Wednesday, 22 May 2013

My week in jail

As I lay on the bottom bunk of a six-person jail cell I surprisingly sleep peacefully. There is something strangely safe and secure about being a guest in an old prison. A building that was one constructed to keep people in has now been reconstructed to ensure they stay out. Upon entering the building on the main floor one would never realize they were in a building that was one a jail, the lobby is warm, filled with music, chatter, chairs, posters. It isn't until you check in and receive your passcode, turn around and see the big old wooden door leading into the hostel rooms with a passcode code lock that you really begin to think about where you are. Passing through the big heavy wooden door into the stairwell is when you really realize this building housed criminals. Dimly lit, no windows (at least none that were unbarred) and the metal staircases were connected between with a metal cage to catch any falling people, guards I would assume, but perhaps for prisoner safety as well (though considering the age of the building I very seriously doubt it). It was in this moment the first eerie feeling began to settled through my body. The stairwell was silent, too silent and the only sounds were my boots as they clanged against the metal as I made my climb to level 4.

Once exiting the stairwell through yet another heavy wooden door, this time with not even a hint of a window, simply labeled '4' I entered into the floor that would be my home for the next five days. Save for a bright light at the initial entrance of the floor, the corridor was lit only by the sunlight streaming through the still barred windows. The only signs of life being the green plants climbing their way on the side of the old stone and toward the windows.

Again, met with silence, the whole floor was silent, cold and damp. Each sound I made echoed through the corridor, yet the only sounds that followed were my own footsteps on the stone floor and the rolling of my bag behind me as I made my way to cell number 3. The door, was narrow, more so than I'd expected and the bars had been blacked out with a wooden plank to at least give those of us who were staying there the illusion of privacy. The only peek into the room itself was through the top and bottom of the cell door where the natural light could peek through the bars that had been left exposed. Pulling out my key to unlock the call door, I had a bit of difficulty with the lock and pulling it open. It is somewhat ironic that I had difficulty with the door as I had read a review of someone who'd stayed there previously and had a similar complaint but once I got the hang of it, the door was an easy fix.

As it was the middle of the afternoon, the cell was empty, though quite obvious that it had been well lived in. Blankets, beds, sheets, clothes were sprawled over the beds and my lone bunk 4-3 Bunk 1 was neat and tidy, the blanket folded and awaiting my arrival. Settling my things in I locked my bags in a locker and made my bed with the sheets I'd been given before I settled onto my bunk after struggling for a good five minutes to find a light switch (which was located in the middle of the cell at the back, difficult to find in the dark), I glanced around at the other four bunks and began to realise the room had been expanded. What was now a room that housed 6 people, had once been two separate cells, the wall had been torn down between them to offer more room. That's when it all started to churn. What small rooms, how many prisoners had stayed in each cell? Who were they? Was I sleeping in the same place as a murder? Was this death row? The Federal prison is from a time when Canada very much still held law for Capital Punishment, and the jail building even had a functioning gallows (One, thankfully I did not ever have to see). I'd heard the building was haunted, but of course, how could it not be? Not only the lives of the criminals who had been hanged for their crimes (all I could think of was vengeful ghosts are created from violent death), but the criminals who had been killed by other prisoners, the guilty and maybe even innocent parties that had died a natural death in the cold, damp stone rooms.

It was after all these thoughts began to run through my mind I knew I had to get out of the building. Sitting, alone, in the silence was getting to my head. A chill I didn't like had settled into my spine and the nerves were high. As if it weren't nerve wracking enough that it was my first solo trip, and stay anywhere, but once the idea of angry criminal ghosts got under my skin it was safe to say I needed some air, something I wasn't going to find in the enclosed cell. Deciding to explore I locked the cell door behind me and began to make my way around the floor. Found the necessities, the showers, the bathrooms, more lockers. After finding nothing of interest on my floor (it was, after all devoid of any other human beings) I exited back through the level 4 wooden door and down to the common area. The basement of the building was ironically brightly lit with rays from outside. I found through more cell bars a payphone (probably for your mandatory one phone call...just kidding) and the common area. A few chairs, some magazines, a couple old hardy boys books, a tv and some computers. 

Connected to the common area was the bar 'Mugshots' where they served us breakfast each morning and each night had a new event going on (That night happened to be Hip-Hop Karaoke blasting through the windows til about 2 am, though I admittedly appreciated the awesome attempted at Jackson 5). The eerie feeling that had been washing over me since I'd stepped through into the staircase was substantially less obvious downstairs, but the rooms were still empty which eventually threw me into a wander of the city. After an eventful evening, sneaking into a dark hostel room at 2 am was difficult, trying not to wake everyone up as you're pulling hard on a heavy iron door was interesting. Luckily it seemed everyone was too tired to notice save for a mumble of hello I got from my bunk mate. 

It was this, the first night I slept there that the uneasy feeling. The chill in the spine again, even with the hall lights flooding through the bars, and the hip hop music blasting from Mugshots (the on-site bar), did I feel the cold, damp chill settling over. Last one asleep that night and first one up in the morning I ate and bolted from the place relatively quickly for a day at the beach, though it seemed after the one night of eerie chills, upon re-entering the building each day and night a shred more of confidence came each time. Sleep came easy, hallways gave no chills my thoughts of prisoners did not cease but somehow, I began to feel secure and safe in its halls rather than afraid of what lurked in the shadows. Soon enough navigating in the dark was simple, I could walk into a darkened cell and feel perfectly content with what I was doing. Even noises didn't faze me, creaks, bangs just passed, not unnoticed, but rather without fear or hesitation. As roommates came and went I stayed the consistent prisoner in bunk 1, and though some were more chatty than others all were simple enough to get along with (especially considering most of them only lasted one day before they'd moved on).

Overall, it was a great experience, inspiring and it even ended with my prison tattoo. Kidding! Definitely got it some somewhere reputable, but each time I look at it I'll remember this trip and the tattoo itself has even served as inspiration for my writing. If there were any ghosts, they decided to leave me alone after my first night, or maybe they were hanging out on another floor. The building was cool, the experience unlike any other I've ever had and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who's willing to try. Peace Out Ottawa, I'm home now.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Another point of view.

This time I'm not talking about first vs third person, though I will admit I am still struggling with the idea of converting the entire manuscript back to third. I decided it could be fun, to write parts of the story from the point of view, not of the main character as it has been written but from one of the other leads, a male lead. Not an original idea mind you but part of the frustration of changing the story simply into the females point of view was the fact that I don't particularly get to explore his mentality or emotions aside from what she perceives from him.

What she see's is not exactly what's going on. As the writer, I know this, that he's far more complex intellectually and emotionally than what his reactions may dictate, that many of his negative outbursts are a cover up for other things going on in his mind and I want to express them, if I can't do it within the pages of the manuscript (since verbally stating his fears and emotions is just not very guy like, lets be honest now, especially not for the type of character he has turned out to be) It seemed the only way that I, and he is going to be able to express it is getting into his mind.

I may post shorts here excerpts from the story but only from Eamon's point of view (he is the character in question here) I'll write it as if I would any short story, or peek into the world of which I'm creating, or have created. What do we think? Are some things better left unexplored or to the readers imagination? I know there had been times where I've read a story in first person and often been frustrated by a counter character wondering what they were thinking.

I've lost when an author has released the alternative point of view of that character on a blog or website but that's a personal opinion, I'm not sure how everyone feels, if I should write them, for my own enjoyment and wait for the opportunity after I've released the full story. So much to consider. I know despite it all that I will be writing this, It's just a question of who, if anyone will get to see it. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

A Writing Kick

A pen and paper and suddenly it flows. Bit by bit I've been trying to connect the centre of my story to the end. Hurrah I did that finally but now there's a weird gap still in the centre from arriving in Boston to the huge event that is enough to shake the very group the the core enough for infighting and abandonment. But what... oh what could it be. Something supernatural of course, that's given. So it's back to the research drawing board, Boston myths and ghosts tales are my current starting point, but depending on my mood once I get down to this research I may just completely make something new up that has little to do with the city.

However, the reasoning behind choosing the city to represent in my writing is to pick symbolic and cultural histories about each location (aside from the hometowns which are entirely fictional places) So to completely throw the location out the window seems like a stupid idea, but if it's necessary will happen. It's also occured to me now that I may have too many things going on. I had always intended to write a second story but as I look at the content I have now, I realise part of it could be completely elaborated enough into a second story and the idea flowing around in my mind now would be sufficient as a third.

The problems and benefits of writing too much. I suppose it's better to have too much content than not enough that way after looking at it several times, re-writing, cutting, adding and subtracting scenes and phrases from the manuscript it will still be a decent story. On my break I managed out 3,000 words into the notebook and will finished transferring them to the document hopefully this evening. It's so frustrating that it's so close that the story being in its first stage of completion is so close, within my grasp and yet still evading me.

I've been called a nutcase and a wakadoo about my 'process' my 'method' of writing. Both in very loving ways I'm sure <3.  

Sunday, 5 May 2013

A surprise even to the writer!

You know you're a little on the artistic insanity side when you try to explain your excitement for this new idea you've had to completely tie everything together, the one thing that's been missing from it all and that idea happens to involve Irish Fairy Folk.

Yeah... my best friend and currently unofficial editor had a confused reaction but claims she trusts me to make sense. I'm not sure the trust is deserved but we shall see how that idea plays itself out, so far so good. I think the best moment of the feedback I've been getting came today when it seemed the most loveable character so far is one that only made the one appearance. Well, since he seems to be so likeable I've worked all day on adding him at least two or three more times.

This was the all to amusing comment that got my laughing but then also quite interested in the possibility of adding him in more.

There was a second comment further down that really solidified the decision because of all the characters that had passed through this one seemed to get the strongest reaction, or at least a reaction that had me reacting as well. We shall see how it works. The character was a secondary character who I had mentioned in passing. An adult. I have sort of picked two adults to be the main secondary focus of the story, the go to characters and now I've taken a second look at the personalities and had to rearrange everything and quite possibly have a new direction with one simple comment.

This is what I love about getting feedback because it truly gives you a moment to glance back into your own world and find something you never even knew was there. It's fantastic! It's a whole new adventure waiting. Just when I thought I'd almost finished I've expanded the possibilities.