Waiting For Spring

  • Annie forced a long shuddering breath. Her hands were caked in dried blood and muck, the smell of burning flesh still plagued the inside of her nostrils. Her stomach was turning so badly she was afraid of what else might come out when she drew her next breath. And her ears were ringing still. Her ears were filled with the echoes of a dying agonizing man. And her eyes were shut tight, trying to erase the imagery. Just erase it all like it never happened. Snuff it out like a candle.

    “Open your eyes.”

    Annie tensed where she sat upon the frozen grass, feeling a hand on her shoulder and resisting the urge to push it away. She’d forgotten her mother was sitting right there with her. For a moment she’d forgotten everything outside the lingering traces of their dying patient.

    “Kiddo, open your eyes, look,” her mother repeated. The woman’s voice was soft, like warm water. It was something that Annie was still unable to understand about her; how she could be so many things at once. Just minutes ago she had been cold hard steel, commanding her healers to save a man who was; to all effects, better off dead. The moment they stepped outside the surgical tent, however, she became the very essence of tranquility. It was almost like the person she’d been just moments ago had also died inside those walls.

    Annie opened her eyes to look at her mother and caught the woman staring ahead, at where the gardens would be. The area was barren now, save from a few tufts of grey frozen grass. Her eyes were stern, same as they had been in the tent, but at the same time, she was smiling at the sunlit frozen grassland. “Look,” she repeated, “tell me what you see.”

    “Everything’s dead,” Annie answered with a shrug.

    “Looks that way, sure, but is it?” She questioned. “I know I taught you well enough. You know the Myths by now. So tell me, what gifts has Brother Time given us?”

    “The passing of time. The changes from night to day, the passing of seasons, so on...”

    “Very well, but... Have you ever stopped to consider what the passing of time actually is? What it represents to all living beings? It’s more than just our notion of time, of past and present, it also represents change, love. It means that everything in existence, everything alive at least, is constantly changing, constantly growing, evolving... and dying; in one sense or another.”

    Annie let her eyes follow her mother’s gaze. They both sat in silence for a long moment as the girl watched the barren fields and pondered the woman’s words. “He was never going to make it, was he?” she finally asked, keeping her eyes forward.

    “With burns like that? No. He wasn’t going to make it,” her mother confirmed. “And, cruel as it may seem now, that’s exactly why I wanted you there. If you’re going to choose to be a healer this won’t be the last life you feel slip through your fingers. This feeling you’re having won’t numb over time. Death will always feel this empty, it will always weigh this heavy, and there’s no escaping the toll it takes.”

    “And I thought you brought me here to cheer me up,” Annie mumbled, glancing at her mother with the corner of her eye and catching the hint of a smirk crossing the woman’s expression.

    “Look,” she repeated, nodding towards the fields.

    “The gardens, I see them.”

    “Do you? In less than two weeks it’ll be Spring again. In less than two weeks these fields will be green and filled with flowers. Dead soil can’t do that, kiddo. And the reason I brought you here is so you understand, and you always remember, that even on days like this, when you look at the world around you and see only death, there’s still life; there’s still beauty. It’s not gone, it’s just waiting for spring.”


    Eh, I... This is something I wrote today at random. It's based on this bit of dialogue from my current RP where Annie briefly talks about the first patient she ever saw die and how her mother told her to never forget there's always beauty in the world, even when you can't see it. I decided that it'd make a cool flashback, even if I never use it.

    And I don't know why I decided to share it. My brain just decides things. I've learned not to argue. It's best for everyone. :P

  • About how old was she when this happened? I really like the honesty her mother has, and how she is trying to let Annie understand that it's just the way things are. "Yeah, it sucks, but you can't let that weigh you down. You gotta stay positive. Things are just gonna go the way they're gonna go, and you gotta make the best of that."

    I think having scenes like this, even just to keep for yourself, are really good. It's like one of my novels, the first 50k words is alllll build up. I could remove 35k words and tell the same story. But having that detailed background allows you to see the depth and the development of the character in those moments that are critical to their development into whatever they are in the present. (Plus, it's a lot easier for a character to recall something when you, as the author, have something you've already written to pull from ;) )

    (I love how you can get inspiration from literally anything. Just minding your business, writing something for a RP post, and bam!, you have a short story in your head XD)

  • @typical_demigod

    Annie was seven when this happened. She was still an apprentice at this age, but still... She did start studying very young.

    And Lena; Annie's mother, is one of my favorite characters just because of how her kid turned out. Annie is a tiny eighteen-year-old pacifist, but she is hands down my toughest character. The kid is nearly unbreakable. And little moments like this are definitely the reason for that.

    For instance, I have this other flashback of Lena trying to teach Annie to use a sword and telling her how a blade is nothing to fear, that human nature is something to fear. And in the RP there are at least two instances of people holding Annie at knife point and her not giving a crap because she can tell they're not gonna go through with it, and she's not afraid.

    This is something like that. Right now she's in charge of her clan of healers and she has been since she was fifteen. People are dying left and right from this illness that she has no idea how it works or how to stop and she's very in control while people twice her age and experience have lost their cool months ago (and I don't blame them).

    What she does do is spend a lot of time in the gardens. >.>

  • Plotist Team: Timeline Master

    I really love your description here. "Waking" to the contrast between the frozen grass and her mother's warm voice. I know the scene is taken out of context but I would have liked even more here to help set the scene - they are in barren, sunlit grasslands, but are they in some kind of camp, are there lots of others around? The conversation is really lovely and intimate but it feels a little like they are talking in space - maybe something added here about the bite of the frost or something could help ground the scene a bit.

    Lena is fantastic, and to be honest I was surprised as I've spent so long lately reading the "absent" mother trope, or the "neglectful" mother trope. So to have a wise, supportive mother who is actually trying to gently teach her daughter a life lesson is a lovely healthy bit of character interaction.

  • @Sian Thanks for the feedback. I tend to struggle with how much description to give, I'm afraid to go on too much and break the mood I'm trying to set.

    Yeah, I built this to work as a flashback, so setting the scene would be part of the 'reality' portion of it (which I haven't written yet), since I plan to have Annie sitting in that same spot (only in Springtime) in the 'real world'. Maybe when I have the full scene later on, I'll repost it here. :)

    And you know, Lena is a bit of an absent mother in the sense that she shows up so little in the story and then she disappears for a couple of years (for reasons) then dies (spoiler), but the way Annie talks about and remembers her is a strong indicator that she was always present and that she did care a lot more than she let on.

    I always loved these sorts of characters where you have to pick up the pieces of their personalities from the people around them, it keeps them interesting for longer. ^^

  • @Blackbird said in Waiting For Spring:

    I tend to struggle with how much description to give, I'm afraid to go on too much and break the mood I'm trying to set.

    Thats's the hardest part for me, especially when I'm writing dialogue. This is especially true if I can see it being a lot of back and forth, or if they're not necessarily doing things with their environment but just sitting/standing and talking.

    And you know, Lena is a bit of an absent mother in the sense that she shows up so little in the story and then she disappears for a couple of years (for reasons) then dies (spoiler), but the way Annie talks about and remembers her is a strong indicator that she was always present and that she did care a lot more than she let on.

    That's really all you need to break the trope. Even if Lena's not always present, she wasn't totally absent from from Annie's life.

    @Sian I'm never sure when I'm going the wrong way by not really involving the parent, not because they just aren't relevant to the story but they still had a large part in their child's life, but because they're honestly a neglectful/absent/bad parent. (I say parent, because it's a trope that often runs both ways.)

  • Plotist Team: Timeline Master

    @typical_demigod I don't think not involving the parents is a bad thing at all, and many of my favourite characters in fiction had absent parents - but as you said, not necessarily in a negative way. I suppose when the "bad parent" plot point becomes a trope to me is when it becomes an excuse for bad behaviour or angst - and becomes the reason for the child of that parent to automatically deserve pity, rather than them taking control of their own lives? If that makes sense? I've just read/seen so many characters when the explanation for any negative character trait they have is the "absent bad parent", and everyone immediately accepts that and tolerates the resulting behaviour. Whereas I think a good character, even a villain, should be pushing past that and finding other reasons why they are the way they are.

    So I think even if you are writing in an "absent bad parent", as long as it is only one element of that character's life and not their entire driving point, it can still be something intesting to explore. But that's just me - maybe I'm reading too much of the same kind of fiction lately!

  • @typical_demigod There was this kid in my RP group that was really great at descriptions; which I don't think that I am, but at the same time she'd describe every little thing in a scene to the point where reading her replies became a bit of a chore. I always try to go a bit above my usual level of description and stop a few dozen notches before that kid's level.

    It's a hit and miss kind of thing for me.

  • @Sian said in Waiting For Spring:

    I suppose when the "bad parent" plot point becomes a trope to me is when it becomes an excuse for bad behaviour or angst - and becomes the reason for the child of that parent to automatically deserve pity .... I've just read/seen so many characters when the explanation for any negative character trait they have is the "absent bad parent", and everyone immediately accepts that and tolerates the resulting behaviour.

    This is definitely an issue/trope. I've noticed that it doesn't even have to be the absent parent (though it's usually a part of the concoction/the root of everything else) to make an excuse. It could just be that the character has a particularly tragic past, and that's why you're never allowed to question or critique them. Anyway, yeah, I agree completely with you.

    @Blackbird Descriptions are soooo hard to balance though.

    I had someone recommend (which I've never done, because I keep forgetting, but) that you take a six-sided die, and assign 1-5 with a sense. Then you roll it three times and take the three senses you get and describe the scene using those. What the six means is up to you. Maybe it's just a re-roll, or maybe it's a 'something bad is going to happen' gut feeling in the MC. Eventually I'm going to remember to try it, but thought I'd leave it here ;)

  • Plotist Team: Keepers of Code

    First of all, it's a really good story, @Blackbird! After hearing about the world you are writing in and reading this, I'm getting more and more excited about someday reading your books!

    As @Sian said, there is some context lacking, but I don't think it's that important here. I can tell this is a piece of something bigger and you probably fill the details before or after this text appears.

    About tropes, the funny thing about them is that in the end everything is a trope. If you go to www.tvtropes.com (excellent resource, if you don't know the site), you'll see that every trope (or almost every trope) has a counter trope like "annoying little sibling" has a "annoying older sibling" counter. With the "absent parent", you could also justify that the character became 'bad' because his/her parents were too perfect and he/she needed some room to explore and go wild. Or the other way around, the "absent parent" forced the character to become a force for good and/or an amazing parent him/herself.

    Tropes are not something to avoid, I think. Independently of what you do, you will always run into some trope or another. And they are there for a reason, not only they give familiar structure to readers/viewers but they are also grounded in some reality. So for me the key is how you use the trope or how you break it.

    An example from a show I've been watching recently, "Fresh Meat". The writers for the show are amazing using, abusing and destroying tropes. In one of the scenes, someone has to convince an "authority figure" of doing them a favour, so after inviting the authority figure to a party and trying to be nice, the character asks for the favour and the authority figure says no because they are too immature (this is already a trope). The character then starts a speech saying that she is indeed immature, but because she is just beginning uni and that she is still learning and that she's young, and this is a big trope where someone gives a highly motivated speech and the other person just changes their mind. But in this case, although the authority figure changes their mind, she says something like "I didn't understand a single word that you said, I think you are drunk and not making any sense, but ok, I'll give you another chance". If you watch the series carefully, you will see many examples of breaking tropes.

    And sorry about the long paragraph, but I've been watching the show and thinking about tropes for so long that now that I have the chance to talk about I just had to dump all of it :P

  • @jaycano Thank you. :)

    And I love TV Tropes. I wasted so many afternoons browsing that site.

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    I have the massive desire to stand up and applaud. And then drag you to a chair with a computer and force you to do more.

    And while you may have just tossed this together to help flesh out a character, and may never actually use it in a book, or story, you've added great weight to Annie's past. i am of course full of questions. Who was the guy? Why was he burned? Why does she want to be a healer? What exactly is a healer? Is her mom still around? If not, did the death of her mother remind her of this moment? Has she succeeded in finding coping methods? Does she really feel like death is an empty feeling, or more an expansion of awareness that is waiting to be filled with something new? >.>

    See, you do that. You created a scene I could totally understand, relate to, and I am not a doctor. I'm super excited and of course will beg to see more, so I can ask you even more questions. >.>

  • @Josey I'm glad you like it. And honestly, some days I could really use someone forcing me to sit in my chair and be productive. Especially this time of year. It's getting really unbearably hot in Brazil right now. It kills me. -.-

    The guy was just some random thief who opened a safe rigged with explosives and corrosive chemicals. He didn't stand much of a chance from the get-go.

    In Valcrest there are field medics; soldiers that are trained in the treatment of wounds and injuries, there are your run-of-the-mill doctors, and then there are the White Shadows; who are what we call healers. The White Shadows are a pacifist clan dedicated to the study and application of medicine as well as the study of magic. The main difference between a regular doctor and a healer is that the White Shadows can treat both physical and magical ailments. Since magic in Valcrest comes with side effects, a healer is capable of assisting someone born with it to manage those side-effects and keep their magic controlled so that they don't overuse it and cause themselves harm. It's a common practice for young magic users to be left under their care if their gifts are particularly hard to manage; some of them end up becoming healers themselves.

    Annie was born and raised in the clan and when she was young she discovered she had the ability to magically heal wounds. Despite all of this, Lena always made it very clear to Annie that being a White Shadow was something she needed to choose and not something she was born into. She does love studying and helping people so, it was a no-brainer for her after all. ^^

    And Lena has died at the start of the current RP. In the story, it's been a couple of months. It was the first of many losses Annie's been trying not to stop and think about right now since she needs to keep her focus in trying to fight the spread of the illness afflicting all magic users. This flashback is going to be used... After a few more losses coming up. >.>

    Geeez, you really shouldn't get me rambling about my characters. Walls of text happen when I do. :P

  • Plotist Team: Community Storyteller

    @Blackbird Mmm, good stuff. And I will not apologise for asking tons of questions. ;) I've been called a muse for a reason. You may not have meant to sit down and create a wall of text, but look at you! You did it! :D Also... This is fascinating to me. Concept wise. Muahaha. I now have questions about feedback healing loops, and other random things, but I'l hold off for the moment. ;)

  • @Josey Okay, you can't do that. Now I want to know what those questions are. o.o

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