Writing a Permaculture Romance !
My English teacher challenged us to write a Mills & Boon - supposably good money in it !
How hard could it be? I looked up the website to see some examples. No sign of any environmental messages and the core of every story was that there had to be conflict between the girl and guy at least 3 times and then they live happily ever after?
Surely they could have just fallen in love and cooperated rather than having all the conflict but it appears to be an essential element to romance along with being wasteful and obliviously destroying the environment. I wrote a few chapters and submitted it but the readership was so removed from environmental reality that they would have found it too challenging.
I don't want to waste my efforts so far and would one day like to finish the story with some feedback and encouragement. Is anyone interested? Most of it is set in a back yard and I am not sure how to finish it. I am sure you have plenty of presentable stories out there we could encorporate with a happy ending..... It's all about promoting permaculture and environmental education messages through to groups that have never heard of it. I could maybe release a chapter a week to keep up the suspense until we have to start making up our own...
Synopsis – "Personal Space"
Architecture student Linda Wallace lay daydreaming on the trampoline from her childhood. She dreamed about a room she could move out through a garden to follow or avoid the sun to find the perfect personal space with the right temperature and outlook for perfect comfort. Climate change was challenging everyone to make better use of our energy than wasteful heating and cooling of large buildings. The health benefits of a closer outlook and interaction with nature was also well known. Gardens would totally change in design if a room had to be able to move through them. Half would be a very open vegetable garden design to collect the sun and the other half would gradually transition into a thick cool food forest of vines.
This would literally “set in motion”, “revolutionize” and create an exciting new design path for housing and office accommodation – a more sustainable future even with multi-level garden skyscraper versions.
She called her first moving room design “The Solar Shadow Gardenship”. This small moving shelter with such reduced environmental impact was going to directly shelter people around the world and help all other and future lives and life forms via reduced climate change.
Her simple building project for a university assignment started with experimentally renovating her grandmother’s broken down car. She was onto something with this cruising room idea…… until she collides head on with Mr Troy Lister, Council Planning Officer. he collides head on with Mr Troy Lister, Council Planning Officer. He arrives in a disgustingly expensive and totally irresponsible fossil fuel guzzling and greenhouse gas emitting limousine. He proceeds to recite paragraphs of the planning scheme like a wizard casting destructive spells.
Linda strategically holds up a mirror of new logic that turns each of his arguments back in on itself, profoundly changes his attitude, unzips his potential and sends him in to battle the fat controllers of bureaucracy on the inside for the environment. He returns from battle victories to get endlessly recharged on green power for more.
Together they watch the cabin temperatures soar as they overload the passive cooling systems and test the sound proofing limits of the double glazing and insulation. She willingly revises all her theories and complex design calculations to allow for his thermal company.
He generates the same workout potential and equivalent calorific value to significant amounts of sunlight and coal!
So what does all this fresh air, fresh fruit and fresh approach to building design do for romance while out in amongst the birds and the bees???
Last edited by Lumbuck Thornton; 17-05-2011 at 09:39 PM.
Lumbuck,Forgive me if i missed something but in your first post you asked is anyone interested and i did not see a reply before you launched into your own adventure-what is the point ,your preaching to the already washed.
What I would like to do is try and finish the story. Thought it might be good to get some comments. There were lots of people viewing it but no comments so I thought well why hold back - may as well add a bit more detail. I also was not sure if this was the right place to display chapters of about 1200 words even though they are all directly relevant to how we might promote permaculture to younger and broader audiences in competition with mass produced rubbish made for audiences of 11 year old mentalities in accordance with strick boring formulas and the compulsory car chase! In this story I propose to wreck a car and turn it into something useful that winds back its environmental impact !
Excited ? Does anyone want to see chapter 1?
Chapter 1. The Ecological Donut
Linda never remembered Gran ever being without her little car. It was a practical strong little car, but like Gran, it was starting to wear out. Gran dutifully checked the oil and the water as she had been shown many years ago. The car had its regular service check up but it was overdue to break down one day. Sure enough the day came when Gran came back home as the passenger in a tow truck with her little car towing along behind.
Gran rang the doorbell so Linda would have to come and see the tow truck driver. “Come out and help push the car up into the back yard – the tow truck driver is a very nice young man!” she added with a wink.
Gran sat in the car and Linda and the tow truck driver pushed the car backwards around into the back garden towards the trampoline. Gran openly grinned at Linda from behind the steering wheel because the muscular tow truck man had his head down while he was doing most of the pushing. Gran nodded suggestively that Linda move over closer. Gran should have been concentrating more on the mirrors and steering but she did not appear to care how long it took. Linda put her head down and shook it objectively. She took up more of the load from the struggling guy next to her until Gran reefed on the hand brake.
Gran came back inside after paying the tow truck driver and he zoomed off down the street to another call out. “He was a nice man” said Linda “but I am busy at the moment and I have had enough of men for a while.”
Linda lay diagonally in the warm sunshine across the trampoline on which she had bounced through most of her childhood. She was eagerly devouring one of Gran’s romance novels.
Gran opened the creaky back door of the house and announced “Ahhh - I was wondering where my book had got to? I thought I was getting old and forgetful? Lunch is ready…” she sang out as she retreated back into the kitchen.
Linda spontaneously yelled back “Thank’s Gran” as she had done all through her childhood but this time her eyes did not leave the page -She just had to read these last few paragraphs.
Their relationship had matured enough to that critical point where there was briefly enough time to have one of their first reading sessions in bed together. He was half way through one of his favorite weekly science magazine articles and she just finished the last chapter of her romance book. She lent over and put the book down with a deliberately noisy stretch, hinting heavily that she had finished the book. She looked back over at him but he kept on reading. There was no noticeable response, but his mind was already starting to race. She waited and decided on another wiggly suggestive stretch that kicked his leg, but still there was no response. He turned the page and said “Wow” before his eyes darted back to the lines over the page. He was aware of her situation the moment she put the book down but thought it would be fun not to let on. He set himself the challenge of making out he was trying to continue to read, but in a way that encouraged her to keep trying to drag him away. “This is a really good article” he said in a way that spelled out the challenge but he made the mistake of glancing into her eyes at the finish of the sentence. She was already looking back down into his glance and before he could close his eyes or turn away, she sent back this really inviting freeze frame smile that made him hesitate about going back to the page. His knuckles tightened on the magazine and shuddered as his mind and body grappled with conflicting messages. “Really” she said with a slow and soft disbelieving voice. Her hand started to roam, his breathing hesitated and he felt his spine and neck go rigid. The words he was reading were not making sense and he had to keep re-reading sentences and at a child like pace with enormous effort. She tensioned the sheet between them and drew it sensually across him just enough to send another message. Breath and kisses started to come closer to his ear and that roaming hand came very close to the magazine but he lifted it just in time. He was struggling to finish whole sentences now and by the time he got to the end of the sentence he had forgotten what the start was about. He started to read aloud to prove he was still making progress as she mounted his leg and squeezed. She drew herself up as a tease to look over the top of the magazine to see if his eyes were still holding onto the words but they strayed for just a moment and that was all she needed. He shivered at what might have come next as he went to lift the next page. She had more than half of him on her side and the rest of him was clearly starting to lose. He made out he had finished the article but in a last defiant move, instead of putting the magazine down, he held the magazine aside and proceeded to turn the page. His last effort was to read out the title of the next article “Farting Bacteria – Do they communicate between bodies?” “I’ll give you some communication between bodies” she said and he pleasingly conceded to her victory and tossed the magazine.
Linda sighed, stretched and bounced off the trampoline and sprang inside for lunch.
* * * * * * * *
Linda was out on the trampoline again reading after a nice lunch when a sun shower started. To avoid the raindrops she rolled off and opened the door of the little car to keep on reading the last page of the book. She sat back as she closed the book to rest a while. The radio still worked. She remembered the interior from her childhood, learning how to drive in this car and the memory of even hosting a few hot dates. The sun came out from behind a cloud and immediately started to heat up the air in the car like it was a little greenhouse – well above the cool breeze temperature outside. It got her thinking ….maybe the car could be made lighter without the engine and other unnecessary bits removed so it could be moved around the garden. It could be the experiment she had to propose for her university research project.
Everyone close to Linda thought she would qualify for a career of caring for people or animals. She mastered secondary school biology and psychology and surprised everyone when she enrolled in an architecture course. This appeared to be a drift away from the sciences towards the arty and political world of shapes, colors, textures, money and spin. Linda soon made it clear she was not studying architecture because she liked it, she chose architecture because it needed changing quickly to enable the survival and benefit of life and lives on earth. She was of the view that unless new buildings could be designed that used less resources in construction, heating and cooling, then we don’t have long on the planet. The quality life for our future and the future of all species depended on the development of good science within our new and existing architecture.
Later when they were having an evening meal, Gran said “Bill down at the garage has told me that to fix the car is going to cost a lot more than one of those new electric cars would cost. I don’t like throwing things away but I have decided to have the car recycled. The wreckers will pull anything off of value that can still be reused then what remains can be squashed it into a little metal brick for melting down”.
“Gran, could I borrow your little car for a while for an experiment in your backyard before it goes to the wreckers?” asked Linda.
“Oh I don’t know about leaving a car wreck in the backyard – the Council might have a problem with that…but then again it would be nice to have the old car out to pasture so to speak with its body donated to science!” said Gran.
Linda was quick to add “It would not just be a rusting wreck sitting in one spot – I would put it in the garage sometimes and move it around in a big circle – a sort of ‘ecological donut’. It can always be recycled again later and the parts I don’t use can be taken straight to the wreckers.” Gran quickly added “That nice tow truck driver might help you out!”
(Sorry about the formatting all being thrown out - Did you want to see more?)
Chapter 2. Complaint Investigation
Gran answered the door. “Good morning, I am Troy Lister, Planning Compliance Officer from the Council. I am not sure if I have the right address but we have had a complaint about car wrecking going on in the back yard.”
Gran smiled at him and looked off into space pretending to play the dumb old geriatric but she soon worked out that would not work. She looked at him hard again and smiled. She smiled even more when she considered he would be just right for Linda. She could see Linda snuggling up and sharing his personal space with all its maturity, strength and security. He was easily going to get Linda’s attention. He cared about his appearance and had a freshness about him that was unusual for someone working in a Council. His eyes were not yet glazed over with the boringness and hopelessness of contrived reality. He needed supporting and saving fast and Linda was just the girl to do it. They might grow well together.
“You better come around the side and meet the mechanic!” said Gran as she barged past him out the door with a grin on her face. She lead him around through the garage and out into the backyard.
Mr Lister didn’t know what to say but experience suggested patience would reveal all and sometimes it was best if circumstances were revealed slowly. Usually it was some kid trying to do up a car but sometimes it could be something illegal, stolen vehicles or hidden drug growing or drug making operations so he had to take care. Mr Lister was relieved to find it was a granny that answered the door.
He was expecting to see some scruffy oil stained gorilla of an apprentice step out from behind the bonnet of the old car. He came across plenty of young guys spending many hours and dollars getting the cars to gleam and adjusting the engine and exhaust system so it had just the right “note” to impress their friends and the girls. The noise, fumes and pointlessness of the exercise was agony for the neighbours and Troy did not have much time for “backyarders” because these were inappropriate activities for land zoned residential in the planning scheme.
Gran startled Linda when she shouted over the noise of the radio “Linda, this is Mr Lister from the Council!” Linda banged her head as she jolted up from under the bonnet with surprise. She wiped the bruised back of her head with the back of her oily hand. Gran opened the car door and turned off the radio.
“Oh, no, it didn’t take long for that nosey neighbour to complain” Linda said in a flustered way and gesturing who she guessed had complained. Linda worried about how was she going to explain all this?
Gran was standing back from the Council officer with a big grin on her face – she was useless, but on the funny side, it did not seem to be too serious. Linda took a deep breath, composed herself and then started again with “What are they complaining about?”
Something did not seem right to Mr Lister. She was too good looking and well kept to be in the habit of wrecking cars. The brand new overalls were functional but they had been altered some way to be fashionable and hugged her lovely shape very comfortably. She looked more like some sort of motor part calendar model helping motivate a pit crew at a formula one race rather than someone who regularly got their hands dirty.
Mr Lister glanced at his notes and advised “Noise was the main concern but as you would understand, many people get concerned about industrial practices in backyards, hazardous chemicals, fire and habitat for snakes, rats and mice. I seem to recall mention of a specific objection to the volume of the vocal accompaniment to the soundtrack of the film “Grease” at approximately 8:30am this morning” he said with almost a grin.
“Alright I was getting a little enthusiastic about starting my project” she said with a smile and looking at him up and down then in the eye. You don’t have to worry about it any more because the battery will soon be flat.”
He rolled off the confirmation “So you are not carrying out a business or home occupation and this is no longer going to create any noise, public nuisance or reduction in amenity of the area…” Mr Lister left the ending open and tried to appeal to Gran for support but she was still grinning.
“Does it look like it” sarcastically Linda said.
Mr Lister said officially “You would both understand I have a job to do because many in the community would turn the whole place into a junk yard, panel beating and spray painting shop if they were allowed to get away with it.” He then added in a more mild tone “Do you mind me asking what you are going to do with the vehicle?”
“It is being used for a university solar project” she said guardedly.
“Arts or Engineering?” Mr Lister said recalling the crazy things arts students did with vehicles in sculptures. He thought there was a remote possibility he thought that she might have been studying engineering.
“Science” she said diving back under the bonnet as if she was busy and she added “it is temporary research conducted under a confidentiality agreement so I can not go into great detail.” She emerged again “I can assure you nobody will be harmed by this passive solar research. What I want to do here the reverse of what you are doing with that shocking environmental disaster you parked out the front. Do you know it creates its own weight in greenhouse gases every year!” With that she dived back under the bonnet.
Mr Lister didn’t really know what to say to that. It was the first time he had ever been accused of having an awful environmental impact which was ironic given he was from the Planning and Environment Department.
“Don’t blow yourself or anyone else up then!” he said turning to Gran as they headed back off the property. “If she is going to be noisy then make sure it is in accordance with the times listed and there is more background detailed on the Environment Protection Authority website.”
“Thank you Mrs Wallace” he said as she let him out through the gate and closed it behind him.” Gran went to head back up the yard but Linda already had the radio turned up in defiance so she turned and went inside.
(only a few more chapters to go before the story runs out and needs finishing. The next chapter gets into development of the garden and maybe I could include more permaculture in it. Don't be shy, I am interested in what readers think and how to improve and complete this story to advance and promote permaculture principles....)
Chapter 3 Retreat to Advance
Linda pulled apart the car and spread the now needless bits of extra weight out across the yard. Later she showed all this to Gran with a big sense of ‘grease monkey’ achievement. “Maybe you could get a job with that nice tow truck driver!” said Gran knowing this was full well the comment Linda would expect.
One of the friendly old blokes next door stuck his head over the fence and offered to help. He explained that temporarily removing the bonnet made things easier to get to and he could borrow an engine lifter if she needed one.
* * * * * *
“Not you again… what have I done this time?” said Linda impatiently as if she was busy.
“What do you think you have done?” said Mr Lister just fishing knowing full well he had a good reason to be there.
“I don’t know, I suppose you are worried about all this stuff in the yard that is going to be picked up by a wrecker tomorrow” she said smugly thinking he just lost his justification for being there.
Mr Lister brushed this aside and spilled the news. “Now that sounds like a good idea but I am here regarding a different matter. There is a proposed two storey house extension on the block behind this property and I wondered if I could show you the application to see whether you have any objections to the possible privacy and overshadowing issues”
Mr Lister always thought it was amazing how much people transformed their manner and opinion of you as a representative of government when they realized you were there to assist and defend them and help the community function as a whole. It is a privileged but stressful position to be in when there are large sums of money and personal property involved. Getting the support of at least one party was appreciated but sometimes both parties got alienated.
“What are they proposing?” said Linda eagerly jumping forward wanting to see the plans but he promptly held them away so she could not touch them with her grimy hands. She stood around beside him as he carefully bought them closer and carefully opened up the paper plans himself. Gran stood on the other side of him but it was clear who he was giving the most attention.
He was getting squashed as he tried to explain some of the detail. Linda was careful with her hands not to touch him though and rubbed her nose with the back of her hand leaving a black mark on one of her checks. Mr Lister spotted this with amusement seeing the funny side – was it some sort of beauty enhancement or was it war paint?
She saw he had seen something on her face and she quickly tried to smudge it again but then Gran dived in like a football goal keeper with spit on her handkerchief to keep her grand daughter looking presentable.
Mr Lister had to stand back and suggested “If it is alright can I spread these plans out on the bonnet?”
Linda quickly wiped the bonnet over with an old towel.
Mr Lister expertly flipped through the plans explaining what was proposed on an aerial photograph, floor plans and finally to the south elevation that they would see over their back fence.
It did not look too bad. Mr Lister explained “Your privacy is protected by the Residential Development Code of Practice and they are required to install a frosted window at the back here.” He then flicked over to the overshadow plan showing how far the shade will extend over the neighbours properties at different times of day and year.
“Hang on - go back to the shade diagrams” said Linda as she almost touched the plans. “That could have a bearing on how we plant out our garden and position the garden shed with the science experiment. Can you leave me with a copy?” she said.
“Officially we are not able to leave you a copy without the consent of the owner for copyright reasons. You are however allowed to come down to the Council office and view the plans for as long as you like but not copy them. Or (making it clear he was sticking his neck out going beyond his normal duties to help) I can call the owners now and see if they have any objection to me leaving you a copy” he said with a smile.
“Oh please, that would be wonderful, I can see it might cause some problems but it also it might be able to be used to our advantage” said Linda running through combinations in her mind.
“The number is busy. Keep this, I will call them later and I will let you know if I need it back!” he said with a smile then added “You will have to show me your plans some time as well.”
“Thank you Mr Lister” said Gran.
“Please, call me Troy” he said smiling at Linda then Gran.
Linda went over the plan carefully and realized she was going to have work out her plans to some degree as well and get them approved. Shade had big implications for solar heating but if shade could be positioned in the right location at the right time of day and time of year then it could be to her advantage.
Linda found the neighbours extension quite acceptable provided they were happy enough with the building she was proposing. Now she had to draw up her own plans and apply for her planning permit from Mr Lister - or should that be Troy! For this she had to make an appointment and go into the Council office personally to meet with Troy to discuss her proposal. How difficult could it be to obtain a planning permit for a shed? She prepared a formal application, photographs, animated presentation and a scale model then ran it past the neighbours with Gran to reduce the risk of an objection.
This was not your ordinary garden shed. It looked like a green metal pyramid with an open top that extended up to a point on which a compact low noise wind turbine generator was to be located. It also had a solar panel on rollers that moved around upper faces of the pyramid to track the sun. The pyramid had no windows but some doors large enough to fit a car. It potentially might not have a smooth ride through the official planning approval process because it was so different from your normal garden shed but Linda was proud of her proposal and there was general community support for university projects.
I have some more chapters but they need significant editing. I might even consider doing some illistrations some time with sketchup. I have started doing some design work on the real thing if you have a look at the albums on my personal profile or do a search for permaculturetron
If you're hoping to be a writer of romance novels... don't quit your day job, if you have one.
I can sum up, in one word, the mentality and deep thought of the average reader of romance novels: "Derp!"
Man, all these years, I've thought myself Don Quixote tilting at windmills... you've just given me a whole new meaning to futility.
I do have one positive suggestion: write sci-fi instead. Nerds are a more thoughtful audience, and more apt to use your ideas in their own lives, in future.
Write sci-fi, with permaculture principles as things of the past -- already accepted, not even a thing to discuss or argue. Utopian shit always sells.
I like challenges. I suspect some of the biggest threats to climate change and environment protection are going to come from people with absolutely no idea what they are doing.
I thought I might try and work out how to directly challenge some of these "non-thoughts" in the literature they read or watch. I was horrified at the crap that exists out their and I did my best to see how permaculture could infiltrate and challenge it. I have not given up yet... No point preaching to the converted but I have decided to regroup and try and refine the messages and images further. Somehow permaculturalists need to reproduce and romance is a big influence on young people.
I would argue that it is not necessarily science fiction that I have written because it is technically possible to do what I am talking about - just need the time to set it up !
If you can think of a more romantic setting for a permaculture romance and how they interact with the outside world then let me know !
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