It’s a good word to use for the process currently underway in Kraken blah blah (the title is too long, methinks).

What am I talking about? If you’ve read Scene 1 of the Nano Project, and I tell you it’s now five scenes, because I’ve expanded the role of one character, played out the tension of some momentous moments (double-up-word use – get rid of it!), and put in place proper setting and feel, then that comes part-way to putting some sense into the word.

Unpacking – taking the simplistic, lean and mean, minimalist first draft and pushing the limits, finding the points of tension and expanding them, letting the characters feel and see and do and speak the things they need to etc. to empower the movement of the story.

Unpacking – getting the sails on the boat to fill with air (not hot air!) so the best speed is accomplished at the right time, the tacks and (what’s that other word in sailing jargon?) stuff (jibs? jives?) that move things from this point to that, side to side, backwards, forwards, up and down – putting in the words that make those parts fully dressed and almost ready to party-sparkle.

Unpacking – finding the exact right word for that particular place that has not just the right meaning, but the most appropriate sense of meaning, for that character at that point in the story.

Did I just make myself sick? Is this is hyperbole? Well, of course it is. What I’m doing is procrastinating, and giving myself excuses for doing it! And using fancy words and patterns that play on in the inner mind until I get to the point of being able to think beyond where I am at the moment. Hyperbole! A bloody big tree of it!

Big laugh. Belly-gong laugh. Can’t breathe and my eyes are watering laugh.

The madness has set in, you say, and I’d respond – but it never left, otherwise, why would I call myself a writer? Why would I do this?

And now that I’ve discovered exactly what it is I’ve written, the madness has crept, ever darker, over the horizon and into my gloom.

Allegory. Why do that? Why put myself through that? I like writing fantasy, I like YA, and I’m sure the story started out like that, but when I gave a snippet to ‘that person who called it allegory’ and they handed it back with a laugh and said ‘you trying out for allegory?’ I nearly carked it.

Allegory. Shit. Politics. From an apolitical. Is it because …? Yes, it probably is.

And that’s the update from Nano Madness Month.

And the new(ish – still in draft stage) shorter, sharper version of –

Scene 1:

As they rounded the corner and Cocky noticed the changes, he flapped backwards until Roo had to pull up in a puff of dust. The path was blocked. Barred. This wasn’t right. Cocky’s crest went up and he squawked.

The conference arena was a concave cirque enclosed on three sides by the steep gorge of quartz and feldspar-rich striations in stark yellow and black. An open area, meant to be inviting and secure, protected but enabling every voice to be heard. It had one way in, which was wide and generous. The area was cooled by the gully breezes through the tall eucalypts, and over the small waterhole just beyond the bend from the creek-side encampment for the delegates.

It was the only place that met all the requirements for the conference. Now the access points had been changed – barriers put up – since last night when Cocky last inspected and reported back to the office. Late, because of Roo’s antics.

This was done fast. The materials must’ve been here already. This was planned.

The new fences were shaped to funnel the delegates into a single line. A fish-trap, with the only way in guarded. By cats. Ruffian cats. Big, hissy, guard cats. Cocky shuddered. His skin crawled. Guard cats.

The only point of ingress and egress was a single-file bottle-neck, with guard cats. Cocky had a panic moment. What if there was a fire? A flood? Okay, it wasn’t likely, but things happened, especially when it wasn’t considered.

This wasn’t right, and the host country and its delegates at the very least, should have been informed of these changes – before they happened.

“Guards!” Cocky finally managed to say when Croc stopped at the first twist in the trap. “What’re they doing here? What’s the issue with security? Why weren’t we told?” He remained in the air. “And I am not going in through a cat-search, thank you very much!” He tensed at the thought of those sharp-tipped claws getting to the soft skin under his feathers.

“Come on, you two!” Roo shoved at Croc as he bounded up close behind. “The sooner this is over, the sooner we get back to the pub.”

“It’s not appropriate to have guards, let alone cats,” Croc said as she continued towards the entry. “But I’ll warn them not to touch you, bird, so come on and let’s get in there. We have work to do.”

Roo shook his head and stood as tall as he could. He pounded one foot on the ground. “I’ll tell ’em where to get off if they try anything.”

“Will you just pull your head in for once? Wasn’t last night bad enough?” Cocky crested at Roo – again. He was the reason they were so late, on the first morning of the conference, on the first – and now, probably only – occasion Australia hosted the International Conference of Creatures of Magic and their Representatives.

Cocky nodded at Croc, “Get us in without trouble, please Croc,” he said as he flapped past the posturing of Roo.

Roo harrumphed, but he lowered himself and followed, albeit not quietly – grumping like a juvenile who’d lost a favourite toy; and not gracefully, not at all a good example of a dignified representative of the Earth creatures of the host continent.

“Your passes, please,” the snooty ginger cat extended his paw to stop them. “Please read the rules carefully before entry – you! Wait until your pass is cleared!” His paw stretched out to stop Roo as he reached down.

Cocky glared at the list of rules. Rules? Also a new addition.

Roo shook his head. “This is my pouch, pussy-cat. It’s where I have my pass. Like to tell me where you keep yours, fish-breath? Got a spare cloaca around, have you?” He laughed. “Oh, sorry! You’re a pussy-cat, you got a pouch all your own – is that how you slipped all the fleas into the place?” Roo scratched at his puffed out chest.

Croc opened her jaws, sniffed, hissed, and slid the tip of her tail up behind Roo. It ruffled against his back leg. He scowled, but lowered himself and handed over the pass.

“And ours, if you please, Roo,” Cocky said as he maintained his position high enough to avoid the leap of Ginger, who looked as if he could go ten rounds with the Warthog Roo picked on last night.

Roo dug around and pulled out the other two passes. He held them just beyond the reach of the Ginger, who huffed and snatched them, claws out.

“Oh, the reps from the host country?” Ginger gave a deep purr and threw the folded paper with the word Agenda across the centre middle at Roo. “The ones who were supposed to be seated in the front row?” He smirked. “Well, as the last – the very last – to get here, you get the aisle. And you’ll be sitting on the stones, ’cos some sort of idiot failed to provide enough seating places for all the delegates, let alone their guests. You know, the ‘plus one’ bit of the invites.” He sashayed to the closed-gate entry and opened it with a flourish. “Enjoy,” he said as he waved them in. “Idiots.”

Cocky almost squawked at him, but it only took one look into those evil yellow eyes to change his mind. Cats had become way too dangerous of late. And numerous. He looked around as he went inside the arena. There were cats at both ends of each row of seating.

Not just ordinary cats. These were guards, armed and attentive, and not watching the proceedings. Paws at weapons, shoulders tensed and wary.

Roo didn’t give up. “Well, that cat’s plus one was the flea lady, and all her family.” He continued scratching as he watched the ginger cat close the flap. The guffaw that escaped when ginger stopped for a good scratch almost undid Cocky, but the tension in the air was as acrid as a bushfire. Apart from Roo, who now scratched at the dirt on the walkway, everyone was stiff and tense, staring forward as if their lives depended on what happened next.

Were they expecting trouble? Here? Cocky landed next to Croc and waited until she nodded before he stepped up onto her shoulder. His claws trembled with the low-level shudder under the scales. So, Croc felt it as well.

What was going on?

Copyright Cage Dunn 2017 – Nano project.




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