Pages

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Red Writing Hood: Permanent Record

So, this week's Red Writing Hood fiction challenge was to craft a villain.The story went in a different direction than I had anticipated, but I enjoyed this voice nevertheless.

I need some feedback. Believable character? Suggestions for where to go next? I don't want her to be a stereotype, and I appreciate your thoughtful feedback, as always.


Permanent Record 

I slump in the padded, orange chair, folding and refolding the hall slip. The empty desk in front of me is spotless, with the exception of a box of Kleenex, presumably for "releasing my feelings." There's also a manila folder with my name neatly written along the label.

Is this my fabled permanent record? I consider taking a peek--although aside from a few tardies to sixth period Geometry, it couldn't tell much of a tale. I cover my bases.

Besides, it's all a bunch of crap anyway. The "permanent record" doesn't mean shit unless you're convicted---and even that can get sealed once you're eighteen.

I glance once again at the hall slip,which summoned me to the office of Frankie Paris, school counselor. It figures I would be pulled out of ceramics---the one hour a day where I don't want to crawl into my eardrum.

God, I hate school. Moving from one room to the next, like worms crawling out of a carcass, only to fester and decay in another classroom. Geometry. Slither. Decay.  American Literature. Ooze. Decompose.

And now, here I am, surrounded by rah-rah posters touting scholarships and camps for "exceptional students." Yeah. Not me. A solid "C" student, I sit quietly, do my work, and hate everybody.

I glance at the clock. I've been sitting here in Overachiever Hell for fifteen minutes. Where the fuck is she? Why can't I just gargle a chainsaw and get this over with?

The clock ticks. I imagine my body breaking down her chair, like these mushrooms I saw eating away at this old stump in my backyard. I wish that I could break it all down, grind this entire place to dust. 

The bell rings--ceramics is over, and my normal self would be slithering to gym. I've been sitting that class out, lounging on the bleachers with the Muslim girl presently fasting for Ramadan and kid who runs stick-pins through his fingertips the entire hour. Bunch of fucking losers---but stick-pin kid has some good ideas.

Finally, the door bursts open, and Ms. Paris bounds in. "Kayla! I'm so sorry I'm late!" She smiles, in what is supposed to be a "aren't-I-adorable?" expression. Maybe it worked about ten years ago.

She's wearing a KHS Knights polo shirt and pleated khaki pants. Her blond hair is in a messy bun, held together by two pencils. Black traces of eyeliner nest in her crows feet.

This is my authority figure.

"So," Mrs. Paris says, "How are you, Kayla? I realize that we're halfway through your junior year, and we've never had a chance to chat. I try to talk to all my students."

I say nothing, returning to my hall-pass origami  Silence is one of the most efficient ways to fuck with adults.I know how to play it just right, tuning it like a passive-aggressive violin. If you hold onto it too long, the adults start blabbing on about "Respect" and "Looking them in the eye." Then you get a note in the permanent record. But if you hold it just a bit too long, it's a lot of fun.And very effective.

She coughs, awkwardly, and says, "So, how do you like your classes?"

"They're okay," I reply.

"Anything you want to talk about?" she asks, "Have you thought about your plans for the future?"

"Not really," I say. "Maybe college, I don't know."

She starts babbling about the PSAT and the SAT, about financial aid and early acceptance, all of which is stupid and pointless, because I'm not going to do any of it.

I've got other ideas. Not Columbine-crazy ideas.

My ideas are delicate and deadly. My ideas will soon take root. My ideas will slowly, with white-topped fury, break this place down until it is nothing but dust.

35 comments:

Nancy C said...

My problem is I kinda like this girl and I'm not sure I want to make her villainous. This held me back whenever I started going that way.

Eyegirl said...

I'm seeing her as the bitch you hate to love. You know the one... She doesn't break enough rules to be "scary" but crosses the line just often enough to keep everyone guessing. The one you wish you had the guts to act just like, if only you weren't so damn afraid of what might happen if you gave up your good girl role. She says what she thinks and does what she wants, and you wish you could hate her but you're too busy wishing you could break out of your shell and be her.

I like it so far. I hope to read more!

Aging Mommy said...

I failed totally this week - the prompt of villain led me nowhere, to a story I started, did not like and deleted. This was a tough one for me - I gave up - you persevered.

Daffy said...

She seems like she's not quite sure what direction she wants to take herself. She has villain potential but does she *really* want take it that far?

I'm definitely intrigued...would love to see where it goes from here!

blueviolet said...

Oh wow, such realism in this. I felt like this could be happening in the school down the street. I really liked all the raw honesty in it.

Matty said...

Delicate and deadly......tells me this solid C student is smarter than she lets on. No one will see her coming.

I would go in that direction.

Ratz said...

Ooooh! the good turned ugly. I agree with you, it became hard for me to thnk of this girl as a villain. she seemed to have issues but nothing villainous about it... but you have done justice in the last line. It was casual and yet it made me think what sort of an idea this girl was planning... I am fine with the character now. good work :-)

The Blogging Goddess said...

You are a very accomplished writer. I am pulled right in. Would love to know more about Kayla. Bad home life? Normal home life? What are her ideas?

noisycolorfullively said...

I like this kid. I think I may have taught her. Before, you know, she slithered out of my room and into the next ;) I think a villian can be quite likeable. Some of the best villian's are likeable demand some sympathy. Perhaps, the hero of your story is the villian and the typical hero is the ass wipe goody-goody. Go all crazy role reversal!

Regardless of where you go, I'd like to know more of Kayla.

Carrie said...

she sounds like many teenage kids: has issues but could go either way. I loved your description of how she felt about classes: slithering and oozing her way through :)

Your last line is definitely intriguing

cristina said...

I agree that she could really go either way, but I'm leaning on liking her, she seemed like the typical sullen teen.

ksluiter said...

I am totally into this character! As a teacher I see teens like this a lot. I so badly want to be a part of the story and show her that not all adults are lame and don't get it. I would love to read more about where she goes with these emotions!

Joey @ Big Teeth and Clouds said...

I think maybe high school is too soon to brand this girl a true villain. Of course, I don't know what it is that she's planning.

Minivan Lover said...

I like her too. I also hate Ms. Paris already. How deadly are you aiming for her to be? I see her as pushing the limit in a way that makes others cautious around her, but not scared of her.

Kim said...

I think that she really could be a villain. It's these smart introverted kids that are Columbine-ish. I read a novel recently where the story was told through the villain's (a sixteen-year-old boy who had been bullied and teased his whole life) perspective. It made it very complicated to hate him even after he shot up some of his classmates. The author insisted that we see why he became who he was...it's the scariest kind of villain if you ask me. A teenager with vengeful thoughts.

Kristy said...

I thought it was believable. If you ever wanted to pursue the idea further, you could have a couple of teens read it to see if the thoughts were realistic.

Christy said...

She is very real, for sure. Pretty sure I knew a few girls like her in high school, lol. i'm kinda like her though. She's the rebellious youth that I never was in high school ... the pissy side of a high school student. To me, it seemed that last sentence was a shock; I wasn't really expecting quite so much hatred from her. but i don't know, she could easily convince me that she is a real villian.

Ash said...

Wow Nancy. Love the mushroom analogy. And the oozing. Seriously, nothing better than a villain who is complex and not black and white.

One of my all-time favorite characters is Hans Gruber - probably because Alan Rickman played him, but what a total bastard that has you laughing every other scene.

I think you've found your fiction calling.

Ash said...

P.S. Think "Heathers" too.

The Drama Mama said...

The very last line sums it all up, as well as your descriptions throughout. She is most definitely a villain, but one that will be sympathized with. I definitely think this is a character worth pursuing and there is a lot more to the story. I hope you keep writing it. I want to read it.

Unknown Mami said...

I guess I don't truly want her to be a villain, maybe have a villainous streak, but not truly be a villain.

Cheryl said...

The thing about portraying realist villains is they're never all bad. I don't think it's bad to empathize with a villain. I also think she totally COULD be the hero. Just because you created her for this prompt does not mean you can't go with her in the way that feels most organic for you.

TKW said...

Interestingly, I like her! She's sulky and awful but hey, that age is tough, so I knew there was something going on behind the scenes.

Jackie said...

She's a totally believable character! I'd continue on with her... maybe some back story and then forward to present day.

Elaine A. said...

The worm analogy is total brilliance.

I'm already feeling a little attached to her, so I say carry on with her development and I can see her going either way. Curious to see what you choose...

The mad woman behind the blog said...

Totally believable and almost likeable.

And I really loved how she felt she was decaying in class. I SO have been there.

Stacey @ Entropified said...

Gotta say I loved the line the one hour a day where I don't want to crawl into my eardrum.

Florida Girl Meets the Midwest said...

You are a gifted writer. As always, I enjoyed what you did here.

As far as feedback, I would say to think about the motivation of your character as you develop her and come to rework things as necessary. I know she says she is deadly at the end, but I am not buying it here--but then again, maybe I am not supposed to. Complicated villains are the best but they def. are more challenging to portray.

only a movie said...

She could go either way... I sorta like her right now. Wonder how far she could go? To be a real villain, it seems like she needs to be less insightful and more disassociated.

But then, I have rose colored glasses...

Bekah said...

I think Kayla needs REALLY good motivation to become a villain- she's so self aware for a teenager. I don't want to her end up sounding all whiny and "nobody understands me". KWIM?

Erin said...

Nancy, so much of this resonated with me and reminded me of myself that I can't possibly see her as a villain. C student, hating school, chainsaw imagery, etc. etc....your writing is always excellent and this is no exception. I love the way you craft your words and no detail goes untouched. I see everything, feel it beneath my hands. Exquisite. But if you want me to be honest, I'm not sure I see K as a big meanie/scary person....?

Natalie said...

I want to know more about her, too! I like her...but I kind of would like to see her as a villain - almost so that I wouldn't feel bad about sympathizing with her and the reason she is a villain, you know?

Jessica Anne said...

I like her, but I think you did a great job depicting her as troubled. I think she could be a complicated villian, or the main character with some real flaws. I don't think the protagonist always has to be a good person.

clearness said...

I can't believe that I somehow missed this post.....This is awesome and that totally could have been me.

Marla said...

I want an autographed copy of this when it is published as a book. She is the villain in all of us that really isnt.

Love this.