Understanding Character within a Story – Aries: The Devil Inside.

I’ve been writing this novel forever! I started back in late 2011 when I first moved to New York, I had already gotten the bare bones of it at that point as this is loosely based on a short Graphic Novel I had worked on earlier that year called “Dreamwalker”. But I may be changing it since I’ve seen there are a few novels out there with the same title. I wrote the majority of the first draft of this story back in 2012 and haven’t looked at it since I found an editor last year! I’m slowly working on this project but the goal is to get this done at the end of this year, crossing fingers! This is my baby project.

I wanted to post this chapter told from the point of view of a 20 year old boy named Aries who’s in love with a girl named Isis. The setting is in a futuristic San Francisco, a supernatural world with spirits possessing humans and Dreamwalkers– Spirit consciousness that can enter a person’s dreaming state at will. (Of course this is all stuff I made up from my imagination!) I also wanted to post this because my editor made a really good comment about how complex this character is and how well thought out his character arc is. And he’s not even the main character!

STORY NOTES: Aries has been possessed for a long time that its second nature to him in a lot of ways, but he’s reached a point that he’s rebelling at what Seth wants him to do. Seth is the Ka– A double spirit that is also living in his body trying to overtake him. This piece is about Aries’ personal Tragedy, he’s already lost. The fighting isn’t over, but the war is over. Its a remnant of someone good and decent. The storytelling is a bit linear, bear with me! As this is the first draft and will more than likely edit this piece again for the final.

Personal story: my dad was a meth addict when I was in high school, so i’ve seen first hand the transformation from happy dad to this person who was insane. As writers we are incredibly sensitive and observing of the world around us. Being fifteen and witnessing first hand how my father had changed was a scary thing. Thank god I had my grandparents who took care of me and that I never had to be in the same house when my father was going through this. I’ve seen tons of other people at their best and worst, and also how complex people are in our lives. This story I’m telling is a metaphor for something very personal and real.

My advice to other writers: use your personal experiences to channel the stories that you want to tell. Its easier to understand a character once you’ve experienced it first hand. As writers, we really have to understand people and the complexity of human behavior. A light and dark side, redeeming qualities, and what happens to them to justify their behaviors. A character or person isn’t always bad– its what happens to them in their life that influences them or their point of view to act a certain way. Ex: The Grinch who stole Christmas. Or the main character from Breaking Bad, he does what he does but he does this for the love of his family. So we empathize. 

 

Here it goes… be gentle! Sorry for the longest post ever! Any thoughts, questions, comments after you read, I’d love to hear them! Happy Reading!

 

Chapter 24. The Devil Inside (Aries Point of View)

I didn’t want to kill her. In fact I never want to. But now that she knows everything about me, there’s no way she’d come near me now. It’s probably best for her to stay away from me anyway.

I couldn’t be her friend.

I’m losing control of this thing—this thing inside of me that festered so deep in me, there’s no way I could ever remove the shackles of what it has created. It was like having something implanted in my body, like a shrimp like probe that entered Neo’s body in the Matrix. I don’t know if it actually looked like that but lately my imagination has been running wild.

I was having strange dreams of this thing that looked like a round mechanical robot with eight short legs, twice the size of a tarantula and it had these red eyes that would light up and shoot lasers at me when it showed itself. In my dream it would spring up and attack me. It would clamp onto my chest and bury its small tiny claws into my heart not hurting me but disappearing like a ghostly spirit. As if it wanted to merge with my body. I must have had the same dream more than twice this month because each time I woke up I’d hear the word “Motossa” and the name would stick with me throughout the day. It was a strange word and it invaded my thoughts to the point that I’ve had to google that thing so many times and still couldn’t find any answers.

One afternoon of no classes this week, I found myself taking the Bart to Berkeley randomly getting lost in the wrong direction. I got off at a stop and walked out onto the street trying to figure out where I was and this used books shop was facing me across the street. I walked in and at once I felt this invisible energy guide me to the back of the store where they kept old books out of print. I came upon this book sticking out sandwiched between some other books on the dusty shelf with a torn cover on one of the corners, I picked it up and it smelled bad! Like it came from some fisherman’s boat and got thrown into the ocean one too many times, it smelled like saltwater and putrid fish! Like the rotting kind you’d see at the beach that was eaten by a flock of seagulls and left to rot on the sand. I almost jumped back and put it away but I held it in front of me at arms distance for a minute and a piece of paper fell out.

I picked up this piece of notebook paper that had a drawing, I examined it carefully and it looked like the thing in my dreams. Who ever scribbled this drawing might have had the same dream as me or knew what this thing was because the drawing too had the rounded robot like object that was familiar to me. And what was even more surprising was that on the bottom part of the paper was scribbled with the word “Motossa” again. Whatever invisible energy guided me here must want me to know, must also want me to fight this thing. I felt like I was fighting for my own life now, that maybe I still had a chance to be free. Maybe it wasn’t the end of my world.

I opened the book and there was a name of a person written on the interior flap that read “From the Study of James Whitaker 1949”. The book was called “Ka: Egyptian Guide to Owning One’s Soul”. I opened the page where the piece of paper fell out from and there were multiple words circled on the page. The “Ka” and next to it were the words double spirit and the other word that was circled and stood out was “Sheut” and written next to it was a person’s shadow, one could not exist without a shadow. One has to own it’s shadow and not let it control them. Only a Dreamwalker can help such a person to be guided into the light. Dreamwalker? Isis was a Dreamwalker. Whatever Dreamwalkers were, they couldn’t help me. Especially not Isis, I was commanded to kill her.

The voice referred to itself as “Seth” and the days it disappeared did give me a bit of solace and I found myself completely inundated with thoughts of Isis. She was rare, truly one of a kind. A hybridity of two different ethnicities, yet she was also this creature who had amazing abilities as a Dreamwalker. I still can’t understand why my soul purpose in this world was to kill her. She really was beautiful and yet so headstrong it made me crazy. She was always challenging who I was.

“If you are a hunter of Dreamwalkers, how can you possibly have feelings for me? I don’t believe you.” She said to me last week. “And all these other girls that you play with? How can anybody want to take you seriously and date you? You’re so manipulative.”

Classic. She hated me for two reasons. I was a hunter and a womanizer.

But I wasn’t that bad. I had needs just like any guy. I just took so many wrong turns in my life. I wanted to change my ways and I wanted only her now. But how can she want me when I am supposed to kill her? This isn’t fair.

I wanted to tell her how I really felt about her, but it was too late. She hated me and wouldn’t come close when I’d find her to talk. I really wasn’t dangerous. Not yet anyway. I still had a little bit of control, but even that was quickly waning.

Seth started to talk to me right around my sixteenth birthday. The night it came was the darkest night of my life. Mercury was in retrograde. My mother used to tell me that when the planets became retrograde strange things would happen. It was a time when an opening in the earth’s atmosphere would occur at different intervals throughout the year and spirits of all kinds would come back and roam the earth for unfinished business. Or seishin as they called them in Japan. The earth would slow to a halt and a myriad of orchestrated critical events would happen before the earth started moving forward again. It was a time to revisit old wounds of the past and it was then I learned that malicious seishin would use humans to do their bidding. It couldn’t have picked a perfect time to come into my life, I was at my weakest state.

I had gotten home hammered from a night out with my boys and I was having the worst experience being inebriated. I was vulnerable and in temporary shock. My girlfriend Christine had broken up with me. Although we had only recently gotten together romantically, I had been her best friend since we were kids. And the loss of that friendship completely hurt me to the core more than being physical with her. I couldn’t imagine a life without her. She was the one I wanted to spend my life with and we had planned to runaway to Berkeley together that next year for college. I came home feeling empty, I wanted to die but instead I found a stash of my mom’s liquor in one of our kitchen cabinets. I drank till all hours in the morning and passed out on our couch with an empty bottle of tequila in my hand. I woke up just before the sun came up that morning with a voice talking to me in a strange way inside my head. “You want to die? Say the words and you will have just as you wish.”

“I want to die. I have no reason to live.” I murmured into the silence. I thought my imagination was playing tricks on me. But then something entered my body. It was like bathing in a hot tub and being shocked by an electrical current. I struggled for a bit, fighting this demonic being that was trying to make a home for itself inside my skin. It didn’t take long for it to settle into my body.

“Your vessel now has a Ka. The other Ka is named Seth and you will command to this voice. Your life is no longer yours.” The voice inside my head said. I quickly woke up and felt shock run through my whole body, I couldn’t move. I felt my limbs stiffen up and I remember my mother walking into our living with her eyes big a few hours later, wondering what I was doing sitting up straight and alert.

I can’t remember too much of that night, or even how I used to feel about Christine, it was like she didn’t exist after that. There were a few different things that were blocked out of my memory, emotional attachments to things and people after that night that Seth came into my being.

But one thing was for sure, I did remember going to the beach. How can I ever forget the beach? From the moment I could walk I’d walked barefoot all over San Diego beaches. I’d sometimes only wear flip-flops through my mother’s constant complaining of the huge risk of stepping on cracked beer bottles in the sand.

“I don’t want you to hurt your feet.” She reminded me since I was four.

I must have had dozens of flip-flops, from Brazilian brands to local brands such as Rainbows and Quicksilvers to cheap two dollar ones that you can buy at Rite-Aid down the street in case you lost one running down the Mission Beach Boardwalk. Oh and I lost many pairs, expensive pairs that my mother never forgave me for and I’d had to wear my vans slip-ons instead and would get sand all over them. I knew it was time to retire a pair as soon as I started tripping on my own two feet when the straps would start to get loose.

My mother recently asked me if I remembered the time I first stood up on my surfboard when I was ten. I was a good swimmer but my mother said she always freaked out each time I got on the surfboard and rode the waves. I was this tiny thing coasting through the waters and she would get on me about never wearing enough sun block lotion on my skin. She hated that I would come home after the beach completely dark and sun burnt. This she said was some of her fondest memories of me. Applying aloe on my skin until I fell asleep on my bed from my bitching and complaining about how my skin hurt from sun exposure.

“Mommy! It burns!” I’d cry.

“It’s your fault Aries. You should have been reapplying sun-block every hour.” She’d say as she soothed my complaints.

But here I was drawing a blank, I couldn’t remember exactly how I felt about riding the waves, I haven’t since had the desire or motivation to ride the waves since that night. The week after that unfortunate night my mother had been getting on my case about cleaning the car full of sand. “If you’re going to keep surfing every week, can you at least take the time to get the car vacuumed and cleaned?” She asked me one morning during breakfast.

“What are you talking about? I haven’t been surfing.” I looked at her.

My mother looked at me with confusion in her eyes. “Why can’t I read your thoughts?”

“Why would you want to?” I looked at her angrily.

“But we’ve read each other’s minds since you were little. Did something happen? What’s wrong Aries?” She asked worried.

“Nothing happened.” I denied the whole thing, at least I thought I did but Seth was controlling me at that moment. I was not in control anymore. My mother was never allowed to enter my thoughts again.

“Surfing is stupid.” I remember telling her. “I never want to surf again. I hate it now.”

“But why? I thought you loved surfing? How can you automatically just hate it? Am I talking to the same boy that used to bother me at my office to go to the beach every afternoon?”

I dismissed what she said and stalked off that day.

I don’t know why this happened to me, a part of me feels it, but I don’t remember too many of my emotions before that night. I didn’t have the emotional attachment that I thought I would have about San Diego. My mother still talks about it often, our days spent under the sun strolling around Mission Beach, our trips to Sea World, and our days visiting the museums in Balboa Park. It would bother her very much to the point of making a big deal over it.

My mother was very psychic and she was usually right about a lot of things. She would guess some of the grades I got on my tests when I didn’t look at her straight in the face. I would often read her mind before she said something to me when I was young. And she knew that she passed on this amazing gift to me. I was also psychic and I used it to my advantage at school and with the ladies. I always intuitively knew what a girl wanted from me and it was easy to make them happy. I wanted to one day make a girl happy but now that may not be possible.

Recently I have been out of touch with my mother, ever since this thing happened to me. I’ve lost that bridge between connecting to her and it made me sad. I haven’t been able to read her mind in the last three years. Whatever this other voice was, it has completely taken over my soul.

We now lived in Northern California and after I graduated high school a year ago, I made the decision to go to UC Berkeley for college. And after a long debate of her only child and baby going away, she flipped a coin and decided to move with me to Oakland.

“San Diego is such a slow place.” She commented. “I want to try something new!” Her vibrant brown eyes sparkled at the idea. My mother was tall and she had light brown hair. Her tanned skin reminded me of a caramel apple and she once told me that it was because she had to fend for herself growing up on the slummy streets of Sao Paolo, Brazil. She was out in the sun a lot. But she had the cutest accent and many people looked our way every now and then wondering how a woman as young as her could have a teenage son. She was way too young when she had me. She ran away to the states when she was eighteen and fell in love with my father who was stationed in San Diego as a U.S. Marine. After four years of being together he was due to be stationed in Japan, but my mother wouldn’t budge out of San Diego. So they split amicably and I was three.

I went off in the summers to Japan when I was five and I hated it. I couldn’t understand the language at first and I didn’t have any friends. My father used to send me to Japanese summer camps while he worked during the day and all the kids just stared at me because of my blonde hair and blue eyes. I hated that they talked about me behind my back in a language I couldn’t understand. This made it even more of an incentive for me to want to learn the language so that I could show them that I wasn’t just another dumb American. Sooner than later, I picked up Japanese and my father brought me around his Japanese friends to show me off. I had mastered something. I don’t know why I’m most connected to the summers spent in Japan, when the summers that should have mattered in California were just not that important to me anymore.

There are moments of clarity when the voice named Seth seems to be away and when it does come back, I have no more control as Aries. I’ve become something else. A monster. Something I can’t seem to put into words. It drives me a little insane at times, knowing there is something else there trying to dictate my life.

And I don’t want this.

I want my old life back.

I did have something working for me that I was positively sure was keeping the demon from fully entering my body. I know this thing worked when I used it and Seth would completely leave me alone for a few days and I was finally able to think clearly again. I’ve always known this thing to have magical powers.

I opened the drawer from the cabinet placed next to my bed frame that I used to contain my clothes in and pulled out a tiny wooden box that my father gave me during one summer vacationing in Japan. In it lay a purple obsidian stone wrapped in a red decorative Japanese handkerchief. An old lady once approached me from her gypsy stand during a day out gallivanting with my father at a Japanese flea market.

“This will bring you good luck someday. Keep it close, don’t ever lose it. It come handy and fight evil.” She said in her thick Japanese accent.

“Akui in you. Angelfire stone keep it away.” She said in a serious tone.

“Akui?” I looked at my father. “But akui means—“

“Come on Aries, she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She’s just trying to get you to buy something.” My father said as he pulled me away from the gypsy stand.

I clutched the angelfire in my hand and safely put it away in my jeans pocket.

Akui meant evil spirit.

I didn’t know it then but now it did bring me good luck. Every moment that Seth tried to overpower me, I’d open my box and hold the angelfire in my hands until I started feeling like my old self again. Seth would quickly disappear in an angry mess. Indeed it was magic, she was right and I was glad that I kept it before my mother ever found it and tried to throw it away.

I walked down the steps of Stinson Beach with the angelfire in my left hand inside my jeans pocket. It was 5 a.m. I couldn’t sleep last night and the beach was my escape. It was colder in the bay area, much colder than San Diego but still I had my flip-flops on and my toes shivered as I walked along the sand towards the water.

The beach was completely empty just like I imagined it to be, it was still dark out and the sun hasn’t even begun to rise from its slumber. This was one of my favorite things to do in San Diego, watch the sun rise with my surfboard planted next to me in the sand. That I remember. It was the most beautiful sight to see, and I was glad for a moment that I was able to partake in this amazing phenomenon as a human. I am still human, I think. I sat there with my white hooded sweater on over my head and sipped my coffee, trying to remember any ounce of feeling I had when I rode the waves back in San Diego. But I couldn’t. Instead I thought of her again.

Isis.

All sorts of complex emotions ran through my body as I thought of her. This heavy pain buried deep into my chest as I thought of the possibility that she and I could never be together. I didn’t want to think about that. I thought about her face and how unusual it looked. The most distinct part of her face was her eyes. They were amazingly green, sort of unusual for an Asian girl. But her eyes seemed to transform into these grayish translucent color whenever she got caught up in some kind of hazy moment. They turned glassy when she would start to panic, sort of like Storm from X-men and I could see my reflection in them clearly when this happened. I don’t think other people noticed this about her and I thought that it was because we can read each other’s minds.

And because I was sort of like her.

I would have been if Seth didn’t start to take over me.

 

Hideous Jesus t-shirt

Once a month I go to a creative writing workshop and during the workshop there are a few different writing exercises. One of them was picking out a piece of item from a box and writing about it. The second one was choosing a picture from a pile of loose magazine papers and then also writing about the image. The third one was to take both of those things and integrate it into a story or imagine a few characters. My two items were a really ugly and hideous Jesus t-shirt, something you can probably buy at a rave! The second one was a painting of a man standing and overlooking New York City from the Brooklyn bridge on a nice day. So this is the short story I came up with, it was really fun!

Gustave wondered about the Jesus t-shirt again. It was the third time this week it came to his mind. He stood on the Brooklyn Bridge on a hot midday spring. New York City was beautiful after the snow cleared up. The flowers started to bloom, the birds were outdoors singing and chirping loudly. Love was in the air. He thought about this same time the year before with Madeline. They would stroll hand in hand in Prospect Park, sitting occasionally to chat about life and kissing. Lots of kissing. Kissing with their eyes closed. Kissing every time he made her laugh. Or the sneaky way she would surprise him with a kiss when he wasn’t paying attention to her. Kissing when he’d had a bad day at work. But then he thought of the hideous Jesus t-shirt he bought her over a vacation in Nevada and their first time going to Burning Man together. Burning Man, the lights, the music, the costumes or the lack thereof worn by crazy and obscene people dancing around. But all of that goes away when his mind skips to the night in the tent. The night Madeline wore the hideous Jesus t-shirt and he entered her for the first time. They became one at that moment.

Any thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear what you think! I think writing exercises are a good way to get your imagination working and to also help come up with other ideas. I’d say this was a 15 minute writing exercise. They are also a good way to get the day started or to unwind from the day! Happy writing!

Imagining a story through a painting.

I recently joined a creative writing workshop last week and it was very enlightening! LA is a super creative city and I had no idea that it would satisfy all of my creative impulses! I enjoy drawing, animation, and writing– what better place to be than here. So we had a few writing exercises and one of them was to imagine a story through a painting. So here is what I came up with! Let me know what you think…

 

Eleanor had too much to drink. Elizabeth sat bored and observed the half empty bottle on Eleanor’s hand. Her older sister was nearly only five years older than her, but her ways of consumption of wine had done a number on her youth. She looked more like she was in her early forties than a woman of only twenty-five. All she did was spend her days sleeping into the afternoon and her evenings out and about disguised as a servant, gallivanting about the taverns drinking with the townspeople. What a way to destroy someone’s life, Elizabeth thought. For she spent her days outside absorbing the sun and reading the classics until it was time for afternoon tea. Knowledge was what she was after, her sister only had drinking to fill her.