Flash Fiction: Weekly Challenge #294

Well, NaNoWriMo is over, and one of the things that means is that I’m back to working on 100 Word Stories (along with the Unrealistic Comic Book Pitches and working on finishing the novel). The topic for the Weekly Challenge posted today was “Trees.” I’ve been feeling under the weather for the last several days, though, so I didn’t read mine aloud (which is less due to being sick, and more to do with my voice refusing to cooperate at the moment). I did, however, submit it, so you’ll just have to hear it being read by the “midget.” My entry was entitled “Kudzu.” The origin of the story is kind of amusing (to me, anyway.) I wrote a flash fiction story entitled “The Armadillo Incident,” which inspired the novel my father wrote for NaNoWriMo. Hearing about what he wrote in turn inspired me to write this flash fiction story! (All three are very different stories using similar themes; they just served to be the inspiration for the next story.)

Oh, and I also realized that I never updated the Flash Fiction tab with the last story I wrote for 100 Word Stories’ Weekly Challenge! I’ve corrected that now, and you can now read “How Not to Summon a Demon” there, assuming you didn’t hear/read it over at 100 Word Stories back when it was originally posted (back in the middle of September).

Next week’s topic is Fingerprints, and since Christmas falls on a Sunday, that week’s topic will be Christmas. So I’ve two weeks I can work on…if I can get over this flu to feel up to working on them!

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Unrealistic Pitch for a total reboot of the X-men (and affiliated titles)

OVERVIEW

The X-men have always been a representation of the Civil Rights movement. When originally conceived, Xavier was Martin Luther King, Jr. To Magneto’s Malcolm X. This changed to incorporate the Gay Rights movement, and culminated in Grant Morrison’s run, in which it reflected the more organized movement of today. In many ways, the movement is still the underdog, yet it often doesn’t feel that way, and so Marvel tried to bring it back to an underdog sort of situation. The problem is, they removed it from the civil rights metaphor to do so. I feel the answer is to restore the metaphor, but to incorporate a new group whose rights are being trod upon: the Muslims and Arab Americans.

 

See how this grabs you: A large group of individuals, some of whom with radical views. Those radicals commit acts of terrorism in the name of the larger group, causing the general populace to fear everyone belonging to that group, even peripherally. The group is ostracized from society, and finds it easier to live in segregated communities, with makes the general populace fearful of what they might be doing in those communities. Intrusion into these communities (by undercover authorities and by citizens with a vendetta) cause more in the community to see the radicals as right, especially the youths of the community (as hormones and emotions come into play). Some of these even join the terrorists, starting the whole viscous cycle over again.

 

THE SPECIAL

I would start with an altered initial confrontation between Magneto and Xavier (the one that ended their friendship and set them down the path of being enemies). I say altered, because I would have it happen in Manhattan, and it would be televised. Xavier would win, but lose the use of his legs in the confrontation, and would be regarded as a hero by the public thereafter, though mutant-kind in general would be viewed as potential Magnetos, and ostracized (especially since, before Magneto is defeated, he’ll have killed thousands of people, and called on all his mutant brothers and sisters to join him in claiming their place as the leaders of society – a new nobility for a new age.)

This will lead to the passing of the Mutant Registration Act. Mutants must report their name, address of residence, and power(s), and are issued a license that must be renewed yearly and presented whenever a police officer asks for a driver’s license or identification (akin to the carry conceal license issued in Texas). Being caught failing to register will result in arrest and detention at a special containment facility (the basic function of which is to educate the mutant on the importance of registering and observe them for what powers they might have. It would have a three strikes system – their first term would end with being issued a license and being sent back out into the world, with a parole officer that they need to check in with and a GPS locator chip secretly implanted. Failure to do so, or failure to renew their license, will result in being sent back to the containment facility, and a third strike would result in becoming a permanent resident there.)

Banking on his popularity and hero status, Xavier gets a special exemption from the Mutant Registration Act. Students must still register, but their address is listed simply as “Xavier’s School for Gifted Students,” without an address for the school. (This is acceptable, since S.H.I.E.L.D. has the address on file.) Xavier is specifically tasked with training young mutants to “not become terrorists” and has S.H.I.E.L.D. liaisons who check in on the school periodically. Xavier, for his part, is more interested in teaching the young mutants both to control their powers (so as not to be a threat to themselves and others) and to learn from one of the finest academic programs available.

After showing the initial confrontation that presented mutants to the world, the passing of the Mutant Registration Act, and the foundation of Xavier’s School for Gifted Students, the next scene in the story would jump ahead several years and show the first graduating class of students. This would NOT be the first class we’re accustomed to, as graduating from High School is required before anyone is permitted to join the X-men, and Cyclops and Phoenix (Jean Grey) have been functioning in that role prior to the first class graduating (they were 18 when the school was founded). The graduating class will show the various options for available to them: some will go on to pursue their own dreams in the world (Thunderbird, Dazzler), some will join the X-men (more on this later), and some will stay with the school to teach the next generation and/or continue their education (haven’t decided on anyone specific for this yet).

From here, each of the X-titles would be showcased, rounding out the special.

 

THE X-TITLES

The X-Men, backed by Xavier and led by Cyclops, would include Phoenix, Storm, Colossus, Nightcrawler, and Northstar (many of whom were part of the graduating class). In the special, they would confront the self-named Brotherhood of Mutants (though the media presents them as the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants). In the series, the team would be employed as administrators for the school when not out on missions. Cyclops and Phoenix would be a couple. Rogue would later join the X-men, though she would start out as a member of the Brotherhood of Mutants. Magneto would create a new Atlantis – a VERY large island in the Atlantic Ocean – as a peaceful place for mutants to come and live (and a staging area for his acts of terrorism). This title would focus on the difference between moderate and radical ideals through the guise of over-the-top action/adventure stories.

The New Mutants will focus on the school itself (containing 25 to 30 teachers – most of whom are normal humans – and over 500 students, and continues to grow). Teachers would include Emma Frost (been teaching since the beginning), Aurora (part of the graduating class), and Dr. Cecilia Reyes (functions as school nurse, and is on site when dangerous training is being conducted – ie. Danger Room exercises.) Students would include Shadowcat, Iceman, Jubilee, all of the original New Mutants and Generation X characters, plus many, many others. Emma Frost, while one of the original teachers, is going to quickly break off and form her own school, also sanctioned by the government, stealing a large chunk of the student body (convincing their parents to send them to her newly formed school). This will happen after two storyarcs, so characters on both sides of the divide will have time to become friends before being split up. This title would focus on the changes and difficulties involved with being a teenager (another big aspect of the original comics).

X-Factor is a street level team that bears the brunt of the anti-mutant hatred, and consists of Mimic, Morph, Strong Guy, Karma, Stacy X – all led by the Beast. Beast got a bachelor’s degree at an online university before fighting (and winning) the right to get his doctorate from Harvard, only to lose face by experimenting on himself, turning him blue and furry and ostracized from academia (who were looking for any excuse to do so anyway). Karma will be underage, though no one is aware of this fact, and this will cause problems in the future. The team lives in “Mutant Town,” and have connections with the Morlocks (who live in the tunnels beneath New York City, and are led by Callisto). This title would focus on the relations between humans and mutants, and would be one of the darkest of the titles, as the characters must fight for even common courtesy… (Most people will assume they’re either terrorists posing as heroes, or destined to become terrorists.)

X-Force would be the government team working for Nick Fury, led by Wolverine, and consisting of Havok, Forge, Gambit, Domino, and Blink. Forge functions more like Q to James Bond than as a regular member of the team. Nick Fury has given him the authority to turn down a mission if he determines he needs to be working on a tech project, and he takes advantage of this status regularly, though he always outfits the team with cool gizmos and gadgets. Gambit and Domino (who he calls his “lady luck”) are an item. Deadpool is a mercenary that will often have assignments that coincide or oppose the team (so while he’s not a member, he’ll often be in the book – sometimes working with the team, sometimes opposed to it). I would also like to tie Cable into the title, though I’d keep him as a mysterious player, acting behind the scenes more often than not. This title will focus on clandestine operations – giving a view of how the government and military interact with other nations such as Genosha (which is how it was originally conceived – Mutants being property, not citizens) and Atlantis (Magneto’s “nation”).
Excalibur would be sponsored by Moira McTaggart (a former lover of Xavier’s) and led by Captain Britain (who, while not a mutant, fights for mutant rights on behalf of his sister, Psylocke, also a member of the team).  Megan, Psylocke, Banshee, and Peter Wisdom (who really needs a codename) will comprise the team. Captain Britain and Megan will be a couple. Peter Wisdom will be a not-so-secret spy for the British government. The title will focus on another country’s perspective on human/mutant relations.

In any case, that’s what I’d do with the X-titles, if I were in charge of a complete reboot of the Marvel Universe. Next week: S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers!

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Future Plans

Well, I’ve completed a 100 Word Story, so I have something to submit for that website’s Weekly Challenge, posted on Sundays. I also began working on “Daniel Worthington’s Unrealistic Pitch for a total reboot of the Marvel Universe.” I refer to it as an “Unrealistic Pitch” because a) Marvel isn’t planning to do a reboot and b) I wouldn’t be in charge, even if they did! (I also have “what Daniel would’ve done with a total reboot of the DC Universe” that I’ll probably post that after I finish with Marvel…)

For a basic overview, I would relaunch with stories from Universe 1. (The Marvel Universe has long been referred to as Universe 616, so it’s a simple matter to begin again with the “first” universe.) I would do this starting in the fifth week of a five Wednesday month with several oversized (say, 72 pages), underpriced ($1-2 range) specials setting up the new continuity (an Avengers special, an X-men special, a Street Level special, etc.) followed by the new continuity the next month. I’ll talk about each in turn, starting with the X-titles…

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NaNoWriMo: After Action Review

NaNoWriMo is over! Whew! And I won! Woot!

I managed to write 51,680 words in 30 days – that’s an average of 1,722 words a day!

Of course, the story isn’t done yet. I divided it into three parts, and I estimate it’ll end up being around 90,000 words when it’s all said and done – around 30,000 words for each part. Which means I’m closing in on the end of part two. Amusingly, I still don’t have a title for the beast yet – it’s still just “Untitled Fantasy.”

I’ve been told that, if you do something for 40 days, you make a habit of doing it; it’s easier to just keep doing it, because it’s becoming ingrained into your routine. So my plan is to keep writing for another 10 days to get there, then continue writing every day thereafter. I don’t plan to write as many words as I did in November, but I plan to keep pushing ahead, first with this novel, and then with other stories.

I have learned a lot during this time, though. Tuesday night/Wednesday mornings and Saturdays seem to be the best days for writing – I managed to write upwards of 4,000 words a day on those days. Mondays are the worst, with a maximum of 500 words written on any given Monday, but if I don’t write anything, I get a bit jittery. So I plan to write some on Mondays, but not to expect too much either. (I’m thinking it might be a good day to take a break from the big projects and write a 100 word story before diving back into the big project again on Tuesdays…)

I also felt guilty about writing anything that wasn’t directly related to the novel, since I had such a high word count to try to achieve (and I spent most of the time either behind or just caught up). Now that I’m able to set a more relaxed pace, I’ll be updating this blog more often. So check back often (I’ll still probably only update it once or twice a week, as I had been doing prior to November), and I’ll keep writing! Specifically, I plan to write more 100 word stories, and to practice pitching comic book story ideas, I’m going to write up a few pitches that I know would be rejected (such as my ideas, were I in charge at Marvel, for relaunching the Marvel Universe like DC did recently.)

In any case, I hope everyone who reads this blog has a wonderful holiday season – be good to one another, and let’s make the holidays joyful! As my favorite blessing says, “may the best of your past be the worst of your future.” Oh, heck, even if you don’t read this blog, I wish the same for you. 😉

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Novel Prep: Exercise 16

I’m skipping Exercises 9-15. Exercises 9-11 and 15 were great, but I would be FAR too tempted to put it verbatim into the story, and since it’s not November 1st yet, that’s a no-no. As for Exercises 12-13, I felt I’d done those exercises already (I hadn’t realized the subject would be covered later on…) Exercise 14 is one I did write up, but the whole thing needed to be [Redacted], so there was no point in posting it. (Unfortunately, a quick scan of Exercises 17-19 showed me that these are going to be like Exercise 14 – I can, and will, do them, but I won’t be able to reveal any of what I wrote. Since the only other exercise, number 21, is to start writing the novel, this is going to be the last exercise I post.) So…on to Exercise 16!

Exercise 16: Write up a tag-line and back-cover blurb for your book.

Tag-line: As war descends once again upon the town of Freepass, secrets long buried will be revealed for all to see.

Back-cover blurb: The town of Freepass is nestled in the only possible path through the Created Mountains. The warring nations of Northern Rurik and Southern Jolan both view Freepass as a strategic necessity in their centuries’ long feud, though the town has never been defeated by either side…until now. Unfortunately, the town’s primary defense, the twin swords of the Chosen One, lies locked behind the impenetrable Gates of Heaven – its key lost to time.

As open conflict erupts once more, the brothers Kayin and Hevel are called on to find the missing key. Will Kayin accept his younger brother as the Chosen One, and can their strained kinship survive, when Hevel wants nothing more than to leave Freepass for good? If both brothers do not accept the fate the gods have chosen for them, Freepass will surely fall, unleashing full scale war upon the continent.

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Novel Prep: Exercise 8

Exercise 8: Repeat everything done for characters 1 and 2 with a third character (ie. 5 paragraphs of information about the character, with an additional 5 paragraphs of the opposing side of those features, and two short term and one long term goals as well as the obstacles to overcome to achieve those goals.)

Devorah

1. Devorah has prophetic dreams, one of which led her to become an acolyte and, eventually, the Priestess of the Temple. She has dedicated her life to the Lovers (the gods of the town), and tries to follow both her heart and her beliefs. This is the one area of her life where Devorah has no doubts.

   Opposed: All of her duties keep Devorah extremely busy, and she feels incredibly alone. She especially longs to hang out with her friends from childhood, Kayin and Hevel. Unfortunately, Kayin’s avoiding her, and Hevel is avoiding the Temple, both of which sadden her greatly.

2. She is the youngest Priestess in Freepass history, and takes her job as shepherdess to the people very seriously. She always goes the extra mile to insure that everyone is taken care of, spiritually and physically. She feels this is the greatest task of the Priestess, and the people love her for it.

   Opposed: The Priest of the Temple, who is technically in charge due to being “in office” for longer, finds the people’s devotion to the young Priestess to be a threat to his own position of authority. He became Priest upon the suspicious death of the previous Priest, and many of those old enough to remember the events do not accept his authority. He had nothing to do with the previous Priest’s death, but has grown bitter and is contemplating killing Devorah.

3. [Redacted]

4. Though she hides it, she knows that she is very sick, and will not be alive in another decade or less. She knows this because she’s experiencing the same symptoms that her mother had, which is also how she came up with the estimate for how long she has left. While the pain is manageable now, the disease is degenerative, though, and she is decidedly not looking forward to the last few years.

   Opposed: Though she’s trying to keep her sickness a secret (for now), the Matron of the Temple (kind of like the senior enlisted soldier of the temple) has noticed. The Matron hasn’t said anything because she thinks her puking is due to pregnancy (she’s assuming Kayin’s the dad), and she’s still figuring out a way to broach the subject. No one else even has that much of a clue.

5. [Redacted]

Short Term Goals:

1. Bring the people who’ve been absent from Temple back.

   Obstacle(s): A lot of them, like Hevel, are hunters, which is why she implemented prayer meetings before and after major hunting expeditions. This has been met with mixed response.

2. Tell her friends about her sickness – and just spend time with those she loves before she passes on.

   Obstacle(s): They’re avoiding her for one reason or another, and she’s afraid to tell anyone, anyway.

Long Term Goal:

   [Redacted]

 

Well, there’s character #3, and we’re starting to get into some of the planned twists and turns of the story (hence, all the “[Redacted]” stuff). We’re also getting into the exercises that I would probably end up including in the novel (and I can’t write any of the novel ahead of time, so I’m skipping those exercises, excellent as they are). So I’ll read ’em, and maybe take some notes, but from here on out, I won’t be posting every exercise like I have been…

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Novel Prep: Exercise 7

Exercise 7: Define the obstacles and fears that are preventing the characters from achieving their goals. These obstacles should come out of the first ten paragraphs from Exercises 1-5.

Hevel

Short Term Goals:

1. Decide between the love of his life, or the life he’s always known

   Obstacle(s): If he chooses love, he would never again be allowed back in the town where all his friends and family are. He’s also unsure if his hunting skills will be needed in a more civilized society, so what would he do to support a family? But if he chooses his current life, will he ever find love again? Would he want to?

2. Pull off the ultimate prank

   Obstacle(s): Everyone in the town is familiar with his mischievous nature, and it makes pulling harmless pranks all the harder – let alone pulling off the “ultimate” prank.

Long Term Goal:

Find his niche in the world – figure out a way to be comfortable within his own skin

   Obstacle(s): Hevel is uncomfortable with how others see him (he doesn’t view himself as a leader, but looks up to his brother as the leader instead). He must first realize that it’s not what he does, but who he is that will determine his place in the world.

 

Kayin

Short Term Goals:

1. Be elected Elder

   Obstacle(s): Kayin is on the young side to be an Elder, and there are many who oppose his progressive changes to their society…

2. Start his next project: domesticating animals

   Obstacle(s): The very idea makes most of the town nervous. The farmers worry that too much land is making their profession and homes a target when the next war comes, and the hunters worry that this could put them out of a job – and Kayin needs the support of both groups to make this work (the farmers to create fences for the pastures – as well as needing a lot of work to make pastures in mountainous terrain – and the hunters need to catch the animals to breed into domesticated animals.)

Long Term Goal:

Establish a peace that will last beyond one generation by becoming Judge, the ultimate secular leader of the town.

   Obstacle(s): In addition to the problems listed under his first short term goal (which definitely apply here), it will require expertise beyond that of the town (specifically, that of each of the two nations that continues to try to invade every generation or so) to insure that a lasting peace is achieved.

 

I’ve decided that, while I’m keeping the love for the priestess, I’m going to give Kayin a loveless marriage. Realizing he was never going to be with Devorah, he married Miriam, the daughter of the current Judge of the town. Though they have one child (now about 5 or 6 years old), they spend most of their time arguing, which spurs Kayin to spend more time at work, swordplay, and at the temple – anything to keep him out of his miserable excuse for a home. Still, the town only sees a respectably married man who works hard and puts the town first…

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