Thursday, January 31, 2008

An iPhone Novel? It's do-able.

Having read several articles about the Japanese craze for cell phone novels, I thought I'd see how well the iPhone stacks up as a writing instrument. This isn't too strange for me. I've written novels on a Newton before. But those were just first drafts and were heavily edited on my laptop later.

This is an experiment and I doubt I'll finish this story. But here it is. All writing was done with my index finger -- I haven't graduated to the two-thumbs method yet. Any editing was also done with the iPhone. Here is perhaps a first chapter of a novel, untouched after I emailed it out of Notes.

Major problems: No italics or bold. Scrolling to the bottom of the note takes a while. And as yet, the only way to get it out to other computers is via email.

Take a look at the results. This was done over a couple of days between other projects.

The apartment was three blocks from the park, but from the eighth floor, I could see the tops of the trees yielding to the wind gusts. Maybe I should just skip my walk and keep working. The deadline wasn't getting any more extensions.
But I hadn't picked up anything for lunch either. Nubbie's Hot Dog stand on the north end of the park sounded better each minute. Eventually, I closed the file and pulled on my sweater. I reached the elevator and when three people got out, all bundled in heavy coats, I had a second thought and went back to add my down coat and the wool cap.
As I dashed across the street, my hands in my pocket, I wished I'd thought about gloves as well.
No snow, although that might not last given the looks of the clouds.
I reached the park and was pleased to see that even on a day like this there were still people out on the walkways. The more I walked, the warmer I felt.
Cutting across the open meadow at the north end, I reached the radiant warmth of Fred's stand.
"The usual."
He nodded and began building my dog. I like pickle relish and yellow mustard over a fat sausage.
I nodded and he handed me a steaming foam cup. I just held it in my hands to warm them up. It was much too hot to drink just yet.
"It's cold out."
Fred, sweating behind his burners, nodded and looked past me onto the park. "For some people."
I looked over my shoulder as I handed him the cash. There was someone standing on the little rise in the meadow.
"I need a cost myself on a day like this."
He grunted and passed over the coins. "She's been there for an hour like that."
She? From this distance I couldn't tell if it was man or woman or even a child. I took my food over to a park bench near the tree line and began sipping the chocolate. The warmth spread inside me and made me glad I'd taken the break from the report and gone outside.
It was a woman or at least a mature teen, with that profile. But she had to be small. She was in some kind of slacks and the wind was whipping at her cuffs. Still, she stood there, facing into the wind like a character out of a fantasy I remembered--a princess watching the contestants of a joist for her favor. I struggled to remember where I'd seen it. It had to be one of those oriental martial arts movies or maybe a video game. I could remember the panoramic scene, complete with enormous flowing robes and flashing swords. I frowned over the memory but there were no more details.
When I looked back up at the girl I was surprised to see her looking in my direction. At least she wasn't a statue put there to confuse the passerbys. There were enough jokesters in this town that I wouldn't have been surprised.
My cup was empty and I feared to set down and have it blown away so I crumpled it and stuffed it in my pocket. The dog was still warm and I was ready for it. I took the first bite and then chewed slowly as I watched my hillside princess come down off her perch and walk straight towards me.

I fumbled with the dog, took a second bite and then wrapped it back up as it became clear that she had me as her destination. Why? There were twenty people here in the park and according to Fred she'd been standing there for an hour ignoring everyone.
When she was a dozen paces away I could see that she was stumbling and unsteady on her feet. I got up from the bench. She needed help. Her face and hands were blue from the cold, and no wonder, her clothes were thin and totally unsuited for this weather. Maybe my coat...
I'd barely undone the zipper when she raised her arms and dived into the opening.
Yes that would work too. I'd intended to wrap her in my coat but she practically climbed inside my coat with me.
Oof! Cold hands worked their way under my shirt and were like ice on my skin. Hey, she needed the warmth.
Giving in to the inevitability of it all, I just wrapped my arms around her and looked over the top of her head to see if anyone was looking. I have nothing against holding a girl tight, but I'd like to at least know who she was.
"Ah, hello?"
No response other than an even tighter grip around my chest. I could feel her uncontrolled shivers. Was she likely to be going onto shock or something? I had no idea of how it worked. But I needed to get her out of the cold air.
As I turned slightly to put my back to the wind I noticed that the dog was gotten knocked off the bench and a pigeon was already working the wrapper free.
Food! And hot chocolate! That's what she needed.
"We're moving now." No reply. Either she was too cold to speak or ... something. Anyway talking could wait. I turned the both of us and began walking. She wasn't about to come out of my coat, but she shifted slightly so she wasn't walking backwards. Her fingers were still cold, but they were no longer ice. In fact, they felt kinda nice.
Fred watched us approach with a puzzled look on his face. He shook his head and smiled.
"Until I saw that face, I thought you'd grown another pair of legs."
Looking down I could see her peeking out. She was wearing some kind of cloth cap that was likely more decorative than warm, but she was definitely cute. With Fred looking on, I was acutely aware that her left hand was digging under my belt in search of warmer skin.
"It's a good thing you pointed her out, Fred. The girl is frozen, without any coat at all. Give us a couple of Trashcan hot chocolates and another couple of dogs." I'd told him that I didn't think he'd named his giant sized drinks very well, but he was happy with the moniker. All the Big-whatsits and Super-thingies were all taken by the big chains.
Handing the girl a large hot drink at least got her hands out of my pants in a reasonably tasteful way. She held it like a sacred chalice, closing her eyes and breathing in the sweet warm aroma. I took the opportunity to drape my coat around her and lead her to the bench most sheltered from the wind. It was also my first real look at her other than those few seconds when she zeroed in on me across the meadow.
She was small, and with the dark hair and my memories of that movie, I'd first thought she was oriental but looking closer, she wasn't. I'd be hard pressed to classify her. Something of a unique mix--pale skin, dark black hair, nose a bit wider than I was used to, but her eyes...I couldn't quite classify those either. Brown or hazel, but she'd turn her head and I'd see gray or blue. Lovely eyes and with a smile every time she looked up at me.
Her drink vanished quickly and I reluctantly offered mine. My sweater alone wasn't doing the job. She downed that one as well.
"We better get started on these dogs while they're hot." I handed her one and she held it one way and then another before looking at me for directions. Not familiar with a hot dog? That was strange. Almost as strange as standing out on the meadow in this weather, or crawling into my coat without a word.
"It's a hot dog. Eat it like this."
She unwrapped the end like I did and took a bite. The hot juices must have caught her off guard. She wiped something from her face and then chewed, grinning at me as I worked to finish my lunch before some new disaster would interrupt.
Hunger abated, I had to decide what to do with her.
If we could talk, I'd have something to go on. But either she couldn't talk--I hadn't heard a peep out of her even when she burned her mouth on that first sup of hot chocolate--or she spoke a foreign language. I'd bet on that, because it didn't appear that she understood English either.
Was she waiting here in the park for someone? That brought an unpleasant thought to mind. What if she was bring abandoned like a puppy that had worn out its cuteness. There was a trade in Russian brides. Probably other countries as well. Maybe someone "ordered" her and then when she arrived she was too small or too quiet or something.
But I can't just carry her off either. I don't have the right and I could get in big trouble if someone thought I was kidnapping a child.
I looked at her again, really hard. She noticed my gaze and tidied up the crumbs on her face and straightened up, putting a smile on her face and tilting her head back and forth so I could get a good look. Honestly, she looked small not young. Like my first impression of a young oriental woman, except without the oriental facial features.
But I was just wasting time, and starting to shiver myself. The sweater alone wasn't warm enough. I needed to get back home.
I'd really hate to lose that coat. But that was one of the options playing through my head.
"Stay here. I'll be right back." I stood up and with a glance at the traffic, dashed across the street to Fred.
He looked up and his eyes opened wide in horror. A screech of tires on pavement echoed with a female shreik of terror. I turned just in time to see a taxi skidding at an angle, just missing the bundled up girl, screaming in the street. She'd followed me.
I raced back and hustled her out of the road. The taxi driver had stopped and was getting out to see if he'd hit her.
I held her shoulders. "Are you okay?"
She could read my intent even if she didn't understand the words. She nodded and then tried to explain in gestures what had happened. She was rattled, I could tell. Wherever she'd come from, she hadn't had to check for traffic before.
"Is she okay? She stepped out right on front of me!"
I reached for my business cards and handed him one. "I saw what happened and you're one great driver. I don't exactly know who she is but she doesn't talk and may not be right on the head. She owes you her life. Get something from Fred here, on me."
I really had no idea what I was talking about, but it had the desired effect. He glanced at where his cab was double-parked and nodded. "Just glad she's not hurt." A free hot dog and a coke was much better than talking to the police.
I took her frantically waving hands in mine and she began to calm down. I was worried. Her hands were as hot now as they had been icy before. I hoped she wasn't coming down with a fever. I had to get her indoors out of the weather if she would let me.
"Fred, I'm gonna head back my place and see if she follows. Take one of my cards in case someone comes looking for her."
He looked at it distrustfully. "I'd warn you about picking up strays, but you've already fed her."
I nodded ruefully. It wasn't my first choice, but I couldn't abandon her either.
Three blocks, holding her hand gave me a little time to think. I took the opportunity to point out stoplights. She quickly comprehended the red and green lights, but when I pointed out a stopsign, she just looked puzzled.
She kept looking up at the buildings as if she'd never seen a skyscraper before. Had she been raised on a farm?
The elevator had her completely confused and she hesitated to enter the strange little room. For just an instant, she panicked when we started moving up. She looked at me with a nervous smile, and then with a little nod to herself, she straightened up and waited until we stopped.
"Here we are. Eighth floor." I pointed to the number on the button but I don't think she connected it with the lit number above.
She followed closely all the way to my apartment. I took off my sweater and hung it on the peg. When I reached out, she shed my big cumbersome jacket and shook out the wrinkles in her clothes.
We stood there looking at each other for a moment, neither of us knowing what to do next.
I sat down on the couch. "Come here. I want to feel your temperature." I patted the cushion beside me.
She sat down. I took her hand again and frowned. I put my hand on her forehead. She giggled. I leaned back.
"So you have a voice." I remembered her scream in the street but I'd almost convinced myself that I'd imagined it. She also had no fever. Had I imagined that as well?
She leaned over, it was a bigger reach for her, and felt my face. She was grinning with the tip of her tongue trapped between perfect rows of teeth. I put up with it--turnabout is fair play.
When she started playing with my mouth, I asked, "Do you talk? Can you say aaah?"
She looked puzzled. I repeated the noise. Then again, "Aaah."
Hesitantly, she opened her mouth and then closed it.
"Come on. Show me you can speak. I won't bite. Aaah."
Like a little bird call, she cheeped, "eeh."
She was trying at least. Was her native language so different that she couldn't even say aaah?
I smiled. "Good!"
"Ud!" she giggled and held her hands on front of her mouth as if she'd done something daring and naughty.


Bill Crider said...

Not bad. Now all you have to do is get it to Japan.

Henry Melton said...

Bill, I don't think they'd take it. From what I hear, most of the cell phone novels are written by highschool girls. Besides, I don't know what all those funny abbreviations mean.