Annotation Alcatraz Chapter Twelve
The Alcatraz Smedry you think you know is a farce.
And now we get the cynical side of Alcatraz’s character growth. It was an interesting experiment, writing this book from the perspective of someone looking back. I knew what I wanted to have happened in Alcatraz’s life (remember, when I changed the book to first person, I’d done a lot more worldbuilding and planning for the series than I had when I originally wrote it). And I knew where he would end up by the time he was older. (I peg the narrator at about eighteen years old.)
So I knew that he’d look at some of these events–such as Alcatraz learning to be a leader–with a sneer. I had to get that across without undermining the power of the actual event, which is why I’ve worked so hard to make the narrator seem a little untrustworthy. You see how he reacts to his young self, but hopefully you don’t see the young Alcatraz in the same way.
I hadn’t even noticed–my glasses were gone.
Alcatraz doesn’t notice that he’s missing his Oculator’s Lenses. This is a big deal to me, metaphorically, even though it’s barely mentioned. He hasn’t grown into them yet.
However, more important than that is the discussion he has with Bastille about being an Oculator. These are some of the issues we’ll get into with her character later, but remember–this series is about using what you have and making the best of it. Sure, it would be better for Bastille if she were an Oculator, but that’s not an option for her.
However, what she does have is severe stubbornness. This comes out as she explains how long she tried to become an Oculator. She would have known from the beginning that it was impossible, but she still tried.
Her stubbornness is what she has to make use of. (Oh, and the Popsicle thing is one of my favorite little explanations in the book.)
Interrogation and Torture
“Foolish, foolish Alcatraz” is a nod to Jeff Smith’s Bone. Give it a read, if you haven’t.
Also of note is Sing’s comment when Alcatraz is talking to Ms. Fletcher. Sing notes that Alcatraz is a little bit snide. That quip, for some reason, has been a favorite of readers ever since the first draft. I’m not completely sure why. Yes, it’s fun, but it seems to have gotten undue attention as a laugher. Sometimes you just can’t judge what will work for people and what won’t–or what will work really, really well.
And since I’m talking about little things here, let me mention Grandpa Smedry. Of course he shows up late, after Alcatraz gets tortured.
I worried that having the main character get tortured like this might be too graphic for a children’s book–but then I remembered some of the things I’ve read in children’s books lately. It seems to me that you shouldn’t pull punches because of the audience. There are words I change to make the vocabulary work for the age group, and some types of humor don’t work as well, but I don’t like talking down to anyone, even babies who can’t speak yet. Successful novels are ones that treat their readers with respect, regardless of age.
Alcatraz needed to go through this (and I know, it’s not really that graphic). It’s what the story needed. Heroes do get themselves into trouble. If standing up for people were easy, what would be the point of bravery?
That “shark biting you in half” crack. It makes me laugh that I managed to throw in such a non sequitur in the middle of describing what torture felt like.