5 Mar 2015

Unruly - The New Girl Chapter 5 - Commentary

Ah, Chapter 5, the one that needed research into Canadian criminal laws.  Please read the chapter first so that things might make sense.

An important element of Unruly is that the girls had to fall into a legal grey zone.  Whatever they did couldn't, or, at least, shouldn't be covered by the Criminal Code of Canada.  Rule Two, the Academy is never to get involved, gets broken if the police need to be called out on the girls.  If the police are involved, Rule Four, don't get caught, is also broken.  The Academy and Ms Stone, the headmistress, crack down hard if either are broken.  Last thing anyone wants is their fief being disrupted.

Flora's "hobby", the robot army, doesn't really fall under a specific section of the Criminal Code.  The use of them might, but their mere existence isn't proscribed.  If they turn out to be dangerous, like in the lab last week, they fall under workplace safety regulations.  Even the lasers Flora wants aren't illegal.  There is not one Canadian law about owning lasers; again, the regulations are under workplace safety.  However, if Flora were to shoot or have one of her robots shoot someone with the lasers, then she could be charged with Assault Causing Bodily Harm.  That charge doesn't specify what weapons are and can be used when someone slaps another.  Since Flora isn't planning on shooting anyone except her sister's zombie army, which can't suffer bodily harm through the convenience of being dead, she should be safe.

Laura's "gigglesmoke" also falls under a loophole, mainly through how drug laws are created and enforced.  Designer drugs aren't necessarily illegal, at least under the Criminal Code.  If they were, pharmaceutical companies would have trouble with research and development.  A body of law has built up codifying what drugs are and are not illegal, and anything not specifically illegal is, thus, legal.  Laura's intoxicant just hasn't been through the legal system, in part because she knows better than to use it where someone could report her use to the police.  Given that gigglesmoke is an intoxicant, other laws may come into play.  Laura is underage; the age of majority where a teenager can legally smoke and drink alcohol is nineteen in Ontario*.  If she were out in public, she could be arrested for public intoxication, which doesn't care about the nature of the intoxicant, and for being intoxicated as a minor.

When I discovered that Flora's lasers were more or less legal to own, I had to verify my research.  The Internet is a font of information, but there's no real check on accuracy, even when googling.  I turned to friends who have interests and careers in the relevant fields, including one lawyer**.  They confirmed my findings - lasers are totally legal to own, provided workplace safety regulations are adhered to.  Flora fails in that regard, but no one is reporting her to the Labour Board.

One useful bit of writing advice: When stuck, add something to create a problem for the characters.  It's similar to the Raymond Chandler quote, "When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand."  The idea is that the character or characters now have an immediate problem that has to be dealt with, letting words be written.  During NaNoWriMo, words have to be written.  Good thing I introduced Mackenzie earlier.  The scene wasn't planned when Mackenzie was first introduced.  Mackenzie had other ideas.  Mackenzie's return also let me show that consequences do happen.

Back at the Academy, Caitlin is Caitlin.  Glib, but I saw the chance to show Laura's roommates without filtering them through Laura and took it.  Caitlin can be shamed, as Skye and Autumn demonstrate.  The budding world conqueror surprised me in this chapter.  Caitlin has a softer side, one that cares.  Sure, she cares because what Laura does could affect plans and schemes, but she does care.  Caitlin also has little patience for silliness.  Serious Caitlin is serious.  That makes her a prime target for people who like popping egos, like Cassie.  Cassie appears to be a brainless beauty, incapable of even calling people by their proper names.  I did work on a few nicknames for Cassie to use, like Kitty-Cait for Caitlin.  Autumn doesn't even rate a name.

I also got a better introduction to the Jennifers, the first year students.  They've been mentioned throughout so far, but having Caitlin interact with them let me show more of them.  The Jennifers got their name from one of the more common girl's name around.  Jennifer hit number one on baby name lists in the 70s, dropping since.  However, tradition is harder to change than popular baby names.  The Jennifers aren't feral, but they aren't anyone's priority.  They fill the role of useful extra.  If this was a webcomic, every Jennifer in a scene would look different while the main cast never notices.  The older girls use and abuse the Jennifers as needed.

Tomorrow, The New Girl Chapter 6, "Rock Bottom".
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, tracking the history of adaptations, beginning with the Thirties.
Saturday, over at MuseHack, Ma & Pa Kettle.
Also Saturday, check out Comics Bulletin for comics-related reposts of /Lost in Translation/.

* Teenagers in Ottawa can just cross the river into Gatineau, Quebec, where the age of majority is eighteen.  Buying alcohol in Gatineau to drink in private in Ottawa was, until recently, not allowed but impossible to enforce.  Even now, there are limits to the amount that can be brought back, but, until there are border controls on the bridges between Ontario and Quebec, the limits aren't enforceable.
** Technically, his specialty is elsewhere, but getting his degree did require a broad knowledge before he specialized.


  1. Kudos on taking the extra step of talking to people outside the internet. We live in interesting times though - the federal government is seemingly on a kick to enforce laws to allow someone like Flora to be convicted of terrorism. Because robots with lasers mean you'll try to overthrow the government, right? I wonder, what if someone else got control and tried it, would she be caught in the backlash? Anyway, nice that you fit research into the craziness of NaNaiMo.

    As to Caitlin's "softer" side, I think that only really comes through after Laura's asleep, giving the impression she's dropped a facade - but yes, it is there. The 'Jennifer' thing isn't as bad as I feared, but I'm not finding it that funny either; personal thing. Laura is coming along nicely! We're seeing hints of what she's capable of when she's more relaxed. And I'm now curious to see Fawna for the sister contrast.

    As an aside, something that came up on the "Web Fiction Guide Forums" recently is how long a serial part should be. The general consensus was that it doesn't matter (for some it's about 1,000 words; for others 3,000) what matters more is consistency. Your part 5 ran longer than usual, with a lot of things happening (more with Flora; Mackenzie; Jennifers; the lab). It felt to me like it should have been cut before the lab scene, maybe even split into two parts where the Jennifer runs off for more info. Again, might be me.

    Minor grammar from part 5:
    “something about it felt right to her about it” (repeated about it)
    “making not “ (note)
    “she didn't recognized” (recognize)

    1. I read the relevant laws, which are online, then asked friends for clarification. Current government fears are one thing, but, right now? I could get a number of remote control vehicles and cause havoc. It's not the device, it's what you do with it. So, webcams on remote control cars to act as spotters for remote control helicopters armed with remote-firing Nerf guns is still fair in office warfare. :) Flora has considered the situation of someone hacking her robots - she does live next door to Autumn.

      Caitlin has her faults, but she does care for her people, even if they don't listen to her properly. The "Jennifer" thing gets serious next arc, sort of. Turned out, some of the Jennifers didn't want to be a faceless horde. Fawna will make an appearance soon enough. She just didn't have a role in the opening arc.

      Part 5 got away from me and should have been split between the coffee shop and the lab. I got into a flow and lost track of what was happening. Normally, I forget chapters. ^_^;;

      Thanks - I'll update the master file.