05-11-2012 07:17 PM - edited 05-11-2012 07:19 PM
In the past couple of days, an idea seemed to scream at me until I wrote it down. I'm unsure if I'm going to pursue it, though. This is just an outline of their world; a foundation. The specific story needs a little tweaking before I post about it. Any thoughts or feedback is appreciated!
The Nine Provinces:
- Each province is divided for eight different industries of careers. The ninth province is where the slaves are sent to work for the rich.
- If education is unfinished, a citizen becomes a slave for a segment of five years at a time. At the end of the five years they have an opportunity to earn their way back into the education system if their owner recommends them.
- Women can and do have jobs. But if a woman marries a man with an unfinished education, she and her family becomes slaves.
- The slaves are rarely mistreated, and are often given a house the size of the master’s, if they have a family. If they do thorough work and stick to the rules, the master and the slaves can have a respected relationship.
- A woman born a slave cannot grow up to have an occupation unless she marries a man with a finished education, and it is rare that a man would marry a slave, even if she finishes her education.
- If a master recommends a slave for a lower class occupation (such as fishing or the lumber industry), the slave may go make his own profit, but still work for his master part time.
- Each household (even the slaves’) is required to display a certificate stating the aspects of their citizenship. The framed paper is typically located above a fireplace or in another blatant area. On the certificate there is:
- Size of the house (in square feet). No house can be larger than 1,000 square feet for slaves and 1,500 for free men.
- Number of adults and children in the household. There cannot be over four family members in a home. And once a child passes the age of eighteen, they are considered an adult and must be able to support him/herself, and will be excommunicated into the wilderness if unable to.
- Occupation of parents.
- Age of each family member (updated yearly).
If the government finds one or more discrepancies in the certificate, the home will be burned and the family excommunicated.
- Cars and other means of transportation were banned back in the thirteen hundreds. Only the government has access to transportation vehicles. It is rare to see government vehicles, so it is commonly unknown what type of transportation has been invented. Only government officials such as Roamers (nickname) use transportation vehicles, unless a citizen must be taken to the State, which was once known as Florida, but is now an island in the Atlantic Ocean.
- Province Order Officials: Nicknamed Province Police or Roamers. They keep the Provinces in order, obviously. But only on one week of the year. Otherwise they move so quickly from province to province, that they overlook any injustice or criminality. That’s why they are also called Roamers. But on that week, they go door to door, from colony to colony, and take each parent to the State for a couple of hours. Their records are reviewed, and if any laws are disobeyed (such as the ones mentioned on the certificate that is hung in every household), they, and their family, are excommunicated into the wilderness of what might have been Canada. Scientists are still trying to determine if the territory was once Canada.
- Epsilon: Epsilon is Aaron’s older sister, and often guides Aaron through tough times. She feels like dead weight to her family, because she is a woman that will most likely stay a slave her entire life.
- Aaron: He is Epsilon’s little brother. His name means “light bringer”. Epsilon claims that his parents named him this because he is a male that could grow up to be free, and possibly rescue his family from slavery.
- Their dad: An avid drunk. He was a year from completing college when he went off into his alcoholic stupors. Luckily he is not a dangerous alcoholic. Their mother met him in high school.
- Their mother: She seems absent most of the time, and neither Aaron nor Epsilon can determine why she stayed with their father and brought their family into slavery.
- Their uncle and aunt: Luckily, when Aaron’s mother became a slave, her brother (who made a monopoly) “buys” their family. Aaron isn’t even aware that he is property of his uncle and he is treated like a family member. The uncle recommended Aaron's dad to a friend who owns a fishing company. On several accounts Aaron’s father had fallen overboard and been rescued (due to alcohol consumption). Now Aaron’s dad fishes when he isn’t drinking (which is barely at all). If it wasn’t for their uncle and aunt, Aaron’s family wouldn’t know how they would survive.
Aaron’s uncle had told him magnificent stories that go back to their nation’s roots. Stories that Aaron dreamed of being true, and he always felt a small tie to reality in every one of his uncle’s stories. His uncle had said that they were real and that there were reasons that their world had become divided. Aaron almost believed his uncle. The stories escalated, and they seemed to become a part of Aaron’s life. Then one day he heard a knock on the door. It was that time of year. The Roamers had arrived to take Aaron’s parents. Aaron’s uncle and aunt flew to the State to fill out paperwork, as did every parent. But only his aunt returned.
05-17-2012 05:33 PM
wow......... when I first started reading this, I though that you were going to write something very similar to "the hunger games" but asI continued to read it, the story line is completely different.
The story line is amazing! I am loving the detail that you have put into the background!! I cannot wait to see how you develop this story!! If it were a published novel, I would buy it!
05-18-2012 03:18 PM
Hey Alex! How's it going?
I think it's an interesting premise. I would say write it if you feel strong about it. (You don't want stories screaming out at you, do you ?)
I would say: Make your characters strong enough that they are not swallowed up by all the rules and regulations of you new world you've created. Don't let it become all about the provinces. Of course, I'm more of a character than a plot person, though . . .
Good luck and be sure to share!
05-18-2012 07:14 PM - edited 05-18-2012 07:19 PM
Thanks for the input! It means a lot. And I'm doing pretty well, Kat. How about you?
When the idea first started screaming (and I finally shut it up ) I almost grunted out loud and thought to myself, "Dang it, another idea similar to The Hunger Games." But as it developed, I realized that the plot began to steer away from the world of The Hunger Games. And you're right about making it about the characters, Kat. Characterization is something I generally have trouble with, but I think that it would make a much stronger story. The characters (especially Aaron) should question their society. Here's the first chapter. Thanks for reading!
My mother sits motionless, her cold empty eyes focused on a framed paper that hangs above the fireplace. That frame almost makes the paper seem like something to be proud of. I’ve wanted to burn that paper from the moment we moved into this house. Her gaze slightly shifts, as if the ink on the paper is melting away. This is the only time of year when I’m concerned for her.
The paper is titled “Certificate of Citizenship”. I stare hollowly at the document, wondering what meaning my mom sees in it. Under the title there are four subtitles. The first one that my eyes seek is labeled “Parental Occupation”. Beneath that, there is my mother’s name. And next to her name, in italics, are the words “Wife of Slave”. Another line down is my father’s name. The words “Slave; Reel Keeper (Recommended in the Company of Owner)” follow. Those words make we want to spit at them.
My sister sits on the staircase with her arms wrapped around her knees. It has been like this for three days. I’m tired of the Roamers’ arrival causing everyone to behave like shadows. I just want to go back to the ninth grade. I feel as if the only reason that we have school off this week is so that we can become hermits and sulk.
In the beginning, I’ve been told, the government tried to make it out like a holiday. As if we should be celebrating the day that our parents are sent to the State to fill out paperwork. It’s just a way for the State to keep our leashes tight.
Last year, one of my friend’s parents never came back from the State. Their house was then burned and he was excommunicated into the wilderness. Banished, just like that. Now I can sometimes find him and his sister just beyond my uncle’s factory and the border, in a small glade that somehow escaped surveillance.
The next subtitle I find is “Family Members”. My father is the first name listed, and next to his name is his age, labeled in the same way of his occupation: forty-eight. Below his name is my mother’s, then her age. Beneath that there is my sister, “Epsilon Silver - 17”. And then finally, my name: “Aaron Silver - 14”. My eyes drift over the numbers that state our approximate house size and land on the opposite corner of the paper. “Province 9” is stamped in bold, red letters.
Three slow knocks echo from our cardboard-thin door. My mother shows the slightest flinch. The Roamers have arrived.
My father materializes from the kitchen and staggers past me. He pats me on the head, a little too hard. “There’s my boy,” he slurs. As he approaches the door my mother patiently slides out of her chair and tucks the poorly made piece of wood under the table.
As my dad steps up to the door, my mother gently places a hand on his chest. She softly pushes him away and gives him an endearing look, as if saying, “You’re a drunken idiot that can barely put meat on the table, but I love you anyway.” My father seems a bit dazed, and after a couple of moments he gives her a trivial, weary grin. His eyes never seem to focus wholly on her.
I slink back to the staircase as Dad stumbles into the living room and crashes into a wooden chair in the corner. Epsilon just puts her face in her hands. My mother turns to survey the house, and she nods in our direction. I know what this means. She always told us to appear happy and to be on our best behavior when the Roamers arrive. My father seemed to occupy himself with the corner.
My sister’s leg trembles, making the stairs rattle. It seems as if it is illegal to breathe, yet I suck in air. Stale, dusty air. My mom reaches for the rusty doorknob.
The door swings open and two men dressed in white, pristine jumpsuits are standing there. They both seem to be made of stone, but not in a shrewd kind of way. They almost seem easygoing; not aggressive. One stares blankly at my mother, and the other stares past her shoulder at me. They both have crimson eyes that seem to glimmer in the light. It’s strange; almost mechanical, as if they’re honing in on us. On their shoulder they wear a patch that has “Province Order Official” sewn into it.
One steps forward. “Good afternoon ma’am,” he says. He extends his hand for a handshake, but my mom just nods once at him. They should know that handshaking is a custom of Province 5, not 9. He seems to be taken a bit aback, but then he nods at my mother, and then at me and Epsilon. “As you know,” he continues, “this week is State Appreciation Week. It is that time once again to renew your vows, your Certificate of Citizenship, and your citizenship itself. It’s time to wipe away the old and begin another marvelous year here in Province 9.”
“If you will, please, come with us, and we will take you to the State so that we may review your citizenship and make any,” he freezes. His gaze falls to the floor for the tiniest moment, then he continues, “tweaks so that you may ever prosper here in Province 9. You will be returned to your home within just a few hours.”
“Of course,” my mother says. She swivels her head and focuses on my father, slumped in the corner. “Honey,” she said firmly, but still with her false glee. “Honey,” she repeats, slightly more callous.
“Yeah—huh?” My father manages to stand. His legs look awkward, like they are too long, or as if they aren’t screwed into place properly.
“Grab the CC, please.”
“Sure thing, sweetheart.” My dad turns and reels over to the fireplace. He stares at our certificate for a moment. He seems perplexed. That’s a look that I see regularly from him. He then lurches forward and pulls the frame from the wall, nearly ripping the nail out.
My mother flashes a translucent smile towards Epsilon and I. “Epsi, would you mind preparing dinner while we’re gone? The catfish is in the freezer, although it shouldn’t be too long until we’re back.”
My sister gives her a gaunt grin and twirls her blonde hair around her finger once. “Sure, mom. I’d be happy to.”
My mother thanks Epsilon, then motions my father toward her. I step forward, not even sure of what I’m about to do. Every year it is harder to let my parents visit the State. I heard that no one knows that you are to be excommunicated until flames lick at your house, declaring that you have no rights of citizenship.
I feel Epsilon’s cold hand around my wrist. She twists my arm and I turn toward her. She mouths “no”. I plaster a smile to my face and turn towards my parents and the Province Order Officials. “Bye Mom,” I say quietly. Then, to offset the reticence, I follow with, “try to bring me home some State-official hand soap from the bathrooms. I hear they’re real nice and fancy.”
As my mom heads out the door, I see the faintest scowl on her face. She gives a short, crazed laugh. Then the door slams shut and the room falls silent. I can even hear the leaves rustling through our glassless windows. I still stare at the door, expecting flames to consume it or to hear the death cries of my parents. But neither happens. Fear and anticipation swell in my chest until I join Epsilon on the staircase.
She sighs when I sit a step down from her. “Why do you have to do that?” she asks, her forehead resting on her fingertips. She stares at me with my family’s cold gray eyes.
“That!” she says, eyebrows raised. “’Check out the bathrooms of the State for me’,” she mimics in a low, ridiculous voice. I chuckle for a moment.
After quiet settles over the room once again, I say, “Why do you think the Roamers have red eyes?”
“I think it’s because of all the shrimp they eat in the State. Kind of like how flamingos’ feathers turned pink because of the shrimp they ate. Uncle said that the State's cornering the market right now. We’re not even the main distributor of fish to the Provinces anymore.”
“What’s a flamingo?” I ask.
“It’s an ancient bird. I learned about them in a Biology class. I think they used to be displayed in public places, but now all we have are the bones.”
I sit for a moment, imagining what such a bird could look like. A pink pigeon comes to mind. I laugh. “Sounds ridiculous.”
She shrugs and gives me a crooked grin.
“That’s strange,” I say, “because Uncle told me that the Roamers have seen so much fire that the flames linger in their eyes.”
05-18-2012 10:29 PM
Well, I'm the same as I always am, thanks.
I didn't see any problem with your characterizations .
You had me worried at the beginning, because you mentioned The Hunger Games and then I read the first paragraph and immediately thought of The Hunger Games, but that point got cleared up pretty quickly.
I like the way the rules are explained, because it's informational, but we don't know everything right off the bat. I thought the whole thing had a nice flow to it and you get an idea of who these people are and how they interact within their family. Everytime I had a question about something, it was almost immediately answered, so that's good.
Very nice beginning.