227: Write On

on May 30, 2008 in Book 8

In Which Mackenzie Matures

Trying to think of ways to fill my downtime and distract myself from what was to come, I thought of the mirror in my pocket. I wouldn’t have it forever and I wanted to enjoy it while I could, so I tried Ian again… but once again, got no answer.

Oh, well. We’d really have to learn each other’s schedules if we were going to spend more time together.

Meanwhile, I needed something else to do.

I could take another bath, I thought… but I didn’t want to use up all my richly decadent bubbles and oils too quickly, and anyway, I didn’t really want to chance another heart-to-heart with Feejee. The last time I’d taken a bath in the afternoon, she’d been in there. I think she might have been cutting class, but I didn’t know her afternoon schedule and I didn’t want to risk it.

Fortunately, I had an idea that I could fulfill without leaving the privacy of my own room.

Now that she’d pretty much moved in with Two and me, Amaranth had left the case of things I’d trusted her with stashed under the bed, next to the pitchfork… well, my pitchfork now, I guess. I got it out and took out my Mecknights. When was the last time I’d played with them?

I played with them a bit, then turned them loose and let them fight among themselves. I found my eyes going to the Annie figure, which was spelled to just sort of stand there watching and reacting to the battles, or back away if one of the bad guys came too close. The only one who’d actually engage with her was Machina, though if you watched long enough Overmaster would grab her by the wrist sometimes. This triggered the nearest knight to come knock him away.

I was glad I had the first edition figures, because by the time the second edition had come out, Sky Knight and Annie had been set up as a couple on the show, and the toys reflected this by making Sky Knight her designated rescuer. I couldn’t stand the thought of that jerk swooping in to rescue her again and again.

Actually, the whole thing was pretty pathetic. I didn’t know why they couldn’t make Annie fight, too. She’d been given her own motorcycle in the second season, and her own armor by the fourth, but as far as I knew they’d never updated her figure.

Maybe I could make a custom one? The enchantments were pretty complex, but once I had a few more classes under my belt, it seemed like I should be able to copy some routines from the other figures to try to put together something like Annie’s style on the show. I could probably turn Flash Bolt’s motorcycle into hers with a little work.

Of course, I’d have to get extras to work with. There was no way I was going to mess with my first editions.

I couldn’t do anything to fix the enaction figures at the moment, but the idea of “fixing” Annie was stuck in my head and wouldn’t let go. It was more than just giving her the proper gear. Even on the cartoon, she was still sidelined… she still only really fought Machina or the one-shot female villains, and she only ever had a decisive victory when that was the point of the episode, the girl getting one up on the guys. If she was allowed to be effective in the first place, that wouldn’t be a big enough deal to warrant a whole episode as the gimmick.

I now knew what I had to do. I gathered the figures back up and put them back in the box, then grabbed my backpack and headed down to the first floor hallway and the Harlowe ballroom.

It was busier in there than I’d ever seen it before.

Twyla was there again, though she didn’t seem to be forming pictures this time. There was also a kobold male with a big iron ring in his nose and a bunch of piercings in the skin over his spine, which his backwards vest left bare. It looked like he was composing a paper in the mists, and so was a canid boy that I didn’t know, though I thought I’d seen him around a few times. He was a different breed than Finbar, the alchemy major… more like a bulldog.

Rorick the faun was there, too. I probably didn’t want to know what he was doing.

Rorick and Twyla looked up when I came in, though Twyla quickly turned back to her crystal ball. Rorick kept grinning at me until I sat down and addressed a ball of my own. Actually, he might have kept grinning after that.

Considering my relationship with a nymph, I supposed I couldn’t really judge him for being enthusiastic about sex, but I just wasn’t interested. Casual sex didn’t appeal to me, and I certainly wasn’t looking for another partner.

Anyway, I was in the ballroom for a purpose. I needed something to fill some time and keep my mind off things I couldn’t change. In the past, I’d been a fairly prolific writer, and while it had been a while since I’d had an idea that demanded to be written, the muse had gifted me once again.

I called up an empty page and focused my will upon the ether, bending it to suit me. Words formed in the depths of the ball, floating before my eyes:

“THE ANNIE CHRONICLES”

I looked at the title for a few seconds, then waved the words away. Annie? That was a little girl’s name, not a knight’s name. I remembered telling Amaranth that Annie didn’t have a code name, “for some reason.” The reason was obvious now. It was just another way of keeping her separate from the rest of the cast, the “actual heroes.” If I was going to redeem the character, she would need a call sign like the rest of the team.

This was sensitive territory. I wanted to build on canon, not destroy it, or worse, bury it in useless, nonsensical additions. I was trying to create something new, but I wanted it to fit seamlessly in with the established universe. It was something not every fan fic writer could manage… or even tried to manage… but it was something I had always tried to do.

Then it hit me, and it seemed so obvious that I wondered how I’d never thought of it before. She already had a codename. Annie Ratchet… “Ratchet” wasn’t her actual last name, it was the nickname that Gearhead had given her when she first started picking up his tools and repairing their equipment with her almost intuitive knowledge of machines. They called her “Annie Ratchet” to emphasize her childishness and femininity, but if she was going to ascend into the ranks of proper knighthood alongside her teammates…

Wow. That was great. It even gave me a natural hook for introducing the change into the story, instead of just arbitrarily rewriting things.

I focused again, and the new title appeared:

“THE RATCHET CHRONICLES”
by MechBlaze

That was the screed name I’d written all my previous fics under, but looking at it now, it seemed a little… childish. I was eighteen. I was a grown woman. A grown, sexual woman, going to college. If Annie could leave behind her childhood and assume a more adult role, perhaps I could, too. It would add an extra layer of symbolism to the story, and give me a valuable portal through which I could not just relate but also reach out to and interact with the character as she developed and grew into a fully realized individual.

Yes. It was time to put away youthful affectations and step into a whole new world as a mature, adult author.

I waved my fingers over the ball, rippling the ether and focusing my desires on changing the name to reflect my new sensibilities, and just like that, the words altered to suit.

by Mech Blaze

That was so much better. Proper spacing in my screed name would set me apart from the hordes of little kids who clogged the net with their fan fic, and would help draw a line between my old works… good as they were… and my newer ones.

I don’t like to brag without a good reason, but quite a few people had read my Blaze Knight Chronicles, back in the day. They still got comments on them every once in a while.

But, that was the past. My concern was now.

I started composing in my head, and watched the story take shape in the vapor.

Annie Ratchet was

No, that was all wrong. Too many fics began with “Character’s Name was doing X.” Or by describing the character. It was almost as bad as starting a fic by saying that it was a typical day in Whateverland.

Her name was Annie.

That was a little bit better. It kind of set a tone, I thought.

Her name was Annie, and for all of her life, the only life she’d ever known had been spent living in the secret underground hangar of the world-famous Mecknights.

That was good. Well, it was a start. The first part was okay, but “secret underground hangar, etc.,” sounded like cheesy narration… or a commercial. The readers already knew who the Mecknights were, and who Annie was, and where they lived. I needed to say the same thing, but make it clever, somehow… punchy.

I concentrated and waved some of the words away with a finger.

Her name was Annie, and for all of her life, the only life she’d ever known had been spent living underground.

I looked at it. That was punchy. Visceral, even. “Living underground.” It was both literally true and figuratively true, in a sense that I’d figure out as I went along. Probably a couple different senses, even.

The only problem was that I’d punched up the second half of the opening sentence so much that the first part looked… unwieldy. I hated to mess with it, but I decided to try a little rearranging.

Her name was Annie, and for all her life, she’d been living underground.

Her name was Annie, and she’d been living underground her whole life.

It was the only life she’d ever known.

That was better. I could improve it, though.

It was the only life she’d ever known for her whole life.

We were cooking.

I wrote out some more and then I started to think, if my purpose here was to really get inside the character of Annie Ratchet, really explore who she was beyond the support girl or the love interest of that jerk Sky Knight, then why was I writing in third person? To get really up close and personal, I would have to put myself—and the reader—inside her head, for real.

I started again.

My name is Annie, and I’ve been living underground my whole life.

It’s the only life I’ve ever known for my whole life.

Okay, now that I was putting words in her mouth, that sentence seemed wrong. I know it made for brilliant narration, but I couldn’t picture Annie saying or thinking it. Well, that was the sort of compromise I’d have to make, I decided. I’d need something to fill out that line, though. I decided to try just writing and seeing what happened.

My name is Annie, and I’ve been living underground my whole life.

It’s the only life I’ve ever known. It’s a good life. A lot of people probably think I’m the luckiest girl in the world, and most of the time, I’d agree.

They don’t know the whole story, though. They don’t see me except when I’m out a mission, smiling and cheering the boys on, or when in the pit at the jousting track, waving at the crowd. They don’t see me when I’m home, when the mission’s over and it’s time to take off my helmet… when I’m underground.

They don’t know the real me.

Okay, that was actually better than what I’d come up with the first time. It was a great opening.

Unfortunately, it had taken me more time than I’d imagined to come up with a couple paragraphs’ worth of text. Maybe I was just rusty. Back during my heyday, I was banging out two or three pages of this stuff in like no time. Now it was taking me forever to just get started.

I just had time to make one more change to the title up top:

THE RATCHET CHRONICLES PART I: Underground
by Mech Blaze

I set a word of recall so I could bring it up again, and then I waved the page away. If the rest of the week wasn’t completely insane, I’d use my afternoon breaks on Wednesday and Friday to try to get part one wrapped up so I could share the story on the weekend, when the most people would be around to see it.

The room had emptied out quite a bit while I’d been engrossed in my work. It was just Twyla and me now, and she looked over and then looked away again when she heard my chair scooting out.

To my surprise, she looked over again after a second.

“Hey, um… Mack?” Twyla said.

“Yeah?” I said.

“Thanks… thanks for saving my picture.”

“Thanks,” I said. That wasn’t right. “I mean, you’re welcome.”

“Yeah,” she said.

“Was it for something?” I asked. “I mean, was it important?”

“I was thinking about using it as an avatar on a roleplaying tapestry,” she said.

“For yourself?” I asked, surprised.

The image had been of a radiant celestial being. While I knew there was nothing infernal about Twyla, it was hardly the image that sprung to mind when I pictured the horned girl. Also, the angel had been kind of tall and ethereally skinny, where Twyla was about my height or a little shorter, and kind of… pudgy.

“I… I don’t think I’m going to use it,” she said, looking back into her ball. “But thanks. Thank you.”

“I’m sorry,” I said. “You should. It was good.”

“Thanks,” she repeated, and it sounded like a curse. Her face was turning red and she still wasn’t looking at me. “Thank you very much.”

I sighed. The paddle slapped the side of my thigh as I stood up, giving me its gentle reminder a little too late.

“Twyla, I’m… honestly, I’m very sorry. I wasn’t thinking,” I said, starting to babble in my desperation to make myself understood, “and I feel just awful, knowing what you must put up with… well, I don’t know, but I feel terrible. I don’t always think, before I say things, and I end up being rude without meaning to.”

“It’s okay,” Twyla said. “Really. I’m sure you can’t help it.”

“Maybe I can’t,” I said. “But I’m trying, okay?”

“Okay,” Twyla said. She was starting to sound exasperated and I realized I was making her uncomfortable with my eagerness to apologize. I’d also got a lot closer to her, physically, than I had realized. I took a step back.

“I’ll, uh, talk to you later,” I said. “I hope I didn’t ruin your game… well, um, bye.”

“Goodbye,” she said.

I grabbed my bag, glad I’d thought to bring it with me, and headed out the door. I heard something as I was leaving, though, and turned around to look through the little window.

Twyla had put her head down on the desk and her shoulders were heaving like she was sobbing… which was probably exactly what she was doing.

Great.

What would Amaranth say when I told her I’d apologized to somebody so well that they’d actually burst into tears?


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8 Responses to “227: Write On”

  1. pedestrian says:

    Oh, I’ve had that effect. I wind up standing there, clumsily shuffling from foot to foot, thoroughly hating myself for being too stupid to figure out what I had done wrong.

    Current score: 2
  2. Athena says:

    *snrk* From MechBlaze… to Mech Blaze. Way to show ’em your new-found adulthood, Mack… 😛

    Also, repeating “for my whole life” like that was never a good idea, Mack. Even in third person.

    Current score: 10
    • Athena says:

      I went to heart this, and then realised it was mine XD

      I’m glad that, with all that has changed in my life… I’m still enough of a writer to know that that line was cringe-worthy

      Current score: 2
    • Lara says:

      The name change killed me, haha.

      Current score: 0
  3. LogicSwitch says:

    You know, Mack never said what kind of comments her fics still get.

    Current score: 5
  4. capybroa says:

    Love this chapter. So meta.

    Current score: 4
  5. Anon says:

    This is really a huge improvement over the previous example of Mack’s writing. I think it might have moved up from bottom 5% to just bottom 10% of things I’ve read. Hell, maybe 15.

    Mack and Sooni need to collaborate on fics. Mainly to keep them away from innocents.

    Current score: 2