Naomi's Rough Draft Blog

Archive for March 2011

Rumors are funny things; they’re often blown out of proportion so much they’re not rumors anymore, they’re stories.  They’re often stretched so much, the real truth isn’t even part of it anymore.

Like I mentioned in What Can I Learn From A Girl Named Scout, Boo Radley was rumored to be a killer, but when Scout was walking home from school, she found some gum in a knot-hole.  And, of all places, the knot-hole of the tree on the Radley’s front yard (yikes!).

Scout’s comment is this: “I licked it and waited for a while.  When I did not die I crammed it into my mouth; Wrigley’s Double-Mint.”  Well, if she did die, the story would be blown to pieces.  Out main character can’t die in Chapter 4!

Jem’s opinion of the gum is very different: he tells Scout to spit it out (so she does; “The tang was fading, anyway” as she says).

The next day, they find (da-da-da-dum!) Indian-heads pennies in that knot-hole!  So, after talking about it for a while (maybe the knot-hole is someone’s hiding place, Scout says) they decide to take them.

Two days later, Dill arrives for the summer, and they’re all ready to play.  So, after an argument about Hot Steams (in which Scout disagrees with Jem), they decide to roll in the tire (One person climbs into a tire, and the other people push them).  Scout goes first, and Jem gets his revenge for her disagreeing with him about the hot steams- he pushes her right to the Radley’s front porch.  Scared to the bone, Scout runs back to Jem and Dill like her life depends on it.  But she doesn’t bring the tire with her.

Well, that game’s history.

So Jem decides to play a new, better game: the Boo Radley game.  They’re going to play back Boo’s (rumored) killing days.  Mu-ha-ha-ha!

So that’s the game they play for quite a while- until they see people starting to watch.  And when Nathan Radley passed by (not Boo) they would stop playing for a while, then resume the game.  That is, until, Scout and Jem’s father, Atticus, sees them playing.

He gives them a little talk, and they deny that their game has anything to do with the Radleys.  And Jem’s reasoning is this: since Atticus didn’t say they couldn’t play the game, that means they can play the game.

But Scout’s nagging gets the better of Jem, and they stop playing- for a while.  But then Jem and Dill start doing more things together, and Scout gets a bit jealous.  Here was Dill, the boy who had asked to marry her, spending more time with her brother!  So she spends her remaining nights that summer sitting with their neighbor, Miss. Maudie, on her porch.

When she asked Miss. Maudie if Boo Radley is even alive, we learn his first name is Arthur (a bit normal, don’t you think?).  And when he was a child, Arthur Radley was (much to this reader’s dismay) very polite and . . . sane.  Hmm. . .

The next morning, Scout wakes up to see Jem and Dill talking among themselves, again.  After a bit a probing, she finds out that they’re going to write a letter to Boo- er, Arthur– Radley.  But before they can, Atticus stops them.  As he says, “I’m going to tell you something and tell you one time:  stop tormenting that man.”  And Jem decides he doesn’t want to be a lawyer when he grows up.

Will they attempt to make contact with Boo- um, Arthur?  Will Dill come back for the next summer?  And will Jem spend a bit more time than Scout that in this part?

Find out in the next post!

In my literacy class, we’re reading To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  In the past, I read In Search of Mockingbird by Loretta Ellsworth.  In that book, a girl named Erin goes by bus to Harper Lee’s house, because To Kill A Mockingbird was all that connected Erin to her mother, who passed away when she was a child.

But did I know anything about To Kill A Mockingbird when I read that book?  Not really.  All I knew was that the main character was named Scout Finch.

Now, I’m reading the book at last.  And when I’m through, I’ll have to find In Search of Mockingbird and reread it, just to set things straight.

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The first sentence in the book was about a character breaking his arm.  Furthermore, we know hardly anything about that character.  If I didn’t know better, I’d say that Harper Lee was off to a bad start.

But as the story goes on, it gets more interesting.  And in the first chapter, we learn about Jem, Scout’s older brother (“four years my senior”, as Scout puts it), Atticus, Scout’s father and a lawyer, Calpurnia, their colored maid/cook, Boo Radley, a man who never leaves his house (and is rumored to be a killer), and Dill, a boy who comes to the town they live in, Maycomb, during the summer (and he asked Scout to marry him.  He’s only seven, by the way, and Scout is six).  Not to mention Jem touches the infamous Radley house as a dare.

Huh.  And so far, the mockingbirds are living on.

Soon enough, we see Scout at school, and it turns out she’s embarrassing the new teacher, Miss. Caroline, by knowing how to read and write, so she tells Scout not to read with her father anymore (I suppose Miss. Caroline was thinking, “I was supposed to teach these children those things!  They shouldn’t already know!”).

Later, a boy named Walter Cunningham is offered a quarter to buy lunch, and when he doesn’t take it, Scout pips in and tells Miss. Caroline why: The Cunninghams don’t take what they can’t repay, and Walter can’t repay the quarter.  Because of this knowledge (thus showing the teacher that she knows more, again) Scout gets whipped, first grade style: she gets hit on her hand with a ruler and is told to stand in the corner.  The unorthodox-ness of the whips send all the other children into hysterics, and I wouldn’t blame them if it was their first time seeing something as strange as that.

And what does Scout do to Walter later, as payback for getting hit with the ruler?  She “rubs his nose in the dirt” as Harper Lee puts it (Yes, she is a tomboy.  Future readers be warned).  So, as an apology, Jem invites Walter to dinner.  At the table, he puts maple syrup all over his vegetables, and I can’t help but agree with Scout for asking “what the sam hill he was doing”.

Well, Calpurnia asks to have a word with her, and Scout gets a word, all right.  And she has to eat her food in the kitchen (though least she didn’t have to face Walter again).

The next day is school- and cooties.  Miss. Caroline happens to be very afraid of the thing that comes out of Burris Ewell’s hair, and tells him to go home, take a bath, and come back the next day.  But we learn something about the Ewells: they only come to school one day, and don’t come back any of the others.  When Burris finally leaves, he says some words to Miss. Caroline that I would not want to repeat in this post.

And the best is yet to come: Atticus and Scout make a compromise that if she keeps going to school (because she does not want to go since Miss. Caroline is trying to stop their reading sessions), they will keep reading together.  Hooray!

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For your reading pleasure, I’ll try to get up to Chapter 9 this weekend (I have a dentist appointment tomorrow.  Ack!).  But the book’s very good, even though the birds are still breathing.  I hope to learn a lot more about Scout, Jem, and all the others in the next couple of chapters.

What can I learn from a girl named Scout?  Probably a lot more than the book’s letting on right now.

It’s impossible.  There’s no way it will work out.  I can’t do it.

I can’t.

How many times have we heard those words, either from someone else’s mouth or our own?  Every time we try something new, there’s always that prick of doubt.  Whether we listen to that doubt defines our future actions.

Imagine you’re getting ready to send a story manuscript to a publisher.  But what if you write the wrong address?  What if someone steals your work?  And even if it reaches the right place, what if they reject it; what if they hate it?  Will they send you a nasty rejection letter?  Will they give you a second chance at the story?

Fear is what keeps us from doing what we want to do with our lives, if we let it take over.  If we let those doubts become all we think about, then we won’t be going anywhere but in our content little “box”; we’ll always stay the same and only do what we feel comfortable doing. 

But, if we push away those doubts and fears, if we decide to step outside of our box and be self confident, then we can do anything.  We can go anywhere; we can do anything.  Every now and then we’ll get rejected, but rejection is a teacher in itself.  What they reject, we fix, and give them an even better product than before.

And when you succeed, keep going!  Your success will be proof that you can.  You can stop saying that you can’t, because that is a lie.  We say that we can’t to keep from potential failure; we are afraid of failure.  But we never know what will happen until we step out of what makes us feel content and do what might make us feel uncomfortable, and perhaps even afraid.  But in time, you’ll have learned how to make in comfortable, and you’ll have a new skill.

I’ll leave off with these words:  If you doubt you will succeed, then you have succeeded to doubt.  If you fail to doubt, then you will doubt failure.   

Sorry I haven’t posted in so long!  I can’t say I was busy, maybe I was lazy (whoops!  Did I say that out loud?).

Well, here’s a little something that was on my mind.  Hope you like it.  Warning: it’s about writing. 😉

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Characters

Writers have power beneath their fingertips.  They can be angels of the earth or the devils of speech.  Every word is filled with passion, power, emotion.  Every word defines a writer’s ability- and defines the writer themselves.

With the scribble of a pen we create a person.  With the tap-tap-taps of a keyboard we define them, give them life.  We can make them not just words on a page, but actual human beings, only to exist in the realms of our minds.

We define their emotions, put words in their mouth; we fill them with envy or give them inner peace.  We can kill them with the mark or our ink, having them gasp quietly for breath as their true love stares in horror, or having everyone watching turn away, smiling, as they die.  We can kill out characters quickly, or give them a slow death; we can give them time to regret their wrongs or give them no time at all.

Or, for our own reasons, we can resurrect them later; sure, they died already, but anything is possible within the pages of our story!  Sometimes the resurrection of a character works very well, and other times it doesn’t (my best example being the rebirth or Jason Todd in the Batman series- that was a well done resurrection, with well-placed reactions from the other characters upon hearing his return)

But, perhaps our character was destined to die, but somehow changed their fate?  The death and restoration of a character can link directly to our story.  Perhaps they were endowed with an ancient curse, or poisoned at birth.  And all the while, we can plant seeds of suspicion in our story, and when we reach the point when the seeds connect, the tree called a true novel comes out of the dirt.

However, our characters are much more than what meets the eye.  They aren’t just Jane or Clyde or Mr. Iza.  They’re our obnoxious brother, our humble mother, and our charming sister- sometimes all in one.  The characters aren’t just characters- they’re also our thoughts, the people we interact with every day, and most important of all: they’re you.

Maybe there’s a part of you you’ve never shown to anybody; for example you might have a hardened exterior that keeps people away, but a soft heart that can’t help but love animals (Sakaki from Azumanga Daioh comes to mind).  Perhaps the old woman your character meets in the forest is that hidden person, and her son is the brave individual you always dreamed of being.  Maybe the main character is the unseen part of your heart; the light that you kept hidden inside.  Or perhaps the antagonist is the devil you kept from coming out; now you can unleash it with your words.

The character is the most important part of any story, but not just because they keep the reader interested.  They unleash your hidden fears, your most important thoughts, and everything you’ve dreamed and loathed of becoming or seeing.  And not all characters are even human; some tend to be animals or machines.  Perhaps you have a constant infestation of roaches in your home, and that’s why the evil villain is an insect.  Or maybe you’ve always loved the idea of a robotic friend coming to your house, so you give one to the main character.  There can be all sorts of reasons the characters are what they are.  But, in the end, all the characters, no matter how great, small, evil, or good, are a part of you.  You are always the main character.


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