StoryTime Blog Hop: Trick or Treat?

Welcome to StoryTime Blog Hop, Halloween edition! Here is my contribution, please check out the links at the bottom for the other participants. Happy blog hopping!

The Picture

 

The first time Kelly saw the picture, he was struck with how ugly it was. The girl in it was pasty-pale, her cheekbones jutting too sharp over grey hollows. Her eyes were flat, sullen black disks, and her dark hair faded into the splotchy brown background in erratic swirls. Whoever the painter was, it looked like he’d resented every sloppy brush stroke of this.

 

The picture belonged to Uncle Algy, who had a store of what he called “antiquities and collectibles”. What anyone would want with shabby old chairs or fifty-year-old model trains, Kelly didn’t know. But apparently, someone was buying these things, because Uncle Algy still occupied his dusty, dim-lit corner store between Main and Church Street, even though Kelly’d never seen a customer inside, in all the years he’d spent his afternoons there, waiting for his mum to pick him up.

Uncle Algy had a perpetual scowl between his bushy eyebrows, hidden in his tangled beard, but he never minded if Kelly poked around the shop.

So when he loomed up behind Kelly’s shoulder and asked “What’ve you got there now?”, Kelly showed him the picture. He didn’t expect for Uncle Algy to rip it out of his hand. “Keep your hands off of that, boy!” he thundered.

“It’s just an ugly picture!” Kelly’s voice cracked on the last word, squeaking up into a child’s defensive plea.

Uncle Algy bent down, swept up the grey cloth Kelly’d found the picture under, and wrapped it back up.

“It’s not ‘just’ anything!” Kelly thought he could see dust sift from the ceiling beams from the volume of Uncle Algy’s voice. “It’s cursed, this damn thing is, so you just forget you ever saw that!”

“Yeah, right,” Kelly grumbled, but the look Uncle Algy gave him was so withering that he kept the rest of his opinion to himself.

Cursed. What did that even mean? It was just an ugly old picture.

 

He didn’t forget about it. Instead, he kept thinking about it all weekend. He wanted to sneak another look, to follow the swirl of paint in the grey hollows of the girl’s cheeks, to see if there was really nothing more to the blank blackness of her eyes.

So the next week, he went searching for it. It took him until Thursday to find it, and with every day, he got more curious to see it again. He knew it was a little silly, but when he finally found it, stuffed between dismembered dolls’ limbs in a box under the counter, he brushed the grey cloth aside with careful hands.

And there it was: pale girl, wild hair, smudged brown background. It was the same as before, and he wondered why he hadn’t been able to get it out of his head. There was something– something about those black eyes. It was, he thought, the way they seemed to stare right at him even though they were so flat. How did they do that? Well, there, he realized– there was the tiniest dab of white in the black, a pin-prick of reflected light, there was a subtle sheen of blue to give them depth, to outline the shadow of her eyelashes…

Once again, the picture was ripped out of his hands, hard enough to leave a splinter in the thin skin next to his thumb. He sucked on it, glared up at Uncle Algy.

This time, Uncle Algy didn’t yell. “Out,” he said, and pointed to the door.

“It’s hours until Mum comes!” Kelly protested, but it was futile: Uncle Algy threw him out of the shop. And when Kelly’s mum finally showed up, he told her Kelly wasn’t welcome there anymore. His mum was as confused as Kelly was, but there was no reasoning with Uncle Algy. Kelly ended up having to wait in the library after school.

The library wasn’t half as interesting as Uncle Algy’s shop.

Kelly’d never considered whether he liked the shop or not, but now that he had to while away the hours in the too-clean, too-cheerful library, he realized it was home– more, certainly, than whatever flat he and his mum ended up living in.

And all because of a stupid picture.

He wanted another look at the picture– a proper one, without interruptions. And once he’d done that, he’d get rid of it, and tell Uncle Algy, and then maybe he could go back to the dim golden-brown light and the smell of dust and wood and ageing paper.

 

Uncle Algy always hid the key under the flowerpot by the back door. So on Saturday evening, when his mum left for her yoga class, Kelly fluffed his pillow and blankets into a semblance of a sleeping person, left his window open by a crack so he could sneak in later, and hopped on the bus into town.

The sun was sinking golden behind the roofs, and the bus was full of people dressed up for a night out.

Uncle Algy’s shop stood silent in the dusk.The street lamp outside threw foreign orange beams of light through the dusty window panes, rendered the trains and the chairs into alien shadows.

Kelly hesitated. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe he should just go back home.

But he was already there, and he’d brought a flash light, and really, it was just Uncle Algy’s shop. What was the worst that could happen?

So he set to searching. Of course the picture wasn’t in the box with the doll parts anymore. Neither was it hidden between the faded books on the shelves, or among the creepy frames of pinned butterflies and beetles.

No, it was in the weirdest place of all: in the corner with the other paintings.

It was late by the time he found it, and Kelly knew he’d soon have to leave to catch the last bus. But he had a few minutes yet, enough for a quick peak.

He took the picture to the front of the shop, where the street light made it marginally brighter. He hopped onto the counter, and unwrapped the small frame in his lap. He studied it in the mingled orange and white glare from his flash light and from outside.

It was still ugly. The girl’s hair writhed up around her face, and her mouth was so narrow and pale that he could hardly see it in this light. Her black eyes stared straight at him.

He found that little speck of white, the subtle tint of blue. The longer he looked, the less flat her eyes seemed. There was something… A gloss. A… reflection. He raised the picture and his flash light, searched for… There. Another tiny dab of colour, light-blue. A fleck here, a breath there. He juggled the flash light to see better. It was… there was a form. A shape. The closer he looked, the clearer it became. Her black eyes pulled him in. Colour came together, and he could almost make it out, almost…

It was a dim figure limned in light, orange and white.

The black surged up like an ocean wave, swallowed him whole.

 

The first time Erica looked at the picture, she was struck with how ugly it was. The boy’s face was thin, his colour uneven. His hair was a random swirl of reddish brown, his eyes the colour of mud. The brushwork was awkward, going this way and that, like the painter had been confused, hadn’t known what he was doing.

She smiled a little, and tucked the picture frame into her bag before she let herself out of the shop onto the night-time street. It wouldn’t do to look into those dull eyes for too long. It wouldn’t do at all.

 

(Now with updated links arranged in proper hopping sequence) 

PARTICIPATES:

  1. Peg Fisher All In the Fall, a Fractured Fairytale
  2. Bill Bush Trapped
  3. Crystal Collier Emily’s Ghost
  4. Viola Fury 911
  5. Benjamin Thomas Autumn Cascade
  6. C. Lee McKenzie Beautiful
  7. Erica Damon Penance’
  8. J. Q. Rose Sorry
  9. Elise VanCise Lady In The Woods
  10. Barbara Lund Spooky Space
  11. Angela Wooldridge Quiet Neighbours
  12. Katharina Gerlach Australian Dream
  13. Karen Lynn The Waves at Midnight
  14. Sherri Conway Ants
  15. Elizabeth McCleary Over James Henry Wilcox Dead Body
  16. Juneta Key Shiny People substituted story
  17. Advertisements

Movie Review: Suicide Squad and the Art of Storytelling

So, having this blog but apparently not much to post in the ways of original fiction, I’ve decided I might just do some reviews and share some thoughts.

Without further ado, I give you:

Suicide Squad and the Art of Storytelling

Caution: There be spoilers for the movie ahead! Don’t read if you don’t want to know!

So I just returned from watching Suicide Squad, and after I’ve spent the last little while thinking about storytelling, and learning about it, I have some thoughts about this movie.

First of all: Here’s how not to do it.

Item One: Viewer/Reader expectations. The trailer promised me a movie full of wise-cracking, crazy super-villains, forced to act in the interest of society and doing so with brutal madhouse flair.

This is not that movie. All the quips are in the trailer, pretty much. I’ve seen that trailer a few times, so I already know them. I’m not sure if it’s that or just the general atmosphere of the movie, but most of them pretty much fall flat in context. So, not so much with the wise-cracking. As for the flair… Sure, so we shoot and bash some mutated people. Deadshot and Harley get some reasonably cool scenes. I’m still missing some cinematic oomph, though.

Item Two: The Beginning. So we all know that in the beginning, you’re supposed to hook the audience. I guess that’s what they tried by showing us some prisoners being abused– hey, we’re supposed to be sympathetic to these convicted criminals, so, sure. Only why do we then segue into a half hour affair of talking heads that narrate at length the back story of these characters under the pretence of putting together this team– which still leaves us in complete darkness as to the motivations of these people to do what they do?

Now, I don’t know if it was in truth half an hour, but that’s what it felt like- a boring half hour of telling, not showing. This is one of those instances where someone didn’t quite figure out where the story started which they wanted to tell. And it’s a waste of time, too. Those short little summary screens of the villains they had– that was all we needed at this point in the story. The rest would’ve done much better interwoven with the major plot at times where it was relevant for that character.

Item Three: The Plot– in which we ask: what plot? The one about the shady government agency and it’s shady dealings? Or the one about the evil witch trying to destroy the world? What is this movie trying to tell me? Recruiting super-villains to your defence is a bad idea? Super-villains can be good people, too? I’m really not too sure… So it was a home-made problem because the evil witch you thought you had on a leash went and… stole your bomb?

Here’s a hint: while your story can have twists and turns, it shouldn’t confuse your audience. I, as the audience, am still somewhat confused as to what the whole point of this exercise was. The evil witch is building a portal– oh, but your job is to extract your (pretty much evil) boss instead of stopping her. Right. There’s an army of mutated evil minions in your way, you’re supposed to avoid them, so you… stay right where you are until they attack you? Okay. You’re possessed by an evil witch that you hate but… you call her so she can… run away and resurrect her brother and destroy the world? Uh… And why again was that bomb important? And why didn’t we know about it the moment it happened if it was?

This… is not how you write a good, logical plot.

Oh, and also– the dramatic team walk and the slow-motion final show-down has been done to death. Really.

In conclusion: There is a great movie in there– one about how super-villains are maybe people, too, and about how even bad people can be in love, about what separates good from evil, anyway, and whether the ends justify the means, and about whether redemption is ever possible.

Unfortunately, the movie I saw today wasn’t that movie.

Welcome

Welcome to my modest little corner of the internet! This is where I (attempt to) publish my original fiction. It’s all a work in progress, and any constructive criticism is much appreciated. If you’d rather have a look at my fanfiction writings, just hit the nifty AO3 menu item, which will take you straight there!

Without further ado, have a peek around, enjoy yourself, drop a comment if you feel like it!