I'm near the end of one of those horrible long sleepless periods, but realized I wouldn't be able to sleep (at least not without many disturbing dreams since I'm Stress-Monster) if I didn't force myself to write this since I'm up against the deadline now.

I'm not sure I'll be able to outline this project properly until it's actually *written*--it's one of those deals. Bits and pieces surfacing like answers in a magic 8-ball, each a puzzle piece which fits with the other pieces (many not yet surfaced) to form the project. It feels a bit like jumping without a parachute, but I really feel that all the puzzle pieces are there, waiting for me below the surface, and that they'll all come together into one smooth image. I have enough pieces now that I'm feeling very excited. It's like I know it's a picture of a mountain valley, but I don't know what all the flowers and trees are yet, or where they'll go.

I'm having a hard time wrapping my topic up in a tight packet of words, but essentially it's about being an outcast, with specific regards to the search for self... trying to find oneself, figure out what path to follow in life, develop emotional independence/self-sufficiency. I feel that this is all one thing, something I'd give a nice one-word name if I was creating my own language, because my feeling is that all these phrases that sound like separate issues are my "big thing" which has pervaded my life.

It deals with the pure self of childhood, the questions and angst about who one is and what one wants from life as one grows older, the pitfalls one falls into due to society's ideas on what one should be and want, and the confusion caused by others' image of one and by one's confused self-images along the road. There's probably (definitely) more to it, but it's coming as a story rather than a plan, and I'm finding characters gathering in my mind and gradually introducing themselves to me, telling me their role in the story. (That sounds really weird, but I'm trying to find a way to describe how this is coming to me--it's one of those fragile processes which refuses to be forced.)

The project has been directing me more than I've been directing it, if that makes any sense. Maybe if I just start describing it, I'll be able to explain enough of what I'm up to at this point.

It does at least have a nice solid title. "Once Upon a Time..."

And it has a very nice solid framework. It's going to be told as a story. One story, but two versions: the real-life version and the "fairytale" or "children's story" version. The two versions will be told in tandem, in very small chunks. (Small enough to be very comfortable reading both at the same time.) There'll be a book graphic (pages turn, not animated), and the left-hand pages will tell the fairytale version while the right-hand pages will tell the real-life version. Both in a sort of "once upon a time" style. Hyperlinks from the story texts will open pop-up windows where certain things can be dealt with in depth outside of the "story" framework. (So the story-style won't be limiting.) There'll be a ton of "pages" in the storybook because of the small size of each "chunk" of the story presented on each page. There'll be different fonts (and maybe also subtle color differences if that seems like a good idea when I get to doing mock-ups) for the left-hand pages and the right-hand pages to visually differentiate further to make this "read well" (text in the book will be made as graphics, I'm pretty sure). Many pages will have small illustrations at the top (it's all relatively small the way it's laid out in my mind now, easily fitting into a standard browser window) so it'll be like an illustrated children's book. The real-life versions will probably be photos, while the fairytale versions will be drawings or collages or whatever I can make however (anything goes) where I can free myself from the technical and quality worries and just express myself with the freedom of a child. (Not worrying whether I can draw a sorceress or an enchanted glade or whathaveyou *well*, but just concerning myself with the *imaginative* aspects.)

Where things get nebulous is in trying to give a plot diagram. I know the beginning and the end and pieces of the middle, but I don't know everything yet, don't know how some issues will be dealt with, and don't know what issues might pop up when the characters whisper to me that "that's what I'm here for, dummy!" The characters for the fairytale version are slowly introducing themselves to play various parts and I have large chunks of the roles/subplots they play in mind. And as each comes to me, it helps shape the direction I'll be steering the real-life parallel version in. Sort of like the characters are telling me what I should tell and what I shouldn't by telling me what *they'll* be doing. (And again, I'm free to go into things outside the story in those pop-ups, so I can pretty much get whatever I need to say said.) So I know the broad outline of the whole story, but not all the details (outline sorts of things) have come clear yet. I think what's going to happen is that I'll just have to write as I go along, following my characters and their story as if it's something I'm watching happen outside of me--something which doesn't easily yield to conscious control.

Ok, here's a few of the puzzle pieces to give an idea of what's going on in my mind. (Think beta, though--I might have to tweak some things a lot to get them to fit right.)

I have a sorceress-type (we'll call her Sakura for now) who has an enchanted garden with Plant People (no clue what I'll call them yet, but "plant people" it will not be--too much shades of "pod people"). She's a bit of a magical genetic engineer and has created her plant people. There's lots of very well-adjusted plants, quite a good diversity, but all fit into an existing society they have, and none are one-of-a-kind plants. Now Sakura wants to make something *really* different, so she creates Sprout (working name). She leaves Sprout's pod in the garden to open on it's own and goes back to her laboratory, basically giving birth to an outcast.

The parallel story deals with my bookish, eccentric, and not terribly social parents deciding to have a child who's shy, different, intelligent, blah, blah.

Things progress as you'd expect, the usual misadventures between Sprout and the other Plant People that you'd expect (haven't written it yet) with fairytale plotting and stories from my childhood detailing it. (Wanting to belong, being rejected, self-images and images of others imposed on you, societal values imposed on you, desires you're told you should have, how wretched it feels to be rejected and yet how wretched it feels to try to be something you're not in order to belong, blah, blah, blah.)

Then there's the characters. I've just got a few definite ones so far, but they're pretty cute. (I tend to be a bit weird and silly, btw.) There's a version of the ugly duckling, but it's not the Original Ugly Duckling. (This one is something like the Unwanted/Misfit [what the heck do you call a baby swan?!?].) See, what happened to the original ugly duckling is that the ducks all looked up to and admired the swan when it grew up because it was so beautiful and graceful and all that garbage, but it *did not last*. The ducks and the swan just didn't have much in common, and the ducks became very jealous of the swan's beauty and grace, and it turned ugly, and the swan was miserable and ostracized. Through some kind of fairytale-style grapevine, *my* baby swan has heard about all this and has decided to run away and try to find some swans.

Then there's the Changeling. Doesn't fit in with humans and isn't wanted, so she also goes in search of her own people. Both the baby swan and changeling at least know that there's others like them, a place somewhere where they belong. On the other hand, I think there's some rejection issues going on with the Changeling--it doesn't make a lot of sense to seek out people like yourself if they cared so little for you that they traded you for a human. So the Changeling's quest is a foolish one. Both swan and changeling's quests emphasize Sprout's loneliness and her desire to belong. They also deal with issues of how silly it is that people ostracize others for beauty/physical traits, culture/race. Surface stuff. I think that helps Sprout see that she can think for herself as well if not better than Society can.

There's Mr. Frog-Toad who's part is to be the voice of wisdom, essentially, and of "simply being". (Living life instead of trying so hard to plan it and force it to go the direction one wants it to.) Sakura (the sorceress) painted him (magic paint) one day and couldn't decide whether to make him a frog or a toad. (Shades of being pulled in different directions by others.) So he says that he's both, and neither, and says, "But I know I like sitting here on my lily pad in the sun, and I love to jump and swim and rest in the shade of the Moss Ferns...." Mr. Frog-Toad is likely to become Sprout's best friend, but I'm not sure yet if it'll be him or another kind of character.

And the end's all figured out. I debated whether to include my personal happy ending for fear that it might weaken the message of emotional self-reliance, but really, I have to tell the whole story or it becomes fiction. And I think it actually *emphasizes* that good things can happen when we become more fully ourselves and stop wishing for happiness to find us. We become people who *are* happy (a matter of attitude), and the good things spring from there. Etc., etc.

Anyway, Sprout becomes comfortable with herself, finds herself to a large degree--to that degree where one is on the correct path at least (because I feel that I'm more on the right path than at my final destination), stops desiring outside things to happen to make her happy, lets go of desire. Before then, she was too busy trying to find happiness (rather than learning to *be* happy, and looking outside rather than inside herself for how to be happy) to be willing to go on a voyage of exploration to the Far Reaches with a friend. (Possibly Mr. Frog-Toad. I have a feeling that he likes to go on explorations in between lazing around at the pond.)

So now Sprout agrees to go with her friend, living life instead of trying to plan it, and they travel to the castle of Eldawyn (working name) who turns out to be the sorceress' sister. The sorceress had actually made two special-pods and sent one to her sister. So there the now confident, independent, unneedy Sprout meets a boy-Sprout and blah, blah, blah. Having outgrown the ideas imposed by the Plant-Society about relationships, the two Sprouts (because I have no clue what to call their type of plant yet, I'm calling them Sprouts) are able to enter into a very unconventional relationship which is perfect for their own special quirks. They're able to appreciate each other and be free of preconceived notions or desires, and do the happily ever after thing Sprout-Style (something they'd be incapable of if they'd bought into the ideas the other plant people claimed were How Things Absolutely Should Be.)

So there's a ton of details yet to be hammered out, but that's the framework it's all falling into.

Could I maybe sum up my topic by saying something like, "an outcast trying to find one's self and one's path", do you think?

I'm too tired to even spell-check right now. Later. Goodnight.



Flower and Willow