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The Ailos and "Sunny" story - okay, now where?

By:Dwimordene
 June, 28 2011

In 2009, I wrote "Beyond the Pale," about two teenaged recruits who abandoned Pelargir. One was from Harad, one from Lebennin. In 2011, for B2MEM, I tried expanding their sto

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In 2009, I wrote "Beyond the Pale," about two teenaged recruits who abandoned Pelargir. One was from Harad, one from Lebennin. In 2011, for B2MEM, I tried expanding their story. Still trying to figure out how to do so successfully. Wanna help?


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 [1] Beyond the Pale started everything out. It's a pretty simple story looking at the unheroic participants in the Ring-War and meaning by that no condemnation of them whatsoever. Most people aren't heroic, especially for something that doesn't immediately touch them, and often even for things that do.

In that story, I wanted to look at a situation in which two people get caught up in a violence they can neither control nor bear, and come out of it each pretty chewed up inside, but still, despite being responsible for the violence they have done, being still innocent for the violence they have been absolutely unable to commit.

And I had had this notion that I wanted to see where they ended up, but (a) had had no clear sense of how they'd get wherever they ended up, or (b) when I'd have time to write it, or (c) that a pair of original characters so scantily sketched would be of interest to others. Reader interest got my muses going a bit back in March, resulting in the unfinished drabble serial without a name:

Wayward

Man's Measure

Passages

The Road through Lossarnach

Havenless

Life from stone

So, not that I don't have three unpaid summer jobs to be doing or anything * cough * but I do rather want to find a way to finish their story, even if it means rewriting it.

But since I do have, essentially, three unpaid summer jobs before becoming an underpaid adjunct at large and Roads Scholar * sigh * when the school term starts, I thought I'd see if readers had any comments or ideas about these two, or points of confusion they hoped would be clarified by a completed story.

Have at it, if you're interested I'll be in and out, and without a lot of time to play, but all work and no play makes Dwim a dull girl... So there you'll be doing the world a favor and possibly helping to nudge inspiration to life. :-)

Dwim

Dwimordene
Posted:Jun 28, 2011 18:12 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [2] I'd like to see more of the story, even if the drabbles just expand slightly into ficlets with a few more to fill them out, it doesn't need to be one story, more a set in a seris, it might even work better that way if you want to change veiw points.

I've no real points of confussion but I would like to know how they get on in Pelagrir.

Don't worry about oc's you do them very well, look at Reparation it's almost all oc's, in fact I thing you should probably try to get Andrahar's name on the search bar he's in so many fics on here!

Nargil
Posted:Jun 29, 2011 19:17 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [3] Hi Nargil - Thanks for the encouragement on this story!

"I've no real points of confussion but I would like to know how they get on in Pelagrir."

Well... they survived their arrival? That's about all I have at the moment - they aren't going to end up staying there, I don't think.

This is one of the issues involved in writing the story: direction, i.e., the lack thereof. I'd sent them toward Pelargir, because it does actually make sense (especially given my version of Pelargir, in which there is a large Haradric population, composed of both native-born Gondorian Haradrim and recent immigrants). But Pelargir's Haradric population has just been traumatized by what the Corsairs did to it, that it isn't going to take in even Ailos, and Jhanar is only alive because he "belongs" to Ailos.

So they have to keep going. The question is, where do I have them stop? Where could they stop?

I have this image of them reaching the sea, but nothing beyond that. It's a very vivid image, which is usually a good sign for me, but I don't know how getting these two to the sea would advance the story, let alone end it.

"Don't worry about oc's you do them very well, look at Reparation it's almost all oc's, in fact I thing you should probably try to get Andrahar's name on the search bar he's in so many fics on here!"

Heh - yes, I looked at our collective Unabeauverse storyfile, and it is rather impressive in size, and indeed, Andrahar looms large in it. He's too much fun, since he's a window on two worlds and the space between them.

Dwim
Posted:Jun 29, 2011 20:55 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [4] I am so happy you'll get to work on them again. Re-reading the series, I find them (and their whole situation) even more fascinating than before. In light of what they have faced, it is impossible for me to look at them and not see-- and, I will say, admire-- their redeeming qualities despite their treason. The conflict you have set up (both internal and external) is extremely compelling and makes for a very thought-provoking read.

All that is to say, I love their story! I wish I could hold them and tell them it will be all right, that they were caught in something too big for them to handle (how many of our youth now are!) and their sin is really not of their own making. But, then again, it is. And, as the woman (is she really Jhanar's sister?) says at the end: men sometimes must be Men. And, on the heels of that thought, I have to wonder if their journey together has not made them Men already. Like I said, fascinating stuff!

What was more difficult for me to follow were the nuances of haradric ritual, but I wonder if you did that on purpose to better convey Ailos' perplexity and yet his humanity, even though there is so much that he does not understand about his friend. From Sunny's perspective, it becomes a bit more confusing, but nothing that cannot be surmised after a careful read. (At first, I was a little confused by Sunny's not speaking. I assumed it must be a question of honor, i.e. he is a deserter and has no honor, should not speak... Something along those lines. I wonder if I came close to the mark there? It would be entirely too interesting to get more details about the rituals if you turn it into a longer story, but I think you did a remarkable job given the constraints of the form.

I confess that I am geographically-challenged (in real life as well as virtually) so I cannot offer any useful commentary regarding that, but I will get back to the story when I have more time and try to better follow the journey. I was so interested in the emotions that did not think to follow the locations.

What are your thoughts about the ending now? The final Drabble is wonderful, but I wonder if they get their epiphany, and how they react to it. I like them so much that I think they are kind of heroes already-- I mean, who goes back to help an enemy the way Ailos did? Who has the courage to follow the way he has been taught even though it brands him an outcast for all to see who can, like Sunny did? I do wonder what happens then. Where they can go, physically, depends on the punishments that either nation give to deserters, and if they are ready to face them or not. As much as I love them, I wonder if the ending will be satisfying yet not happy. (Or, they can run into a merciful man like Aragorn who will find a way to make things right while still dealing punishment, as is the case with Beregond).

Also, I wonder how that beautiful play of getting inside both their heads would translate into a longer work. I think the dual point of view really enhances the emotion and, bit by bit, reveals the full story to the reader, which always makes things so much more interesting and fulfilling! That may be lost if you are forced to stick to just one point of view throughout, especially because they are both so interesting (there's that word again) and conflicted individually. We get such a heightened sense of what the stakes are, what the demons they face are, through seeing their reactions to the other's actions from inside their heads, if that makes sense. They just complement each other so well, one being the "heart" and providing insight regarding what makes people human (of more visceral emotions), whereas the other is more the "mind" for whom honor (and all its social nuances) is of paramount importance, and who finds refuge through ritual and religion. It is awesome to see this in action!

Forgive me for rambling at length. I am delighted that we'll get to see more, whenever you are able to get to it. Good luck with all your projects and work!

Starlight


Starlight
Posted:Jun 29, 2011 23:26 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [5] I would love to see Jhanar's thoughts on reaching the sea! Maybe they'll get their epiphany there. I think they are just too good, too honorable to be able to make a life having their desertion loom in the background (but I really hesitate to say this because I do not wish to influence your conception of their story).

But, if they are, I cannot see them anywhere in Gondor-- their past would catch up with them, eventually. Whe else in M-could they go, though? Further south would put them in enemy territory. Is there a way to get them somewhere up north?

They could also be faced with a situation there that would test them once again, but their experiences together have taught them that this time they can be up to it; somehow they manage to earn their pardon, thereby able to stay in Gondor (though Jhanar would likely have to stay as well. I doubt that Nara rim would ever receive him now).

Again, I apologize. This may not be what you are looking for, but thought I would just share it, in case it helps...

Starlight
Posted:Jun 29, 2011 23:40 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [6] I promise this is my last post for the day!

Anyway, aside from apologizing for the typos in the previous entry (I did not preview and my autocorrect function pretty much took care of it...), I was thinking of a better way to phrase what I am trying to say regarding the direction after Pelargir, then the sea. At some point they would need to face some type of confrontation to then be able to earn redemption, whatever form that takes, not necessarily pardon. Maybe I am thinking too much along the archetype of the hero's journey where a final test/confrontation allows the hero to obtain the elixir/holy grail/etc. with which he returns to the world of the common day: a lesson.

Does that sound like a way you would like to take this?

Thanks for listening. I am done spamming your journal now ;-)

Starlight
Posted:Jun 30, 2011 01:06 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [7] Hi Starlight!

Lots of things to think about here....

What was more difficult for me to follow were the nuances of haradric ritual, but I wonder if you did that on purpose to better convey Ailos' perplexity [...] I think the dual point of view really enhances the emotion and, bit by bit, reveals the full story to the reader

These two points go together in my mind. Because I'm committed to the two of them having no common language, each perspective is very much locked into itself. Jhanar will not make sense to Ailos or the reader who occupies Ailos's perspective. Ideally, Ailos seen through Jhanar's eyes would be as opaque, although I know that's probably not going to work as well, since Gondor is the default point of identification for readers because we share his background rather than Jhanar's.

That makes those nuances of Haradric ritual accessible only if I can switch to Jhanar's perspective; the difficulty there is that to him, those are precisely what are most transparent, most familiar, and least likely to be explicitly articulated in his mind, in the level of detail readers might like or even need.

So I need to find some way of balancing out the needs of Jhanar's perspective - he should not, and cannot in 100 words, be giving us data dumps all the time; he has to be "solid" in his own perspective, which means he has to see through it and act through it without the story being structured as an explanation - and the needs of readers who cannot be expected to operate strictly on inference to an imaginary culture. Using Ailos to show Jhanar from the outside lets me set up certain things - like praying facing the sun, or cutting off his hair and keeping a braided lock of it as a sign of bondage - and spreads out the data-dump, so that by the time a later drabble gets around to saying what those actions mean, the reader has been waiting for those explanations, but I'm not sure whether that will work every time. I'm not sure whether it's worth it to be that consistent about it, either.

So clarity is an issue - or rather, clarity, and the right amount of obscurity and indefiniteness, given the situation.

Another problem that the non-communicating perspectives leaves me with is that Jhanar's perspective is really, really internal. That fits thematically - he is trapped in himself in a strange land. However, it can kind of get old, and I need to figure out what the major waypoints are for his developmental arc. Obviously, they're both looking for some peace and a new life, and having a hard time of it. Jhanar's so much stuck in himself, however, and from Ailos's more active perspective, he's such a cipher, that he's at risk of being very, very passive and dependent.

I'd like him to have his own moment of strength - one that registers as such, and that won't leave him looking like the one needing to be rescued at every turn. I don't want his character to pose all the problems, while Ailos finds ways to work them out. Objectively, yes, he is more vulnerable because he's not on his home turf and doesn't know the lay of the land, geographical or cultural, but I still need him to be an agent at some point, to shake things up and let Ailos fall apart. I'm not sure what form that will take yet, though.

I'd also like for him to make Ailos seem strange to us every so often, so that readers are shaken out of the Gondor-identification. So far, I haven't figured out a way to do that...

I was a little confused by Sunny's not speaking. I assumed it must be a question of honor, i.e. he is a deserter and has no honor, should not speak...

I'd actually been thinking I might play it that way, that he's in mourning. It also works well enough with the idea that he feels he's threatened with becoming a stone, and the bid to avoid that fate comes when he gives himself over to Ailos - it's after that point that he starts speaking, even a little.

Ultimately, I wasn't sure which one I wanted, I think because I'm also not totally sure of Jhanar's status. Had he ever thought he would be a warrior? Is it a trade in his family? Or is he just one of the many who was old enough to be impressed into the village levy when Sauron sent his call to arms out?

Depending on the answer to that question, three days of self-imposed silence may be more or less appropriate.

As for deciding on that question... as much as I like the idea that he and Ailos are more or less equal in terms of where they fall in the hierarchies of their respective societies, the idea that Jhanar might be a young man from the warrior class who just couldn't cut it when the sh*t hit the fan might be more interesting.

I confess that I am geographically-challenged (in real life as well as virtually) so I cannot offer any useful commentary regarding that

Currently, I have them staggering south down the Anduin for a few days, and then turning west to pick up the road, because Ailos doesn't think he can handle dragging Jhanar over rough terrain and swimming him across the streams that feed into or emerge from Anduin.

However, I've been wondering whether there's some merit to them stumbling upon some kind of little farm-let by the Anduin and stealing a raft or something so they can drift down to Pelargir (which is otherwise a very long walk for someone with a leg injury, and even longer when there isn't much food).

What are your thoughts about the ending now?

Still too vague to be of use, despite pretty images of the sea... :-)

I mean, who goes back to help an enemy the way Ailos did? Who has the courage to follow the way he has been taught even though it brands him an outcast for all to see who can, like Sunny did? I

Mm. I can see how they would read that way. I'm trying, though, to tone the heroism down a bit. They're sort of at the mercy of raw sensibility. It's different for Ailos, when he stops himself from leaving Jhanar, or stops himself from beating him or killing him in Beyond the Pale, than it would be for, say, Aragorn or Boromir to do something like that. They're more in control, more able to respond to the situation from a position of strength. They're capable of acting intentionally against impulse and other forces. These two characters, not so much.

For that reason, I'd also like their relationship to be rockier, a little more brutal towards each other. They may be stuck with each other, and they may on some level be unable to abandon each other to die, but I think they should probably have their moments of total hatefulness toward each other, the full brunt of which is only spared because they can't understand the words coming out of each other's mouths. Over time, they can grow into supporting each other voluntarily, but for at least some time, I think they'd have some pretty awful growing pains in their relationship.

How far to go with that is another question I've been pondering. One thing that's hard for me with this pair is that yeah, it's a story about two young men who have been taught to view each other as enemies. And my impulse is to play this up, to push it to the point of getting at the sort of xenophobia that makes our own racial prejudices sit uncomfortably. However, if I go that far, Jhanar cannot just sit there and take it; at some point, he has to say no, but I'm not sure what his resources are for saying, "I'm not putting up with this!"

Also, I'm not sure whether we need another story where the Northwesterners kick the crap out of the Southeasterners. It's sort of like reading yet another 19th century male author's story in which a woman is victimized by one or more men. So I'm conflicted on this point, which is sadly not a small point! Don't know what your opinion is on that issue...

And, as the woman (is she really Jhanar's sister?) says at the end: men sometimes must be Men.

She's not his biological sister, she's speaking religiously, and trying to give him something to hold onto. If Jhanar has any biological sisters, they're all in Harad somewhere.

Good luck with all your projects and work!


Bleee.... Thanks! :-)

Dwim
Posted:Jun 30, 2011 01:57 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [8] I would love to see Jhanar's thoughts on reaching the sea!

Me, too!

Whe else in M-could they go, though? Further south would put them in enemy territory. Is there a way to get them somewhere up north?

That is the crux of the matter: where would they go, where they would be welcome? They're deserters. No one is going to want them about, but if that's so, they can't very well settle apart from each other. Who else would they have, if not each other?

I think this is why the sea option is often coupled with images of them just lying on the raft. They could be dead, for all I know. On the other hand, sometimes they're clearly conscious, so I don't know. I don't know how this will end. Will they live? Will they die? Will one of them live? If so who, and where?

somehow they manage to earn their pardon, thereby able to stay in Gondor (though Jhanar would likely have to stay as well. I doubt that Nara rim would ever receive him now).

If they stay in Gondor, I see one of two options: (1) they settle in a large, coastal city in the south, like Pelargir or Dol Amroth, where there are populations of Haradrim who could take Jhanar in and understand him. He can't live among people his whole life and be totally unable to communicate. (2) They end up in a small, isolated village of new immigrant Haradrim, where again, Jhanar can be understood and have a shot at making a life for himself. I'm not sure, though, whether Ailos would then be able to stay there, since he doesn't speak Haradric.

They can't go back to Lebennin, though. Neither of them gets to go home again.

If they were to go back to Harad... I suppose it's possible that at a certain point, politically, he might be welcome for having had the foresight to withdraw support from Sauron's army, but I doubt it. If they end up in Harad, it'll probably have to be among Haradric dissidents of some sort.

There's also the problem of health: Jhanar's got that leg injury, which really slows him down. I'm not a doctor, so my ability to estimate how far is too far is not very good. But GOndor isn't a small country, and I'm not sure whether even Dol Amroth is just too far for them to make it on foot, or even on raft (how much skill would two land-locked kids have with a raft if they made it out onto the bay?)

Dwim
Posted:Jun 30, 2011 02:08 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [9] At some point they would need to face some type of confrontation to then be able to earn redemption, whatever form that takes, not necessarily pardon. Maybe I am thinking too much along the archetype of the hero's journey where a final test/confrontation allows the hero to obtain the elixir/holy grail/etc. with which he returns to the world of the common day: a lesson.

Does that sound like a way you would like to take this?


I agree that there needs to be some turning point. I'm not sure that it has to be the hero's journey, though. In a lot of ways, I'm thinking this is more a story about failing to find that holy grail or what not, and yet somehow surviving despite that. It's about unearned relief and surprising companionship.

Or else it's about the lack of place in the world for people like Jhanar and Ailos and their relationship to each other, and them being Weilian Antigones: "Creons comment is perfectly reasonable: A foe is never a friend, not even in death. And the little simpleton can only reply: 'I was born to share, not hate, but love.' To which Creon, ever more reasonable: Pass, then, to the other world, and if thou must love, love those who dwell there."

Except without the self-awareness and the explicit authority figure killing them off (other than me, I guess).

Did I mention the lack of direction I suffer from when it comes to this story? ;-)

Dwim
Posted:Jun 30, 2011 02:23 GMT  Reply to this Comment


 [10] "There's also the problem of health: Jhanar's got that leg injury, which really slows him down. I'm not a doctor, so my ability to estimate how far is too far is not very good. But GOndor isn't a small country, and I'm not sure whether even Dol Amroth is just too far for them to make it on foot, or even on raft (how much skill would two land-locked kids have with a raft if they made it out onto the bay?)"

Erchirion goes home at some point to see to things on the coast whilst Imrahil and Elphir are up in Tirith (I think that's what said in CMC) could he rescue them if he went by boat?

Nargil
Posted:Jun 30, 2011 19:37 GMT  Reply to this Comment
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