Coming of Age Flash

I took this prompt to explore an aspect of the new novel I’m working on, so if it doesn’t all make sense yet, in context of the novel it will. For now, please put up with the unusual terminology.

“Sadly, most characters don’t make it out of their inspirationcy.” The tour guide ushered a group of newly pressed characters through the incubation hall where characters were kept before their creators shared them with anyone else. Their chambers lined the walls, the characters in various stages of formation from their ember state to nearly full grown characterhood. The characters following the tour guide were only a few days past their pressing themselves, but had been declared readable by the experts at the main Hearth.

Sophia inched passed them on her way to the main hearth, wondering why they chose to show this morbid site to the newly pressed. Half of the characters in the incubation chambers fizzled out at the ember stage, another quarter would fade out before they were even fully formed. The last quarter might make it out of the incubators, but of them, only half were ever considered readable, and many of those had to be confined to various institutions for the criminal or insane. It was a sad truth that most of human literature required evil of some sort to spur the story along, and those characters were written into existence right along with the good.

Even after that winnowing process, only a few characters would make it past their fifth year. At that point, they were either published or shared enough to not be immediately forgotten, or their authors and tellers had given up on them and moved on to new stories. Most people thought that the fading out process was painless, a sort of drifting away from yourself not unlike Alzheimer’s, with the added effect of your body fading along with your mind.


An ember Sophia passed shriveled out of existence. Another was slotted into place as she shuddered and hurried on, listening with half an ear to the tour guide. “How many of you have heard of the Cannonizing?” A few hands went up. “Excellent. It’s what we all strive for. If, after 10 years, you have thrived as a character with no major assistance from the Storytellers here, you may be Cannonized. Can anyone tell me what that entails?”

Sophia could, but no one who hadn’t already been through it could possibly come close to knowing. It was a secret kept not through silence, but through active dissemination of ludicrous lies. Mainly because most people were too awed by their experience during the Cannonization to want to talk about it. It was intensely personal.

Essentially, a character was brought to the central hub where there was a feast for all the characters being Cannonized. It used to be for each individual candidate, but was now a huge party due to the sheer volume of characters being created every day. Afterwards, the characters would go singly into the main hearth chamber and kneel before the hearth to hear the voice of the Storyteller, the real one, not the acolytes wandering around. The Storyteller would then whisper a story into your ear. A story you alone got to hear and were required to keep in your heart. It contained all the possibilities for you as a character, all the ways your life could go, and how you yourself could shape it now that you were an established character. It was a pledge from the Storyteller to do Their damndest to keep you in active memory and and demand from you to keep as many characters alive in your heart as possible.

It would feel like hours, when in reality only a few minutes had passed. Sophia was almost certain that they were drugged at the parties in the last 200 years or so since she knew the Storyteller hadn’t spoken to anyone at a Cannonization since her own. She knew because They had told her they would remain silent until she had finished the task set to her.

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