Through the Computer

Okay, in retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been answering questions on Yahoo! Answers instead of writing my short story, which just so happened to be due in two days and was worth way more to my English grade than I deemed acceptable. But it wasn’t exactly my fault that everyone was taking way too long to answer my simple question. I mean, how hard is it to read my plotline and tell me if it’s cliché or not?

Apparently, it’s very hard, because no one responded in the first five minutes. Eventually I got tired of refreshing the page and moved on to answering other people’s questions, just to pass the time. Unfortunately, the time passed by much too quickly, and five hours later I still hadn’t written any of my short story (though I had racked up about a hundred points from all of my awesome answers).

Anyway, I wasn’t exactly encouraged by the answers posted for my question. According to twelve different writers, my plot was cliché, my characters were cliché, and my writing needed a lot of improvement, most of which would come from “practicing” and “not posting my plots online.”

And that’s where the problem really started. My teacher explicitly told my class that the fiction story had two requirements: it couldn’t be cliché, and it had to be at least five thousand words. So after I read all of the kind answerers’ answers, I’ll admit, I got a tad paranoid. Some people gave me suggestions on how to fix my plot so it wasn’t so boring, but I was afraid to take their advice. What if that was cliché too and I didn’t know it? If I handed in something less than brilliant, I could kiss my B- in English class goodbye!

The clock was a blatant reminder of the minutes ticking away. Every second that went by meant that I was one second closer to my teacher’s deadline. She didn’t accept late work, and we’d had the assignment long enough that I couldn’t call in sick the day of and get off the hook. I had to get this written.

In a moment of despair, I logged onto MSN and prayed to God that my best friend Jeremy was online. He wasn’t a writer either, but he had to do the assignment too, and his ideas were always so outlandish that they couldn’t be considered cliché. I secretly hoped to mooch a plotline off of him.

He wasn’t online, the jerk, but the moment I signed in I got a friend’s request from someone named The_Guide_20. Now, I’m not as into stranger danger as I probably should be, judging by the number of internet frauds occurring daily. I accepted his request without hesitation and clicked on his name to start a conversation—anything to keep from looking at that ticking clock and remembering my impending assignment.

Skater-Dude-David (8:02 PM): what’s up?

The_Guide_20 (8:02 PM): A lot of things. To which are you referring?

Skater-Dude-David (8:03 PM): never mind

The_Guide_20 (8:03 PM): So, David, I see that you are having trouble writing a story.

I stared at my computer screen, chills making me shiver for a moment. Who was this guy, that he knew something like that? I glanced around my room tentatively, praying I wouldn’t see my next-door neighbors spying on me with a pair of binoculars. But my blinds were closed. The mystery thickened, and I typed slowly:

Skater-Dude-David (8:05 PM): who are you? how did you know that?

The_Guide_20 (8:05 PM): It is posted on Yahoo Answers, is it not?

Skater-Dude-David (8:05 PM): oh.

Skater-Dude-David (8:05 PM): right.

The_Guide_20 (8:06 PM): I can help you find a plot that isn’t… cliché. Are you willing to work with me?

I probably should have said no, but the temptation was too good to resist. I’d already proven to myself that alone I’d get nowhere, so if this guy was willing to help, I’d be an idiot to pass up the opportunity.

So I typed, “Sure,” and everything went to hell. Or some psychotic replication of it. One can only assume, since Hell is really a come-and-never-ever-leave type of place.

In a quick moment, my computer screen got so bright I was momentarily blinded. Then I felt myself getting pulled out of my chair by some unknown force, and the next thing I knew, I fell on the insanely hard ground.

But when I opened my eyes, I wasn’t on the floor in my room. No, now I was in some completely random field with cushy grass, colorful flowers, a bright blue sky dotted with puffy white clouds, and a freakishly normal-looking guy standing about ten feet away from me.
I jumped to my feet and put my fists up, ready to defend myself if he proved to be less-than-friendly. I may only be an orange belt in karate, but I could kick someone’s ass if prompted to do so. And right then, I’d been more than prompted (hey, I’d like to see you end up in some strange place with no recollection of how you got there and react better).

“Who are you?” I demanded, taking shaky breaths. I was just a bit freaked out by that point.

The guy stared at me for a moment, expressionless as he took in my rumpled collared shirt and jeans. Then he took two steps forward and held out his hand, “I am the Guide.”

I surveyed him warily. He looked like a regular teenager—a bit older than me, with a collared shirt and dark blue jeans and a haircut the girls at my school would have considered “hot.” He didn’t seem to hold any animosity towards me, but likewise he didn’t look happy to see me either. He just looked like someone determined to finish his mission.

It was somewhere around my inspection of his hair that I realized just what he’d called himself. I silently berated myself; this would teach me to heed my mom’s warnings about befriending anyone online. If this was the same guy who’d pretended to be sympathetic about my writing predicament just to bring me to some godforsaken field, I wasn’t going to be a happy Christmas tree (long story—don’t ask).

His hand was still held out, waiting for me to reciprocate the action. Reluctantly, I shook with him, deciding to execute my fling-the-enemy-over-your-shoulder-in-one-swift-move trick if he tried anything funny. But he did nothing but release my hand and take a step back to give me some room.

After a moment, it seemed apparent that he wasn’t going to talk unless I prompted him to it, so I slowly said, “I’m David.” My mom’s etiquette rules still applied, even in some random field talking to a random guy who may have just kidnapped me. I glanced around the field again, still amazed by the sheer perfection of it. “Where are we?”


Oh, great. Perfect. I’d been sucked into my computer and landed in some fantasy realm with a knockoff name of a C.S. Lewis book. I clenched my fists, losing patience, “And what, pray tell, is Novelarnia?”

The Guide looked amused, the first real emotion he’d shown since I’d arrived. He cleared his throat, “Novelarnia is a place for writers to visit. While here, you may meet interesting characters and participate in various plot lines that will provide you with inspiration for your own creations.”

Participate…? “So I’m here to be a character in a story?” I asked. It was ironic, really. I was on the hunt for non-cliché plots, so I’d been sucked into a writing world through my computer, met a mysterious and cryptic guy, and been informed that I would be a character in several undisclosed plot lines.

I failed to see how being in “Novelarnia” could benefit me at this particular time.

The Guide didn’t see my exasperation. He simply shook his head, “Oh no. Today, you’re here to ‘observe.’ You may ‘experience’ later, after you’ve been given the tour of Novelarnia. It is my promise that by the end of our journey, you will know exactly what is considered cliché and how to avoid it in your future work.”

I was having a flashback to Dante’s Inferno (come on, weird guy randomly shows up and offers to escort me through an unknown world? It was Hell all over again, except this time I wasn’t reading it in my sophomore English class) and missed his next statement. But when he started walking away from me, I gathered enough to know that we were apparently leaving. Though I wasn’t exactly ready to call this “Guide” my best friend, I figured that standing alone in a random field of some unknown world probably wasn’t the wisest choice, and the only one who could give me information was heading towards a large cluster of trees about a hundred feet away. I ran after him, catching up easily, “So, what exactly are we doing now?”

“I am going to show you the first of twenty plots. I believe this one falls in the genre of fantasy: the quest.”
♠ ♠ ♠
This is also posted on fictionpress . com, under the same profile name. There, I'm having a little contest, of sorts, where reviewers/commenters can post what they want to see happen based off of one of these basic plots (without the spaces in the URL):

http:// www . tennscreen . com / plots . htm

From there, pick a genre to go with the plot you've chosen and drop me a review letting me know. I might write it in the next chapter. :)

Either way, thanks for reading!