JD Salinger has passed away on 27 Jan 2010 at the age of 91.

I have only ever read one of his works, The Catcher in the Rye, and it’s one of my favourite YA books. No-one has ever painted the disillusionment towards life in a young, optimistic heart as well as him. Holden Caulfield’s cynicism stems from the opportunities he thinks he is denied, and the pretentiousness of the people around him. Nonetheless, it is obvious he is always ready to believe the best in people, and the world. It’s tough to portray that through a character’s actions and his voice, but Salinger nailed it, creating a hero readers sympathise with and root for.

Salinger, I read, was a very reclusive writer, never gave interviews or the like. I just wish he’d written more about Holden; I was so sorry when I got to the end of the story. Salinger’s awesome, even better, imo, than Jack Kerouac (at least, comparing The Catcher in the Rye and On the Road).

On a different note, literary agent Nathan Bransford asked this question: How Did You Come Up With the Idea for Your WIP?

The thing about Shiny New Ideas (phrase coined from writer Erica Orloff) is that as a writer, you want to know how other writers get inspired, but can’t explain it yourself either when others ask you. You shrug and say, “Everywhere, I guess.”

For my stories, as Triv commented before, most of the conflict internally – literally. Most of my main characters are mentally disturbed, or at least detached from reality, because I think mentally disturbed people make good material for stories. I am interested in how some people retreat into a world they’ve created for themselves (is it a defense mechanism? or a delusion of grandeur that stems from a need to fill an emotional void? and so on) and how they straddle the line between detachment and insanity.

Red December Skies started as a setting (Marina South pier), then the character of Jerry, who was inspired by Lei of Meteor Garden. And then the problem of the protagonist, Ethel, just developed itself, and that’s that.

I’m at Singapore, Asia and American Power lecture now (yes, multi-tasking as usual), and Prof Hamilton-Hart’s telling us how NUS has, since its conception (or should I use establishment? oh, my diction’s screwed today), adopted an American-style curriculum. Apparently, SM Goh had the vision of NUS as the ‘Harvard of the East’ (the point: instead of ‘Oxford of the East’).

Anyway, this semester is proving to be more hectic than sem 1, even though I’m only taking 4 modules. So. Many. Papers. To. Write. I don’t even want to contemplate next semester, where I have to take 6 modules to compensate for the 1 module I didn’t take this sem (I think I explained before that I dropped my NM module last minute because I decided to change my Minor from that to Econs).

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I’m thinking of taking EN2271 as one of my modules next semester –Introduction to Playwriting. The thing is, it would clash with another module I want to take, EL3245: Media, Discourse and Society. Moreover, I’m not very sure if I want to take this as one of my Unrestricted Electives. We’re supposed to take 7 of them, as per the requirements of the University. So there are other modules like Introduction to Creative Writing and Introduction to Prose Writing, that I want to take as well, but they’re not offered this coming semester. So should I tak EL3254?

Anyway, application for the module is exclusive. Online bidding is not enough. They want us to write three scenes (no longer than one page each) based on three words: Abdication, Vindication and Restitution. On top of that, attach a sample of another type of work, a short story or essay or sorts. Here’s my attempt at Vindication.

 

*

There had never been any question about it. It was her fault. And for that, she was bound to him forever. Or at least, until she could assuage the guilt or until he forgave her, set her free. But the bonds were too tight; she could barely hope that they would ever snap.

“It’s your fault, Audrey.” He never let her forget that. “If only you hadn’t been there…”

He was drunk again. She remembered the last time he let his brain get addled with alcohol, and shuddered.

“Have you ever thought of getting a job, Ryan?” She had to approach gently. He was too volatile these days.

“A job?” He barked a laugh. “What can a cripple like me work as?”

“You aren’t crippled. You just can’t play anymore.”

He turned to her, his eyes flashing dangerously. “And whose fault is it that I had to give up the piano? And now you’re finding me a nuisance? Am I in your way, Audrey? Am I robbing you of a life?”

“No.” She took his hands. “I didn’t mean that. You know I didn’t –”

“I was meant to do great things, be world-famous.” A hazy glimmer settled in his faraway gaze.

When she noticed the hardening of his jaw, it was too late. He had grabbed hold of her. She braced herself for the incoming tide. But instead of hitting her, he took her face and pressed his lips against hers. The smell of alcohol made her gag, but she tried not to struggle.

It’ll be over soon. It’ll be over soon.

But his hands were running all over her now. He gripped her more tightly when she writhed. Her breathing was labored now, as the panic that spread from within her became a blanket of goosebumps. Her skin crawled wherever his hands and lips roamed.

“It’s your fault, Audrey.”

“Please stop. Please.”

“But don’t you see? It’s your fault.” His voice was muffled against her skin.

She imagined herself engulfed by the toxic cloud of guilt, the one that numbed her senses so that she was unable to bring herself to leave him. She choked on it, reveled in it.

Later, she would tell herself it was that cloud of guilt that made her grab his hair and swing his head against the edge of the coffee table. It was that cloud of guilt that made her deaf to the crack of his skull, blind to the crimson river that poured out of him, stained his face.

Right then, she stared down at him, her bloody angel, whom she once loved. She could think of nothing apart from the music he played, a hushed melody that she feared to forget.

*

Yes, I know. I felt a bit disturbed when I was writing it too.

On a lighter note, I’m re-watching Meteor Garden. Falling in love with Lei all over again. Did I mention? He’s my muse for Patches of Blue Sky. The silent, beautiful boy you feel so protective of you actually ache for him. Oh, Lei. I really think Vic is the perfect choice for the character. He looks like he walked out of the manga (Meteor Garden was based on the Japanese manga, Hana Yori Dango). I’m enjoying writing Patches of Blue Sky (change title asap!) immensely, by the way.

I’ve been busy these few days.

Busy collecting ideas.

This might come as a shock, but I’m watching an Asian drama series called Mars now. It stars Vic Zhou and Barbie Hsu (or however you spell their names). This sudden addiction to drama series was sparked by my sudden reminiscence that led me to watch Meteor Garden again. I remember how it was all the rage when I was about 11 or 12. Everyone watched it, or at least had heard of it. My friends and I were nuts about it, if only because it was so darn romantic. I know, what did we know about romance at the age of 11 or 12, right? But it’s not like I’m any wiser about it now, at 19, so what the hell.

I’d intended to take a detached view this time round. I’d laugh at the cheesy lines and cringe-worthy acting. Honestly, I don’t even know what made me decide to watch it. Maybe it’s the drought that’s come over the romantic genre. No romance novels, no romance TV shows. It is inherently a feminine desire, I suppose, to crave such ostensibly frivolous escapism.

So I watched it.

I did laugh at the cheesy lines. But what surprised me was how well-developed the characters were. As a writer – as well as an emotionally more matured person than I was at 11 (I hope) – it struck me immediately how special each character was. No two characters had the same personality, and each was conveyed through their actions and speech. There was subtlety in that, and I found myself drawn in by the show once again.

I remember how I rooted for Si (this arrogant a-hole who rules the school, along with his 3 other friends that forms the legendary F4) and the female protagonist, SC. But this time round, I found Lei (oh, Lei…) the more matured one, the more noble one, the more tenderhearted and long-suffering one.

Just after a few episodes of watching how Vic conveyed his character (I was more impressed by his acting skills than I’d originally expected), I slept on it and came up with a Shiny New Idea for a new story. I’d thought of a plot beforehand, that day when I went to the pier with my dad, but I was lacking in the character department. I had the conflict, and the setting, but the characters were still the stiff, two-dimensional stick figures I kept coming up with. This might be it. This might be the key to creating someone I had never dealt with before.

Oh, and I watched Meteor Garden 2 after finishing the first one. And can I just say that it really wasn’t as good as the first. It was too draggy, and Si’s amnesia was overly dragged out (spanning 15 episodes or so). Plus, they introduced this new girl (played by Michelle Saram) who was supposed to be Si’s new love interest. Everyone protested vehemently then, and swore they would boycott the show if Si didn’t end up with SC. So the producers had to change the scenes a little and let them end up together after all. Thank goodness. But that leaves my brokenhearted Lei all alone again. I actually cried several times while watching it, believe it or not. I don’t usually cry over romance movies because I’m unable to relate to the situation or the characters, but Vic’s acting and the storyline (where SC was left bereft because Si had fallen for someone else, after ALL that they’ve been through) was incredibly moving. So, yes. I am a sap. I am a woman, emotional and irrational. And now I need my fix of romantic narratives.

So I’m watching Mars now. It’s a lot like the story I’m planning out now, about two damaged people who find the future in each other. Mars is about this bad boy motorbike racer who has a dark secret, and who falls in love with a shy, autistic girl. His twin committed suicide and his mother died when he was 5, and he’s deeply traumatised by their deaths, so much so that he displays sudden violent tendencies and had been locked in a psych ward by his father before. So the story’s about how the two of them make each other face their fears and dark pasts, and lean towards each other when their inner demons get the better of them. It’s a lot more intense than Meteor Garden, obviously, but I prefer MG, because of the comic relief and the romance (oh, Lei…), though Mars is shaping up to be just as good.