I already know my protagonist is prone to drop his code-switching etiquette and slip into dialect when he’s flustered. That should probably also happen in his head - I’m presently writing a scene where, in response to being disrespected by a minor character, his narration drops into Trini vernacular English almost immediately.
You probably won’t find me back here any time soon. It’s been a hard couple of days to try to make dates, my dance card is full up to its neck in dust and other people’s talk and you serious? and we does only deal with folks who serious and lots of longing, too. I thought I saw you out of the corner of my eye walk down Ariapita Avenue late last evening but it was just some spry little girl in a green skirt on her way to whatever was hip and saccharine in the city on a Wednesday evening. What even would that be? I wanted to ask you, but I figured you’d be busy. I wanted to say how tired I am of the idea of work but I figured you’d be busy from taking that theory into practice, from planning, from showing me up with regard to the performance of adulthood - you’re a natural, doll, a real natural, I could learn a couple of things from you. I want to be wherever you are because you are always far away from whatever I have to do and dread doing. Do you see the hilarity of that? We’d never see each other again if that affect is true, I think. So I’ll go first. I’ll leave through the kitchen door with neither note nor nimble foot; I’ll give no past or prior warning, because I don’t think I’ve ever had a moment thinking you would if the time came, and the time can only come, that’s what time does, inch toward you, so I won’t wait for the time when you change your name to Busy and your age to Tired, when your watch runs dry for me. Maybe that’s what I’m supposed to learn from you? The thing that makes children into adults? The fear, like dust in the lungs, that one day no one will think you worthy of their eyes or ears? The fear that none of your cooing will make strangers swoon, that you are not baby-lovely any more? Loneliness? Is that what age gives me? That’s what time does, inch toward you. I’ll close the door on my way out, I promise you that. I don’t think I could trust you to do the same, so don’t complain.
I’ve been discussing for a while whether the way this story was shaping up left gaping holes with regard to how we should discuss race-related tragedy compared to how we do discuss it.
One of the symbols for the novel, in fact - the victim’s name, and names in general - is what I thought I’d use to unravel that point; by asking the protagonist to challenge the idea of the worth of calling the dead by their names, ask what names mean (i.e. why parents often name their children after great people of the past), and consciously discover the value of calling names instead of descriptors for humanity’s sake, I want him to grow into the way that identity is affected by race both before and beyond the grave.
But the victim’s name also affects the name of the activism around it. His name becomes the name of, and the banner above, the entire struggle for justice regarding racial violence in this space. And I wanted that to get thoughts flowing about whether other people’s names, identities, and stories can get eclipsed by the movement’s need to have a unifying banner in the first place.
In short, whether saying Justice For Trayvon is part of what puts justice for Renisha McBride on the back burner.
In the link above, Brittney Cooper does mention that part of what dwindles the coverage of violence against women of colour is the narrative of laying young black men low in the prime of their life, and that’s worth exploring - how the lenses through which we observe racial violence works against women of colour when their time for justice is due.
So the fact that this is an important train of thought is reinforcing the notion that this first draft is probably garbage, but I owe it to myself to get it done. It may not be the best story of its kind in the world, but I’m determined to tell it.
I’ve begun to hate the late-night creative epiphany.
Really, creative genius? I’ve been struggling to write a scene of my novel for upward of four hours, I couldn’t remember two of my poems during a performance meeting, and most of my poem drafts from the past three weeks have been tripe,
but at 1:03a.m. on a Thursday morning you decide to stir me just as I’m settling into my bed and infuckingsist that I write the first four stanzas of a draft right now?
Making a point about how men objectify women by stepping on trans women, insinuating that considering a trans woman attractive is a mistake of some sort, and joking that sexualizing a trans woman is some sort of punishment that men will one day face for objectifying cis women.
You know, instead of just telling some men straight-up dey on shit.
I’ve been hating you real easy lately; your voice still lingers in my dreams sometimes and I can see the indentations your shadow makes on mall food court chairs to make me sick. Every day is another random memento fit for the flames of Gehenna, and I don’t know if I revel or revere finding those cursed things yet. I grow fond of dancing to forget, and I found a whole new me you’ll never get to love or loathe or tear apart in my waist, I love that part most of all, that this is not something you have scarred or scared off. I hate the you that took the rest, and the you that pretends that they weren’t gone; I hate the you that drove fists in me and answered me in screams; I hate the you that put my passions in the sea and said saving them from drowning meant deserting you. I hate most of all the you that made me wait so long to see the me I could have loved all this time instead. I hate the you that wouldn’t leave my head. All the keys you bought to break into me are melted down into an effigy around my neck and I will wear that one til I fall down. I’ll dance on the loose pages of all the doubts I had to lay in bed beside, I’ll sing salacious strength in their ears til they scream to you that I’ve been cruel to them. I’ll love better than your fists can bruise, and I’ll make you watch. This is how badly I hate you. Maybe one day I won’t. I am really hoping one day I stop. But hating you has come far too simply as of late.
“So what do you enjoy, then? Since you be hatin’ on everything else, what do you watch? Nature documentaries? If you’re gonna be so critical of everything you watch, then you won’t enjoy nothin’.”
“Then I guess the folks behind the cameras will learn a lesson, right?” He moved like he was straightening up, but Derek actually seemed to be sinking further into his chair. “I got good books, I got the occasional indie movie, I got the Shadowgirl comics… hell, I can count at least a half dozen shows more diverse and more entertaining than Resemblance. And it’ll only go up if we send the big guys a message.”
“What’s that message? ‘We be trippin’?”
“The message is.” He didn’t sound like he paused or anything. It sounded like he stopped. And then he opened his mouth again. “'We refuse to be present at minstrel shows.'”—
So sometimes writing is a wrestle - I’ve been struggling with this one scene, nay, the whole novel, for a week and a half or more.
And then, some other times, writing is a revelation.
My name is Tinn Cherrip. I’m the twelve-year-old son of the only baker on my side of the Beiswall who is willing to drop his cakes through to Covetia. It pays well, I think; sometimes, Pa will give me a few extra coins and say, ‘be careful how you spend your new fortune, sesa’. I have some saved away. Some I spent on books, lots of books about all over the planet; I also bought a new talking-band, so I can chat with my friends and take pictures of my street; and a net-box for the news, or games, or to study. Lots of sweets, too - rum balls, sugar cakes, candied plums, that I’ve all eaten out by now. My sister Tala wishes she could make some money delivering cakes for Pa, but he won’t let her, because she’s nine, and clumsy, and once she ate a cake he made for our neighbours and she never admitted it. I think the people on the other side of the wall don’t like me. That’s what everyone on my street keeps saying - that they don’t like us because we’re Mirissi.
Before I put it off, and while it may do us all some good to be conscious of some human story that can come out of terrible tragedy, I am weighing the worth of a serial I may put out in a few days.
I strain for the right register to hum the song of the witch and I live beneath the hands of sculptors, the needle of designers, the lead of artists I is a weed look at all de t’ings I does drink one day I go get big like you just you wait and see.
Hanging out with thrillingbird yesterday and it dawns on me that community is not forced; movement is not something you have to teach nature, it is a thing nature is good at. This has been a month of Movement as Going With The Flow.
Iggy Azalea interlopes on this finely honed soundscape of Southern Blackness to tell us “how fancy” she is, and ask “how we love dat.” Her recklessness makes clear that that she does not understand the difference between code-switching and appropriation. She may get the science of it, but not the artistry. Appropriation is taking something that doesn’t belong to you and wasn’t made for you, that is not endemic to your experience, that is not necessary for your survival and using it to sound cool and make money. Code-switching is a tool for navigating a world hostile to Blackness and all things non-white. It allows one to move at will through all kinds of communities with as minimal damage as possible.
But it is also rooted in a love and respect for one’s culture and for the struggle. That kind of love and respect for sonic Southern Blackness made Zora Neale Hurston one of the greats. Hell, it made Mark Twain one of the greats. But Iggy is more like the Joel Chandler Harris of Hip Hop.
So I was watching this week’s Extra Credits video about indie games using interesting narrative mechanics as their hooks, especially games that use the anticipation of changing circumstances as their prime mechanic,
and in the video they mentioned Candy Box, so I decided I’d tinker with it