By most people’s standards, it was an ordinary day. Bright blue skies, sun shining happily without a worry in the world, and not a single cloud in the sky. The house didn’t make a single noise as it usually did in its settling as a woman of about twenty packed one last notebook into her bag and walked out the door. Today, Mia Wonnor told herself, is the day I will finally write something thrilling, something that will change the world, something that will finally shake the very foundations of this universe! Today I’ll write the greatest novel ever. She ignored the fact that she hadn’t written a thing since her last school assignment as she walked out the door and kept her eyes open for inspiration and interesting sights. A woman about Mia’s age on crutches hobbled past her. Another woman ran past, yelling “Come back here!” as a young child who looked like her son ran past Mia. He was carrying what appeared to be a toy car and a ninja star.
Something isn’t quite right here, she thought to herself as she kept on walking, ignoring everyone who walked past. There had to be a good place to write somewhere, but the town just didn’t look as inspirational as it usually did. There had to be a place that was so inspirational that even someone with no writing ability could sit there and be inspired by the surroundings.
The sidewalk turned from concrete to a path with weeds, one that was in desperate need of being mowed down in order to become walkable again. Mia didn’t notice, though, and she kept pushing the weeds aside with her hands and making a path for herself as she kept walking through this path. The things I do for inspiration, she told herself. Sometimes I really will go to any lengths for inspiration.
The surroundings continued to change as she kept walking. The weeds grew even higher now as they approached thigh height and they became even more difficult to just push aside. She pondered to herself, Is it worth it? Should I just give up and go back home? She looked up at the trees and noticed that what was once a beautiful day was now blocked by the same trees she usually found beautiful. It was probably still a gorgeous day outside trees, but she certainly couldn’t tell that here.
Then, sunlight. Sunlight like she had never seen before. Beautiful sunlight poured from the sky. Mia noticed that the weeds were also subsiding, as someone else had trampled over them. Many somebodies, she guessed, but that didn’t answer the question of why there were so many weeds in her direction. She looked around her and saw a few paths leading to the beaten path that were also beaten. Hers, apparently, was not. Past all this there was a clearing, and she gazed into it.
It was a town completely unlike any town she had ever seen before. In a way it reminded Mia of the town she grew up in, with the houses on the square, but all these houses were brightly colored and seeped of individuality. Each house was a different size, and somehow all of them put together had their own beauty. People stopped in the streets to talk to each other, some in large groups, some in smaller groups, still others in pairs.
About forty buildings sat on the square, some small and intimate, others large and grand. Mia kept walking toward the town and saw a sign that read WELCOME TO WRIMONIA. “Wrimonia?” she asked herself. None of her classes had taught her about a Wrimonia. It sounded like a cross between Eastern Europe, ancient legends, and vampiric legend. It even had a tinge of people doing what they love to do best: bitch and moan. Whatever the name really meant, it had piqued Mia’s curiosity, and she wandered past the Wrimonia sign and onto the square.
The weeds, she noticed, were now completely gone. The road that should have been filled with grassland was now paved once again, and it glistened in the sunlight. She could now see these people up close. Yup, they were real people all right, not that she doubted that. She hadn’t been transported into an alternate universe after all, a considerable relief after remembering that her own father was abducted by aliens when she was six and was never seen again.
All these buildings looked even more beautiful and charming up close than they did in the distance. The biggest building was bigger than an airport, and a large plaque was visible even from where Mia was standing, despite the building being all the way across the square. CHARACTER AND PLOT REALISM, the plaque read. Character, Mia thought to herself. Plot. Then another very large building, though not quite as large as the realism building revealed a large plaque that read PLOT DOCTORING.
Several people ran past Mia as she looked around the square, taking in the sights. Some people exited one building and immediately entered the next building. Others ran across the square to another building. Yet others left the square altogether. All the buildings were arranged in an actual square (or as much of a square as buildings of different sizes can be in), which made such movement easy.
Uh, help? Mia thought to herself as she wandered around the square. This was so confusing that she wondered how anyone got around. She passed a few signs but didn’t stop to read them. Maybe she should just go into a building. But which one? There were so many options, each one looking rather appealing. There was, for example, another large building with a plaque that read REACHING 50,000 and a pair of buildings sitting side by side, one much larger than the other. The larger building had a plaque that read NANOWRIMO ATE MY SOUL*. Mia didn’t understand what the asterisk meant. Maybe it wasn’t meant for her to understand right now. The smaller of the two buildings had a plaque that said THIS IS GOING BETTER THAN I’D HOPED.
Mia grinned. Far better than I’d hoped. She’d really like for her writing to go far better than she’d hoped. She felt around her bag for a notebook and flipped through the first one she grabbed. They were still blank. Whatever happened to being a great writer? she wondered.
There were four buildings sitting in the middle of the square, Mia noticed as she took in the other sights of the square. All of these buildings looked extremely stately, though one of them was much fancier than the rest. It was also much bigger than the others, which certainly didn’t hurt its officiality. Before she could go investigate the three buildings in the middle, a short-haired woman in a yellow shirt walked past. She was chasing a cute white rabbit.
“Excuse me?” Mia yelled past her. “Can you help me?”
The woman grabbed the rabbit and turned around. “Yes?” she asked. The rabbit wriggled in her arms, trying to get away.
“What is this place?” Mia asked.
The rabbit gnawed at the woman’s sleeve, and she turned around. “He needs to be fed,” the woman said. Then Mia noticed that she wore a name tag that said Marilyn on the front.
“I can’t help you now,” Marilyn said, sincerely looking sorry. “But it’s nothing against you! I’m logged in, and you’re not. See?” Marilyn pointed at Mia’s chest, and Mia noticed that she too wore a name tag, only hers said Guest 1987. Marilyn kept going. “So go check out Wrimo Hall. They can help out Guests.” The rabbit jumped out of the woman’s arms, and she took off chasing it, yelling, “Come here, plot!”
Mia walked toward the stately building, which grew bigger and bigger and even more imposing as it grew closer. What was she going to say when she showed up? “Uh, hi, what is this place and why did it suddenly show up?” That sounded dumb even in her head.
Mia stood at the door and looked at before pushing the door open. The doorknob, she noticed, was a large pencil. A viking shield with a horned helmet was carved into the wood door. The shield bore emblems of a mug of a hot beverage, a laptop, two pens, and a stack of paper. She then noticed the past carvings that had faded: that of a running man holding a pencil and a typewriter spitting out paper. These logos were now barely visible, but an observant person could spot them.
After pushing the door and entering, Mia looked around the new room. It was large and brightly decorated with posters. One featured a person standing under an umbrella with the logo “Let your imagination rain”. Another featured woodland animals: a bird, a squirrel, a group of bears, an unidentifiable animal, and a rabbit all writing. Yet another featured a typewriter, and another featured the very town she was in at this moment. All the posters mentioned this thing called National Novel Writing Month.
National Novel Writing Month… surely this would be a very inspirational place! Mia walked to the front desk, where a pleasant-looking woman was placing more candy in a whale-shaped bowl. The woman’s name tag read cybele.
“Welcome to National Novel Writing Month,” Cybele said. “Would you like some candy?” She picked up the bowl, which now contained chocolates and nougats of all kinds, and handed it to Mia. Mia took a piece and ate it.
“Thanks,” Mia said. “Now what’s this National Novel Writing Month that’s all over these posters? And where can I just sit down and write? I’ve walked all over town looking for someone who can help me, but they say they can’t because I’m a guest.” Mia pointed at her name tag.
“I’m sorry. Maybe we haven’t put enough signs up in the right places. Technically you can just sit down and write wherever you want,” Cybele replied. “We’re not stopping you. But National Novel Writing Month is a monthlong challenge where participants try to write a fifty thousand word novel in November.”
Mia stopped short. A book? In a month? In November, of all months? “But I don’t know what to write about,” she managed to spit out. “Don’t you need a plot?” Mia looked around the room as if expecting a plot to run up and greet her. No plots came, not even malnourished ones.
“Today’s October 24th,” Cybele said. “You have nearly a week to come up with one. And besides, not everyone goes into November with a plot.” She reached into a cubby behind the counter and pulled out a book, then handed it to Mia. Mia read the cover. No Plot? No Problem!, Mia read.
“But I need a plot!” Mia said. “You just don’t start writing books without knowing what you’re going to write about in the first place!” What was this craziness?
“So it sounds like you’re doing this?” Cybele asked.
Mia nodded. She couldn’t believe she was admitting to this. She had a week to come up with something, after all.
Cybele grabbed a name tag and a marker. “Excellent. What do you want other people to call you?” she asked.
“Uh, Mia Wonnor, I guess,” Mia said, shrugging. “It is my name, after all.”
Cybele wrote MIA WONNOR on the name tag and handed it to Mia. “You can take off the guest sticker now,” Cybele said, and Mia noticed that it no longer said GUEST 1987 but GUEST 1969. “That just identifies you when you’re anonymous.” Mia threw it in the trash can next to her and replaced that tag with the MIA WONNOR name tag.
“Now what?” Mia asked.
“Well, if you want to edit what other Wrimos know about you, go upstairs. Anyone can look you up and send you messages and see what you’re writing about if you want them to. You can even write a bit about yourself.”
“And how do you know I’ve actually written 50,000 words? Do I turn it in for you to read?”
Cybele laughed. “If we read all your novels, we wouldn’t get any sleep or have a chance to write our own novels. We’ve delegated that duty to the robots. Later in the month you submit your novel to the robots again upstairs, and they count the words and delete your work. Then you get a certificate and an icon that you can proudly display to the world.”
Mia went upstairs after thanking Cybele. This room was just as big as the room downstairs, and little robots ran around the room. Mia watched as people chased down the robots, talking to them. She decided that this was what she had to do, so she chased down a robot that no one else seemed to be chasing. The robot, with its square head, square body, and sleek arms, rolled across the room until Mia yelled, “Hey, come here!” The robot rolled toward her.
“Welcome to National Novel Writing Month,” the robot said. “How may I help you?”
“Can you help me show what people know about me?” Mia asked.
“Certainly,” the robot replied. “How old are you?”
“Twenty-three,” Mia replied.
The robot hummed and then asked, “Where are you from?”
“Uh, not here,” Mia replied. “I’ve never seen this place before.”
“Well, do you want to tell me?” the robot asked.
“It doesn’t matter, does it?” Mia asked. “I don’t see any way of getting out of here.”
“Very well. What interests you besides noveling?”
“Well, I like to write, and I kind of like taking pictures, and…” Mia trailed off. Did she really have any non-noveling interests? She couldn’t think of any.
“What do you listen to while you write?”
“Anything that sets the mood. You don’t want to write an action scene to soft music, you know?”
The robot hummed some more. “Anything else you want to share with the world?”
“I’m new here,” Mia replied. “What else is there to share? I’m just trying this out and seeing where it goes. Oh, and I don’t know what to write about yet.”
The robot hummed again. “Very well, I won’t ask you about the novel stuff. Run along.”
Mia ran out of the building, but she couldn’t help but notice that the door to the upper floors was blocked by three much larger robots. Where to go next? The buildings nearest Wrimo Hall (Tech Help, Suggestions, and Rules) all looked very unappealing for the moment. A woman with a stack of papers and a big black stick passed Mia. This woman had just exited the rules building and ran toward another building farther away. Mia noticed her username, dragonchilde, and the shiny shield badge affixed to the black hat she was wearing. This woman looked very important and most importantly, looked like she knew the place well. Maybe she would have a good idea of where to go.
Notes: And we begin! This scene will continue on Wednesday.
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