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ONE LIFE - POST MORTEM


emjaycee

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Let me preface my comments on this story by telling you a little bit about me for starters.

Firstly, my personality type (under one system anyway,) is known as a ?Peacemaker?. My ?type? prefers an amenable, relatively stress free lifestyle. It also abhors the concept of mindless violence.

Secondly, if I am going to comment on someone else?s work, I always try to do so in a positive manner. I don?t believe I have the life experience, imagination, skill, or perseverance to craft the sort of high quality stories hosted on this site. And, if I can?t write stories like these, what right do I have to be critical of those that do.

Finally, I am definitely a ?tad? on the romantic side. I can?t help it ? I like a happy ending <g>. I can still read stories that end tragically, but they would never be my first choice. When Josh asked me to help him with editing ?The Least Of These?, it was conditional to it having a happy ending. I didn?t want the risk of another ?Sea Change? ? happy tears are always preferable to sad ones.

So, what did I think of ?One Life?? Ryan is a very talented writer; there can be no doubt about that. It is a beautifully crafted and well written story. And there is no doubt the story was crafted to achieve maximum shock value.

So why do I feel ?cheated?? Probably because it was so well crafted. From the beginning of the final chapter the villain was ?effectively? excised from the storyline. His son wanted nothing to do with him, his wife disowned him, and the story concentrated on the remarkable love between these two young men. And then, at the height of their joy, at the most remarkable time in their two young lives, he suddenly reappears to snuff out their future, to totally destroy their lives and the lives of those closest to them.

Did the epilogue redeem the story? To a degree it did. The outlook for Tyler was at least positive ? he had managed to move on. But, to me, it still left unanswered questions. How and where did Jordan appear in Tyler?s life? Does Tyler have a partner? If not, can a young man without a partner legally take responsibility for the life of a young child? Maybe I just want to ?know? too much <g>.

So, on the one hand, I say congratulations Ryan on a well crafted, provocative, and challenging story. On the other hand I?d say, why couldn?t you have prepared us for the grieving we were about to experience by retaining the menace of Tyler?s father during the final chapter? Or, alternatively, why couldn?t you have allowed Jaylin to fully recover, after a long battle for his life, to fulfil his future with Tyler?

See, I?m a romantic <g>. I also hate the thought that mindless violence is the victor. No doubt it is the reality for some, but I read predominantly to escape that reality, not to have it rammed down my throat. On a more positive note, you?ve promised never to do something like that again ? thank heaven for that, I couldn?t handle it <g>.

Regards

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I'm inclined to agree, emjaycee. I haven't seen such ruthlessness with a character since i read the latest installment of George RR Martin's political fantasy series--I think it's called A Storm of Swords or some such. In it, the author cheerfully whacks long established and very sympathetic characters left and right, but it is used to establish the harshness of reality in the world he has built.

In One Life though, it felt gratuitously cruel. If i hadn't invested all the effort of reading all the previous chapters, i'd have bailed. I read the epilogue hoping for something to give the whole thing meaning, but like you I felt short-changed. Further, i think you hit the nail headon when you suggested a reason for that feeling--no forshadowing. I understand that this was probably in the nature of an experiment for Ryan, and that's cool, so enough about all that.

So, while i join you in saying to the author that it was a well crafted tale, i didn't like it. And there was something else that i saw that bothered me too...and it isn't exclusive to this piece by any means, but seems to run rampant in a lot of stories i read (time for a personal rant):

Why are there a lot of examples out there of studly young men who are "straight acting"--and not just incidentally straight acting, but very specifically described as being very "Not Gay Acting"--and the fem boys are the objects of derision and jokes? "Princess Sparkles" is a good example of this phenomenon, but only one example. True, by the end of the tale, he was part of the inner circle, but only after he had rehabilitated himself by getting a boyfriend and falling in with the "relationship party" line. This is by no means a problem exclusive to the gay teen romance genre, but this is where i see it a lot because i read a lot of this genre.

Kudos, btw, to Tragic Rabbit for making his hero in Drama Club a makeup wearing queen.

In the real world, this problem crops up as a feeling of contempt for those who are 'bottoms' from those who are not which is absolutely one of the most idiotic prejudices i've ever encountered, right up there with straight men who are mysoginistic.

But enough spouting from me. Thanks, Ryan, for a good read even if the last chapter was not to my taste.

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I guess it's long enough for me to comment some more.

I think this was Ryan flexing his writing muscles, stretching out... oh, sorry, better stop with that metaphor now. :blush: And really, since I'll presume Ryan's going to read this, I'll address him in 2nd person.

Ryan, I think you were trying out some new stuff as an experiment, to grow as a writer. You managed a lot in a limited space, and it's clear you've got the stuff.

I agree, though, that it seemed a little forced, and looking back, yes, I can see you'd planned it all. The only problem is that readers are feeling a bit forced or short-changed. (I ~think~ that's separate from the use of violence or lack of a happy, tidey ending. I think.)

MJC and AJ suggested a little more foreshadowing, or some more transition, or that Jaylin might pull through somehow. Well, while I admit I wish Jaylin had survived (I'm romantic enough for that) I also know that such things do happen in life. -- I hated that they killed Spock in Trek 2: TWOK, but I felt they did it well. But I did *not* like that they brought him back, at all. To me, it was cheating the audience. -- I say that only to say that, sometimes, saying that, "oh, sorry, it was only a little boo-boo, he's all better now, despite that long hospital stay" is not valid in fiction. I fully understand wanting an escape and entertainment and wish-fulfillment in fiction. I often do too. But I also feel that a serious subject deserves serious attention.

Having said that, I think What Dreams May Come was a great film, but I'm not sure I could've sat through it soon after my dad passed away; very depressing in places, before it gets better. (I finally watched it on DVD a while back.) I particularly liked the scene where his wife's imagination is "painting the sky and landscape."

Back on-topic.

I also wanted a little more closure in Part 6 and the Epilogue. It left me unsure if Tyler is really on the road to full recovery. It's a bit troubling that he hadn't reached the stage he could say, "Yes, that was my husband," or "Yes, we were very happy together," in the *past* tense, instead of the present tense. It's interesting that he suddenly has a little son, but we don't get any explanation how or why that happened. At least, though, it's clear that Tyler's a good father and has a great son who's good for Tyler.

I think this is just a case of trying to fit too much into too little space, and being new at it. I think you did a terrific job, Ryan. I hope we'll get to see a lot more of your work, and it'd be cool to pick up a book by you someday in the bookstore. (Heh, should be interesting the first time I buy a gay novel in person. Heh, first for everything, I s'pose! I think now I'm kinda lookin' forward to it!)

BTW, The Calling, both their CDs, and Simple Plan's "Perfect" are exceedingly cool.

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I've been giving this a lot of thought, and I disagree that more foreshadowing was required.

The end of chapter 5 was sufficient, in my opinion, to indicate that SOMETHING was going to happen that involved Tyler's father. Just because it wasn't kept in the foreground does not make invalid.

In a completely different thread, there were discussions on how much conflict is too much. In that thread, it was argued that as long as events were a logical conclusion of previous events and actions, then those events are acceptable.

The previous chapters had, apparently as a sub-plot, shown Tyler breaking from his dad, and that the break was NOT amicable. The end of chapter 5 then brought this squarely back into focus.

While the appearance at the wedding was shocking, both the appearance and the actions were perfectly reasonable and within character for the father.

Just my opinion only, and I'll admit that I'm biased in Ryan's favour.

Graeme

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AJ said something about the "studly, straight-acting" versus the "effeminate" characters, and how such people are thought of or treated in real life.

Specifically, with Jem in One Life, I think that was Ryan's point. He drew Jem as a very out-there character with numerous problems, including self-esteem issues and acting out for attention, I think, specifically to turn the character around to get the audience's sympathy for the character later, and show how Tyler and Jaylin had to change their opinions and assumptions about Jem. -- I take the point raised that it was "rehabilitating" the character, though.

OK, I'd better preface this. First, I know very, very little about being out among other gays. But I know what I've experienced, how people react or reacted to me or to friends.

Second, I've raised so many comments and newbie questions, that I think I've outright offended one friend, for which I'm sorry. I genuinely did not intend to. Sometimes these keyboards just don't get the truth across the way we'd like, you know?

Well, at the risk of further shooting off my mouth, let me say this.

I think the way that non-straight-acting gays are portrayed or treated, in stories or in real life, even in the gay community, is a reflection of our collective insecurities. None of us like being treated as stereotypes, or hearing terrible, stupid things said about gay people. Nobody likes all that garbage, whether it's the obvious hate or whether it's the subtle hints.

So that shows up even among ourselves and in the fiction we write. It gets internalized, even when we don't want it to be.

Um, what I am *trying* to say, is that we are so busy trying to disprove the stereotypes that straight people have, and so busy trying to avoid those bad memories, that we forget that there's a whole range of people out there, everyone from very "butch" guys (I hate labels, but they're all I've got at the moment) to very "fem" guys, and there is *everything* in between.

I'm not obvious, I don't think, but every once in a while, I notice myself or catch myself trying to "act straight." It's silly. Years ago, I made peace with the fact that I'm never going to fit the image I have of what a straight guy sounds like, moves like, whatever.

And that statement alone is evidently enough to worry some people, as too messed up or too butch or too fem.

I am just a regular guy, on the shy side, actually, with holdover issues from being stuck in the closet.

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You're right, Blue. But i'm not going to let those of us in the community off the hook for it--and i include myself in that group. We know that we can't control how other people view us...only our reactions to it. And having the coming out experience under our belts, one would think that we would know that sterotyping and typecasting are wrong--we've all experienced it from the other side.

And this is why it makes me crazy when i see the 'flamer' used as a foil for a 'jock hero'. We should be better than that. this fiction we write is an opportunity to explore these issues, and some are: In one of the stories i read (and the name escapes me, though it's well known) there is a character named Martin...a young kid, but smart and strong and very fem. He's a hero in the story for his survival, and the author doesn't try to make him straightacting to be sympathetic...he explores the stereotype and explodes it.

anyway...more of that kind of writing is what i'm putting on my christmas wish list. If i've offended anyone with all this, please accept my sincere apologies.

cheers!

aj

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A different perspective here...

First off, the Ryan who wrote One Life is quite clearly a better writer than the Ryan who started Kayden. Technically, its a better piece, and Kayden is good in its own right. The dialogue in One Life is smoother and more naturalistic, and I think the depth of description is better, too. So first off, congrats, Ry, for showing us all exactly what you can do.

Second, the criticisms of the plot. Seems to me there were two core criticisms: The mean and nasty killing off of Jaylin, and the overly negative view of fem and/or promiscuous guys. While I think there is certainly some moralising going on about the value of casual sex vs a committed relationship, well... its a ROMANCE story. Its kinda about relationships, lol. In its own context, the favouring of relationships makes sense.

As for the other two, well, I really think they just reflect reality. In my experience, most guys, gay or straight, are at least initially uncomfortable with fem guys. If that isnt the way you act, it takes a while to get used to. And thats all that happens in One Life: the gang is initially put off by Jem's charater, then when they realise hes actually a nice guy, they get over it.

The last criticsm about the story can be broken down into two parts. First, the lack of foreshadowing about the death. Well, um, personal thing here, I HATE foreshadowing. Its almost universally clumsy, obvious, and ruins any novelty the climax of a book might have had. If I can tell whats going to happen after 20 pages of a book (and often it IS possible to do so), likelihood is I'm not going to enjoy the book. My view is that an author is under no obligation to warn people what's going to happen later on in a book, and in most cases to do so will weaken the strength of the writing.

As for the death itself, well, people die. Its real. Gay kids die because of unaccepting families. Its real. Maybe not from their father shooting them at their wedding, but one of my friends did kill himself after his family was unable to accept him for who he was. I think, sometimes, we need stories to reflect unpleasant realities. Whether it be social prejudice against fem guys, or violent bigotry by the parents of gay kids. If we can always escape the violence of reality by reading a story with a happy ending, it somewhat blunts the drive to change that reality. We need writing like One Life to remind us that sometimes, "I love you" isn't enough to secure happiness. Sometimes the world intervenes.

Good Job, Ryan.

(Sorry for the long blah blah blah analysis, but hey, I've just spent 4 years of my life getting an English Lit degree. Might as well use it, hmmm?)

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[ ... ] an English Lit degree. Might as well use it [ ... ]

Absolutely. I mean, you don't want your degree to degrade after graduation. :D

Little word-play there. :blush:

Just what does one wish a new writer with a degree? -- Many happy carriage-returns! (That, and a paying job!) -- Cool degree, Bester.

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A good friend (Aaron from Mailcrew) had pointed out some places where my stories have been commented on. I felt like I should make myself present.

And Eddie, you better put that major into good use, lol. Maybe you should write a review for it if I ever decide to follow through with publishing it (which is highly unlikely^^).

I don't mind criticism, but it seems like there were some issues that people wanted to talk about. Feel free to ask me.

As to support what bester said, I too hate foreshadowing, and from what many people said from e-mails I've recieved, many people hate foreshadowing as well, which is why I decided not to follow through with the typical writing style. There are many question's here, so I'll try to answer them as best I can.

With Tyler's ending, you never know. He might one day find someone, he might not, whose to say^ Cause I really don't know. I built Jaylin up keeping in mind what was going to happen. A single person can adopt in Canada, and it's not uncommon.

The true reason I wrote it was actually because of two things:

1. A friend who discovered I was gay seemed to think I am the scum of the universe because I faked who I was. Don't really know what he meant by that, unless he meant I wasn't acting like the steriotypical gay you watch on television. I wrote it hoping he could see that there is no difference with love between same sexes.

2. While I travelled Europe with my significant other (thanks mom, lol) and we had a nice chat with this couple. Something similar but not as bad happened to them. To the point that one of them was beaten badly by the other person's father. Both survived, but it made me think about what would happen if something like that did happen. And my really reliable bf said something like, "It'd be cool if you wrote something like that..." and so with the support from him and my two foriegn friends, I decided to go through with it. I didn't think it would be that great, but as I wrote more, I got into it too much. I guess you can tell with an ending like that.

Yeah I know a lot of people cried, I did too...Every time i had to edit the damn story I cried. I can't even read it anymore! You can say I've grown to hate it. Which is why I won't ever do anything like that again. I might have Kayden hanging on with his life at the edge of a bridge, or Zac get pushed off a plane, but I will never write another tragety again^^

I guess I'm a little of a bastard for doing what I did, but I don't regret it. Ahh, i need to get back to Physics assignment that's due tomorrow. I'll check this place out again.

I guess for now, if you have q's or comments, I'll be happy to address them. Also be sure to thank Eric from Mail crew, he inspired me to come on here by questioning my lack of genitalia because I was afraid of what might happen if I did come one.

Cheerz folks^^ nice to meet you all

Ry^! (takes a bow)

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Hello Ryan~

And greetings to my fellow authors & editors.......

Part of a writer's job is to inspire...to create circumstances by which the reader can dream, remove him/herself from reality or even then too, live through a character's life in a manner of speaking. Ryan, who I deeply respect and admire has done this. Oh yes and along with angering a few along the way.

Part of the arguments that have raged in the forums have centered around the "collective" mirror principles. Truly now folks, surely not every story has to have a happy ending? Hmm, I applaud Ryan for the bravery he displayed in writing this tale. Plus, I really think that for a 19 year-old, he showed maturity far beyond what one would normally expect.

Ryan, I have said this privately, and now I say it publicly, I respect you, admire your talents, and please keep striving to be the best you can.

Paul

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I admit it was a heavy ending, but Ryan is a promising writer that i enjoy reading from

and that he is a heck of a guy

what is amusing to me now is, that Scribbler the Mail Crew, and i just posted in this thread and we along with Awesomedude post or link his stories lol

this show you how much all of us enjoy Ryan stories

a great talent indeed

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Aww shucks, Thanks guys it means a lot^ heh. I guess I should be thanking all of you too, for hosting my story...and blaming you too! lol, because of the number of responses I've been recieving, i've spent more time on writing. Which is cool too. What isn't cool were night like yesterday night.

Ever wonder what the formula for the period of a point charge with a mass m that is released between two plates which has equal charge distributions over thier areas, seperated from a distance d (Hint: simple harmonic motion)?

Yeah, took me two hours to figure it out^^ lol. Instead of doing that work last week, i was writng a new chapter of Kayden^^ It's cool though, writing has it's own form of relaxation on me.

Anyways, I guess I'll stick around^

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