Three Young Adult Novels by Nōnen Títi

Two sixteen-year-olds experience war at their school (In the Real World), an eleven-year-old makes a stand against bullying (Soup and Bread), and a fourteen-year-old discovers that climate change is not the end of the world (Lohland).

Sometimes, you simply have to throw a tantrum to make things better!

 Life is not a fantasy or filled with action adventure.

But the world of realistic fiction is thrilling and full of action.

Not the stuff of bestsellers, but a better buy for teenage dreams.

A great buy for those kids who feel alone or different.

Excellent for classroom use as each comes with a teacher’s kit.

For details see the teacher’s resource page and decide for yourself.

Available in print from The Copy Press  or as eBooks from meBooks, Amazon and Smashwords

Thank you for reading.

Message to the Future

 I knew it was bad news from the slight hesitance in the step of the doctor when he noticed me jump up from my seat. I tried to keep my feelings hidden, the way the living green wall of the sanatorium corridor kept the outside world hidden.

“It’s not what you think, Richard,” he started. “Carolina did pull through…” He hesitated, while a tiny sparkle of hope ignited inside me – My daughter lived! – only to be doused a moment later. “It’s not good, though; she won’t breathe unassisted and some of the poisons still reached the baby. It has problems too.”

“But Carolina has been here for SEVEN months!”

The city sanatorium, a biosphere where the air was sustained by protected plants and all water filtered, had been set up to help pregnant women to term and ensure a good start for their babies.  Its serene greenery in which we stood, did not condone me shouting.

“I’m sorry. I wish it was different, but it appears that seven months was no longer enough,” the doctor said softly. “The damage was done before she was even aware that she was pregnant. There’s nothing you or I could have done.”

I brusquely walked away from the young man, who, fair enough, couldn’t help it either. He belonged, like my daughter, to a generation that was unable to reproduce. But I felt like screaming; everything of value was dying and I could do nothing!

#

My wife had hoped for a grandchild, but Lisa had succumbed to kidney failure after having accidentally drunk untreated water when visiting her parents’ farm up north, just over a year ago, having gone there to get over the loss of our youngest. Mitchell had developed emphysema when he was six, one of the first to be diagnosed with a disease that had since taken child mortality rates close to ninety percent. He’d survived eight years, most of which in agony, especially during the ‘death summers’ when the air was literally murderous. Carolina, five years older, who’d nursed her brother and then her mother, had announced she was pregnant on the day we’d cremated Lisa. The baby had no father; he’d been run down by military vehicles during the last protest.

I’d taken my only remaining child to the sanatorium immediately. I’d sold the new apartment to pay for it, and had lived in a small hostel at the edge of town. But Carolina had started showing signs of lung degeneration. The doctors and nurses had still managed to bring her to term, but thought it best she was not alert during the delivery, to stop her exhausting herself. I’d held her hand, just before they raced her off into the theatre this morning. “Daddy,” she’d pleaded. “If I don’t make it, take the baby away from the city, please!”

“You’ll make it, honey. You’re a fighter,” I’d answered.

Apparently, I’d been right. Our Carolina had not died. She’d pulled through, but she’d be on a respirator for the rest of her life, and I was expected to go and tell her that breathing while pregnant had ruined her child; that breathing was not something modern humans were supposed to do anymore.

I felt so desperately alone when I left that doctor standing, aware that a sink hole had formed at the exact spot where my heart had always been; a cold and empty void. To my own amazement, this thought didn’t frighten me. It only filled me with a calm coldness. Life was a right of nature, so those who did this to my family must die: the politicians, the corporates, the soldiers. I’d get them back for this!

#

A week later – a week of anger mixed with cold calculations and elaborate revenge plans, all of which I tried to hide from Carolina – they told me that the sanatorium could no longer accommodate my daughter and her malformed child. There were other pregnant women with still potentially healthy babies and they had to be given priority. I had no choice than to agree they move my daughter to a hospice, knowing she’d be waiting to die there, while they didn’t have the means to care for the baby. The doctor cautiously suggested it might be more merciful if I brought it to a ‘medical helper’.

I don’t know when exactly this profession had come into existence, but the term implied a similar backstreet solution for problem babies as once upon a time had existed for perfectly healthy foetuses that came in socially inconvenient circumstances. I’d known that time. I’d been for the legalization of abortion… when we were still looking at ‘you can always have a child later’. But today was later and I couldn’t help resenting the people who could have, but didn’t want it. I wanted revenge. I didn’t want Carolina to make space for healthy babies. I wanted to kill them. Why should they get to live?

Carolina’s daughter didn’t have a name yet when I came to collect her the next day. It would never grow up beyond a few years anyway. It would never talk, probably never walk and it would not be able to eat. A little tube in its nose and a syringe with some instructions was all the nurses could provide for me. I wrapped her in one of their blankets, went to say goodbye to Carolina and left the lushness of the sanatorium to go into the constant drizzle that enveloped the city.

I’d promised my daughter I would take her baby to a safe place, but there was no such thing. My landlord had his rules: no pets, no children, no exceptions, even if she’d not be able to cry. Travelling to other countries wasn’t allowed; they all had their own problems. Some people took to the sea, but ships were regularly wrecked in violent storms. The farm of Lisa’s parents was still there, but without sanitation for water.

“Nowhere to go, sweet pea,” I told the baby.

Holding her close to my chest, I walked the miserable streets, devoid of colour, devoid of talk, frowning at the passers-by who were hiding from reality in their smartphones.

In front of me, a woman with a ratty-looking dog, stopped to let it pee against a poplar tree, which was no higher than the woman, mostly bare and leaning dangerously.

“I hope that poor tree has somebody to comfort it, Sweetpea,” I whispered into the green blanket, the colour of which seemed to make a mockery of the grey city. The woman looked at it with empty eyes: a mirror of the void inside me.

But I also despised these empty vessels for giving up; the void inside me was filled with hatred, and that kept me going each day. I didn’t feel as helpless when thinking of ways to blow up corporate offices or how to murder all those miserable politicians who had ignored the signs and reports of the first two decades of this century, because they were in it for the money.

“Well, guess what, morons, money can’t buy clean air!”

That wasn’t quite true; the rich lived in houses with filter systems so advanced the space station couldn’t equal them. But space, too, was a lost hope. So many had signed up to go to Mars – where the air was worse – that the governments had stopped all registration, after which mobs of angry people had attacked the facilities and destroyed every chance of anybody leaving this planet in the next five years. The soldiers had come and killed them, as soldiers do, but at least the exploiters wouldn’t get to leave the Earth either.

“What will we do” I asked the silent baby. She didn’t know any better. Would never know what it was like to sing, make a tiara out of daisies, swim in a pool, feed the ducks or kiss her mama goodnight – all that was gone.

I entered the hostel to get my clothes, my ID and  photo album. I put it all in a backpack, changed the baby’s diaper, which I left on the bed for the landlord, and went back out.

“I may know of a place, Sweetpea,” I told her. “I know where one the promoters hides out.”

I’d not seen Alan since I’d cursed him and almost literally kicked him out, right after Mitchell had died and he’d apparently believed he was cheering me up by revealing that he was a promoter. Before that we’d shared all our ideals.

#

Most promoters kept to themselves, because it was dangerous business promoting the end of the world. They were not merely predicting it; no, they believed it better for the planet to get rid of all people now, so that the remaining plants and animals would have a chance.

Alan still lived in his little bungalow, because he’d buried his daughters in its garden and wouldn’t desert it. He let me in without a word, without asking about Sweetpea. Just silently, as if he’d always known I’d turn up. There wasn’t much garden left above Alan’s children, but he showed it me anyway.

I told him what had happened to Lisa and Carolina; told him I had nowhere to go, no future and no hope. He understood, as did Maria, his wife, who came home a little later.

Though skinnier than I remembered them, and pale like everybody else, Alan and Maria didn’t look like empty vessels; there was still life in their eyes. They offered me and Sweetpea the spare room in their house and invited me to the promoters’ meeting the next evening. The baby came too.

I was interrogated on the way in, but Alan and Maria vouched for me, and if not them, then Sweetpea did, simply by the way she looked.

At least fifty people were gathered; men and women, all alive with anticipation and the knowledge that they were making a difference; not the difference we’d all wanted only a few decades ago, but still. These people – there was a vast network of them all over the planet – had been developing secret weapons and devices. Another month and they’d release their “big bangs”, the name given to the two hydrogen bombs that would create sinkholes the size of Europe in two locations: Yellowstone National Park and Lake Taupo in New Zealand. They would simply help the Earth by setting off these super volcanoes deliberately. Within a year, the only survivors would be that life that was independent of vegetation. Smaller bombs were also already in place, in Japan and Indonesia, just to make sure. Large amounts of Belladonna and Strychnine were being harvested, so that the promoters didn’t have to await the starvation and darkness that would follow.

It was a brilliant plan – well, not for the animals and plants they’d intended to save, of course, but I didn’t speak that sentiment out loud. Instead, I volunteered for some of the organizational work, feeling a little guilty for joining in this late, and because I started to share their sense of purpose: We’d leave it up to Gaia to start again. Humanity had been a mistake; it was for the best.

But not everybody was here only to promote the end of the world. There were some – Alan whispered to me – who had additional plans. They weren’t satisfied with just killing humanity; they wanted to punish the responsible parties: the politicians and polluters, who’d refused to listen to the people; to make them suffer before simply perishing with the rest, because it was not fair if they went believing they were innocent. I saw Maria talking to some of them. No doubt, her heart was just as cold and bitter as mine.

When we came home, Alan opened a bottle of wine of a 2019 vintage, from just before the death summers. It must have cost him a fortune. We drank to the elimination of humanity.

“Oh Sweetpea,” I whispered when struggling with the syringe to feed my little granddaughter before crawling into bed with her later. “You have to know, even if you’re too little to understand, that I was never like this. I don’t like killing people.”

She just looked at me and then fell asleep when I stroked her cheek. What wouldn’t I give to hear her cry? “I’ll make them pay for this. I promise,” I whispered.

That night I woke up from a dream in which Maria had asked me to take part in the torture and I’d enjoyed it.

#

I stayed with Alan and Maria. After every feed, I hoped Sweetpea would go to sleep and not wake up again, so she’d not have to endure the coming horrors, but she grew stronger that month. Like her mother, she was a fighter. I both felt sorry for her and content knowing the end was near. I didn’t listen to any news from outside anymore. I didn’t go back to see Carolina, but whispered my regrets about that to her baby at night.

The day before the big bangs, Maria, being in a festive mood, announced that she was going out “to buy bags full of sweets for our last day on Earth.”  She stopped to stroke Sweetpea’s head while leaning over the back of my chair. “She’s an angel.”

Alan stood up. “Are you sure?” he asked his wife.

She looked at him defiantly. “Absolutely!”

Alan took her into his arms and kissed her, as he so often did. His back to me and Maria hidden from immediate view, I never realized that this was a very long embrace, never thought twice about the jerky movements Maria made, never even wondered why she suddenly slid to the floor – not until I noticed the rope in Alan’s hand and the line on Maria’s throat.

He’d strangled her? I knew I sat there with a pounding heart and my jaw hanging open.

“She was going to kidnap and torture the ministers who were responsible for the environment at our darkest hours,” he said, putting the rope on the table and picking up the lifeless body of his wife to put gently onto the couch. “I couldn’t let her do that, not even for the girls.”

Aware I was not moving or responding, I watched Alan walk to the liquor cabinet, open a bottle of rum and pour us both a large glass. He was calm, not worried about my response, not worried about consequences.

“What does it mean anymore, ‘right or wrong’?” he asked. “I’m saving her the pain of the last days, is all.”

I automatically took the glass he handed me, and then wondered how he could just sit down like that, beside her, with absolute composure. “But… why take away those last days from her?”

“I told you; she didn’t want to give up on the idea of torture.”

“But all she was trying to do is set things right.” I hesitated, wondering if he would attempt to kill me too if I took Maria’s side. “She just wanted to avenge her babies; don’t you?”

“I’ve been there, Richard. I do understand, but revenge on who? Who are you going to blame for centuries of pollution? Your parents? Your grandparents? Or do you think it’s a problem of the last decades?”

“No, of course not, but they could have stopped it.”

“They? Who?”

“They, the rich, the politicians; if they’d only listened to the protesters!”

“The protesters, Richard, were splinter groups. They each had their own agenda. We joined some of them, remember? And then we left them again, because we didn’t like some of their other ideas. Plenty of politicians wanted to clean up the world, because they had children too, but they couldn’t, because they work in a system that is so full of red tape that nothing ever gets decided.”

“Then they didn’t do their job.”

“They did do their job; the exact  job they were elected for: to appease the masses. You’re right, technology and greed brought us pollution, but democracy ensured that we didn’t do anything about it in time.”

Alan was too calm, sipping his drink, while I, despite having gulped mine down, was getting more and more agitated. “Then they should’ve left the job to people who KNEW how to take charge!”

My outburst unsettled Sweetpea. I automatically stroked her head, until I realized that was what Alan was doing to Maria.

“Yes, but when we were young, were there not already people calling for autocracy by natural born leaders, so as to save the Earth?” Alan asked. “Did we not still go and vote, you and I, believing we had freedom and a voice? Did you not teach your kids that?”

“But we know better now.”

We know now, they knew it then, but did we listen? If we had, we could have maybe prevented it. If everybody had listened, but you and I took a decade longer to see it, and many still have faith in the old stories. Politicians, by their very definition, follow the lead of the masses, because that is what they are elected for; to follow, not to lead. Or would you have voted for somebody who said what you were not ready to hear?”

“You’re defending them!”

“No, I’m trying to explain to you how the groupmind works. I was a psychologist, remember? We’re all on this merry-go-round together, Richard; those you accuse as well. They’re not deliberately deceiving us, no matter how much easier it is to believe that.”

“Then they’re stupid! If I can understand the facts, then so should they.”

Alan smiled, stood up to refill our glasses and then left the bottle on the table between us. “Should they?” he asked. “When I became a promoter, you knew as much as I did, but you didn’t join. You believed I was wrong. Unless you’re the only person entitled to believe something different than others, you have to accept that people are not clones. New ideas spread slowly. By the time we realize something new is dangerous, the infrastructure has changed and we can’t undo it. Did you not have a smart phone?”

“I DIDN’T have a choice!” I took a big swig. “I never wanted a smartphone, but they took the public phones away and wouldn’t give me a job without one.”

“Exactly. Nobody has a choice, Richard. Nobody set out to destroy the Earth. If it were that simple, we could have stopped them. You say ‘them’ when you talk destruction and ‘we’ when you play the victim. You do that without thinking, and so does every other person. And that’s why people blame others; that’s what Maria was about to act on and what you did to me after Mitch died.”

Somehow, I’d always known that was coming, “I’m sorry about that,” I told Alan. “I was angry that day.”

“Yes, you were. You lashed out, because you were hurting. But on that one angry day, how many other people did you hurt? And what do you think they did with their hurt? Or are you the only person who’s entitled to get angry?”

I started to feel defeated by his calm and his always having an answer, so I drained my glass and immediately refilled it. “You must have rehearsed your lecture to Maria,” I scorned.

“We’re all in this together, is what I’m saying,” Alan replied. “We, as a people, live in illusions, not just politicians; we all preached free will, free markets and democracy, even in the face of disaster. We all accepted that we had a voice, when all we had was a vote. Even you, Richard, you’re still promoting your personal rights; you call yourself free, even if you can’t breathe.”

“That isn’t FAIR!” He was playing with Maria’s hand, stroking it, and it made me irritable.

“For the last time, Richard. Survival is not about fair. Is it fair that we know what will happen tomorrow and have the means to avoid panic and starvation for ourselves? Is that fair? We’ve done all we can. It didn’t work, because we bought the fairy tales of freedom and equality.”

“But we can’t just give up. Humanity has survived natural disasters before.”

“Yes, but those people were a lot smarter than we are. The Egyptian pyramids hail from an era – long before the Egyptians – when people understood the groupmind. They sent us a message in stone, which we failed to understand. Maybe the next wave of people will.”

“So, you think there will be survivors?”

“Who knows? Life is resilient.” He pulled the bottle away from me when I reached for it, still without any agitation. “We have a chance, Richard, you and I. We’re in a position to help the future. Maria was not the only one making plans beyond the big bangs.”

“What do you mean?”

“Before you spend your last day on Earth blaming everybody else, try to understand what information is and that people are just bits of that. If there’s only the slightest chance that, someday, an intelligent species will rise again, should we not warn them, so they might succeed where we failed?” Alan’s eyes reflected that same purpose I’d seen before.

“Are you planning to survive somehow?”

“Me?” He smiled and stroked Maria’s hair. “No. It’s too late for that, but we can do something; we can send a message into the future, like the Egyptians did. Instead of revenge, let’s think what message we can send those who will inherit the Earth. What would you tell Sweetpea if she had a chance?”

I had no idea. “What if they don’t get it in time?”

“Then some of them, like some of us, will send a better message the next time around, and so on until, one day, it won’t be too late.”

“What kind of message?” I was beginning to feel resigned to his calm, to his deliberation and I slowly began to see he may be right; everybody was in the same boat and we’d rocked that boat as a group. “But how, in Gaia’s name, do we write to the future? We have no stone structures.”

#

We never went to sleep that night. Alan eventually carried Maria to the bedroom, put the air conditioner on cold and opened another bottle, while I fed Sweetpea with the syringe and changed her diaper. After that, we planned our message, but we needed two bottles of rum to get ready for it.

Only a month ago, if you’d asked if I could kill a person without remorse, I’d have said, “No, of course not! I’m no monster.” But now, on the eve of the big bangs, I’m deliberately and calmly killing my own grandchild with a pillow to make sure it will be over for her and she won’t suffer. But more importantly, so that she can become a message; the only message that might get through.

Aware that I’m as calm as Alan was when he strangled Maria – out of love – I wait till she stops breathing, then pick up Sweetpea’s tiny body, give her a cuddle and carry her to the kitchen, where Alan is already carving his message into Maria’s bones.

I try not to look. Luckily, my baby’s scalp only has a thin layer of skin and is just big enough for a small story; the story of a people who believe themselves bigger than nature, of a woman who can’t breathe. Trying only to think of the message, I carve tears with my knife; tears to explain to those who’ll find it, that this was not some callous act; that I weep for my child and through her for all people. Weeping real tears, I am driven by the purpose that we – that is a large number of promoters in all corners of the globe – are embedding a message for future paleo-archaeologists, so they might put one and one together. For that is the nature of information; it can travel through time.

When we’re ready, Alan and I go outside and silently dig a grave near Alan’s children, but much, much deeper. It takes us till early morning. Then we bury them together. Exhausted, I take a last shower, make a nice cup of coffee and add some strychnine. My message has been sent.

###

Why they did what they did and what they could have done differently.

 Character motivation guide for In the Real World by Nōnen Títi

In the Real World full cover

Remember not to judge a book by its cover, or, if you do, do not jump to conclusions.

This post, which explains the complex relations and behaviours of the characters in light of their psychotype (personality type) functions and attitudes, will be of interest to those people who have read the book.

I am putting all three of my young adult novels on a website for teacher resources, for which I had to provide a PDF for use in a classroom. With each of the books I offer some free resources for teachers, and for In the Real World I offer this character guide, published as PDF with an explanation of psychotypes and a discussion about conflict, and references to my book.

Here I will limit myself to the character descriptions only.

Mariette and Jerome

Mariette and Jerome are both introverts and they used to be very close when younger, sharing a make-believe world between them. Each still uses creative writing as their outlet and for exploring their ideas or feelings; they are word people. Some hormonal impulses are awakening in them – there are kids who get this long before this age – and during the prank war, both end up compromising their own sense of right and wrong.

The story starts on Anzac Day weekend (around April 25th) at the start of the second school term for the year, and covers the conflicts that follow when the unresolved issues of this ‘first (prank) war” are transferred to the school, causing a “second war”. The story ends with them leaving school for good around Armistice (November of the same year), which is halfway the fourth term.

 Mariette is the character who gets the most negative responses from readers, especially those who focus on immediate action and not the larger picture of causes and underlying emotions. She is classed as the instigator, the one who can’t control herself and “should” behave.

To begin with, many readers might have an issue with the idea of Mariette being an introvert, but introversion is not about how much you talk or socialize, but about where you get your energy, and, especially, your relation with the outside world, and what Mariette expresses to the world are her ideas and her words, but she does that through her subjective perspective and she seeks time alone to energize. Her personality revolves around her introverted emotive values (Fi), which remain hidden and make it hard for others to understand her, while her words, even when she is not stressed or angry, come easily when it concerns global matters (matters of Ne), but the moment it is personal (feelings or physical), she keeps them private.

Mariette has an introverted persuasive attitude (IP), which means she is generally not judgmental, but pretty good at manipulating (especially when angry). She does not internalize the social norms and has learned that lying is a safer way to respond, because when she tells the truth, like at school or to her mother about homework, she ends up berated or told to be quiet.

Mariette starts the story as a happy adolescent, going to the farm of her grandparents, looking forward to having some fun. She is not particularly interested in politics or boys, but she has friends and life has been pretty good to her, so far. Her inner value system is already present, so she asks “how can you have rules about killing people?”, but at that point she is not really interested in war. Unlike Lizette and Jerome, she does not use explicit war terminology for the pranks.

During the weekend she is assaulted, which makes her feel violated, humiliated, furious and out for revenge. Not only does she feel physically attacked, but she is denied being a person; she is treated as bait for Lizette. Her inner sense of authentic Self, her Fi, which is all that matters, is being treated like a piece of meat, a toy to entice somebody else, and that, more than the physical aspect, injures her. Apart from that, she is trying to deal with her guilt for having ratted Lizette out, since she has learned that risking injury is brave and seeking safety makes people weak or worthless, and there is an unspoken guilt, which came with what she felt inside. She was not only frightened, disgusted with the worms and angry for the assault, but within her a sexual urge awakened that she is barely aware of, has no idea what to do with, and which is absolutely not allowed in a situation like that.

In an unconscious but natural response in order to protect her Self, the introverted filters (Fi, which guards her emotions and Si, which as a weaker function is already often not noticed or ignored), so that all the energy that cannot flow through these filters now comes pouring out the other two: Ne is out gathering more and more information to support her increasing obsession with men being violators and because perception serves justification, all that is noticed is that which supports that view. Meanwhile, Te expresses on behalf of the other functions in floods of angry words, exaggerated language and deliberate provocations. This, being her weakest function or filter – she becomes overly and expressively critical – the angrier she is, the better the words flow, affecting the world around her, and the more determined she is to affect the world with those words.

Her better expression, more controlled, comes when she writes, when the global picture that is emerging from her extraverted intuition (Ne) allows her to see connections, universals and patterns and make comparisons between situations, times and places.

Over the weeks that follow, because it is not discussed or talked about, and done off with “where two people fight” and “think about what Jerome feels”, she gets stuck in “a lump of anger” and in denial of her own body: she cannot speak without scorn, cannot wash, barely eats and barely sleeps, has no idea why, but turns it into hate against men in general, because that is an easily identifiable group, and against her mother, who comments and berates her for this.

Things totally fall apart when, in addition, she begins to learn about the ‘real world’, about politics and the disposability of human life in name of this greater good that does not exist for her, and which emphasizes the denial of the value of a person.

She does not get time to understand these concepts, because too much information is thrown at them in too short a time; not just the wars, but the incongruencies between promises and reality, and the information about personalities that put everything in a different light again.

All she knows is that she feels furious about being told to be an individual but treated like a number, being told she has a voice, but forced to be quiet, not even being allowed to question, and generally being belittled. The spiral is denial of body, denial of voice, denial of person.

Revenge is a natural method of feeling justice for Mariette, and yet, even if she consciously wants to take her anger out on Jerome, she has trouble doing so. They had a fairly close bond; he comes across as sensitive, which is emphasized when she reads his poems, so she finds a scapegoat. As Mr Shriver later says, she decided to be angry at men in general, and the principal was simply an easy target, even if he, personally, had done nothing, except represent the system. And the system in Mariette’s emerging bigger picture uses uniforms as symbols of the denial of humanity and individuality – being a number, just a piece of meat in the herd. Having just come out of history, where the assumed right of governments in times of war caused even more emotional turmoil inside her, she then blows up to the person she had already vilified.

Since she cannot apologize without denying her own Self, even after she had time to calm down over the weekend, Mariette gets suspended, only to get inundated with more horror stories related to war and what her grandparents went through.

But before Grandpa Will tells her those, she talks to her grandmother about that night, or rather, what Granannie does is put her hand “where the memory sits”, and almost physically shifts the energy and with that opens the shut filters, so that physical tears can flow. Only then do things start to appear better.

After six weeks on the farm, Mariette does not want to go back to school, because she anticipates judgment and jokes about what happened. If she had simply been made to go back to school, she would have calmed down the moment she realized that most of her class had long forgotten the incident, but when Karen mentions the contract she will be forced to sign, all anger comes back.

From a manipulation “game”, she now gets furious at her mother for arranging this, and starts using anger and threats, goes totally overboard and gets eventually silenced by Grandpa Will.

Did she ask for it? You bet.

As Grandpa Will explains later, she needed somebody to make her, so that she does not have to feel that she sold her Self out – Mariette cannot compromise her authentic Self, since that is her dominant function and identity, and Grandpa Will stops the angry energy without any scolding or admonition.

Mariette then tries to get herself kicked out of school, because she won’t live down the humiliation of being set back a year – which is an assumption on her part – so she refuses to cooperate in classes and begins to find ways to play the manipulation game at school.

However, she is beginning to get acknowledged as an individual; she is taken seriously by some adults, and had time to think about all these new ideas, and she soon settles down a little. Things seem to get better and she shows that she can be in charge and mature for a good cause during the rest of the third term.

However, by this time, the seed of the next war has been planted in the school already, so that, the betrayal after the term break, reignites all the fury, whose global model is too aware of the deceptions and from an obsession with males and uniforms, she now directs all her anger at PM personally. She becomes a bit of a dictator, invading meetings and instigating riots.

When Mr Shriver dies, this same insight allows her to see the similarities with soldiers and what happens in wars. She feels guilty, and desperate for an adult to take charge, so she starts exploiting the ‘game’ with Mr Fokker, because he seems the only one who, at that point, understands her. But as Jerome says, he is not in the proper social position to do what needs doing, and he eventually risks his job to do so anyway.

Jerome is more obviously the introvert. He starts more insecure, but also insightful, and having taken way more responsibility than he should have had at his age. In addition, he has been bullied, lost his family and had one episode of being angry enough to try and burn somebody’s house down. What we see of Jerome, however, is his compliance, his outward turned sympathetic reasoning and emotive understanding (Fe), which meets the world in name of his dominant intuition (Ni), which he experiences as flashes of insights, premonitions, holistic understanding of how things are related with regard specific instances, which is why he “senses the remnants of a visitor” and “already knows” what Mr Fokker comes for.

He uses his poetry to work through feelings or situations that are difficult; the words make these clearer for him. For Jerome, truth reasoning is introverted (Ti), which shows in a tendency to over-analyse, a lack of resolve, and less inclination to spit out his thoughts verbally. He stays in the background, but, once he had time to introspect, he knows he can rely on his intuitions.

Jerome’s need to belong to his peer group (IJ) stops him from standing alone against his cousins; he obeys the leader and allows the event, the situation and his Se (being weak and less controlled) to take him for a ride. Thus, in the heat of the prank war, Jerome abides by the wishes of his peers, not because he wants to, but because he has this big need to be in the team. He allows his Fe to justify this by telling himself that he is always alone, has no mother and so on. He sees the danger for Lizette, but his tendency to weigh up possibilities make him wait too long – a loop of perfectionism – and he does nothing.

The other boys act mostly on instinct, until Stuart ‘wakes up’ in response to Mariette’s cry for help.

Jerome immediately feels guilty, but then Dad attacks him and confuses everything.

Jerome contemplates quitting life rather than having to go to Mariette’s, because he knows how furious she will be. But he goes anyway. Something in him believes that he deserves to be punished, but, as Grandpa Will suggests, he may also feel that Charl’s response was his just desert.

As things get slowly better, Jerome shows his natural tendency to being judgmental a few times: to his Dad, but also when he wonders why his aunt and cousins can’t keep their feelings inside.

It’s actually Jerome, much more than both Karen and Mariette, who can’t keep his feelings inside, since what comes out, sometimes against his will, are his true feelings, while Karen and Mariette use another function to express with; their true feelings are shielded.

The more Mariette seems to need him, the stronger Jerome becomes. He is shocked by Grandpa Will’s response to Mariette, projecting his own anticipated feelings, until Grandpa Will points out that she is a different person. Besides that, Jerome is not totally sure about it not being wrong, because that is the current view of his society – even if in Australia this has not yet been legalized, the moral beliefs are those of the west – and his Fe tends to internalize those beliefs.

Jerome enjoys the action when things seem to be within moral and legal standards, but easily worries when those are threatened. He believes that norms are inevitable and a good thing, but that does not mean simply accepting what those are – Js accept the idea of norms, but will debate their content – and although his ethical values are more in line with those of the society, his subjective self gives them an individual angle, so that, when his inner values cannot agree with standing up for the anthem, he experiences an internal dilemma, because he also does not want to get into trouble.

Likewise, being more aware of his emerging sexuality, he feels more towards Mariette than just as his cousin, which he also believes to be wrong. Twice his body takes over and makes him do things he regrets minutes later.

Granannie (from experience) sees this, which is why she talks about dominant or submissive. Even if Mariette narrates this part, Jerome understands the message much better than she does.

Jerome loves the routine at his uncle’s house, not just because he never had much of this; he loves it, because his personality (J) needs routine or else his digestive and sleeping patterns become confused. He feels it as his obligation to keep Mariette out of trouble, like he used to his dad, and that natural tendency is strengthened by at least three people saying she needs him.

In the end he takes Mariette’s side, insisting she didn’t do anything wrong. He probably does not totally believe that himself, but he wants to be that rein he wrote in his poem about her.

If hurt too often, people like Jerome could shut people out for good, in which case Fe, which cannot so easily shut down, because it is extraverted (a wide open door) makes a deliberate and conscious choice to protect the Self – if you can’t shut off the input, then you avoid the person. Jerome threatens to do this to Mariette right after he read her story and he might have, had she not invaded his room at night.

Where Mariette expresses her hurt (Fi) in anger to the outside world, for Jerome the hurt comes out (Fe), but because he anticipates and worries over what others will say, the anger often remains inside, until, right before Anzac Day, after having obsessed over GG since Christmas, he decides to burn his house down. Suddenly the bucket is full and the angry energy can no longer be contained. In “a moment of total rage”, these are the acts that surprise neighbours – although in this case Jerome had calculated and planned for this act, so it was less of an impulse.

Their cousins and “that night”

Actually, there are two “that nights”, because Jerome has a Christmas night that is equally playing on his conscience; the night he accidentally walked in on Nikos and his dad.

But the night of the prank war (like the night Mariette invaded Jerome’s room and Granannie talked to both of them), Jerome’s Se (being much more aware than Mariette’s Si) takes over, even if for only a brief moment. He believes it wrong, but he knows it is there.

Stuart is in charge, usually a quiet and easy-going person, he is also a perceiver and lets the event (the moment or perceptions) take over. In addition, he lacks the anticipatory insight; he reacts to the moment and only realizes the danger when Mariette shouts for help right next to him; his Fi picks up the authenticity of that. But then his Se jumps into action and manages to find Lizette without Stuart needing to think about it. This sensory function is so in tune with the world that it has no need for deliberation. Even if people of his type are usually not easily ruffled, once told what could have happened, he starts feeling terribly guilty and ends up asking Grandpa Will for help.

The other two boys, Glen and Toine are tougher and also focused on the moment and the here and now and not on possible consequences. Jerome therefore stood alone in warning for the danger, but was not assertive enough.

Like Jerome, Mariette, also has her mind on possibilities rather than the here and now, and she foresees all kinds of possible scenarios of what could go wrong, long before the boys have done anything. Just being there is enough. She is no hero; she is in danger and will say anything to get out of it. Mariette is not a perceiver, but a justifier, so that in her mind there’s a clear demarcation between fun and war and the boys have overstepped it.

Lizette has a similar attitude to Mariette (IP), but opposite functions. Her Ti rules and is backed by Se, which gives her physical and mental toughness and cool, but a lack of foresight into the danger. Lizette is the type who is decorated in times of war, and outstanding in crises, yet in times of peace, these types are seldom appreciated. They tend to thrive on danger, which makes them feel alive, so that Lizette has no guilt, just believed the whole thing was a great game.

Their friends

At school, Kathleen and Fred both share with Mariette and Jerome their N perception. Fred’s type, although a natural leader, often does not come into its own until at university. He keeps a school shirt in his bag, so that, at home, he can pretend to wear it for his conservative parents, while at school he dresses to belong to his peer group. He likes the pranks, but is also somewhat judgmental, like when he immediately warns Jerome not to go to Mr Shriver’s house, because that is not appropriate. Stories go around and Fred accepts those. In a less tolerant school, Fred would probably not go around with tally books and messed up shirts. He chooses his goals and, although he is naturally conscientious, he quite easily adopts the views of those who are more passionate than he is.

Kathleen and Mariette are quite close, except that Kathleen is an extravert, which also makes her a perceiver (Ne dominant); she responds to events, pokes fun at the situation, and, although she can anticipate consequences, sometimes things come out of her mouth (Te) before she thinks about it. Easily distracted, she stands her own ground and when Mariette goes too far, more or less literally takes her down.

Kathleen’s father is close to her in type – she says she is like her dad – but his auxiliary is Ti instead of Fi – which makes him tougher, more challenging to the system, more analytical, keener on coming out on top. Both adapt the justifications to the moment, but unlike Jerome’s, their perceptions come from the global world in an endless stream of possibilities and challenges. Life is never boring with them around. Also unlike Jerome, since their justification is turned inward, they don’t look for explanations in the existing norms, but create their own, which makes them able to instantly find answers to everything, or have an immediate comeback in a comical situation; not only can they make it up on the spot, but more often than not, the answer escapes them before they have taken time to think it through. But Kathleen has not enough passion for Mariette’s cause to go beyond a bit of fun.

Charlotte is similarly a perceiver, bound by reality, not by social rules, and out of boredom resorts to jokes and sometimes inappropriate back-talking. But her perceptions are material and practical (Se dominant) and that is how she responds and acts, with physical references and with physical attacks if needed, and always challenging the system just to see how much she can get away with. This provides her with an easy leadership role and admirers, but also with a chance to impose and threaten. Her weaker Fe is used as charm for the purpose of getting to her goal, for example when she fancies Jerome, but her weakest and introverted Ni misses relations and under stress she resorts to blatant stereotyping and she does not realize that she changes allegiance or contradicts herself later; she lives totally in the moment. She picks up physical vibes (Se) flawlessly, including Mariette’s, even if she explains them wrong, analysing (Ti) instead of picking up motivations. People like her need strong rules and adults who set limits; both are lacking in this school.

Mick is, as Kathleen’s dad observes, a teen with a broken heart. He might have secretly been in love with Mariette, and he might have used his initial moves for this reason, being also inclined to allow justification (Te) to serve perception (Ni), to respond to events. Yet he is very outspoken in his ideas and when he gets obsessed, he starts to nit-pick at small things, losing resolve. Eventually, he goes too far, in a more disastrous way than Mariette. Mick (like Jerome) creates his own reality in his head and this may fail to match the outer reality, at which point he finds reasons to justify his perceptions and his stealing information and making physical threats to the secretaries – justifications Charlotte accepts and begins to act on without necessarily considering their reason.

Their parents

Jerome’s father has a lot of problems, is not by nature a strong personality, has on top of that been spoiled and never had much responsibility and when things go wrong at home, he resorts to alcohol.

Jerome naturally took over and Charl let him. Both should have called for help much earlier, but there is that social stigma that still existed (when the book was written) about gay couples and both Jerome and Charl are open to the rules of the society with their second function (Fe). Only for Charl, this backs up not introverted intuition, but introverted sensing (Si), so that for him the immediate here and now and the proper form are much more important than possibilities. They would have emphasized each other’s weaknesses. Charl would have also felt guilty for letting Jerome take charge, and he has a similar surge of rage as later described for Beth, when he beats up his son.

In addition, Charl’s system was already closed because of the alcohol, which can paralyze the top functions, the strengths, so that the weaker functions have even less guidance. Later, the pills have the same effect; they not only shut down his dominant Si, but his extraverted Fe, his outlet; anti-depressants shut off all feelings.

Nikos is the same type as Kathleen’s dad, but a calmer version, probably as a result of different personal experiences. He finds his challenge in the academic world, in which his global thinking (Ne-Ti) comes out in his explanation of suburbs and social roles. Nikos is the stabilizer for Charl and Jerome, being more extraverted and intellectual. Jerome can talk with him about different things than with his dad. Nikos also took the kids out, which would have been especially important for Rowan, who is also extraverted, because Charl and Jerome would have sat indoors.

Jerome gets on fine with Aunt Karen, because she provides that stability he longs for and he is the ideal child she may wish for. However, would he have grown up with her from the start, she could have over-dominated him and unlike Mariette, who fights back when somebody attacks her person, Jerome might have ended up feeling unable to express.

Karen’s extraverted resolve and reasoning (Te) rules, while she measures her truths and reality to the objective world, so that, despite being a generally cheerful person (when the kids behave) and having plenty of friends, there is absolutely no place in her for accepting differences in beliefs and norms. Mariette is her polar opposite in all functions. The only thing they have in common is that beliefs rule over perceptions, so that they have no internal dilemmas and their fights are over ideas in the external world. Virtually everything Karen says feels wrong to Mariette (and vice versa) and she deliberately steps on the traditions and beliefs that keep Karen secure.

Karen’s global intuition (Ne) isn’t as well developed, causing a tendency to stereotyping, while her stronger perception is sensing form and propriety (Si), which brings in the data Karen’s resolve uses to try and force her rules, which is why she judges every action to the norms and expresses that judgment – which Charl, who might also feel that, does not do. He swallows it and gets sick.

However, when totally stressed, and Mariette drives her to that limit, Karen loses her resolve and becomes insecure.

Gerard is different. He is a gentle compensator for Karen. His introversion allows him to appeal to the individual, which Mariette understands and he is non-judgmental. He also clicks with Mariette, because his Fi rules, like hers, although he combines it with Se, which allows for a much more peaceful and nature-based valuing. He does not easily get upset about things, does not push his beliefs and is non-confrontational. But as his Ni is weak, he does not worry about things unless they are in front of him and he does not see Mariette’s need for patterns or discussing topics and concepts – they watch the news and let it go. His Te, like Mariette’s is extraverted and weakest, but as a mature adult, he does not let it run away. Mariette does not fight with her father, because her father does not say “you should” or “behave”; he says “I would like to be acknowledged”. He pleads for his person, not some anonymous third party, so she does not feel dismissed.

The main problem Mariette has with her father is that she needs him – not her mother who she naturally clashes with – to take charge. Both Mariette and Karen need Gerard to step in when things go wrong between them. Instead, Gerard, who cannot deal with conflict very well, tries to get his wife to back off rather than stop Mariette. He says he likes having Jerome; that is because Jerome causes a lot less conflict, not because he doesn’t love or understand Mariette.

Their grandparents

Granannie and Grandpa Will don’t have the problems of the parents, to start with because they come from a different generation; a generation where it was expected that children obey their elders and that is how they raised their own family. All their grandkids obey them, even if they try here and there – but they know when to quit; Miranda “chooses” to save her backside – because their grandparents make it clear they have the last word and therefore, the kids have the result in their own hands – I have previously explained how this aids the development of a healthy Self (Concerto: 223).

Even if some of the other “grans” would have been different, the two that are left are both Ps, meaning they are not bound to social norms; they see them and acknowledge them, but they don’t expect their kids and grandkids to take them at face value. Grandpa Will is not overly bothered that Mariette lied about the letter; he looked for intent. He does not scold or attack Mariette’s person; he merely stops the loop of anger, the behaviour and immediately gives her back her personal rights by asking if she thinks she is calm enough to go through.

Similarly, Granannie only objects because “…I may be old, but I am not stupid.” Likewise, they don’t scold Jerome for what some might consider inappropriate behaviour or feelings. They merely put it in perspective.

Granannie has Mariette’s personality type, like Jerome’s grandmother (Beth) is close to his – by which I am not suggesting this is genetic – and despite the different era, some things don’t change. Granannie says about her mother “my sense of honour found that so unimaginable”, so she is saying the same thing as we see Mariette doing.

Grandpa Will is extraverted and insightful, and would no doubt, in the past have pushed all the limits, Ne rules but with Fi as its balance, meaning he ‘reads’ atmosphere, while motivations and empathy, which he might not show, supports his actions and words. More than anything, he is the story teller, prone to fun, but with the big global picture that allows him to pull all events together. Third is his Te, resolve, which makes him a force to be reckoned with and, in light of his beliefs about child rearing, not hesitant to take charge.

Both grandparents, because of their experiences and their insights, believe that the standard stories that portray soldiers as heroes and doing their duty, are doing more harm than good, but their attempt to ban talking about wars altogether turns out not to work either – a notion that is later raised by Mr Fokker when he asks whether not remembering wars stop them from happening. Well, clearly not.

They help out where they can, especially those parents who are not standing as strong in today’s society. They are the ones who don’t wait too long with stepping in, because they do not have that social pressure of today, and especially those kids who need limits, like Mariette, feel safe in such an environment.

Their teachers

Let’s start with the maths teacher, who is totally cool. He ignores all the upheaval and concentrates on what he is there for. He does not admonish or scold or belittle; he simply teaches maths. Of course, he has it easy, since maths is an impersonal and impartial topic, so that the human aspects can be totally ignored.

Mr Shriver and Mr Moralis are ruled by their sympathy and emotive reasoning (Fe), making decisions with the intent of keeping or restoring harmony, and with as their weakest logic, analysis or principles (Ti). Both struggle with the assertiveness and growing independence of high schoolers, but Mr Shriver has a lot of personal experience with people like Mariette and similar situations; he has learned to deal with these and his natural tendency is to help people grow. He has the emotive insight and can see possibilities (Ni), and, therefore, can put his own expectations into perspective, so that he is willing to let them discuss or go beyond the written curriculum. He does not take from the global picture in this, but, like Jerome, focuses on individual people and the instance. He is most likely somewhat spiritual inclined and open to new wave thinking. He has a lot more trouble dealing with Mariette, exactly because he can’t hide his feelings and she provokes them.

For Mariette, Mr Shriver gains in her respect, the moment he presents himself as a human being instead of a social role (a teacher).

Mr Moralis uses his senses (Si) to support his need for harmony and thus focuses on form and established manners in the here and now. Mr Moralis cannot deal with Mariette’s anger at all. He has the natural personality to organize, but his strength in is logistical organization, and although he might have been okay as principal of a primary school, where everybody sticks to their role, the emerging voices of teenagers are too much for him. He keeps trying to be friendly, trying to appease, with as a result that he comes across as inconsistent and he keeps referring to his social position, which Jerome (like Mr Shriver) can accept, but Mariette (like Mr Fokker later) cannot.  Mr Moralis calls in reinforcements and ignores the personal factor, because to him this is inappropriate in school.

Mariette says she will respect any adult who tries to explain, even if they can’t. Like to Gerard, Mariette does not yell at the geography teacher, because this teacher doesn’t tell her to shut up and obey, or refer to her duty. She tries to explain, using the cake metaphor, says “we all work for the same baker”. She answers truthfully; they are all stuck in the system, and Mariette accepts that.

Miss Coven, herself still very young, and probably not naturally good at dealing with kids, lacks the confirmation she needs before making decisions. Like Charl, her (Si) rules, so that she relies on form, while traditional beliefs and truths (Te) support this view. She can be tough, but only once she has established where she stands, and, like to Karen, Mariette destroys these traditions.

The difference between universal and particular causes the argument with Miss Coven. She relates to the particular: this country, that war, our soldiers or the current laws, so she denies that things happen at home, because those are the truths she has internalized. But Mariette, Jerome and a few more refer to the universal (as does Grandpa Will): all soldiers: if no soldiers exist, war and tyranny could not happen, so that soldiers (in general, the concept) are responsible for all war and misery, but Miss Coven can indeed “not see” how her view comes across to those who naturally look at the big picture.

 Unlike Mr Moralis, Mr Fokker is better in a high school than a primary school. He adapts his lectures to what the students are focused on and allows them their opinion. His own natural intellectual insights (Ne) and non-conformist tendencies (P), love the emerging opinions of the students. He does eventually get angry, but he claims that anger for himself (I), as a person; he does not justify it using greater good or social roles, so Mariette can respect that. But he leads with Ti, like Lizette, making him tougher and less driven by ethical issues. His age and experience also play a role in that. But Mr Fokker feels as outraged as Mariette at the deception after the term break, even if, as an adult, he cannot show that, so he starts feeding the students material to make them think; he secretly enjoys Mariette’s dissent and hence lets her go way too far before stepping in, which he later acknowledges. He tries to protect her from herself.

Mr Fokker does not have a choice but to smack her, for the same reason that Mariette wants to get kicked out. He won’t stand by and let them judge him, so he instigates their response. He has seen all this before. They won’t get pleasure out of a win.

Mr Moralis says, “I don’t understand you people…”, at the very end when he realizes that Mariette and Mr Fokker are somehow alike. But Mr Moralis never knew what hit him, because Mariette’s initial anger came from what happened at the farm and she used the principal as a symbol.

He asks, “What did I ever do to you?”, at which point he refers to the personal relation, but the whole point was that he rejected that personal aspect before. What he had done was deny her autonomy and individuality.

Mr Fokker and Mr Shriver, being friends, talk to each other and have each heard much more of the story than the principal has. They understand what is going on under the surface and they have established rapport with their students, in which Mr Shriver’s natural empathy would have made the connections easily.

Mr Moralis does not have to feel guilty about Mr Shriver, even if he was equally involved as Mariette, because he measures his conscience to the rules and he followed the rules.

 Mariette and Mr Fokker

Initially, their relationship starts when he expresses awareness that she might be hurt. Soon he starts to accept her anger and asks her to write, and, no doubt, he reads those essays, and his principle-based reasoning is dominant (Ti), which is why he especially enjoys the word play and the dictionary quotes, while his weakest function is his extraverted emotive reasoning and sympathy (Fe). Because his are extraverted, he does pick up Mariette’s needs, even if he has less control over this function, probably because he is an adult with lots of experience and kids of his own that age.

They communicate through those essays, having entire conversations and exchanges in metaphor or analogies, and this is why Mariette insists that it is nobody’s business than theirs that he hit her, because she had given him permission to do so if she messed up. She had written it; they both knew it, and much of the silent conversation immediately after would have been about that.

Their relationship is an example of that game, Mr Shriver describes in his English class; that game that can be played intelligently if you are aware of it, because, after all, the initial attraction can happen to anybody. They have that attraction, which is for him mostly to her passion and ability to see the global picture the way he does. For her, there is more the need for the stronger father (Jerome notices) than the sexuality drive (which Charlotte hints at). Neither are physical people; they are word people, so they play the game with words, through ‘secret’ message writing. Mr Shriver may allude to people giving in to their physical impulses when he relates it to literature, and many inappropriate student-teacher situations are based on that, but even if the attraction overrides all social and cultural boundaries so that it is still a dangerous game, played at the edge of the acceptable, Mariette and Mr Fokker play it ‘intelligently’. It excites both of them. Both are super aware that it isn’t allowed, but that only fuels the feelings. This game is for them, not for an audience. The problem is that the game that interferes, the war game, is not played quite so intelligently, because the emotions take over.

 Jerome and Mr Shriver

Jerome develops his relationship with Mr Shriver based on their love of literature and a number of similar experiences, rather than a shared personality type, although they share a lot of that, but Mr Shriver is an extravert; he much more naturally shares his feelings and expresses them, and with his natural need to care for others and provide emotional support, he sees Jerome’s need. Thus, they connect on literature, feelings and the need for a parental bond, which they both notice and accept; this is not subconscious between them, as Jerome later acknowledges in his poem.

There is nothing wrong with them meeting on Sunday’s, despite the school. Charlotte and Fred believing they can comment.

 What they could have done differently.

What could Mariette have done differently?

Well, as the instigator of this war, carrying the anger of the previous war over, so as to start a new one, she is responsible for most of the problems. However, she can’t change her personality; she can’t change that she is still young and has little experience; she can’t change that the adults around her are not allowed to stop her before things get out of hand; she can’t change the bias towards some personalities, and she was not responsible for what the boys did.

She asks, without words, for help from the adults and she continues to do so, until things have gone way too far.

What could Jerome have done differently?

Not that much, really. He adapts to the situations and the changing environment pretty well, apart from having trouble accepting his father – today (only fifteen years later) with the sudden acceptance of LGBTQA, this would be much less of an issue.

It would have been better had he informed his grandparents and not confronted his dad or much sooner called for their help, but he learns from it and calls them to help Mariette.

He is, by his very nature, very mature, but, as Granannie explains later, there is the risk of a sudden rage and a tendency to be judgmental and think he knows better. But he learns from being with Mariette; he begins to see that she may be unpredictable and over the top, but she also stops things from becoming stagnant or dogmatic.

What could the parents have done differently?

Had Gerard stepped in, he could have prevented many instances of food flying across the kitchen, angry words and hurt feelings. No matter how hard it is for him, his family needs him to stop things from getting out of hand. He would do well to remember his own childhood, the times he did get a spanking, which he admits he did, and that it did him no harm nor make him hate his parents, and Mariette is very much like him. Both Karen and Mariette need him to stand by his wife and stop his daughter instead of the other way around.

Karen’s personality type is the only one which has all objective perspectives, which makes it very difficult for her to imagine another perspective. She cannot change who she is, but maybe she can learn that people are not all the same; she may not see it, but she will take the word of authority – of course, most of those are a similar type to Karen.

The kids are equally aware of that threat to their parents, and they abuse that, which is why Mariette challenges both Mr Shriver and her mother, suggesting that Karen will lose Miranda if she hits and Kathleen makes a suggestion about physical force that embarrasses Mr Shriver.

Charl already realizes what he should have done differently.

Kathleen’s dad was warned, like Mariette, by Grandpa Will, but he, too, insisted on pushing it, so despite his own warning to Mariette, he and his family also became victims.

What could the school have done differently?

Like Mariette, so Mr Moralis, if he had done just some things differently, could have prevented the war altogether. Just about everything both of them did made it worse. Mariette was looking for authority, but there was none at the school. Mr Moralis could have accepted Mr Fokker dealing with her, but he called Karen and thereby gave all the power directly back into Mariette’s hands.

Running away was definitely not the answer. No matter what problems, Mr Moralis was in charge and he left it up to his teachers to solve his problems. He should certainly not have used the younger kids as spies; likewise, for how he treats Miss Coven.

This is why Mariette says he does the job of leader, but he isn’t one inside.

The principal tries too hard to be friendly with the students, which they don’t need of him. Considering his job, it would help everybody if he learned about personalities and not expect all students to be copies of each other, no matter how much easier it is to treat them as a group. Like Karen, he must get this from an authority.

The problem of this particular school, which other schools may not have, is that both the principal and the vice principal have trouble with providing the authority and structure needed by kids that age. They are too similar; they cannot complement each other. Just like in families, the adults running an institution, need to provide different strengths, so that, together, they provide a wide range of skills. Nikos provides that balance for Charl. Karen and Gerard are pretty well balanced in many aspects.

Mr Fokker decides to step in when PM runs away  because somebody needs to step in, and Mr Shriver came to him for help. Mr Fokker dismisses the year tens for a week, so as to restore peace. However, he gets in trouble for that, later.

Mr Shriver was the natural mediator. He does what he can.

Mr Fokker, as said, gets caught up in the game and does not step in in time, which is why he later insists that Mariette is not responsible for Mr Shriver’s death; he should have been there, and which is why he risks his job and becomes defiant as well.

Both Mr Fokker and Kathleen’s father push against the system and lose their position; they became allies with Mariette. The person who tried to mediate lost his life.

 Thank you for reading,

Nōnen Títi, 2012. In the Real World (first published 2008).

https://www.nonentiti.com/books/7-In-the-Real-World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What is Not Spoken

Stories are said to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and they tend to have a main character and an adversary. This adversary (which can be another person, a natural phenomenon or personal hardships or challenges) must be overcome and the character must learn or gain something.

There are a number of genres that are very popular, which I suspect has to do with the security the writer promises the reader about the outcome.

Action stories, for example, tend to have a hero and the adversary tends to either be another human or a dangerous beast of some sort, and from the very start, no matter how many chase scenes and dangers, we know the hero will come out the winner. The narrative tends to follow the characters that are active and describe the moves they make and the words they say.

Likewise, romance, one of the most popular genres ever, provides that same sense of security to its readers. Romance stories always has a happy ending (otherwise it is a love story), and the narrative follows the feelings and observations, the expectations and disappointments of the main characters as they respond to each other. To start with, they tend to despise each other before they feel attracted and get together. Sometimes there is a third person involved, sometimes the adversary is their own prejudice, as in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but the reader does not have to worry about the outcome.

Mystery and detective stories also give the reader the security that the crime will be solved. The reader engages because of the puzzle or the tension, but, even if they do not know the exact details, they know the puzzle will be solved in the end, and many, myself included, read to think along and see if we got it right.

In hard science fiction, it tends to be about the technology and the descriptions of the futuristic or alien life, and although the reader does not know exactly what to expect, because the situation is new, the characters have to overcome either technological or environmental hardships, and they usually succeed.

Some other genres have similar securities, even horror and some fantasies and adventure.

In all those stories, even if the characters are well developed and realistic, which is not always the case, their focus tends to be on the one issue: the puzzle or crime, the danger or adventure, or the love interest. The conversation, the narrative and the actions focus on the scenes that move those parts of the story forward.

Drama, however, cannot promise the reader that all will end well for their characters; like real people, they do not always win or survive. Whether contemporary, science fiction or fantasy, the characters tend to face multiple adversaries, usually an important one in their own personality, and several in other people and events, often with conflicting demands. Problems between characters come from their different likes and dislikes, flaws and strengths, wishes and dreams.

They tend to have many facets, some of them negative, and more often than not, they do not say what they really mean or what bothers them, or they think something different than they say outwardly. More often than not, there is no one adversary and every character has a point, so there is never the security of one winner.

It is those complexities that allow the reader to feel for them, to love them or hate them, and different readers will feel akin to different characters.

The trick for the writer of this genre is to allow the reader these insights, to convey all those motivations and interactions that are going on under the surface, from subliminal messages to unspoken intent, without creating a bias toward one or the other.

For example, I have one character who, like many introverted people, have entire conversations in their head, and even if somebody asks them a question, they think more than they actually speak. In one scene, I have somebody ask her questions, using the all-important quotation marks that tell the reader this is a spoken sentence, but the reply comes without those marks. After a number of those, the questioning character gets upset because they feel ignored.

Similarly, I play with abstract words, because those are words that do not and cannot mean the same to all people, so they confuse each other, get angry or sad, when the other person never meant to convey the message that was received.

It is not always easy to decide how to write those scenes. The tense and point of view of the story help make these insights possible. Obviously, when writing from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, you can tell the reader what goes on in each person’s head, but without this narrator, a writer needs to decide which scenes go with which character (if there are more than one point of view character) and always keep in mind what each of them can or cannot know. Something that is not spoken or acted in public cannot be known by other characters.

I find that it makes less difference whether I write close third or first person, as long as I make sure that the reader is in only one head at the time. I use scene breaks or chapter breaks to change point of view character.

Although the present tense automatically gives a story more momentum, I find I can raise the tension by changing point of view more often, so that as many as possible angles on an important event are portrayed.

In movies it is possible to show the viewer multiple happenings at the same time, by zooming out and showing different characters acting simultaneously, but in a book, they need to be described, each in their own turn.

In short, it is the subliminal interactions and messages that I love to play with in my stories, because they not only keep things complex and rich, but they keep he reader in suspense, because you never know what will happen next. And hopefully, the reader might recognize in one of the characters somebody they know and get an insight in what could be playing.

That is the goal of my writing – writing for a positive future – to help people understand each other.

Thank you for reading.

How Some Publishers Discriminate Against Introverted Writers

Of course, I know that we live in a society that favours extraversion. That is simple psychology.

Despite introversion becoming more talked about and many people seeking groups that try to get equal respect for introverts, it remains the case that the vast majority of people do not even really know what those words mean – except for some vague references to outward behaviour, like talking a lot or going to parties. That misconception implies that it is a choice people make, or that it is learned behaviour, and, therefore, introverts should try and get over it.

That attitude is nothing new; schools have always berated introverts for being shy, for not speaking up in class, for not wanting to be in the sports team or drama club. Even if extraverts are more often told off for talking in class, teachers do not associate that with being flawed as a person as they do introversion.

Offices may have in the past been too focused on quiet work, and extraverts, no doubt, had trouble with that, but the recent fashion of open area offices, where people are expected to change desks every day to “be social”, and where brain storming sessions or meetings are the order of the day, is proving detrimental for introverts. They are forced to take many more sick days that they have, just to get over the poisonous atmosphere, never mind the decline in the quality or amount of work.

Then there are the countless recruiters who have joined the idea that a person who is not on Facebook must be antisocial and therefore not employable, without understanding that it is often exactly those who have been discriminated against or bullied who shy away from those networks, while bullies tend have huge amounts of ‘friends’.

But now, book publishers are joining the party, despite writing being very much an introverted activity. I am not saying that extraverts are not writers or cannot write, but they also have many other ways to tell their stories; just look at Twitter and You Tube.

Introverts often have no other way to express than to write. They made up the majority of writers in the past. Today, however, many publishers want evidence of followers on social media before offering somebody a book deal, or they force the writers to do their own marketing. This blatant misunderstanding of writers comes from an industry that claims to exist to support the art of writing.

Equally ignorant, writers of marketing advice endorse this practice by threatening writers that they will never get a deal if they do not follow the trend. They make it sound as if there are no decent publishers around at all anymore, but that is not quite true.

Although it is often exactly those publishers who shout “equal opportunity” on their websites, who judge the writers rather than concentrate on the contents of the stories, there are still some respectable publishers around (both for books and magazines), who read content before asking the writer for personal information. They often state this on their websites.

This practice was started to prevent discrimination for reasons of ethnicity and gender, but it can help introverted writers as well, and I would strongly advice all serious writers to seek out those publishers.

If a publisher won’t accept you until you have a certain number of social media followers, they are not in it for the writing, but for the money. They are hurting the writing community more than they help it and I would say, boycott them. We need equal opportunity for all people and we should finally stop judging books by their covers – whatever form that cover might take.

Thank you for reading.

You do not choose to become a writer; the writing chooses you.

The other day, I came across a person, who said she wanted to write a book, but had no idea where to start. On asking, it turned out that it wasn’t the case that she had an idea, bit did not quite know how to start her story, but she simply had no ideas for stories; she just wanted to be a writer, because other people were writers and it seemed a nice idea.

Now, this person was extreme, of course, yet there are countless people who pick creative writing courses at university, usually because they have no clue what else to do, and believe they can become writers that way.

Another recent notion I came across was people who believe that having an idea for a story makes them a writer, but they’d like to hire a ghost writer to write it for them. That would be the same as me having the idea that I would like my son’s portrait painted, but ask somebody else to do the painting, so I can call myself a painter, or that I would be a doctor, because I send somebody to the GP when I think they have a cold.

Having ideas is the simple part. One idea might turn into a story or book, but most natural born writers have so many ideas they cannot hope to ever turn them all into stories. Natural born writers don’t need to ask somebody to help them find something to write about; they have no choice but to write, just like natural composers get tunes in their head and they have to play them.

On a similar note, ghost writers can probably write, but as long as you have to trade on somebody else’s already famous name to make it, it is questionable whether it is the quality of the writing that did it. On the other hand, all writers need help getting noticed, regardless of the quality of writing. But very often a famous author gets old or dies and their books keep being published, usually with a significant quality drop or else with a different style. However, because ghostwriters do not have to do any world or character building, which is one of the most important things of fiction writing, it is more like being a fan fiction writer, because with as the only difference that you have permission of the original author, usually for financial motivations.

Of course, not everybody who has ideas needs to be a writer, either. There are plenty of people with fantastic stories to tell, who do this better in film or as story tellers of another kind. In other cultures and other times, the latter were more accepted.

And, of course, you can be a non-fiction writer, which many people can do about their own topic of interest, although the research and follow through also requires a lot of commitment.

What I am saying is this: Most people accept that being a painter or musician is a talent people are born with, even if others can also learn the basics. So it is with writing, and with all non-artistic jobs as well, because each person has certain natural inclinations they are born with and which help them notice things (like ideas for stories), but writing is more than just having the idea; it is creating the setting, the characters and the plot and letting the characters lead you in telling the story. It is hours and hours of editing and rewriting, and it is something you become totally immersed in and cannot do quickly on the side.

Today, everybody can create a book, but most are just repeating what has been done a million times; everybody can record music, and I am sure natural born musicians have the same issue with the invasion of their skill set by this ease of access. But creating a book is not being a writer unless you actually created the story as well.

What I am saying, is that you do not choose to be a writer (or painter or musician), but it chooses you. You have no choice; you probably did it since you were young, even as a hobby, and it won’t stop, even if you try to. It comes naturally; you don’t have to ask others for ideas – but only for technical advice – and you don’t become a writer because it is popular, but because you already are a writer, a story-teller, from the moment you were born.

Thank you for reading.

No Space for Science Fiction

Not every story set in space is science fiction and science fiction does not need to be set in the future.

Genres of writing have changed over time, and currently “science fiction” tends to be grouped with “fantasy” and “cosmic horror” under the heading “speculative fiction”.

Of course, fiction tends to be speculation and it speculates a reality that never was or might never be, but which the writer (and reader) will accept as possible, at least for the duration of the book.

The term “suspension of disbelief” is very accurate for the science fiction genre, especially, because the word “science” is heavily laden with the expectation of fact and truth. Of course, every scientist knows that what is true today might be proven wrong in the future, so they, too, suspend disbelief when speculating, but theirs is not called science fiction, because they posit their scenarios as possible facts without the addition of fictitious people (characters).

Some science fiction stories, just like non-fiction books, get outdated, for example when their novel inventions are no longer novel speculations. When Star Trek was launched, their communication devices were totally alien to us, and yet, today, everybody walks around with a cell phone that can do more than the machines of the Enterprise crew.

Yet Star Trek did not get less popular, exactly because their stories deal with the human interaction with these technologies and the ethical relations between the races. Human stories do not get old.

I love science fiction, exactly because it allows me to invent a world that is totally fictitious, and yet based in an accepted understanding of our understanding of human psychology, so that my characters must ‘deal’ with a situation that is totally possible, and they must deal with it in a manner that real people could and would.

I love being able to immerse in such a totally different world, that is nonetheless very ‘real’.

Yet, despite science changing and definitions changing, and certainly our attitude to what genders are expected to do, when I mention that I write science fiction – which is not the only genre I write – the reactions I get are peculiarly outdated.

First of all, it is not uncommon for somebody to assume that I am male, unless I specifically point out that mine is social science fiction. Apparently, it is still not acceptable for women to deal with technology.

Secondly, the question most often asked is,  “When in the future is it set?” or “What planet is it on?”

The assumption is that science fiction must be set in space, and in the future, and generally the two are treated as self-evidently related.

Even in the minds of the younger generations, which (unlike mine) has grown up with space travel as an accepted technology, it seems that the ingrained idea from the sixties (the boom of science fiction) has taken a permanent hold.

That same assumption also underlies the idea that every story that is set in space must be science fiction, which is not true. Many stories set in space are simply that, an adventure story that could have been set anywhere, but they picked space; known as “space opera”, like soap opera – and I really don’t know why, because “opera” refers to a tragic (love) story set to music.

What makes a story science fiction, is that it is based in scientific facts and uses fiction to animate a scientific speculation, regardless of which science it is based in, so that the popular book of Jean Auel, Clan of the Cave Bear, for example, is in every sense a science fiction, because it was based on our scientific understanding of the relation between Homo Sapiens and the Neanderthals, for which the science was archaeology.

In other words, the belief that science fiction is about the future and that any story set in space is science fiction, is nonsense.

However, if you want to create an entirely new world, then your options are limited: You can create an “alternate Earth history”, you can set it in a futuristic world or in our own solar system (which automatically leads you to a future setting), or you can totally make up a place and time.

That last choice is what I did for my big science fiction novel (Of a Note in  a Cosmic Song), which is not set in the future, but in an era in the history of this fictitious planetary system. However, the possibilities and technologies of this planet are in line with our current scientific understanding of what is possible in geology, in space travel, in technology, in  ecology, and even in what constitutes a habitable planet, so that it qualifies as science fiction.

That I question some of those established scientific assumptions and give alternative possibilities later on in the book, is equivalent to a non-fiction scientist posing a new theory.

My science fiction story, which was published in 2010, is by no means out-dated, although some technological features already are. However, it was a people story; a story that shows how people might or might not survive the challenge of colonization of another planet; a story about how they would deal with each other and the challenges of making new rules: Would they make the same mistakes as those who came before them; those who ruled the planet they are wanting to leave? Is it possible for people to start over without regrets? Is it possible to create a totally different society, or will they always fall back on fighting and politics?

That story has a non-fiction partner, my philosophy book Homological Composition, which basically poses the exact same theories and speculations, but without the human aspect.

And now, almost ten years after I finished that enormous science fiction project (which took me about ten years to write), I am ready to start another science fiction. But this time, I will not set it in the future or in space. This time, I will create an entirely different fictional possibility, based in our current understanding of Earth science.

And I cannot wait to start.

Thank you for reading.

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