Now that we’re out of the Introducing You to the Whole World woods, chapters will get shorter, less scaffolding, more forward momentum of plot, which means I’ll have less to say about many of them, since the point of the walkthrough isn’t to recap the plot. Ergo, posts of less-epic length covering multiple chapters await ye.
If you don’t yet have the book, you may follow along with another excerpt.
Subjects touched upon herein: character arcs, vicious circles, symbolism, foreshadowing, and stage-2 gardening.
The definition of insanity
Chapter 1’s walkthrough mentioned that a goal for Tally is to break her out of secretive mode.
A goal for Ben is to break him out of nice-guy mode.
Before the wails of “No-o-o-o!” get too earsplitting, think about what keeping him there would mean. He would keep giving and giving and giving, and unappreciative women would keep taking and taking and taking until he was empty, nothing left for himself or anyone else, and that sweet, playful boy with the easy smile would become a pucker-faced old hag. Why would you wish that on anybody?
I’m not suggesting transforming him into an asshole would be good character development, but his self-preservation depends on achieving a better balance between his output and intake.
Toward the end, Ben’s mom tells Tally, “You need to learn to be selfish, hon.” Ben also needs to learn that lesson. It’s not enough to only want the person he loves to be happy — because his happiness matters, too. He has to learn to speak up if he’s not getting what he needs and not keep quiet out of fear the response will be “Whoa! You are way too demanding and clingy, mister. I can’t be around you.” If someone you love can’t be bothered to even hear what you need to be happy, your love is wasted on that person, and good riddance.
He had always made it easy for her to be stingy with herself, and in the end, she’d left him empty-handed.
What he has always done — not just making no demands of her, but actively enabling her to keep herself at a comfortable distance — rewarded him with distance of thousands of miles for twelve years. His strategy didn’t work. He must do something differently if he wants to achieve a different result this time.
Not allowing her to evade is easier when his mood is bitter and sullen, but he can’t stay in that mood because that’s not his nature and he cares that she’s tired and he can’t be “mean” to her, and then he’s right back to hiring himself out as a punching bag.
That’s okay. It’s only Chapter 3. He doesn’t have to learn anything this early in the semester. He has plenty of time to study for the test.
Snow White and the Huntsman was visually stunning (the sets, the costumes, the Charlize), and it went straight to the top of my Most Execrable Movies of All Time list because they had one absolutely brilliant concept and then made the wrong fucking movie. Ravenna, the Evil Queen, has a history of being used by men who sucked away her youth and beauty and then cast her off like garbage. What is she doing in the present time in the movie? Using girls to literally suck away their youth and beauty and then casting them off like garbage. SHE BECAME THE VILLAIN OF HER OWN STORY. I was bouncing up and down in my seat and making happy-writer noises because that is gold. And then I spent the next two hours pissed off that they shoved the only interesting character into the background and wasted my time retelling the well-known adventures of Mary Sue.
WCAD is a story on a much smaller scale and as such isn’t the place for that (potential) degree of high drama, but one property of good storytelling principles is that they’re scalable.
Ben has this recurring thought that he has nothing of value to offer the people he loves because they show no inclination to take from him. The cookie jar is open — if there was anything good in there, they’d reach out and grab it, right? He doesn’t see that he’s deluging them with so much freely given affection, they never have to show any exertion taking it from him, even though they are receiving it. Nor does he see that by pretending he needs nothing in return, it seems to them that they have nothing he wants — and they feel guilty for taking more than they give and begin rejecting what he offers in an attempt to balance the scales. In his attempts to be “selfless,” he’s giving this awful feeling he has to others and creating his own rejection.
A little bit of selfishness on his part would benefit everyone.
Lemon Nipples: The Sequel
In Chapter 2, Tally is resigned to the sticky door buzzer and leaves shutting it up to somebody else. In Chapter 4, after being agitated by Ben, she beats the crap out of it herself.
After being agitated by Ben.
That even smells a little bit like foreshadowing, which brings us to today’s episode of…
Omens, portents, and prophecies, oh my
Still in Act I. Still engaged in setting up what’s to come.
- The vast majority of the trouble he’d gotten into from kindergarten through his senior year of high school had been the direct result of attempts to get Tally Castle to look at him, smile at him, talk to him, even if it was to scold. — expect the vast majority of the trouble Ben gets into now to be the direct result of attempts to get Tally’s attention
- As long as he’d known her, she had turned slippery when questioned — expect Tally to respond to queries with evasion
- He’d have gotten a warmer reception if he offered her a foot rub and eight hours of sleep. — expect a foot rub, if not that luxurious amount of sleep
- a truck crawling past the window for the third time — expect that eagle to land eventually
- She’d been in the middle of sex without thinking this much about a man touching her body — expect some lack of enthusiasm sexually
- If her aspirations hadn’t been as far out of reach as the stars, she would have been content with what she got. — expect any dissatisfaction she feels to be attributed to unrealistic expectations rather than the quality of the object of dissatisfaction
- The broken ones are my favorite. — expect Ben not to fuss about everything being perfect
- embrace the inevitable — expect Tally to accept her crappy circumstances as the natural order
- quest for fame and fortune — expect to learn how that quest ended living with her dad in poverty and running a bankrupt bakery
- He had a great life now because she hadn’t dragged him from the path he was meant to be on. — expect a veritable epidemic of people believing their “selfless” acts were good for somebody else
- slung her backpack over her shoulder — there’s no particular reason you should expect that to be anything, but it does come up again
Tending the sprouts
We’re far enough into the story that we start to see some tender baby shoots from seeds sown earlier. They’re not all significant in terms of plot, but the little ones that acknowledge there are things happening outside that moment on the page that nonetheless influence that moment on the page help create the sense the characters live in the story rather than simply being pushed along the writer’s rail.
- Earlier, Tally mentioned the bakery’s books were always in the red — now we know the deficit is due to acts of charity.
- Earlier, Ben gave more thought to his mom’s lack of access to a blowout than Tally gave to her mother being deceased — now we know her lack of interest is due to her mother being abusive.
- Earlier, Ben indicated he’d waited six months for her to call — now we know she wanted to call within a week of leaving but thought it would be better for his future if he wasn’t involved with her.
- Earlier, Tally indicated money was tight — now we know she can’t afford to splurge on a $4 tube of Great Lash.
Now, we give it all a little water and light and room to grow and wait to see what kind of fruit it bears.