Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

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BristerXD
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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by BristerXD » Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:35 pm

So… this day has finally come. Feels weird considering the number of years that have been preceding this moment. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, proper introductions.

Hi, my name is BristerXD, you can call me as you like, and this is going where my KS fanfiction. Some of you might already know me from the discord or just responding to other people’s work here on the forum. Even if you are one of them or are completely ignorant of my presence, I feel that a good old fashion backstory dump is in order since that seems to be a tradition around here. If you’re not interested in this background and just want to skip to the story part, scroll past this to the next post. But for those of you curious….

I first found about about Katawa Shoujo because of a let's play series YouTuber Chilled Choas did on it about 8 years ago. 8 years ago I was only 10. I think I actually saw it when I was 12. My childhood in general, anything before 8th grade, is fuzzy at best for me but what I do remember at that time finding this series was just how… different it was. In that era of youtube for a kid like me, it was gameplay videos from The Creatures, danboe gaming, and other random stuff. As a kid, I never really had any interests, any sports, or artistic pursuits just yet. I liked to read but I never went out of my way to find books, just reading through my history textbooks and whatever was in the school library. At least whenever I could muster up the courage to go down there since I was such a wallflower at that time I felt bad making anyone do anything for me. So to have this really funny guy who it thought was so mature basically read me a story was cool.

I didn’t think the story would affect me the way that it did. He only ever did Hanako’s and Emi’s routes but those were probably the best ones he could have chosen for me. As I said before, I was a really shy kid who didn’t have two friends to fill a birthday party. So even having the idea that another person could be like me, on top of just being a really cute girl in my eyes, was comforting. I didn’t feel alone. Then came Emi’s route who taught me that even seemingly happy people can deal with negative emotions. That their lives were as complex as I felt mine was. That they were nothing to be afraid of. I feel like these are lessons I would have learned eventually but it was certainly a spoon full a sugar with the medicine situation for me. And I can say for certain that this visual novel changed my life.

Then, years later having never gotten the impact that it left on me, I finally was able to download it onto my own laptop and play through it all at my own pace. And that’s where I played through Rin’s route and felt… truly understood. I don’t know if the creators intended this or not but for someone who is creative and has Aspergers, Rin is a godsend of a character. I honestly didn’t get all the hoopla around her route and the seemingly confusing nature of her dialogue and choices. I mean sure it was more choices comparatively but her abrupt stop and start train of thought didn’t seem alien in any way to me. Just goes to show why I felt so alone in my youth. Outside perspective, Hisao’s perspective, that was something I never knew would be so vital in me changing as a person. Of understanding how I see to the rest of the world and the consequences of trying to be one’s self. It didn’t even feel like I was dating myself but instead going into the eyes of my friends at that time. The ones that stuck around and the ones that didn’t. When I got the happy ending, I cried because I felt as happy as Rin. For her. For myself really.

So then going through the Lily and Shizune routes, I was then left with a hollow feeling I’m sure all of you are familiar with. However, at that point in my life, I had found my passion for writing. And because this VN was so important to me, of course, I wanted to create something for it in the universe. Really though, I was looking to put myself into the story. So had originally this rough idea of an American OC transfer student whose disability was that they couldn’t feel pain. That was really it. No greater science behind it, no grand justification or pretense, I just wanted a character that could basically be me and have a cool ironic twist of not feeling physical pain but being so emotional tormented by whatever I was thinking at that point. Basically fanfic stuff. However, at this point, I didn’t know how forums or social media in general worked. Even if I did write this story out, I would have no idea where to post it. So I kept it on the back burner of my mind. But as I kept writing other things and started to learn more and more about the craft of writing, I would sporadically get the inspiration for new ideas to add to this fanfic.

The main character stopped being a self-insert and morphed into a being that represented a core idea I wanted to tackle in the narrative. The representation of an idea that I felt could be told in the universe of the core VN but would need extra legs to stand. So I explored the ideas of the school, picking out small details about it from all the routes and eventually lead me to create a whole new cast of original characters. One that I felt could add so much more to the ideas the community held about the school. During this time I realized that while I enjoyed reading fanfiction for other communities, I as an artist would never be satisfied with just creating cute scenarios for our established characters to be in and continue to act the same way. I wanted to truly add something.

And eventually, this all poured over when I finally found out about the KS forum website and was able to read some of the seminal works on this site. SisterHood, Learning to Fly, and so many others that inspired me to create. However, in the mists of this discovery, I soon noticed the stigma behind the very nature of the idea I had in mind. Of American OCs and the various way how they are done poorly. It already seemed like people on the forum took the art of writing seriously enough given the quality of the pieces produced from this fandom. There was a high bar to clear and it seemed like I had dug myself a six-foot hole to start off as.

So I just… didn’t do anything about it. I was glad to read and participate one year in the Christmas secret Santa prompt event one year but outside of that nothing for my main story idea. I felt like I couldn’t. No one would accept it and I would be doing hours of work for nothing.

But then I was finally shipped off to college and decided I was gonna get my life sorted. I would have a project I would do for all of my freshman years. My goal is to have something ready to publish by the end of my college stint yet I wanted to start off with something lighter for my first. Something apart from the things I wanting to publish, something I could hone my skills on while receiving real-time feedback. And so I decided to say fuck it, I move forward with this idea. A bit of Emi motivation got kicked into my system and so I decided to engage the community and do right by my story idea. That’s when I commented on Xeraeo’s story and met all the lovely people I have met that have helped give me the confidence in pushing forward with this idea.

So, all that there is left to do is show off the fruits of my labor. But one last thing, I want to thank Xeraeo for being the primary editor for this first chapter and the many more to come, Chatty Wheeler for being a positive force that is motivating me to continue even when I feel like quitting, people like Eurobeat Jester who have authored the many other great stories on this site that have informed and inspired this one, and finally all of you that will come to read and comment on this thing as it goes on. So without further ado, here is... Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain.
Last edited by BristerXD on Sun Nov 01, 2020 5:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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BristerXD
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by BristerXD » Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm

Chapter 1: Operation Downfall

Normally I would say waking up to an arm not covered in your own drool is a positive omen for a trip. It’s the kind of superstition you develop after living a good portion of your life in a van. It also makes you used to certain kinds of things. The haze of sleep deprivation, the various swings your appetite can take, and the inherently jarring sensation you get when you wake up on a road you can’t recognize. Spend enough time dealing with all these things and eventually, you figure you’re immune to them and their effects. I guess three years out of anything will make you rusty.

However, airplanes were never a part of the equation before. Until about three days ago I had never even been on an airplane in my life. Now I can say for a fact I’ve spent at least fifteen hours in the air and that I hate flying. Sleeping while cruising along a highway or even on a bumpy back road is a honed skill of mine. Trying to do that over the ocean with my ears banging like an Indian war drum is another. Not to mention I have the unique advantage of not being able to feel the aftermath of a brutal car crash. Just nervously chugging my bottle of water on the flight reminded me that no matter my disability, fluid filling the lungs isn’t a pleasant sensation.

One perk of having a pharmaceutical specialist be your doctorly escort is that he can then pass you a bottle full of Xanax bars and you don’t have to feel the need to hide it from other people. Thinking of that, I wonder if I still have the bottle. I reach for the breast pocket in my jacket, peaking back up no bottle but instead the eyes of Dr. Sano in the rearview mirror.

“Colt, you’re finally awake. You wouldn’t happen to be trying to abuse your prescription now would you?”

I chuckle, putting my hands up in mock arrest. “It’s only abuse if you take it looking for a good time, ” I say, finally moving the rest of my body upright. “I only feel like taking it because I still feel like shit from the planes. Doesn’t help that I couldn’t sleep a wink in the hotel, at least not after all those cleaning people just stopped and bowed at me while I walked by. Was certain one of them was gonna sneak in during the night and steal my skin. ”

Sano chuckles at the dumb joke, shaking his head and adjusting the sun visor ever so slightly upwards. I turn my view over to the passenger side window, gazing out to the seemingly endless expanse of dew-covered grassy hills. The sun still hangs low in the sky, its more orange-tinted rays telling me just how little I’ve actually slept. Even with the jam-pack events of yesterday. Getting off yet another plane trip, albeit a mercifully shorter one, Sano had a plan to make sure we were wrung out. Wander around the city, a treat to a very hearty lunch, and a trip to the research facility I would be visiting every other weekend. All before the sun was even below the horizon. We’d sleep in and wake up before the sun got out its own bed. The perfect plan to make sure any normal person could catch the z’s they would need to start on the first day of school...

I’m no good at sleeping on a secret. Never have been all my life. Thankfully Sano reacted to me coming into the hotel room after my unannounced midnight walk an hour before our departing time with a sarcastic quip about making up for it in the car.

Of course, Sano doesn’t need any extra sleep. He’s been running like this for all his life. Son of a workaholic businessman who he was eager to make proud, he dedicated himself to following his footsteps in the world of finance. Got all the way up to the second year of college when he had a change of heart after his old man’s gave out. Medicine suddenly became the obvious path forward. And he attacked just as much as his old man did, racing through his degree requirements and cutting his teeth through residency. He did eventually make use of all that business brainpower and joined a pharmaceutical research company. And in the midst of all that, he happened to find the love of his life and raise a kid with her.

I tried to remember all that when I first dedicated myself to this whole case study project. Sure, understanding an entirely new culture, learning its language, monetary system, measurement system, and general way of life, all while getting caught in what’s needed in the last year of a high school education in a year is a bit stressful. But at least I wasn’t the one having to convince a giant company that it was worth it, taking multiple trips across time zones, dealing with the unique visa and passport troubles not having a birth certificate presents, all for a guy you met by chance because your son was taking care of his friend. We should have grown to hate each other just from association with stress.

Yet we never did. Whenever he was back in Kentucky, we’d spend his precious hours off just strolling through Bowling. He’d tell me his rigorous past in Tokyo, I’d tell him about my rocky start in Breathitt along with the mess of events that happened after. We’d smoke together, appreciate the forest, and just swap stories. I don’t think there are enough financial or position incentives in the world to drive a person to do the things Sano did for me. And even with Lincoln and Tyler to help me out, I don’t think I would have pulled through all the bullshit unless I knew Sano was worth the effort. It was Mike who pushed me towards this to begin with of course and… and it’s quite an ironic twist.

I hope he understands my decision when I get back to the States.

“Colt,” Sano says, sucking me out of my small spiral. “Are you trying that hard to stay up? I can try to speed up to get you some extra minutes to rest before your first class.” He is clearly picking up on my souring mood. I swear he can double as a psychologist with how quickly he seems to read people.

“Naw, naw, I just... can’t stop thinking about Mike is all. Did you get any updates on him while I was out?”

“No calls from urgent care so far,” Sano said, adjusting himself in his seat. “But Colt, remember what Mike said. You have to be worrying about your next five years over here, not his next five days. He will recover, it’s just-”

“I can see where your son learned to reassure people.” I turn my head to look into his eyes through the rearview mirror. “He talked to me and Mike the same way when the first attack happened. Didn’t feel reassured then and certainly don’t feel reassured now.”

His eyes clearly show that he wants to say something back. To either push through with the doctor script or come up with some new approach. But nothing comes out of his mouth, and his eyes slowly return to the road. I can’t see it in full, but the way his face slackens lets me know how bad of a knee jerk what I just said was.

“I’m sorry for that, I just…” Silence seems to be the only appropriate response after all. At least in lieu of being able to give physical space. I hope he thinks it’s the lack of sleep making me grouchy and not the guilt. My gaze just shifts back to the window, knowing there’s nothing I can do about the situation. At least not until I get to the school.

It seems to come sooner than I'd like. What used to be a vague outline becomes the entrance to a small town. A town I feel like I had already visited in every way other than physically. Pictures, articles, and personal accounts have colored my entire preconception of the town before I’ve even seen its sidewalks. And as the car slows down to meet the new speed limit, my expectations are met. It is just a quaint, quiet little town that would have no chance of functioning if it weren’t for the school nearby supplying a steady stream of shoppers and potential permanent residents.

Convenience store, art shop, park, bakery… all the same things the old college towns I used to perform in while being a part of the traveling band would have. My mind has already singled out the most likely areas of high foot traffic that would be optimal for busking. Which places the kids would get drunk and be more willing to put money down on barbets. Which stores seem to either sell the cheapest food or keep their garbage cans the cleanest. All these old instincts, yet nothing looks the same.

Different words on the signs, clean streets, no homeless vagrants panhandling. It’s all so inviting and calming, yet my mind won’t let me off the edge. Won’t stop turning over itself. All the more reason to get back to Bowling.

Sano speeds up as soon as he can, as if knowing I don’t have an interest in going over the town details again, even in person. Maybe it’s an olive branch of some sort. The feeling of a steep incline stops any further pondering. It’s only a few minutes before the entire school campus comes into view. The first noticeable thing is just how much land surrounds the whole thing. The town seemed to be on a flat plain of grass as if I was back in Wyoming. But it seemed that a forest surrounded the entire perimeter of the school with no other buildings as far as the eye can see. As for the actual campus itself, it is about as uppity as one can expect for a well-funded private school located in the middle of nowhere. Relatively speaking at least. Lush sea of greenery that’s beautiful in its own right if it weren’t for the actual school buildings. Their bricks are as clean as they looked in the pictures advertising the place. I don’t even need to get up close to know that the stonework is in no doubt immaculate. Well kept lawns, perfectly clean campus, all apparent even before we even pull into the parking lot.

“Want me to carry anything?” Sano says, his tone normal again. Always being in control of your emotions is one of the traits he said was needed in being a good doctor or businessman. I always say back that it sounds like he should have been a monk.

“I think I’ll be good for it once I stretch myself out a bit,” I say, already kicking my door open and letting my legs dangle out afterward. Any normal person would be sore from 16 hours of cramped sitting, only to follow it up with an hour or so of more sitting. Not many others have to worry about walking around with a torn ACL and not realizing it. After flexing around my ankle in every angle possible, I push myself out of the car entirely. On my feet again, I immediately arch my back and bring my hands behind my head. I’m sure Sano can hear the series of pops and cracks coming from my neck and shoulders. I follow all the way through the motion until I’m cracking my fingers against each other in front of me. Then it’s a series of knee raises and squats. Same routine as when I was living in the van.

As I finish my stretches, the distinct sound of tiny plastic wheels rolling over pavement sneaks away behind me, followed quickly by a “You were taking too long”. I don’t bother bringing up the fact that he, as a doctor, should be happy I'm trying to take care of my body. Instead, I just duck back into the car and pull out the guitar case that hasn’t been out of my immediate reach since the airport. Everything else I would need for the school year has already been sent ahead and put in my room. Something to hopefully mitigate my untimely delay.

Managing to grab the handle without being able to see it, I pop back out of the car and quickly sling the case over my shoulder. I turn around to see a small carry-on case with its handle already extended and a pointed Sano getting a head start towards the school. Less of an urgent hurry and more him trying to set the pace so that I don’t rush right past him like I normally do when we walk together.

Not wanting to disappoint, I grab the carry-on and make my way over to the entrance. It’s not hard to find given the giant fence surrounding the entire front. Spiked, wrought iron bars occasionally broken up by thick pillars engraved with the school’s symbol. All leading to a massive gate where Sano stands, waving his hands at it to really drive the point home that this entire place is as pompous as I thought it would be. And given the smirk on his face, he’s aware of how much it annoys me.

“Look man,” I start to say with a slight shake to my head. “You taught me to avoid thinking in stereotypes and all that shit, but even you gotta admit some koi ponds or cherry trees would do wonders for the atmosphere. At least a little bit more than this gothic horror shit.” Sano stops his showgirl hands to clutch at his chest as his boisterous laugh fills the empty air. “I’m pretty sure that’s my home country’s gimmick, Flannery O'Connor and all that,” I add. “Why crib our shitty style?” Soon, I find myself laughing not at my own joke, but at how much Sano seemed to enjoy it. No one, not even his son, thought we would get along as well as we do. And I only met him because of Mike and his heart attack...

Sano eventually regains his composure, wiping a tear from his eye and moving ahead through the significantly smaller opening to the side of the main gate. Fighting my instincts, I let myself lag behind him. Not wanting to make it seem awkward, I try to make it seem like I’m soaking in the surroundings. Not a complete stretch since I am at least half-invested in what I’m gonna be stuck with. My eyes lazily wander over the grounds, the pristine aurora from the outside carries inward as the grass looks painstakingly well kept. There isn’t a single piece of litter in sight. Even the bushes in front of the buildings are kept trim. It’s reminiscent of a model train set. Pristine plastic that is symmetrical, exactly colored, and completely smoothed over. All window dressing for the main event anyway. A nice touch for those who are used to living synthetic lives and-

I shake my head and stop in my tracks, taking a moment to take a deep breath through my nose. I do not need to be thinking like that again. Just need to get out of here and-

A loud warble penetrates my thought bubble. A string of ten whistles, all high pitched, repetitive, and with a clear pause after. I look up in the nearby tree, the one drowning me in shade. With the sun still low enough to not get into my eyes, the process of finding the source should be easy. Birds usually only sing this early to show how tough they are. There's a male up there, probably perched on an outstretched limb.

Soon enough I find it as it starts singing again. My ears leading my eyes, I find a fat little bulb on the end of a branch just left of me. Its body blends in well with the rest of the foliage but its head is an outstanding orange. If the sun was still on the horizon, it'd blend in easily. But with a blue sky, its tailfeather splayed out and just as orange as its head, it’s impossible to miss. If I had to guess, I would say it’s a robin of some kind. Bird taxonomy was never my strong suit, let alone for foreign species.

Without giving it much thought, I curl my tongue and try to give my own rendition of its song. The timing is the hardest part, with the constant high pitch shifts being hard to maintain. And with no tall grass to act as a reed, it’s all lung power. Still, the bird snaps his head towards me, its small beady eyes pinning themselves onto me. It looks like his tiny bird brain is trying to rationalize what kind of other red bird stands and sings so poorly. Realizing I’m not a suitable mate, it flies off right in the warmth of blinding sunbeams.

“I don’t think that bodes well for my first impressions, Doc,” I say, already half-chuckling just thinking about the face he’s pulling at me. I turn expecting either a smirk or a shrug of the shoulder but instead, he’s… stoic. He stands in the middle of the central pathway, right in the main artery of the school it seems. A long, broad pathway leading to the main building while half a dozen other smaller paths break and branch out to the other facilities in the school. He stands in the center of it all, looking at me with a slightly stilted expression.

“Hey, Doc, you know I meant nothing saying that right?” The wheels on my carry cry out for mercy against the pavement as they speed along over the dividing lines. Worry isn’t something I want to stir. I need the break to seem natural, like I haven’t been thinking about everything that I have. Does he already know? He probably does. I shouldn’t lie to him. I don’t want to lie to him. I’ll have to make him understand. He has to understand that-

Before I even realize it, his palms plant themselves onto my shoulders, almost shaking me out of my train of thought. His eyes had the same warmth they had just a while ago. Up close their light brown hue seems to become brighter. Like the embers of a fire getting the life blown into them.

“Colt… you are the reason Mike has been able to get through all the difficulties he has in just the last year.”

“I-I know that Doc,” I start. A silence follows which I try to fill with an awkward chuckle. But instead, Sano continues to look at me. “Why are you-”

“Because you need to remember that. Because I don’t want to see you fail yourself. I… We all know what that feels like. All Mike wants from you is for you to be happy. To succeed. To be more. Do right by him. You understand what I’m saying?”

My hands don’t tense up like they normally would whenever he pulls this on me. It’s never anything against him, just a bad reflex developed over bad years. But it’s that dulcet, refined tone of his that makes my tension melt away. The kind that makes kids feel comfortable before they go into surgery. The kind that reassures that healing is a long but faithful process. All that, paired with a face you wouldn’t dream about lying to.

Luckily I don’t feel like I have to.

“I know Juro.” My free hand gently clasps his wrist. “I’ll do what’s right by him. By all of you.”

The rest of the walk to the dormitory feels fuzzy. Not due to the speed of travel or my exhaustion, but because I’m too focused on what was just said. Thankfully, Sano says nothing else on the way, leaving me to observe what’s around. It’s nothing special, save for the wheelchair accessible entrance and elevator. I’ve crashed on enough beer-soaked floors to have a good idea of what the rest of the building should look like.

My wandering mind nearly causes me to smack into Sano’s back as he stops in front of my room. As I try to make it seem like I wasn’t just zoned out back to 5 years ago in Virginia, he turns around and hands me the key to my room. A simple brass thing that has “118” punched into the top.

“Well, this is goodbye for now. They already have assigned another student to help you adjust to things around here.”

“A chaperone?” I ask, crossing my arms.

“Cultural liaison, as Lincoln told me to phrase it since he knew how you’d react.” Sano chuckles along with me while stepping aside to let me access the lock. “Remember, the first check-up is Sunday in the city. The map should be on your desk lest you forget the city route. Call me if it isn’t or if anything else comes up. Outside of that, enjoy your time here Colt. Stay smart.”

With those final parting words, Sano claps me on the shoulder before turning on his heel and walking back down the hallway. I open the door while he does but never make it past the door frame. Not until the faint echoes of his shoes finally become too quiet to pick up. Nothing left to keep me company other than silence and empty space.

Looking inside, the room is about as bare as one would expect for either a dorm or prison cell. Neutral color, nothing on the walls, and a carpet that screams bought in bulk. The only things not matching the pictures on the brochures were the two big brown cardboard boxes taking up most of the walking space. The sides of the box, along with being littered with random Japanese ink stamps and stickers, had black sharpie that read “American wares, nothing spy-related” on the side. I have to check if I can find the person who handled the boxes and ask them if they laughed at Tyler’s dumb joke. Maybe I’ll just lie on the phone and tell him that everyone got it and laughed.

I shouldn’t have to tell him that on the phone. Or really unpack if I stick to my goal. All I need is in my carry-on. Pushing said carry-on further inside, I slide open the nearby closet door to my left. Inside hang two sets of the school’s uniform on thin wire hangers. A plain white dress shirt, funeral appropriate black tie, and pants with possibly the worst shade of green I have ever seen on a piece of fabric. Of course, there is also a third hanger with a complimentary blazer in case I ever feel the need to completely shave away any and all self-identity and respect.

I had already known early about the required uniform and so immediately commissioned Lucy to give me an alternative to the tie. With one great heave, my carry-on is on the bed, ready for dissection. I know exactly where I put the tie replacement but I just unzip all the zippers to save time. No use trying to get sleep now, the only thing now to do is get out the things that will hopefully make this short trip less painful.

The first of those things are a simple, black bolo tie and an unopened pack of American Spirits. I take the braided cord out first. It’s tipped with silver horns and the slide is in the shape of a bird skull. Creepy to people who don’t know three women that happen to double as witches and engravers. The cigarettes, on the other hand, are a different kind of parting gift. A different kind of promise.

“Laugh it up Colt, I’m telling the truth here. I ain’t gonna puff nothin’ till you come back home. Trust me, it’s not cause I’m suddenly taking a keen interest in my heart. Getting my chest split open in a few days to get a fuckin’ robot put in, I know I’m driving on a glowing E. Gotta get all the miles I can now. But you got a lot more road ahead of you. Steep, steep fuckin’ roads. There’s only one type of relief from that life for people like us. And we both know addicts are liars. Promise Sano all you want, I know you’ve already got a plan to keep on puffing something. Don’t let anyone shame you for going back to it if you have to. But if you do, make it count for something more. So here, take this pack with you. If you feel a need to take off the edge, smoke one of these. Take ‘em everywhere you go, like that lucky bullet I had. Smoke all but two of these. When you get back, we’ll break our promises together. It’ll be like I’m inhaling all you saw over there. And it’ll also remind you that I ain’t ever gonna leave your side. That you always got something to go back to.”

The room suddenly smells as aseptic as the one Mike was in that day. We finally had some alone time. Everything had been a panic since his second heart attack. I forced a delay much to the chagrin of Sano’s company. I couldn’t have cared less given everything that was going through my head at the time. I was so tired and confused. All I wanted was to hear Mike speak again.

That’s still all I want. Before he’s gone. I try to take my mind off it by unpacking all the normal clothes I have. I move over to the two boxes and start to claw at the one on top, hoping it would be the one holding not only my clothes but all my odds and ends. It would be easier opening the other one if I had the pocket knife I wasn’t allowed to carry on the plane. The top fold reveals just all my neatly organized articles of clothing. All the flannels, jeans, and bad band shirts a country boy could dream of. Even after more than two years, it feels odd to own so much clothing.

Wrapping my arms around one pile at a time, I plop them down onto the developing junk drawer that used to be a bed. Soon enough, everything from socks to over shirts are laid out. I take seven of each of these essential items and stuff them into the drawers, not making any real attempt to commit their placement to memory. Everything leftover I put back in the box and push to the foot of the bed. Moving my attention over to the other box, I force the sharp point of my thumbnail through the tape. Ripping off what couldn’t be split, the flap open to something other than a random assortment of clothes. Instead, a random array of small memories looks back at me. I almost forgot I’m meant to stay here for a whole five years.

Extra shoes, belts, my old bag of novelty guitar picks, harmonica, corresponding neck brace, song notebook, actual school notebooks with other school supplies, trinkets from just about everyone that I know or knew, and one large picture frame. One containing two people I hardly recognize anymore. It’s of two guys hanging out in the loading bay of an auto repair shop. One a scrawny redhead with a wildly unkempt beard and shorter hair. The other a short, thumb looking old dude who’s seen too much shit to deal with reasonably. Someone who shouldn’t be losing so much weight or have sunken eyes or tubes in his throat or-

I quickly place the photo down onto my desk and close up the box. My foot starts thumping and my hands turn shaky. Pinning both on nicotine withdrawal, I hurry over to the box of cigarettes and start tearing at the cellophane. Once it’s torn open, I realize that it’s not the smartest move to be reeking of tar on the first day. Moving over to the window, I use my elbow point to crack it open just a bit. Even through such a small crack, the room is flushed with the smell of the outdoors. Opening it completely reveals a high sun and cool breeze. A breeze thankfully not blowing inward.

Popping the top of the cigarette box open, I take a second to admire the quaint view of the school campus and the sound of rustling trees. I close my eyes and take a deep whiff of the cigarette box. All the deep, intense, earthy smells mixed with those of factory pressed paper feel almost as intoxicating as the actual smoking itself. Just like home. Using the bottom of my lip, I tug one out of the box and secure it in between the two. Placing the pack down on the windowsill, I reach into my left pocket and pull out yet another memento. An old, scratched up zippo lighter with words too faded to read anymore. A would-be shelf antique given work once again. It clicks open and lights with just one roll of the flint. Soon enough, I’m watching smoke escape from my mouth and travel down the building wall with the wind. The heavy draw and smooth, intense flavor of the cigarette makes me delightfully light-headed. A comfortable numbness that makes all the runaway thoughts screech to a halt.

Just as my heart finally seems to rest and the idea of catching a quick nap actually seems possible, I see it again. The photo on the desk. Of the smile Mike has. The same one he had in the hospital…

“Even from a thousand miles away you can read me like a fucking book Mike… the army sure taught you everything…”

I return to the window to smoke. Spirits are densely packed with even denser filters. It takes either the breath of an opera singer or a deep desire to get buzzed to take the full body draw I manage to. It feels as if a thick hand of smoke wraps its knuckles all the way around my spine. It moves upward, reaching the base of my skull. I exhale and feel my entire body go slightly limp. Every little ripple slowly evens out like a pond after being hit by a stone.

“You know, I’ve been thinking about how we first met. I was just a punk kid trying to sneak a few cigarettes from the scary mechanic. I mean you were really asking for it; your carton was sitting right there,” I say, gesturing with my hand out the window to the invisible crowd hearing us talk. “No one suspects the smoking ten-year-old.” I cough as my chuckle causes a back up in the smoke to oxygen ratio in my lungs.

“Ack-no one but you Mike. No one would just let me go like you did. I mean, you had every right to call the cops. A responsibility even. I mean, what the fuck was I even doing back then? Living in a van, with those people, not getting any schooling—a sane person would have grabbed me right there. Send me back to mom or god forbid a foster home. But you let me walk away…”

I look up at the clouds, trying to remember the names of all the types there were. I at least remember the streaky ones I see now are called cirrus clouds. The little lessons you gave me when I was 12 weren’t for nothing.

“I never asked you why... I felt like I knew already. I saw it in your eyes that day. The understanding. You knew putting me in that fucking rabbit role of a care system wouldn’t have stuck. I would have just got out another way or ended up with worse people. At least the band kept me fed and made me feel like something. But of course… that didn’t last. And you saw that coming too. You saw me coming back every year, getting more and more fed up with Wyatt, culminating in me crawling to your door starving and in need of something real. And you let me know all of this just through...” I turn my head back to the picture. “Through you making me promise to pay you back for the box you let me take. I’ve always been paying you back for that Mike, always have…”

Spirits are supposed to last around 6-7 minutes, even more if you aren’t huffing and puffing the entire time. Why it’s so surprising to see the long pillar of ash barely holding on, a smoldering ring of fire starting to kiss my fingers. I shake off the ash and flick the butt away down over to the window on my left, letting it be that guy's problem if anyone sees it. I close the window and place the pack down in front of Mike, adjusting him so that he faces me as I take a seat on the edge of the bed. It’ll be good practice for when I have to talk to him in person.

“That's why I’m doing what I’m doing Mike. It’s why I got to get myself out of here. Because you should know better than anyone that I was the happiest I had ever been in Bowling. I have friends back there, a job, an actual community, literally the perfect happy ending after all the shit I had to go through to get there. We were supposed to just live out your final days, fishing and smoking and drinking whenever we damn well pleased. You’d eventually retire, I’d take over the shop, and then we’d just… be. Be family, be happy, be… I-I don’t think I can do that here Mike. I know you think I can but I just-”

My head drops, no strength to give it as a sick feeling works it way up my gut. My legs feel like lead and I can feel the waterworks starting to turn behind my eyes. I try to take a deep breath, steady myself. Just like how you breathe before delivering the kill shot on an elk. Just like you taught me Mike.

“I was so doped out on my last visit to you that I can barely remember what I said. Don’t need a transcript to know I was probably an asshole. The type of person who’s just mean for no good reason. Who was bitter and mad and just wants to drag every person down to his level. I was that and one year later you still decided to take me in. To save my life. When I needed you the most you were there. Even though all I’ve given you over the years is trouble. How can I not be there now when you need me the most? How is that doing right by you?”

I try to focus my eyes right onto his, pushing through the tears. “Once you’re back on your feet again and out of the hospital, you’ll see that I made the right call. And I don’t care what I have to do, who I have to be again, to make that happen. I’m coming back home Mike. I’m coming back and we are getting to ride out into the sunset. Together. Like we always should have.”

I tentatively raise a hand to my face, scared to see how just preparing for this conversation is breaking me up. As expected, there are two continuous streams of tears down my face and one big drop collecting in my chin hair. I take off my flannel and wipe my face clean, not wanting to check in any sort of mirror just how bad it is.

Instead, I just look over to the uniform hanging in the closet. Looming like a draft ticket for Nam. I step over to it. The hanger slides right off the bar, making a sound not too dissimilar to a butcher sharpening his cleaver.

Alright, time to do what I do best. Burnout in a blaze of glory.
Last edited by BristerXD on Sat Nov 07, 2020 11:56 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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Chatty Wheeler
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sun Nov 01, 2020 4:20 am

Hello BristerXD,

I just finished reading the first chapter of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain and…

Oh boy… This is magnificent.

From a technical standpoint, and I say this with both absolutely sincerity and no hesitations, your writing is the best I’ve ever seen in any story on these forums. It is absolutely out of this world. I’m genuinely floored that this is your first attempt at writing a story of this nature and this scale.

The amount of subtleties on display is amazing. In every other story I’ve read on these forums, I usually only notice little bits of subtlety, but here, it feels like a majority of what you write is composed of subtleties. I consistently had to reread sections in order to successfully take in everything on display, and I always picked up on small little bits that I missed the first time around.

It is clear that you have carefully thought out each sentence to construct a magnificent flow from paragraph to paragraph. This results in some of the best pacing I’ve witnessed in any story I’ve read on these forums. With every first chapter of a new story, there will inevitably be a lot of exposition to get the reader accustomed to the world and characters, but exposition in your story doesn’t feel like exposition. The pacing is so fluid that I was never bored, and I actively wanted to learn more about Colt.

Beyond the technical prowess on display, we have the actual substance of the writing, which is just as strong in my eyes. Colt is genuinely funny, witty, and an absolute joy to have as our protagonist and narrator. The way his mind ticks and the way he describes everything around him is all deliciously entertaining and engrossing. The easiest way I can describe him is that he feels like a real human with real traits, real quirks, and real problems.

As interesting as Colt and Sano are as characters, the stories behind each are just as interesting. There’s an entire treasure trove of hints, clues, and mysteries established for folks like me to get my hands on. This chapter is honestly a dream come true for a guy like me. There is so much here for me to unravel and theorize about, so many simultaneous setups and payoffs for me to juggle—it’s genuinely amazing how much plot and character development got packed into this one chapter.

Normally, my posts boil down to me breaking down the plot of each scene or chapter of a story. This time, I want to do something a little different—I’m going to split my post in two. I’m going to do a “technical analysis” and a “plot analysis.” As the names imply, the plot analysis will have me breaking down the events, themes, and characters of this first chapter, while the technical analysis will have me diving deep into the writing techniques that I found tucked away throughout the chapter.

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Technical Analysis:

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Normally I would say waking up to an arm not covered in your own drool is a positive omen for a trip. It’s the kind of superstition you develop after living a good portion of your life in a van. It also makes you used to certain kinds of things. The haze of sleep deprivation, the various swings your appetite can take, and the inherently jarring sensation you get when you wake up on a road you can’t recognize. Spend enough time dealing with all these things and eventually, you figure you’re immune to them and their effects. I guess three years out of anything will make you rusty.
Wow. This is quite possibly one of the best opening paragraphs I’ve ever read in a story. We are thrust right into the story and we need to start taking mental notes immediately. Not only are we given insight into Colt's personality, but we learn about what he current location, and are shown clues to his past that will be slowly built up throughout the course of the story. The amount of exposition hidden in these five sentences is kind of incredible. Did I say five sentences? Yes I did. That’s all it took for BristerXD to convey all of that information. Impressive, to say the least.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Not to mention I have the unique advantage of not being able to feel the aftermath of a brutal car crash. Just nervously chugging my bottle of water on the flight reminded me that no matter my disability, fluid filling the lungs isn’t a pleasant sensation.
Boy... The second paragraph is just as good as the first. Once more, there is plenty under the surface. I had to read this section a few times to understand what it was saying. What does the “fluid filling the lungs” mean? Blood. It means blood filling Colt’s lungs after "the car crash." He can’t feel pain, but he can feel internal bleeding. Good grief, that’s mortifying. This is subtlety at its finest.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
“Colt, you’re finally awake. You wouldn’t happen to be trying to abuse your prescription now would you?”

I chuckle, putting my hands up in mock arrest. “It’s only abuse if you take it looking for a good time, ” I say, finally moving the rest of my body upright. “I only feel like taking it because I still feel like shit from the planes. Doesn’t help that I couldn’t sleep a wink in the hotel, at least not after all those cleaning people just stopped and bowed at me while I walked by. Was certain one of them was gonna sneak in during the night and steal my skin. ”
This made me laugh, but not only is this exchange humorous, it serves as a great way to break up the exposition at the beginning of the chapter. Personally, I think that sprinkling actions or dialogue in between exposition can be a great way to improve the pacing of a story and give the writing some flow. BristerXD clearly understands this, because he uses this technique a lot in this first chapter. Great stuff.

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I’d like to stop here and mention that we’re about ten paragraphs in, yet we’ve been fed more exposition than should be possible for ten paragraphs. We already have extensive knowledge about Colt’s past, his relationship with Sano, the reason why he’s in Japan, his sharp, witty personality, and many inconsequential bits to make Colt seem more human.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
“No calls from urgent care so far,” Sano said, adjusting himself in his seat. “But Colt, remember what Mike said. You have to be worrying about your next five years over here, not his next five days. He will recover, it’s just-”
This is a great line because we learn three things about three characters all at once. We learn that Mike is in urgent care, who could seemingly perish any day. We learn that Colt will be staying in Japan for five years. And, we learn that Sano is an optimistic person who is quick to reassure people and try to brighten a seemingly dark situation. THIS is how you do exposition. The best exposition is invisible and multi-faceted, which this line certainly is.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
“I’m sorry for that, I just…” Silence seems to be the only appropriate response after all. At least in lieu of being able to give physical space. I hope he thinks it’s the lack of sleep making me grouchy and not the guilt.
Once again, this line—and the tense conversation that comes right before it—naturally gives the reader tons of information. We now know that Mike is a touchy subject for Colt, and that breaching it can mean him getting frustrated or upset. However, the fact that Colt immediately backs down from his irritated remark toward Sano indicates that Colt carries a substantial amount of regret with him whenever Mike is brought up. In addition, that last sentence confirms to us that Colt does feel some guilt from his choice to come to Japan—which further adds some greyness to Colt’s motivation to agree to move to Japan.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Always being in control of your emotions is one of the traits he said was needed in being a good doctor or businessman. I always say back that it sounds like he should have been a monk.
Thanks for making me laugh out loud. In all seriousness, using humor like this is another technique that BristerXD consistently uses to improve the pacing and flow of his writing. Exposition with humor thrown in is far better than exposition with no humor.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
“Look man,” I start to say with a slight shake to my head. “You taught me to avoid thinking in stereotypes and all that shit, but even you gotta admit some koi ponds or cherry trees would do wonders for the atmosphere. At least a little bit more than this gothic horror shit.” Sano stops his showgirl hands to clutch at his chest as his boisterous laugh fills the empty air. “I’m pretty sure that’s my home country’s gimmick, Flannery O'Connor and all that,” I add. “Why crib our shitty style?” Soon, I find myself laughing not at my own joke, but at how much Sano seemed to enjoy it.
Once again, I busted out laughing at this. It’s another great moment to humanize both of these characters and to show us that these two share a close bond. It also serves to characterize and humanize our two characters: Sano—the doctor—isn’t above laughing at a silly joke that you wouldn't normally think a doctor would find funny, and Colt isn’t above taking a humorous shot at his own home country and its style of architecture.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
I take seven of each of these essential items and stuff them into the drawers, not making any real attempt to commit their placement to memory. Everything leftover I put back in the box and push to the foot of the bed.
Great, subtle characterization right here. Colt only gets seven pieces of essential clothing—one for each day of the week. Everything else is unnecessary. It sure seems an awful lot that Colt isn’t exactly keen on making his room feel like “home.” It seems to me like part of him just wants to return right back to America. He even mentions that he “almost forgot [he's] meant to stay here for a whole five years.” This adds further evidence to my prediction that one of Colt’s character arcs will be him learning to accept his new life, and that he can’t always be thinking about returning to America.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
One a scrawny redhead with a wildly unkempt beard and shorter hair. The other a short, thumb looking old dude who’s seen too much shit to deal with reasonably. Someone who shouldn’t be losing so much weight or have sunken eyes or tubes in his throat or-
Not only is this more subtle writing, but it’s a brilliant, indirect way for us to find out what Colt looks like for the first time. We think to ourselves, “who’s the redhead supposed to be?” Then we read on and learn about the “old dude,” and when Colt starts to get emotional, it’s suddenly obvious that "old dude" is Mike. From that we then think to ourselves, "who’s the redhead?" Oh! It must be Colt. Again, this is brilliant exposition because not only does it convey information in a subtle way, it conveys emotion that launches us into the next paragraph, where that emotion is the direct cause of Colt reaching for the cigarettes.

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BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Spirits are supposed to last around 6-7 minutes, even more if you aren’t huffing and puffing the entire time. Why it’s so surprising to see the long pillar of ash barely holding on, a smoldering ring of fire starting to kiss my fingers. I shake off the ash and flick the butt away down over to the window on my left, letting it be that guy's problem if anyone sees it.
Not only is this entire paragraph rife with great imagery, but it doubles as exposition. It tells us that Colt is probably breathing heavily, and probably has been breathing heavily throughout his entire one-sided monologue… We can infer then, without BristerXD having to tell us, that this monologue is taking a severe emotional toll on Colt. He’s breathing heavily and probably fighting back tears. Excellent writing right here.

———————————————————

Plot Analysis:

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The story starts with Colt waking up in the back of a car being driven by a friend, Sano. We quickly learn that Colt is an American from Kentucky who has come to Japan to be a part of some sort of program to study his peculiar disability: he can't feel pain. Although not outright stated, it seems to be implied that Colt was involved in a car accident that gave either gave Colt his disability or was impacted by his disability.

We also learn that Colt has a friend named Mike who also has a life-threatening disability: some sort of heart disease. Mike seems to be an important figure to Colt, but we don't know very much about him just yet...

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Upon passing through his new town, Colt can't help but think that the discomfort that he feels in his new town is “all the more reason to get back to Bowling.” In addition, it’s not just implied, but outright stated that Colt feels guilty over leaving Mike back in America. From all of this, we can imply that Colt didn’t fully want to move to Japan.

This naturally begs the question: why did Colt leave to go live in Japan in the first place?

If I had to guess, it would be that Sano’s influence convinced Colt to make the choice. Colt clearly has a lot of respect for Sano and acknowledges the astronomical amount of work that Sano does for Colt and for the program that Colt will be participating in. Maybe Colt feels some sense of duty—that he’d be letting Sano down if he rejected the invitation to Japan. After all, Sano seems to have some sort of fatherly influence over Colt, which may have been enough to convince Colt to give it a shot.

——————————

Now, I just described Sano as being a “father figure” to Colt, but that begs another question: where are Colt’s parents?

What do I predict? They’re either dead or long gone from his life.

Colt mentions at one point that it was Sano, Lincoln, Tyler who helped him “[pull] through all the bullshit” in the past. This line in addition to the father-son-esque relationship between Colt and Sano makes me think that Colt doesn’t have parents to fall back on, so when Sano offered to bring Colt back with him to Japan, that Colt just went along with it—but perhaps he does so with reluctance.

It makes me wonder if this reluctance is going to drive a wedge between Sano and Colt, especially if things don’t go so well for Colt in Japan, it would be easy for him to start putting all the blame on Sano. Let’s hope it doesn't come to that.

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Colt mentions that he has lived a significant chunk of his life in a van. Could this mean that he was homeless? Was that what he meant when he talked about the “bullshit” of his past that Sano helped pull him out of? Either way, it supports my theory that Colt’s parents are no longer alive or that they have abandoned Colt.

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Colt lets a few comments slip that indicates that he might be struggling to fight against his biases against people who are different from him.

Colt offhandedly mentions that Sano was the one who “taught [him] to avoid thinking in stereotypes,” which indirectly confirms that stereotyping was once a problem that Colt needed to overcome. Later on, Colt says the following:
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
All window dressing for the main event anyway. A nice touch for those who are used to living synthetic lives and-
Colt eventually stops himself from continuing on that line of thinking, but the fact these thoughts inhabit his mind in the first place shows us that biases are a problem that he consistently faces.

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Perhaps the combination of Colt’s implied regrets at having left America and his implied biases against the disabled will be his major conflicts throughout the story. He will have to learn to overcome both if he wants to accept his new life.

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After a humorous scene where Colt tries and fails to replicate the mating call of a bird that he sees, he quips that he’s already making a bad first impression in this new place. This stops Sano in his tracks, before proceeding to tenderly remind Colt that he has to try and accept his new life and that he has to try to find fulfillment and happiness in it.

While this speech from Sano was interesting in its own right, I was far more interested by how Colt replied to the speech:
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
“I’ll do what’s right by him. By all of you.”
When I read this, a prediction started to form in my head. Notice how Sano tells Colt to get out there and live a happy new life on his own, and Colt says that he will, but he says that he’ll do it Sano and his other friends. You know who he doesn’t say he’s doing it for? Himself.

Even though Colt plans to embrace his new life and let go of his past regrets, his motivation for embracing his new life is his past regrets. Colt isn’t able to live for himself, he has to live for others. And while living for others can be a fulfilling and wonderful thing, living for yourself is arguably just as important.

I wonder if this is a conflict that will actually be revisited by BristerXD, or if perhaps I am just overanalyzing stuff again. Haha!

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
...Sano says nothing else on the way, leaving me to observe what’s around. It’s nothing special, save for the wheelchair accessible entrance and elevator. I’ve crashed on enough beer-soaked floors to have a good idea of what the rest of the building should look like.

...As I try to make it seem like I wasn’t just zoned out back to 5 years ago in Virginia...
Um... Did I read that correctly? Did I just read “beer-soaked floors?” My prediction is that this is something that has to do with Colt’s parents. Maybe they were alcoholics—something that drove Colt away from them? Perhaps, in the past, Colt ran away from his parents in Virginia to live in the van as a way to escape the struggles he was facing at home. That would explain why Colt ended up in Kentucky.

——————————

Colt reaches his room, parts with Sano, and unpacks a couple of important items. The first is his bolo tie, which perhaps represents Colt’s desire to push back against Yamaku’s requirements. After all, he seems pretty repulsed by Yamaku’s uniform. The next item, however, is a box of cigarettes from Mike.
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
“Laugh it up Colt, I’m telling the truth here. I ain’t gonna puff nothin’ till you come back home.

[...]

But if you do, make it count for something more. So here, take this pack with you. If you feel a need to take off the edge, smoke one of these. Take ‘em everywhere you go, like that lucky bullet I had. Smoke all but two of these. When you get back, we’ll break our promises together. It’ll be like I’m inhaling all you saw over there. And it’ll also remind you that I ain’t ever gonna leave your side. That you always got something to go back to.”
Not gonna lie, this was a solid emotional moment. I didn’t cry or anything, but I certainly felt the weight of these words. I can definitely feel the camaraderie between these two, and I now completely understand why Colt feels so guilty about leaving him.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Even after more than two years, it feels odd to own so much clothing.
Here’s yet another line alluding to something that happened “three years ago.” Before three years ago, Colt didn’t own much clothing… He must have had some seriously messed up youth, if all of these hints are anything to go off of.

——————————

Continues to unpack his things, stumbling across a large picture frame. Upon looking at the frame, it’s implied that the picture is of Colt and Mike, because upon seeing the picture, Colt immediately starts getting emotional and immediately reaches for his cigarettes. Not even one hour in his new life and Colt is already showing signs of escapism? Good grief, Colt must have some serious trauma hiding behind his witty personality…

——————————

It’s telling that Colt mentions that the comforting smell of his cigarettes “smells like home.” This all but confirms that Colt is feeling conflicted about coming to Japan, he seems an awful lot like he would rather be back in Kentucky right now. If I had to guess, I would say that these cigarettes and Mike’s cigarette box are going to be a vital piece of symbolism that BristerXD will use throughout the entire story. The cigarettes represent Colt’s desire to go home, while Mike’s cigarette box represents why he wants to go home: to fulfill his promise.

——————————

As Colt continues to take great, heaving puffs of his cigarette, his senses start to fade away. He is clearly quite under the influence of the cigarette, which is when he suddenly feels compelled to start talking to himself—framed as a conversation with Mike. The one-sided discussion is heartbreaking stuff, and I could feel Colt’s despair as he loopily rambles on about his life and about Mike.

A lot of what Colt talks about confirms the implications that I pointed out earlier in the story.

For one thing, it is confirmed that Colt ran away from home. But what I didn’t know was that he was only ten years old when he did it, and that he found himself in the care of some strangers.

We also found out about why Colt ended up living in that van, and who he ended up living with. Let me remind everyone that BristerXD has been setting up this van plot thread since the very first paragraph of the story, and we are only now getting that payoff.

Another thing I got wrong, Colt was taken in by Mike, not Sano. Sano isn’t Colt’s father figure, Mike is.

We find out that Colt was starving, and that Mike let him stay with him so long as he paid him back for the cigarette carton he stole… We find out that Colt left Mike in a doped up mess, no doubt contributing greatly to the guilt that Colt has felt throughout this entire chapter...

Oh my goodness. It’s sad. It’s so sad. I felt sad for Colt. All he ever wanted was someone to take care of him, to love him. This is why Mike is so important to Colt, and it’s why Colt is “[doesn’t] care what [he has] to do, who [he has] to be again” in order to get back to Mike… Wait. What? Hang on a second? What does that mean?

——————————

Let's talk about that ending...

At the very beginning of the chapter, Colt mentions that he’s “no good at sleeping on a secret. Never [has] been all [his] life.” When I read this, I was immediately intrigued. BristerXD was deliberately giving the reader a mystery to haunt them for the foreseeable future, and it looked like he was going to try hard to build that “secret” up…

Again, at the beginning of the chapter, Colt thinks about Mike and thinks to himself that “[he] hopes [Mike] understands [his] decision when [he gets] back to the States.” What decision is Colt referring to? Is he referring to the decision to leave Japan? No, it can’t be… It can’t be that because the story makes it very clear that Mike supports Colt’s decision to move to Japan. Mike already understands Colt’s decision… So, what does Mike need to understand? What is this “decision” that Colt is referring to?

Next, midway through the chapter, Colt mentions thinking about talking to Tyler on the phone, but then realizes that “[he] shouldn’t have to tell him that on the phone. Or really unpack if I stick to my goal.” When I read this, I was completely confused. I had no idea what the heck Colt was talking about. What the heck is this “goal” that Colt is talking about? Not really having any ideas, I decided to just press on and hope that it would make sense on the second read through.

Then… I reached the end of the chapter.

All of a sudden, Colt starts acting a little weird at the end of this chapter. He starts profusely taking puffs of his cigarette, he starts talking about “doing what must be done” and becoming someone else "again," and then he starts uncontrollably crying… What the heck is going on? And then, before I can figure it out, he walks up to his closet and then prepares to make a “burnout in a blaze of glory...”

All at once the pieces suddenly snapped together.

Colt is about to start a fire so that he can be expelled from Yamaku and sent back to America.

Edit: The line above is inaccurate. Colt is not going to start a literal fire, but rather a metaphorical fire. I have wrote a new post explaining all of this and you can find it below this one.

THIS was the “secret” that he was “sleeping on” all the way back at the beginning of the chapter. THIS is the “decision” that Colt is hoping that Mike will understand when he “gets back to the States.” THIS is the “goal” that would supposedly let him see Tyler face-to-face “real soon.” THIS is why Colt couldn’t get a “wink of sleep” the night before—because he was nervous about whether he wanted to go through with this extreme plan of his...

I mean… Damn. DAMN. Talk about a masterful twist. BristerXD has literally been setting this twist up since the beginning of the chapter, all the while dropping hints that clued me into the fact that something was up, but never to the point where I could completely figure it out completely until the last line of the chapter smashes into you like a runaway semi truck barreling down a freeway.

No joke, when I read that last line, I actually, physically stood up and shouted “NO FREAKING WAY!” I then started frantically pacing across my room trying to make sense of everything. After all, this twist does leave the reader with quite a few questions. Chief among them being: why did Colt come to Japan in the first place if he knew that he wanted to get himself expelled from Yamaku? To my suprise, I was actually able to come up with what I think is a plausible theory—something that I attribute entirely to the various hints that BristerXD has subtly scattered throughout the chapter. Here’s what I came up with:
Theory:
At some point in the past, Colt had already agreed to go to Japan with Sano. However, right before Colt and Sano were set to leave, Mike had his second heart attack. In a panic, Colt delayed his trip to Japan to spend more time with Mike. Colt no longer wanted to go to Japan; he just wanted to stay in America with Mike for as long as he could. However, Colt knew that he could only delay his trip for so long before he eventually would have to go through the trip. With this in mind, Colt created a plan. Colt decided that he could go to Japan, crack a few eggs (edit: metaphorically), break a few bones (edit: metaphorically), start a fire (edit: metaphorically), and hopefully be expelled. With his reliability and sanity in question, Sano’s company would have no choice but to send Colt back to America.
It’s a pretty extreme plan. It’s extremely stupid. It’s definitely not what Mike would want Colt to do. But I still didn’t think that the plan was out of character. Colt is clearly hurting. Badly. His mental wellbeing is in shambles and the cigarette is probably not helping his judgement any. He’s desperate, and willing to do anything that will bring him back to the one he cares for the most.

You know, they say that a good twist is one that seems completely obvious in hindsight. And good grief, with the amount of setting up that BristerXD tucked into this story, I can completely say this twist fits that bill.

All in all, this ending took what was already a magnificent, nearly flawless first chapter into a story that might just be the best that I’ve ever read on these forums. It’s probably better than most actual books I’ve read—it certainly had more of an impact on me than most actual books I’ve read. And let me repeat myself: we’re only one chapter in! One chapter!!!

———————————————————

Typos:

——————————

Okay, we have one more stop before I wrap up my analysis. I’ve been overwhelmingly positive up until now, but there is perhaps only one noticeable flaw in this entire chapter: the typos. I noticed quite a few typos during my read, and considering how polished this chapter was, I was a little surprised to notice so many hiccups.

——————————

In the introductory post, a couple of garbled words snuck their way into the sentence.
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
I want to thank Xeraeo for being the primary editor for this first chapter rand th many more to come
——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Father of a workaholic businessman who he was eager to make proud...
Doesn’t he mean the "son" of a workaholic businessman rather than the "father" of a workaholic businessman?

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
I say, already kicking my door open and letting my legs dangle out afterward. Any normal person would be sore from 16 hours of cramped sitting,only to follow it up with an hour or so of more sitting.
There would appear to be a missing space between the word, "only" and the comma that precedes it.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
...There's a male up there, probably perched on an outstretched limb.
Soon enough I find it as it starts singing again...
There appears to be a missing paragraph break here.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
hankfully, Sano says nothing else on the way, leaving me to observe what’s around.
The word, "thankfully" is missing the letter T.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Even after more than two years, it feels odd to own so much clothing.
Wrapping my arms around one pile at a time, I plop them down onto the developing junk drawer that used to be a bed.
There appears to be a missing paragraph break here.

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Even though all I’ve given you over the years is trouble. How can I not be there now when you need me the most? How is that doing right by you?”
I try to focus my eyes right onto his, pushing through the tears.
There appears to be a missing paragraph break here.

——————————

Alright! That’s all the typos I could find. I’d like to mention that although these typos were the only noticeable flaw I found with this chapter, it doesn’t even really matter to me. Let me put it this way. If typos are the BIGGEST flaw in a piece of writing, that’s a very good sign… Typos can be easily fixed, subpar writing can take hours and hours of work to fix, so it’s a good thing that you only have to work on fixing the former of those two things! :D

———————————————————

Reflection:

——————————

As I’ve extensively talked about already, the technical prowess of this chapter is phenomenal. The meticulous way in which it was written completely resonates with me, and I can appreciate all of the hours of hard work that must have gone into making it. If BristerXD can keep this quality up in every chapter… Oh man, I don’t even know if I’ll be able to keep up.

But what’s even more amazing to me is that for all of the meticulous planning, plotting, and writing that it must have taken for BristerXD to come up with this story, he still makes most of the plot implied rather than outright stated. As someone who is currently writing a story of my own, I at times feel afraid that if I lean too heavily into subtlety, that the average reader will flat out miss all of the subtleties and intricacies that I worked hard to conceptualize and implement into the story. I have a fear that all of my hard work will go to waste, but apparently BristerXD isn’t afraid of that. He has shown that he is perfectly willing to go all out with his vision for the story, and even if that means confusing some readers with his intricate subtleties, that won’t stop him from working hard to make his story the best he can make it. I completely, utterly respect this. I personally love it when my hand isn’t being held by the author, so this story tickles my fancy.

BristerXD stated that this story has spent years cooking in the pot, and after reading it for myself, I believe him…

BristerXD, you should be proud of this. I’ll end this post with the following piece of encouragement: your writing is so good that I’m now terrified to post my own stories because I don’t know if I can ever, ever live up to the new standard that you have set for me to pursue.

Take care, everyone.
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Mon Nov 09, 2020 4:03 am, edited 7 times in total.

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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Sun Nov 01, 2020 9:36 pm

Okay, I think I need to explain myself.

I assume that it's fairly obvious that I get a real kick out of analyzing other people's stories and trying to piece together the puzzles that authors embed into their writing. However, at times a problem arises... I'm kind of a stupid idiot sometimes.

There is no way that Colt is literally going to start a fire. Not even a small one, like I had envisioned. That's a stupid theory—borderline mindless. With that said, let me try and fix my theory.

The easiest way to fix my theory is change "Colt starting a fire at Yamaku" from being taken literally to being taken metaphorically. Colt still wants to get himself expelled, but instead of committing actual arson, he's just going to start some trouble around the campus. I went back and found numerous blatant hints to this being the case that I totally missed—any one of them alone would debunk my previous theory. Let's run through all of those hints, shall we?

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
I take seven of each of these essential items and stuff them into the drawers, not making any real attempt to commit their placement to memory. Everything leftover I put back in the box and push to the foot of the bed.
If Colt was about to start a fire and get himself immediately expelled, why does he unpack seven pieces of clothing? Why wouldn't he unpack just one? Why would he unpack any?

Yup, that line alone should be enough to debunk my old theory, but it also instructs my new theory.

From this line, we can gather that Colt plans to stay at Yamaku for no more than seven days. His goal is to get himself expelled before the end of the week—if he's lucky, he'll be out of Japan before he's even had to go to one of his checkups with Sano's company.

—————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
And I don’t care what I have to do, who I have to be again, to make that happen. I’m coming back home Mike.
Take note of the word "again." Who will Colt be turning into "again?"

Well, it has been stated that Colt used to be a "punk kid," he did not say that he used to be an "arsonist."

When Colt says this line, he is saying that he will reverting to his old "punk kid" ways. He's probably going to pull a lot of tricks that he made earlier in life. Perhaps, this will be a way for us to learn more about what Colt did during his past. If he starts to reuse some of his old tricks, that will indirectly teach us more about him, won't it?

——————————
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Instead, I just look over to the uniform hanging in the closet. Looming like a draft ticket for Nam. I step over to it. The hanger slides right off the bar, making a sound not too dissimilar to a butcher sharpening his cleaver.
This indirectly confirms that Colt is not going to start a fire. If Colt were going to start a fire, why would he be focusing on the uniform of all things?

Instead, I think that Colt is looking at this uniform because he's going to do something to it. Maybe he's going to intentionally wear it incorrectly. Maybe he's going to start drawing on it. Or maybe... he's going to wear his bolo tie instead of his required tie? After all, why would BristerXD establish the importance bolo tie if he wasn't going to make it... you know, important.

I think that Colt is going to try and wear his uniform incorrectly as a form of civil disobedience to get under the skin of Yamaku's staff and students. But beyond just the uniform, he's going to do small, annoying things to slowly build up his image as a troublesome punk foreigner who doesn't belong in school. And after a week, Colt will use his new reputation to do something more drastic and get himself expelled on the spot.

THIS is what Colt meant the last line of the chapter:
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Alright, time to do what I do best. Burnout in a blaze of glory.
He didn't mean a literal blaze, he meant a metaphorical blaze.

——————————

Phew. Okay, I think that settles it. I feel both relieved and embarrassed to make these corrections. Either way, this doesn't change my opinion of the chapter itself. The twist ending still works as well as it does with this new context, and I still hold the entire chapter in the highest regard, but now I think I've done it justice.

Take care, everyone!
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Sun Nov 01, 2020 11:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by NuclearStudent » Sun Nov 01, 2020 11:15 pm

But Chatty, do you not understand that Colt is going to embark upon jihad?
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Razoredge » Sun Nov 01, 2020 11:27 pm

I have to say, I'm in full agreement with Chatty. This is wonderful. Brister, you have one of the best writing style out there. As usual, I don't write too much when I'm commenting a story, because I don't really know what to say, in fact. But, here, we have a wonderful start. We jump immediately into the story, your writing conveys emotions, well, that's magnificent. And from this start, I already know it will be a wonderful story.
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Xeraeo » Mon Nov 09, 2020 1:01 am

I also feel that I should comment here, though I've already given my thoughts on the story to BristerXD in private messages.

I'm glad to see this story finally posted, and even more glad to see the positive attention it's receiving. You can tell that he's been working on it for a long time, and seeing even just the first chapter go up makes me feel proud of him for accomplishing this much.

As Chatty said, the amount of subtle hints at what's to come packed into this chapter is pretty incredible, and I'm eager to see more of it soon.

Not much else to say, other than keep at it, man! Shoot me a message when you're ready for my thoughts, or even if you just want help figuring stuff out. I'm glad to be helpful in any way I can.
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am

So, commenting as I go along...
Colt, you’re finally awake...
...all those cleaning people just stopped and bowed at me while I walked by.
First thoughts: Great. Another foreign exchange student, and a rich one at that.
I turn my view over to the passenger side window, gazing out to the seemingly endless expanse of dew-covered grassy hills
Maybe establish the location of the scene a bit earlier than almost a page in. It's a bit jarring when you assume one thing only to find out later that it's been wrong all along.
Not many others have to worry about walking around with a torn ACL and not realizing it.
Your stream of consciousness narration is pretty cryptic regarding... well everything that happened before... Up to this point I was putting up with it and waiting for the explanation to come sooner or later. This however is something that sent me off to google, and that's one hell of a way to break immersion...
And stuff like this is a common theme in this story. For example when he gets out of the car I was stumped where that "doctor" came from suddenly until I realized it was supposed to be Sano, who was earlier introduced as a medical researcher...
And I know all of this is probably intentional. When it comes to inconsequential details you can be descriptive - you just choose not to everytime it really matters and to tell the story in disjointed memory fragments that the readers have to piece together themselves....
You mention characters - Tyler, Mike, Lucy and the two guys in the photo, one of whom might or might not be Mike - but at the end of the chapter with the exception of Mike we don't know who they are and what relation they have with Colt.
And of Colt we only know that he is american, some kind of celebrity, that he has some problem with his knees (and that only by googling) after a car crash and that he is a bit of a delinquent (who will have a lot of problems fitting in at Yamaku if he keeps it up).
We don't even know why he is in Japan, let alone for suspiciously specific five years.
For a 6000+ words intrdoduction chapter that is extremely little actual introduction...
I can see your technical writing ability is real, the language use as well as SpaG are excellent. My problems with this story are almost certainly a purely artistic choice on your part...
But as it is that first chapter was more of a chore for me to read than anything else.
Don't let that discourage you, though: The other comments show that your story has its fans as it is, and trying to please everybody is simply impossible and will result in pleasing nobody in the end.
I also hope that things will become more clear as your protagonist interacts with other characters who don't know his past in the next chapter, so he actually has to explain things...
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by NuclearStudent » Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:18 pm

I think Mirage and I might feel similarly about this piece, but for completely different reasons.

Colt is an absurd character. That's not an condemnation in itself. I've said before on the discord that this story is very American. I should clarify what I mean: to me, it comes off as a kind of unintentional parody. It's 6000+ words of, essentially, Amurica. Colt smokes cigarettes, shoots deer, has a loyal platonic life mentor and absent parents, goes on roadtrips and sleeps in vans, swears casually, busks with a guitar, has ex-military friends, etc. etc. etc.

Mirage's criticism is this:
And of Colt we only know that he is american, some kind of celebrity, that he has some problem with his knees (and that only by googling) after a car crash and that he is a bit of a delinquent
However, my impression is that this is supposed to be Colt's character in its entirety. He is American. More American than the average real American, and by far. I don't think there is anything else we need to know to understand Brister's vision or what to expect from his characters. It's unapologetic and unironic. It is what it is.

Chatty said this:
I’d like to stop here and mention that we’re about ten paragraphs in, yet we’ve been fed more exposition than should be possible for ten paragraphs.
An objectively true statement. Everybody feels differently about exposition: personally, I dislike it in general. I lack the patience for that sort of thing. If information has to be told instead of shown, I tend to prefer that it be wrapped in dialogue. It does fit Colt's character as established to go rambling on internally about his past and life-buddies, but like Mirage, I find it something of a chore to read.

Brister clearly has a coherent vision of what he's going and the atmosphere he wants to evoke. That can be summed up as, again, Amurica.
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Mon Nov 16, 2020 6:55 pm

Hello Mirage and NuclearStudent!

I know that I'm not BristerXD, but as someone who really enjoyed this story, I felt inclined to chime in with my thoughts on your posts. You both had some very thought-provoking and interesting things to say! I'm mostly going to try and explain my perspectives on the points that you made—because I can't really argue against most of what you guys are saying. You both make very logical, understandable points!

With that said, here goes!

——————————
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
I turn my view over to the passenger side window, gazing out to the seemingly endless expanse of dew-covered grassy hills
Maybe establish the location of the scene a bit earlier than almost a page in. It's a bit jarring when you assume one thing only to find out later that it's been wrong all along.
I'm not sure I know what you're saying, here. Below I've quoted the first two lines of the story.
BristerXD wrote:
Tue Oct 27, 2020 8:42 pm
Normally I would say waking up to an arm not covered in your own drool is a positive omen for a trip. It’s the kind of superstition you develop after living a good portion of your life in a van.
I think that these two lines make it quite clear that he's in some sort of vehicle. At the very least, that's how I interpreted those lines on my first read. I suppose that you're arguing that these two lines are too subtle... But I'll leave the whole discussion about "subtlety" for later. :D

——————————
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
This however is something that sent me off to google, and that's one hell of a way to break immersion...
I don't know if I'd agree with you on this point. Maybe I'm just an uncultured reader, but I find myself googling stuff quite often while I read literature. I especially find myself googling a lot of stuff when reading KS stories because I want to learn more about the disabilities of the characters—sometimes I'm learning about certain disabilities for the first time.

At the end of the day, this comes down to personal preference, but I still felt like mentioning this.

——————————
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
For a 6000+ words introduction chapter that is extremely little actual introduction...
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
I also hope that things will become more clear as your protagonist interacts with other characters who don't know his past in the next chapter, so he actually has to explain things...
I understand this argument, but I once again disagree. By conventional standards, this is an unusual way to write a first chapter. Most books I've read tend to avoid doing what BristerXD did. In a typical story, we're fed all the necessary backstory right from the first chapter. We are given a clear indication about the history of our protagonist, their current life, their personality, and what their immediate plans are. This is what most KS stories do when an original character is the protagonist.

However, BristerXD puts a rather interesting spin on things.

Instead of being fed the backstory in a clear manner, BristerXD muddies up the picture, making things harder to understand. He intentionally takes information and scatters it around the story. Basically, BristerXD makes exposition into a series of small mysteries.

For example we are introduced to the "van" in the opening paragraph of the story, and we periodically learn more about the significance of the van at different stages of the story before the full meaning is made clear at the very end.

Another example of these "mysteries" was brought up by Mirage:
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
We don't even know why he is in Japan, let alone for suspiciously specific five years.
I'd argue that we do know why he's in Japan. At least, we're given a pretty good idea of why he's there. Colt has a very peculiar disease—he can't feel pain. Through various hints dropped throughout the story by both Colt and Sano, we start to understand that Colt is in Japan because he will be participating in some sort of long-term research study with Sano's company. Sano is a doctor who originally came from Japan (at least I think that's where he's from), and it's implied that he and Mike successfully convinced Colt to make this five year trip.

The clues to each of these mysteries are there. But in order to figure out those mysteries, the reader has to think for themselves a little. BristerXD is putting us on the treadmill—we gotta work a little to keep up.

Personally, I am absolutely in love with this approach to writing and storytelling. It's why people like Shakespeare so much—his difficult-to-follow style of writing puts readers on the treadmill. It keeps the brain active.

Both Mirage and Nuke mentioned that they found this first chapter quite a chore to read, but I'm the opposite: I tend to see the first chapters of typical stories to be a chore to read. I have a hard time getting into new books because I know that the first few chapters are usually going to be front-loaded with a bunch of exposition, and that's usually my least favorite stuff to read.

Now... Let's take a step back. I've laid out my case to the best of my ability, but I am aware the BristerXD's approach to exposition can only work to a certain extent. If we're given too little backstory on Colt, then the reader won't understand his motivations for his actions. If the reader can't understand the motivations of its protagonist, it's game over, basically. Luckily, I think BristerXD knew this.

Although BristerXD mostly obscures Colt's backstory for now, his motivations are made crystal clear by the end of this first chapter. When Colt begins talking to himself at the end of the story, he basically gives us all the motivations that we need in his rant: he wants to go back to America to be with Mike—who for all intents and purposes, is Colt's family—before he dies, which could happen any day (causing Colt a great level of paranoia). This is an intensely relatable source of motivation. If I knew that my father was potentially on his deathbed, you bet that I'd do anything in my power to go see him.

So, in short, BristerXD supplements the lack of clear backstory (which, again, I adore that this is the case) with an abundantly clear motivation. This is why Colt is interesting to me. Even if I don't understand him fully, I empathize with him, and that's enough to keep me engaged.

——————————
NuclearStudent wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:18 pm
Colt is an absurd character. That's not an condemnation in itself. I've said before on the discord that this story is very American. I should clarify what I mean: to me, it comes off as a kind of unintentional parody. It's 6000+ words of, essentially, Amurica. Colt smokes cigarettes, shoots deer, has a loyal platonic life mentor and absent parents, goes on roadtrips and sleeps in vans, swears casually, busks with a guitar, has ex-military friends, etc. etc. etc.
NuclearStudent wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:18 pm
However, my impression is that this is supposed to be Colt's character in its entirety. He is American. More American than the average real American, and by far. I don't think there is anything else we need to know to understand Brister's vision or what to expect from his characters. It's unapologetic and unironic. It is what it is.
I suppose... I can't really say that this is wrong. You are objectively correct in your assertion that Colt follows a lot of "Amurican" tropes. I guess I haven't really read enough books with people like Colt, or perhaps I haven't spent enough time in the presence of people like Colt, but I these tropes didn't register with me at all when reading. Even now, I don't really see them as bothersome. I guess I haven't consumed enough media for me to register them as tropes just yet. Colt is very different from myself and anyone that I know, so having that culture shock (for lack of a better term) is actually something that engages me.

I don't even know what I just said just now. I think that entire last paragraph was just rambling... Haha!

——————————
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
And of Colt we only know that he is American... and that he is a bit of a delinquent (who will have a lot of problems fitting in at Yamaku if he keeps it up).
Mirage reminded me of something that I forgot to put in any of my other posts. In the bold section of the quote above, Mirage noted how Colt is going to have trouble fitting in a Yamaku... I couldn't agree more. In fact, this point is what I think makes Colt an interesting protagonist and an effective twist on the formula.

I have a theory, which has BristerXD more or less confirmed in DM's, that Colt plans to spend his first week at Yamaku causing trouble to eventually get him kicked out of Yamaku and sent back to America to be with Mike.

With this in mind, BristerXD has set up Colt to be the "anti-Hisao." Whereas Hisao spent his first week at Yamaku trying to fit in, Colt is going to spend his first week at Yamaku trying to get out. Whereas Hisao had a completely normal appearance (no externally noticeable disabilities) and a typical Japanese upbringing, Colt is a foreigner who looks and acts nothing like anyone else at the school—Colt is basically an outcast from day one.

It's a perfect twist on the formula. There are so many opportunities for BristerXD to take this story in interesting ways, and the premise that he's created allows for all of it to exist and make sense.

——————————

Okay, I'm out of steam...

Mirage and NuclearStudent, thank you both for your comments! You both challenged me to think even harder about this story—and you brought some good points to my attention! All I can say is that I hope that you can find my comment to be as intriguing as I found both of yours to be.

Take care, everyone.
Last edited by Chatty Wheeler on Mon Nov 16, 2020 8:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by NuclearStudent » Mon Nov 16, 2020 7:27 pm

Chatty's existence and analysis easily makes a story about five times more interesting, so kudos for that. Certainly he's also far more patient with details.
In a typical story, we're fed all the necessary backstory right from the first chapter. We are given a clear indication about the history of our protagonist, their current life, their personality, and what their immediate plans are.
An interesting difference in perception. As far as I see things, we have clear and fairly detailed indications of all those things. You've already remarked upon all the evidence, and I consider your conclusions unambiguously true. We don't know exactly how Colt plans to get himself into trouble, and there's a couple details about his past we might learn more about (eg. exactly what happened to his parents), but we know his history, his personality, and his plans.
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Mon Nov 16, 2020 7:42 pm

Hey Nuke!

——————————
NuclearStudent wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 7:27 pm
In a typical story, we're fed all the necessary backstory right from the first chapter. We are given a clear indication about the history of our protagonist, their current life, their personality, and what their immediate plans are.
An interesting difference in perception. As far as I see things, we have clear and fairly detailed indications of all those things. You've already remarked upon all the evidence, and I consider your conclusions unambiguously true. We don't know exactly how Colt plans to get himself into trouble, and there's a couple details about his past we might learn more about (eg. exactly what happened to his parents), but we know his history, his personality, and his plans.
Yeah, I probably should have been more clear. Allow me to try and clarify...

I was trying to make the point that while a traditional first chapter would present information in a more streamlined and linear fashion, BristerXD takes all of his mysteries and scatters the clues everywhere throughout his story. Sometimes the clues that I was looking for aren't revealed until the very end. Sometimes the clues that I was looking for were at the beginning of the story, and only make sense after reading ahead. Other times, the clues are right there, but BristerXD uses some writing tricks to make it seem less obvious.

The information that BristerXD presents is all the things that we normally would find out about a protagonist in the first chapter; it's how BristerXD presents the information that is more uncommon.

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Hopefully that clears things up. Take care!

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Mirage_GSM
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Mirage_GSM » Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:12 pm

Okay, I'm not going to argue your points, since it's as you said mostly a matter of opinion. Just some clarifications where I think you've misunderstood what I meant.
I think that these two lines make it quite clear that he's in some sort of vehicle. At the very least, that's how I interpreted those lines on my first read. I suppose that you're arguing that these two lines are too subtle...
Not quite. I took the second paragraph into account and assumed he was still in an aircraft. Also a vehicle, but still the wrong picture.
Colt has a very peculiar disease—he can't feel pain.
That is indeed something I missed. Seems Brister mentioned it in his introduction (which I only skimmed). The story itself so far does not contain enough evidence to support it, though.
In a typical story, we're fed all the necessary backstory right from the first chapter. We are given a clear indication about the history of our protagonist, their current life, their personality, and what their immediate plans are. This is what most KS stories do when an original character is the protagonist.
True, but not strictly necessary in my opinion. We have several stories here where one or more key parts of information are withheld for dramaturgical reasons, and I have no problems with that in general.
Here it felt as if we were deliberately fed fragments either for artistic reason or to mess with the readers.
It's why people like Shakespeare so much—his difficult-to-follow style of writing puts readers on the treadmill. It keeps the brain active.
Not really relevant to the topic, but I find Shakespeare not hard to follow at all... If you've read some of my own writings here, you know I really love Shakespeare. :-)
Both Mirage and Nuke mentioned that they found this first chapter quite a chore to read, but I'm the opposite: I tend to see the first chapters of typical stories to be a chore to read. I have a hard time getting into new books because I know that the first few chapters are usually going to be front-loaded with a bunch of exposition, and that's usually my least favorite stuff to read.
Both types of stories can be a chore to read. Front-loading a story with info can be just as bad. Optimally the information should be introduced organically as it comes up in the story, and if something doesn't come up it can be introduced later.
As an example in this story, when Tyler is mentioned it would be no problem to add half a sentence explaining this Tyler's relation to the protagonist or when the photo comes up to name the people in it.
I empathize with him, and that's enough to keep me engaged.
I have a general problem empathizing with self-destructive characters, but that's just me...
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Chatty Wheeler
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by Chatty Wheeler » Tue Nov 17, 2020 1:16 pm

Hey there, Mirage! Thanks for the response. I appreciate you clearing some things up and pointing out the flaws in my arguments. I'll try to make this shorter than my last post...

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Mirage_GSM wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:12 pm
I think that these two lines make it quite clear that he's in some sort of vehicle. At the very least, that's how I interpreted those lines on my first read. I suppose that you're arguing that these two lines are too subtle...
Not quite. I took the second paragraph into account and assumed he was still in an aircraft. Also a vehicle, but still the wrong picture.
Ah, I understand what you are saying now! Thanks for clearing that up.

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Mirage_GSM wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:12 pm
Colt has a very peculiar disease—he can't feel pain.
That is indeed something I missed. Seems Brister mentioned it in his introduction (which I only skimmed). The story itself so far does not contain enough evidence to support it, though.
I will give you this. Without reading the introduction post, I admit that I probably wouldn't have figured out his disability. I probably would have theorized that it was something with his knees as well. Point taken, here. :D

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Mirage_GSM wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:12 pm
It's why people like Shakespeare so much—his difficult-to-follow style of writing puts readers on the treadmill. It keeps the brain active.
Not really relevant to the topic, but I find Shakespeare not hard to follow at all... If you've read some of my own writings here, you know I really love Shakespeare. :-)
Ha! Maybe Shakespeare wasn't the best example that I could have chosen—he was just the first thing that sprung to mind when writing that bit.

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Mirage_GSM wrote:
Tue Nov 17, 2020 12:12 pm
Both Mirage and Nuke mentioned that they found this first chapter quite a chore to read, but I'm the opposite: I tend to see the first chapters of typical stories to be a chore to read. I have a hard time getting into new books because I know that the first few chapters are usually going to be front-loaded with a bunch of exposition, and that's usually my least favorite stuff to read.
Both types of stories can be a chore to read. Front-loading a story with info can be just as bad. Optimally the information should be introduced organically as it comes up in the story, and if something doesn't come up it can be introduced later.
As an example in this story, when Tyler is mentioned it would be no problem to add half a sentence explaining this Tyler's relation to the protagonist or when the photo comes up to name the people in it.
Understood. You pointed out a hole in my argument. It looks like I was assuming that it was a black and white situation—while you are thinking that the optimal way to write lies somewhere in the middle. That's probably a lot more accurate compared to what I was trying to argue. I guess then, our definition of "somewhere in the middle" differs somewhat, but that comes back to personal preference again. :)

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Thanks again! All the best to you.

Take care, everyone.

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BristerXD
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Re: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Pain (OC Story)

Post by BristerXD » Tue Nov 17, 2020 3:30 pm

Alright, enough time and discourse have passed to where I feel it is pretty imperative I finally step up to defend my own honor as a practitioner of the literary arts. While my disciple LooseLipsDiveDriver (ChattyWheeler) has been gracious enough to take up the crusade on my behalf but there's a reason the Pope gets to wear the funny hat. He has to say some shit from this balcony and occasionally relocate a handsy priest. Well, consider this my short walk to the railing. Mirage, Nuclear, this is my rebuttal. My letter to Warner Bros., my letter from Birmingham jail, my holy edict that I shall enact upon you both with force possible through only the power of God himself. Here I stand on a holy plinth ready to cast down lightning bolts of scathing rhetoric as if I were Zeus himself. In fact, it will only one mightily swing of my holy sword to slay you, heretical pundits. And that shall take the form of... Understandable, have a nice day.

*cough* *cough* I gotta stop huffing paint before writing these things.

Alright, self-indulgences aside, it's been a fun time reading the back forth everyone has been having because of my little story. Positive or negative it's still a wonder to me that anyone would spend any amount of time trying to dissect what I create. Any and all feedback is useful in one way or another so I have certainly taken takes from what everyone has said. But now I guess it's my turn to throw in my two cents. Now, the reason I waited a day to actually reply instead of just responding to Mirage off the bat which I easily could have is that I wanted to see if any other person would like to respond as the initial wave of comments were positive. But also I wanted to make sure I would approach everything I could with a very specific framework to avoid becoming that "Oh you just don't get it" asshole that I have suffered through before. I'm the author, what I should have to say should be on the page already. I'm a believer that the work should speak for itself most of the time. But this is a fanfic forum for a game about dating cripple girls. I think I can rest my lofty artist morals for the sake of discussion. So what I want to give her is what my thought process was in writing what I wrote in the way that it was written. My intent and what informed that decision. I don't want to go into the details of the story that would explain away any confusion you may have or would correct your assumptions, what you initially got out of the story is what you got. I can't change that so I won't bother to. I can only keep note of it. So, enough preamble out of the way, let's get to the actual responses. I'll be focusing on Mirage's and Nuclear's initial posts separately, starting with Mirage.

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Mirage-Scatter Plot Plotting: Big hello scary german wizard man who initially scarred younger me off from ever posting anything on this forum years ago. This has been a long time coming friend.
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
And I know all of this is probably intentional. When it comes to inconsequential details you can be descriptive - you just choose not to everytime it really matters and to tell the story in disjointed memory fragments that the readers have to piece together themselves....
This feels very much like the core of your critique so I'll focus on this aspect. And it's a good point, why did I write this vital intro chapter in a very nontraditional way? Initially, I wrote this chapter in a very traditional way. I had a long beginning paragraph that focused in on one specific detail of the car and I used that to expand the scope of who Colt was a person as well as going more in detail on exactly how got Colt to Japan. Not only that but structurally it used a very conventional flashback and then back to present style that would delineate memory from present action. So why the change?

One part practical, two parts artistic. The first is that this is the only story I have ever written in the present tense. My first draft with all the conventional shit, that was in the past tense. I grew up reading textbooks and history novels so that's how I normally wrote. Keeping that same structure while completely altering the tense usage was just impossible. I needed to fundamentally change the way I approached sentence structure and narrative flow. So, I did just that. By why would I want to tell this story in the present tense when I already had a working draft that was much shorter in the past tense?

Because, and this is that two parts artistic I mentioned before, I felt like the story needed that feel present tense gives to a story like this. Immediate intimacy with the main character. Looking back on the original draft, I realized that the main focus wasn't really the point to point events but Colt as a character. His thoughts, wants, and fear was what I wanted to focus on. It's what I needed to focus on. So, that's why I changed to present tense. And that thought in mind is what informed me on the decision to approach the first chapter the way I did. I realized that Colt as a character wouldn't be bothering to remember and parse down the exact timeline of events that brought him to Japan. At least I felt like I could describe that in a way that read like how any actual human being would think. I knew I had a good twist on the formula with Colt trying to leave the school but actually communicating that in a way that gave it the impact I felt like it deserved was another challenge. So, I made another creative choice and decided to lean into the whole foreigner in a new land feeling the story had about it. If I couldn't convincingly hook the reader with just the premise, the second best thing was to give them an interesting character with a secret. A mysterious past yet a clear plan that wasn't totally revealed until the end where I could clearly set up the stakes for the rest of the first act so to speak. I felt like the best way to do that was too piecemeal vital pieces of information hidden deep within the prose that could only give partial pictures of what they were apart of, even at the end of the chapter. That was something I felt like I could and wanted to write. And it was fun figuring out how to plant those little seeds in between all the lines I did write. I respect the reader enough to give them a challenge. The type of reader I want is an active one. So, that's why I made the chapter the way I did.

Does that mean I did it perfectly? Absolutely not. I don't think I even explain my reasoning as comprehensively as I would have liked. And I don't think this is simply a difference in taste, I feel there are certainly some ways I could figure out to more explicitly describe the backdrop of the story's events while still having that intriguing air of mystery around it. I'm finding those ways out as I write more and more in the present tense. But, to really do that, I would need to breakdown my draft again and basically start from the ground up. And that was something I simply wasn't willing to do. Maybe that's laziness but I'll give myself a break and say that the chapter as it is makes me happy. I'm still proud of the subtly I was able to weave into to, even if it went over the heads of some readers and just was a slog to others like you Mirage. I just have to take that as for what it is. I knew that coming in with the structure and just the general premise of my piece. With that said though...
Mirage_GSM wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 11:45 am
I can see your technical writing ability is real, the language use as well as SpaG are excellent.
This certainly makes that bitter pill go down a little easier. In fact a lot easier. I will take this any day of the week. It means a lot coming from you good sir. And I guess that's really all I could ask for. A civil disagreement about the end product of an artist piece while acknowledging that it took a lot of skill to get it to that endpoint. So, I bid you farewell Mirage. At least until the next chapter you may or may not read.

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Nuclear- Home to the free, land of the dumb:
NuclearStudent wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:18 pm
It's 6000+ words of, essentially, Amurica. Colt smokes cigarettes, shoots deer, has a loyal platonic life mentor and absent parents, goes on roadtrips and sleeps in vans, swears casually, busks with a guitar, has ex-military friends, etc. etc. etc.


HEY... I never said he shoots deer... that's later in the story XD. But I actually wanted to touch on this point as it allows me to talk more about my previous idea on leaning into what your strength with what you're writing. I've told Xeraeo plenty of times to do this very thing and this is where I get to put my money where my mouth is. And I knew I would have to with a story such as mine. American OC's stories are scorned on this forum and for very good reason. They are often lazy, self-interest pieces that read like creepy diaries. The prose is usually as basic as the author can get it and they often break the established canon more often than nervous bulgar breaks the seal of a new pack of gum while on trial. Why would I bother doing such an ill-advised thing and make it so god damn upfront about the whole thing? Well, because Colt's American.

No seriously, that's really it. Most back American OC's story really only serves the purpose of the author in wanting to explore the world of Katawa Shoujo in their won demented ways where they can basically play god. I didn't want to do that, my introduction post touches on this fact but I doubt anyone actually read that rambling piece of shit. So I'll spend some time her expanding that idea and giving a more detailed view on what motivates what I write.

So, I want to have Colt be an American. In my writer's mind, I need to break down what that exactly does to my story, what opportunities does it present for storytelling. And in my mind, that presents a great opportunity to explore the differences between American culture and Japanese culture. That to me boils down further to individuality vs conformity respectively. That's a ripe fruit writers have picked for centuries and centuries now, nothing new there. However, then I have to go back and see how I can tackle that idea in the context of Katawa Shoujo's setting. Exchange student obviously. Now this sin;t exactly from the ground up, I mention that Colt was previously a bad self insert for me in my younger years but you get the point of what I'm trying to say. I needed Colt to be able to communicate those ideas through his character.

So I changed him in several ways that made him quintessentially American in a way that wasn't exactly stereotypical. He's southern but not a cowboy. He's skeptical of new people but clearly not racist. He can be loud and brash but he isn't completely ignorant and rude. There are layers I tried to show but in essence, Colt can only be an American because he represents so much of the individuality that permeates American cultural values. A bad self-insert can really come from any country, it wouldn't matter in the end as that isn't what the story is about. A true character in my mind has to have every aspect of him or her matter to the actual content of the story. They are tools to explore the overall theme of the story. And I feel like I can say that and not exactly spoil anything as this is such a broad topic with so many possible nuances that it should be obvious what I'm going for while not really being all the obvious in the same breath. In other words, Colt's unabashedly American for the sake of the story.

with all that being said though...
NuclearStudent wrote:
Mon Nov 16, 2020 3:18 pm
However, my impression is that this is supposed to be Colt's character in its entirety. He is American. More American than the average real American, and by far. I don't think there is anything else we need to know to understand Brister's vision or what to expect from his characters
I take some issue with you saying that it's the entirety of Colt's character, that it's really all you need to know. That's almost like saying the American experience is the same no matter where that American is from which couldn't be further from the truth. And I'm not pointing this out as some offended American but because I spent so much figuring out those differences for the sake of defining Colt's character in a holistic way. There is more to him than just him being American, it's just that the aspects of his character are all informed with the guiding principle that he comes from a very specific, uniquely American backstory.

Maybe I'm getting too defense here for no real reason. It is still just the first chapter, the second on will have my none American OC's be introduced along with the furthering of who Colt actually is. Your initial impression of Colt is what it is. I just felt the probably irrational need to dispel the notion of Colt being just an American. This coming from the point of view of the writer who has spent much time and really his entire life both in and out of this story trying to figure what it exactly means to be American. Maybe that's why I'm touchy about this.

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All in all, I hope this all has been something of merit for anybody reading this. The next chapter is underway, I have it and the rest of the beginning chapter thoroughly planned out, it's just a matter of surviving my school's finals for the time being. Hope to meet you all with a fresh chapter soonish.

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