writing possibly the last version of my story I tried to focus on two areas
that were brought up in the second workshop; providing an epiphany and
anchoring the story around the main character through point of view and
zooming. In fact, in the end these two areas went hand in hand and helped to
resolve each other. I will start by explaining changes to point of view and
When I look
back on my first draft I can see what a disaster it was in terms of point of
view. I kept changing from first to third person and back to create distance
rather than using the main character's observations and leaving the reader to
infer the meaning of those observations. The most difficult part for me to
change was the shift from the perception of the virtual world to the reality of
the teenager's bedroom. In the first draft I used omnipresence and in the
second draft I used another character (the mother). However, in this way I
created more gaps for the reader to fill and perhaps ended up telling rather
than showing. In the bedroom scene in the third draft I tried to use the
teenager's shadow to zoom out from his perception to the reality and linked
each observation to the next until I reached the top of the wardrobe and the
photo that looked back at the teenager from a distance.
In order to
develop an epiphany for the main character I needed to make it clear that he
had understood the reality of his father's death. This had not been achieved in
the first or second draft due to the switch in character from protagonist to
drone pilot and rather weak link in the words 'three years ago'. I had to find
a way to tell the story of the pilot without going into her mind. Again, I
tried to use the visual aspects of the drone, as seen by the main character, to
provide information about the pilot and invoke an epiphany.
needed to change the ending slightly from fighting in a war to drug dealing to
link the ideas and context together and create a more feasible form of
changelessness for the protagonist. I tried to incorporate suggestions to
use the word 'click' to create a theme through the story. In fact, I changed
the title, had the main character turn his mum off with a 'click' and finished
the story with a 'click' of acceptance.
I can definitely
see how peer suggestions/corrections from the workshops have helped me develop
as a creative writer. And there's still a long way to go... It isn't always
easy to come back to your story and rewrite it though. Sadly, very often with
my students there is just one draft that gets corrected by me and never seen
again. I have experimented with peer corrections/suggestions but never asked my
students to rewrite their text.
thing I found difficult was constructively criticising other people's stories.
I'm not sure if this is because I consider myself very much a layperson in this
department and didn't know what to say or because I didn't want to offend
anyone. That said, my peers also seemed hesitant to express their opinions on each
other's stories, perhaps this was due to similar feelings. We might have also had difficulty
in feedback due to the synchronous CMC environment in which the workshops took
place (adobe connect). issues such as not being able to read facial expressions
and delayed audio for turn-taking might have made it more difficult to make a
personal connection and develop trust. We had the opportunity to give asynchronous
CMC feedback in the blogs but I personally felt a little bit restricted by the
public nature of the blogs. One way to get around this might be to use a
private space specifically for asynchronous feedback which could be referred to
in the workshop.
Back to my
F2F context, I think it might be useful for students to have specific areas to
concentrate on and perhaps a set number of good and bad points to mention. It would
also be a good idea to divide my classes up into smaller groups of three or
four to avoid excessive reading loads.
sure if I will continue to write stories but I will definitely continue to blog
and encourage my students to do the same. I have found engaging in a kind of
'self talk' through blogs to be very useful for reflecting on my learning,
whether it be for creative writing or some other endeavour. I might find more
enthusiasm for creative writing if I explore the idea of multimedia or trans-media
story telling, especially in the form of a choose
your own adventure or computer game. I think there is a huge difference
between creating a story with images or video and one with text alone. In fact,
what was interesting about the workshops was the fact that each reader
interpreted the story in different ways. It seems that if you really want to
communicate a specific idea you need to be very skilful with your words so that
the readers are led to perceive the gaps in the way you intended. On the one
hand, the use of images can act as a crutch for less confident writers but on
the other it might offer less opportunities for linguistic development in L2.
Looking back at my three drafts, I think I definitely used the technology as a
crutch to begin with, took it away in the second draft and then reintroduced
minimal use of images in the third draft. This might also work with my classes
as a way of using digital technologies to overcome writer's block or blank page
Bleep! Excellent! You have completed a new record! Only two
drop-offs to level 8!
Oonse oonse oonse oonse oonse!
With the sweet tunes in your head, it was such a buzz to
race full throttle down the narrow streets, up the infinite winding staircases
and through the lavishly decorated courtyards. But it had been a busy morning
trying to get through the fifty odd door to door emergency electronic cigarette
capsule deliveries. As Bruno whizzed through the city, black lava stone walls
covered in restless images stretched and blurred into spaghetti-shaped beams of
light. There was no time to stop and look though, the orders had to be
completed before dusk if there was going to be any hope of a moving up to the
next level. Half the time it didn't even feel like a job, the competition gave
the day urgency and purpose, unlike school.
In fact, leaving school had been a good move in the end,
although it hadn't exactly been a conscious choice, it just kind of happened.
Bruno's mum knew she couldn't make a fuss now, and besides, she couldn't really
afford to pay the fees anymore. After his dad had suddenly passed away three
years ago, a lot of things had changed, maybe it would have been different if
his mum had taken dad back rather than finding yet another lover.
In those last few months his dad had seemed so lost, so on
edge all the time, especially after losing his job. If only his father had come
home rather than moving back in with grandma.
There they were again, those
glossy emerald eyes framed by that lifeless marble mask. The rest of the world
disappearing as dad's lifeless body lay rigid across the bed... No one had ever
'Come on focus, that was the past... just a couple more
Anyway, since then school, friends, and life hadn't made
much sense. His mum had got married again, obviously, and there was a new baby
too. And there was Bruno, with his pale elongated face and Elvis style quiff,
the embarrassing leftovers from a failed marriage, out of sight, out of mind.
But he didn't care, life was getting better now, he'd been lucky to get a kind
of job, and even earn enough credits to buy his own augmented apartment, car
and all the Obey baseball caps he could dream of, not bad for a
sixteen-year-old. He'd also made friends from all over the world,
most of them were older than him, but they were far better than the idiots at
school. Tonight was the end of the month too! He'd beaten all the
records... if he was in luck, he might finally get picked out by his employer,
'That's it, no need to look back, no need to look back, no
He recognised the voice but it took him a while to realise
where it was coming from. When he did he decided not to answer and turned the
music up instead, he couldn't stop now, he had almost finished. In his head
he imagined her standing at the doorway to his bedroom with her incapacitating
high-heels, impractical long nails and jet black hair, pretending that she still
cared. Mum wouldn't hang around for long, she never did. Just to check, Bruno clicked
on the triangle icon and brought up the audiovisual feed from his bedroom camera,
but then quickly turned it off. It was getting hard to concentrate after ten
hours of non-stop deliveries and Bruno couldn't deal with any more distractions.
With a 'click' she was gone again.
However, he couldn't put off the draining sensation coming from
his strangled stomach, he needed to eat something soon. Speeding down the
never-ending via Roma, the main high street, Bruno took the chance to take one
hand off the controls for a second without veering off into one of the
abandoned boutique shop windows. He made the order by tapping on his usual,
hotdog and chips pizza bookmark from the favourites menu on his wrist
interface, he didn't even need to look anymore.
'Should be able to get this last drop-off done before it
He'd been trying to ignore the shivers that ran from the
side of his face and trickled down the back of his neck. This and the dull ache
creeping in behind his retinas was normal around this time of day, there was no
time to blink. It didn't bother him that much, just needed a couple of pain
killers after his meal to set things straight. Up popped the image of a smiling
pizza on the GPS display, it would be about another ten minutes, just enough
time. After he'd dropped the last capsule into the post tube of number 46, he
parked up at the closest charging station and pressed pause. He dropped the
sticky controller on to the bed and took a deep breath.
Bruno reluctantly removed the VR helmet with two quivering
limbs and slowly swivelled round to immerse his filthy stinking toe-nails into
the sea of sweat drenched clothes and plastic.
"Mum!' he croaked without expecting an answer as he
rose to his feet.
The movement and newly disturbed stench caused him to retch
and belch but there was nothing to bring up. Through the slits in the now
permanently closed shutter, beams of dust filled light invaded his bedroom and projected
his lanky teenage shadow across the landscape in front of him. Bruno stood
there for a moment and listened to the muffled beats emanating from the discarded
headset on his bed. The electronic pulses seemed to mix and blend with the
whirring and buzzing noises beyond the potholed shutter. Just beyond his spindly
shadow, untouched school books and stationary sat accusingly on his desk, each
item framed by the cascading array of cables from his disused fifty-two-inch TV
and accompanying games consoles. Clinging to the cables, a soup of last years
Nike and Adidas trainers, dated Obey caps, childish T-shirts, Lego bricks and
pizza boxes did their best to hide all evidence of the floor space between the
bed, desk and wardrobe. As Bruno's eyes slowly crawled up his wardrobe, the dust
veiled reflection of his father stared down in disappointment. He let out a
faint raspy exhalation as his eyes dropped and he prepared himself for the long
journey ahead. A squinted glance at the e-tattoo on his left wrist indicated that the pizza would be
here soon, after which he could take another pill and get back to to his
virtually augmented reality life.
When he opened the bedroom door, he was greeted by the
glaring alien environment of his mother's new family. The smell of nappies,
baby wipes and cleaning detergent flooded his nostrils and chiseled though his
sinuses. He tried not to look at the nauseating cream-coloured curtains or the
leopard skin sofa and instead focused on the front door. The headache was getting
bad now, every drag of his feet seemed to cause his brain to shake and rattle
in his skull. Suddenly, a shrilling high-pitched drill sound penetrated the empty
corridor and his throbbing head. The pizza had arrived.
'Nearly there', he murmured, 'nearly there...'
Bruno twisted the handle with both hands, then with all his
weight tugged the front door inwards. As usual he was greeted by the sights and
sounds of a pizza carrying drone held in the air by it's four whirring propellers.
He gazed into the two glossy lenses and wondered who it was this time, maybe it
was one of his friends. Another teenager like him, remotely connected to their
flying avatar through a virtual reality headset. This drone was in bad shape
though, it looked as if it had been through several modifications and upgrades
for various purposes, not all of them legal. Bruno had heard about drones being
used by the Camorra to deliver or even administer drugs but had never come face
to face with the hypodermic needle modifications that were clearly visible on
the model before him. All of a sudden, the two staring lifeless lenses let
loose a suppressed image of his father from his sub-conscious. He had been too naive to recognise the bruised markings on his father's forearm for what they really
were at the time. Now it was suddenly clear. But why hadn't they told him? Why
had they left him second guessing all these years?
'Enjoy your meal!' gargled the drone
Bruno was jerked back into reality and the two lenses came
into focus again, but this time he saw his own undernourished spotty reflection staring back at him.The pizza was lowered into Bruno's arms
and the drone whizzed off down the staircase.
'Thank you' whispered Bruno to the empty staircase.
Exhausted by his thoughts Bruno stood and stared out through
the stairway window. Piles of black bags, glistened in shimmering orange as the
setting sunlight squeezed through the smoggy air. Hovering above, drones of all
shapes and sizes danced and hummed with the swarms of flies and mosquitos.
There below amongst the waste a gipsy family scavenged through the bags for
something to eat. What was he doing? He'd given up school, friends and everything
else for what was essentially, a game. How long could he go on like this? But, what else could he do now?
Just then Bruno's wrist interface lit up, each alarming flash
accompanied by an urgent bleeping sound. Bruno couldn't stop the mix of
adrenaline and glucose releasing itself from the device in his arm to his
bloodstream. With half a slice of pizza in his mouth he slammed the door behind
him and clumsily shuffled back down the corridor. As he reached his room half
the pizza had been gobbled down but there wasn't time to eat the rest. He flung
the box into a pile of cuddly toys in the corner and half jumped, half fell
back onto the bed and frantically pulled the VR headset on. His vision was
instantly filled with 360 degrees of startling high definition colour and
'Ah! that's better'
There was the real Bruno again, reflected in the augmented
wardrobe mirror, or at least his virtual avatar was, proudly standing there
with his tanned muscular physique, heroes jaw bone structure and red spiky
hair. As he chewed the remaining salty hotdog morsel, he selected a cap and
watched his avatar's unmoving but reassuring grin. The bleeping signal had now
transferred itself to the wall display in the lounge so he hovered over as
quickly as he could to download the message. Outside the virtual apartment window,
beyond the virtual swimming pool, the pristine augmented environment video feed
filled him with pride for his beautiful city once more. This was his reality
not that disgusting tramp infested dump he'd left behind. The real world was
just a wind up for most of us, it didn't matter how hard you tried, only the
privileged princes and princesses had a chance. Here he could be anything and
anyone. Anyway, there was no going back now even if he wanted to.
When Bruno got to the virtual display, in his virtual
lounge, the avatar sank himself into his black virtual sofa and hit download. Adrenaline
fuelled sweat gathered in Bruno's tightly gripped fists and his mouth went dry
as he waited impatiently for the loading bar to make its frustratingly slow
progress from left to right.
...Finally, the message on the virtual wall screen zoomed
are probably aware, recent changes to the buying and selling of narcotics have
been adopted by the global union to pull the carpet from under the organised
crime networks plaguing our societies. Amazon is therefore expanding its human
piloted delivery services to other sectors in your region. This means higher
earnings for people like you!
careful consideration of your now level 8 GPS track record we are pleased to
inform you that you have been selected for a drone piloting job in a variety of
suburban council estates and surrounding villages. You will also be given the
opportunity to develop and transfer your already efficient and accurate
deployment skills through the delivery and administration of a variety of
exciting mood enhancing products.
accordance with current employment laws for your age group, you will receive an
extremely competitive virtual compensation of 1,000,000 credits per month. This
can obviously be used on all of our virtual and augmented reality products and
even on a limited selection of food and drink items delivered free of charge to
your door as in your current contract. If you should choose to accept, please
click 'proceed' at the bottom of the screen to upload your
be aware however that current e-cigarette positions will be merged with level 8
jobs and therefore cease to exist as of next month.
you for your time and we look forward to your decision.