Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let them Think! The Importance of Teaching Our Children the Freedom of Thought

"I was trusting, too. I never doubted what I was told: Heaven and earth are great, but greater still is the kindness of the Communist Party; father and mother are dear, but dearer still is Chairman Mao." "We are young pioneers, successors to communism. Our red scarves flutter on our chests." - Ji Li Jiang, Red Scarf Girl; A Memoir of the Cultural Revolution

Chairs scratch against the floor as the announcements come to an end, rifling through the moment of silence experienced just moments before. I stop whatever I'm doing and stand with the teacher for whom I TA and our class of 22 adorable 2nd graders, our right hands placed firmly over our hearts as our voices ring out in unison.

 "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

The Pledge of Allegiance. Nothing more, nothing less.

And it bothers me every single time.

Some of you might wonder why in the world I should choose to juxtapose quotes from Chinese communist ideology to the Pledge of Allegiance of democratic America, but here I wish to make a point. At the foundation of every society's communal beliefs is education. Whatever we imbibe during the most formative years of our lives is most likely that which has already been demonstrated to us by other members of our society as true, whether it really is true or not. Usually, these beliefs contain societal expectations as to how we are to act in accordance with what we are taught (review the words of the Pledge of Allegiance). Now, the first quote is taken from a memoir of a young woman (Ji Li Jiang) and her experiences during China's Cultural Revolution. At the time, communism and the prevalence of the Communist Party had gained huge amounts of support in China. Mao Zedong was in the middle of reforming China and gaining the support of the people for his heinous exploits by providing them with an influx of information that stated the greatness of the Communist Party. The young were especially affected by his brainwashing, as demonstrated by the formation of the Red Guard, a group of communist youth so bent on reforming China according to Mao's beliefs that the dictator himself saw their acts as too extreme and put an end to their efforts.

Brainwashing. What a convenient term when it doesn't apply to us, right?

Or does it? Review the Pledge of Allegiance again.

Like all other nations, America provides it's citizens with one resounding, yet unspoken, motto: Our nation is the best. Our way of life is the best. You should put your faith in our system of government because it is the best. And, by default, all other ways of doing things are inferior. So, since we are the best, we deserve your undivided allegiance and adoration. As a citizen of this country, you are expected to be loyal under all circumstances and even die if need be to save your country from the inferior influences of other nations.

Now, I am certain that none of my students can even understand the meaning of the words they recite every morning. And that's what bothers me the most. Before they can even process the words they are speaking, we tell them that their allegiance lies with America and imply that they are wrong if they dare to think differently. This is not only evident in the pledge; look at the way we teach history. So often when our students learn history, we fail to teach them all sides of the story. Many things our nation does  are cast in a rosy hue, while those things done against us are criminal acts deserving punishment. The bombing of Pearl Harbor? Unacceptable. Our bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Well, it was a necessary evil (Note: I have not fully decided myself what I believe about the necessity of this bombing. I hesitate to conclude on this topic because I am not aware of the information that led to the decision to bomb the country, but I firmly suspect that the commonly taught idea that the ending of the war justified the sheer loss of human life and just about everything else that was decimated and had no correlation to the war other than it happened to be in Japan at the wrong time. I also suspect a bit of racism was involved, but since I find my knowledge lacking, I am only using it to raise the point that we conclude it was a necessary evil only because we lack knowledge about it and have been preconditioned to trust our government).

As a result of all of this, many young people form their beliefs on what they have been taught without giving them much thought.  This is what psychological theorists call foreclosure (although it usually used in terms of identity), and it is generally discouraged because it means that the person is letting whatever he or she believes be defined by someone other than himself or herself. The danger of foreclosure when it comes to things like this is that it makes it easier for politicians that will actually harm the nation and perhaps other nations as well to rise to power because the people are not thinking critically but instead acting according to what they have already been conditioned to do. Some of these cases are not too extreme, but take North Korea for example. Their whole ideology revolves around their leader's divine nature. They have been taught that their nation is the greatest and that they can do nothing wrong. They have foreclosed, allowing several notorious dictators rule their country for the past half century and commit heinous acts because they digested information saying that the leaders were a blessing to them and that other countries are far inferior to them.

Some would argue with me that this is not the case. After all, don't we encourage freedom of speech and free thought? Of course we do. I am not criticizing that area of America - in fact, I applaud it. What I am trying to say is that we should be fully aware of what we are teaching our children (and ourselves) and the consequences it could have. After all, if we are continually being taught to be true to whatever our society commonly accepts as right or even beneficial and do not stop to think about what we are being fed, then we are more easily susceptible to harming ourselves by accepting something before studying all sides of it.

Sometimes I think I'm going to be the world's worst teacher because of this, because so much of what it means to be a teacher is teaching children what society views as valuable. However, I have resolved that I am not going to teach my students to form an unquestioned allegiance to a government or a set of ideas no matter how commonly they are accepted but rather encourage them to seek out facts and arguments from every side of a situation that they encounter in order to develop people that truly exercise the freedom of thought, speech, and opinion. Does this mean I will teach them to have faith in nothing about their native country? Of course not! Just as every country has bad points, every country has good in it as well. I hope that they will leave my classroom passionate for truth even if it flies in the face of popular belief, whether it be in religion, politics, morale, etc.

Feel free to comment with your own thoughts about this or any other related topic, and please remember that I am not trying to bash America, glorify/bash China, or anything else that I think I commonly come across as doing without intending to do so. I really think that all countries have their strengths and their faults, and am using America as an example because it was what strikes home for most of my audience and using all other countries only to put things into perspective.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Meet the Characters!

So, as most of you already know I am currently in the middle of a novel. Well, recently, I've been feeling kind of a writer's block with it and decided to write down the characters and what they are doing in the story and what-not.

For those of you who aren't writers and wonder why in the world I would ever do that, please note that characters are SO essential to a good story. Each character needs to be unique in their own way but at the same time very believable to the reader. This is accomplished through an intense amount of work by the writer, which usually (in my case) begins with a rough idea of what their personality is like, what makes them passionate/mad/happy/what they live for/what they believe is important/etc. and then proceeds on to details about their past and present that gives reasons for why they are the way they are. Also, just as people respond to situations within the framework of their personality, past, etc., so characters also determine where the book goes next by responding to it in their own unique way. That should explain why I sometimes say something strange like, "My characters fell in love without my permission," or "My characters are not doing what I want them to." Writers more often than not simply shape characters and set them loose on a situation they know will be trying to them and watch them react.

Anyway, all that being said, I want you to meet the characters of my newest novel. They've been a lot of fun to think tip and dream of (although I am thinking of cutting some of them).

Oh and another side you'll see me referencing an entertainment company full of singers and dancers alongside words like "audition", "trainee", etc. Although I do tend to write about things of which I have no idea about (hey, it's a great way to learn!), just trust me on this. Maybe on a different post I'll go into Korea's entertainment industry and the ways it operates (this is essential to the story, so if I end up posting more of that on here I'll explain it). But for now, just trust that I actually have a relatively great deal of knowledge on this and I know what I'm doing.

Anyway, here are my characters (sorry for any mistakes...I got sick of typing long before I was done with this)! And feel free to comment about them/present things you think I can change!

Kim Ha Na, a young, ambitious woman, previously involved in the arts, loses her little sister in a tragic car accident, where it is a hit and run and the killer cannot be found. There were no witnesses, only a pile of red roses and a dead body. When she sees her boyfriend at school the next few days and tells him about the accident, he seems cold and distant, even though he says he’s perfectly fine. About a week after the accident, however, she receives a mysterious suicide note from him, vaguely alluding to something plaguing him. She believes it is her sister’s death, since the two were close, and determines to catch the killer. She gets excused from the entertainment industry to go to school as to become a full-time detective under her father’s police division. She has worked hard on the case of her little sister ever since, as well as the cases of others, and she constantly seeks to bring criminals to justice and preventing others from getting hurt. But then her father asks her unexpectedly to leave the case and work instead on a smaller scale crime in an entertainment company as an undercover agent. Her talent is quickly recognized and she is soon assigned as his lead dancing partner, which leads to a friendship among the two.

Kwon Seunghyun, known better by the alias Monster, considers himself dead. He has considered himself dead since the day he hit his girlfriend’s little sister and killed her. He couldn’t face her. He couldn’t live with the fact that he had crushed her. And as much as he wanted to tell her it would be okay, as much as he wanted to comfort her, his heart screamed the questions hers only began to raise. So he left her. He left it all, and tried to take his life. His mother caught him and convinced him not to and to rather throw himself into his dream of being a singer. This he did, but he still hates himself. And now, he hates himself for letting her go. He drinks away his problems almost every night and engages in a loveless fling to hide his pain. Often, he thinks of the time when his music career, the only thing truly keeping what he considers his corpse animated, is over and he can truly die. He doesn’t necessarily like the idea, but it’s better than the pain he is in. But then he meets the new dancer, a girl that looks remarkably like the woman he left in a trail of tears years back. At first, he attempts to just ignore her but is plagued by the fact that he let her go in the first place so he stalks her as well, but then she gets cast as his lead dancing partner in the upcoming tour, and there is talk eventually of even debuting them as a group. They must work together, with her attempting to uncover his crimes and he trying to keep his secrets.

Michelle, the antagonist of the story, is a confident, cut-throat make-up artist with a dirty secret. She prides herself on being trained in Hollywood, and her superior expertise is what she shows to the professionals, but her dark past as the child of a homeless prostitute has caused her to take up whatever jobs she can in the spare time to provide for her mother’s constant medical needs. One of her many jobs is to work her sexuality to get stuff out of people for the benefit of whoever pays money. She has done many undercover jobs, and her most recent one is for Kimmie’s crazy mother, who will stop at nothing  to get her daughter in the spotlight. As a result, Michelle has befriended Kimmie with the intent to let her get the limelight once Monster gets exploited. But in the meantime, she actually begins to develop feelings for Monster, and doesn’t want to use him to exploit anyone, but has to if she is to keep her mother alive. She begins to try to win Monster’s heart, but when she sees that he is beginning to like the new dancer, Michelle begins to secretly investigate her as well, and, once she figures out who she is, tries to sabotage her reputation.

Joo Eun Seung believes that one is only as good as they can perform. Beauty, hair, make-up, talent, voice, dancing, and acting…she succeeds at all of them very well and applies the same rigorous work ethic to her current job, which is a detective and owner of a club at night. This allows her to keep proper tabs on her daughter who is in the entertainment industry, since many of the entertainers and trainees populate this club. She has found out why her daughter isn’t becoming famous – the company she’s with doesn’t think she would gain them much profit because her talent is mediocre compared to the rest of the stars. So the mother sets out to sabotage the company’s reputation. Chiefly, she has in mind to destroy the lives of the stars by discovering their dirty secrets and publicizing it. She hires a young make-up artist (Michelle) to spy for her. Specifically, she has heard rumors of Monster’s dark past and is curious about the young man behind the mask. She tells Michelle to seduce him and learn his secrets. She was once a very promising Chinese singer and performer, but she received a severe beating from her drunken father, who was angered that he didn’t have a son that could fight in the military like he could, one night, and made her sign a contract to go into the military. While in the military, she received several injuries and underwent corrective surgery, After her healing time, which took two full years, she attempted to return to the performance scene but they wouldn’t take her due to her old age and the fact that her corrective surgeries made it difficult for her to dance. Angry at her father, she resolves to protect people from fate’s like hers by becoming a cop, which she promptly enters school for.

Kang Ji Eun considers herself as a kind, humble warrior attempting to make good in people’s lives. She is very considerate and loves to listen to people’s sides of the story, but remains fully grounded in her beliefs. Her heart is for the mentally hurting, and she loves to help them through giving them advice. Her brother almost died of a mental disease that was not properly managed and so she wants to help others suffering from similar things. She is the one that knows the most about Monster’s past, but does not know it all. She knows about Ha Na, but is not entirely sure how he lost her or about the incidences surrounding Hye Mi’s death. Her policy is to keep everything her clients tell her secret unless it is a life-threatening issue. Thus, she wouldn’t even report Monster’s crime if she found out. She guards a wealth of personal secrets, and is attempting to guard him with her life, even if it means her career. She is not very careful about Ha Na, however, because he has confessed to her that Ha Na is the girl that he loved in the beginning. She thinks Ha Na will be healthy for Monster because she will give him someone to tell everything to; someone he can finally open up completely with and find love and healing. She doesn’t understand, then, when he doesn’t, and begins to search for some answers of her own. She usually doesn’t probe into personal matters of her clients, but it gets to the point where she must choose to either defend her client by knowing the information or let him fall into enemy hands. Even so, she does her snooping surreptitiously – mainly, through conversations with Ha Na at various times in the story, which makes Monster mad. Later, when Monster is found guilty, she too is imprisoned on the day of the trial for knowing too much and saying too little. Ha Na, therefore, has the job of getting them both out unharmed.

Pipo, aka Yoo Young Jin, views himself as one of the world’s most beautiful people and thrives on competition. A dancer, he is known for his beauty and boyish charm. Already a very successful model, this young man loves to trample everyone that attempts to get in his way. Ever since he was a little boy from a fishing village near the sea, he has dreamt of being the greatest of all. And, ever since he actually got into the entertainment company, he not only dreamed of being the best but knew he was the best.  He, therefore, is very frustrated that the company owner has not yet given him a debut and wants him still only as a back-up dancer. He obviously would be thrilled if Monster’s reputation were damaged so that he could shine more brightly. Therefore, when Michelle later asks him to spy on every move of Monster’s in the places where she cannot go, he wholeheartedly agrees to do so.

Pepo, aka Yoo Eun Woo, has a great passion for what he does, but, unlike his brother, views it as something he does because he enjoys it. Although he does a preference for pink clothes and all the pretty things they give him (indeed, he does like to play dress-up, but Pipo never wants to play it because he can’t deal with the fact that his brother can be so much prettier than him without even trying), but he respects his sunbaes and rather admires them instead of trying to beat them. Even though he loves to tease and is mostly, especially towards Kimmie, a little spitball of sass (he learned it in order to have fun with his extremely competitive brother). He does take comments personally and secretly hates always living in his brother’s shadow, but he pities those going through really hard times because he knows the pressure to be perfect is ridiculous and still believes somewhere inside of him that the person inside is more important than the perfect person they try to portray, but even he struggles to believe this sometimes and he doesn’t necessarily recognize it at first.  He loves eating anything and everything, especially if it has meat, but he hates pork because he also loves pigs. He also loves ramen, and misses his mom’s cooking at home. He is gentle, but a dark horse competitor in that he is not afraid to work for what he wants. He falls deeply in love with Kimmie, mostly because he pities her and her attempts at perfection all the while living under the pressure of a high-performance stressing mother who really won’t approve of her daughter unless and until she is at the top. He knows nothing of Monster’s past, he just kind of views him as a casualty of the company. The reason he exists in this drama is to fight for the justice of the trainees. He’s not very vocal about it all the time, but he becomes the emotional backbone of the group when Kimmie’s pregnancy becomes known.

Kimmie, aka Kim Seo Young, believes at first, like her mother, that to be beautiful is to be everything. She is highly competitive, her biggest frenemy being Pipo because they are forced to live with one another but are constantly competing with each other to be the best at everything and sometimes don’t get along very well. But, usually, at the end of the day they go to bed friends. What she doesn’t know, however, is that Pipo has developed a bit of a crush on her, and what Pipo wants he always makes sure he gets. Kimmie’s goal: debut and become the best in the company. She oftentimes uses her aegyo to win people over to her side, but it seldom works with people like her choreographer noona. She especially attempts to use it on monster, because she has a big crush on him and believes that if he asked her out they would be forced to give her a debut. She is a bit tired of being defined only as what caliber she can perform at, but she doesn’t know any other way so she plays all the games. When she was little, she used to cry herself to sleep. Now she solves it by reading SSKiss magazines and anything else that would soothe her mind. If it’s a hard day, she does sometimes still cry. Secretly, she is jealous of trainees like Pepo that have great relationships with his or her mom. She really wants to please her mom and for her mom to like her, so she tries to perform at top caliber. She takes criticisms pretty hard, as they always tear at the only thing she thinks is really important. She loves good publicity, though, and is willing to do whatever it takes to get it.  During her crisis, though, she needs lots of support due to the constant bad media, the anger of her mother, and the fact that she casts the entire company into a tumultuous lawsuit. However, Pepo sees her need and becomes there for her at all times. This is when she finally confirms her love for him.

Kim In Suk’s has been plagued with the reality of his daughter’s death ever since it happened. As a police detective, he has been desperate to find the killer and finally bring peace and restoration to his and his hurting daughter’s hearts. He used to be a smiling father, happily married to his wife and living with his two daughters until Hye Mi died and his precious wife soon followed the girl down to the grave in grief. All he has now is Ha Na, but even though he loves her, he finds it hard to get past the lump in his heart and show her strength and courage and joy. Indeed, he sometimes feels ashamed that often she seems like the strong one, the one that works up the strength to smile despite the circumstances and the one who, even though she is tired at the end of the day, always finds the strength to come home and make some food for the both of them, even if it is just a TV dinner eaten on the couch of their apartment while the newsman relates what they already know from that day: a boy missing, a man killed, a woman weeping that her husband beat her. He cares. He cares a whole lot, but sometimes he just feels numb. These issues are so much a part of daily life to him that, even though they strike him with sympathy, he can now view them without cringing. The only nerve that still strikes its deepest in his heart is that of his daughter.  He will stop at nothing to find the killer, even if it means late nights and giving up everything he has. The only thing he wouldn’t give up would be his other daughter, so when the time comes for her to audition as a spy to the entertainment company, he is very reluctant to let her go. But he knows that he must, so he sends Tae Joon along with her. He severely beats all the people suspected to be involved in his daughter’s death and keeps close tabs on Ha Na after he lets her go. At this point, he is also in charge of figuring out what happened to some security guards that got too close to the true past of Monster, because they were mysteriously and violently cast out. Curiously, however, they won’t talk and are now living on a large sum of money.

Li Ai Qing is a trainee from China who is seeking to make her debut in the Korean entertainment world. She is a lot like Pipo, but has a crush on him and thinks that Kimmie does too so she competes with her all the time. She has traveled a far way for her work and is a favorite of Na Eun, the choreographer. She would like nothing better than to knock Kimmie off her game.

Gil Na Eun considers herself at the top of her game. She is a tough choreographer, and expects nothing less than perfection from her students. She lives in the dorm with Ha Na, Pipo, Pepo, Kimmie, and Ai Qing and enforces strict rules such as diets and bedtimes. Of course, the kids do have a stash under their beds, but that’s irrelevant. She gets frustrated with them most times and never lets them have any fun. Her part in the story: criticize everyone, make them sick of perfection, etc.

Yang Hyun Joo, the CEO of the entertainment company, is a shrewd business person with a bent for churning out idols and making lots of money. He only expects the best from his employees and trainees. Everyone else is dropped. He is at first hesitant to take Ha Na, not knowing her background and how good she is. On the insisting that his safety and the safety of those around him is threatened, however, he agrees. Currently, he is preparing the company for two big things: the annual company show and Monster’s tour. He wants only the best of the performers at this show and therefore everyone is working super hard to impress him.  Astonishingly, however, he ends up really liking Ha Na, as she is super talented. He ends up considering two things: 1. Casting her alongside Monster for the company show, and 2. Debuting her as a solo artist or having her feature on Monster’s album. He presents these ideas to her, and she wants to accept them really badly.  In her heart, she still loves performing and just wants to be on the stage. He really hopes that she accepts.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Another Book Excerpt

The bright glow of the fluorescent light emanated from the ceiling, pouring over the victim chained to the chair. Ha Na, her hands folded behind her back and her black sneakers clunking noisily across the concrete floor as she stared at it, gathered her breath as she attempted to compose herself. Her limbs quivered as the blood coursed through them.

The victim refused to meet her gaze, eyes locked to the ground as his black mop of hair dangled over his eyes, his cracked lips trembling as large beads of sweat crept down the corners of his neck. He clasped his chained hands together, threading his fingers around one another and squeezing them until the white crowns of his knuckles broke through his tanned, rough skin.

Inhaling deeply, Ha Na gulped past the lump in her throat and seized his collar. "What did you do to Kim Hye Mi?"

The victim looked up at her, letting his head roll back crazily. A small smirk played upon his lips.

No answer.

Ha Na's fist crashed into the side of his cheek, jarring it. Blood congregated in the corners of his mouth as fireworks exploded in front of his eyes. He winced, opening his jaw as it cracked into place.

Again, she grabbed the collar of his shirt, pulling him upwards until the scalding heat of her wrath breathed down his nose. The sweat absorbed by his shirt squeezed into her fists, crumpling the material as her hands constricted around it. Her eyes glared at him through the scarlet rims, teeth clenched, barring the exit of words from her mouth.

"Tell me," she hissed, "what did you do to my little sister?"

His cheeks curled back into a mocking grin, a sharp laugh chiseling its way out of his mouth. "Haha...what sister?"


He reeled backward, shoved downwards by the sharp jab of her leo against his stomach. Tears bled from the corners of her eyes as she lunged forward. Sobbing heavily, she showered a cache of fists into his sculpted body. Clenching his teeth, he flexed against her, attempting to absorb the shock of her assault. He clenched his eyes shut, barricading all sensations but the constant rhythmic pain drumming into him.

A small voice crept through the bit lodged in his ear.


He curled his body, folding into the fetal position almost instinctively, shielding himself agains the torrent. With each pang of pain came a memory exploding before his vision in brilliant detail. He saw his father looming over his body, laughing as he dove his meaty fists against the child's already bruised ribs. The screeches of the girl reverberated through his head with harrowing familiarity. Like the screams of his mother as she hung onto her husband, pleading for the life of her child. Not that the father cared.

"It's a cruel world." The sound of his father's voice echoed through his head. "Only the toughest survive. The rest? It's better for them to die early than to live at all."

Endure? He could endure. He had to. He had to show him. He had to prove that the world couldn't kill him. That he was strong.

A wrenching sensation yanked at Ha Na's gut and pulled her off the pile of cloth and damaged flesh heaped in front of her. Wrapping his arms around her, Tae Joon turned her around, allowing her to sob in his shoulder. She pushed against him, attempting momentarily to break free before surrendering into his firm embrace. Arms slipping slowly up his back, she curled her fingers around the badges stitched onto his shoulders and clung to them, shaking silently as she wept. Pressing her into himself, Tae Joon twisted around, looking up through the thick glass of the observation room. With his head, he gestured towards the motionless man lying upon the floor. In Suk nodded, motioning for the on-site medical staff. Rushing in, they congregated around the victim, bending over him with urgent concern.

Arm still around Ha Na, Tae Joon turned about and hurried up into the observation room. He bowed courteously to In Suk, who returned the favor stiffly. Eyes swollen from crying, Ha Na lowered her head quickly, bring it gradually up again only to meet her father's grim gaze - those sad, stony eyes swimming in disappointment. He looked away, facing the windows one more time with his hands folded behind his back.

"We have to change our approach," he said. "Tae Joon."

The boy lowered his head abruptly. "Yes, sir?"

"Take Officer Kim home."

Hastily, he bowed. "Yes, sir!"

Resting his hand upon Ha Na's shoulder, he guided her out of the room. Ha Na turned one last apologetic glance towards her father, only to be met by the icy stare of his sloped shoulder blade. Cold. Cut-off. Unapproachable.

They stepped out onto the sidewalk. they sun receded behind a cloud, hiding its cheery face in a world of bleakness. Striding over to his black car, Tae Joon opened the door and ushered her quickly in, slamming the door shut behind her. Climbing behind the wheel, he pulled into the road and sped away.

Moments later, an ambulance pulled into the empty space in front of the station. A group of six men rushed through the door , pushing a stretcher occupied by a man clothed in bruises and welts. He lay there, drifting constantly across the border of consciousness, his head listing from one side to another.

From the shadows of the doorway, they woman pushed the button and spoke into the microphone clipped discreetly to her clothing, speaking into it.

"'Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?'"

The man froze, halting her words as a slow smile spread across her face. So he heard her.

"'So run that you may obtain it.'"

And then...


*Verse credit 1 Corinthians 9:24 ESV

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Excerpt 2

Hi guys!

Well, unfortunately I'm on a time crunch for this novel (it doesn't look like I'll be able to finish in time for National Novel Writing Month), and plus I'm sick and am trying to write as many words as fast as I can before it gets ridiculously late. So sorry if there are a lot of grammar/syntax/spelling/passive voice/just bad writing mistakes and am not about to fix it for awhile. I just wrote this though, so its fresh off of my keyboard and I thought I would share it with you!

Warning: This part directly proceeds the excerpt I posted previously, and my male lead is at a really, really, really low point in his life. This excerpt deals with some slightly darker concepts than what I usually write, but fear not! My emotional and psychological health is 100 percent stable! I'm just writing from inside my character's head and trying to give background/make my reader pity him.

Oh, and one word you need to know: Pabo. It means idiot/stupid. Ya is just an expression used to bring to one's attention, used much like we use hey.

Well, here it goes!

The last musical notes rang out, dangling in the air as it clung to life, its vibrant pleas fading softly into silence. For a moment longer, it lived inside the hearts of the fans as they screamed in wild adoration, the noise of their worship climaxing and then fading into a heavy intermingled by excited chatter as the fans tried to shout sense into each other’s deafened ears. The vivid lights grew dim, leaving the stage a dusky gray as the last rays of the limelight faded. Instantly, a group of men clad in uniformly black slacks and black shirts swarmed the platform, dismembering the once lively stage by taking down and packing away what needed removing.

Ha Na looked around her, watching the rows of people file slowly out of the building, some lingering in their seats to talk to friends and the occasional fan jostling against the guards in an attempt to make it backstage. She scanned the crowd, looking absent-mindedly for anything suspicious or out of place, watching the vast sea of people as it oscillated, her brain registering every detail.  Her ears strained, unintentionally retrieving samplings of random conversations, her mind scanning them automatically for suspicious details, probing pointlessly into the psyches of stimulated fan girls.

“Monster looked sooo hot in that song!”

“Can you believe what he did with that cape?”

“Omo, his voice is handsome live! So manly!”

Ha Na sighed, shrugging. Probing into the mindsets of excited adolescents. Sounds like a threat to security.
Detective senses can really be a curse sometimes, she thought.


“Kim Ha Na, Hyun Suk wants you backstage now.” Tae Joon’s voice rang over the radio.

Ha Na raised the device to her lips and pressed the little black button. “Copy that, I’ll be right over.”

Stuffing the little black handheld back onto her security belt, she turned around and walked determinedly towards the backstage door….

Monster stepped out of the limelight and back into the shadows, fleeing from the mob behind him. Wiping the sweat from his brow, twisted open a bottle of water and downed it instantly, relishing the sudden stream of life rushing through his body.

Turning the doorknob, he swung the door open, a flood of light falling across the relatively dark hallway. Crossing over to the chair, he sat down, his tense body trembling as he relaxed against its surface. With a shaking hand, he reached up, sliding his fingers beneath the mask, removing it. Staring at himself in the mirror, he allowed his dark mop of hair to fall into his eyes. Slowly, he ran his fingers up his jawline, tracing its abrupt curve upward, brushing over his cheekbones. He noted how the skin stretched over them, thin and weary, as if it would snap over him at any minute and leave naked the inner workings of his being.

He couldn’t stop thinking about her. The eyes. Those luminous eyes that suddenly had called everything he had ever done into account. They haunted him, filling his every fiber with horrid memory. His heart race, the blood pumping into his already red face. His temples thundered, splitting his mind with a penetrating pain. Raising a hand to his face, he worked his fingers into them, trying to massage matters back into normal circumstances.

Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out his cell phone. A picture of Michelle illuminated the screen. His grip tightened momentarily around the device, as if he desired to break it, shattering the image into a million pieces until it mirrored the splinters of his mind, and then scatter them until it mirrored his affections. But he refrained, instead sliding it into the unlock mode and pressing number 2 on his speed dial. Immediately, the image of a sweet, smiling woman clad in a long white coat and holding a clipboard filled the screen. He put the phone to his ear.

“Yebosaeeo?” came the voice on the other line.

“I’m in the dressing room. Come immediately.”

He pressed “end”, eclipsing her reply. He didn’t need to hear it.

Rising up out of the seat, he sauntered slowly over to the counter, bracing himself against the counter and staring at the reflection that gazed back at him evenly. It was the same face, was it not? Only older, the hands of time beginning to scratch their marks across his countenance.

Then why did it seem so different?

He sighed. This is who he was now. A shadow of himself; a mere spectre lurking in the shadows of his own light. His identity. Something he could hide behind. Somewhere he was safe. In the world, yet safe from its prying eyes. Surrounded by people, but alone in any given crowd. Alone with himself, his mind, his secrets, his soul. Alone. Free to live while his true self died.

He had to accept it. He had to live what little life he had left. And if that meant traveling through life with a heart as cold as his countenance, pushing people farther and farther from the perimeters of his soul, so be it. At least he would be alone.

This is who he was.

But who was she?

The answer reverberated through his mind like a resounding gong, echoing off the walls, poising the question to the air and receiving no reply. That girl. The one with the beautiful eyes that sparkled even now as he remembered them. The girl that haunted his imagination with her presence, dancing up and down the aisles of his memory. For a moment, his heart raced, beating against his chest in desperate hope. He shook his head, tossing his thoughts back into place.

No. It couldn’t be.

The door wheezed silently, allowing a gust of fresh, cold air to seep into the warm room. A set of plain, carefully filed nails curled around the doorway, full, healthy fingers gripping the white edge. A shock of black hair, smoothed professionally into two sections parted directly in the middle, brushed over a white doctor’s jacket that came to the mid-calf. With her other arm, the woman clutched a clipboard to her chest, pen inserted neatly between the clip. Her tan lips parted, revealing a line of perfectly white teeth.

“You did well tonight,” she said, her black heels clacking against the floor as she crossed the room.

He stared straight into his reflection, refusing to look at her as his mouth moved, the words tumbling out of them. “Thanks.”

She frowned, discontent as she grabbed his arm and motioned to the cushioned chair. He sat, allowing his troubled body to sink into about the only thing that would embrace for who he really was.

Well, that and Ji Eun.

Pulling out a rolling chair for herself,  the psychiatrist leaned  slightly forward, hands clasped over the clipboard balancing on her crossed knees. She tilted her head, black strands of hair touching eyebrows furrowed with worry. She studied her patient, watching as he covered his unmasked face with his hand and sighed.

She gulped, swallowing past the concerned knot raveling itself in her throat. “How did you feel about it?”

He pulled his hand away from his face, his gaze falling down to his lap as he tried to gather his thoughts. His nostrils flared, dragging oxygen into his being as he attempted to slow the frantic beat of his confused heart. It thundered in his ears, beating against his bones, screaming, shouting, silently demanding answers.


He reached for the bottle set next to him on the glass table and popped the top off, a mad crimson hue flooding his cheeks as he chugged  it down. As he slammed it back down, the glass reverberated with a dull ring, breaking the silence. Elbows digging suddenly into his knees, he leaned forward, eye’s aflame as they met her own. Running a finger over his wet lip, he pushed the alcohol away.

“Why do I trust you, Kang Ji Eun?” he hissed, almost under his breath, his gaze burning as he tilted his head. The pungent scent of hard liquor punctured the atmosphere.

Ji Eun watched every tense muscle, noting the cold, placid strain in his voice. His feet planted firmly on the ground, he studied her, as if evaluating her as a choice of confidante. Twitching in a brief smile, she pulled out the pen from the clipboard’s clip and pinched it between her two fingers, resting the tip lightly against the paper.

His mouth twisted into a cruel, tortured smile as he looked at her evenly, muttering in a barely audible voice. “What could you understand of me? What do you know of war? Or imprisonment? Have you ever cowered behind your own walls, waiting for them to fall upon you? To crush you, to kill you? What do you know of those?”
He shrank back in his chair, covering his eyes with his hand.

Ji Eun sighed, reaching over and clasping his hands in her own. She felt them shake as they wrapped around them, the clammy sweat bleeding into her own as he clung to her. As his hands shook, she could feel the walls of his existence cracking as if they were about to crumble in her palm. He was like a fortress engaged in battle, the undisputed ruler of his domain.

But in this moment, she knew that she was the only one he had ever allowed so close. Close enough to see the cracks in this stoic fortress. Close enough to peer through them and see the human towering in his own desolate castle, everything he had built crumbling to meaningless ruin. His kingdom, so powerful to everyone else, was naught but sand to him.

Although the wall between them was crumbling, she could do nothing but strain her ears to hear above the din of the battle and listen to his silent cries. And although her heart bled for him, strained out to touch him and heal his dying soul, she knew that the trembling gates remained closed for her. That although he shouted to her from across the wall, she could only watch it fall upon him. Slowly, gradually, the stones of his pretense piled upon him, burying the true man beneath the weight of his secrets as the world trampled them in rejection.

She looked down at her clipboard, scribbling down a few notes, her pen soiling the white paper, separating words into categories. Words. That’s all they would ever be.

She set the pen down and looked back up at him. “Is there anything I can do?”

He pointed abruptly to the door, refusing to return her gaze. “Go.”

“Do you want to – “

“Go!” he barked at her.

She nodded, smiling in the kindest way possible as she gathered her things. Standing up, she pressed the clipboard against her chest again. Striding over, she patted his shoulder, her hand pounding against him in light, rapid succession.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself,” she said. “You’ll be alright. Just forget about tonight.”

He listened, his chapped lips kneading against each other in deep thought. Nodding, he reached out to the coffee table, his grasp curling around the green glass surface of the beer bottle, white flesh haloing his fingertips in righteous frustration. His arm began to contract, pulling it back to his lips.

Deftly, she wrapped her hand around the bottle, suspending it in midair between them. Surprised, he looked upward.
“I need a drink,” he said, pulling it aggressively towards himself. You’ve never stopped me before.

Pulling it from his hand gently, she placed it back upon the coffee table. “Not tonight. The Hyun Suk wants you to meet the new crew. You should be sober for that.”

He shrugged her comments off his shoulders, as if that would keep them from ringing about his empty skull.

“Go!” he said, flicking his hand towards the entrance.

She nodded, squeezing her pen tightly between her fingers. She hesitated, looking him over once again, her doctor’s mind mentally calculating his furrowed brow, his eyes glazed with absence, his tensed fingers coiling into the muscle of his relaxed arm.

She sighed. Fine.

“Take care of yourself,” she said, her heels tapping the ground as she turned to leave.

Clack, clack, clack.

The tick of her shoes against the ground echoed in his head as he listened to her retreat, the cries of his soul trailing behind her. He leaned back, closing his eyes as he attempted to shut out the noise of the world.

Ya, pabo.

His lips moved slowly, forming the quiet words as they slipped from his lips, falling into thin air. He should have just done it. He should have told her the whole story; why he was like this. Why he had to hide. The specter that haunted him even in his dreams, her laugh ringing joyfully in his ears, resounding in his mind. How she waltzed towards him, the green, lively stems of a rose bouquet ensconced between her hands. How, night after night, he reached out to her, longing for her warm little body to press into his own. How the heat rose in his being as anticipation filled him. How his arms extended, empty, the cool breeze pinching them lightly just as he immersed himself in the fact that maybe this time it was actually real. Maybe this time he could start over. Maybe this time she would run into him and throw his arms around his neck, her sweet lips kissing his warm cheeks. Maybe this time….

But no. She would run into his arms, her eyes twinkling with life. The roses in her hands would turn to blood, dripping between her fingertips as her healthy skin grew pale and her cherry red lips turned a bruised blue. Then she would fall over, stabilizing herself by planting her hands against his chest, staining his purely white shirt crimson. She would gasp for breath, her entire body heaving as blood crept to the corners of her lips, dribbling slowly down her chin. He would listen to her, chills suddenly traversing his body as he shook, frightened. Suddenly, she would collapse, lifeless into his cold arms, stiff and lifeless. He would sob, his screams for help rising in his chest and pushing against the barrier of shock holding them back, containing them, strangling the life out of them and leaving them silent. Suddenly, as the sobs subsisted, he would notice a black instrument resting in her grip, a small, rolled up letter tied with a scarlet ribbon fastening it to its stem. With flaccid fingers, he would pry her claw-like grasp from it and unravel the ribbon. Pulling the pieces of paper apart, he would read the single word, scratched delicately, hastily up the paper.


Even now, he winced, wishing himself not to go on. But he knew the rest of the story.

He would grasp the black stem of the instrument and raise it his head. He would bite his lip, a crimson spring cleansing his tear-soiled face as he dug into it. The gentle, cold press of the metal barrel against his prickled skin. His finger curled around the lever.

He would pull it, a thud running through his body. And then nothing. Nothing but the darkness that surrounded him when he jolted awake, frigid sweat bathing his small being and seeping into the blankets he desperately pulled at to cover himself. To hide his sin. To remind himself that it was all only a dream.

Or was it? The death of a child, the death of a man.

Maybe he should have told her.

He glanced over his shoulder, staring at the cool, clear liquid still swimming crazily in the confines of the bottle from its contact with the coffee table, wishing he could drown himself in its roiling depths. He licked his dry lips, saliva sipping into the cracks as he savored the memory of the sharp sting sliding down his throat. The pain, followed by the numbness. A numbness great enough to dull the pain of his aching heart.

And then sleep. Deep, eternal, drunken sleep, devoid of any memories or haunting dreams. Only him and the blackness that already surrounded his soul.

He reached over, fingers curling around the green bottle once more as he pulled it to himself.

He couldn’t tell her. This was life. Or the only life he was allowed to live anyway.

Twisting open the cap, he brought it to his lips, enjoying the familiar, vibrant sting as it slid down his throat, pinching him. This was good.

I’m still alive, he thought.

Monday, November 12, 2012

New Book Excerpt

Note: I, along with some friends, are currently participating in the month-long writing challenge known as National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short. The challenge is to write 50,000 words of the same story in 30 days. Up until the beginning of November, you can only plan your novel (plot, develop characters, etc.) without writing any of it. You're not supposed to edit; just let loose and write as many words as possible. I wrote this for that, and ended up feeling like sharing this with you. So I apologize if it's badly written, if it's inaccurate about what bodyguards do, or if I'm getting Asian culture completely wrong, but please enjoy!

Another note: At one point, I have the line "Better to be a false god than a god that no one would listen to." I do NOT believe this. I believe firmly in my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and to Him I am forever dedicated! I wrote this clearly out of my character's subconscious. This is where he is at this part of the book, and this will be part of his character development and lesson throughout the book. So, I will eventually prove him wrong in the end :). Just a little spoiler :).

But goes nothing...

The roar of the crowd soared around Monster, throbbing like the pulse of a screaming demon in his ears. As one, they writhed, up and down in unholy worship, their hands raising signs proclaiming their undying love for him, their leader - the props of their unholy worship. From behind his mask, he observed them, eyes roving over his legions of faithful followers. Did they even know what they were worshipping? Could they even see the filth of the man imprisoned behind this pitiful fa├žade? Desperately, his heart pounded, punching at the walls of anonymity, but at the same time clasping his cape tightly around his chest, as if afraid they would actually crumble, leaving his ugly soul naked for all to see.

And then who would be there? Who would scream his name? He hung precariously, clinging to the pedestal they lifted him on even as the pit beneath him widened its jaws, waiting to receive him, to ensconce him in its black depths forever. Indeed, even now his hold slipped as he wavered between falsehood and destruction, but he clung on, fearing that if he fell, if they saw who he truly was, that they would abandon him. At the end of the day, would anyone ever come reach into the black depths and pull him out?

Better a false god than a god no one would listen to.

He raised the microphone to his mouth, praising the cold metal against his warm lips as he screamed, the sound bellowing forth from his aching heart as it trembled with every vibration, threatening to break. The crowd went wild. Closing his eyes, he drowned himself in the darkness which covered them, his mouth moving automatically as he sang the testimony of his soul, his arms and legs swinging in choreographed rhythm.
He knew all of it by heart. Or rather, it came from his heart. Written in his own blood as the feelings seeped through his fingers – produced by the labor of his feelings as they bore a child conceived in corruption, the lovechild of shattered dreams and desperate lies – his songs were a part of him, wed inextricably to his identity. Tears bled from the corners of his eyes, cutting paths through the dark circles of make-up, shimmering for a moment in the limelight before it slipped behind the mask, never to be seen by the naked eye. And yet he could feel it. It clung to him, sticking his face to the mask already plastered to it.

Taking a few steps forward, he opened his eyes, holding one arm out, embracing the limelight as it hit him straight on the chest, hitting the notes with effortless ease as the song spread its wings and flew from his mouth. Looking at his audience, he stepped towards them once again, reaching down to the fans, allowing them to grasp his hands. Their empty handshakes collided against his as he grasped each and every one blindly, half expecting, half hoping, that one would latch onto his hand, if only for a brief instant, with the love and care he really needed.

From her post at the crook of the stage, where the neck of the jutting out center met the main, long body, Ha Na stood, her arms outstretched as she held back a tsunami of surging fan girls crashing against her body. They attempted everything; reaching, climbing upward, pushing persistently against one another as they constantly strove to be the one to touch the image of the god they worshipped so fervently.

With the flash of the lights, her pulse raced, stomach suddenly fluttering. Immediately, her skin flushed, palms going clammy and face whitening as she felt the music lifting her feet. The inaudible clack of heels that rang so loudly in her ears. The soft rustle of dresses as the dancers took their places, whispering apprehensively to each other.

And then the voice. The pure, beautiful voice. The voice that made her heart skip, made her feet skip ahead of the rhythm. The voice whose song she never wanted to end. The voice whose song ended too soon.

The face she longed to see. If she closed her eyes, she could see him behind her, his voice echoing the smile on his face, reaching deep into her heart, touching her deepest part.

Suddenly, she couldn’t take it any more. She had to see him, no matter what it took. Tired of pretending, tired of forcing herself to hear the voice buried so deeply in the grave, she looked up, craning her neck to see the figure standing behind her.

He lowered his head quickly, obviously unaware of her. All of a sudden, their faces were inches apart, his crisp, warm breath fogging gently on her cheek. She went cold – his face, his entire countenance, lay concealed behind a white, expressionless mask, painted black eyelids covering his eyes as he sang, creating black sockets in their place.
It’s not him, disappointed, she began to turn away.

Just then, however, he opened his eyes. For one panicked second, they locked gazes, pinning each other in the intensity of the other’s stares. The singing stopped as his lips came to a halt, words frozen upon them. In his eyes, she saw a thousand tales, raw, grating, and sad, suddenly humanizing the beast she saw in front of her. In a second, the stories of years poured down upon her in an unintelligible torrent, the past colliding suddenly with the present as a tear tumbled accidentally from his eye and splashing onto her cheek, becoming her own as she caught a fleeting glimpse of his brokenness.

But only a glimpse, as panic gripped him and he pulled away, righting himself. Fleeing hastily to the other side of the stage, he whipped his hair down, flinging himself into the refuge of his own music.

Ha Na’s heart swirled with confusion.

Who is he?