January 14, 2016
Alright. I have decided to critique my own story. Without alcohol. Deity help me, let’s see how this goes. Please forgive me for any mistakes I may have made. It is hard enough to do this sober, so I really don’t want to do a whole lot of editing.
With all the other authors I talk about on here, I have the slight disadvantage of not being able to read their minds. I don’t necessarily know what was going through their head when they wrote their books, and can only guess.
The advantage of critiquing my own story is that, to an extent, I do know what was going through my head when I wrote it. However, this was written many years ago, and I may not remember things perfectly.
I’m pretty sure this is going to come up, so I’d like to address it now. Some may ask, “what’s up with the Satanism? Was that what teenage!You thought non Christians did? Did you just think all non Christians were Satanists?”
The short answer: No…. but yes.
Allow me a longer explanation.
You see, Adventist children are told that everyone not actively worshiping God is worshiping Satan. Not overtly, but unknowingly. Because everyone has to worship someone, and if you do not choose Christ, you automatically choose Satan, even if you don’t think you do. That is what Adventist children, and possibly mainstream Christian children, are told.
I reasoned that I was not going to be like the majority of people, who worshiped Satan unknowingly, thinking they worshiped no one. I was not going to deceive myself. If I ever decided to not worship God, I was going to go worship Satan. Because Satan was my only other choice, and if I was going to do it, I was going to do it overtly and honestly.
And so I researched Satanism. I wanted to know what the alternative to God was. When people asked, I told them it was for a story I was writing. That was my excuse for practically everything I read, if anybody asked me any questions. I thought it was very clever of me.
That is what was going through my head at the time I made the main character a Satanist.
My Academy years (High School) are hard to forget, not that that’s stopped me from trying. One of the ways Academy was a defining period in my life is that this was the time I was learning what it really meant to be an Adventist.
Because, despite the fact that I’d gone to Adventist schools all my life, I managed to remain blissfully unaware that there were huge differences between Adventism and the rest of Christianity. I had some idea that we were different, of course, because the Sabbath is kinda hard to miss. But things like State of the Dead, the exact nature of end time events, and exactly what is the meaning of the number 666 were still sources of confusion to me.
All that came to a screeching halt my freshman year of Academy. Learning that going to church on Sunday was the mark of the beast was something so traumatic that I can remember exactly where I was, who I was talking to, and what I was wearing.
Immediately, I set about researching the mark of the beast. This couldn’t possibly be right. Could it?
And thus, Parable of the Sower was born. It was my excuse to myself for needing to ask these questions. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand, I told people. I just needed to know for a story I was writing.
Teenage!Merikay wrote Now! to demonstrate what she’d learned. I wrote Parable of the Sower in a vain attempt to convince myself that all of this was true.
In the end, I did not succeed. In the end, I needed a present for people, and here the book was. I included the bits about Satanism because I always kind of figured that that was just what I would do if I ever turned away from Christianity.
Academy was a real struggle as far as my faith was concerned.
I shared this story with my friends, most of whom loved it. One friend even shared it with her father, to my horror. Her father said it was well done and that I was a good writer.
That’s right folks: A grown ass man looked at this story and decided it was good writing. Out of respect for my ex best friend, in case she is still reading this, I will not speculate as to why.
With that out of the way (for now), let us begin our analysis.
The story begins with the main character, Holly, sneaking out of church to go to the mall, a scenario I used to imagine quite frequently despite the fact that, of all the SDA churches I’ve ever been to, only one is actually close to a mall.
It isn’t easy to run in 3 inches of snow, not to mention the thick coat, boots, backpack, but I have to run. I have to get there. I reach the ally behind the church and duck behind a statue of Jesus on the cross. I open my backpack, yank out a long black velvet skirt and shove it on over my baggy black cargo pants. I drag out a pair of heels from the backpack, zip it up, and, running barefoot through the icy snow, shove the backpack in the trunk of the car, run up the steps to the church, stopping briefly at the door to put on the heels, open the door and head for the bathroom. I take a few minutes to catch my breath, then I open the stall door –only to bump into Jaimie, my sister.
I thought this was so cool when I wrote it. Bad girl changing to Good girl in 5 seconds flat. This was what I aspired to be… except Holly isn’t slick. She gets caught by her sister, Jaimie.
Jaimie is a real person. Of course that is not her real name. Nobody in this story has a real name. Half the fun of writing this was that people got to try and figure out who the fuck they were.
Jaimie confronts Holly about skipping church, and tells her she won’t tell her what the sermon was about. I forgot to work this in, but it is important for Holly to know what the sermon was about because this is what her mom will ask her about later in order to find out if Holly has been a good little Adventist and paid attention.
This was never my real life experience. I was quite open with my parents, and told them exactly how I felt having to sit through long, boring sermons. Sabbath School was ok, but most children aren’t too fond of just sitting there listening to one person monologue for 45 minutes. Or longer….
Holly quickly finds her trusty friend Renee, who informs Holly that the sermon was about the Parable of the Sower. Here’s the relevant chapter from the Bible.
“The parable of the sower, darling. The soil in the story represents the soil in our hearts, and the seeds represent the gospel. The seeds land in our hearts, and no matter how hard and crusty the soil is, if we let him, Jesus can make him grow.” Renee looks at me piercingly.
I don’t particularly recall, this might have been something that someone actually preached at some point. Or maybe something I read about in a book, or a student talked about in a devotional….
I did not come up with this by myself.
Spanish music CDs, French and German learning CDs, books on new age, and, of course, a satanic bible!!!! I continue pulling out junk until I see my sister come out. I quickly shove my backpack under the seat and yank down my skirt.
I never did actually have the courage to shoplift….any of that, actually. But I do have a copy of the Satanic Bible. It’s… actually not that bad. Maybe we’ll analyze it on the blog someday.
“Holly.” I still won’t look at her. “I still love you.” I sigh. Unbidden, a tear falls down my cheek. I wipe my eye and force the rest of them down. I will not let these Adventists win me back. I will never forgive them for what they’ve done to me. And I will never forgive my sister for abandoning me.
What am I referring to? I have no idea. I have the feeling that I was trying to create some backstory for Holly…and then I never did. I may have had some clue what this was about when I was 16, but I don’t anymore.
I think I was referring to a (very brief) point Sophomore year when, upon learning that I was questioning Adventism, I suddenly found out I had a lot less friends than I used to.
I have since gone back and talked to the person referred to in this story as “Renee.” She shared with me that the reason she didn’t speak much to me at that time had nothing to do with me personally, but with some personal stuff she was going through at the time.
Obviously that is only one person out of like 5. However, it does indicate that it may not have been that my friends suddenly stopped speaking to me because I was questioning Adventism. It may have just been really sucky timing. But teenage!Me didn’t know that. I think Teenage!Me was still a little hurt when she wrote that.
Anyway, Holly and “Jaimie” have a cringe inducing conversation about how Jesus still loves her and so does Jaimie. Holly refuses to believe either one of these statements, and clams up.
“Holly, how about this; I’ll listen to you about…. whatever you believe, and I won’t interrupt and contradict with what I believe or argue with you.”
“Whats the catch?”
Yeah, I wouldn’t believe that either.
Jaimie silently prays as she speaks, “if you’ll do the same for me.”
One of the things I needed to learn as a writer was that, when writing in first person, you don’t get to be able to say things like this. The narrator can be omniscient, you can not.
Teenage!Me enjoyed first person, because she felt it was necessary to get to know her characters. Teenage!Me did this even though she clearly wanted the narrator to know stuff Holly has no way of knowing.
In any case, I don’t see why Holly would need to hear from Jaimie. They’re sisters. They’ve both been raised in the same religion. Holly would have grown up already knowing the things Jaimie is going to say.
Well, maybe not. Because somehow I managed to miss this stuff, despite having had Bible studies before I was baptized, sooooo maybe it’s not so unrealistic.
Don’t do it. Don’t do it. She doesn’t really love you. She just wants you to be a Seventh day Adventist!
My teenage self was a shitty writer, but teenage!me was kind of intelligent. Because this is spot on. Not because the real “Jaimie” was like this. I think the real life “Jaimie” did love me, in her own way. But a lot of SDAs do think like this.
In any case, Holly agrees to this clearly rigged deal, and the mom comes up, and conversation ceases.
In case anyone was wondering, no. The mother in this story is not based on my real mom. In my tiny little teenage mind, I thought my mother did not love me, and so I did not put her in this story. I now realize that this is complete and utter bullshit. My mom has different ways of showing her love than teenage!me would have liked, but she did and does love me.
But I love my sister! And she wouldn’t do this for me if she didn’t really love me, right?
Love, in my tiny little teenage mind, meant forcing Christianity down my throat.
Yes, Holly, someone would do that for you even if they didn’t love you. Because when they stand before God in the day of judgement, they have to at least tell him that they tried. It’s not just your soul that’s in danger, it’s theirs. If God doesn’t feel you tried hard enough to convert people, he will hold you personally responsible for their damnation.
I’m not kidding. That is how some Adventists see things.
After a section break, Holly empties her backpack, full of stolen crap. How does she steal all this and not get caught? No idea. Teenage!me had, at this point, never shoplifted and had only read about it in books.
Teenage!me pretty much believed nearly everything she read.
I spend the rest of the afternoon listening to the CDs I’ve stolen, answering email, and, of course, looking at any other websites I can think of that mom would kill me for even knowing about. Today I make it a point to learn about how to tell different Pine trees apart.
This is where teenage!me could have used some writing advice. She did not mean to say that her mother would be upset at her for learning how to differentiate between different types of pine trees.
What was going through teenage!me’s head is that Holly was looking at websites like http://www.churchofsatan.com, a favorite website of rebellious teenagers everywhere.
Then Holly blathers on and on about how she likes to educate herself on various topics, because she likes to feel smart. She tells us she likes the attention she gets from knowing things, however, we never actually see this happening, and, unless I’m remembering wrong, Holly doesn’t exactly try to be the center of attention very much.
At sundown, Holly struggles to stay awake for worship, after which she and Jaimie go to town to rent a movie.
There’s another cringe inducing conversation that makes me want to beat teenage!me’s head against the wall.
“ I hate God!”
“Holly, please, give him a chance…. what happened?”
What did happen? I’d also like to know, because I sure as shit can’t remember.
“You used to love God, Holly, you were one of the most spiritual people I knew. Now, you hate God and don’t want anything to do with him, why?”
Teenage!Me will never bring this up again. We’re set up to think something big bad and terrible happened…. and then nothing. Nothing is ever explained.
I’m not sure if this is just bad writing, or if teenage!me simply knew that her friends were reading this and she needed to keep certain things out.
Here’s what happened with teenage!me: Teenage!me read Ellen White and realized she’d been taught a bunch of bullshit her whole life. Teenage!me also began to realize just how badly her parents had fucked her over, and she was mad at God because he was all powerful, and he didn’t prevent her from being raised Adventist, and he didn’t prevent her from being emotionally and verbally abused by her father.
Teenage!me was angry, and it only makes sense for the anger to be directed at the one who had the power to make it all go away but didn’t.
But Holly couldn’t have been given a reason in text without pissing off a lot of my friends. Holly also had to convert later, so if Teeange!me had given Holly a legitimate reason to be angry, teenage!me would have had to resolve that in a few chapters. And teenage!me probably didn’t know how to deal with that. Teenage!me asked the hard questions, but never got them answered. Teenage!me had seen other authors handle such situations badly, and was afraid of making the same mistake. So teenage!me probably decided she didn’t want to deal with it.
At least, I think that was what teenage!me was thinking. I honestly don’t remember.
The movie Jaimie and Holly watch is Saved.
This book is in no way shape or form plagiarizing the movie. That was sarcasm, in case you missed it. This book is absolutely plagiarizing that movie. And this book.
Points to teenage!Merikay, at least her story was original.
It is at times like this when I can relax. It Is at times like this when I can almost imagine that I can go back to being a Seventh Day Adventist. Almost. But I know I can never go back, I’ve gone too far. I am rejecting God, and He won’t care about me anymore.
I hope you weren’t curious exactly why it is Holly feels she can’t go back…. we don’t get to know. I’m not sure I remember, either. I think Holly feels that, since she’s worshiped Satan, neither God nor anyone else will ever love her.
That is my best guess as to what was running through my tiny teenage brain.
That’s the end of the chapter. Tune in next time where teenage!me attempts to write about romance and sex. Teenage!me has never experienced romance and sex, so this outta be awful.