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A Story Wot I Wrote For A Contest

An entirely Pokemon-related series of rambling articles. This weblog exists because I won a competition for it (somehow) so I'll try to make each article a high-quality affair in its own right. No filler here.
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A Story Wot I Wrote For A Contest

Posted October 19th, 2011 at 5:03 AM by (=Nemesis=)

Odd to put a story in a blog post instead of the creative writing sub-forum, but it's old stuff, I'm not going to change it in any way, or do anything stupid like write a sequel; it's shared memorabilia, if you like.

The given theme for the story was "Cast Aside". The first thing that crossed my mind was a scene with Tinkerbell and Captain Hook in Disney's not-too-bad adaptation of Peter Pan. But, never mind that for now.

Below the story itself are some notes about what I tried to achieve with this piece of work. It should illustrate why I wrote what I wrote, and why I wrote in the first place. But for now, on with the story!

You may call me Ernest, if you will; for though the name may never find use for me again, my recounting of the misfortune that brought me here will be earnest indeed. It cannot have begun more than a week ago; I awoke to the sound of birdsong in the wood, with an abominable headache and only a vague memory of what had happened before. I remember only a visit to Goldenrod City with Annie, who was talking excitedly about… nothing, as far as I could tell.

I resolved to find her as soon as I could, and tried to find my way out of the maze of trees. The glorious sunlight faded quickly behind the cover of cloud, and I shivered as the first of the cold, heavy raindrops began to fall. At last I found my way to the nearest town, and tapped nervously at the door of the first house I could see. I was shy enough around strangers when Annie was with me, and here, I felt completely alone. The door opened and I beheld the face of an old man, who must have been taken aback by my bedraggled appearance, for I was by now wet through and very muddy. After a moment's pause, where he looked at me blankly and I looked back with what must have been an expression of absolute despair, he quickly welcomed me in and introduced me to a young girl, his granddaughter.

"Good heavens, you must be entirely soaked!" he remarked. "I don't have a roaring log fire like those fellows down the road, but I'll do all I can to make you comfortable." He fetched a towel and set to work on helping to clean off the mud. "You'll have to stay here overnight," he concluded, after wiping off most of the moisture. "It seems the storm is getting worse." As if to herald his words, there was a thunderclap that followed right after. I sneezed, which seemed to make the old man even more concerned than he already was. He found an electric fire and some blankets, and I remember no more after that. I must have quickly fallen into slumber, and slept on and off for days, with only a few waking memories which blended with my tormented dreams so that I can no longer tell them apart. Once, I was back at home and safe in Annie's arms; once, I was overwhelmed by a terrible flood. There was a thunderstorm with raindrops as red as blood, and there was a nurse standing over me, words of concern washing over me like the relentless waves of the ocean.

Once I had finally awoken, I found myself in a proper bed, with the electric fire next to me at full power. I felt a little feverish, and was dreadfully hungry. The old man who had taken me in appeared with a bowl of food, which I ate voraciously. Looking back, it was impolite of me to tuck in so freely, but the old man didn't seem to mind at all.

The next day, I at last felt well enough to venture outside, and to try to establish what had befallen me on that fateful day. That would mean finding Annie. For the last week, she and I had regularly been down to Slowpoke Well for training, which was only a short walk away. It seemed like folly not to go there at once. When I got there and clambered down the long ladder, it was not long at all before I found her, standing next to a female Sandslash I had not seen before.

When Annie heard me she turned in surprise. "Ernest?" she asked, in astonishment. "You came back?"

I nodded, and a feeling of dread crept over my entire being, a chill resounding through every bone; for I had begun to suspect the very worst.

"But…" she stammered. "But… but… I thought you'd be…"

I waited for her to compose herself; it would not have been appropriate to jump to a conclusion and shout, especially in the presence of a lady. But all the while my suspicions deepened and grew like an immeasurable abyss.

"I didn't expect you to come back," she said at last. "I got a call last week that someone had put up a Sandshrew for offer. Perfect IVs, the right nature, Earthquake learned… I've wanted to move up into the big league and this is my chance to do it. And… and there's no point in training two Sandshrews. Nobody would really want you in a trade. You don't even have the right EV spread. I just thought you'd make it all right out in the wild. I mean, that's where I found you, right? So I released you. You're free to go where you like."

In all the time I had spent with Annie, in all the hours together through the good times and the bad, I had never thought that she would let me go without a second thought. I made my departure without protest, and I did not hold any thoughts of contempt or malice against Annie's new acquisition. She had clearly known no part of this, totally innocent of Annie's carefree betrayal. Had I been human, perhaps I would have shed tears. But in the dry, arid expanse I used to call home, any waste of water at all, and thus any overwhelming abundance of it, could mean death. And thanks to Annie, it nearly did.

Perhaps I would return to the desert sands some day, or perhaps I would find someone whose friendship is beyond natures, and IVs, and move pools. Perhaps. As for Annie, in my mind there was no doubt. She had not 'released' me.

I had been cast aside.

The first thing I wanted to do with this bit o' fan-fiction was to avoid purple prose if I possibly could. He swept aside his long, darkened blond hair while his olive, viridian, jade eyes darted back and forth across the pure, white, open space of pixels where a world of imagination could be forever unlocked. You know, that kind of nausea-inducing stuff.

So I got to thinking about the narrative style of my favourite authors. JRR Tolkien. Arthur Conan Doyle. HG Wells. Robert Louis Stevenson. Though I'm sure I didn't succeed with any kind of consistency, I tried to capture the narrative spirit of their works, The War of the Worlds in particular. Something that helped was that while working, I read through what I'd written with the imagined voice of Richard Burton, remembering his performance in Jeff Wayne's excellent musical adaptation.

Secondly, I wanted this story to have a kind of revelation at the end, so that clues dropped through the narrative would have a new meaning, should the reader be desperately bored enough to read the story again. At the same time I wanted the twist to be completely unexpected, perhaps a little humorous, but also meaningful. I wanted, in a nutshell, Pokemon trainers to feel regret whenever treating their digital imaginary friends like dirt. I wanted the reader to think it was a young man with a flu, perhaps being a little over-dramatic in his agonies, and to realise later that these trials were endured by a Sandshrew, a small rodent-like creature to whom exposure to water can be deadly. The different context makes the story more engaging and meaningful, but because I didn't want to give away everything until the end, I relied somewhat on the reader being able to think about the story's events in a new light. It was a huge trade-off.

Finally, I wanted nothing to be written that didn't belong there. Anything that didn't advance the story I searched for and tried to cut out. I couldn't have made the story any shorter without destroying its narrative style. If I didn't feel it made real Ernest's plight, I would have cut out half of the scenes in Kurt's house.

Oh. Yeah. It was Kurt and his granddaughter he was with. In Azalea town. So he was released from the Goldenrod City Pokemon Centre into Ilex Forest. I did think about the logistics at least.

The brevity of the ending was actually the main criticism of the story, presumably because it required the reader to stop, think about it, and perhaps read a sentence or two again. But to me, this is one of the great things about books. When they catch you unaware, you can effectively do a double-take of what you've just read. Not so for films, which is probably why their plot-holes are made with impunity.

I'm not complaining, in any sense of the word. My entry came second in the competition, and was beaten by a story that had some actual character development in it.

Finally, why did I write this story in the first place? Because it's a contest. But also because I wanted to prove that older writing styles are a much, much better source of narrative embellishment than the purple prose I was half-expecting as competition. But nobody who read it noticed so I guess that was a fail.
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