Opening Scenes in My PitchWars Manuscript and The Pain It’s Causing Me

So I just participated in YayYA, a critique swapping contest arranged by wonderful Rachel Stevenson. I submitted a 35-words pitch and first 500 words there. The critiquing started on Monday, June 27th. I was excited to have my first 500 words being critiqued. 
Well, it hasn’t been very positive. Actually, not positive at all. And I agree with them.

One of them pointed out how it failed to intrigue them and make them turn the pages to read more. Another told me there were too many character introduction, also of minor characters.

Long before this critique swap, I’d submitted my first 250 words to Janice Hardy. It was almost first draft (I said almost because only those 250 words I polished individually, six times before submitting it). It was like this:

“Day One
The day I first met Summer, I got arrested for initiating into a fight with the Hippies, because I was one of their arch enemies, the Suedeheads, and they were making graffiti of their slogans like ‘Make Love, Not War’ and ‘Flower Power’ in our Bromley territory.
Summer was also a Hippie, but she wasn’t one of them.
That day, it was raining, it was 3:45pm and one by one, all my six friends got bail and left. I sat inside the cell, my left knuckle bandaged for punching a Hippie, watching my friends leave and then the clock tick.
“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”
The thought of the quote wasn’t unexpected. I’d been wondering about it for the past few days myself. Brooding was never my thing, but this one was bugging me a lot. And then I got released. While my friends needed their parents’ arrival to get a bail, I didn’t. Perks of having a Dad who works in the Scotland Yard as one of the Assistant
Commissioners. One telephone call can set your sixteen years old rebellious, Suedehead son free.
To punish me, Dad didn’t send me a ride. I stood by the pavement to get a cab, when a van ran past me and splashed dirty water. Before I could recover from the initial shock, it halted a few feet ahead, and backed up to me. A window rolled down and emanated out the Beatles’ “…and I saw her standing there…”
It was Summer, sitting inside.”

Well, you can see how rough and unpolished it was despite my polishing it SIX times. It was also not the right place to begin. My MMC/narrator was a Suedehead (a reckless, hooligan type subculture from the early ’70s). But now he’s just a normal teenager. My FMC still a Hippie.

Before submitting to Janice, I decided to submit to Critique Circle where I’m a member. That draft was the second draft and it was thus:

“Day One

The day I first met Summer, I got arrested for getting into a fight with the Hippies, because I was one of their arch enemies, the Suedeheads, and they were making graffiti of their slogans like ‘Make Love, Not War’ and ‘Flower Power’ in our Bromley territory.

Summer was also a Hippie, but she wasn’t one of them. That day, it was raining, it was 3:45pm and one by one, all my six friends got bail and left. I sat inside the cell, my left knuckle wrapped in bandage for punching a Hairy (read a Hippie), watching them leave and then the clock tick.

“The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

The thought of the quote wasn’t unexpected. I’d been wondering about it for the past few days myself. Brooding was never my thing, but this one was bugging me a lot. And then I got bailed. While my friends needed their parents’ arrival to get a bail, I didn’t. Perks of having a Dad who works in the Scotland Yard as one of the Assistant Commissioners. One telephone call can set your sixteen years old rebellious, Suedehead son free.

To punish me, Dad didn’t send me a ride. So I stood by the pavement, trying to get a cab, when a van ran past me, splashing dirty water. Before I could recover from the initial shock, it halted a few feet ahead, and backed up to me. A window rolled down and emanated out the Beatles singing “…and I saw her standing there…”

It was Summer, sitting inside.”

See? Those two were almost the same!

At the beginning of this month, I won a free critique giveaway for query+ first 250 words by one of the PitchWars mentors. To her, I sent this draft:

“Day One:
The day I first met Summer, I stole my dad’s car to escape to Wales with my friends. But he stopped me. How?
Carrick (my friend): “I can’t believe your dad reported his car stolen so fast. We should’ve used the train. How did he find us so quickly?”
I mulled over it. One of the privileges Dad enjoyed as one of the Assistant Commissioners of Scotland Yard. The fuzz leave no stone unturned to find your stolen car. But how did he know about our plan? Either Ted spilled the beans, the naïveté my sweet, innocent little brother was; or Fred, dad’s lackey and my perfectionist elder brother, who somehow found out. Either way, we got arrested. 
Tamsin: “Will your dad come? Or mum?”
Dad was the one who landed us here, so no. Mum was busy doing what she always did, sleeping. Not her fault though, but still. 
Declan: “My dad’s here. Will you be all right by yourself, mate?” 
Me: “I’ll be fine.” 
Hell, I dared to steal my dad’s car and use it to go to Wales, didn’t I? Despite no permission from Damon Crawley, aka Stonyface, aka my dad.
One by one all my six friends were bailed, except me. I waited for my turn.
****************
An hour later, my bail was made via telephone, and intentionally late. When I’d asked for the car, the fuzz in charge refused.
“Your dad’s order.”
“How else will I go home?”
“Ever heard of a taxi?”
So this was Dad’s punishment. I felt like Oliver Barrett IV.”

See how that was? I’ve made a lot of change, but still it wasn’t the right one.

Now the 500 words I’d sent to YayYA:

Day One
Universally, a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes just a word can reel your life.
D-I-V-O-R-C-E
This seven letter word did just that for me. But I had to evict it from my mind and focus on what was happening right now. 
“You’ve got to believe me, officer. Damon Crawley is my father.” 
But the fuzz with moptophaircut and long sideburn wouldn’t believe me. Damn their species! He rolled his eyes. “If that’s the case, then why don’t you give me his home telephone number?”
I was figuratively shoved to an impasse. I didn’t want to inform my Dad about this. “Fine.” I told the fuzz Dad’s number. Done with dialling the telephone, the fuzz handed me the receiver.
“Hello?” It was Ted, my naïve, innocent little brother. Someone was playing Peters and Lee’s “Welcome Home” there.
“Teddy boy? Can you give the phone to Dad?”
Ted put me on hold.
“Ned?” This time it was Fred, my perfectionist elder brother. I needed Dad, not his lackey.
“I’m at the Charing Cross police station.”
“Why?”
“Long story. Give the phone to Dad.”
After what felt like an hour, Dad answered. “Ned?”
“I need you to bail me.”
“What is it this time?”
“I, um, I drove your car with a nulled license and without your permission. And beyond the speed limit.” I wanted to kick myself.
“Why did you?”
To get away from you and Mum. To not witness you two getting a divorce. But I couldn’t bring myself to mention that in front of the fuzz and bring family melodrama in public. That was worse than washing and drying your underpants in public. 
“I can’t tell you.”
“I demand an answer, Ned.”
“I can’t, goddamn it!”
“Then rot it jail!” The call was off.
I peered at the fuzz. He now knew that my Dad truly was Damon Crawley, one of theassistant commissioners of Scotland Yard. And that I was his seventeen years old son, Edwin Crawley.
“He won’t come?” he assumed. Inodded a no. “What about your mother?”
She couldn’t. She was too busy doing what she always did, sleeping. Not her fault though, but still. 
“She doesn’t want to either.”
“Well,” the fuzz sighed, “you know what that means.”
I was put behind bars.
*******************
Three hours later, my bail was made via telephone and intentionally late. One of the perks Dad enjoyed in his line of work. I retrieved my rucksack and my brand new Polaroid SX-70 1972. When I asked for the car, the fuzz refused.
“Your father’s order,” he told me.
“How else will I go home?”
“Ever heard of a taxi?”
Another punishment by Dad. I felt like Oliver Barrett IV. So I left without it.”

Now this one is still under construction. I’m fixing it and reading loads of writing blogs that wrote posts about opening scenes and page (I’d done it before but now more voraciously than ever). The revision period of YayYA is yet to come. I’m revising and revising. I still don’t know if I’ll find the right place to start my novel. Fingers crossed I would before August 3rd.

Until then, take care and good luck to myself and those who need it likewise.

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PitchWars Mentee Bio

Hi, there! As a PitchWars 2016 hopeful, this is my mentee bio. Unlike others, I may not use a lot of gifs and may sound very serious and/or corny and not very fun. But everything in this post about me is honestly me. I’m hoping there may be one mentor, just one, who’ll pick me for not just for my manuscript but also for me. First off, I’ll tell you about me, then why you should pick me, last but not least, about my PitchWars manuscript.

I’m pitching for YA by the way. Here is the link to the blog hop post, Here is the link to what PitchWars is and Here is the link to the amazing list of all the fabulous mentors this year. My twitter handle: @modestmaria1

Now without further ado let’s talk…

About ME!!!

01) Where I’m From:

This I feel I must include first.

Because I’m not American. I’m not even British or Australian or European or Canadian.

I’m from Bangladesh.

Those who know little about my country, it’s nestled in between India and Myanmar. I’m from its capital city, Dhaka and I’m an English literature student from Dhaka University. So English is NOT my first language. It’s not even my second language. It’s mostly considered a foreign language here, though a lot of people are getting more and more fluent in it day by day.

The reason why I’m writing in English because I’m studying its literature and I love it! I love my mother tongue but I feel comfortable writing in English.

02) I’m an Introvert, Shy Gemini and INFJ:

Yup!

Just a few days ago I celebrated my 20th birthday, though not grandly because I hate parties.

I’m not going to describe here how I am as an introvert. But these pics will…

As an introvert, I’m like this…

Also these…

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Whenever the guests come…

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Problems I face as an introvert…

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Reality after a hard day’s work…

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My thought process…

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The nightmares I face while awake…

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I do this before any interview…

As an INFJ...

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These basically sum me up as both an introvert and as an INFJ.

03) I’m a Diehard Fan of The Beatles:

Yup! If you hate them, I seriously hate you. You don’t have to like them. Just don’t hate them.

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Also quite weird…

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Okay, not quite, very very weird…

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But they also loved each other…

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Like this…

To me they weren’t just a band of musicians, but musical geniuses who were also blood brothers…like Damon and Pythias…

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They also loved their fans…

Aren’t they awesome!!! 😍😍😍

Another reason why I’m mentioning about them here is because my PitchWars manuscript has them all over, not too much though. Mostly because a) it was set in 1973 in UK and, b) I’ve used lyrics from several of their songs to express my MC’s emotions and feelings.

04) Most Important One: Writing Is Not Just My Passion:

It’s much more than that. It’s not my aim in life or income source. I’m still undecided about my daytime job after graduation and I don’t seek to be in the NY Times bestselling list.

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In fact, this is truly me…how my life is going through quarter life crisis…
Writing is my solace. Not just from the stress and anxieties from day to day life.

In the past, my writing has saved me from two major heartbreaks (nothing romantic). First time when it happened was back in 2012 and that was when I began writing. Second happened last year and again my writing saved me and brought my PitchWars manuscript to reality. So to writing, I’m eternally grateful.

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Yup, this is the biggest reason why I write…

05) I’m NOT An Avid Reader Though A Voracious One:

This might get you confused. Let me clarify it.

I don’t read a lot of books. And I don’t read books everyday. In Stephen King’s definition, I’m no writer.

But…(always a but)

I’m a voracious one. If I love a book from the first few pages, I’m going to devour that book until nothing is left. I go piranha famished then.

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I’m also this…

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Another reason why I love books…

07) My Favorite Books:

I don’t have a favorite genre. I’m an omnivorous reader too. From adult to MG, I read it almost everything (except for erotica, spiritual and religion books). But these are my favorite books:

Twilight Series (from my adolescence crush on Twilight and Robsten which are totally gone now)

Hunger Games Series

The Fault in Our Stars

Looking For Alaska

Eleanor and Park

Pride and Prejudice

Jane Eyre

Little Women

Rebecca

My Cousin Rachel

Love Story

Fangirl

Harry Potter Series

Beautiful Creatures Series

The Time Traveler’s Wife

My Favorite Authors:
Jane Austen
John Green
Rainbow Rowell
Suzanne Collins
Stephenie Meyer

09) My Favorite TV Shows:

Masterchef Australia

Friends

Downton Abbey

How I Met Your Mother

The Mentalist

Now comes….

Why You Should Pick Me:

01) When it comes to my writing, I’m eager to learn:

It was through writing that I learnt and through writing I’ll learn to grow. I’ve taken no writing lesson or workshop. Only writing blogs and vlogs. Whenever I look back at my earlier manuscripts (two in number), I get dumbstruck by how awful my writing was back then and how much I’ve grown.

02) I Can Handle Criticism:

I perceive my manuscripts as my babies. I love them to death. But I’m not blind. I know they’ve got a lot of flaws that need to be tended. The way you nurse and nurture a newborn to adulthood, I’ll do the same. I’ll take in criticism positively and process them in my mind. I’ll ask for explanations from my critique partners and will continue asking them till I’m satisfied. I’ll do whatever it’ll take to polish my manuscript. I’m not afraid of criticisms. After all,

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Duh! Aladdin’s life changed when he rubbed (though accidentally) the magic lamp.

Also…

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03) I’d Be Katniss Everdeen to my Mentor Haymitch Abernathy:

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Haymitch was one of the many reasons why Katniss won the 74th Hunger Games. Without his instructions, she might’ve shown the Careers her shooting skills and they might’ve found out how to defeat her. Because of Haymitch, Katniss survived the games several times, in the first two books. Haymitch was rude and mean and drunk. But as a mentor, he was perfect for Katniss.

They both were rude and impolite, grumpy and surly. They both had the same backgrounds, same tragedies, same goals. In fact, Katniss is the young, female version of Haymitch. She could’ve been his biological daughter.

I want a mentor-mentee relationship like that. And like the way Katniss obeyed Haymitch, I’d take in all the advice my mentor would give me (if I get chosen) and use them to polish my manuscript.

But unlike how they fell apart in the last book’s resolution, I want to maintain a lifelong relationship with my mentor. Like the way Harry kept with Hagrid.

These are the reasons why you should pick me for PitchWars.

Now about my manuscript:

01) A NINE DAYS’ WONDER, my YA realistic historical manuscript is set in UK, on July-August, 1973. But not a fantasy.

02) It’s mostly about family bond and its importance in life. But it has other elements too like self understanding and first love, summer love.

03) It’s from the MMC’s POV and he’s 17 years old, dyslexic, loves photography and bit of a clean freak. He has a good memory but because of his dyslexia he fails at school and is often bullied.

04) The FMC’s a white hippie girl, 17, loves exotic words, keeps a scrapbook full of vintage posters, an American living in London with her colored biological mother and sister.

05) My manuscript features a lot of characteristics of the ’70s. Like bell bottom pants, hippie subculture, cannabis food and the Beatles. But no graphic intimate scene. Just a little making out.

06) It’s set in just nine days and so I’ve divided the chapters as rather days like chapter 01 is Day 01 and chapter 02 as Day 02 etc.

07) Basically, it has some elements from The Parent Trap when it comes to character goals and external conflicts, but not a lot.

08) I got the inspiration of the plot and characters from James Blunt’s song “1973”. My favorite…💕💕💕

09) I‘ve made its cover…though if it ever gets published, it may not have this cover…

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So that’s all, folks! Thanks a bunch for reading my bio. Hopefully I’ll get picked…fingers crossed!

John Keats: Why He Is My Most Favorite Romantic Poet?

So I just studied John Keats’ biography and it instantly made me sad. Unlike other Romantic poets, he was the meekest, sweetest, most naïve and innocent poet during the Romantic era. Not only did he die young, he died with a fatally ill body and a severely broken heart. He’s the poor schmuck you feel bad about for not getting the girl, for not getting the polite treatment and kindness he deserved. Basically, he was just like one of the supporting characters of my WIP, the MMC’s little brother, Ted.

Anyway, John Keats, like me, was born in a working class family that couldn’t afford him privileged education in places like Eton or Oxford or Cambridge. But the school his parents could afford to send him was a good one, much better and liberal than those supercilious schools.

John Keats was also confused about his career and passion in the beginning. He didn’t have the luxury, like Byron, Shelley and Wordsworth had, to be a poet. He had to suffer from debts his whole life, had to constantly sacrifice his love and passion for literature and poetry just to earn scrapes of money to fend for himself.

As if that wasn’t enough, most of his works, during his lifetime, were harshly criticized. One of those brutal critics went as far as to humiliate him and told him to go back to being an apothecary. That bastard! He just memorialized himself as that stupid, idiot critic who, because of his biased disgust to Keats’ low social status and not being an Oxford or Cambridge alumni, just blasted what later became one of his best work.

Anyway, there are several reasons why I love, love, love, love, love John Keats.

01) His amazing poems:
Unlike Blake, he didn’t preach for religion. Unlike Byron, he didn’t justify sexual promiscuity. Unlike Shelley and Coleridge, he wasn’t concerned about political upheavals. He only wrote about what he loved and devoted.

Love!

He was, in my opinion, the truest of the Romantic poet. His poems had sensuality, beauty, love and devotion for nature, arts and everything worth wasting your free time for. His poems, or should I say, Odes, were much loved after critics stopped being an asshole to him. His imageries were vivid and evoking. The way he poured his emotions in his words…beaute…!!

02) His Love life with Fanny Brawne:
So romantic! They exchanged hundreds of letters, all passionate and romantic and not at all pretentious and fake. One of his famous odes, Ode to Psyche, is said to be a love poem to Fanny Brawne. Psyche being Fanny Brawne and Keats offering to erect a temple for her in his heart and worship her all the time.

Many people will find it corny. Even I did by the time I realized it. But the way he presented it? Not. At. All!

Even his letters exchanged with her are thoroughly scrutinized today to learn more about the poet.

Here’s an example:

 “My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you – I am forgetful of every thing but seeing you again – my Life seems to stop there – I see no further. You have absorb’d me. I have a sensation at the present moment as though I was dissolving – I should be exquisitely miserable without the hope of soon seeing you … I have been astonished that Men could die Martyrs for religion – I have shudder’d at it – I shudder no more – I could be martyr’d for my Religion – Love is my religion – I could die for that – I could die for you.”

And that’s not all. After he died miserably in Rome, Fanny mourned for twelve freaking years. Then she finally got married and had three kids with her husband. Talk about mourning! These days, people almost sigh in relief after their boyfriends or girlfriends leave them.

03) His Harmless Ambition and How Badly The Critics Hurt It:
If I could, I’d have drilled those stupid critics’ heads and see if there is any brain there at all! I mean, okay fine, you don’t like this writer or poet’s stuff. Who gave you the right to bash it like that? I don’t like a lot of books. But I don’t go bashing them in public like that.

Here’s why I was angry:

“It is a better and a wiser thing to be a starved apothecary than a starved poet; so back to the shop Mr John, back to plasters, pills, and ointment boxes”

Seriously? Grow a heart, man! The poor guy is at least trying. Just because his dad worked in an inn’s stable and couldn’t send his son to expensive schools, doesn’t give you the right to judge his works that way.

What’s funny though, Shelley, Keats’ contemporary, wrote a poem for the poor schumck. Adonais! He thought Keats died of a broken heart because if the critics, not knowing that it was tuberculosis after all.

04) His Excruciatingly Painful Death:
This is how he died…

Tuberculosis.

But he also suffered before that. He couldn’t tolerate cold weather of England. He couldn’t digest food properly. He had lots of internal bleeding even after the doctors treated him. In fact, the doctors made it worse. Keats implored for some opium, not for enjoyment but to relieve him of the pains, but none listened.

This is how, according to his lousy friend, Severn, Keats died:

“Keats raves till I am in a complete tremble for him…about four, the approaches of death came on. [Keats said] ‘Severn—I—lift me up—I am dying—I shall die easy; don’t be frightened—be firm, and thank God it has come.’ I lifted him up in my arms. The phlegm seem’d boiling in his throat, and increased until eleven, when he gradually sank into death, so quiet, that I still thought he slept.”

Poor, poor lamb…

05) His Remarkably and Impressing Life:
He was truly like a meek lamb. Unlike his contemporaries, he had a a clean slate. He wasn’t a womanizer like Byron, didn’t have incestuous relationships like Byron (confirmed and convinced) and Wordsworth (implied and doubtful). He didn’t roam around naked in his house like Blake did. He didn’t take opium or any other drug to get high like Coleridge. He didn’t elope and got married right after his estranged wife committed suicide like Shelley did.

He was born in a very struggling family, got inspiration from books and contemporaries, fell head over heels in love with a beautiful girl, treated her like a goddess, struggled to make both ends meet, exposed himself to tuberculosis just to take care of his brother that later brought him death.

But what I most liked about him was his harmless ambition.

A lot of people have ambitions. And most people destroy both their morals and others lives to achieve it.

But not Keats. He never used anyone for his selfish motives, never broke anyone’s heart, and never put his ambitions and passions over others feelings. He was just a meek, humble man, who wanted to be remembered with reverence after his death.

And thank God! He achieved it.

For now, that’s all. Au revoir!

The Rime of The Ancient Mariner & The Power of Guilt

So on 11th June is my Romantic poetry finals and I’m working my ass off. My first read for the course is Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This is the best poem by Coleridge, regarded by a lot of people and I agree. Not only by structure and superb use of archaic words but also by the plot.

Here’s why.

The poem deals with a lot of things but mostly with guilt and penance. We all know that to err is human. But I beg to disagree.

When a vicious murderer kills mother of two, he isn’t a human. He’s plain old murderer. But when a person commits a crime or a sin or both, and then realizes his/her mistakes, repents for it and happily goes through punishment and salvation, then they are humans.

So according to Coleridge, the saying should be, “To err and then repent is human.”

This I 100% agree with.

Guilt has been theme of many many many literary pieces. From Othello and Macbeth to contemporary pieces, guilt was always a very interesting and successful theme. Never considered as cliché.

Why?

Because it’s something we all can relate to. How many times have we hurt our loved ones, intentionally or unintentionally, and as soon as we realized it, we regretted it?

Countless times.

How many times have we wanted to do something to help a vulnerable person but didn’t do it out of fear of mockery and ostracism?

Numerous times.

And guilt is something that differentiates a sinner from a demon. Demons have no sense of guilt. Sinners may do.

That being said, I’ve come across numerous literary pieces that dealt with it. Nobel winner Orhan Pamuk’s famous novel “The Museum of Innocence” has such a theme. After betraying Fusun’s trust, Kemal felt guilt too. That later prompted him into creating a museum full of things that reminded him of those days.

I recently watched a movie, Joan Fontaine’s “Letter from An Unknown Woman”. Though mostly about unrequited love, the movie later deals with Joan Fontaine’s obsession, who later, out of guilt, goes to fight a dual with her husband. Despite knowing that he might die. Why? Out of guilt.

Another example I can think of is John Green’s Looking for Alaska, where the titular character, Alaska Young has serious issues with guilt, that eventually leads her to (maybe) suicide.

There’s also Macbeth and Othello. Othello stupidly suspected Desdemona and killed her. Then learnt the truth and felt guilty. Romeo and Juliet’s parents also felt guilt after seeing the lovers lying dead in the church. Macbeth felt it after killing the king who blindly trusted him.

Robinson Crusoe felt it too after disobeying his biological father and God the father.

And the mariner, of course. Like Crusoe, he was marooned. Not in an island but in a ship. Not alone but with his shipmates lying dead before him. And certainly not with a huge dead albatross hanging from his neck.

Guilt has a reeling effect on the mariner. Something that he would never ever ever ever get over. Only a stupid passing hatred over a mere albatross made his life eternally miserable beyond repair. He saw the death of his shipmates. Witnessed terrible things that will turn any sane person into Bertha Mason type crazy, like Death and Life-in-Death gambling over their lives and what not. Getting dehydrated and famished and stuck in an ocean with dead bodies (though weren’t rotting but still) and in spooky mist. But we wouldn’t understand because words can rarely create the feelings you feel in real life.

Anyway, I think guilt is not a very bad feeling. Except that it totally holds the power to destroy your life. Take a look at the mariner’s and Kemal’s lives. Guilt is like that lumpy feeling you feel in your throat, that you can neither swallow and digest or poop out, nor cough or puke off. Similarly, once you feel guilt, even after salvation or forgiveness, it stays there, like an invisible criminal record that’s written in waterproof, not erasable ink and on fireproof, tearproof paper.

So the best you can do is, think before you leap.

Or in the mariner’s case, think before you shoot a harmless albatross, you idiot jerk.

With that, adios!