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I Want a Blog




All about TOKoR.

Yup.

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Things to Know
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- Every statement/observation/analysis/thought applies to the page in question. One line about a character on Page Four's reflection doesn't mean it's going to hold true by the time we hit Page Five. It's a full discussion on everything as they appear in that point of time.

- Spoiler Alert


Last edited by Tartra on Sun Aug 21, 2011 2:05 am; edited 10 times in total
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Tartra
Apparition
Apparition

Join date : 2010-07-10
Female

Posts : 581
Age : 27
Location : Ottawa, Canada


http://www.fictionpress.com/s/2851668/1/The_Other_Kind_of_Roomma

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Post on Wed Nov 10, 2010 6:14 am by Tartra

Oh, the beginning. What an innocent time. This was when the only goal in my mind was to get Xander a latte.

It's interesting how things evolve. Expected, most certainly, but wildly different from what I saw coming, largely because there was nothing planned beyond 'guy has powers, guy has other guy in his head, this is not gay'. Bit by bit, I'm going to go through this.

Originally, even before I came up every crazy thing about superpowers and living in an apartment, the core of what my roleplay was going to be was the relationship between Person A and Person B. In fact, the powers were a complete subplot to what I had in mind (heh, heh...), so to realize now how important they became truly shows how much this thing left my hands and exploded. Person A was supposed to be a normal guy going through normal problems except for the much less normal problem of Person B, who was wonderfully obnoxious and conceited and provided the perfect contrast to A. This idea never wavered - and it went off without a hitch, ending in a love/hate relationship that, I think, came out great. There's tons of hate but a lot of it seems restrained. It has to do with how it's only the first page and I can't bring everything out at once (it's bad business plus I haven't thought of it yet), but it's also there to highlight that, while they have a hundred and ten reasons to despise each other, they've known the other for so long that it's become part of their routine. A's used to it, B likely only does it for some sense of satisfaction, and it's clearly established that they're different enough for many issues - regardless of how long they've around - to never actually or remotely resolve.

No resolution causes drama. Drama is good. I like drama and it's what fuels the roleplay. The problem is when it's unnecessary. I see a lot of good RPs go bad because the need to shove relationship turmoil pops up and it's so utterly out of place and/or avoidable that it breaks the mood that'd been built. So here I am, wondering how I'm going to get this delicious hate (part one of love/hate and the more entertaining half) that'll keep me running back to it, asking myself over and over why, if they're roommates (having them as brothers seemed too easy an out) they wouldn't split up when the fights got bad enough. Ah-ha, says I! Maybe they can't! ... Why not?

Enter Xander. Person B. My hero and - while technically Alex is supposed to be the main character - the star of my little show. As far as 'why do I need to keep putting up with this crap' goes, 'because he's stuck in my head' is one hell of a solid answer. I was alright with that. I thought it was quirky but not blinding and it added something else to the mix: not only did Person A have to put up with Person B, but Alex now needed to hide Xander because the alternative to not hiding him was admitting he was crazy.

This was an idea I didn't put a lot of thought into. I told myself, 'okay, he's in Alex's head, moving along because we'll get to that when we do'. While I'd rather leave a full explanation for Page Two Reflections, I'll throw this out so people know (spoiler alert, but... guys, you should know this by now): no matter what I might have had you - or me, eventually - believe, I never consciously intended Xander to be anything more than Alex being crazy. He was never supposed to be a separate person, but the need to expand on his character - plus a great opportunity to do so - gave me something I had to jump on. Until page two rolled along, and until the actual post in which I said it, I was under the very firm assumption that, while as far as split personalities went that Xander was there on the 'holy crap that's awesome' side, Alex was a hundred percent batshit insane and Xander was literally only a voice in his head.

There. I said it three times. More on that next post.

As far as setting went, which was the other major element of my first post and the first page, an apartment building was quick and easy. It set up an interaction between my and TimeOfTheEye’s characters and it needed next to no explanation as to why that particular building because it was easy enough to assume a reason: coincidence, just happened, Alex was passing through until Xander got him kicked out again. In fact, while Time and I would later come up with a bunch of different cities and towns for our RP to carry through (one of them is about to become very important; hint, hint, Time) the original city never got a name. It didn’t need one; it was a blank slate that we were meant to leap off of – and we did, famously. No regrets there.

The other major setting was probably the biggest cocktease I could’ve dished out: Starbucks. Why a cocktease? Because the place – despite numerous, numerous mentions – doesn’t actually appear until page four. Even then, there’s no actual drinking of it. Again, this is something I’d like to expound on later, but it’s worth answering the question of why the hell did I pick Starbucks?

Starry, you gained yourself a customer. I managed to advertise to myself to the point where I went from ‘HELL NO STARBUCKS, you’re disgusting and overpriced and I hate coffee and blah-blah-blah evil corporation you’re not even Canadian fuck this I’m going to Timmies’ to ‘ohhhhhh gaaaaaaaawd Starbucks, never leave me again’. Naturally, I can’t order what Xander does, but I think this proves my point about what an arbitrary decision Starbucks was. I wanted to give him something to aspire to and an addiction was the fastest and easily established way of doing so. Coffee was the first non-illegal thing in my mind and Starbucks, until I started actually drinking it (damn you, Xander), had that cold and snobby air of entitlement that my precious Tim Hortons, whose coffee I have not ever sampled (mmm, hot chocolate, that sugar at the bottom is to die for), could not be associated with. The international bonus was a factor too, but less so. So Starbucks. And Roasters, because no Starbucks. Do you see the problem Xander was dealing with?

There isn’t a lot left to discuss on this page that can’t or won’t be better addressed later. It was all introductory and nowhere near what it would eventually become. The posts themselves grew from seven or eight paragraphs to four to five pages, single-spaced, font 9, Arial Narrow (what I type on by default). The interaction between Gwen and Alexander (the shorthand for referring to both of them) was simple and unfocused compared to what it’d later be, so I’m not going to spend any time going over it now. There are much better pages (.e.g., page 4) that deal with it. Page two is going to handle all the Agency bits and the ShOcKiNg revelations behind its development, which aren’t anywhere near – again – what I intended. How the hell did I go from two characters to a zillion? Honestly – I pride myself on laziness and here I am writing a book just by listing the names of characters I play. With that said, the only thing I should go over is what I plan to talk about for a while: what my guys do for me.

I’m incredibly selfish, and I’m incredibly unoriginal. I can’t write a character without it stemming from some basis of reality, however exaggerated it may later turn out to be. Alexander, yes, was meant to be black and white, but it was to be done in a way I could verify as being plausible. For that reason, I based them on the teeniest, tiniest part of my personality and cranked it up to seventy-six.

Alex got my overall sense of being lazy: he isn’t out to start a fight, he isn’t out to change the world and he isn’t even out to stop the people trying to get into his brain from doing it. He just wants to live day by day. The cranking up – which is his initial characterization, well outside his eventual personality – was that he’s so determined to keep the status quo, he’d go out of his way to remove himself from society to ensure no one interferes with his life. That’s why Gwen’s appearance is so meaningful: she’s not the status quo, but walking around with her makes him feel normal, which is more than good enough for him. That’s his guiding motivation for the first while. Although he’s very resistant to it, the chance of upgrading to a better definition of ‘normal’ eventually becomes too good to pass up, and then things... spiral...

I don’t have much of a problem with Alex. I guess that’s my problem with him. He doesn’t challenge me. Until maybe page three, I’m firmly stuck in a Xander > Alex frame of mind that doesn’t ever really leave. A lot of my frustration with him being so third wheel-y comes out in him being vocal about his concerns and worries; he’s pessimistic, often right because it serves the plot, but it’s a direct response to me trying to push him out of his shell when I’ve already set up that he doesn’t want to. I felt obligated to give him more post-time than Xander because he is the one with the body, and originally it didn’t matter to me because ‘lol dere da same neway’, but I did regret making him the absolute main character for a while. I don’t regret it now because their values have gone way, way up because of it, but still, to this very post, a lot of who Alex is a way to give the audience an idea of what a ‘normal person’ should have been (for the purposes of this RP) and how Xander lies so very far away from that. And why Xander is awesome.

Ahhh, Xander, Xander, Xander.

Alex was my way to keep the RP from being completely ridiculous. He knows how insane it is to hear a voice in his head and that gives everyone else the chance to go, ‘oh, okay, if he knows he’s crazy, he can’t really be crazy’. That then gave me carte blanche to do whatever the fuck I wanted, because as long as Alex kept saying, ‘There’s no way this can be happening’, I could have Xander reply ‘Ohhhh fuck yeah, it is’ for forever. If I have a problem with him, then it’s that where Alex doesn’t challenge me at all, Xander has me freaking out with every word I put down. ‘Is this right? Would he say that? Would these words actually come out of his mouth?’ I go nuts trying to make him perfect and the evolution of what he is now is so far off from the first post, I almost can’t believe it’s the same dude. Seriously. Right now, as of this writing, which is at the time of early Page 8, he’s kind of mellow. He’s still Xander but he’s controlling himself for various reasons: IC-wise because he’s dragging a broken foot around and he’s got to keep Osono from setting Alex on fire before he gets his body back (long story), and OOC-wise because I can’t have two characters getting out of hand. If Alex is going to be in a pissy mood, Xander, as the yang to his yin, must counter that. For that reason, I’d have to say the best characterization of him – and the one I want to remember him for – is page four and page five. He’s got his good scenes outside of those, but overall, that’s the Xander I want. The one in the first post? Sure, fine, he’s in the middle of a tantrum so it’s not his regular game face, but it’s so... unsophisticated. It’s very easy to see I was toying around with his personality and whenever I look at it now, it’s so rough and unrefined that I have to constantly stop myself from rewriting it. Autocorrect took my ‘the’s and switched them into ‘fuck’s. He doesn’t actually swear like that. Well – he does, but not quite so rapid fire and he puts a little more thought into it.

Another thing about how Xander turned out in comparison to how he started: he was not supposed to be as smart as he wound up. I didn’t want to make him stupid, but he was supposed to be a lot more brutish and whiny. The physical fights between him and Alex were testament to that: original Xander was a shoot-first kind of soul and that made it easy for me to not have to write from his POV. Now I’m not writing from his POV for three reasons: one, I’m worried that his thoughts will give away too much plot and/or set too many things in stone I’ll have to write around for forever; two, I like the idea of having everyone trying to guess what he’s thinking; and three, and most importantly, and most annoyingly, and most mind-numbingly-stupid, he’s too smart for me to write for.

Time taught me this little face: >8U

The biggest I can get it is:

>8U

That’s nowhere near how pissed I am about this. I can’t write for my own damn character because I made him too damn smart. Whaaaaaaaaa?

I have one idea in mind for how I’m going to handle it: don’t ever write in his POV. Sure, you lose out on what he’s actually thinking, but that second reason (having to guess) makes up for that, especially when I’m trying to build a relationship amongst him and the other characters. Everyone has to take him at his word or call a bluff that probably isn’t a bluff. It’s fun, ‘cause it makes everybody a little careful and it makes whenever his emotions show that much more special (I do have another point to make about his emotions and their showings, but I think that’s better left for Page 7 Reflections). It’s the same deal with another character – Eric, although he was on purpose – who comes in later: although it’s annoying and although I could take a stab at it, it’s much nicer to leave it to the imagination. It gives the reader the chance to put their own spin on it and gives them a nice (or nasty) surprise when I prove something about him, which could easily be to the contrary.

I could go on and on about these two. The dynamic between Alex and Xander and how they get along with everyone else – especially Gwen – could get a novel and still leave some stuff out. The love/hate relationship is my favourite part, and it’s extra special because when that ‘love’ side does pop up, it's such a refreshing contrast to the shit they usually fling at each other that it makes a body stop and wonder, ‘... So... do they hate each or not?’

What’s the answer to that?

... Uh...

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Post on Wed Nov 24, 2010 6:54 am by Tartra

Page two, page two! Finally, we start getting a handle on our characters. Almost as importantly, we get a deeper look into the ‘bad guys’.

Every story needs a villain. The Agents were there to fill that one-dimensional role: they were shadowy, they were secret, they had a clearly established end goal (i.e., get superpowers) and a poorly explained motive (i.e., we’re evil lolz). I didn’t think about them any more than that, and even when I did bring them in on the first page, I used the absolute tiniest shard I could manage: one guy, and he wasn’t meant to stick around, either. The entire focus of that Agent was supposed to be his technology; specifically, the suit he came with and the ‘fading’ ability. I thought it’d be neat to have a bunch of invisible enemies prancing around and it set the stage nicely to emphasize how great a threat Alex and Gwen were up against because oh wow, look how advanced their technology is, how are we ever going to get away, but that’s it. That’s all I needed from that guy. Alex had a date, after all, and he wasn’t going to keep her waiting to deal with yet another of those body snatchers.

A lot of little things happened like that on the first and third page. I tried to impress on everyone Alex’s been on the run for a while. Surprisingly, as important as it was to me, almost no mention appeared on the second. This one was all about making friends.

I’ve already mentioned Alex was lazy in the sense he didn’t want to go out of his shell. That was Page One. Page Two is when I changed it: he’s no longer reluctant to get involved with the world, he just has enough crap on his plate and doesn’t want to shovel more on there. This is the Alex I enjoy writing, not the ‘everyone picks on me’ Alex or the ‘waaahhh, Xander’s making scary decisions’ Alex, which made no sense because he very clearly should have been used to it by now. My favourite I Hate Writing You so far has been his Page Eight ‘>8U OSONO LOOK WHAT YOU DID’ thing, which is a much harder hole to crawl out of than anything Xander gets into because he gets the easy hand-wave of mood swings – and I don’t think I even directly stated that as the reason. Time and I sort of just assumed that was what was going on, and I’m happy with it because it a) adds to his character, b) frees him from holding grudges that aren’t life-threatening or actually important, and c) lets me jump back to old grudges and harp on things that would’ve otherwise been dropped, which has its own benefits of ensuring continuity and hammering out a mini side plot if I get stuck on anything. It’s a fair trade off in my opinion because – like I said – I’m not allowed to write in Xander’s POV.

So yes, Alex has enough problems to deal with. Finally, he and I are seeing eye to eye, because as hard as I work to turn my characters into little freaks, I need to enjoy the freak I’m writing. I might not’ve kept going with this if I was stuck walking someone emotionally crippled through his lines. Shy is one thing and I liked making him a bit reclusive – needed to, because it would’ve broken every suspension of belief I had if he wasn’t at least a little sceptical of her interest in him – but not because he’s dazzled by a human being trying to hold a conversation. I can’t do the tooth-pulling ‘oh, I’m so nervous about being out here, but maybe she’ll help me... no, no, no, I’m scared, but maybe if I try –’ No. That’s bullshit. It wastes my time and it always goes on for too long. The only motivation I had behind making Alex so weak in the first place is because of this roleplay’s infallible answer: Xander. Again.

Post Zero (the first introductory post for a character) painted Xander as someone very loud. Too loud, actually, and I’ve spent the rest of the roleplay reining him in (Page Eight? Too far. Wake up, Xander! You’re not on a leash yet. ...Yet. Twisted Evil ) to more appropriate levels, but as much as I’ve worked to tone him down, it’s been an equal struggle turning Alex up. I forget sometimes and that’s when ‘waaaah, scary Xander’ Alex comes to life, but Page Two is my first fruitful effort in turning the contrast away from personality and towards a general outlook on life, giving me room to work in because I now only have to keep ideologies from overlapping, not opinions (i.e., they’re allowed to agree on stuff but not for the same reasons). Whereas Xander is thinking, ‘Is that an Agent in my room? Fucking sweet’, Alex spends his posts wondering, ‘Is it only that Agent? Is he here to capture me or have they just decided to kill me? Do they have the building surrounded? Can I get any of my things? What’s the fastest way out of here?’ and so on.

There’s a funny thing about that, actually. On paper, it clearly seems as though Xander’s the one who’s single-minded. In practise, it’s almost exactly the opposite. He announces one thought at a time and he commits himself to fulfilling his every decided objective, but he’s someone who wants some of everything and can drop, change or make a plan in a heartbeat to fit his environment. Alex, meanwhile, goes through an entire checklist of why something should or shouldn’t be done, and that list spawned purely out of having to – and only having to – dodge the Agents. Seriously. Go through TOKoR and make a list out of their goals. Xander’s got coffee, pizza, date with Gwen, beating up the Agent, killing later Agents, getting a taxi, getting some rest – something Alex fights against a few times because he’s trying to stay on the run – going to a restaurant, going to Starbucks (a separate goal from coffee)... Alex? No Agents, stay away from the Agents, why aren’t we running from the Agents. I think I like that the most about him. He’s very rational about everything he’s going through and it keeps the realism in the RP; after all, if they’re on the run and the first thing they decide to do is hit up a coffee shop, there’s more than a few questions we need to ask about the plot – and about the competence of the Agents, which is what I don’t want. Thanks, Alex! See? I knew there was a reason for keeping you around.

The relationship between Gwen and Alexander started with a fluffy friendship turned you-are-officially-the-only-other-person-here-who-isn’t-actively-trying-to-kill-me. As important as that budding bond is, I’d still rather hold off on explaining it just yet. Rest assured, Page Two ended with Alex settled into the idea of having Gwen around because she was a break from everything else around him.

Back to the Agents.

The concept of these people – before we get into the main Agent characters – as a one-dimensional group didn’t last for very long. There’s a minor scuffle early on in this page between Alex and a fellow named Mike Weir. That post set the table in ways I had no choice but to expand on and was the moment I was able to do the ‘Xander is an ex-Agent’ thing. What did we learn from this interaction?

First, the Agents are highly trained and capable of hunting down anyone at any time. We get a deeper look into how they get around later, but the fact remains that there’re enough forces spread around the area to have eyes everywhere. Second, Agents are inhumanly attached to their work, though whether it’s out of pride (as could be argued in Mike’s case) or obsession (e.g., Stephanie) could vary from person to person. As textbook as this is going to sound, this is supported by the simple fact that Mike Weir appears at all. While I didn’t put a lot of thought into it at the time (I’m the sort of writer who’ll leave a hundred things around to explain to cover up any inconsistencies later on), Mike, having been identified as a ‘failed’ candidate for taking over Alex’s mind, still decided to go along with the job – either planning to steal Alex anyway or go after Gwen – even though he’s no longer employed by the Agency just because he couldn’t let it go. This isn’t something we get to see in anyone else; the only other ex-Agent we have is Xander, who’s been forced to follow his project because he’s trapped inside Alex’s head, while the other two positioned to transfer haven’t hit a ‘almost had it but I lost it’ milestone. How they react may change the meaning of Mike’s decision to keep going – if they get to that point at all – but until then, we’re working off the idea that Agents will not stop until they’ve completed what they’ve set out to do. I treat this as a personality prerequisite to becoming an Agent – or a high-level one, anyway – rather than a mindset they’re trained into. It’s more fun thinking everyone’s crazy obsessed before they sign up and it keeps our main Agents from getting too much sympathy. In my mind, the Agency is as tough on its employees as its targets, but the people who work there went in knowing, accepting and even enjoying what they would have to do.

Third, while it’s pretty damn clear through this fight that if anything was going to happen with Xander, it was that he was going to be an Agent, it’s more important to realize the Agency thinks these superpowered (SP from here on out) people are valuable. Without this post, it would’ve been absolutely A-OK to assume the Agency, if one SP was killed, would simply move onto the next, especially considering the argument the Agents keep giving for why they do what they do is ‘we don’t trust you not to kill everyone so we’re stomping you magic civilians out of existence before you start any trouble’. With this post, that’s been slapped down. Again, the meaning doesn’t hit its full effect until later, but when Xander starts talking about how Mike wanted to’ve been the one to transfer and mentions the name of other people who hate him, one of which is later revealed to be the same Agent working to bring Alex in ‘today’, you start to get an idea of what was happening before the decision to send Xander in was made: there was a competition. The Agency puts effort into picking a candidate for transfer. They calculated and analyzed and worked to find a proper match. This theme of SPs being precious to the Agency’s cause carries through for a while; on my end, specifically, we have Benoit (Page Three) calling Xander expendable (i.e., saying Alex isn’t) and a field of preserved bodies of both fallen Agents and lost SPs. This is not the work of an organization okay with ‘moving on to the next SP’, nor is it mindless like the one-dimension calls for. The Agency has a goal, and since it’d would be easier to fill that mandate of ‘protecting the planet from all of you’ by shooting Alex, Gwen and everyone like them in the face, the question of what the hell else they’re up to starts popping up. That, ladies and gentlemen, is what takes these fellows from their one-dimension to a brand-new three: no matter what the Agents say or what they fully believe/have been told, there is a lot more going on than anyone talks about and a very strict level of confidentiality keeps anyone from asking anything (see: Eric. Y’know... eventually). That’s the other theme that starts off strong but lessens once the point’s been made and after the Agents are working together anyway: every (high ranking) member of the Agency keeps their intel very close to their chest. No one is on anything more than a dire need-to-know basis, and although there may be times when it seems like a lot’s been said or hinted at (once more, see: Eric), our Agents are too busy with their cases to even consider looking at anything else. Would they get more answers if they demanded them? Maybe. Probably not, actually, but the beauty’s in the fine detail of them not caring if it’s nothing to do with their work.

Okay. That’s the boring stuff out of the way.

Jason – or what would eventually become Jason – wasn’t supposed to live through his first post. I’d actually planned on having Xander jump in, break a neck and then go to bed, but I thought it’d be wasteful to not do a quick interrogation (they never really got around to it) and torture the guy a little (they did, and it amused me). Pre-Jason was then supposed to die moments before Alexander left to see Gwen, but – I dunno... Anyone remember when Mr. Agent asks ‘aren’t you gonna kill me’ and Xander says ‘probably’? The original response to that was a big ol’ ‘... oh yeah!’. I keep thinking to myself ‘why did I leave an Agent alive and unattended when I had no intention of having him stick around?’ Looking back, the most I can justify is that I was trying to prove how little Xander cared about being hunted because he’d rather go on a date and get coffee than spend a minute finishing off his natural enemies. What does that mean? Gwen, indirectly, saved Jason’s life. Good work, Gwen! I then got a bit of a chance to play with the idea that there was a trapped Agent in Alex’s apartment and had him shout a bit, make some noise and generally cause enough of a fuss to put Gwen on edge a teeny bit, but when I got bored with that, I thought I’d wrapped it up by having them say ‘oh, he’s escaping’. I’d legitimately felt annoyed that I didn’t get to kill the guy, but once that passed, I turned the page and ended that chapter.

Wrong again, Tartra. Wrong again.

Jason, as he has now earned himself a name, had not escaped. That thump-thump-thump everyone heard could now be better explained as the guy trying to get out of his chains but not actually managing it. I thought it’d be a nice idea to have a few Agents to follow them along because, mid-way through Page Two, I realized we weren’t going to be okay with only a looming hand over them; we needed faces to the shadows stalking everyone or it’d get pretty boring, pretty fast, and I brought Jason back in particular for two reasons: one, I wanted there to be a showdown in the apartment, and two, drawing on number one, I didn’t want to waste time describing how someone else broke in. I could’ve said it was a second Agent sent to find out what’d happened to the first, but I blew that bridge to hell when I kept Pre-Jason alive, so Jason was my only reasonable option. And it worked out pretty well.

I’m going to save the character analysis for Page Three’s reflections. In total, the Agents only had four posts this page versus the constant interaction they’d get later, so it’s odd going too far so soon. I’ll save Benoit and Jean for that, too.

... Except for one point.

My fondest thought of my delightfully French Agents came from the smallest snippet of a scene everyone’s likely forgotten about already. It happened on Page One and I didn’t mention it earlier because it’s just that insignificant. It goes like this: as Alexander and Gwen walk into the lobby and see two gentlemen standing there, Alex is immediately on alert, Xander starts zeroing in on who they are, and the whole of the exchange plays out as a ‘these guys are dangerous and they’re part of the group that’s after me’ kind of thing. That’s not the part I like. What I like, more than anything else, was this solitary pair of statements:

One started to wave back. The other very slowly lowered the first's arm.

That? That’s stuck with me from the beginning. That defined the relationship between those two. I never say it directly because even I wasn’t sure who was the one who waved and who was the one who stopped the waving until forever (Page Six), but as the roleplay went on and I kept thinking about it – I still do and probably always will – I hammered it down at long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long, long last: Benoit was the one who waved and Jean was the one who stopped him. The mystery nobody but me obsessively cared about has been definitively answered, and although I’d go on and on about how capable and professional Benoit is, I will never forget that he was the guy who saw the man he was trying to kill, went to wave back at him and was stopped by his subordinate, and that because the hierarchy of how lower ranks are supposed to be behave in front of higher ranks (Jason does a wonderful demonstration that later becomes one of his defining traits) hasn’t been fully expounded on yet, nobody knows that it’s actually a big deal. Jean = Benoit’s babysitter. This is where that started and you can no longer say you weren’t warned. Razz

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Post on Thu Dec 30, 2010 4:16 am by Tartra

So Jason. And Page Three. He’s like a mini-miracle. There are specific moments in time where I had to consciously decide not to kill him and, even after that, wobbled a little because I thought I could get rid of him. I never truly thought of him as expendable, but out of everyone I’d marked to ‘for sure’ not die in the immediate future, there was a distinct lack of anyone whose name started with ‘J’ on the list.

Jason changed a lot. It’s hard to say he’s narcissistic when you’ve got Jean talking over him and Xander running around, but compared to what he eventually became (more resigned to his role, more subservient, much more cautious about stepping out of place) – and here I’m assuming everyone reading has made it far enough (I very cleverly and not lazily didn’t update so people could have time to catch up) to be able to compare pre-Page Six and post-Page Six Jason – yes, he was narcissistic. You can see him getting angry that he’s failed his mission and, although he’s quick to point the finger at Gary whenever it’s brought up, he’s rolling in shame that he couldn’t pull it off anyway. He’s supposed to, after all, because he’s an A-5 and he has a suit. I even alluded to it quickly adding that he’s an A-5 Special because he has a suit, so his importance is right in the title. In fact, until he loses his goggles, the number one thought in his mind is how badly Gary screwed him over and how fantastic he’s been in every other situation. I love the guy, but I think I leaned him once towards partially accepting blame and then swung him back into the ‘Dammit, Gary!’ ocean because I thought it was funnier.

Nothing about how I wrote Page Zero and Page Three Jason surprised me. Keeping him alive made sense because he eventually became important and because I didn’t expect Benoit and Jean to stick around – if I made Jason single-minded about getting his goggles/keeping his reputation, those two were on a one-track mission to catching Alex – he became a great source of information for the Agency I was trying to build. That was something I had to do, by the way. Time would eventually get the hang of what the Agency was, but she couldn’t go into it blindly. I gave enough of a starting point for us to both work off of and everything she came up with later then fit into what I had imagined. In the meantime, Jason had to give answers and it helped that he was in a low enough position for Stephanie to pump him for those. It also helped Benoit and Jean out; they were no longer expected to give ‘obvious’ information and Stephanie didn’t have to deal with any further patronizing, which could’ve destroyed my opinion of them and might’ve gotten Benoit bumped off. Why? There’re three types of characters in my writing style: Heroes, villains and extras. Extras are in and out of the scene at the drop of a hat, and because I don’t see Benoit as a villain in the evil sense of the word, and because the very last thing Stephanie says on the page is she’s okay to team up, killing him would’ve been the only way to get rid of him once he served his ‘I’m an extra! Smile’ purpose. It worked for Jean.

Nothing surprised me about Jason, like I just said, except for how he interacted with Stephanie. I’m not sure if Time ever secretly intended to have a pseudo-relationship between her and him. In fact, I asked her if she was planning anything along those lines once and she said she hadn’t decided. Me, on the other hand, took one look at the genders and said, ‘Those two are hooking up by the end of this’. It’s natural law: one guy, one girl, extra especially if one’s of higher authority, and there’s gonna be heart kittens running everywhere. Unfortunately, Time’s ‘I’m not sure’ put me on the defensive and I ended up having Jason back off a little. Again, hard to say when he’s never quite gone for it, but Page Three has him bringing up his thoughts to Stephanie – kind of flippant observations off the top of his head – and then somewhere near the half-mark, he stops. And then he can’t post-Page Six because it doesn’t fit his character.

I’ll get this tidbit out of the way because it’s going to come up a few more times: Page Six was the take-off point for the Agents. Pre-Page Six was ‘yeah, okay, they’re there, but they’re not super interesting unless they’re talking about Alex and Gwen and occasionally Xander’. Post-Page Six? There was a time when I had a hard time writing for Alex because what was happening on Jason’s side was so damn entertaining. The takeoff for Alexander and Gwen was, in my opinion, Page Two; on top of the Agents, Page Six was the turning point for the whole RP, but the actual plot – which, at the time, was focused squarely on everyone who had superpowers – didn’t hammer in until the second day started. After all, that’s when the Agents were introduced, when Xander was defined, when Gwen got her powers...

I’ve come up with a lot of theories for why Jason’s different from what I’d planned. One of them is that Page Six’s car ride immediately snapped his attention to Stephanie and, in a panic, he fell back on his Agency training and went from polite and by-the-book to super polite and by-the-book. Another’s that the panic still happened but the cause of it was losing his goggles. In any event, and I plan to go into more detail... later, he was stuck in the same shadow I’d put Alex in.

I’m glad Alex stuck around for Page Three. Page Two, he was... floating... detached... isolated from the world – again, done through necessity, not some mildly-deranged need for constant alone-time – and reluctant to get involved. Well, unfortunately, he was gonna get involved, so Page Three ended up dropping a new goal onto my lap: getting Xander out of his head. On top of that, as sort of a vague side-quest (Alex didn’t know for sure the Agents were after her), he dedicated himself to helping Gwen. Finally, I had something to work with. He morphed from someone who didn’t want to get involved to someone who wanted the status quos for everyone. For it to happen, Gwen had to be helped until she could control her powers and go about her life again, Xander had to be rid of, the Agents – Benoit and Jean – had to be stopped and he, as the roleplay went on, had to stay away from Osono. The dynamics of those two are something I’ll get into on Page Seven or Eight, but suffice it to say, his reasons for not liking her up until she joined the team was that she’d make things a hell of a lot worse. It fit. With that said, Xander was still better. By a lot.

This is something I’ve been iffy about admitting. When I first did it, I tried telling myself it was just to shake it up, but really I was favouring Xander again: the mind-swap. Or the body-swap. Or the role-swap. Whatever it’s best called, the bit about Alex taking Xander’s spot and Xander’s taking Alex’s. Did it need to happen? No. Did I need to cut off Alex completely? No. Was it mean? Yes. Do I feel bad about it? Well, yeah, ‘cause it practically backfired, but about doing it to him? No. Alex got more fun when he was nagging Xander from the background. I kind of preferred him in there – still do, actually. He was great! I get all my kicks out of driving that kid insane by having Xander screw with him and I can almost guarantee none of the ‘GARRR I HATE OSONO’ drama would’ve even affected what was happening had I left Alex in the back. This entire roleplay could’ve gone on with them like that and I would’ve been perfectly happy with it, eeeexceeeeeeeept...

The character of Gwen – and Time, more importantly – enjoyed the character of Xander. Clearly, Alex is the more stable one and more than once I’ve implied Xander was less ‘wild’ and more ‘psychopathic’. Because I adore rhetorical questions and questions I only pose so I can answer them an instant later, is he? Thanks, literary device, but a better question would’ve been ‘is he still?’ I don’t know if I’ve ever tried to hide it and I definitely bring it to light on Page Seven and Eight, where Benoit gets to take a few swings at him, and even once on Page Six, where Jason remembers someone borderline feral, but I don’t expound a lot on what Xander was like before Alex (unless someone asks; otherwise, I don’t think it’s terribly important until we get to the sequel. ... Oh yeah, spoiler alert: we’re shooting for a sequel). What I focus on is what Xander’s like now, which is arrogant, conceited, childish, temperamental, kind of a bully, ‘kind of’ a dick, not interested in anyone’s emotions (including his own) and really impatient with bickering. Oh, and he holds a grudge. Like, a lot. Blah-blah-blah ‘he’s badass and he’s funny and he’s got a good heart buried way, way, way, way, way, way, way down there and you made his real self sexy on purpose (oh geez did I ever, but I made him so I can use him to pander to whoever I want Evil or Very Mad DON’T JUDGE ME.) and you just went on and on about how much you adored him on Page Two’s reflections’... Yeah. Well, guess what? In light of all those – uh... ‘good’ qualities, he’s still an arrogant, conceited, childish, temperamental dick. I love him for it – I really, really do, it’s my absolute favourite type of character to write and I love it beyond anyone’s possible belief – but my tastes are my own. I forgot when I put him with other people, I had to make him play nice.

In case I wasn’t making it clear, and I wasn’t, I introduced the mind-swap because Gwen and Xander seemed to hit it off and I figured I’d give them more time together. How that played out – and my reaction – is gonna be saved until Page Six, but that was the motivation. It helped Alex pretty blatantly, but inexplicably, it helped Gwen. In my opinion, I mean. There’s nothing I love more than love triangles – love them – and to have them between my characters? Okay, let me rephrase that: there’s nothing I love more than hearing other people analyze my characters. If there’s a sight sweeter than a full-out essay on what makes my guys tick or theories about the kind of person they are, I haven’t found it. It’s the highest praise I can get, and even outside of Time’s amazing talent (which is amazing – that’s why I used the word), her art gallery holds such a special place in my heart because it’s about our roleplay and, more specifically, about my characters. I’m extremely selfish that way, but I can’t regret it, because it lets me know someone is having enough fun to take it a step further and do more beyond what’s already happening. If I had some kind of talent, I’d art right back at her, but I can’t because I think a stick figure’s a masterpiece when I use a ruler to keep the lines straight. And then I frame them. In oak. Occasionally in pine. What this means is that I enjoy love triangles because it lets me see exactly what other people like. It’s an instant competition I can’t stop trying to win. With Alex and Xander, I’ve been very indirectly fighting over Gwen through the way I have them act and interact. If it moves to having an outsider get involved, my one goal’s gonna be bashing that intruder to high hell. Jason’s so secure because I’m not willing to have Eric drop into any sort of relationship and I didn’t see any chemistry between Stephanie and Benoit or (never ever, won’t happen, can’t happen now) Jean past maybe... maybe a brotherly thing – maybe, if we look at the extreme end of the potential. But Jason? He gets to dance because ‘la, la, la, there’s no one else around, I can take alllllll the time I want to make up my mind’. I’m on the fence about whether the claws would come out if someone else was introduced, and likely will be if things play out as planned, but with the way things are going now, I think the claws are already sort of out – at least as far as he’s concerned – because he’s fighting the Agency and his reputation. It’s man-vs.-environment, if we’re going to get old-school English.

That’s a good enough segue. Let me now ruin it by flat-out declaring ON TO BENOIT! And Jean. Let’s start with Jean, just because I made that comment.

Jean is one of those characters with an impossibly involved backstory I didn’t share with anyone because there was no space. I’m delighted a sequel is floating around my and Time’s minds because I’d’ve hated to let it go to waste, and since he had a backstory, I liked him. Unfortunately, nobody else would ever know and because I haven’t fully defined his history, I’m always going to like Benoit more (Benoit > Jean in the way Xander > Alex). It’s obvious, but now it’s officially stated and it let me feel less guilty about making him such a dick. I mean – I took the line between ‘respecting the hierarchy’ and ‘being an asshole’ and broke it over my knee so I could put the pieces wherever the hell I wanted, and it worked beautifully. As ‘you suck because you’re inferior’ as Jean is, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who can point to any one thing – minus the Jason squabbles, because Benoit does call him on it – and say it was out of line. His attitude might count, but it’d be whoever else’s word against his and ultimately Benoit’s. All in all, he’s smart enough to avoid outright offending anyone of higher rank and he’s big enough to bitch-slap anyone his rank or lower into the next decade. Frankly, he would. I can literally – very literally – see him, straight-faced and serious as always, doing it to some unknown... random guy who said the wrong thing. But only if Benoit wasn’t watching. Or if he thought Benoit would find it funny. And if it made me giggle.

I told you all of my characters had a bit of me in them pumped up to the extreme. Jean has my ‘I am going to solve this problem and if violence doesn’t solve it then I didn’t use enough so here comes more’ (I am a very firm believer that every single invention and achievement in human history has begun through some form of conflict; prove me wrong even once. That’s an actual challenge – I expect PMs). Benoit has a strange form of that personality-sharing. I hold him as a highly respectable and proper individual (and in my head, not nearly as smug as I made him out to be and can’t shake) who would never condone cruelty, has killed but in me-or-them situations (because that makes it better) and has implied a distinct line down what is tolerable and what’s taking it too far – and he’s put a hell of a lot of people who ‘take it too far’ on his list, with Eric being the prime example and Xander shaping up to having been one of the originals. You can imagine how this conflicts with the part of me I shared with him: ‘Did that guy fall down some stairs?! Hee-fucking-larious! Oh, I hope he wasn’t hurt. Was he hurt? No? AHHAHAHAHHAHA! LEARN HOW TO WALK, ASSHOLE!’ So that ‘never condone cruelty’ thing? It’s got a few strings attached, and all of them say ‘HIT HIM, JEAN! HEHEHEHEHE!!!!!!!’ So long as it stays within his personal level of comfort, he’s A-OK with someone running into a wall. He simply prefers not to openly encourage it because... well – Agent. Lead Agent. He’s not technically allowed to, like how Eric’s technically not allowed to let Stephanie and Jason pull off their shenanigans, but does because it’s highly entertaining.

The difference between Jean and Benoit is basically the difference between Jason and Eric: Jean puts a great deal of focus on what he’s been told to do, accepts and perceives his orders, whereas Benoit, although he’s all about the job as well, has zero problem with going off and doing his own thing. It hasn’t been shown to the extreme I want because, as the problem always is, it wouldn’t fit, but I can only imagine how many times Jean’s had to drag the guy – dead drunk, which is my official explanation for why Benoit can go through however many bottles of wine he devoured on Page Seven (practise makes perfect) without the hangover that got Stephanie to throw up and Jason to be sick the entire rest of the way to Charlton – back to base after he said, “Uhhhh... yeah – hey, look. It’s a bar. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a really strong ‘Alex went that-a-way’ feeling. I’m gonna go check it out. You stay here. And – like... find me a hotel room. A nice one. Benny don’t sleep in no hostels.” Then he puts his shades on and walks off super badass.

The fact that I can write that and – aside from the wording – treat it as perfectly in-character proves how little of the guy I’ve been able to show. It’s a bit depressing because I see him as a really nice guy who snaps into Agent-mode the minute work comes along because he believes in his work (which is his big contrast to Eric. Damn, I’ve gotta stop talking about him so much. Eric hasn’t even shown up yet). It also makes it unfair that I’ve been heaping so much crap onto his plate. I try to balance the good with the bad and it seems as though there’s been so much bad for him, it’s almost malicious. Unlike other characters who’ve had a great joyride and are totally begging for it, the things I do to Benoit make me feel guilty instead of gleeful, and since making it up to him in my head isn’t enough, I’m committed to giving him a very relaxing day sometime in the future. But – uh... not now. Madeline and all that.

In summary of those points, Benoit and Jean (maybe especially Jean because he doesn’t show off any other aspect of his personality) are my secret favourite characters in this roleplay. They’ve got so much personality to play with – Benoit more so – and as time goes on, I’ll reveal what I can. Everything comes back to whether it’d make sense or not and I haven’t found the proper context. As a result, the best thing would probably be Mini TOKoR: The Adventures of Benoit and Jean!

It speaks volumes when I’ve thrown that idea out with Xander while I legitimately consider it for those two.

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Post on Wed May 04, 2011 6:14 am by Tartra

So Page Four.

Out of all the pages thus far (current count is eight), this is probably a) the least action-y, b) the least eventful, c) probably the least impressive, and d) the greatest concentration of plot points that later come to define the entire direction of the roleplay. Weird, huh? I remember a quick PM between Time and I that led to a general understanding that Page Four was the slowest, which is understandable because not every page can have a dozen different epic things crammed inside. I was content to leave it at that and just ride the thrill of our characters getting so much time to chat, but little by little, all those throwaway facts I threw in to... not so much ‘pad’ the posts, but give more point to them talking, finally came back to shape what I was writing. This, OOC-wise, is the single most obvious sign of the progress this RP has made. At last, I’ve reached a point where I can’t just say, ‘Eh, let’s write this detail and maybe I can use it or try to have everyone forget’, or ‘Hey, Xander needs more cool shit to do, let’s have him do this’, because there’s officially enough backstory to limit things I can add. The characters have been stabilized, their backgrounds are set, and barring a few reserve facts that are hidden only because I haven’t reached a point where I can introduce them, there’s really no more surprises (physically, not relationship-wise) these guys can pull out. Naturally, the same can’t be said for Eric because I’m purposely working to keep everyone in the dark, but when someone like Xander has had their boundaries defined, the foreplay’s over. As far as I’m concerned, Page Eight is the start of the story, and things couldn’t have been timed better.

That’s not to say there’s nothing new around the bend. What I mean by characters being stabilized is that now you’ll be seeing the application of all the cool shit people (i.e., Xander, but also other characters) can do. I don’t need to say so-and-so is specifically trained to do this-and-that, because the characters have now been established to either know how to do it through the afore-mentioned knowhow (or by deriving it from what else they know) or they don’t. More importantly than that, however, I now know who knows what in terms of how the plot is affected. This is hugely important, because without this, I might have someone looking incompetent because they haven’t heard one thing or suspiciously insightful because they do. Typically, those kinds of things can be glossed over, but Page Eight and on (at least on my end) are now exclusively drawing from everything that’s been said before. Every reaction is important: how it’s said, when it’s said and who said it all lead to why it was said, and the why drives everything else. Any and every supposed contradiction, especially the ones that make it seem like I forgot (and in some cases, yeah, but my continuity obsession stepped in), have returned to haunt me. Case in point: Benoit.

Scroll up. Scroll right up to the top – right to the top of Page Four – and read that first post again. Jason, to recap, recently discovered a trend among some people on Benoit’s team: they’ve died two months after an encounter with Alex. What’s he do? He asks Benoit about it. What’s Benoit say? ‘... Yeah... Sure, buddy.’ Normal reaction. Doesn’t know. No problem there. Says Jason should figure it out. Here’s where me assuming everyone is like me and avidly taking notes on every damn thing that happens: Page Six (Ooooooooh, I love that page!). Do I consider this a spoiler? No, not at all, and that’s why I’m not making this a separate paragraph. I do see it, however as a connection no one would’ve made just yet but, honestly, I don’t expect to do a big reveal for. Explained, certainly, but not ‘revealed’. For that reason, allow me to direct you to Jason’s second discovery: holy shit Alex’s eyes lit up and he made a noise and he super-brain-blasted Jean! Who better to ask than Benoit? So he does. Benoit’s reaction? ‘WTF NO HE DIDN’T’. Now, someone equally as obsessive as me (but more forgiving) would neatly point out the fact that Jean, Benoit’s close friend, was just killed-the-shit-out-of at the hands/eyes of the person Benoit’s been trying to capture. Clearly, there’s a case to be made about shock and being on edge. Page Seven: Jason brings it up in the car. Benoit: ‘NO HE DIDN’T AND I WOULD KNOW SO SHUT YOUR STUPID ASS’. Paraphrasing, of course, but this comes after he’s un-shocked enough to roll his eyes about it. This begs the question of: why’re you spazzing, Benoit? Didn’t freak about the two month thing, but this makes you all crazy (when you’re paraphrased)?

Do you see what I mean? It doesn’t add up. Regardless of whether or not I forgot Benoit’s initial reaction (... I did...) and whether anyone else would’ve seen (No, you freak), I still need to put a reason behind the mellow versus the mad. Fortunately, as the plot went on, a gigantic wall of backstory/major plot developed (very recently revealed, very soon to be explained) that I can chalk it up to. What could’ve easily been a throwaway reaction in a bit of a chug-a-lug chapter (but still adored, don’t get me wrong) has now become something of very serious value, defining, like I said, the direction of this thing. Specifically? Uhhh... probably not. The reaction discrepancy is more of a solid chunk of retroactive proof rather than the reason for what was revealed (and that is too close of a spoiler for me to get into, as is anything that hasn’t yet been posted). But you see it now, hopefully. The tiny details that allow me to say, ‘See? I might have only come up with this particular a little while ago IRL, but as far as the IC is concerned, it’s been there all along’ have all come from this damn page. ALL COME FROM THIS DAMN PAGE.

Need more proof that’re borderline spoilers to the point where I can only mention them and do nothing more in terms of explaining until we reach that point in the actual roleplay? Sure! How did Alex get captured? ‘Xander did it!’ Page Four. How’d he do it? ‘Alex knows not to zap through these glasses’. BOOM! Page Four. And even another discrepancy-turned-proof following Page Three! Xander and Eric: what’s their beef? ‘Blah, blah, blah, no it’s cool, Gwen, you didn’t ruin my life’. BANG! PAGE FUCKING FOUR, PEOPLE! And hot damn – even throwaway characters from Page Four became important. When Nathan first burst onto the scene, I didn’t actually have a purpose for him! I just wanted to cause some damn chaos because ENJOY YOUR MEAL, CITIZENS. So for him to go from something I made to pass the time all the way to... well, let’s call that an actual spoiler, but trust me, this guy has come pretty freaking far to be a character in his own right and the sole reason I made Eric at all. And it started on Page Four.

That’s the stuff on my end. If you ask Time, she might have a wildly different answer. Heck, aside from the relationship-building between Gwen, Alex and Xander, she might not have had any use for Page Four at all, but let it be known that I appreciate this page and I am glad that I can start bringing some of these mysteries to light.

But anyway.

Gwen.

Like I said on Page Three’s reflections, I do hook-ups based on the first few posts of interaction. Gwen/Xander, Gwen/Alex, Jason/Stephanie (and of course I’ve shipped Osono already). Benoit/Madeline had the distinction of me OOCing the ‘ship before they even met. Am I going to be exploring that one completely? Maybe. Every ounce of fangirl in me says HELL TO THE YES, but the writer in me says, ‘I see equal, if not greater, literary value in them not getting together – sex does not count as ‘together’, by the way – as in if they do. Besides, it’s only recently that Madeline’s part in this grew. Until then, she truly was just there to jerk Benoit around.

...

... Yeah, sure, fine, that’s open to interpretation.

ANYWAY.

Page Four let me go beyond the initial ‘That is paired with that’. Like I’ve previously explained, I was all about Gwen/Xander. What’s that? I only said ‘favouring’ and made it seem like I was okay with Gwen/Alex, whatever made her happy? No – fuck that, I lied. Gwen/Xander, all the way. I didn’t even look at Gwen/Alex until – like... Page Six (and again, I’ll delay my exact reaction to the understanding until Page Six’s reflections). As it stands, I’m pretty damn happy nothing serious developed. I remember Page One and Two – especially Page Two – moved kind of fast on the ‘let’s get these guys to hit it off’ front, which I was technically for but didn’t want to encourage because of that realism fetish (It’s only been half a day, everybody. Xander, put it back in your pants). Page Four, however, gave me a solid look into what Xander in any sort of relationship would’ve been like: more relaxed. More open, too. Bad, bad, bad, very bad. I think that’s another reason for why I made Nathan. In Vestal, Gwen and Xander took a seat to eat and get to know each other a bit better. As a little Easter Egg, you get a very, very, very basic description of what Xander really looks like (which I passed off as another throwaway and I think was successfully taken as a throwaway). However, you also get a teeny-tiny glimpse into where he’s coming from. Which I hated. Gwen’s question of ‘Have I ruined your life yet?’ was much more loaded than she – or, OOC, Time – realized and I’m still unsure whether the answer Xander gave was too revealing. It certainly could’ve been, and I gotta say that I lucked out when Gwen didn’t even consider the holy-shit-don’t-talk-about-this-yet-we’re-not-ready part, because that might’ve killed him. Not ‘killed him’ like ‘he’s dead now’, but ‘killed him’ as in ‘his character growth has been completely murdered’. If Gwen had asked, I would’ve been locked into Xander giving an answer (any reaction would’ve been an answer, including brushing it off), and considering what I originally meant for it to mean would’ve prevented me from an attaching a considerably more important reason to it, I would’ve lost an enormous opportunity for my ‘HA, HA, HA, see?! It was always there!’ monkey-dance. Aside from the differed meaning, however, it specifically would’ve slashed at him by going into detailed parts of his real/previous life. I didn’t want the focus to be on that, and considering how much has been added on since then, I couldn’t afford something set in stone already. Bottom line, though? I didn’t want to run the risk of him being weepy. So much of his personality is built on him not giving a shit and just running a kick-ass, high-adrenaline, psychopathically impulsive life that introducing a world of ‘Oh, but I do have this thing that so affected me so strongly, I could easily say it ruined my life, and also this bullshit happened twice /sadface’ that early on would’ve left that hanging above him. As a result, I had to change the subject. Enter Nathan. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. Subject changed. Xander saved. Don’t worry – I haven’t forgotten about that line at all, and I intended to have it fully explained. Just not yet. And certainly not on Page Four. But again, where did it come from? Oh yeah. This page is important.

Gwen, though, definitely had her time to shine. I’ll admit, when I was running through the exclusively G/X phase, I couldn’t go without testing the water a bit. I knew I liked the pairing, but I had to see if Time did, and in the same way I know she’s been subtly jabbing at Jason with Eric (platonically) and with I’m fairly sure an upcoming character, I poked at Gwen to see if she’d get jealous. And she did! Very Happy Heeheeheeheeheehee – I still can’t believe it worked so well! I was completely sure it was going to be a useless thing to write, but having Xander smile at two women who were walking by so totally proved that this was a plausible – even likely – ‘ship to float. There were other signs, of course (I mean, they did kiss by then), but that teeny subplot didn’t resolve itself for eight posts. Eight! I was cheering the entire time! I know, Xander made her cry by the end of it, and that could’ve been an inadvertent factor in opening up the G/A side of things, but – dammit, she got pissed because Xander grinned at someone else and I. Was. Happy.

There wasn’t a whole lot else I need to get into about this. Yes, this was a full page, but not a lot of what happened in it went beyond Vestal, which they left by Page Six. Page Five gets more into the ‘true plot’; the one beyond the romance; the one that’s bringing on all the action. As such, although these reflections are short, they’re pretty thorough.

Ha, ha, ha! No coffee for Xander.

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Post on Fri May 20, 2011 3:57 am by Tartra

Page Four brought on a very special Post Zero. As I said, anything worth being anything in TOKoR came from that full line of posts, but if Page Four was meant to sow the seeds of TOKoR’s plot, then Page 5 was about bracing for the calm before the storm (the ‘calm’ being Page 6, and the ‘storm’ sure as hell set to happen on Page 9).

I’m in the dark about anything Time’s planning. Every so often, I’ll get a quick glimpse into what she’s doing, mostly because she’s solid at setting things up in advance so what happens later isn’t out of the left field (like a certain someone else writing) and because the rare PM for clarification comes with a quick, ‘If I do this, how’s it going to impact on what you’re doing?’ I love it. It gives me a wonderful sense of preparation in terms of what I’m developing while also managing to keep as uninformed as possible so I’m not instantly guessing what she’s up to. With that said, my constant gushing of ‘Oh man, Page 6 is totally where everything takes off!’ might mean diddly-squat when it’s held up to what she’s planning. Suffice it to say, however, at least on the Gwen/Alexander side, Page 5 set the stage for the rest of the roleplay, and it followed on the heels of Page Four’s Nathan.

Like every damn thing in TOKoR, I had no plan for this guy. He was there to save Xander’s ass ‘cause I messed up and nearly implied too much. However, he ended up helping out like nothing else so far and he did it in three specific ways: number one, he caused a hell of a scene; number two, he clearly established (via Xander’s deductions) a relationship with the Agents; and number three (I’m using serial commas again. Sorry to anyone who’s as much a stickler for punctuation as I am, but I’m flip-flopping so you’re forced to read it with the same emphasis I’m typing) – anyway, number three... is kind of unfair to bring up because it not only didn’t happen in his Post Zero, but is critical to a point I’m trying to reach in the roleplay. Spoiler alert? Ha, ha! You wish. You find out when Time does. I mention it, however, so I can run back and bring it up later. When? Sometime during that storm. Page 9? Page 10? Most likely Page 9, but anyway, he’s important. FYI. Moving on.

The idea of Nathan needs some analysis before what he brings to the table does. He was very disorganized in my mind since I wrote him up so quickly, but in the way Jason bitching about his record came to define him, Nathan’s shifts in characterization led to what he is now. To go a step further, in the same way Xander evolved from being ‘just’ a split personality to a full on entity, Nathan went from a simple one-minded crazy man to a multi-person, sanity-varies-according-to-who-you’re-talking-to, mind-and-control-swapping fiend. I think I found my fallback in bringing characters to life: either make them revolve around what they won’t shut up about or upgrade the ‘one of these things is not like the other’ bit to something separate. Because of that, Nathan had – ultimately – three Post Zeros: one from Page Four, one for the banshee and one, of course, for David. All of these were as made up on the spot as the others. I’ll give you a breakdown on each.

Post Zero Nathan, the all-encompassing Nathan, explained what he was very quickly: on the run from Agents. That’s it. That’s his sole shtick.

The banshee (Maggie) was Nathan2.0. When I got to her, I planned to end Nathan’s development right there. He was messed to high hell, babbling uncontrollably, couldn’t focus for more than a second and went in and out of clarity at a moment’s notice. If Nathan had stayed like that (i.e., one minded and... you know... male through and through), the plot would’ve been desperately different. I don’t know what it would’ve been – by that point, Nathan was still a throwaway and I not only hadn’t thought of moving to what Time would eventually set as Elmira, but I hadn’t even considered how to get rid of him again – but I imagine it would’ve had to have been something like... the Agents after Nathan show up and now they’re after Alexander and Gwen, too. Yes, that would’ve been convoluted, but honestly not much more (or less) than what we’re (I’m; I can’t speak for Time) heading for now. After that, who knows? But what would have certainly happened was something Nathan1.0 likely wouldn’t’ve been able to deliver: the ‘Hey Xander, let’s go get your body!’ subplot. By the time Nathan evolved again, 2.0 had already put us on that road. Serendipity, thy name is TotE. Or at least thy username is.

Had Gwen not offered the banshee breakfast, the pancakes would’ve never popped up. I latched onto those ‘cause I figured, ‘eh, what the hell – Nathan likes pancakes now, sure. And he’s shit-crazy about them, too.’ Where’s the part of me in Nathan? That’s it. I like pancakes, but I like eggs just as much. What I find to be clearly superior is sausages, especially when they’re doused in maple syrup (or table syrup for you cheap bastards serving that in your restaurants) which typically only come when you get pancakes. So I took the second option: pancakes and sausages, which is what I’d’ve actually ordered, instead of bacon and eggs. Mmmmmm. To be clear, the pancakes were coming one way or another. As Jack Bauer as I wanted everyone to be and not have to deal with real life, I’ve played The Sims way the hell too often to forget about that hunger bar. They didn’t eat at the restaurant, so they were eating now, but as for the syrup, which wasn't nutritious but simple to consume (in that it didn't need be prepared), I latched onto mostly because 2.0 had already become 3.0 by then and it came with the chance to explain a plot point I’d been dragging up on the rare occasion but not explaining: Xander’s energy crisis. The syrup led into ‘fuel’, ‘fuel’ led to ‘body’, and ‘body’ led to Elmira, so no change there. I’m confident in saying that that idea would’ve likely occurred to me regardless because I wanted 2.0 (later the banshee) to be crazy in that ‘what the hell are you doing’ way and I can’t let something like drinking syrup slide by. WTH-crazy at the time, of course, because she changed a bit come Page 6. So – yeah, I was likely to get to that one way or another, and as such, I think it became apparent Nathan would’ve needed to stick around for a while longer. As a guide, as a nuisance, as a prisoner (of Xander’s) – there were many roads available I could’ve taken that would’ve upgraded the kid to ‘main plot character’, but not a ‘main character’ if I ever had to define it. To be perfectly frank, his level of importance might not have differed pending the jump to 3.0. David changed his purpose in the plot, but not his intensity.

But David changed everything else.

Nathan3.0 came to life for the same reason as Nathan1.0: ‘cause. Just ‘cause. They were talking a lot and while I was enjoying the conversation, the Xander effect showed up. Two posts after the offering of pancakes, we get into the startling revelation of ‘there’s more than one person in there’. On its own, that was enough to change things. I think the plot as it stands, relating to Nathan anyway, could’ve been pulled off – almost inevitably when I break it down to its core – but I’ll say this much: without David specifically, Eric would not exist. The general, floating vagueness of Eric’s role would’ve taken his place, but Eric and all the plot he brings would’ve never come up. Actually, if I think about it now, without Eric, everyone from Gwen to Alexander to Stephanie and Jason and Benoit would’ve been dealing with the Agency directly. There might’ve been a smaller group directly involved and maybe one or two faces I’d put a name to, but we’d be back at the shadowy and implied organization of evil and my conception of the Agency, and Benoit especially, would’ve been destroyed. Or rather, I’d’ve let them keep going until they descended into a level of such cartoonish behaviour, any justification for how they could’ve existed for so long would’ve had to’ve been backed up with a feisty ‘that’s my story and I’m sticking to it’ rather than something a person can believe. Thanks to Eric, the Agency makes sense. Thanks to David, we have Eric. Thanks to Nathan, we have David. And thanks to me wanting to turn Xander into a little bitch, we have Nathan. So it all worked out, really. Yaaaaaaay!

Anyway, the Xander effect was me seeing the ‘more than one person’ opening and shooting for it, like I did at the first sign of implying Xander was a unique and special butterfly (of paaaaaaain). Elmira would’ve happened, going for the body would’ve happened, Nathan’s re-bondage all would’ve happened if I’d kept it at Nathan2.0, what with the direct Agency crap, and I admit I was planning to roll with that completely... but then I amused myself by having Nathan suddenly become sane upon the consumption of maple syrup. Or table syrup. I dunno what it was, get off my back. Syrup of some kind. So let me clarify that for you: David came into existence because I thought it’d be funny. Why is he Australian? Because I thought it’d be funny as hell. I’m still delighted by that choice – but... dammit...

Here’s the thing: ask anyone I know what I think about accents. After they spend twenty minutes going, ‘again with the damn accents’, they will tell you that Boston has my favourite one. I don’t even pretend to hide it. If I see a dude walking around in a Red Sox hat, I’m stalking him until he says something (usually, ‘... Uh... hi?’ Upon which I reply, ‘NO ACCENT GO AWAY’.) But Australian is my number two, and because I didn’t want to do British (my fifth), I was goin’ Aussie. Of all the things I decided to do with him, writing his accent is what I regret the most. When this thing hit FictionPress, I spent the entire time thinking, ‘OH NO the Aussies are gonna hate me because they think I’m making fun of them! What do I doooooooooooooo?’ And I’m still like that, even now. Why didn’t I pull a Benoit and just say ‘okay, this is what he sounds like, and you know because Jason spends his Post Zero making fun of the guy, but now that that’s established, I’m gonna write him normally’? I don’t know, but I didn’t and now it’s too late to stop. (I’ve actually got a point to make about Benny’s accent, which will interest nobody but I’m putting at the bottom anyway.) I’m sorry, Australians! I still love you and want to keep you in cages in my basement! Sad Don’t run... Don’t run because it’s pointless, but also don’t run because it’ll hurt my feelings. Sad Sad

Anyway, Awesome Aussie is now alive and Nathan is Nathan3.0. All the other evolutions of his character have been completely planned for by this point (Page 5 is his personal Page 4 in the seed sowing world) and I am now free to, instead of just implying what happened to him, directly and effectively communicate it. Congrats to me, I’ve done away with all the bullshit subplot of ‘oh no, what happened to poor Nathan?’ You know now. Don’t waste my time. More importantly, I get to play around with the ‘why’, and although I’m fairly certain that the immediate ‘why’ is obvious – guessable at the minimum – and would’ve been extremely easy to wrap up had Nathan2.0 stuck us with the vague-shadow-Agency, David lets me create Eric and Eric lets me put a ‘why’ behind that first ‘why’. In the end, I expect it to get to the same point. Vague-Shadow-Agency and Eric serve essentially the same role in terms of the overall plot, but the main plot... Y’know, I’m spending way too much time on a character that doesn’t show up until the next page. Back to David.

The narrative of the Agents and the chasing and the running and the body-getting and the body-snatching were all meant to disguise the fact that, as I explained in Page One’s reflections, I wanted drama. Lots of drama! Tons of drama! And what’s the best way to get drama? Romance RPs.

I hate Romance RPs. Romance RPs are pathetically straightforward.

Once the focus of an RP is on one idea – and this is true for any roleplay you’re involved in – everything becomes a rush to get to that point. It’s most evident in adult-themed roleplays, where because you’re allowed to have the boinky-boinky, the focus becomes the boinky-boinky, otherwise you’d just go to a ‘site that didn’t expressly state its enthusiasm for R- and X-rated plots. Unfortunately, it’s even worse for romances that explicitly say ‘no’ to sex (for fear of cybering and whatnot). The focus is on the first kiss, first base – whatever floats their boat as an intimate moment – and because that is the focus of it, whatever plot they whip up (Daddy is forcing me to marry someone else! Oh no, I’m moving away! Ahhhhh – someone cut off my leg, who the fuck would do that!) falls flat because the attention is on each other’s characters. There’s no breathing room, just like before, but now I don’t even get to read about the sex. Thanks. So if I’m constantly having to base my posts around the depth of your character’s eyes and soul because that’s the focus and that’s the point, then they’d better have a lot of damn eyes for me to look at and they all better be different colours or I’m gonna run out of shit to say fast. That is the time for when the pointless drama comes out; to make up new excuses to talk about how beautiful these people are, they throw in some made up problem to ‘fight’ around. The plot is shallow, most people know it’s shallow, and most people bail once things become repetitive. Come on, guys. I don’t even know why you bother writing the RP at all because, spoiler alert: your characters hook up. You wrote the thing specifically so they could hook up – don’t pretend you didn’t. And thanks to the fact that you pimped out exactly one guy to fully match the girl, there’s not even the mystery of who’s ending up with who.

But Tartra, didn’t you just say you wanted romance? Aren’t you being a hypocrite?

First off, shut the hell up, literary device, when have I ever left a point unexplained; second, yes, certainly, but I’m hiding it. Time and I both know something’s happening. Hell, the sub-genre on FictionPress says ‘romance’, so it’s not as if we’re in denial. In regards to an actual sex scene happening, that I’m not so sure of. Logistics-wise, it’s complicated. I’ve gone over it in my head and determined that we’d have two options. The first is to chop down the part of post that’s happening to... a few paragraphs, maybe, so it’s more rapid-fire and co-operative and can go on for longer based on the enhanced response/feedback/communication/reactions. (This is the ‘problem’ we’ve been having throughout TOKoR based on the way we’ve been writing: because we’re fully providing our side of the conversation, we aren’t able to go ‘A: So what’d you think? B: I thought it was good. A: Me too, but I – B: Hey, watch out!’ In other words, we can’t interrupt each other. We do it retroactively, which works great, but what we gain in quality and comprehension, we lose in interactivity. I say ‘problem’ because this is not a problem at all. We have enough characters to prevent any stagnation from too many monologues and we’re familiar enough with each other to know what is and is not okay in terms of moving each other’s characters around. It’s little things like she makes Alex open a door or I make Gwen go down some stairs – obvious and assumable actions. I can’t assume anything if it comes to sex because that’s where it goes from ‘perfectly understandable’ to ‘okay, it’s still understandable, but considering I wanted this to happen if that happened, keep your damn hands off my people’. So either we’d pre-roleplay it, which I’m not okay with, or we shorten those parts, which I’m technically okay with but would seem choppy because we’d be doing that scene in-between the other scenes of the post, costing us the overall flow, which I’m not crazy about but can live with). The second would be to shorten the scene and maintain the high-quality we’ve been having. My problem with this is that that’s where the too much touching of my guys come in. I don’t expect Time to give me six pages of what so-and-so is doing and not mention one thing about whoever reacts, but that one thing is where I’m suddenly ‘NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO, he (or she, but I have very few she’s) would never do that!’ And I think the best example of what I know Time is thinking and what I know to be the actual case and the huge discrepancy between those two iiiiiiiis... Xander! Big surprise. I swear – I am calling this right now – that if I asked Time what Xander’d be like in the sack, it’d completely disagree with what I’ve pictured it to be (his personality is very overshadowing of the actual information I’ve given regarding anything... not ‘affectionate’, he’s not affectionate, but ‘playful'). So I’m not willing to hand him over for even the slightest thing because I have my idea and she has her idea and she can make him walk down as many stairs as he wants but she’s not touchin’ the way he fucks. Mad And, in return, I won’t touch any of her girls/guys! It’s a nice compromise. Smile You can see how this’d conflict with a very length scene. It’d have to be – like... four posts? Max? I could define it, but I feel it’d make it formulaic, so I won’t. The bottom line is that it’d have to be much more carefully planned than absolutely anything we’ve done so far, and while I’m anticipating the challenge, it’s gonna be a challenge.

Hell no, I’m not done. New paragraph.

FOG itself (and FictionPress, to an extent) is my other issue. This is still talking about sex, by the way, not romance in and of itself, which I’ll get back to. I’m feeling a little paranoid even writing about this because I know a lot of forums get antsy with it, and because I don’t read anyone else’s roleplay, save for extenuating circumstances that indirectly impact on me, I don’t know if there’s any examples of the level FOG would tolerate. Then again, I don’t know if anyone else is reading TOKoR, so maybe nobody would care. What I’m trying to say is that the general rules governing the ‘acceptability’ of it put me on edge. For FictionPress, maybe we’d cut the scene out if it was written into the roleplay (I’m pushing a T as it is. How have I not been reported yet? It’s clearly an M based on the language), but I’m not willing to take it out if it’s for the forum. So, two options again: don’t write all the details and just fade to black (annoying, because a lot of personality gets through during it, which is why Romance RPs can last so long when it’s purely intimate crap rather than the ‘fighting to be together’ crap), or just up and leave FOG (I’m willing to make that sacrifice. I’m settled into this place, but – hey, TOKoR comes first). I don’t know if the fact that, no matter what happens, a sex scene would be put in amongst the rest of the post, thereby demonstrating that it’s not to cyber but to legitimately write with another person, would cancel out any rules regarding it. I’m not asking yet because we’re not at that point in time (we were for a moment, but the plot made it unfeasible, which is great because now I can do the legitimate ‘fight for her’), but so far off-screen spanky-panky-hanky has made it through. Point one for my Boston Boy! Very Happy Plus, it’s very possible that Benoit and Madeline hooked up. I’m saying ‘possible’ because I haven’t decided; I may have implied they didn’t, but she had him in shackles and had the door a step away from being barricaded, so something sure as hell went on. It’s another of those ‘who waved’ situations, where I need to get a better handle on their relationship before I can tell for sure. I’ll get back to it.

Anyway, that’s what I mean about drama. It’s not always defined by ‘woe is me’ or ‘I hate you’, and so it – and all it entails – is very, very entertaining and rewarding. And once the logistics are figured out – hey! Great! Bone away! But this is where David has saved me. I got nervous during Page Two because I saw a scene where Gwen has a vision/hallucination and it goes into a kind of ‘instant connection’ thing. It’s understandable because the time between postings severely leads to overestimating the time within the posts. If you read it as it’s updated, enough time went by, but if you read it all at once, ‘Whoa! Too fast!’ I was okay with it initially, but I re-read it and got concerned, especially when Xander jumped onto her on Page 3. At the time, it’s great, but I am not sacrificing realism for my personal enjoyment, not when it’ll be more satisfying later. My general rule is five IC days before anything happens because that builds enough of a basis to know the person before anything happens – crucial when the situation leading up to it (like being hunted by Agents) is not explicitly intended to be romantic, like you’d have with as excuse in a blind date or something. That kind of means Osono’s unavailable from my perspective, even though I’ve already shipped her (and into a damn triangle – what’s wrong with me and love triangles? When Graninger comes in, I’m gonna be counting three). Gwen... sort of, because even though they’ve known each other for... let’s face it – eight full pages, IC-wise, she’s been absent for a while. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, sure, but does it make it realistic? As for Stephanie and Jason, everything’s all set (they get the 'I was already a second away from ripping your clothes off' boost), so I am doubly especially adoring the fact that it’s not happening right now. That truly shows craftsmanship. And I thank David for it.

Alright, you probably think I’m being stupid with this, but hear me out. No, this was not part of some master plan. I never intended for Nathan so I can’t take credit for the immense break he gave us. However, I was purposely turning my attention away from the romance stuff to focus on the plot. If we started to have our characters talking too much about each other, we’d naturally be asking ourselves why they weren’t doing stuff (don’t give me that, everyone has been thinking it) and it could’ve been rushed and consequently ruined. By the time we got to Vestal, we’d gotten right back into the ‘knowing each other’ phase, so like I broke it up at Roasters with the initial attack (actually, I think I broke it up on the walk to Roasters too, but that clearly didn’t work), I broke it up at the restaurant, but Nathan gave me a valid and legitimate reason to completely suspend any romantic subtext at the drop of a hat. No matter what, it was now cemented into both of our minds that our characters’ lives were at stake (or their jobs were) and that there was nothing more important than getting them to safety, thereby allowing me to enjoy my romance as much as I wanted. What’s the difference between this and the cheap Romance RPs? The romance is not all I have to talk about. If I run out of stuff to say – oops! Sorry! Just remembered I’m running for my life, no time to talk about my feelings! It’s no longer forced, there’s a plot adding mystery to who ends up with who (if they do), and I gotta say, as much as I’d prefer a particular outcome for Xander, I’m fine with having him ride off into the sunset (a.k.a. escape) at the end of this. That’s part of his appeal, I think. I’m not forcing him to be in any relationship, but he can be if I (and Time) want him to. Alex, meanwhile, seems like a default guy. I’m pretty much expecting him to hook up with somebody else. Don’t know who, just someone. Add that to another cause of my quiet resentment for him: generic Romance RP male lead. But not Xander. My sensational Xander. More than that, though, David clearly outlines why these characters should be running for their lives or on the move, as opposed to having Nathan2.0 leaving them guessing, likely tying everyone up by talking nonstop about each other and boring everybody if they can’t figure it out.

So that’s... Nathan1.0, Nathan2.0, Nathan3.0, sex... What else? (I’m saying ‘what else’ like I don’t know what I’m gonna talk about. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha! It’s funny because I do know.)

‘Too far to stop’ didn’t only hit with David’s accent. Page 5 is when I passed the point of no return on Alex’s foot, just like Xander’s dwindling energy. It was never meant to be so crippling and I’d honestly assumed it’d be something I’d forget about – but nope! It kept popping up, and now because of Page 5, I’m forced to treat it as an actual issue rather than something that can shaken off. Very fortunately, I have come up with a use for it, but I wouldn’t’ve had to if I’d just stopped bringing it up on Page 3 or, juuuust sliding under the radar, Page 4. Sorry, Alex. Xander broke your foot. By which I mean I broke your foot. Hey, at least it gives you something to whine about for another three pages, right?

I know I said I started liking Alex again, but I actually meant I boosted him from a ‘don’t like’ to an ‘accept’. He’s okay. Also fortunately – for him – I have devised a way for me to like him while fully maintaining his character. Unfortunately for those who are curious, it doesn’t come under development until Page 8, so I can’t do much more than bring it up right now.

There isn’t anything else on this I need to discuss that doesn’t come in later. I know I’ve been saying I’d go into my thoughts on Time’s characters, but because they’re so wrapped up in the plot, I don’t want to spoil anything. I will, however, do a full list of what I think about everyone’s relationships (romantic or otherwise). It won’t be until I catch up with the roleplay in my reflections and certainly not before I reach a critical point in what I’m trying to do, but I think it’ll be exactly what everyone was looking for.

Anyway – that stuff about Benoit I said no one would be interested in. This has been burning in the back of my mind for a while.

So.

Jason. Post Zero. Opens up with him making fun of Benoit’s accent. I transcribe what Jason thinks of it and I do think it’s very obvious to tell it’s a French accent, but I’d like to clarify that I knew it’d be obvious. I used ‘z’. That’s the stereotypical accent. Had I kept transcribing Benoit, I would have been forced to continue using ‘z’. I mean, I would’ve done the whole shebang like David’s, but nevertheless, I’d’ve used ‘z’ in place of ‘th’ every time. But ‘z’ is wrong. ‘Z’ is France French. The France accent is much lighter and sing-songy and buzzy. Benoit’s a Quebecer. It’s comparably harsh. You know what they use for their ‘th’?

‘D’.

Yeah – go read it again and say it that way. Well, the rest of it’s still wrong because I wrote it entirely as stereotypical France French (Jason is mocking him), but you see the difference straight away.

The ‘d’ is actually sharp enough to sound like a ‘t’ – which they are also obsessed with. The Québécois pronounce the first hard consonants of the word and the first of each syllable quite heavily, so ‘t’, ‘d’, ‘k’, ‘p’ and especially ‘r’ all explode from their mouths (not so much the soft consonants, because in every word, the vowels are given great emphasis and can easily drown out ‘s’, j’, and ‘n’. ‘B’ is sort of a half-and-half). If it’s at the end of the word, the consonant is usually ignored altogether. Best example? ‘Quand’ (‘when’, if you can’t google it). The horrible English accent is saying ‘kond’. The proper way to say it is ‘kahwn’, almost like ‘con’ and ‘lawn’. No ‘d’ there, but there’s a huge ‘q’. Unfortunately, if I tried using ‘d’ for him in that first bit, everyone would’ve looked at me like I was crazy. So I’m sorry, Benoit, but I bastardized your accent to make it more palatable to people who didn’t know Quebec is to France what America is to Britain when it comes to pronouncing words, perception of being snooty and all (Hahahahaha! Hi, Mr. Kettle).

Still no ‘h’, though. And fun fact: Jean is France French. I've even got Benoit calling him that in my head, because in the full history between those two, that difference actually ends up being something worth mentioning.

Oh, Mr. Kettle, I see you met Mr. Pot. What’s that? ... Geez, Pot. Don’t be racist. Dick.

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Post on Wed Jun 01, 2011 8:46 pm by Tartra

Story time!

As some of you may know, I'm half Jamaican. I've only been to Jamaica twice and both times my age was countable in months. When I was somewhere around two - and could walk, something I never do anymore - I spent my second week there and had a good time playing around. But like an idiot, let me be clear. The first time I stood in waves I started crying, and it wasn't until I saw a local girl playing around in them that I manned the fuck up and learned how to splash around. The animals, from the very vague and faded pictures I have of them in my mind, are probably what I remember the most. That damn donkey my mother put me on - because it'd be fun, Tartra, you'll like it! - was the smelliest damn thing I've ever had the displeasure of being beside and the only picture I have of that day is me sitting on it, scowling and curling my lip. I stand by what I'd probably meant to say back then: fuck donkeys. Enough swearing - onto the fun stuff.

Jamaican cats are, I imagine, not much different from Cuban cats. I can only make that comparison because I was 16 on my trip to Cuba and the cat I saw was feral, and I'm pretty damn sure I didn't care in the slightest (I still don't, so that 'pretty sure' is just a softer way of saying 'it's a fact') whether they were wild, rabid, mangy, missing a leg or pampered pusses: I was petting that cat. I don't remember this particular scene because I did it every other hour or whenever I crossed paths with a cat, but my mother tells me the story often enough and, despite not taking pictures of the blood, I have the chunks of my life I do remember standing as proud proof that, yes, I was willing to pick up a cat from the street, let it hiss and maul and slash at my face, refusing to let it go because it was so cute and because I wanted to 'kiss the kitty'. Seriously, I had a phrase for it. If there was even a single thing on this planet that looked like it could be a cat, I was chasing that critter down and kissing six of its 9 lives away. And I could do it, too. Until I was 13, I was just fast enough to, if not outright catch the cat, then at least run it into a corner and then pick it up and love it for life. Or until I let it go because of blood loss. I liked cats; I didn't say they liked me. It's cool though. I'm on great terms with the six neighbourhood and four stray cats that live on my street. They'll run up to me and I'll pet 'em and they'll purr and then I'll be late for my bus because they're so furry. D'awwwww, I love cats!

On the flip side, I hated dogs. Now turning 21, I can't say I'm thrilled with some of them, and I will always blame a dog in a second before the thought of a cat having done anything gets into my mind - and even after that, even when there's proof that the cat - any cat - did something... What, you think I'm gonna get mad at it? It's a cat. I love cats. I have, however, made my peace with them. I've even considered getting a dog to do stuff, because stuff is what I like to do and the kitty knows I won't ask it to do a damn thing it isn’t up for it already. I'll go out of my mind trying to get one to join in, but really, if the cat says 'no', it's 'no'. The dog doesn't have that luxury. I've already planned all the tricks I'm going to teach it. Did I teach my cat anything? Hell no. I'm really trying to make sure you know what little a cat has to do for me to love it (specifically, be alive and be in grabbing distance). Is that unfair? Well - let me give you a history of me and my success with those creatures.

My neighbours as a child loved dogs. The first one they had was a Chihuahua. Allow me to sum up my feelings for that dog by saying it only died two years ago, meaning it lived for 15 years, minimum, and fuck that dog I'm glad it's dead. That thing has been my mortal enemy every damn day of its satanic little life. I have lived by the rule that it is impossible to hate anything unless you are willing to remove it from history, which is why I can distinguish between my hatred for mosquitoes and annoyance for flies. That damn dog never had a redeemable quality at any point in its miserable days and whenever I went over to my neighbour's house, it would always, always, find some excuse to bite me. On the stomach. I have a tiny scar above my belly-button and that was not a one-time event. The combined might of my love for cats is easily matched by my loathing for this disgusting stretch of skin. My neighbours went through four dogs over the year. In their special ways, they each pissed me off.

The one they gave away was my favourite, and it ended up becoming a stable part of my life. It was a terrier and it was an obscenely hyper thing. I think the reason they sent him off was because he peed a lot, but they were very rough on him (verbally) so I'm sure it was wholly fear-based because he stopped when he got a new owner. Anyway, they gave the dog to my godmother, who proceeded to love that pup to its very last day, which, unfortunately, was last year, but he passed away cherished and cared for. I say ‘unfortunately’ because he really was a sweetheart with a wonderful disposition. No, he couldn't do any work and he would never be able to scare anybody off, but he always gave his all and I liked how hopelessly unthreatening he was. I think of him quite fondly, but he, although he was the first dog in my life for me to have ever liked (adored?), still had his way of driving me insane. Obscenely hyper. Obscenely – that’s the word you’ve got to have in your mind. He kept jumping up on me. And he smelled like a doggie - like a clean doggie, because my godmother always made sure he was spotless, but like a dog nonetheless and that irked me. He'd never be good enough in my eyes based purely on his species, and it hurts a little to remember how hard he tried anyway. In the end, yes, I accepted him, and even got kind of excited when he came over, going so far as to get a bit excited when my godmother came to visit because of him, but I am justified in being disappointed with myself for taking so long to do it.

There was such a contrast between that him, Jake, and my cat, Elliott. Because my godmother never went somewhere without Jake, I had many an occasion to see him and Elliott in the same room. My cat is swift beyond belief (doubly surprising because he's so fat, but he's on a diet now... whiiiiiiiich he's broken every month despite our best efforts, the latest having been putting a rock on his food since he learned how to hack his automatic food dispenser), but he only runs when he's being chased or chasing. And he's such a widdle hunter 'cause one time - right, no, stay on topic. Outside chasing/being chased, he's pretty chill (read: lazy). He does his steady cat-walk from place to place and he truly epitomizes feline grace whenever he goes anywhere. I chalk it up to him being part Siamese (you can see it in his face when you smooth his whiskers down), but I'm sure any cat-owner would say that about theirs. Still, though, he always moves about so neatly, like he's always on the prowl and ready to stalk his prey on a second’s notice. And he's silent - good grief, he's silent. He’s got a bell on his collar and he has a perky jaunt to make it jingle (he likes it!) but that proves he’s silent because he only shakes it when he feels like it or when he isn’t sneaking up on someone. He particularly enjoys keeping track of when I've seen a horror movie, then stepping up beside my bed and just waiting for me to wake up, look down at the ground, then freak out because there's two eyes staring at me. He runs away like I startled him but I know that bastard’s rushing off to laugh. Oh yeah, my cat's a dick, but more on that in a bit.

So I’ve got my awesome, wonderful, smooth and mellow super-cat-asshole-of-a-pet on one side, and on the other, I have this wonderfully happy, overly eager, overly jumpy, overly friendly, overly nice Yorkshire Terrier. Jake comes over the first time and he walks in, thinking he’s welcome because we’re happy to see him (emphasis on my parents) and my cat’s maybe only… two or so, so he’s still in a mood where he likes to check things out. There’s only one word I can use to describe Elliott’s first opinion of Jake: unimpressed. Just… utterly. And it’s sad now but funny then: Jake could not understand why. Everyone else loved him and in the dog park, he’d run right up to the Great Danes and roll around with them, but this two-year-old cat had stopped giving a shit seconds after they met, strongly implying Elliott did not have a lot of shits to give at all in the first place. Jake can’t believe that. He tries to make friends. He goes up, does his doggie thing, but Elliott is just not having any of it and is ignoring this grey being sniffing around his face. Jake then makes a very big mistake: he tries to lick Elliott on the nose. Elliott, with an incredible flurry of speed, leans back to get on his hind legs, sticks his paws out – one on either side of Jake’s head – and then bats that dog’s skull back and forth like a damn cartoon. Then he, of course, sits back down like he didn’t whip Jake’s ass a second ago. The dog is completely dazed. Elliott has made his point – so he thinks. Later that night, Jake is hovering around us again, because a five-year-old canine has to give the kitten its apparently much-needed space, and eventually he works the courage up to try making friends again. A slash to the face later, I have to put Elliott away, and I stay with him in my room because I hate dogs and Jake should’ve known better than to mess with the best. My kitty got kisses and pets – and more on that later, too – all night, at least until he went under the bed because I had shut the door. May I point out that at no time did I ever think, ‘Why did my cat do that? Jake was trying to be nice!’ No, it was more along the lines of, ‘Jake is such an idiot’ – to be fair, he was – and ‘Elliott is too damn awesome for me to even begin to understand. I have the greatest cat on this planet’ – and to be fair, I do.

It was like that for years. The dog would come over, Elliott would beat the piss out of him, and sweet Jake would be left scratching his head, wondering what he could’ve possibly done wrong. When they got older, eventually Elliott stopped smacking him (either bored or simply accepting that Jake was going to leave by the end of the night, and anyway he had better things to do upstairs or whatever so he totes didn’t care) and either left it at a hiss or didn’t bother coming downstairs at all. It is still pretty amusing to think back on what they were like together. Elliott goes outside and patrols all the backyards and fences and he’ll take on a raccoon without any hesitation. I’d moved out by then, so I’m not sure if the relationship he had with a rabbit who showed up in our backyard one winter was a friendship or an outright war, but he fucking hates every other cat who comes onto his territory so it goes to show that Elliott is very picky – to the point of anti-socialism – about who he deigns to tolerate. To pair that against something that would not stop trying to make nice over the course of eleven years (9, technically, because like I said, they met when Elliott was two) should tell you what an asshole he is. He gets along with my mother because find me someone who doesn’t like my mother; he gets along with dad because my dad is the alpha male of the house and Elliott would rather whoop his own ass then have to face my father after he accidentally bites or scratches someone (you will never see a prouder cat absolutely collapse into regret faster than when Elliott scratches or – holy shit – bites my dad, who, in case you need a reminder, is a Jamaican, meaning I fully sympathize with my kitty’s spankings); and he gets along with me because…

Oh boy.

So how’s it going right now? Liking the story? Making you wonder why I’m talking about my cat like this is a real blog instead of something I’ve specified as being ‘all about TOKoR’? Well. I am gonna blow your mind. Guess what? This story? This story is my recent revelation. If you haven’t figured it out by now, congratulations, I don’t feel alone in not getting it at first. If, however, you, like me, are stupid and blind and can’t see what has very clearly been put in front of your face, allow me to provide these three facts I’ve already posted.

1) All of my characters have a tiny bit of me.
2) All ‘tiny bits of me’ are cranked up to 11.
3) I am always wrong.

I want you to keep reading and see if you can’t make the connection I didn’t make. Just really think about it. I’m sure you’ll get it.

When I was ten, I convinced my mother to let me get a cat. My dad’s a dog kind of guy – he grew up with two big ones – but he was okay with getting a cat, too. Great, or else we wouldn’t’ve gotten one. So we hurried to the adoption agency and I walked into a room fucking full of kittens and I damn near crapped myself because holy shit a room full of kittens. I didn’t know what kind of cat I wanted. I just wanted a cat that’d play with me. While my mother’s busy talking over the legalities with the adoption lady, I’m sitting on the ground with holy shit kittens around me. They had a length of wire with the bit of cardboard at the end of it tied to the doorknob, so I used that and shook it at the kittens and, while some were mildly interested, one grey puss kind of walked over, batted it, then walked away. I didn’t mind – I kept at it, and eventually an orange one actually developed an interest. Then, of course, everyone wanted to play, but screw you – you didn’t want to play before, this orange cat is mine now, go to hell (kitty hell, which I imagine is full of mice juuuuuust out of their reach). That was Elliott. I made his middle name ‘Meowth’ because I wanted him to have the same initials at me. He was pre-named, so I assumed that making it official in that sense proved this was meant to be.

I was delighted to have Elliott in that first day. By the end of the night, he was ticking me off, because I had to keep him in my room since he was too young to go around the rest of the house and, owing to the fact that I was the only there, he had to keep sniffing me to figure out who I was. I complained to my parents but they more or less told me to shut the hell up and sent me back to my room to stay with Elliott, and eventually he got used to me and I realized how much I liked him. Those first few weeks? Happy bliss. Those first few months? Joyful. Month five? … I have a cat. I have a cat. There is a cat in my house. He can’t get out.

As social as he was that first encounter, he’s a saucy thing who essentially hates people. My friends especially, but for good reason, because several of the friends I had in my youth were idiots and it speaks to the class that Elliott has. Just as he decided to accept us as his family, I realized that there is a cat in my house and I terrorized the hell out of him. I’d pop out of nowhere, scaring him half to death. I’d tickle him endlessly and he – remember my father – would get in trouble when he bit trying to get away – and I chased him, so it was very much lose-lose. I’d roll him over. I pin him to my lap and pet him for hours. I did everything I would’ve done to a cat on the street, delighting in the knowledge that he was my cat and some owner couldn’t show up and take him away (also, someone else wanted to adopt him the day his papers got finalized, and I laugh about that and won’t forget that it means I’m not the only person who thought Elliott was the best). That cat was so freaking sick of me in that first year that he literally hid behind my mother and the dining table and its six chairs became the ultimate maze for him to try to lose me in. He’s the only cat who can shake me, so kudos, Elliott, and well played. That first year’s most spoken phrase, next to ‘Elllllliooootttttttttt, where’d you go?’ was ‘Leave that poor thing alone’ by every other person in my family. Elliott now hates my brother, but he would run the hell under his bed if it meant he didn’t have to put up with me for another minute. But he was my cat and I had the right to pet him. How dare he run away from me! What the hell was he so mad about anyway? I was petting him! He was purring! Sure, it was probably over the thought of hurting me (he blends in with the carpet and he spent an awful lot of time hanging out on that first step where, despite the mirror, I could never see him on, flawlessly tripping me each time), but that meant he was happy!

Over the second year, my cat and I settled into a routine. I would go to school and leave him alone, and he would get to spend that time finding nooks and crannies to hide away from me. Don’t get me wrong: he did like me because I fed him and every now and then he would want to be pet, but 80% of the time, it was me tugging on him as he literally sank his claws into the carpet because I want my cat right now. His favourite spots remain around that dining table because he knows the room’s a tad too small to yank out all the chairs, and they’ve all got this cover on them that hides the legs so it’s like playing the hide-the-ball-in-the-cups game, except the ball actively avoids me and walks from cup to cup to make sure I don’t find him. His second most common spot – not necessarily his favourite, and most likely his most hated because that’s where he goes when he’s trying to get the away and he can’t get outside – is under the bed in my parent’s bedroom. There’s a big headboard that I can’t reach over and the thing is a king-sized so I can’t drag it, and if I go to chase him out one side, he’ll just walk to the other, and I can’t fit under there because I’d have to go face first and he’d have me at his mercy. And I know that. … I know that now. It wasn’t until he was around seven that I clued into the fact that he’d secretly built a new routine.

My father says, “You’re going on a diet.”

Elliott says, “Like shit I am.”

My father says, “NOBODY FEEDS THIS CAT EXCEPT ME. I GIVE HIM HALF A CUP AT THIS TIME AND THIS TIME AND HE GETS NOTHING ELSE. HE IS FAT.”

Elliott says, “I give it a week.”

It took two days.

I’m sorry – I felt so bad for him! I know he was packing on the pounds, but he’d sit by his dish and he’d look at me pathetically – pathetically, I’m not exaggerating. Because you know what he’d do, this damn thing? He’d start licking his empty bowl, then look up me to check if I was watching, and then he’d lick it again, just to rub in the fact that, ‘Oh, I’m hungry. Tartra, you should feed me. I’m starving.’ And I’d be all, ‘I really shouldn’t…’ And he’d say, ‘Come on, Tartra. Just a few kibbles.’ And I’d say, ‘Elliott, dude, I really shouldn’t.’ And he’d say, ‘But… But Tartra… *lick, lick, meow, meow, sad and lonely stare* … Don’t you love me?’ So the diet didn’t stick. My parents tried working around that by saying I was allowed to give him half a half of a cup when I got home after school, but then he’d only have half a half of a cup to eat at dinner, and there was no way my dad was going to top it up if it was under a quarter, so technically I was giving him some safety food in case my dad got stingy. My kitty got fatter. Hey – he was happy.

The next thing was how to put up with the petting all the time. I grew up and learned when to leave him alone, which he appreciated, but he still knew that if I was picking him up, he wasn’t getting put down for another few hours. He tempered that by going outside for hours and only coming back when he was hungry (obviously) or actually wanted to see me, because he’s quite affectionate when he feels like it, but that’s nowhere near as often as I’d like. But he knows it’s coming, so it started using it as currency. Sure, there’s examples lots of examples of him using his being-a-cat-and-I-suppose-I-can-let-you-pet-me, but other than the food, the biggest one is my pillow. Biggest, because it’s the most obtrusive. My cat is a dick and he flaunts it.

There’s me, sleeping. What’s that, kitty? You’re coming into my room? But you almost never come into my room! Oh, that’s right, I’m a) the only one who didn’t shut her door, b) trapping you in here by shutting my door, c) home alone, or d) you bit my dad again, didn’t you? Yes you did, you fuzzy thing – okay, get on up here! And he’ll nuzzle my hand as I pet him and I can even roll over but he’ll just walk to whatever direction I’m facing until I’m petting him again, it took me seven years to realize he that every step he took while he was on my bed was always closer… and closer… and closer to my pillow. Then, me petting him the entire time, he steps onto my pillow and nestles down on its length and him and his fat ass take up every molecule that my head’s not on, and then what it is on, and he is clearly saying, “I AM A CAT. I LET YOU PET ME. I GET TO SIT ON YOUR HEAD.” And as the night goes on, he nestles in to get more comfortable, and by morning, I’m fully off the pillow and he’s decided he’s gonna stay the whole night for once because, ‘Well – since you’ve been so generous, it’d be rude of me not to stay’. He had a back-up plan for when I wised up to that too, ‘cause guess what, cat? Humans can read, and I know you sitting on my pillow is a sign of dominance and I don’t take crap either! I am a human, I am your better, I am greater than you! So now when he gets onto my pillow, seconds before my hand reaches him to shove him off, he starts purring. ‘Okay. I know you know I’m on your head, but I want you to consider how adorable I am. Failing that, think of happy I am to be in your presence. I’ll even let you pet me for another minute before I bite you.’ That’s the best case scenario of what that purr means. Honestly, I think it’s a victory purr. You’re an asshole, Elliott. So he gets my pillow when he wants it.

There’s limits to this. If he does things that are clearly out of bounds, I have to get after him. He can’t go on the counter, he can’t go on the stove (idiot), and as much as he’s claimed the dining room chairs, he can’t actually go on the table. Those are the rules. Beyond that, though, I can’t help him if he’s brought down the wrath of my dad – who, I should explain, pets him just as much as I do, tickling him as mercilessly as me, but Elliott’s got no chance of getting out of it because my dad’ll drag him back until he’s done playing as quickly as I would (do), but unlike me, who has walked away happy but scratched and bitten, Elliott won’t even risk licking my father just in case it’s misinterpreted. I mean – not if he can’t run away or if it’s really, really light, the kind my father doesn’t care about but is obliged to say, ‘Hey! Stop that!’ just in case my cat thinks my dad’s going soft. Sorry, kitty. My dad’s in charge and I’m as much as I love you, you know almost better than me what’ll happen if you bite.

My cat really wants to bite my dad. Except for when my mom’s gone for to Nova Scotia and it’s them all alone in the house, which is when they’re buddy-buddy until she gets back. Just be glad I don’t live at home anymore, Elliott. … Man, he must be stressed when I come home to visit. Completely used to it, but stressed anyway, especially because I don’t tolerate that ‘You’ve been gone for a month, I don’t remember you, oh shit you’re picking me up, yes, yes, I fucking remember you, put me down!’ nonsense.

… Do… Do you get it yet?

I pulled 'Madeline calls Benoit a cat' completely out of my ass, as is my usual writing process. I distinctly remember typing it and thinking, “… She probably wouldn’t call him by his name. She’d have some kind of pet name for him by now. Let’s make it a cat. I like cats.” Eric messing around with Benoit and driving him equally as crazy? Spur of the moment, ‘cause I thought it’d be a good part of the characters’ relationship. Eric outranking Madeline and both outranking Benoit? I’d always planned for her to be an A-2 and for him to be an A-1 and I didn’t think it’d be appropriate for Benoit to so conveniently be only a step underneath Eric, but the parallels simply didn’t occur to me. Even as I was actively writing Madeline’s first POV post, nothing – not a damn thing – was clicking. I’m reading through the RP with these lenses on now (Eh? Eh? What’d I say one of their tricks was? Night vision) and I’m going, ‘Gee, Benoit shut Gary down pretty fast when they met, huh?’ Then ‘Gary, you’ve gotta stop being so excited, you’re grating on Madeline’s last nerve’. Then ‘It’s weird I made Benoit so fast when he’s such a heavy smoker. It’d be like a fat guy being winning a marathon.’ Even more then ‘Jason seems pretty surprised to consider Benoit killed Madeline’s death squad. Did he think Benny couldn’t fight? Even if you didn’t see it, how could you not have guessed he knew how to stab a dude, regardless of whether you thought he had a weapon on him? Which he does, obviously. Think, Jason. He’s an Agent.’ And Benoit seems to be really at ease running around the stasis cells when Madeline’s trying to get a hold on him.

I’ll summarize for you:

1) I really like accents.
2) Madeline really likes that Benoit is French.
3) Liking accents was not the part of me I gave to Madeline. Apparently.

Disturbing. Very disturbing, though I’m happy to say there’s no similarities between me and Madeline otherwise. She’s come into her own character and she’s so far removed me, in the same way that Xander and Eric, are that I can sincerely say she has her own identity. Likewise, I decided to make a list regarding traits of my father and Eric, and I’m pleased to report that, other than being related to an Agency (the government is like an Agency, right?) and being dedicated to their work, they’re separate personalities (I can’t tell you how relieved I was to find out Eric wasn’t the opposite of my dad either, because holy flying Freud, Batman, that’s exactly as bad as being just like him). And I’m even happier to know that the ‘let’s terrorize my cat!’ party begins and ends at those three (except for the wacky coincidence of Stephanie naming Gary a dog, making it more obvious, and the lenses, which I’m laughing about, and the smoking situation). Everything outside of that, like anything that relates to a ‘cat-like’ persona, is nothing I can point to and say, ‘yes, that is my cat’. Because a cat is a cat. They’re graceful and eloquent and any group that’s established as a modern day hunting party is going to share several traits, especially because the Agency has developed a ‘go at it alone’ mentality. If they didn’t, I could say they were a pack of wolves instead of just dogs and keep the eloquent and graceful routine that way. Cats don’t have a monopoly on this stuff. Certainly not my cat, even if he’s the best at it.

For the record, I am aware that my cat and Benoit are both smug assholes purposely using their adorableness to manipulate the person one rank higher to get what they want from her (and they seem to share the mentality of not asking for anything too outlandish; only smoking in a computer-vault and my pillow). They don’t have a monopoly on that either. In fact, I think Benoit’s a little nicer than Elliott, because even if my cat could talk, I’d guarantee he’d still let me go seven years instead of politely spelling it out for me like my awesome A-3. So let’s say I gave Benoit a kernel of me and a kernel of the most important animal in my life, except I turned it up on my end and turned it down on Elliott’s. But if I hadn’t, I have no qualms about it. My cat is bitchingly amazing and he’s a bad-ass. Benny couldn’t have turned out better and everything he’s done – and will be doing – is a credit to the story. If I have to inadvertently thank Elliott, then – well… I’d give him a pillow, but it’s not the same to him unless he’s stealing it from me. He refuses, actually. I can give him a bigger one and he’ll walk over and take mine. What a dick. Benoit wouldn’t do that. Benoit’s better, and he isn’t an anti-social loner. Stupid cat. Who I have as my phone’s background and am now awww-ing at. And who took forever to give me that photo in the first place – and it’s blurry.

So have no fear, everyone! As sensational as this connection is, in the long run, all it does is give me something to reflect on and laugh about as I draw more connections. Do I plan to have this cloud what I write? No. I’m not trying to promote or avoid it. I see what happened as a springboard for my characters to leap off of, and considering the huge list of ‘things that I can call the same’ is outweighed by ‘things that are clearly different’ and is again outweighed by ‘overall connections I can make with the animal kingdom to the entire roleplay’, and considering I’ve repeatedly admitted – and prided myself on – to borrowing realistic personality traits and then stretching them to make them readable, I’m quietly thrilled a part of me thought my cat was interesting enough to become one of my favourite characters (and from time to time, the favourite) I’ve written in TOKoR, in another roleplay, or otherwise.





If Xander turns out to be my dentist or something, I’m gonna be pissed.

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Post on Sun Aug 21, 2011 2:05 am by Tartra

Is any of this important? ... No. Not really. That’s how I operate: if it’s legitimately useful information, it goes in the RP as IC. If not, and it can’t conceivably impact on the roleplay beyond minor clarifications and I can’t work in a steady way to draw attention to it, I throw it out as a side detail you don’t need to know, but puts you more clearly on my page. Then again, I was positive I’d never figure out my ‘all my characters have last names and I haven’t referred to a single damn one of them’ issue with my staple problem-solver of NEW CHARACTERS!!!!!, so maybe this is jumping the gun.

... Nah, it’s fine. Hey – about that, actually. Names are tricky with me. I know people stress for hours over the type of character they want to write and the physical description and everything... I’ve been in that situation once or twice trying to join other people’s roleplays. I have full confidence that what I put down will work, but it’s the ‘this is your roleplay, I don’t want to step on your toes by putting in a character you won’t like’ thing. It’s out of politeness, whereas in starting my own, I’ll put it in because it’s what I want to read. I can’t draw people’s interest with a plot like others can and like others draw me; any interest I spark is first and foremost – if not exclusively – through my characters and their personalities. The plot comes later, the descriptions come later, the physical appearance almost always works its way out, largely because I leave it as blank as possible to allow my readers (read: any partner I’m working with plus the occasional guy who wandered in) to project their image onto them. TOKoR’s the first time I let it get a step beyond that. Ten actually (by the way, Time --> Ten) asked what Benoit and Jean looked like. I gave the barest possible details I could manage when I introduced them, just so they’d be recognizable so long as they were around. Again, I was assuming they’d die really shortly after, and defining what the character looks like has always given me the feeling of an arranged marriage: I don’t know this person, but you telling me to visualize what he or she looks like means I now have to put effort into knowing them. So I felt they didn’t need much. Ten asking for more clarification therefore hit me as an odd request. It wasn’t like she was saying, ‘TELL ME NOW’ and I half-remember it only coming up during a conversation discussing Gwen (or Stephanie) and the actress playing her and then wanting to know who’d play the others (what amuses me is that while we settled on the French guy from the Matrix for Benoit, she never wondered about what Alex or Xander looked like. Xander hadn’t been defined as someone else yet, but her curiosity over who I’d base him on if it was in real life would’ve likely been answered instantly if she’d asked when I was in the ‘sure, whatever details you want is fine’ mode). The request was odd because I felt like their personalities were enough for what the situation called for and that they hadn’t earned the interest – or would need to – to warrant the extra work.

It worked out. Ten says although we agreed on the Merovingian, she’d switched to Patrick Huard (and I’m like, ‘YES! Uh... I mean, sure. Whatever you’d like.’) and it relaxes me. I think I’d started moving towards those lines earlier because I wanted something that looked more like the cartoon, and I’ve mentioned it to Ten before that I’m very first-come-first-serve in my mind’s eye. The comics knocked out anything else I could’ve been thinking of. Actors and such were her thing, but it’s in my mind now and everyone new is starting to turn up as their real life counterparts. So, Danielle, Dalton, Cryptic, Squiddie, Marshall – everyone who wasn’t described/drawn pre-Page 7 is a flesh and blood image. Shifting and changing in general appearance, but real. Everything else? Cartoons. Solid, set cartoons. Madeline and Eric especially, largely because they’re so animated already. Regardless – I’m completely off my point – physical appearances are always debatable for me. Unless it’s hugely important to me and failing to get it will take you too far off the track I’m on, it’s whatever the reader wants. It’s Benoit and that coat thing, which again is off my point about names, so I’ll explain the name thing and run off to gush about Benoit. And then explain the gushing entirely. Appearances are debatable, names are not. Names can’t be changed, names can’t be argued – at most, you can get a nickname, but even then, the real one looms over the character. Alex, Benoit, Jean and Jason were all pulling some serious Cher crap, and since we’d passed the introductions (and since Benoit and Jean, when being introduced to Stephanie, didn’t care enough to give their full names because they’ve never needed to be used) and gone so far, it felt really awkward trying to shoehorn in a ‘oh yeah, here’s the rest of my name! Enjoy’. I’ve scooped out the issue with my darling Frenchmen, but Jason and Alex – dammit, Alex! – continue to elude me. I have a spot in mind for Jason’s, but in the same way I imagine Ten to be gnawing on her nails over what Marshall looks like (I keep a strong distance between him and Xander, so when I say ‘Marshall’, I truly do mean ‘Marshall’), I’m almost sick with anticipation for getting to write it down. Danielle and Dalton? Letting me reveal it through them? They’ve earned my gratitude beyond anything they’ll know.

So Benoit and his coat was most certainly my first run-in with the ‘don’t whine about it unless it’s an important detail’ rule. I’m in agreement with Ten now, but for the longest while – and from time to time until I get it out of my system completely – I had Benoit, yes, in a suit, but in a long coat over top of it. I didn’t care about Jean and just the suit worked well for him, but I was so focused on Benoit in that coat that it managed to shock me when I realized Ten had him in just the suit as well. It was the comics that tipped me off; specifically, the awesome ones she drew of the scene with Eric and him in the vault calling Madeline (that’s how recent a development this is). Benoit was sitting in his chair looking all dishevelled and drunk and it came out so perfectly with what I’d have (had I talent) done myself. It wasn’t until after when I was browsing her gallery again that I found the one of him blazing by Jason and Eric, running the hell away from Madeline. I thought to myself, ‘That shadow’s short. Shouldn’t it be bigger? She’s got a whole coat to draw’. And then later, ‘Hahaha! That’s how drunk Benny is – he tossed his jacket at the corner or something. Or Madeline ate it. I bet she ate it.’ Here’s the crazy thing: not only did I not describe that he had it (and believe me, I checked, and I didn’t), but there’s very specific scenes I have of him in mind where he specifically doesn’t have the stupid thing anywhere! With the coat, he’s in the lobby and waving at Alex when Alex leaves with Gwen, he’s standing at the top of the elevator with Stephanie waiting to go and pacing when he’s blocked from Nathan’s profile, and he’s running from Madeline in that scene and I can’t for the life of me change it. But he doesn’t have it in the car – any of them – or when he’s laughing at Jason for getting tied up or when he’s hiding in the corners of the cell room or when he’s in the restaurant, not on the chair or passed off to Jean, so it’s driving me insane trying to clear up this enormous visualization error. I see him with the coat, I don’t see him with the coat, it bounces everywhere at once, but officially, he doesn’t have the damn thing. Give me another six months and maybe I can have it sorted out.

That’s the problem. I don’t want to go too far into detail because there’s no sense in bogging people down with information, but when I allow myself to see what I want to eventually describe, I assume – since it’s so obviously associated with that character – it’s been described that way already. I don’t even agree with Alex’s initial description. I think I said he had olive skin? Just to switch it up from being a white guy all the time. Comic comes in, I’m already seeing him as full Caucasian, but I don’t want to change the post because it’s like ‘ugh... I’d have to click ‘edit’ and then I’d have to find the word and then I’d have to switch it on FictionPress and screw it, they’ll figure it out’. It’s whatever, you know? It’s fine. And you’ll notice Danielle and Dalton have no descriptions, either. They’re still in limbo. Cryptic actually became something more than those shifting blobs of people, but I don’t have an opening for it and I’m completely willing to wait. Besides, he’s in the same state as Benoit first was: I know he’s important, but until I get used to him, I can’t make the effort to care beyond ‘he’s here to serve a purpose, making him invaluable’. Squiddie, meanwhile, I could not be better off with. I have her entire character figured out, down to her actress, down to all the secrets Ten and other readers have no way of knowing, and I have a very specific set of circumstances that have to be invoked for any of it to come to fruition. That’s why I’m great with treating her the way I am now: as the deadliest part of the background, as most befitting Eric’s needs.

Smile

Benoit.

What the hell, dude? Benoit? Seriously? Benoit? Aren’t you dead yet? And shit – now he can’t die, I enjoy him too much, and it’s precisely that reason I can’t stop feeling bad about murdering (gloriously!) his best friend. This guy entertains me on a level I can’t get with Xander or Eric but he hits me with these freaking guilt trips all the [/i]time[/i]. Okay! Benoit! I’m sorry! I’m sorry I killed Jean and I’m sorry I made you have to deal with Eric. But everyone else likes Eric! Doesn’t that count as a good trade? Because it’s for the story? (Benoit: Not to me. ;___________; ) FUCKING DAMMIT, BENOIT. DON’T YOU MAKE THAT FACE AT ME. (....... ;___________; ) And I can go through line after line of reasoning of all the amazing things that occurred simply because Jean is dead and Eric took his place and brought it to the sky, and I can thrill myself with everything great that’s going to happen and how much fun it is to write this, but I always, always, always have to stop, back down and see if I can slip Benoit some attention because he became this sensational, surprisingly complex character with details I didn’t even recognize as details until after. One thing that’s been a ‘fun to know but ultimately useless’ point was how I write for him. His dialogue has changed dramatically from his Post Zero, and it’s changed in one incredibly simple way: contractions. Benoit did not use contractions when he spoke and I instead weaved his sentences around to get a longer form of everything, emphasizing his accent and formality in business, similar to Jean, though slightly more so. The reason for that stems from his and Jean’s relationship (I really want to do the Benoit and Jean adventures. How they first met is hilarious to me and – just... Okay. Bear with me here. And I’m gonna laugh because that’s a pun but you won’t get it until I finish typing it ten seconds after this. We’re still in the brackets so this is still on the side. New paragraph.

I’ve wanted to say this for a while. Benoit and Jean are delightful in the way they get along. I literally giggle thinking about the things they got up to and the evolution of their relationship is so critically important to me and half of my affection for them. The other half comes from Benoit being badass and that spills over to Jean being badass-by-proxy. So anyway, here’s the thing that’s been in my head. It’s a two-parter in a way. Part one – and I’m just describing this, not writing it – is when they’ve first started working together but after Jean has proven himself enough to work at Benoit’s actual side, rather than as, like Jason would say, a flunky, which he would have been up to this point. So this means two things: one, Benoit now finds Jean worth talking to, and two, Jean has moved up to dealing with Benoit head on, completely unaware of why so few do, which is assuredly because a) Benoit is a fucking handful, and b) Benoit thinks purely in terms of entertainment. Now, I’ve always imagined Benoit to have a business side and a more casual side. TOKoR has done nothing but flaunt his business nature (might have mentioned that), but his casual side has flit through in teeny breaths already, so I don’t think it’s dropping too much of a bombshell on anyone to say I picture him as being an innocent terror for anyone who works for him. But he’s not malicious – of course not. Anyone who reads his POV knows he takes his work seriously but doesn’t fall for the ‘expendable’ mindset like the others. If that’s debatable, then you can at least agree not with Jean, and that’s what I want kept in mind through this, on top of the ‘Jean has no clue’. Benoit, outside of his business mode, has no higher priority than making people dance for his amusement. That is why I adore him so much. He’s got this perfect sense of timing for what is and isn’t appropriate.

Anyway, they’re working together, Jean’s new to working with him one on one, he and Benoit don’t expect things to get father than ‘I am your lead, you do what I say when I say it’, and for this particular scenario, they’re walking through a little greenbelt. That’s not an arbitrary setting, either. I imagine Salcon to have offered up huge, centralized facilities with parks and greenery and crap stuck between each of the buildings, most logically for training purposes – as in, training of Pain Eaters on top of serving as a main HQ – only for the Agency to say ‘to hell with that’ when the split between them happened and take off to build their own creepy bases. But here, there’s a greenbelt. And I imagine it’s serene. It’s peaceful as the sunlight filters through, and in the early afternoon with everyone else off to lunch, there’s no one else around. Maybe it’s even a shortcut. Through the trees and shrubs is a dirt path to the other half of the base, and Benoit with his cigarette is leading the way down it. There’s enough room for both of them but Jean respectfully walks behind him, letting the Lead lead, as expected of any lower rank towards a superior. He’s accepting of this, and although he’s in enemy territory, he’s almost at ease. Almost. Benoit’s completely at ease – why not, this is great. Birds, butterflies, those fucking cricket things... It’s nice. So they walk. And then about halfway down the path, Benoit starts shrieking.

‘LOOK, JEAN! A BEAR!’ And Jean’s snapped into attack mode, looking for this thing, sensing danger because he’s trained to protect – ‘CATCH THE BEAR, JEAN! CATCH IT!’ What? That’s not – ‘CATCH IT, CATCH IT, CATCH IT!’ So Jean’s confused as shit but he goes, running unsurely at first, but then accepting his order to... catch a bear. There’s not even a question about it, either – Jean thought Benoit’d been shot or something, so adrenaline’s been pumping through him. He dives off the path, into the shrubs, stops in front of a full grown black bear, and a split second before he can question why in hell he’s being asked to do this, he hears Benoit screaming encouragement like a maniac. So he catches the bear. This means fighting it, which the bear did not want to do, and only after five minutes of struggling – and plenty of ‘DON’T KILL IT, JEAN! DON’T KILL THE BEAR!’ – does he get to drag it out of the green and onto the path, exhaustedly hauling it up to Benoit and dumping it at his feet. His heart’s pounding, his blood’s rushing, he’s freaked and his lead’s not saying anything now. Instead, Benoit’s looking at the bear in silence, perky but equally as restrained. Jean’s panting and waiting for something to happen. Finally, Benoit takes his foot and nudges the bear’s paw. ‘Ew. It’s furry. Get rid of it, Jean.’ Then he goes back to smoking and goes right back to walking down the path, leaving Jean standing there with an unconscious lump of furriness, wondering what in hell just went on?

Part two: same scene, maybe four years later. It’s as beautiful and quiet as it would have been before, but the trees are thicker and it’s later in the day. Jean’s almost walking on Benoit’s heels, as close to side by side as the path will let them but refusing to walk in front – Benoit’s proven he can’t be trusted unsupervised – and seeing no point in walking behind him like a servant. He hasn’t necessarily proven more of his worth; he’s just understood Benoit doesn’t care about those acts of submission from him – others, different story – and he’d more likely be offended by Jean maintaining that extra distance than impressed by the respect of Agent authority. Jean is content with this, although he intends to return to those 'needless shows', because even if Benoit doesn't care, others do (and Jean does), and part of Jean's job was keeping everyone under the impression everything was in place. Today, it is, and he’s finally hit the level of ease Benoit’s been dragging him into little by little. He’d probably even say he’s comfortable right now, even relaxed to be where he is.

‘LOOK, JEAN –’ ‘I’m not chasing it.’ And to hammer that in, Jean doesn’t even stop or turn his head to see whatever Benoit’s got his eye on now. He cuts the man off midway through his protest of, ‘But you’re so good with them!’ with a ‘I don’t care’ and Benoit’s next complaint of, ‘But he’s smaller than the others!’ with ‘You have places to be.’ Then Benoit immediately starts sulking and is annoyed he has to catch up since his Pain Eater left him there, and he doesn’t try to reclaim his narrowly ahead spot because whatever, if Jean wants to be such a jerk... And he mutters angrily into his cigarette, ‘It’s not fair.’ To which Jean says, ‘Life’s not fair. Look what you do for a living.’ Benoit says nothing for a moment, and in that moment, Jean briefly worries if he’d said it unfairly bitter, but then he hears a strongly annoyed, ‘You’re boring, Jean. You never let me have anything nice.’ That’s when Jean stops, and he turns around, instantly touchy, because Benoit gets every stupid thing he asks for and what’s wrong with drawing the line at a bear? So he asks him, ‘What exactly are you planning to do with it?’ Now Benoit’s not stopping, but has chosen to childishly frown, and his reply is a moody, ‘What do you care? It’s not like I’m allowed to have one.’ Then Jean says, ‘You’re not going to keep it! You have no place for it - and... and it’s probably illegal anyway!’ ‘Yes, yes. And you’re all about following the rules.’ It’s said with the same implication Jean had been anxious about, but he remembers before he has to be reminded that if Benoit was going to kill him, he would have done it ages ago. So Benoit’s teasing him, and it somehow makes Jean more frustrated for him to joke about something like that. But Benoit’s not apologizing because Jean needs to get over it, and he enjoys his tiny revenge and breezily ends, ‘Don’t worry about the bear. I clearly ask so much of you and I have places to be.’

‘... Do you want the dumb beast?’ ‘Nope. Forget it. Allons-y.’

So Jean catches the bear. He does it eerily practised, then drags it over and dumps it at Benoit’s feet again, only to straighten up and countdown to when he’s told to haul it away. Benoit was grinning smugly at getting Jean to cave and was thrilled he was getting a bear after all, but now he’s staring at this thing while trying not to look dumbfounded. ‘Cause... it’s a bear. He should have really thought this through. And as his smirk fades, Jean’s gets bigger, because oh wow, Benoit didn’t have a plan for the bear. Who would have guessed?

‘It’s the principle of it,’ Benoit says at last, before turning around and walking back down the path. Jean rolls his eyes and pushes the bear back into the shrubs, then returns to his lead’s side, doing everything in his power to use this silence to rub it in Benoit’s face, which works until Benoit brings up he still got the bear. And that, dear reader, is the literally the epitome of how I see those two. It’s why it’s so sad I don’t get to show that off more, but I think how Benoit acts in TOKoR now allows you appreciate the parts of him I’ve underdeveloped IC. And – uh... now back to the point I was making about the way I write his dialogue.)

The reason for why Benoit went out of his way to speak the way he did was partly because he naturally preferred an air of civility with Stephanie, as he would with any of his peers, and also because of his accent, but it does have some of its major roots in the way those two get on. Why? Eh, don’t want to say anything else, but as for ‘prove it’? Look what happened when Jean died. Actually, look what happened when Benoit got locked out of Nathan’s profile. There’s one or two in there. He was ticked about it. But it practically drops as we get farther into the post-Jean pages. After he’s recovered from the very initial shock, it’s almost like he’s getting lazier with how he speaks to people. It’s ‘cause he is. It really started when he got drunk on the plane but even when he sobered up from it, he never went back to the level he was at in Post Zero. It’s been kind’f downhill since then, and at the risk of depressing myself, so long as Jean’s gone, he has no reason to change it. I surprised myself when I let him say the word ‘sucks’ but he shocked me when he was actually great with it. Post Zero Benoit would’ve never used that kind of language. Now I’m starting to get depressed because I’m picturing TOKoR’s timeline. It’s only been a day since Jean died. Poor Benoit. And Madeline was taking complete advantage of him and he’s pissed at Jason and Stephanie – hoo boy, ‘retire’ was a harsh word to use. Part of me wonders if he was doing okay because he was using his case as a distraction... which makes it even worse now that he’s been told to sit in a vault by Madeline and Eric. Yikes. Ouch. ... Can somebody give this man a hug? Why did I give him so much schnapps on top of that? D:

I don’t think of him lightly. His purpose in TOKoR evolved in a massive way and it’ll be coming into play at the most crucial of times: the eleventh hour (well... maybe tenth). I know I’ve been spoiling him in terms of attention, though. Ten has Rudy, I have Benoit – we’re allowed to have a few favourites. I think Benoit’s tied with Xander, actually. At any rate, I’m sleepy.

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