “real” friendship than her relationship with First Guy.

Miharu and Second Guy go to the amusement park together. They do painting projects. They laugh and banter. I was really getting into the chemistry of this second couple. Mortified at myself, I went back and read the beginning chapters of Red String to re-immerse myself in the guy I was “really” rooting for. And I found that, in comparison, he was–emo. Sure, he liked Miharu, but that infatuation with her seemed to define their whole relationship, apart from having anything in common. He was moody, had emotional problems relating to his family, and they experienced drama together more often than they experienced a carefree relationship.  Against my will, I began to hope that Second Guy was here to stay.

What about you? In love triangles, do you typically root for the first lover, or the interloper? Or does it depend on the story? What would make you “switch teams” in a story?

I encourage all of you to stay tuned to Red String. Go back and read it from the beginning. Join “Team First Guy” or “Team Second Guy” and let the battle begin!

RHDavis

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Filed under Graphic Novels, Uncategorized

Tuesdays With Tuesday–Week 3

Welcome to Tuesdays with Tuesday. For last week’s installment, go here.

Tuesday

So, my post is a couple of days late. Things happened this week–things I didn’t really want to talk about right away. But now events are escalating, and I have to write it all down to try and make sense of it.

On Monday, a detective visited our office. Yes, you heard right. An honest-to-goodness chain-smoking modern day Sherlock Holmes in a pair of worn-out loafers and a pressed white shirt. He had this dark brown mustache that bristled out under his nose, like one of those woolly worms you find crossing the road in hordes every autumn. It moved like a woolly worm every time he talked. I kept expecting it to crawl away.

He introduced himself as Detective Dawes, and called us into the break room one by one to talk about–what else?–Ike Cleavers. That’s all anyone in this office can think about these days.

Detective Dawes talked to Misty first, then some of the guys Ike worked with on his latest project. Then he called Penny back. After about ten minutes, she minced back out with small lines pinched around her mouth. When she sat down, her fingers fidgeted with the papers on her desk, but she didn’t really look at them.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

Her lower lip disappeared under the worried chewing of her teeth. It left a ruby red lipstick smear on her left cuspid. “He thinks Ike was in some kind of trouble,” she said.

“Legal trouble?”

She shook her head. “In trouble as in, had some kind of enemy.” She spoke the words low, glanced around, and went back to work.

I blinked, sat back in the chair to digest this. I’m no stranger to the phenomenon of making enemies. In this world, if you think for yourself even a fraction of the time, you’re going to piss somebody off, and you’d better just get used to it. The concept didn’t alarm me too much, though obviously Penny thought it tantamount to discussing the anti-Christ.

“Tuesday!” Misty shouted down the hall. “Your turn.”

I found Detective Dawes both professional and un-alarming. Unless you count the previously mentioned face-woolly-worm an alarming feature, which, arguably, you could. But he kept me quite calm and on track during his questioning. He started with how well I knew Ike.

“Not very,” I said. “He’d ask me to file something for him every now and then. Sometimes we said hi in the break room, or waved when he passed my house on his runs.”

“He lives near you?” Detective Dawes said. “How close?”

“A few blocks. You have to make a couple turns to get there.”

“So you can’t see his driveway from your home?”

“No,” I said, wondering at the weird question. “It’s way too far. Why?”

“We’re trying to find out if any strange visitors or cars have been to Ike’s house in the past few weeks. Do you ever pass by his home?”

Thus began a long process of digging for information about anyone unusual who might have contacted Ike recently. I was singularly unhelpful; Ike truly is not a part of my daily routine other than the odd hello at work.

“Detective Dawes,” I said at last, “may I ask what this is about? Where do you think Ike went?”

He sat up straighter, and the woolly worm twitched. “Mrs. Jones, to be perfectly frank, we think he might have been killed.”

I’ve no idea why I didn’t recognize this as a possibility in the last two weeks. I assumed Ike had disappeared on purpose, maybe gotten in a fight with a girlfriend or had a sudden personal emergency. I even wondered if he’d run from a huge debt owed to drug lords or something (because drug lords are so prevalent in mid-sized southern Illinois towns). The thought that he might actually be rotting in someone’s trunk had not crossed my mind.

Now I understood why Penny was so upset.

Luckily, the work day came to a close not long after my interview with Detective Dawes, and I scuttled home before I could do too much damage with my half-distracted brain.

But the thing that really upset me happened today, when I came home from work a few minutes ago.

I was on my way up the ramshackle staircase to our apartment when Mr. Chicory came out his front door. I think the metallic squeal of our apartment stairs draws him outside with the promise of conversation, because he always catches me, no matter how quietly I pull into my drive.

I hoped I could get rid of him by talking about something unpleasant, so I went for broke. “Hey Mr. Chicory. I found out today that Ike Cleavers was most likely murdered. He’s probably in bloody pieces in the back of someone’s car right now. Weird huh?” I said a silent prayer of apology for being so irreverent of the dead, but come on. It’s Mr. Chicory. I’m sure Ike wouldn’t mind.

“I heard something about that from his next-door neighbors,” Mr. Chicory said. “Though your version is a bit more grotesque.” He said this with an air of long-suffering, as though I had begged him to come out here only to regale him with gore.

I kept going up the stairs, hoping he would take the hint and go back inside. “Well, have a nice day,” I said. I was now high up enough to glance over his back fence at the mound of dirt still sitting unattended in his back yard. “You doing any more gardening?”

Even from halfway up the stairs, I heard the impatient sigh escape his nose. “Why would I be gardening in the middle of winter?”

“I don’t know.” I gestured to the mound of earth. “Why are you?”

Mr. Chicory’s head swiveled towards his back yard so fast I thought it would fly right off his shoulders. His eyes went wide behind those thick glasses, and he actually stuttered. “I–I see. You saw that, did you?” He eyed me where I stood on the staircase, then his glance darted again in the direction of the high fence around his back yard. His fingers laced together, and something about the quick gesture spoke of nerves.

I raised an eyebrow. What was his problem? Had he not realized that Jonah and I could see over his back fence into the inner sanctum of his precious yard? Just what was he doing back there that was so secretive any–

My eyes slid back to the mound of earth. Rectangular. About three by seven feet.

It suddenly connected in my head that the mound of earth appeared the weekend Ike went missing.

In slow motion, and almost against my will, I felt myself turn and lock eyes with Mr. Chicory. His watery black pupils stayed riveted to me from behind the glasses, and a slow line formed on his brow. For a moment, paralysis gripped my limbs.

“Well.” I forced myself to break out of the horrible moment. I moved my feet up the stairs, and forced a painful smile to my lips. “I guess you’re getting the ground ready for next spring then, right? My dad does that with his garden this time of year. Always helps a lot. Good thinking.” I turned and flew up the steps two at a time. “See you tomorrow.”

I slammed and locked the door behind me, but I swear I could feel his calculating gaze on my apartment windows. I was shaking so hard that I just dropped my purse and coat and everything on the floor and stumbled into the office. I sat in the desk chair, hunched over the warm radiator to think.

My dad doesn’t have a garden. I have no idea if tilling the soil in the fall is a common practice. But if it’s not, Mr. Chicory is going to know that I lied, and he’s going to figure that I lied so he won’t suspect me of guessing his secret.

To be honest, this whole thing is absurd. It’s a complete coincidence that just looks bad. Mr. Chicory and Ike hardly knew each other. There’s no reason to suspect that Mr. Chicory has Ike buried in his back yard. And that weird look Mr. Chicory gave me just now–well, he always gives me weird looks.

I hoped that if I wrote all this out, it would make me realize how foolish I’m being. But I don’t feel foolish. I feel like I’ve just walked in on a crime in progress. I’m the only one who knows. And Mr. Chicory knows that. And that means

Hang on, gotta go, I hear footsteps coming up the outside staircase!

TJ

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Thwarted Desires

When director Steven Spielberg first watched the recent movie hit “Paranormal Activity” (at that time just a low-budget indie film), he found it successfully scary and wrought with frightening tension. He had only one complaint; change the ending.

Though the film succeeded in scripting, acting, tension and creativity, the ending alone could have been enough to sink it. Why? Because the original ending essentially took all ninety minutes of terrifying build-up and then diffused it, slowly and politely. For ninety minutes we watched moving objects, heard footsteps and breathing, saw characters forcibly dragged out of bed and down the hall–only to have the movie end with hinted-at off screen violence, one character sitting still for a long, long time, and then her quick death at the hand of a confused policeman.

We’ve all watched our read such stories. We reach the end of an otherwise fascinating plot and ask ourselves “What went wrong there?”

Authors make the same mistakes as directors. I recently finished a book which had one of those characters that you love to hate. Readers spent the book wishing for this character to be revealed as the two-faced insincere user that he was, only to see him die before the secrets of his true nature could be revealed. The plot offered some fairly good reasons why it was best that the other characters never find out, but we are left wondering, “What about me? I’m the reader–don’t my feelings count for anything? You spent an inordinate amount of time building me up for something you absolutely failed to deliver on.”

It’s frightening to contemplate all the ways in which your plot could fail to deliver. As a writer, I find the best way to avoid these mistakes is to learn about them from other books.

I’ve shared my two most recent ending pet peeves. How about yours? What books or movies frustrated your expectancies so thoroughly that it left you ruffled at the author/director?

RHDavis

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Filed under General Writing

Tuesdays with Tuesday–Week 2

Welcome to the second installment of “Tuesdays with Tuesday,” where our literary friend Tuesday Jones expounds upon the virtues and disillusionment of post-grad life. For last week’s installment, go here.

Tuesday

So after last week’s laundry list of every grotesquely dull thing that happened to me, I had serious doubts about continuing this series of posts. But, in an odd twist of events, something happened this week that’s actually worth talking about.

Ike Cleavers disappeared from the face of this planet.

You remember Ike Cleavers, right? My neighbor and co-worker who I assumed skipped work due to swine flu? Turns out he doesn’t have swine flu–or, more to the point, if he does, no one knows about it. He hasn’t been to work, at his house, or seen any friends and family since last Friday.

My boss Misty shouted this at me and Penny today in the break room. I’m not sure why she shouted it. We were sitting right there in front of her. But Misty has only two tones of voice: so bored she can barely get the words to roll out of her mouth; so loud that the words reverberate around the office. I guess she thought dire news like Ike’s disappearance required more than a bored drone.

Everyone at work knew Ike had been absent for over a week, but we thought it a purposeful move on his part. We assumed he came to his senses and escaped this rainy little town for an exotic bachelor pad in Florida or Cancun. Maybe the Swiss Alps. I had my money on Japan, actually. We thought he got so fed up with our ridiculous workplace that he failed to give two weeks’ notice. I wish that were the case.

I barely had time to ingest this news before marching back to work. As a result, I floated around in a preoccupied haze for the rest of the day.  I always thought my job was mindless, until I actually tried to do it with my mind somewhere else. Instead of answering the phones with “Comp Systems Incorporated, this is Tuesday,” I accidentally blurted things like “Ike Systems Incorporated,” or “Comp Systems Incorporated, this is Ike Cleavers,” and even “Comp Tuesdays Incorporated, this is Cleaver, how can I assystems you today?” Yeah. I finally begged off sick and went home an hour early.

I’m not sure why the thing about Ike bugs me so much. It’s just weird, knowing someone who vanished. You see it on 48 Hours and Unsolved Mysteries, but don’t expect it to happen to your neighbor.

As if a vanished coworker, an angry boss and embarrassing phone slip-ups weren’t enough, fate saw to it that Mr. Chicory was outside when I came home, so I had to make polite small talk for a minute. And he was in one of his difficult moods.

“Boy, we’ve been having a lot of rain,” I said.

“Oh, not nearly as much as last year,” he said, and surveyed the looming clouds.

“Well, at least it’s not too cold,” I tried.

“Supposed to get below freezing tonight,” he offered helpfully.

“Oh?” I cocked an eyebrow at the fence around his back yard. “Kind of an odd time to start a new garden then, isn’t it?”

“Well who in their right mind would start a new garden in November?” He gave me an owlish glare through those square wire-rims of his–the lenses magnify his eyes to the radius of small pancakes–and wrinkled all the skin around his brow as though I were the most ignorant child he’d ever had the displeasure to live next door to. I sighed, and decided not to get into an argument about the garden plot I’d freaking seen him digging in not ten days ago. Contradicting Mr. Chicory is a bit like dealing with a case of badger-bite in which the badger won’t let go of its victim’s leg–unless of course you break its jaws, and I didn’t feel like doing that to Mr. Chicory. I doubt it would slow his talking much anyway.

I have to admit, I’m a little shaken by Ike’s disappearance.  Even tucked away in our cozy upstairs apartment, I feel something akin to the creeps. Thus I’m in my office, arguably the safest and most defensible bit of the house–a little leftover space in the corner of the upstairs, with only one entrance and a locking door, and a window overlooking the porch roof to serve as emergency escape. My desk and shelves take up most of the floor space, and I  sit practically on top of the hot water heater, so it’s probably a massive fire hazard. But it’s an office; I’m lucky to have that in this neighborhood of divvied-up houses, where most apartments sport only one bedroom, squealing floorboards and ragged paint from the 1980s.

I just have to keep the creeps at bay until Jonah comes home.

Tuesday M Jones

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Filed under Tuesday, Uncategorized

Tuesdays with Tuesday

In light of several time-consuming events (vacation, FLYNN, NaNoWriMo, graphic novel, part-time job-hunting), I thought it prudent to have someone help contribute posts for me now and again. My good friend Tuesday Jones volunteered to submit posts once a week. We’re calling it “Tuesdays with Tuesday.” You’ll like Tuesday; she is just a scream.

I am Tuesday’s scribe. We met years ago when she needed someone to help tell the amazing stories of her life. Our first attempt involved the story of how she helped catch a killer who’d been working at her mom’s office for ten years. We then tried our hand at her amazing Halloween story, which involved an old mansion, faked deaths, a car chase that actually involved buses rather than cars, and a lot of boobie-traps.

I finally said “Tuesday, you have such a unique voice and a poignant sense of humor; you really ought to try writing yourself.” After some prodding, I talked her into contributions for the blog.

So I turn the spotlight over to her for the day. I don’t know what she will write about–she hasn’t told me–but I know that if it’s coming from Tuesday, it’s bound to be entertaining.

Tuesday

Hello to all you Up and Writing followers. My name is Tuesday. Tuesday Jones.

And before you ask–no, it’s not a pen name. My parents actually named me Tuesday. And no, it wasn’t some lame attempt to be cool like “Indiana Jones.” It was more the result of my mother wanting me to have a name that no other kid in my class would have. Well, they got that part right. What I don’t understand is why they didn’t name me Saturday. Saturday is unquestionably a more interesting day of the week.  And Saturday Jones has such a nice ring to it, don’t you think? I’ve asked them about this, but my mother staunchly defends her choice of Tuesday.

Well, what can I tell you? Rachel expects me to churn out brilliant blog posts, but in truth, I can’t think of a single thing to talk about. She’s mentioned some of my crazy high school adventures already–and I assure you, college held even more adventure–but since graduation, I can’t think of anything to talk about but my mundane day-to-day existence. Perhaps that’s a good enough start.

Today I woke up in the same old bedroom in the same old upstairs apartment, went down the same old stairs of the same old two-story house, stepped onto the same old porch and surveyed the same old neighborhood I’ve lived in for about a year now. It’s so boring around here. Every morning I go outside and wave to Mr. Chicory, our retiree neighbor. This morning he was doing his boring old gardening–standing on his front porch with a huge shovel, covered in a layer of blackish mud up to his thighs. I think he’s planting a big garden in the backyard or something–I caught a glimpse over his fence and saw disturbed earth right by his patio. You’d think if he had done enough work to get mud up to his thighs he would’ve had more to show for it than a seven-by-three rectangular mound.

Mr. Chicory waved and said “Hey kiddo!” Like always. I gritted my teeth. At twenty-two-and-a-half, I don’t appreciate being called “kiddo” anymore. I didn’t appreciate it when I was a kid.

I lied and said good morning, though truly it wasn’t a good morning at all–the rain has come back. This year, October dumped as much rain on us as November usually does. So, to make up for it, November decided to behave like October, with sun and mild temperatures. But last night it came to its senses and unleashed a steady, cold shower.

Well. Fine. I can outlast it until spring.

The rain kept up all day–I watched it from the office window, though my watching was periodically interrupted by answering the telephone and telling people that yes, so-and-so was here, or no, so-and-so wasn’t here, but would you like to leave them a voice mail? And then, for the older set, a long explanation of what voice mail is and why they might want to leave one. Thanks so much, and do call again.

Between that, the rain and studying the toe tips of my black heels, the day passed quietly. Even Penny didn’t bother me too much. Penny sits closest to me in the front office. In truth I don’t remember her real name. I call her Penny in my head because she dresses like a JC Penney’s model–tans and grays, smart heels, white blouses, not a wrinkle in sight. Neutral. Proper. Adult. Everything I pretend to be while in this office, but am not in reality.

Anyway, Penny only bugged me once, to talk about her plans for hosting Thanksgiving. She’s in her early thirties, and very caught up in being a mature grown-up who does mature grown-up things. She asked if I myself would try my hand at entertaining now Jonah and I have a bigger place. I smiled politely, running through emergency scenarios in my head of a turkey catching fire in my oven, cranberries roiling from the stove top and engulfing the floor, boiling gravy spitting brown spots all over the kitchen and me–and told her that my mother is pretty insistent about keeping family gatherings at her house for now. Penny cooed how nice that was, that I didn’t have to worry about cooking for once. Yes, this is true. My microwave noodles can take a break for one day.

Our boss Misty–a beefy, forty-something pit bull of a woman–stormed in right about then demanding to know where Ike was, and cut the conversation short. Ike Cleavers hadn’t shown up for work, and Misty suspected Penny and I of receiving his call-in-sick and failing to tell her. We worked for about five minutes to convince her he hadn’t called, and after that Spanish Inquisition was over, I wondered briefly about Ike. He lives in my neighborhood. In a smallish town like this, you usually end up more interconnected with people than you’d like.

Sad to say, that was my entire day. I drove my clunking blue car home in the rain, and saw Mr. Chicory outside again. He had finally ditched that ridiculously huge shovel for a more appropriate garden-trowel, though for all his appearance of the diligent gardener the seven-by-three mound hadn’t grown in size since this morning. I asked Mr. Chicory if he’d noticed Ike out for his usual morning run lately, and he said not since Friday–which was the last time I saw Ike, too, at work. I determined that Ike must have come down with swine flu, and thought briefly about jumping into a Hazmat suit and taking him some soup or something. Then I realized that taking a sick neighbor some food would be the final step to becoming my mother, and abandoned the idea immediately.

Jonah came home. His honey-colored hair looks hottest when it’s wet and sticking up everywhere. We had microwave noodles for dinner.

I really wish something would happen around here. Hopefully these Tuesday appointments won’t just become the whine sessions of a bored, disillusioned college grad.

Tuesday M Jones

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Filed under Satire, Tuesday, Uncategorized

Dead Characters

I’m reading a YA fantasy series (I won’t say which one to avoid spoilers) and one of the two main characters died suddenly in the middle of the second book (it’s a four-book series).

It’s a rather disorienting sensation. In the realm of fantasy and adventure, most main characters make it to the end, or at least until the final battle. I can’t tell if it’s upsetting or refreshing to have someone break that pattern.

I can’t help seeing it as a little random, though. It did ratchet up the tension for the main character (who is now alone on her journey), but other than that, the death served no purpose–except to go against the norm, which in and of itself isn’t always enough to make a plot twist fly.

However, the plot twist did work in terms of shock value. I found myself more attached to that character than I’d realized, and grieving his loss on behalf of the girl. It spiked the “heart-wrench” factor.

Of course, there’s always the chance that he’s not really dead. No dead body–he was buried under an avalanche. If he comes back, I would be happy for the characters but sad for the plot line. It would be too predictable and too derivative of Gandalf.

Wow. Here I am actually criticizing the possible return of a character from the dead. What’s gotten into me? Normally I’m all for everyone being alive. I stayed mad at George Lucas for about a week the first time I watched Return of the Jedi and saw Vader croak.

RHDavis

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Filed under YA lit

Which Literary Character Are You?

There’s an interesting conversation over at blog Fantasy Debut about bonding with characters in the novels you read. Most people who read find at least one or two characters in literature who feel real to them–characters you’d want to meet and hang out with. Characters you admire.

It got me thinking about a related topic; which literary characters have I felt were the most like me? Which ones did I share things in common with? Which ones did I want to be?

I’d like to hear your answer to this question. Here’s the list I came up with of my own personal favorites:

Nancy Drew–I wanted to be a detective from ages eleven to thirteen. Nancy Drew seemed just like what I wanted to be when I grew up! Intelligent, good-hearted, brave in the face of danger, pretty, and most importantly, she solves mysteries.

Karana–In ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS, Karana is a lonely native girl stranded on a desert island with only a tame wolf for company. I myself was an only child, with only a tame “wolf” (border collie) and “tiger” (grouchy cat) for companionship. I was of an age where I liked being alone, and Karana’s solitary life seemed both exciting and peaceful.  On the brink of her teen years, Karana’s figuring out what it means to be a woman. I was eleven or twelve when I first read that story, and the question was pertinent to me as well.

Frodo Baggins–I’ve never had a ring of power. Sorry, this comparison isn’t quite that exciting. 🙂 But when I was seventeen and struggling with significant anxiety problems, I felt weighed down by a problem much too big for me. Then I picked up Lord of the Rings, the story of an unassuming hobbit who’s asked to take carry a burden well beyond the scope of his limited experience. Frodo and I journeyed together with our burdens for a couple of months as I read. I so wanted him to overcome the ring and have a happy ending–it would prove that I could overcome and have a happy ending, too. I remember reading the chapter where the ring gets destroyed, and putting the book down to find that my hands were shaking.

That’s my top three. What about you?

RHDavis

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