A Very Different Fic... My First Attempt at Doing Something Meaningful

Goodwill

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The moon shined brightly over Fairly Street. The alluring beams blanketed the small houses and a cold wind snaked through. All that lived on the street were either out or had retired from a trying day at work. Fairly was relatively peaceful, that is until a Ford pick-up truck pulled up where the street met another.
Three rowdy boys piled out of the car, trying not to seem obvious, however, that was a difficult feat when they kept carrying on loudly. The trio made there way to the bed of the truck and started rummaging through its contents. One got a myriad of spray paint containers, while the other two struggled with a huge container of an off-white liquid.
One of the boys, a sandy haired young man, named Mark, who seemed to be in his later teens, brandished a spray paint can and said, “All right, let’s go show these terrorists how much we care! We let them come here and live and they repay us by blowing up the Twin Towers and they expect us not to react to them being here?” The teenager laughed. “We’re gonna show ‘um what Americans are made of!”
The two others cheered and scurried down Fairly following Mark, who seemed more anxious than his partners in crime. They stopped at a house, which resided between two others. The three vigilant teenagers crept on to the property and began to pour the off-white liquid on to the lawn, writing out “leave” in bold, yet invisible writing. Mark left his group to use his spray paint. While his friends were occupied with the lawn, Mark too to the garage door of the house as if it were a canvas where he could paint a disturbing message onto it. He wrote slanderous things about the Islamic religion and Indians; he was getting quite involved, too.
Then, the most fatal thing happened; the lights came on.
“Mark, hurry, we’ve gotta go!” One of Mark’s friends said urgently, he was already making his way down the street.
“Just a second,” Mark growled. He continued to paint the garage door almost as if he were convinced that the lights shining from the house didn’t indicate he was in trouble, however he was wrong. Before he could pull himself from the “art” that he created, a slender, yet impressive Indian man stood at the door. It was two o’ clock in the morning, why was the man still wearing jeans and a t-shirt? Mark thought he would be in it so deep he wouldn’t be able to get out of it.
* * *
“You’re lucky he didn’t call the police,” Mark’s mother said, scolding him. When Mark got home, he snuck into bed, only to awake finding out that his mother somehow knew he vandalized a neighbor’s house. “You have no idea how infuriated I am at you and I’d punish you but Mr. Sharra told me not to…” If her face got any redder, Mark’s mother’s head would’ve exploded.
“Wait, who?” Mark asked. Whoever this person was, Mark would have to personally thank him.
“The man whose house you trashed, Mark,” his mother cackled. “He called earlier this morning and told me not to punish you. He said he had other things in mind.”
Mark groaned; he thought that not having his mother reprimand him any more would be a good thing but now he’d have to come face to face with the victim. Mark didn’t think this was at all a good thing. In his mind, he would be physically tortured as he had heard the terrorists did to the American troops or something to that effect, however, it was only his ignorance speaking.
“Don’t give me that,” Mark’s mother said, responding to his grunt. “Mr. Sharra said he’d like you over to his house before noon. He didn’t say anything, but I would like you to bring paint cans and fertilizer to clean up the mess you made, is that understood?”
* * *
Mark sulked down Fairly until he reached Mr. Sharra’s house, where he saw a horrific scene of bleached lawns and spray painted garage doors. It wasn’t until then that Mark realized what he did was wrong, however, his beliefs about the Islamic faith still stood.
Putting the paint containers down, he knocked the door. Instead of getting an answer, the garage door folded under the roof of the house and Mr. Sharra, the impressive looking Indian man walked out. Mark picked up his belongings and walked towards him.
“Please put those things in the garage and get in the car,” Sharra said, even smiling at the sight of Mark. “I’d like to take you to some place.”
Mark did as he was told; even though he was puzzled, he decided that it best not to upset Mr. Sharra. Mr. Sharra soon got in the car and started driving down Fairly; he eventually left the neighborhood, passed the town that both Sharra and Mark lived in and seemed to be headed towards the city.
“Where are you taking me?” Mark asked as politely as he could.
“Today is the Eid Ul Fitr, according to the Islamic calendar,” explained Sharra, who was now turning the car more towards the city. “It is the first day of Shawaal, the tenth month on the calendar, which follows Ramadan. Ramadan is when Muslims fast during the daylight hours of the day to profess our devotion to Allah and to celebrate the discovery of the Koran, which is sort of like the Bible to the Christians. It is our belief,” he said. “That fasting is a way to teach us self-control. You see, the body needs to be fed, and, although it is tempting, we must not do such a thing because, as we fast, we become closer to God.”
“So, what does that have to do with where you’re taking me?” Mark said, growing a little bit impatient as Sharra was driving.
Mark had noticed that Mr. Sharra had driven his car into the impoverished region of the city, which made him question his “punisher” once again.
Mr. Sharra smiled. “I’m getting there, Mark. Be patient and, if you do anything, listen,” Sharra said. “Now, another reason that Muslims fast is to appreciate what we have been given and to recognize the people that have less than us.” He took a moment to look at his surroundings and eventually came back to explaining things to Mark, who did not know what he was getting at by telling him it was a holiday. “Eid Ul Fitr is a day of joyous celebration and, apart from the services at the Mosque and the Eid-ul-Adha, a meal fit for the occasion, we must give to the community to show our selflessness.” The car pulled up and parked next to a rundown building with a sign out front that read, “Dining Hall”. “This is where we’re going, as a Muslim, today I am obligated to give to the needy,” Mr. Sharra said with a hint of humorous sarcasm in his tone. “Would you help me with the bags in the back?”
Mark got out of the car and headed to the trunk, where there were bags brimming with food. He followed Mr. Sharra to the back of the dining hall and into the kitchen, where there were men waiting for them. They took the food out of the bags and began preparing it as Mark and Mr. Sharra took numerous trips back and forth to deliver the goods.
After a while Mark finally spoke. “Why?” He said; he was wondering why Mr. Sharra was being so odd about treating him for what he had done the night before. All this talk about holidays and delivering goods to a shelter didn’t add up to Mark at all.
“What do you mean?” Mr. Sharra asked, as puzzled as Mark first was when he arrived on Fairly.
“Why didn’t you call the police? Why didn’t you make me clean up the mess I made? None of this makes sense to me!” Mark said in a confused groan.
Mr. Sharra laughed once again. Mark thought he was enjoying this too much. “You must not have been paying attention in the car, Mark. Allah has given us an opportunity in life and the whole reason why Muslims celebrate Ramadan and Eid is to appreciate life,” He said boldly. “Opportunities mean all kinds of different things, Mark. You put me in a position where a lot of opportunities could have been taken. Since Eid is also a holiday where we are supposed to give up grudges with other men, I decided to take a more positive one for both you and I. You see, Mark, this holiday, for Muslims, makes us better people; we learn to take things as serious and as severe as anything else. We must callous first, but we are made into stronger beings with closer relationships to God. I know that we do not pray to the same god,” said Sharra. “However, I did share this day with you so that you can become a better person.” Before Mark could reply, Mr. Sharra walked away and took the remaining two bags into the shelter.
Mark stood, leaning on the car, thinking about the vastness of what Sharra had just told him. It was like an epiphany went off in his head; regardless of the pain that Mark had caused, Mr. Sharra still had a certain faith in Mark that he himself failed to see. If he were in Mr. Sharra’s position, he would’ve been out there whipping whoever had done that to him yet, still, Mark stood unharmed and didn’t even have to clean up what he had to do. Mark came off admiring Sharra that instant for this and only hoped that he could live a life as profound as he did. He would no longer discriminate or make immature conclusions about a certain group or anything.
“Ready to go?” Mr. Sharra called from the other side of the car; he had showed up without Mark even noticing.
“Yup,” Mark replied with a smile, getting into the car. The car started to pull off and as it did so Mark said, “Thank you, Mr. Sharra, I learned a lot today.”
“Your welcome,” Mr. Sharra said. “Just remember today. Life is full of opportunities and be thankful that they are there for you. That is, of course, what the Eid and Ramadan are all about.”
 

Caduceus

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Hmmm....

The concept itself is quite good and the way you illustrate your points is ok.

My criticism however is in the "voice" of Mark. You write phrases like

Goodwill said:
It wasn’t until then that Mark realized what he did was wrong, however, his beliefs about the Islamic faith still stood.

and that makes perfect sense if the character its about is a person who would talk like that but Mark isn't. I don't know if i'm explaining this well. I'll try again. A character has a certain style of thinking and talking and the words you use to describe them should reflect this. Mark is a teenager who has issues with muslims. He isn't going to say or think something like "his beliefs abot the Islamic faith still stood" and its not really appropriate to use it to describe him and his thoughts either.

I don't know that I made it clear but I tried



And don't get me wrong, despite the somewhat lengthy criticism, its only one point. I think its a good story.
 

Goodwill

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Well, maybe it wasn't clear, but the vandalism deal and the hatred of Muslims were two different things... That's what I was trying to say, there.
 

Caduceus

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Oh i know what you were trying to say. I'm just trying to comment on the writing style rather than the plot.
 

Goodwill

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Gotcha... What does everyone else think? I mean, after all, this is something that can be included in the Fan Fic Awards... ;)
 

Seldes Katne

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What does everyone else think? I mean, after all, this is something that can be included in the Fan Fic Awards...
To be honest, I’m not sure this qualifies as fanfiction. Fanfic, by definition, is based on characters and situations depicted in someone else’s works (either comics, novels, TV shows, movies, etc.) Unless Mark and his friends are taken from a comic book or TV show with which I am not familiar, this appears to be a work of original fiction, which is something else entirely. However, that’s a question for whoever runs the next awards session. (And I was under the impression that all the awards were going to the UC mega-fic being written by Nurhachi and Co. :roll: ) Besides, original fiction could actually be sold, under the right circumstances. :)

At any rate, I think it’s still worth reviewing this. There are several changes I would suggest, but I’d rather do them through PMs or e-mails, as they deal with the techniques of writing rather than the actual story itself.

I’d be interested in knowing where you got your information on Ramadan and Eid Ul Fitr, just out of curiosity. Are any of these characters a case of author insertion?

I thought it was very clever of Mr. Sharra to deal with Mark separately from his friends. This works on several levels:
  • It cuts Mark off from his “support group” and peers, giving Mr. Sharra more of a chance of reaching Mark on an emotional level. One of things I’ve heard from people who tutor high school students is that one on one, most teens are actually easier to work with and are much more pleasant as individuals. The teens aren’t trying to show off for their friends, peer pressure is mostly absent, and the adult has more control over the situation.
  • Mr. Sharra is providing Mark with a worthwhile and positive activity that Mark can continue to do on his own. Food pantries and other human service agencies constantly need people volunteering to help, and Mark should be able to actually see his actions helping others. Also, I think many people who work with charitable organizations are pretty people-oriented, and would likely thank Mark many times for his efforts, giving him positive feed-back and encouragement.
  • Mr. Sharra is connecting Mark to the community, and introducing the idea that damage to one person actually has an effect on a community as a whole. He is connecting Mark to other people around them, an activity that often builds empathy for others. If television and movie violence de-sensitize people, community service can have the reverse effect. No matter how bad off you might think you are, there's always someone who's got it worse. And Mark gets to be a kind of hero, which is a good feeling for pretty much anyone.
  • This approach to "punishment" reminds me of the concept of Native American Circle Justice, which is being used in some areas of the United States. It's based on the teachings and beliefs of some Native American communities that a person should pay for his or her wrongdoings by healing themselves, the people they hurt, and the community as a whole. As long as we're crossing cultures here, there is an excellent Young Adult novel that deals with this called Touching Spirit Bear, by Ben Mikaelsen. (Note to self: write this up for the Recommended Reads thread....)

One of the boys, a sandy haired young man, named Mark, who seemed to be in his later teens, brandished a spray paint can and said, “All right, let’s go show these terrorists how much we care! We let them come here and live and they repay us by blowing up the Twin Towers and they expect us not to react to them being here?” The teenager laughed. “We’re gonna show ‘um what Americans are made of!”
Sadly, this seems to be a realistic reaction to the events of September 11th. One of my friends who is still working in the same school district I left a few years back told me about a similar response from high school kids immediately after 9/11. There was at least one family in the district whose children were of Middle Eastern descent, but who had attended this school district their entire lives. Despite this, some of the teens still threatened the boy and his sister with physical violence for several days after 9/11, even though these kids were well-known and quite popular.

Having Mark change his attitude at the end of the story makes for a satisfying ending, although I wonder how long all those warm, fuzzy feelings will last. It might be worth exploring what Mark does when he gets back to his partners in crime. Will all this suddenly just become a joke? Will Mark try to convince his friends they were wrong? How will they react to his experience, and how will he react to them?
 

Goodwill

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Well, thank you for your response, Seldes! I appreciate your input every time.

I wrote this for a school paper that I needed to and I thought it was worth sharing with all of you just to see what kind of feedback I would get. I based it off of a person that I knew that actually became extremely angry at the Muslim community after 9/11 and I needed the story to have a positive ending so I chose the one that was used so that I could meet that criteria.
 

Nurhachi

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Seldes Katne said:
(And I was under the impression that all the awards were going to the UC mega-fic being written by Nurhachi and Co. :roll: )

Thats only if i dont kill off Ultimate E! (and im under the impression he was joking :p)

Have you read it yet Seldes :D Your in #5 (probably)
 

Seldes Katne

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Nurhachi said:
Thats only if i dont kill off Ultimate E! (and im under the impression he was joking :p)
I don't know... UltimateE can do pretty much whatever he wants here, so you might want to keep that in mind if you're planning a site coup.... :wink:

Have you read it yet Seldes :D Your in #5 (probably)

I've, um, skimmed it. Y'all seem to be having a good time with it, that's for sure. :) I've noticed the thread is very active.

Thanks for the warn— I mean, advanced notice on Chapter Five. I'm sure it'll be quite the literary event. [heads off to office to check on supply of asprin] Oh, and while we're on the subject, you do realize that your "Dragon Master" picture is actually cover art for a book entitled Sun-Runner's Fire by Melanie Rawn, right? :)
 

Goodwill

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To let you all know, I won a state-wide contest (FIRST PLACE!) for this story! Cool, huh? I'm not really sure what the details are, but my teacher told me that it's one of the biggest in the state and it's to be appluaded. ;)
 

Goodwill

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Thanks. I was actually a little shocked. I don't hold myself in that high of a regard and I guess I don't really appreciate my own writing. But, I've gotta give myself credit, I mean, first place.
 

Patriot Mk2

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Goodwill said:
To let you all know, I won a state-wide contest (FIRST PLACE!) for this story! Cool, huh? I'm not really sure what the details are, but my teacher told me that it's one of the biggest in the state and it's to be appluaded. ;)

We reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally need a clapping smiley.E?

Well done
 

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