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The Pariah of Levon, 1

by passenger


Devin Straam

Tuesday, January 17th

15 minute Free-Write (morning)

Daily journal prompt: WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU?

When Mrs. Kalick does roll call, she pronounces my name like ‘tram’, except with an S in front. I’m here to inform everybody reading that this is not correct. Nor is the double A in my surname pronounced like that in ‘aardvark’ (I researched aardvarks on Wikipedia, and according to the least reliable site on the internet—besides YahooAnswers—they can live for up to 23 years in captivity. 23. That’s longer than I’d last in captivity, I guarantee you).

Contrary to Mr. Jay’s pronunciation, you don’t say the As like the ones in Aaron, either. According to Wikipedia, Aaron was Moses’s brother in the Bible. Moses had a speech impediment, so Aaron was assigned as his prophet. A prophet’s kind of like a spokesman. I couldn’t believe it when I read that. Being Moses’s brother must have been some big shoes to fill, especially since Moses kind of got all the credit for leading his people out of bondage. Aaron got the short end of the stick. He died in the desert on the way to the Promised Land.

I feel bad for Aaron. He’s like me in a lot of ways. Not that I plan on dying before I get to the Promised Land, but Aaron’s quiet coming and going is relatable. In a way, we both resemble shadows.

The story about Aaron brings me back to captivity. I think it would be kind of neat to get kidnapped. It would be like a game of Escape, except in real life. If you haven’t played Escape, it’s where you search for clues and solve puzzles to get out of one virtual room and into the next. I’ve never beaten the game, nor do I know if it can be beaten. Of course, in an authentic hostage situation, the kidnappers themselves would be challenging obstacles. I haven’t yet figured that part out.

I’ve been contemplating words associated with kidnapping. After dissecting my mental flow diagram, I researched ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ on the Internet. It’s basically equivalent to an abusive relationship. The captor ties up and likely harms the captive, and then the captive starts to develop sentiment or--in some cases--romantic feelings for their captor.

Personally, I think I’d develop some kind of policy against dating my kidnapper.

The As in my name are actually pronounced like ‘Salaam’, which is Arabic for ‘peace’. I learned that from Ender’s Game, not Wikipedia. The only person who can nail my name is you, Ms. Richmond. And Cassius Pink, but that’s only because he has similar name trouble.

I made an account on Ancestry.com to see if anybody else had the name ‘Straam’. I figured it was common in some country. The only person I could find was someone named Morris, who was born in Russia in the nineteenth century. That was news to me, because I could have sworn I was part Chinese.

It’s probably easy to have a name like ‘Kalick’ or ‘Jay’ because they sound themselves out. But when you have a name like ‘Straam’, people get their tongues tied. All they have to do is ask how to say it. But instead they pretend they're content with struggling, as if trial through error is better etiquette. I blame human tendency. It seems like we always take the hardest route, like we’re trying to prove ourselves or something.

Devin Straam

Tuesday, January 17th

15 minute Free-Write (afternoon)

Daily journal prompt: WHAT’S THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT YOU?

I was thinking about what I read on Wikipedia earlier, and after a bit more research about the Old Testament, I’ve decided I’m more like Ishmael. Ishmael was the son of Abraham. He was exiled after the birth of his brother, Isaac, because Isaac’s mother Sarah (who was a different woman than the Egyptian who’d borne Ishmael) bid Abraham to send him away. For some reason, Abraham agreed. I think it’s because God told him that Ishmael would be okay. I still can’t quite figure that part out. Online, I found this quote from Genesis 16:12 about Ishmael: “And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

Aaron had big shoes to fill, but he died doing something he believed in. Ishmael was an outcast. A pariah. Not even a shadow. He was left for dead and prophesied to become a wild animal. Aaron had huge expectations to amount to, but nobody really expected anything from Ishmael. After Isaac was born, and was declared the forebear of the Israelites, no one cared about Ishmael anymore. After he was cast out, Ishmael was dead to them.

Sometimes I feel like I’m dead to the world.

I still have ten minutes remaining, Ms. Richmond, but I think I’ll be done now.


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Sat Feb 11, 2017 6:39 am
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TriSARAHtops wrote a review...



Hi again!

I don't have all that much to say about this chapter that isn't just "good job", so this won't be the longest review ever.

First of all, I somehow managed to make the mistake that Straam was the first name of some other character that we were yet to meet in the rest of the story, rather than being Devin's surname. Oops. Part of this happened because I'm a bit thick, and somehow managed to miss the fact that Devin's name is right there in bold, but I think because there's so much focus on the pronunciation of Straam, I just went and assumed that it was the narrator's first name. I remember rambling in a bit about the tie between this chapter and the rest in my review of chapter three, so you can pretty much disregard that part of the review.

Having read the third chapter and knowing what's going to happen to Devin in the not too distant future, I thought that the foreshadowing in this chapter was maybe a little too heavy-handed. Devin writes about being kidnapped and then BAM she get's kidnapped! A little foreshadowing is good, great even, but ideally it should be a little bit subtler. Stick with the ideas that devin ponders, but maybe skirt around explicitly referring to kidnapping.

Other than that, this was a delightful first chapter. The narrative voice was so strong and distinctive, with a good sense of Devin's character being established right from the get go. It was engaging and an absolute pleasure to read. Would a whole story told in this manner work? Possibly, possibly not. But as a hook, it's very effective. The characterisation here is spot on, so I'm optimistic you'll be able to build on the characterisation in the following chapters.

I like all the references you have going on here. They set the tone well, and I like the mix between modern (Wikipedia) and the Biblical. I'm sure someone could say something deep about that and analyse it, but the best I can come up with is to say I like it. And that it ties in well with creating a sense of character.

Top job! I'll see you at chapter two!




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Sat Feb 04, 2017 1:11 pm
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seeminglymeaningless wrote a review...



Heya :)

I enjoyed reading this. I actually started on Part 2, but liked it enough to come back to Part 1 and read Part 3 as well. Trust me, that doesn't happen often. When I first read this, I thought it was quite clever. It revealed a bright teenager with a rambling, yet connected mind. Like a teenager, she refers to people she knows and those who influence her. She even briefly mentions people she pretends not to care about, but cares about anyway (Cassius?).

A few issues I had:

+ The diary format threw me in a loop. Only because I'm used to skipping headings and chapter titles. They generally mean nothing to me.

+ Once I realised it was in diary format, I checked the dates. I know it's possible to have two periods of the same class in the day, but to me it seems like lazy teaching to dedicate 1/4th of each lesson to free writing (I'm an English/Science teacher), especially if you have that class twice in the day AND use the same writing prompt. I assume you've done this to show that something has happened to Devin between the two sessions, but it seems contrived. Could Devin instead be writing in a journal at home? It would be interesting to see how Devin changes her writing when there is no audience - does she swear? Does she add her hopes? Are her tangents as interesting, or is she more boxed in at home when there's no one to impress?

That's it ^^

Cheers,
Jai




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Wed Feb 01, 2017 12:25 am
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Charm wrote a review...



Hey darling <3 Congratulations! You're my first R.E.D. review, ever! I know right, so special!

does the story interest you?
From first impression, I'd say the story interests me a lot. Not only have I always adored your writing style (it's like so great and entertaining) but I also liked how you've formatted this novel with the journal entries and stuff.

how're the characters?
So far, I only know Devin. The way you write really gives you a feel for your characters personality. In the first few sentences I knew he was intelligent and enjoyed research from the way he talks. I actually feel like he might be a genius. I also feel like he might have high functioning autism (based off of characters with high functioning autism), maybe? He tends to get off track but somehow find his way back to what he was talking about. It's very interesting reading from his point of view. Devin is unlike any other book characters I read about before and I love that. In that way he will be memorable. I learned a lot about Devin just by observing the little hints you left in the way he talk. He said he fells like a shadow, for example. Also what's a "mental flow diagram"? Then I think you did a little foreshadowing when Devin said he thinks he's more like Ishmael. "Nobody really expected anything from Ishmael," Devin is like Ishmael and maybe he'll do something no one expected him to do. "Sometimes I feel like I'm dead to the world," same, buddy, same.

what don't you like about it?
This is the cruelest thing you could ask me. I have been sitting here for minutes trying to think of something to write but I can't think of anything. Pretty much. I guess I'd like to learn more other things besides just bible stories (I go to Christian school so I know a lot of this stuff). I think it'll be interesting to have him do research on things other than bible stuff. Seriously though. That's not even something I didn't like about this. Really, this review was probably not helpful but I didn't plan on reviewing anything of yours. You're literally good enough to be professional, traditionally published and famous by now.

marmalade




passenger says...


you're amazing. thanks for the review, and I'm soo glad you like it. by "mental flow diagram", she was just referring to a flow diagram she'd constructed in her mind. :P

I don't plan on writing the rest of the novel in journal entries; it was mostly for the sake of character development. my hope's that readers can still identify with the story, even after it switches to the omniscient POV.

thanks again, girl. <33



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Sun Jan 29, 2017 2:35 am
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Omnom wrote a review...



Hey there passenger! Let's jump right in!

When Mrs. Kalick does roll call, she pronounces my name like ‘tram’, except with an S in front. I’m here to inform everybody reading that this is not correct. Nor is the double A in my surname pronounced like that in ‘aardvark’ (I researched aardvarks on Wikipedia, and according to the least reliable site on the internet—besides YahooAnswers—they can live for up to 23 years in captivity. 23. That’s longer than I’d last in captivity, I guarantee you).


What an interesting way to start this. Bam, personality of the MC/narrator, unique tangents that is very relatable, and you've got me hooked right away. Good job!

I feel bad for Aaron. He’s kind of like me in a lot of ways. Not that I plan on dying before I get to the Promised Land. But something about Aaron’s quiet coming and going is relatable. I feel like we both resemble shadows.



While we're in this person's head and these are his thoughts, this paragraph is weak due to "a lot" and "I feel like" here. These are vague and are what I like to call filler words. Filler words are those words that can end up making some of these sentences a lot large than the ones in question need to be, sometimes.

...If you couldn't tell by now, there's a lot of filler words in that last sentence. These words don't actually add anything to the sentence, and instead end up slowing them down. Let's try to remove the filler words here: "I feel bad for Aaron. He's like me in ways. Not that I plan on dying before I get to The Promised Land, but Aaron's quiet coming and going is relatable. In a way, we both resemble shadows." <--Some of these filler words (prepositions, helper verbs, conjunctions, prepositions, etc.) are unavoidable. However, the less time spent on filler words, the more spend on the juicy innards of a sentence.

But yeah. If we based intrigue on the linguistic incompetence of the human race, my last name would probably be the most interesting thing about me.


So, I get that this is all about someone just jotting down their thoughts into a journal, but from a story-telling perspective, too much inner dialogue is a bad thing, as it rambles and goes on tangents and never arrives as a specific end-thought. This last sentence doesn't actually pertain much to the previous entry at all. This might be purposefully done, since the entire chapter revolves around the journal entries, just wanted to put the note out there.

Sometimes I feel like I’m dead to the world.

I still have ten minutes remaining, Ms. Richmond, but I think I’ll be done now.


Wow. That ending was... well, amazing. I'm kind of at a lost for words here, since this second part was done so well.

This was much more of an example of how to do inner dialogue well. It was of course shorter than the first entry, but it was also all tied together, while the first one jumped from kidnappings to names and never really settles on anything (neither does it actually answer the question of the journal prompt too well, but that's most likely intended). This one has a sole focus of talking about Ishmael and comparing it to the example of Aaron in the last one.

Honestly, my thoughts are more just nitpicks than anything. If you take anything from this, please, let it be this: This was superb and fresh. I couldn't really find much that could be improved in this other than nitpicks. I want to read more, definitely. I hope this helped, and keep writing! <3

Image




passenger says...


Thanks for your suggestions, Om! I'd been wondering about the effect of the filler words as I wrote the chapter, so I'm glad you pointed them out. ;)

Thanks again! If you'd like, I can let you know when I publish more. <3



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Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:46 am
erilea wrote a review...



Hey, passenger! It's Lupa from Complicated Sneezes for a Review Day! :D Let's start...

1) "Contrary to Mr. Jay’s pronunciation, you don’t say the As like the ones in Aaron, either." In the second paragraph, you thrust the new character (Mr. Jay) on us without warning. At first I was like, 'Doesn't passenger mean Mrs. Kalick?' And then I realized it was someone completely new. I suggest taking Mr. Jay's character out entirely, unless he's vital to the plot later.

2) At one point, you go from talking about kidnappers to the pronunciation of the main character's name. This is a bit sudden, and I felt a bit startled by such a big topic change. A nice, gradual transition would be better for the flow, I think.

3) In the last line, you do the same thing I mentioned in number 1: you introduce another teacher to the reader very abruptly. This isn't exactly the best thing to do. :D I honestly don't think the "Mrs. Richmond" part of the sentence is necessary.

4) You have some interesting ideas in this piece, but other than some philosophical points I'm not sure what you were trying to accomplish. Can you give this work some more direction as to what you want to do?

Again, like I said, this was extremely intriguing. The ideas you mentioned got me thinking about your main character (in a good way, of course). I would love to see more! Keep writing!

XOX,
Lupa22





One thing that America is objectively exceptional at is overreacting whenever anyone accuses them of not being exceptional.
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