Saturday, November 16, 2013

That was unexpected

There wasn't supposed to be a love story. When I started mapping out my NaNoWriMo idea in late October, there was no love story. I actually had a page in my writing journal about whether I should introduce a boyfriend for my main character, Marnie. At the time, the answer was no.

And then it happened. I sat down on November 1 after work and started writing. The idea for the Prologue came to me during the day at work and I had jotted some of it down in between my training sessions. I settled in on my couch to start writing. Originally, I was just going to listen to music while I wrote but Lou Reed had died that weekend and VH1 Classic was showing the 2007 concert film, Berlin. I couldn't not have that on in the background. It was my first time watching the film and it's a rarity since Reed hadn't performed that album in its entirety since the 70s. Hearing him sing "Lady Day" and his general Lou Reed-ness was what I needed to mourn the loss of such a talented performer.  It's a cool album that has aged well; I feel like one day I'll say the same thing about Lulu.

Lou Reed is the reason that Oliver exists.

I admit that I was listening to a lot of Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground in the immediate lead up to NaNoWriMo so it was on my mind. I may or may not have cried when I listened to "Pale Blue Eyes" and "Perfect Day" over that weekend. I don't personally know a lot of people who feel about Lou Reed the way I do. It made sense that at least one of my characters would have strong feelings about him. So it just happened. Marnie walked into that coffee shop on her first day at her new job and Oliver was there and "Satellite of Love" was playing. That's was how it began. And of course, the appearance of Oliver changed the story significantly.

I'm not a good dater. Dating turns me into a rambling idiot. I'm not saying this is why I'm single but I'm sure it is a contributing factor because it means I have an aversion to dating. Which, of course, means I don't really date. So I didn't set out to write characters who would have to go out on dates and move through the stages of dating because it's not something I'm comfortable with at all. I guess that's the point - NaNoWriMo is supposed to be a challenge. It's been hard to write these sections of The Metro Counselor. I feel like I'm writing dialogue for a Hallmark holiday movie (and of course, you know I love those).

But Oliver is such a big part of the story now. He writes a blog about oddities and mysteries of DC so the secretive Metro Counselors is a story that's perfect for him. Marnie hasn't told him what she does for a living and this is creating conflict (I found my conflict!). On November 14, I hit the 25K word count (25,704 words to be exact) with Oliver's blog about the mysterious Metro Counselors. I thought I'd share that little nugget with you today. Soon Marnie will have to decide what she's going to do and if Oliver is going to be part of her life. Her answer should be yes because they are supposed to be together. I don't know if it's actually going to happen. I guess that's the beauty of novel writing and creating a world of my own - I get to decide what happens in that world.

Decisions are the worst.

Oddities, Mysteries, and Legends of DC
Are You Being Observed?

            Regular readers of this blog know that urban legends abound in the metro region. If you grew up in Virginia, you’ve probably heard of the Bunny Man; or in Maryland the Goatman – axe-wielding psycho killers who haunt overpasses and seek their revenge on the unsuspecting. Or maybe you’re a visitor to our area and you visited the Smithsonian to see the famous Hope Diamond and heard whispers of the curse. These are just a handful of the colorful tales of the DMV.
            Urban legends, like traditional folklore, exist for a reason. They help us deal with the harshness of reality or give us a way to explain something that seems unexplainable. It’s easier to tell your teenager, “Don’t go to the overlook, there’s an axe-murderer there” than to have an actual discussion about sex or values that you have. Legends and community stories give us a shared history even if they are outlandish and crazy.
            Most urban legends have some grounding in reality – there’s some truth in the legend even if it’s the smallest fragment of a shard of truth. Owners of the Hope Diamond met bad ends so there must be a curse. Why is there no J Street in DC? It can’t be because “I” and “J” look similar in print. No, it has to be because L’Enfant hated Chief Justice John Jay and this is how he exacted his revenge. Not true but it’s a fun story to tell.
            So what of the newest urban legend making the rounds in DC? People, residents and tourists alike, have been reporting strange things happening on the Metro. And no, it’s not haunted. At least not this time. It’s the feeling of being watched and of someone always watching out for them on the Metro.
            Paranoia is part of living in DC. It’s hard not to be paranoid when you live in the Nation’s Capitol. It’s not really surprising that people have reported being watched and sometimes even assisted by total strangers. These strangers seem to know exactly what to do and say to fit whatever situation. Are there witches on the Metro? Psychics? Is Metro trying to make the commuting experience more pleasant?
            Maybe it just seems weird that someone, particularly a total stranger, would want to help someone. We’ve become a pretty disconnected and suspicious society. Are we being pranked?
            So who are these silent watchers? Is DC really the base for something sinister and the Metro will be where the Hellmouth opens? Are they watching to keep this from happening or to make sure that it does? Two reports have included descriptions of these watchers as looking like “a librarian or teacher”. Is Giles waiting in the wings to find the next Slayer?
            Probably not. Those same reports also talk about how calm and at ease the person made the rider feel. Being helped made them feel happy. One person even said that it felt like he had a guardian angel.
            That seems like a bit much. In my research, I’ve found several supporting mentions in newspapers starting in the late 1990s. More recently, pages from a handbook of sorts for something called a Metro Counselor were uncovered. It seems like there is a group of trained professionals out there making the Metro more pleasant for riders. The paranoid DC resident in me thinks that something is up. The normal human in me wants to believe it’s just a group of people who want to make the city a nicer, more pleasant place to live and visit. Maybe they’re just Good Samaritans who enjoy helping people.
Who are these Metro Counselors? Why the secrecy? Does Metro even know they exist?

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