Obdormio.com Unwasted Hours

13 August, 2012

Fiction: Red Flag

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

“It’s red, captain!” Bill shouted. The blood red flag filled the whole view through the spyglass. He lowered the glass and squinted towards the approaching galleon, already too close for comfort.

The deck was silent. Everybody knew what the flag meant. No quarter given. None would be spared.

The captain scratched his bushy beard with his hook. Some crumbs fell out of it. The rest of the crew watched him, waiting. Bill knew they were all feeling the same thing. Excitement. Expectation. Nerves. All the standard pre-battle jitters. The other ship might have treasure.

“Do we have a red flag?” captain Davies finally asked. Bill could tell from his tone that he was uncertain. The approaching galleon was much larger and finer than their own ship, which was simply flying the old black flag Red Willy had painted a crude skull on.

“We’ve a dark pinkish one, cap’n!” Raving Trevor responded. He was rummaging through the small flag chest, and pulled out a flag of dark but decidedly pink colour.

The captain sighed and scratched his beard again. “Anyone remember what deep pink means?” he asked the assembled pirates. Bill ran through all the flags he knew in his head. Deep pink wasn’t a common one.

“Er, I think it means ‘We don’t quite know if we’ll bother with quarter, we’ll see when we get that far’,” he finally said.

“Nay, that won’t do, can’t look uncertain,” the captain said at once. “Have we any others?”

Raving Trevor rummaged through the chest again, while a sense of inferiority spread through the crew. Bill could see it in their faces, and knew it would be visible in his own as well. The other ship had better flags than they did. And it was bigger. And, he could see now, painted in a rather impressive shade of black. Bill looked down at the brown planks beneath their own railing, and wished they were a just slightly cooler kind of brown.

“We’ve a Union Jack, cap’n,” Trevor said. Bill could tell he didn’t have much faith in the suggestion.

“No, we’ll meet them as honest pirates, not under false colours,” the captain cried to general sounds of assent. He sighed.

“There’s a green one as well.”

“Green? What’s green?”

There was a pause as the pirates puzzled through this question. Bill was sure he did not know himself. After a few seconds, Blue Balthazar gave a small, embarrased cough; he rarely spoke in such public circumstances.

“It means ‘vegetables for sale’, captain.”

“Vegetables for sale?! Why the blazes do we even have that flag?”

“We got it off that potato transport we took a week ago.”

“Oh. Well, don’t hoist it!”

“Aye, cap’n.”

There was another pause. Bill looked over at the enemy ship, which was drawing ever nearer.

“Well,” the captain finally said, resigned, “We’ll leave the flag as it is. We’ve no room for prisoners, so try not to give quarter anyway.”

“Aye, captain!” fifteen voices replied. Bill looked over at the other ship again. The men crewing it were visible now, and the sunlight gleamed off polished steel. Bill looked on his own rusty blade in shame. It was unlikely to gleam in any light. Several of the others seemed to have reached the same conclusion; Blue Balthazar was trying in vain to polish away a particularly ugly spot of rust with his sleeve.

“Look on the bright side, lads,” the captain said, his voice full of forced cheer. “We’ll give the lot of ’em tetanus.”

There were new sounds of assent, but less eager now. Bill kept his eyes on the other ship, which would soon be in firing range. The cannons were already loaded, but he could see that the enemy’s cannons were bigger, and also polished to a shine.

Bill sighed. Even if they won this skirmish, the other ship had already taken the moral victory. He could see them fully know. He heard the captain moan behind him, and he could see why. There was no end to ignominy; even the kerchiefs of the enemy were cleaner and costlier than their own.

“All right, lads,” the captain said, with no real enthusiasm. “Fire.”

3 May, 2012

Writing on a Schedule

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Obdormio @ 00:00

All right, time for some rambling. The time is rapidly approaching midnight, and if I am to stick to my schedule I need something to go up, and I have no good ideas popping up.

The thing is, I do have a few ideas. I have a list of draft posts which consist mainly of a title and maybe a few words describing the core of the idea, but these are ideas I think are pretty good, and they require a certain amount of time and effort to do right. Lately, I have not found much of that time. My writing, as a result suffers, as I try to squeeze out something passable despite lack of inspiration and time to polish.

Now, forcing yourself to write regardless of quality has some merit. That’s part of the reason why I made this schedule in the first place. It’s also the core idea behind NaNoWriMo; quantity can in some cases be better than quality. If you don’t write some crap first, you won’t get to the good part later. I read a book on writing once that said the first million words you write are practice, and don’t count. Even if you publish books and win awards, put them away, and keep practising. I don’t recall who wrote that book, but presumably he’d written a fair bit himself, and the message seems sound. You have to write through the crap and the duds to get good enough to write the real things.

I’ve tried my hand at NaNoWriMo a couple of times. Once, I even made the target, 50 000 words written in November. The other time I petered out after 14 000, as I found myself without time – there’s that word again – to devote to the project. November just isn’t a very good month for that sort of undertaking, I think.

In neither project did I have a clear idea of what I wanted to write. I had some characters in mind, and a couple of settings that I still think are pretty neat, but no clue whatsoever on plot. Both of the texts ended up being mostly a series of events without much conflict attached – a very long introduction, essentially. The first go, the one where I actually finished, was a story about a young ghost. The idea was that ghosts and goblins and all manner of mythological creatures were actually related beings made of some dark energy, and they had set up a society of their own on the other side of reflections – not mirrors, mind you, reflections. The story was basically this young ghost, having been born in the real world, travelling there and settling in … and that’s that, the end. 50 000 words of exposition. Like I said, no good ideas for plot materialised. I might go back to it at some point, though, I think there’s something good to extract from it.

The other attempt was much less developed, but also a concept I’m more excited about and which I absolutely intend to return to. It was a fantasy about a group belonging to a monastic religion focused on fire worship establishing a small foothold in a Victorianesque industrial city on the far side of the world. Picture a Buddhist missionary monastery opening in 1850s London. Except they can control fire. Anyway, I didn’t really get far enough for much plot in that one either, but I’m real invested in the world building there.

Right, that’s stream of conciousness for you. Started with whining about blogging, ended up talking about writing fiction. The point of it all was the idea of forcing production, as I’ve done for this very post here. Actually, I think it ended up not being half bad. Made me want to star up the fiction writing again, too, though I doubt I’ll find the time before the holiday. Still, not bad, twenty minutes before the deadline.

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