The Trouble With Pixels: Part 1

Pixel Art Princess

Bleep bleep bloop bloop!

Elroy Jenkins is alone. Surrounded by the ding of the arcade machines and screaming kids, he tugs at the buttons on his scratchy neon-yellow uniform as he wonders where the rest of the evening staff went. Some kid just spilled a soda over the Wheel of Fortune machine, and Elroy needs the cleanup crew stat.

Jabbing a finger on the intercom, he sends out the broadcast. “All staff, all staff, please report to ticketing.” He goes all deep and smooth into the microphone this time, trying to channel his inner deejay vibe. Still, the voice that comes out over the system cracks like a adolescent male on the verge of puberty.

“Hey mister, I need a refund, your air hockey machine’s broke.”

“No it’s not,” Elroy says to the fat kid in line, pushing up his glasses. “You and your sister were hogging it for the last thirty minutes.” Glancing back at the Wheel of Fortune machine, he could see the inviting smile of Vanna White on the side of the cabinet, while the taped over voice of Pat Sajak chirps “The category is thing.” At least the game is still running.

“Ma! He won’t gimme back my money!” the kid screams, turning his head.

Elroy looks up and sees a large overbearing woman folding her arms, glaring at him from across the hall. “Kidding!” Taking the fat kid’s game card, he swipes it on his terminal and restores his credits. “Here you go kid, have fun!” He smiles and waves.

Making a face as the kid waddles away, Elroy sticks his head out of his booth to scan the dimly-lit arcade. Under the glare from a thousand arcade games, he could see no one else wearing the Rocketbuster uniform. With a sigh, he turns back to the Wheel of Fortune machine, eyeing the sticky liquid seeping through its controls as he pulls at his shirt again. He could run over and wipe up the spill himself, but the last time he left the counter unmanned, someone made off with all the candy out front.

“Come on guys, where are you!” Elroy mutters. If that machine shorts out, he’ll have to call in the technician. That will be the third time this week already. Manager Bob isn’t going to be too happy with his new assistant if that happens.

Elroy looks on in horror as the screen flickers for a moment, and screws his eyes shut as the machine fizzles and dies. “Ahhh Boogers!”

“Excuse me?”

Elroy opens his eyes to a faint tapping sound. In front of him, a little girl dressed in a bright pink gown is stretching up to knock on his counter. “Hi, I’m lost. Can you help me find my daddy.”

Elroy bends over and smiles. “Sure sweetie, I can blast it out over the intercom for ya, what’s your name?”

“Princess,” the little girl says, in the shy innocent voice that only little girls can pull off.

“Princess?” Elroy says, raising an eyebrow. Ok I’ll bite. “Princess what?”

The little girl beams as she answers, “Just princess.”

Elroy looks expectantly at the little girl, waiting for her to break out into a fit of giggles. “Real funny kid, where did you buy that costume from?”

She gives him a puzzled look.

Elroy shrugs. “Alright kid, if that’s the way you want it.” He taps the intercom again and tries to do his best impression of a Disney park announcer. “Ladies and gentlemen, if anybody here is missing a brown-haired, big eyed Princess, aged about four or five, wearing a pink princessy costume, and a matching princessy crown. Please make your way to the ticketing counter to retrieve your princessy... I mean princess.”

Princess giggles, revealing little dimples on her cheeks. “You’re very funny, kind sir.”

“Thank you m’lady.” Elroy says with a smile. “Rocketbuster, always here to brighten your day.” He quotes the arcade tagline, twirling his hands in the air as he gives her a little curtsey.

The little girl gasps, opening her eyes wide. “Good sir, are you a knight?”

Elroy hesitates for a moment. “Why yes!” he exclaims, deciding to play along. “Champion of the five realms to be exact.” Reaching behind, he shuffles through the toy bin and pulls out a plastic sword. “And this is Dragonsblade, slayer of dragons and all things most foul.”

“That’s wonderful!” The little girl says, clapping in excitement. “You’re the person I’ve been looking for.”

What? “Alright kid,” Elroy says with a laugh, “Fun times ov…”

“Aaaahhh!” The little girl screams, pointing over Elroy’s shoulder.

“What?” Elroy swings around, holding his sword up against the shelves full of plushes which kids could exchange for with their tickets.

“Draco!” she screams, lifting the hem of her heavy skirt off the floor and running into the crowd.

“You mean the dragon one?” Elroy glances back just in time to see her disappearing behind the machines. “Hey kid, come back!” Fumbling with the waist high door separating his little booth from the outside world, he swings the barrier open and goes after her. “Princess!” He makes it as far as the Guitar hero machines before he stops, losing her trail in the darkened maze.

“Hey you there!”

“Uh-oh,” Elroy spots the large woman storming towards him, with a bawling chubby in tow. Not again. “Sorry ma’am,” Elroy says, raising his hands in front of his chest. “I can’t help you right now, I’m looking for a kid.”

“Shush!” the woman says, ignoring his protest. “You need to do something about those boys hanging around the shoot-a-hoop in their turtle costumes. They chewed through all the balls! My son was…”

“Excuse me? Yea, I’ll check it out. Come by the counter later and I’ll give you your refund.” Elroy runs off towards the shoot-a-hoops. A princess, turtles, what’s next?

“Princess, you here?” Elroy shouts as he makes his way to the back of the hall. He pokes his head into the dank little corner where all the older machines still in service are kept. From behind a musty black curtain, where the employee break room is, he hears a sound like grunting.

“Christ guys, have you been hiding in there? I’ve been calling for you all evening, what are you…” Elroy flings the curtains open, “What?”

In front of him, the girl named Princess is wielding a plastic chair, fending off two green turtles standing on their hind legs. “Champion, aid me!”

Elroy walks into the room, “Hey you two, cut that out before I call security!”

The turtles turn to look at Peter, regarding him with curious eyes.

Wow, that looks real. “Nice costume fellows, next time get mummy to buy you matching turkey ones.” Elroy scrunches his eyes as he tries to figure out where the eyeholes are. He could see none on the scaly necks and torsos.

“Sir RocketBuster, I implore you to save me from these horrible beasts! Slay them with your sword!”

“Now wait a second princess. No one is doing any killing today alright, just because…” The turtles snarl and charge.


Bring Me To Part 2

Update: Removed all the swearing and tried to replace them with actions and what-nots. Lemme know. Added in some additional parts as well, for purposes which will be made known later on.

Author’s Notes:

  • If you’ve read my earlier stories, I’m using the basic story format and opener here. That’s one thing I’ll like to keep constant for now. Makes it easier for me to put ideas down.
  • I’m still trying to keep with a creature / fantasy theme like my previous horror stuff, but I’m trying not to put myself into that niche at the moment. Keeping my options open.
  • Why I prefer starting with action? I done some research and received some comments that it’s usually the case that you need to come back and edit your intro to suit the needs of your later story. A action start means I can throw in something before that. E.g. building a backstory for the main character, turning him from Zero to Hero if need be, or add in unique touches if I need to.

Seeking Feedback on the following:

  • I’m trying to find more fiction based on stuff like Tron or Wreck-it-ralph, if you know any, would appreciate it if you would direct me.
  • People swear in real life. However, I’m slightly uncomfortable with putting it in aside from a few “Christ!” “Oh for crying out loud!’ and “What on earth!” in there. If anyone can advice, how suitable is it for Young Adult to have a few “fucks, hells, Jesus Christ and damns” in there? I’m just trying to be appropriate here, and honestly, I think its a crutch.
  • Regarding the above question, would also like advice on how to AVOID using them all together, without sounding stunted i.e. an alternative to having your characters EXCLAIM something without using the term exclaim, or having your character just shout the name. i.e. In Harry Potter, it’s ridiculous how often characters go “Harry!” “Harry!” “Harry!”


It’s pretty amazing how easy it is for me to bang out a story now. I have Part 2 ready to go after I do a few edits. But seeing my lack of posts lately, I’ll like to space it out a bit. Let me know if you like it, particularly the theme of it. I’m going to keep this one a bit whimsical and outlandish.

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7 thoughts on “The Trouble With Pixels: Part 1

  1. Wilson,

    I appreciate that you are trying to limit the swearing in your work. When I work on my novel, I am very tempted to use language that is for adults only. But in my work, I am not using any inappropriate language because it is intended for a specific target audience. I think it is the same with your work, if it is intended for YA audience, then the parents are trusting that you will keep the language appropriate.

    I am avoiding the opportunities for exclamations for the most part. Replacing them with gasps, grunts, sighs, and things like that. Or with gestures, movements, reactions with no words.

    • Replacing them with gestures with movements sound about right, but the “she exclaims,” “she shrugs” “she grumbles” is what I want to avoid. Refer to the other article I posted.

      Oh and by the way, now I know why I like your writing style. I suggest you check out World War Z. The writing style is very similar to yours, no dramatisation, very methodical writing which leads to a gripping story.

      You can read one of the abstracts here, the Battle of Yonkers.

      Note the writing style. Pure horror but in a factual blow by by accounting. I think you can work towards something like this.

      Think I’ll make a post about this next time.

      • Thank you for the link to WWZ. I really enjoyed reading that. I have never heard of that book, nor did I know there was a movie coming out. One problem I have with my writing style is that I just give facts and basic details. I don’t use lots of flowery words. But after reading this and your encouragement. I see there is a market for my style. Thanks again for showing me this is possible.

        As to the inappropriate language issues. I don’t think I made my point very well. Instead of using “blank word”, I try to show an emotion with no words. Gritting teeth, tensed knuckles, biting tongue or inside of lip. You can’t do this every time, but used sparingly they can show the characters emotion without inappropriate language.

        Creative dialogue will fix the rest of the occasions that a lazy writer would use a swear word. I am taking it as a personal challenge to not have to resort to using the words. So far, I have been successful.

      • Glad to be of help!

        Your style works fine. WWZ is just one example, pretty sure there’s more. I am Legend is another, for the first 1/2 of the book anyway, just describing him living day to day until he gets all emotional and angry at night. Works very well, you get a good chunk of narrative, then only deal with the emo-ness when its necessary. Makes for very fast and smooth read.

        Actually come to think of it, Stephen King is somewhat similar as well, the tone he uses to start off most stories is actually somewhat “flat and very day-to-day stuff” before he ramps it up later on.

        P.S: By the way, again this is another article I’m going to post later in the week. Your style will work only if the reader gives you a chance to get into it. If you intend to find an agent / publisher, they usually give you only ten pages before they cast you aside, as per stated here.

        Just a heads up.

  2. So right off the bat, literally three paragraphs in, I thought, I could see this being how Wreck-It Ralph would start. (Somehow, I missed that movie…)

    Swearing: total crutch. One trick you can use is to tease the cuss.

    “‘Holy sh–’ Before he could spit out the rest of his thought, Derek was overrun by the monsters.”

    Probably not a well you can go back to more than once or twice, but its a nice wrinkle to add. Kids know these words and they can fill in the blanks, so you can probably cut off Derek even after “Holy.”

    I swear WAY too much in my everyday speech. You’d think I grew up on a dock (and I did!) somewhere. Anyway, I’ve tried to avoid the foul language by making up my own exclamations. (“Sweet melons!” is my new “Holy shit,” lifted off a Yankee Candle, and “Gobstoppers!” is for the times I’m really Jenga-ed.) That could be something fun to do if you have one particularly quirky character inventing his own innocuous curse words. Like Butters, from South Park. Every time that kid screws up, he says, “Aw, hamburgers!” Its kind of endearing and usually hilarious. Again, doesn’t work all the time, but for one specific character in any given story, its another way to add some depth.

    Oh, I really got a kick out of this first chapter! Nice job.

    • Thanks for the feedback. Will throw out the cuss words then, since they really add nothing, just helps to express certain things which could be done differently.

      I’ll try to go for a more physical approach as why as adding some imaginary exclamation words for my characters (since I agree, might some flavour to them.)

  3. Updated the post, removed all the swearing and stuff. Nothing else changed. I’ll keep it clean from now.

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