Humor: The Origin of Politics

In a literary sense, this is not my best piece, but it was extremely fun to (try to) research and write. Hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it!

The Grand Convention–Origin of Politics

Napoleon Bonaparte had picked an extremely inopportune date for the Grand Convention of World Leaders. Rain poured down in waterfalls from every elevated point in the small medieval city and washed over my shoes in great brown rivers. I clutched the sketchbook hidden under my shirt and glared at the back of person’s head who stood in front of me. The line didn’t seem to be moving at all.

I’d been looking forward to this convention since I was a little boy. It was a hush-hush sort of thing, and only people with potential were invited. That was too pleasant of an adjective to describe those unqualified people who were invited to the convention. The convention was to take place in medieval England this year, and I’d thought that the organizers of the event would invite me. Surely they could see past that fact that I wasn’t much more than an artist looking for a little action.

They couldn’t, apparently. Shallow of them. I know.

I had to come, though, even if I was forced to beg for a spot in the convention. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one with that idea. The line to the door of the castle stretched nearly a mile.

The person behind me tapped my shoulder. “Excuse me.”

I ignored him. Probably another miscreant wanting to take my place in line so he could get a chance to see what the convention was all about. They’d been bothering me all morning.

Excuse me,” he said, louder. His voice still had a couple prepubescent cracks hidden in it. “Are you deaf?”

I turned to face a short boy in his late teens, wearing a cap that hid only half the smallpox scars on his forehead. A large book peeked out from underneath his worn jacket. “What do you want?” I snapped.

He sniffed and scratched his nose. “This is the Grand Convention, isn’t it? Am I at the right place?”

“It’s the convention,” I said. “I take it you’re not a major world leader?”

He cast a glance at the long line ahead of us, and his lips turned down in a tight frown. “Well… no. But I am at the top of my class. Headed to theology school on scholarship. My mother thought it would be a great opportunity for me to attend this convention on the premise that I—”

“Good for you.” I wrapped my arms more tightly around my sketchbook. “But unless you’re a major world leader, you’re not getting in any time soon. The guards are checking everyone for the plague.”

His eyes grew wide. He had odd eyes—irises like black pits with the whites tapering into yellow spider webs. “Guards?”

“Yes. There should be hundreds at this event. Rumor has it that someone’s planning an assassination of Julius Caesar.”

He turned pale. Sniffed. “Really?”

“And Guy Fawkes may be in the city.”

Derr’mo.” The boy cast a glance toward the medieval castle looming far in front of us, and he knitted his eyebrows together. “The castle doesn’t have a basement, does it? Please tell me there’s no basement.”

“There’s no basement.”

“Ah! Praise be to God.”

“There is a dungeon, though,” I said. “Along with murder holes and all those nice things that come along with fourteenth-century Europe. Not to scare you.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but a knight dressed in chain mail and a feathered helmet whacked him hard on the back. “Move along! We haven’t got room for the lot of you.”

There were a few shuffles, but no one left. The boy folded his arms across his chest and sniffed defiantly.

“I said we haven’t got room, you plague-sores!” The knight moved along the line, trying to disperse the crowd. He stopped when he saw the boy behind me. “Hold a moment. Do I know you?”

The boy’s face lit up. “Joseph. From the Young Dictators’ Workshop.”

“Ah, yes! Joseph from the Young Dictators’ Workshop. You worked in the cafeteria. Right good service that was.”

Joseph looked at me and gave a nervous laugh, his fingers tightening around his book.

“You want a place?” The knight clapped Joseph on the back again, and Joseph winced. “You’ve got a place. Come along with me. The rest of you get out of here!”

No.

No. I had to get into the convention.

I motioned to Joseph, who looked confused for a few moments before he shook his head and started after the knight.

“It’s not going to hurt you to help me out,” I shouted after him. “Do you even know how long I’ve been waiting for this?”

Joseph sighed and motioned for me to follow him.

On the way in, I introduced myself. Joseph proceeded to relate his long family history. I stopped listening after the part about his father being a shoemaker and focused my attention on trying not to breathe the foul air that seemed to soak the entire city.

Shouts drifted into the castle’s hallway long before I saw the room in which the Convention was to take place. When the double doors opened for us to reveal the room, I took a step back. Amazement washed over me.

Huge torches lined the entirety of the dark, musty-smelling space, casting flickers of light on all the strange faces. People of all nationalities, wearing everything from suits to furs to loincloths, stood around the room as well as on top of the chairs and tables. Most of them were screaming at the top of their lungs. I pointed out the closest man to Joseph. “Who’s that?”

“You mean the man with the wig? That’s Maximilien Robespierre. I remember him from the workshop.” He waved and shouted, “Bonjour, Max!”

Robespierre spun on his heels, nearly losing his balance on the table. He pointed a bony finger straight at Joseph. “You’re next, you enemy of the Rebellion! The guillotine is wet with… red… body fluids of death!”

“He’s too squeamish to say the word ‘blood,’” Joseph said, laughing as he waved goodbye to Robespierre and started walking. “You want to take a bench in the back?”

I took off my hat and mopped my face with it as we walked. The room had a musty feeling that created a surreal, albeit uncomfortable, atmosphere. “The side will do. I like to get a look at faces so I can draw them.”

Joseph raised an eyebrow. “You’re an artist?”

I withdrew my sketchbook from under my shirt and waved it at him. “I am. Sending out my résumé next week to an art college, actually.”

He smiled—a nice smile that surprised me. “Congratulations. I hope you get in.”

I hoped I did, too, but I didn’t say so. I sat down and directed my attention to the woman mounting the makeshift stage at the far side of the room. She set a bowl of grapes on the lectern and tapped the microphone twice before lifting it to her lips. “Hello, hello,” she said, tucking her raven-black hair behind her ear and smiling. “May I graciously ask for everyone’s attention?”

The shouting continued.

The woman’s smile faded. She drew in a breath and let out a bloody scream into the microphone.

The noise decreased, and then stopped altogether. Robespierre pinched his chin and shot the woman a look before climbing down from the table.

“I just wanted to thank everybody for attending,” said the woman. “My name is Cleopatra. Many, if not all of you, already know me, but just in case, I’m going to list all of my accomplishments.”

“You mean affairs,” shouted a man from the back.

Cleopatra’s face flushed. “Shut up, Henry. You’re the one with six wives.”

“One at a time,” he yelled back. “Did you want to arrange something?”

The room erupted with accusations and insults. I leaned over to Joseph. “Do you think things could get violent?”

He looked up from his encyclopedia and shrugged. “Donald Trump is here. If things get too bad, he’ll build a wall.”

I looked around for someone interesting to sketch. From where I sat, the only people I recognized were Richard the Lionheart and Prince Jon. The latter had borrowed a match from Winston Churchill and was lighting the Magna Carta on fire.

“Anyway,” Cleopatra shouted over the uproar. “Does anyone want to remind me of the purpose of this convention? I attended a wonderful dinner party hosted by Marc Antony last night, and my mind seems to be going in and out today.”

“To discover our purpose,” said a man. “World leaders seem to have no real reason for being alive.”

“Thank you.” Cleopatra clapped, her long nails clicking against the head of the microphone. “There’s a reason why you’re called Alexander the Great. Any comments on that brilliant thesis?”

A woman wearing a huge dress with hair piled half her height raised her hand.

“Yes? Marie Antoinette, isn’t it? I’ve read about your execution.”

Marie’s voice was small and sweet. “Ah—execution, Madame?”

“Reign, execution, whatever. Continue, please.”

Marie smiled and lowered her hand. “I believe everyone has a purpose, whether they be good or evil.”

“Bad grammar!” shouted Robespierre. “Guillotine her!”

I hoped he stayed in that position—waistcoat flayed open, index finger extended. It was a nice position to draw. I made a few marks on my paper.

Joseph inspected my work for a long moment. “You ever thought about drawing political cartoons?” he asked.

I shook my head.

“Don’t.” He sniffed and tightened his tie. “It’s dangerous unless you’re doing propaganda for the government.”

The conversation of the world leaders didn’t vary much from the original topic after that. Attila the Hun spoke, and then George the first and second and third and fourth and most of the Henrys and Charleses and Williams. Some poet from Japan said something, but none of the leaders were very poetic, so they just sat in silence until he finished and then started arguing again.

Cleopatra popped a grape into her mouth, chewed, and swallowed. “Is everyone done?” she asked.

The room went silent.

“Great,” she said. “So we’ve concluded that the only purpose of world leaders is to wreak havoc. Am I correct?”

Most people in the crowd nodded or murmured their assent.

“And what should we call this? Somebody throw out something ridiculous.”

“Poly-ticks,” said Erik the Red in his deep, throaty voice. “Means ‘many bloodsucking creatures.’ Just thinking about it makes me want to kill a couple monks.”

Cleopatra pinched her chin and shrugged. “Don’t you think we ought to have something less obvious? I wouldn’t want our species to die off too quickly. How about ‘politics,’ after the Latin word ‘polis?’”

“What does that mean?” Erik asked.

“City.”

“Bah! Nothing exciting about that.”

Cleopatra laughed. She started pacing the stage. “Exactly! We disguise it as the dullest subject possible. So boring that when adults discuss it, children start picking their nose. So devoid of life that high school students will repeat junior year just so they don’t have to take Government. So seemingly pointless that uninformed college students will weep over history books.” Reaching the lectern again, she leaned onto it and lowered her voice to a whisper. “Weep.”

The room went silent. A feeling of utter awe swept over me, and I was sure that the world leaders felt it too. This was genius. Beautiful, even.

Politics.

Cleopatra straightened. “All in favor?”

The room exploded with cheers. Robespierre stood on the table and did an awkward little dance, unheeded by the rest of the celebrating world leaders. Marcus Brutus throwing Olympic wreaths everywhere, Genghis Khan spouting some rubbish about invading Russia in the winter, Winston Churchill smoking so happily that he almost wasn’t frowning.

“At this time, I’d like to invite our host to give closing remarks,” Cleopatra said, rapping on the lectern to gather the crowd’s attention. “Napoleon Bonaparte?”

No one moved. Finally, Andrew Jackson spoke up. “I think he was banished to the Isle of Elba.”

She sighed. “I didn’t want to listen to a speech, anyway. Go forth and wreak havoc, everybody! Be sure to thank any non-plague-infested medieval citizens for allowing us use of their castle.”

After about half the world leaders had filed out, I closed my sketchbook and stood. “Good to meet you,” I told Joseph, extending my hand.

He transferred the encyclopedia to his other arm and shook my hand, his yellowish eyes meeting mine. His grip was surprisingly strong for such a short person. “What did you say your name was again?” he asked.

“Adolf,” I said. “Adolf Hitler.”

He grinned. “Joseph Stalin. Maybe we’ll meet again.”

“Sure.” I held open the door for him as we walked out. “Good luck in the priesthood, by the way.”

“Many thanks! And you in your art.”

“No worries.” I held up the sketchbook. “I’m going to conquer the world. You watch.”

Joseph laughed. “Oh. I’ll be watching.”

Historical Fiction: The Struggle

I don’t consider myself an expert on historical fiction, but I have learned a few things in the five years I’ve spent writing a novel set in sixteenth-century Europe. 

That’s a lie. I’m still confused. This will probably end up as more of a rant than advice. Here goes–

A Good Percentage of People Don’t Know What a Baldric Is

Gawwsshh. Don’t you people spend hours of your weekend sitting at home researching obscure accessories?! Have you never read The Three Musketeers? Ugh. Peasants.

My Character Is Covered in Dirt and Blood but He Can’t Take a Bath Because That Would Be Historically Inaccurate

This is the point where I go stand in the shower and cry for all the beautiful people who lived under layers of dirt and grime because bathing regularly was un-Catholic.

Just… just take this bar of soap… from me to you…

My Character Doesn’t Feel Well. Shall We Visit a Doctor?

*Holds off storm of leeches, saws, opium, and other abstract medical instruments and medicines* NO. How about let’s just… pour a little balsam on that severed arm. It’ll feel better in a few days. No need to get “professional” help.

Glass Cost So Much That Rich People Took Their Windows with Them on Trips

This. This is one of the perks of historical fiction. I just want to hug this fact and have a chapter in my book dedicated solely to rich people taking their windows out and giving dirty looks to anyone who so much as looked at their precious glass.

World Building

Oh, come on. This is a thriller. You really expect me to pause and talk about the poor people who used oiled paper as windows?

Wait. No. That’s the glass thing again. I’m okay with talking about that. *Gives haughty look to all the peasants who don’t have glass*

The Frustration of Not Being Able to Quote Shakespeare

If I’d just set the novel thirty years later… 

But Still Stealing Shakespearean Insults

You egg.

*Exit, pusued by a bear*

Putting Off Writing a Scene Because You Still Don’t Know When Doorknobs Were Invented

Why. Why did I struggle so much with this. Doorknobs and locks and roofs and architecture and I don’t know anything–

Ya know what? Let’s just take that door away. Nobody needs to know about my doorknob struggle.

Being Angry That People Didn’t Wear Coats

But then realizing that cloaks are ten billion times hotter. Seriously. Cloaks and capes.

Still Loving Your Time Period Despite All Its Shortcomings

Because if it’s good enough for your characters, it’s good enough for you. I love you, 1521 Anno Domini.

Although you still quite literally stink.

–L

Dreamer in a Maze: Original Song

Hello, my lovely darlings! I’ll make this post short–I wrote a song titled “Dreamer in a Maze,” and I’d like to share it with you. Hope you enjoy! Lyrics are below.

“Dreamer in a Maze”

Sea breeze

Curling between my fingers

Holding up diamonds to the moon 

Who says she’s stolen enough?
Sleep, boy

You’ve cried away all the omens

You’ve taken a place with the old men,

Rigging up sails in their sleep. 

Pre-chorus

I won’t listen to fate; I don’t even listen to me.

When the anchor drops, I’ll be deep in Dreamer’s sleep. 

Chorus

I’m a siren

I’m a haze

I’m a metaphor

Of the human I once was

Mermaid

In the blaze

Of the ocean

I’m a dreamer in a maze. 
Places

I’m on the stage, dancing dreamer

Most of me’s drowning in my hopes

Quick, bring me back to the ship.

Pre-chorus


Chorus


Bridge

Storm sets in

Sails come down

Man fell overboard when summer turned brown

But his grip on his north-bound compass is tight 

‘Cause it tells him to swim on past the night. 
Chorus


So it’s not perfect, but it was fun to write, and hopefully you liked it. Thanks for listening! Can’t wait to hear from you in the comments 😀

-L

Characterization in Art and Writing

I happen to be an artist as well as a writer. As I’ve grown in both areas, I’ve realized that there are similarities between the two arts. One of my favorite similarities is characterization.
Characterization is hands-down my favorite part of writing. And why wouldn’t it be? I get to make my own imaginary friends!
Characterization can be hard, though; sometimes we think we’re characterizing when in reality we’re merely describing.
Example:
Jace is a twenty-one-year-old woman. She has blonde hair and blue eyes. She is wearing a pink shirt with jeans. She likes history and cats and surfing the Internet. One day, her parents kick her out of the house.
Vs.
Jace is a twenty-one-year-old woman. She doesn’t go to college because of her severe social anxiety and depression. She lives in her parents’ basement with her three cats, Athos, Porthos, and Aramis. She’s a YouTuber who is popular for her hilarious (yet somehow still informative) videos about the role legumes played in ancient conspiracies. Three framed pictures of Napoleon Bonaparte hang on her wall. There’s a picture of her crush from high school taped on her microwave. She makes her bed every day even though she’s the only one who ever sees her room. One day, her parents kicked her out of the house.
Why do you feel more connected to her in the second example? It’s because I focused on the things that make Jace Jace. Her pink shirt isn’t that important when it comes to understanding her character, but when you see that she named her three cats after characters from The Three Musketeers, Jace comes to life.
But what about in art? Take this picture, for example:
2017-02-25 22.21.41
I drew this using pencil and charcoal a few weeks ago. I often have a hard time putting exactly what’s in my head on the paper, but this time I was pleasantly surprised. The dude in the sketchbook bore an uncanny resemblance to the main character of my historical suspense novel, Andrè Valapart.
How?
It’s not easy. First, I had to make a mental checklist of Andrè’s most prominent characteristics. He’s schizophrenic (not a good thing in 16th-century Europe), so he’s got a lot going on in his head. He’s usually more annoyed at society than society is annoyed at him. He’s blunt. Introverted. Does mathematics in his spare time. Likes guns. The list goes on, but you get the idea. The real challenge is figuring out how to manifest those characteristics in a picture.
I started with his eyes.
20170113_214457
Why? Because visually, they’re the most important part of him. They characterize him. One of my characters says to Andrè when Andrè is in the process of telling a lie, “You have to be truthful with me. Your eyes give away everything. If anyone ever had the courage to look you in the eye, they’d see straight through you.” So I focused on the eyes first, trying to make them as intense as possible. After that, his jaw (a firm one to make him look determined), his scowl (to add a touch of rebellion), and his skin (pale as a symbol of how ostrasized he is from society). The combination (hopefully!) gives Andrè an interesting face.
So how do YOU characterize in writing and/or drawing? How do you think the two activities compare? Comment below; I can’t wait to hear from you 😀
-L

Starting a Novel: Part 2

Hey, guys! Here’s a continued list of tips on beginning a novel.


3. Not having a problem/goal

This will kill your motivation. I’ve tried to write scenes just for the fun of it (without all the work of figuring out why the scene is needed in the first place), and they always fell flat. Always. Great characters only make great characters if there’s an issue driving them, so be sure you know what the conflict is BEFORE you start writing.


4. …But I’m a pantser!

Sorry, my buddy, my pal, but yes. Even if you’re a pantser. Especially if you’re a panster. How are you going to be able to pants if you don’t know the thing that’s driving your character? Pants, but pants responsibly.


5. Not enough research

This one pains me. I write in the 16th century. When I started writing historical fiction when I was twelve years old, I knew nothing about the Renaissance, so I couldn’t visualize my story as I was reading it.

Luckily, I had the privelege of visiting Italy when I was fifteen, which helped me tremendously with my writing. I knew what the cobblestones felt like and absorbed the atmosphere of Venice. I also started researching extensively online; after that, I could write without getting stuck so much because I knew my topic. That’s not saying that you have to know everything before you start writing (only God knows how many hours I spent researching doorknobs when I should’ve been writing), but you do need to have a general idea of atmosphere before you start.
That’s that for today! Hopefully this advice is helpful 😀

–L