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Thirteen Word Story: Small Pleasures

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From the barred basement window, a twisted coathanger emerged to pluck a flower.

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Make The Right (Word) Choice: Younglings Edition

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“Younglings” as a crappy word choice comes to you from the Star Wars prequels, specifically when everyone is horrified that Anakin killed “younglings.”

But, you say, look at that Star Wars Wikia pic you just posted. It’s meant to be used to refer to juveniles in a species-neutral way. It’s a piece of worldbuilding!

Maybe so. But, for one, you don’t need a different term for that. “Child” will work fine for the juveniles of sentients in general. Establish it by having characters refer to nonhuman children as children. Nobody will misunderstand.

Second, “he killed the younglings” sucks the emotional juice out of the scene, which is much more important than a small bit of superfluous linguistic worldbuilding. It comes across as a euphemism. Euphemisms exist to soften harsher words. And so “younglings” softens the impact of the idea that Anakin just slaughtered a classroom full of kids and reduces it to the impact of a nasty bit of vandalism. Oh, damn, we’ll have to repaint the whole nursery. What a shame.

And that IS a shame. If any scene should have high impact, it’s the scene that establishes that Anakin has gone full-on evil bastard. But letting a worldbuilding detail take precedence over the emotional impact of the story took the wind out of its sails.

Writers need to look to the integrity and purpose of their scenes and stories first. And that means killing children, not euphemistic “younglings.” When picking words, make the right choices. Your stories and your readers (watchers, for screenplays and their dialogue) will thank you.

Eulogy For An Internet Badass –OR– Why I Cut Arguments Short And Don’t Hesitate On The Block Button

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A 13 word story:

Decades arguing at strangers

Found dead on his laptop

Stroked out on trollrage

————-

I’ve had my share of internet arguments. Some of them were lengthy, acrimonious, and frankly, in hindsight, utterly ridiculous. Happily, I haven’t gone full ridiculous in quite some time, and I don’t think I’ll be going back in the future.

I still don’t hesitate to disagree online, or even to argue. But these last few years, I have come to understand that no matter how outrageous I find the other person’s position or statements to be, there’s no profit in giving in to anger. “Argument” doesn’t have to be about rage. It’s possible to argue with a bit of sense. And when it’s apparent that the other person is trolling and raging, well, that’s what the block button is for. Just about every place you can have an internet argument has some version of blocking.

I used to avoid using block functions, as if doing so was some badge of open-minded honor. Well, I do take some pride in maintaining an open mind in general. But that doesn’t mean I have to waste my time dealing with abusive people, or with people whose primary or even sole recreation is making other people angry on the internet, or with people who just want to argue to argue.

There are enough trolls online that the trolls can find their own kind to bother after I’ve blocked them, and enough reasonable people, even reasonable people with whom I have deep and fundamental differences of opinion, to find good conversation online no matter how many thousands of people I block on social media and elsewhere.

For as long as I can remember, I have been quick to anger, and my anger can burn very hot. My father was the same way; some of it is my disposition, but it is also a behavior reinforced by his example in my childhood. Later in life, he began to learn to step back from his anger and engage his brain before his temper got him in trouble.

As I recall, he started to really ‘get it’ in his 40s. Well, that’s where I am now.

I guess the apple only fell so far from the tree.

Anyhow. I have no intention of ending up stroked out from rage in front of my computer — because I know how easy it would be for me to end that way if I were to give in to the troll side of the Force.

One of Those Days…

…I have two or three of these a week. Deep breath…

 

Doing something creative, like writing or making a mock ebook cover grousing about being annoyed, helps.  Just one more way to integrate creativity into my life.

 

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Angsty Emo Writer Blah Blah

Grumpy Cat

 

A few days of new words coming slowly and with great reluctance really grates on my nerves.

Successful writers will mostly tell you that success — having a goodly number of readers and selling material regularly — comes slowly. That sure seems to be how it’s going so far for me. The success stories that involve sudden viral surges of popularity, or look like they do because the years of lead-up aren’t visible to the casual observer, stick in my mind and whisper, if you were any good it would happen to you. You’d go viral. Much like me, those voices are bad at listening when told to shut up and how unreasonable they’re being.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve been lucky to squeak out a couple of hundred words daily. The high point was a 900 word flash one day. It’s writing. I wrote something. I didn’t totally give in to apathy and frustration. In addition, I managed some blog posts here as well. Those are writing. They count.

No, they don’t, the Angsty Voice whispers. There aren’t enough of them, and they are insufficiently awesome. Writing doesn’t count unless it’s totally awesome, unless *I* say it’s totally awesome.

Shut up, Angsty Voice. I’m trying to write over here.

Snippet

A few lines from one of the stories I’m working on, working title That’s All.  The passage is focused on the main character, a near-future reality-show actor.  The ‘Panemote’ he’s looking at is a nod to the Panaflex line of show-biz cameras.  This being set in the future, the Panemote also ‘films’ emotional tracks, allowing the viewer to feel what the actors feel.

The character is wrestling with feelings surrounding the death of a friend, feelings that are interfering with the upbeat story arc of the reality show episodes he’s filming.  He’s the lead character, so they can’t just bury him in the background.  Sure, he can deliver the performance the director demands of him.  He’s good at what he does.  All he has to do is stop trying to make sense of the emotions the death of his friend has evoked and forget all about her…

 

 

My face sank into my hands. I drew in a deep breath, blew it out slow in a heavy sigh. Even that felt false, acted out, dramatized for the cameras. I looked up into the dead glass eye of the nearest Panemote, a cold egg in the bristling nest of emotional pickup spikes. The machine rested, waiting, on an inert metal scaffold of stabilizers and extensor arms. I stared at it until I felt as turned-off, as powerless, as it was.