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Did you catch Monday's blog featuring Bill W's story, Consolation Parents? It's a short story written for the 2014 Summer Anthology The Backup Plan. The story is one of many of Bill's short stories written for the anthologies. Have you read them? He explores many different themes, social conventions, and more all packed into tiny bite-sized plots that can capture readers. This one pulled me in as a parent.
I picked this scene because it resonated so well with the emotions and showed just how things can be, even in the midst of an emotional upheaval and trouble in family. Sometimes authors can be tempted to take the drama too far, or make things just that much more complicated that creates a situation that goes beyond rea life, but Bill's story felt like a story I could have told or been told by a friend who needed a sympathetic ear through a tough time.Quote
To read more click here.
A new chapter of Not Your Mentor, Chapter 4, is up.
It’s always interesting where ideas for stories come from. Even I don’t always understand—or remember—where an idea for a story came from.
Often, an idea will come to me, and I start writing, and half an hour later, I can’t remember exactly what the original idea was. It’s already changed dramatically from the original concept.
Some stories are based on people I see, and I try to imagine a back story for them. Other stories are based on situational ideas that come to me after reading something.
Not Your Mentor was partly inspired by reading about mentoring programs that some companies offered. Not exactly exciting, but that’s where it started, and I thought it would be interesting to have two people thrown together through that. The final story isn’t exactly about that, but that’s not unusual.
Sometimes a story comes to you pretty whole, and sometimes it comes in parts. You have an initial idea, you write it, but then you need more. And more. And you slog away at it.
And sometimes you get really lucky, and you encounter something that fits perfectly into your story.
I'm currently working on a story about a guy that falls in love with a footballer. (English football.) I’ve already written a few thousand words of the story, but at the moment it is really more of a sketch. It needs a lot more to turn it into something more than just a boy meets boy, argues, then eventually falls in love story.
And then, this past week, the universe stepped in!
A rookie player on the New England Patriots football team tweeted a Shakespeare quote, on Instagram. Then the (older/grizzled) Patriots quarterback replied that he should be reading his playbook (rather than reading Shakespeare!)
Awesome! Suddenly I had an interesting conflict idea to add to my story!
Thanks, Tom Brady!
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Push, twist, pull it seems so simple
we all do this everyday
I open bottles all the time except
when it meant the most I failed
I had a date circled on the calendar it was 33 years ago it was both my birthday and the day I planned to escape my pain. I didn’t have anyone to support me my father and mother both hated me. I was there but I wasn’t there if they spoke it was to tell me I had did something wrong or I was not important. They always demand I did things for them. Cut grass / run errands. I’m the one that would clean the place for a party but never got invited to it.
When I looked in the mirror I didn’t like that person he was Gay - ugly - overweight - I was told over and over I was no good a loser so how could I be anything better. I felt alone in a room full of people. I hated my life - I hate me - I wanted it to end.
I started small a pill here a pill there and they added up I thought I had enough to finally ease my pain.
The note only said “I’m sorry I disappointed you” that was it nothing more or less. What could I say at that time I felt like I had let everyone down.
I was ready I woke up on my birthday- no card or cake. I’m an adult it was ok I was full of pain it really didn’t matter after today.
I told my parents I was going to a party, yes a party of one. I drove my car out to a nature preserve I love it there it was so peaceful and calm. I turn on my radio and found some music to listen to as I drift off from my pain. I watch the sunset and thought this was a good day. It was time -
Push, twist, pull it seems so simple all I had to do was open that bottle. I tried with all my might the cap would not budge no matter how hard I tried. Push, twist, pull it seems so simple my hands were shaking and I was getting upset. I had 1 damn job to do and I couldn’t Push, twist, pull and in my rage I took the bottle and thru it out the car window and would you know it busted open all over the ground. I sat there and cried and cried. I stayed there all night and I look in my rear view mirror and in that moment I knew I need help.
I spent 5 years with a Doctor on my problems. I’m finally had to have a talk with my parents before they died. We cleared some air and things got better. I am now ok with my self I have lost the weight and I finally came out of the closet at work and the people I hadn’t told before.
So I sit here thanking my lucky stars that some one, some how I never open that bottle. I have kept this part of my life private and locked away so deep. I didn’t want anyone’s pity I felt so ashamed. I know now I have nothing to be ashamed of.
I didn’t keep the note, I didn’t need it, I burned it the fireplace until it was gone. Those words still haunt me in those times of darkness. I know have thoughts of encouragement and hope so it does get better.
So please if you are reading this and you find yourself in the situation I was in ask for help. There are people that won’t judge you for anything you have done. So it does get better believe me.
I have come to thinking that “why take a permanent solution for a temporary problem”.
Why now you asked I feel it’s time.
So I really have nothing to talk about this week in the Weekly Update preamble, so I thought I would throw out a joke and some useless trivia
Why did the chicken cross the playground?Spoiler
To get to the other slide
Did you know that giraffes only need 5 to 30 minutes of sleep in a 24 hour period They often achieve that in quick naps that may last only a minute or two at a time!
Now, onto what happened around these parts this week!
Monday, Renee gave us a great story review from @Puppilull:
Wednesday was the last day to get in the 2020 Anthology Theme Selections, so Renee revisited the blog from a couple of weeks earlier:
On Friday, Wayne popped by to give some new ideas to get some new ideas flowing from our heads to paper:
Wide Open Spaces by Renee Stevens *Premium*
Dancing on a Star by Ronyx
Family by Dabeagle
Adrift by Mann Ramblings
Denied by Cia
Headstall's Reflections by Headstall
Left Without Words by Comicality
Paleo Prompt by Parker Owens
Promptings from Valhalla by Valkyrie
Shuffle off to Buffalo by Cole Matthews
The Thousandth Regiment by AC Benus
tim's Bits and Pieces by Mikiesboy
Tragic Genius by Cynus
Wide Open Spaces by Renee Stevens
Shrunk to Fit by northie
Wow. This week has been crazy, but we made it to another Friday. You know what that means? No, not a night out and no work tomorrow! It means I have prompts for you.
Prompt 774 - Creative
Tag - Doppelganger
It has been a long week and you decide to treat yourself to a nice meal. You spot this nice restaurant as you go home and decide to give it a shot. As you walk in the door the loud noise in the place becomes suddenly silent. You pause as you fear the place might be in the midst of a robbery. You notice everyone shooting glances at you and then toward the back of the place. Wondering what could be going on you follow their glances and find … yourself? Only your doppelganger seems completely different somehow. What happens when you meet?
Prompt 775 - Creative
Tag - List of Words
Use the following words in a story - a pair of glasses, a torn tee shirt, a cup of coffee, a crying child, and a slice of pizza.
So do they give you any ideas? Please feel free to share your stories on the prompt page.
Until next time. Remember to read, write, like, and comment.
The very very last of our new Teaching Assistants gave me her paperwork today. Reminded her that she never wants to be the very very last person. Her excuse is that she's a commuter (who only lives an hour away). I had people from out of state turn in their stuff before they even moved; even the international students who didn't have stuff to give me until they got here this week had turned their things in already.
Blood pressure is continuing to climb after having gone wacky the first week of July. Cardiologist hasn't called me back, even though I gave them my sheets -- and concerns -- last week and left an online msg for them last night. If I don't hear from them by noon tomorrow I'm calling them. It's going up at an ever increasing rate; was 140/90 when I got home today, which is high enough I can tell it's up. Before this it had been consistently staying below 120/80.
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Okay, so. I mentioned this in the CoTT 2 forum but I am doing a 365 Day Prompt a Day thing.
How does it work and why do I do this to myself?
I've actually done this before. I did it for fanfiction and did 365 short pieces for various fandoms. This time I'm just doing this with my original writing. I will be posting it. Not right now. Probably starting next month I will post the week worth of works. I'll get into details on it.
As for how it works?
Well, I have lists. And I will discuss what goes down with each list. I have a list of Horror to Romance/Romance to Horror, 2 lists of "3 Nouns", 2 lists of "Dialogue" and a single list of word prompts.
The "3 Nouns" list is just as it says. It has 3 words that you have to work into the story. Dialogue is just prompts of dialogue that you have to work into it. The Horror to Romance/Romance to Horror is me taking one word and using it in two different ways. Same way, different POV's. Those will be fun.
Now, let's see. I have 78 Horror to Romance prompts, 50 dialogues, 99 "3 nouns" and a 139 single word prompts.
Each list has a letter assigned to it (A to F), and each prompt has a number under that letter (A1, B1, C1, ect). I have all of those on little bits of paper and in a bag. I plan on doing this again so I'll be using these scraps of paper again eventually. Every day I will riffle through them and write whatever I pull out. I'm looking forward to this.
If I miss a day, I write it the next day, but it kind of makes my brain work and forces me to write something every day. Even if it's only like a few hundred words in size.
So, break down.
1) Make a list of prompts. 365 worth of them. (I have a couple extra just in case).
2) Have a way to randomly choose the prompt each day.
3) Write something each day. If you miss a day (or just write on the weekends) play catch up along with the day's prompt.
4) Let them sit at least a week before you edit it, sent it to the beta/editor/whatever, do the rest of your editing process, then post.
5) Hopefully get reviews.
Now, I'm going to start it. When I post it, I will probably format it so that before each prompt, it will have the date for the prompt, the prompt itself, and any warnings that I may have. It'll most likely look like this:
Warnings: Gore, blood
I hope to have a good time with this and not get to behind on the story. Wish me luck? *goes to start*
Now for something completely different. This is the entire unedited prologue to a project that will come after the Tampa Chronicles series. It is in the GameLit/LitRPG sub-genre.
The battle was going poorly for Faolan. He was low on hit points and surrounded by two orcs. “Gah… next time I go looking for crafting mats, I’m going in full kit.” As it was, he was lightly equipped with just a leather jerkin, doeskin pants, sandals, and a short sword.
It was supposed to have been a quick trip through the outskirts of the woods east of Northpoint Village, to the glowmoss fields. He needed the glowmoss to distill down into Glowmoss Distillate for healing potions. However, he wasn’t counting on a Gamemaster dropping a spawn of four orcs on him, while in the woods. Faolan had already dispatched two orcs, and the remaining ones pressed their advantage.
The woods themselves were brilliant and perfectly rendered oak, pine, and ash sparsely planted in a light wooded area, which grew heavier as you went into the forest. If you didn’t know this was a video game, you could easily have been fooled into thinking you were in a real forest.
Faolan stepped to his left and put his back against a large oak and parried the ax from the first orc. Orcs were a tall race of Non-Player Character monsters, resembling the common look in most fantasy worlds; they stood taller than a human, a greenish color of tinted skin, with a powerful muscular build, and a face that looked like a human mated with a pig. Unlike normal fantasy though, Orcs in the world of Timeless Online, a VRMMORPG—Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game—were smart. These four were a mob of raiders from a neighboring kingdom. They were armed with battle-axes and garbed in chainmail.
“Back off! I don’t want to kill you.” Faolan’s health bar was dangerously close to only twenty-five percent full. Damn… I forgot to bring health potions. Oh, wait… I still have that runestone of health in my inventory. He quickly pulled up the inventory page of his character sheet on his Heads-Up Display, selected and activated the runestone of health and felt the surge of healing magic through the haptic feedback sensors in his VR suit. His hit points rose to near full, and the wounds his body had taken were magically mended. The orcs were oblivious, as their artificial intelligence was more focused on attack, than anything else.
The first orc swung his ax in an overhead chop, his left leg led into the swing. Faolan activated his combat skill of crippling strike, and threw himself into a defensive roll, to his right side going past the orc. The ax missed him by inches, but his short sword easily slid against the orc’s calf-muscle, sliced it deep, laming the orc, and caused it to be off-balanced. The health bar over the orc drop to two percent health and Faolan laughed as he scored a critical hit, while the damage amounts flashed across his HUD.
Two arrows slammed into the back of the lamed orc, and it fell to the ground dead.
“Took you long enough!” Faolan let out a long breath and turned to face the last orc.
“Well, you sent that nine-one-one out when I was just logging in. Was in Port Hampton and had to get a mage to teleport me here.” The newcomer was human, dressed in leather armor dyed forest green and brown, and wore a helm with a small pair of stag horns mounted on it. His compound longbow was a walnut color and had feathers decorating it on the ends. Scrollwork was carved in both the bow and armor and proclaimed him to be a Ranger of the Far Forest.
The last orc seeing that it was now outnumbered and that the new opponent was heavily armed and armored, decided to break off his attacks. The AI controlling it, executed a withdraw command, giving it bonuses to defense, turned, and bolted further into the forest. The two companions let it go.
**Good Work… incoming GM reward** A notification popped up in Faolan’s HUD that he received fifty-thousand unallocated skill points. It was a nice sum, for an impromptu GM event.
I can use that SP to max out my defense base skill. Faolan sent a thank you back to the GM and walked over to his friend and shook his hand. “Thanks for saving my bacon, Quinton.”
“Anytime, Little Wolf. Why are you out here in n00b gear?”
“HA! This is my crafting outfit. I wasn’t planning on doing any fighting, but when a GM drops a mob on you… I think they are getting ready for the invasion campaign. I may need to move my shop somewhere else.” He gave a small laugh, walked over to the three downed orcs, and started to loot the bodies. “You want the one you fell?”
“Nah, you can have it. As soon as I escort you back to town, I need to get back to Port Hampton.”
“Why, what’s up?” As he searched the three fallen orcs, he placed usable items in his inventory, and the gold automatically went into his bank. The orcs faded from view, after he searched them, going back to electronic dust they were created from.
“I’m doing Ranger training with my apprentice Joe and getting her ready for the trials.”
“When’s the foregathering?” He couldn’t remember when the last Ranger Foregathering was. A week-long festival for those more in touch with nature. Usually, only rangers, druids, and select friends were invited to attend. Being a crafter, he could sell his wares there, and long ago he was counted as a ‘Friend of the Far Forest’ for his help in the GM-questline the Rangers did to set up their player-controlled forest kingdom.
“It’s at the end of this month, and you’re on the invite list. That should go out this week.”
“Thanks.” Faolan finished his task and gave Quinton a nod. “Alright, I’m ready to head back. I have all the glowmoss that spawned, and I’ll just use my recall stone to go back to my stronghold. Do you need payment?”
“Nah, you’ve saved me a thousand times over with this equipment you made for the Rangers, and I got some SP out of it.”
They bid each other a farewell and activated their recall stones. A golden pillar of light flashed down each on the two players, and they vanished from the forest clearing.
Faolan’s stronghold was just outside the village of Northpoint’s south gate; a half-hour, or so, walk from the glowmoss fields. It was a small compound surrounded by a fifteen-foot stone wall and a solid reinforced double wooden gate. A small, two-story, manor house was the central building, with a small plot of land for a garden on the left of it, and a stable/barn off to its right. Located between the barn and the manor house sat a windmill pump that supplied water throughout the property. A smaller third building served as a craftsman’s area sat near the gate and doubled as a trading post for his NPC Merchant selling his crafted items. As this was a player’s homestead, it had all the standard protections. Only certain areas were open to the public, and only those on a permission list and given virtual keys, had access to the restricted areas of the property.
Faolan materialized in the center of the compound and went straight to the crafting house. Once inside he unloaded the glowmoss into the persistent storage chest he used for raw crafting materials, and the looted objects from the orcs into another storage chest, to sort later.
Alright… that’s done. Time to logout for tonight. He then went into his manor house and started the logout process.
Back in the real world, Garrett Sullivan took the VR helmet off his head and sat it down next to his desktop computer. Two interactive gloves followed the helmet. The helmet and gloves when combined with the haptic feedback suit did more than a normal VR unit, as they were designed to produce sensory feedback, and read brainwaves of the wearer. He shut down the Timeless Online app on his computer and logged-out of the secondary systems he used with the game. He was getting prepared to wheel himself to the bathroom when his doorbell rang.
He let out a frustrated breath at himself for forgetting his date that night and rolled himself in his manual wheelchair to the door of his house. He smiled as he opened the door. “Hi, come on in Dustin. Sorry, I lost track of time. How long have you been standing out here?”
“Not long. I figured you were playing one of your games again. I was about to text you.” He stepped in through the doorway, leaned down to give Garrett a kiss, and then walked with Garrett into the living room.
“I got caught while out getting glowmoss in Timeless. A GM spawned a mob of orcs on me. Almost died, if Quinton didn’t show up, and saved my bacon.”
Dustin nodded and sat in one of the armchairs. “Which one is Timeless again?”
“It’s the fantasy sandbox game. Been around for twenty years and is continually updated. In fact, a new patch is coming out tomorrow, with an expansion update.” He smiled at his, hopefully to be official soon, boyfriend and motioned towards the kitchen. “Help yourself to something to drink.”
“Oh, yeah. You told me about that game. Been meaning to check it out, but you know how our boss can be a slave-driver. What sort of expansion are they coming out with?” Dustin stood up and fetched a Coke from the fridge.
“The developers are being tight-lipped, but they’ve mentioned AI improvements and a new endgame questline for the Player vs. Environment content for people who’ve finished the current storyline.”
The pair talked for a bit, before Garrett rolled himself into his bedroom to bath and get ready for their date. The two men were as different as night and day. Garrett, as an older man in his forties, was tall framed, with a powerful build after years of training in the US Army Rangers. He kept his naturally black hair closely cropped to his head, and his emerald green eyes shown with an inner light. Dustin, however, as a younger man of his twenties was shorter, a little overweight, with glasses over his blue eyes, and had shoulder-length auburn hair.
Dustin stood, and walked around the small house, looking at the mementos that Garrett had lying and hanging around. This was his third time being here, but this was the first he got a good look at the place. It was a ranch style four-bedroom house, with an open concept. Out of the four bedrooms, one was the master, one was a guest, and the other two were converted to an exercise room and an office. Its open living area had a small area for dining, the kitchen, and a living room area. The house was decorated in a rustic look, with different shades of browns and mostly all wood.
Walking by a small display, Dustin did a double-take. Is that what I think it is? He leaned towards the display to get a better vantage. Holy shit… I knew Garrett was in the Army, but I never thought he would get the Congressional Medal of Honor. He turned towards the bedroom, at an odd thumping sound, accompanied by the sound of electronic actuators.
Garrett walked into the living room and smiled at Dustin. His electronic prosthetic legs thump on the hardwood floors with his odd gait, as he walked over to where Dustin stood. “Checking out the tin and ribbons?”
“Yeah, I didn’t see them the last time I was here. Is this, really the CMH?” He pointed at the display and had a curious look about him. “And what’s that sound coming from your legs?”
“It is. I got it for the same mission while I was in Afghanistan, in which I lost my legs. Forgive me; I don’t talk about it, because the whole op was classified. I only keep the display up, to remind myself of my brothers that didn’t make it.” There was a misting of the eyes, which he wiped away with the back of his hand.
The legs were the same shape and designed as normal legs and had the same range of motion; however, it was clear they were artificial being bare slate stone gray metal. They were easily concealable by his pants, that he rolled to show Dustin. “The legs are a prototype mechanical prosthetic. I’m in a case study, with this new nanomite cranium implant system, that is trying to give better motor control, and linking nerve impulses, brain waves, and the onboard electronics. Shall we leave?”
“That is truly amazing. You know the engineer in me dying to ask a billion questions but I’m guessing you signed a nondisclosure agreement.” Dustin smiled and gave Garrett a hug. “Sure, let’s head out. But that does sound like an interesting clinical trial.”
“Correct, the Æsir corporation did make sign an NDA before the surgery. But I can say, call me Steve Austin, the bionic man. These legs, the implant, nanomites, and to connection plates on my stumps, are in the eight-figures realm of cost.”
“Damn!” The pair turned and left out the door for their date night.
So what do you think?
We have posted a new version of Stories on the site. Things are going well so far. It correct a number of small issues. We've also added the ability to put up a goal box for feedback items.
You'll see it on various points on the site.
Be sure to do your part in hitting our goals to give Authors more feedback!
During the dog days of summer, most South Floridians yearn for cooler, drier weather. If you are unfamiliar with the expression, it refers to days being so hot even dogs want to lay around moving as little as possible. August is the time most of us want to move to the Carolinas’ mountains to escape daily rain, tropical storms, and hurricanes.
The Signature Authors profiled this month are well known and don’t require introduction. I’ll shut up now and let them answer their questions.
You are a prolific user of sequels and serials and have a lot of stories on the go, Gone From Daylight and Savage Moon come to mind. What keeps you motivated and what do you gain by doing serials and sequels?
• • •
"Well, to answer all questions at once...it's the readers. The feedback makes all the difference in the world to me. So that is my number one motivation to keep going.
When I was growing up, I was super heavy into comic books. I still have many of them to this day. And, honestly, comic books taught me everything that I know about character, dialogue, tension, foreshadowing, flashbacks, plot twists...and the best part was that I got a chance to come back every single month and catch up with fictional people that I had grown and evolved with over an extended period of time, and I LOVED it! I never thought I'd see the day when movies or TV shows could be treated the same way, but now you see it all the time. And it works wonders.
So being able to build on my characters one chapter at a time, share them with a vocal and participatory audience, and actually feel the energy of having them enjoy what I do, is my biggest inspiration. It might take me an entire year or more to finish a whole story from start to finish, and that's if I'm LUCKY! I can't imagine going that long without some type of positive reward or constructive criticism from my audience. Without their support, I think I'd feel like I'm just typing away at this keyboard for nothing. So I treat my stories like comic books. I post new material, I get good feedback, I come up with new ideas all the time, and my readers get to see the process unfold as it's happening. They grow with the story. It creates a momentum and an excitement that helps me to keep building and challenging myself to complete whatever vision I had in mind from the beginning.
I hope that answers the question! And ! :)"
• • • • •
Looking at you library here at GA, you don’t seem to use sequels or serials but have a nice collection of stand-alones. Is there anything that keeps you away from bringing more of the characters your readers love?
• • •
My answer would be that it is the way I view sequels. Most of my stories are stand alone, so if I were to write a sequel or make a story into a serial then a lot of changes would have to happen. I have started a sequel in the past, but I doubt that people would have enjoyed it, because it was so different than the original. That is how I feel sequels should be though, if you created a story and completed it, any story involving those characters should be different with different themes and obstacles for the characters to overcome. The story I mean is, "Are You Christian," and the story ended on pretty happy terms. The sequel would then have to be - for me to have the motivation to write it - darker with new themes. It would no longer be a coming out story, so I would have to come up with something else. I was going with drug abuse and depression as main themes and I doubted my readers would want to see that huge of a transformation for the characters that would be involved.
Also motivation and time. Most of my stand alone stories are about High School students maneuvering around coming out and being younger. I don't really have the motivation to do those kinds of stories anymore so stories that involve those characters here are either still going to be in high school or freshly out, wouldn't really be strong motivation for me.
I feel that my current style of romances don't translate well to sequels overall as well. So I just don't work on making the attempt.
• • • • •
What is it about sonnets as a form that keeps on inspiring you?
• • •
Thanks for the question. This gave me pause when I first read it. To me, various poetic forms are just tools. So to translate this question to another discipline, would you ask a carpenter what it is about a hammer that keeps inspiring him? He may have a long personal history with a certain hammer, and knows he can reply on it, but the tool itself is just something he calls on to build an end-result.
More precisely, Sonnets are a key to me to unlock the universe. Basho had such a key with Haiku and Haibun. Villion’s was the Ballade. The discipline required to master these forms opens up the freedom to say any and everything.
A quote I leaned as a teenager from an old Night Court re-run sums up this artistic principle best. “Mastery appears in limitation of form, and order alone can give us freedom.”
And none of us should wrestle in disagreement with the likes of Goethe
• • • • •
A short installment this month; there’ll be a longer one in September. But I need questions for after. If you want to get to know ANY author a bit better, this is your chance. I forward the questions anonymously so if you’re shy, I’ll protect you. LOL
I suppose this piece should have a WARNING … if you are closed minded, cannot deal with things outside your own experience or what you think is 'normal', or believe that relationships with more than two people are wrong. DO NOT READ THIS.
I have never been conventional.
Well, I say that, yet, I wanted to be married. But I also believe you can love more than one. I believe that bringing others into a relationship for friendship and sex is a good thing and that it can work.
Until last year, my husband resisted that. he was unsure, worried that I would love the other more, leave him possibly. We eventually did share with another couple we've known for a long time. tim came to realize that I would never leave him. That he is my main dance partner for life. And, if push came to shove … he is truly all I need.
Knowing that has freed him. Freed him to not be afraid of both mental and physical relationships with others. That is not to say that we just jump into bed with everyone. We do not, nor do we want to. There has to be a connection, feeling … neither of us want some casual thing.
Early this year an ex of mine, who remained a friend, came to me to talk and for some comfort. He'd been ready to ask his boyfriend to marry him. Just before that event, the boyfriend admitted he was tired and had met someone else. Someone he'd been having an affair with for nearly a year.
My friend Jim was devastated. He changed his shift to nights only, so he slept in the day, making it easier to avoid life.
One day Jim asked if he could spend more time with us. I said sure. I'm not sure how we ended up on the topic but he asked if we might consider more with him. He was missing companionship and sex. He and I had dated for a couple of years and we had parted for various reasons as friends, so I had no problem with that. I still cared for him a lot.
And then I nearly messed it up by pushing too hard. It upset my husband, who knew who Jim was, but didn't know him. After some real honest talk, the three of us decided we needed to spend time together to get to know each other, to let things develop.
I'm happy to say they have developed. We have this closeness now, a bond. We care deeply and continue to nurture this new relationship.
I'm not sure how far it will go or where we may end up.
But for now it feels good, and it feels right.
It's that time of year again!!! I had something else planned for today, but as I've been having trouble fitting in this post, I decided to go ahead and post it. As those who have been here for years can tell you, it's the members who help us determine the themes for the years anthologies. From now until August 14th, the GA membership can suggest themes and then a group of authors will narrow those themes down.
The following are the theme suggestion guidelines (more details in the theme suggestion thread):
- Members can suggest up to 5 themes
- All theme suggestions can be no more than 3 words (any theme suggestion going over this will be disqualified)
- Suggested themes can NOT be a previously used theme. You can check the list of past themes, here.
- Theme suggestions posted on the blog entry do not count. You must post your suggestions in the theme suggestion thread.
Once the theme suggestions are closed to new themes, a group of authors will help narrow down the list and pick the themes for the 2020 Anthologies, which will then be posted both in the forum and in the weekly wrap up blog.
I work in customer service.
Customer Service. Sometimes it seems we are so bound up in rules, laws, and policies, that we do anything but serve our customers. Most of us there want to, really want to help. Most of us have empathy and care ... even though there are times we want to slap some of them when they are obnoxious and rude.
This week, well yesterday in fact, something happened. Something simple, that made my whole week worthwhile.
Background: We offer a program that let's international students send money to Canada before they arrive here. This way they have proof of funds here and this can aid them in obtaining their necessary study documents for immigration. It's fairly straightforward. Mostly.
One guy came onto my chat Tuesday and asked me to check to see if his wire transfer had been received. It can take 5 business days to get them to the Bank and then matched with the right account. It wasn't there. He was so worried about losing the year he'd paid for, he'd had his medical done, fingerprints etc. All paid for. He only had a few days to submit his study permit request. He was so upset, i offered to monitor his account and i'd let him know when his wire was finally there.
After 3 days of this, yesterday it was there. I happily sent him an e-mail with the good news.
Who arrived on my chat by chance a couple of hours later begging for more help? Yep, my friend.
I do this part of the job, but it's really not my area of expertise. I'd always been told we can't rush things, can't do anything but let the process happen. But i felt for this guy who really needed help. So, thinking i already knew what the answer would be i walked over to one of the two people who know more about this than i do.
I told James my situation. He shook his head no ... but then said, well, let me see the account. Returning to my desk he looked. I knew the document the kid needed was there. James called Ava over ... She looked. She said, oh i know this kid too. She said, download the document and then attach it to a secure email and send it to him.
I said: Can we do that? She said: We do it sometimes. In cases like this, when it is necessary, we do it.
That was a huge thing. I could actually make this kid's day. I downloaded and attached the file and sent it. He got it, opened it. It worked ... it really actually worked.
It made a difference. To him and to me. To him, it saved the day and a lot of time and money.
It made me glad, i do what i do.
And at the end of the day ... what more could i ask for?
Last night, I wasn't in the best place. Introverted, still sort of spinning. But, wildlife doesn't care about my moods.
Our chickens were restless. It was dusk, and we went out to investigate. I spied a little skunk - small enough to squeeze between the wire that made up the chicken run trying to hide in the darkness of the run. So we're out there, trying to get this little confused, scared critter out of our chicken run AND avoid getting sprayed. Kevin grabs a wire door, to block off part of the run we don't want it to scamper through.
Well, he tripped. He smacked on the concrete walkway, cracking a rib. But, worse... he really slammed his toe into the side of the walkway.
When my husband takes a tumble, he does it right. I'm watching his ribs, to make sure the bruise there doesn't grow. But there's nothing to be done for a broken toe other than tape it up and let it heal. It's sad to say, but a baby skunk really did a number on Kevin.
Oh. Don't fret. The skunk is fine. We saw it again tonight... the little bugger.
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The hour draws nigh to post the first chapter for the third part of Adermoor Cove. While Lane Hardy is still the main protagonist and focus of the story, this episode focuses on a secondary protagonist, as will the first half of the fourth one (the one I'm currently working on). These characters each have had their own strange experiences that causes them to question the life-is-perfect appearance of the island, and ultimately being drawn into the conflict. This episode focuses on Carlos Santino, a man who has returned from his hometown, Adermoor Cove, after spending a little over the last fifteen years living in the city of Boston. For most of those years he has worked as a homicide detective. He now works alongside his father, the sheriff, Enzo Santino.
Upon returning he starts have dreams/flashback of a traumatizing event that occurred when he was a child. These dreams keep him from getting sleep, therefore making it more difficult for him to do his job and hold onto his convictions about the strange events happening on the island.
This episode (and the next) are very personal for me. For the past week or so I'm lucky to be getting 2-3 hours worth of sleep. The last two nights I've had, what I'm pretty sure are sleep paralysis episodes. The first one happened Friday morning (I've been getting to sleep 4 and 7 a.m.)
For those who don't know, according to Wikipedia: Sleep paralysis is when, during waking up or falling asleep, a person is aware but unable to move or speak. During an episode, one may hallucinate (hear, feel, or see things that are not there), which often results in fear.
In my cases, and I've accounted for about three, I've thought there was someone in my apartment. I could literally feel them staring at me. This last Thursday (the 19th of July) I heard someone screaming - or laughing - outside my apartment door and then it sounded like it was in the apartment, coming towards the bedroom. I couldn't move a muscle. I just laid there paralyzed and helpless. I didn't sleep for the rest of my life.
And then sometime this last morning (I'm getting my days and nights mixed up) I recall having a dream where I dropped something made of glass and saw a bright flash of light, and then jerked awake, just like when you jerk awake after dreaming you've fallen.
While none of the characters have separated from sleep paralysis so far I do know how sleep deprivation can affect our moods and perception of reality. In a place like Adermoor Cove that can be a very, very bad thing.
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So, i’m following up on what i posted last week, about me not feeling quite ME.
Phil and i talked a lot last week, and to be honest, i teared up more than once. We talked about how i can’t be who i am, do what i do, if i’m not at my best. And i haven’t been at my best.
To be at your best, you need to take care of yourself. When you’re on a plane and they give the safety briefing, they say to put the oxygen mask on before you help you someone who may have trouble doing it, children or whoever. It’s because YOU need to be able to function to help THEM.
Being a partner, parent, Dom or sub, it’s all the same. i’ve heard it said that “You can’t pour from an empty cup” and it's true.
So i’m working at “self care.” It’s a phrase that’s tossed around frequently, and sounds kind of self serving. Phil asked me to look it up, what is “self care.” Here is what i found:
Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it's a simple concept in theory, it's something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.
What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn't - Psych Central
Frankly, i have been very bad at doing this; i am bad at doing this. Oh sure, we go every week to the farmers market, and we hit up the Saturday markets that show up. We do these things together. But, as He pointed out, i haven’t done much, just for me lately. He says He shares some fault in this. He’s been needing me a little more lately with His vision issues, i have to do all the driving dusk to dawn now, as well as help Him read some things. But, i’m also guilty of not asking for time. There have been several invites from my friends that i have just said “No, I can’t go this time.” He was not at all pleased to find out about that! (Facebook ratted me out!)
i’ve been told that this behavior needs to stop. At the very least, i need let Him know that i’ve been asked to do something, to go over for game night, or out for dinner.
i went out Saturday night with a group of girlfriends, just dinner, nothing fancy, and had a great time, once i relaxed, lol! And Sunday, i felt much better for it. He was right. Of course.
He’s going to help me get back to myself, because that’s what He does. He cares for me.
So, i’ve been told that i need to start finding time to take care of me. At this point, i’m not sure what that looks like.
How do you self-care? What are the things you do for you to take care of yourself? i’m open for suggestions, and i thank you for being part of the conversation.
i edited this myself, any errors are mine
A friend of mine posted the various flags of the LGBTQWTF alphabet soup idiocy. There's the good old reliable Pride flag that everybody used to like colorful with its rainbow of colors. Then there were flags for lesbians, bisexuals, transsexuals, asexuals, pansexuals and WTF-else-sexuals. Why do we need or want this Balkanization?
The first symbol I ever saw of the gay movement was the pink triangle. It dates back to the Holocaust. It was the symbol the Nazis put on gay people in the death camps where they were sent to be raped and worked to death. Researchers think between four hundred thousand and half a million GLBT people died in those camps alongside Jews, gypsies and other undesirables of Hitler's Reich.
Not long after the Holocaust there was another, quiet holocaust against GLBT people. It was perpetrated by medical doctors looking to "cure" gay people. It took the form of lobotomies and electroshock therapy. It cured sexual deviance by destroying the person.
We have forgotten that the Gay Movement was not started because of a bar riot in Greenwich Village. It was started by people who merely wanted to survive.
That puts the circus that Pride has become in some perspective.
Hello old friend.
It's just you and me now.
They are all gone, but their words repeat unending.
I hear their words, but they're long gone.
I don't care, I love him, I cant stay, you're uncaring, you're worthless, you're unlovable.
Hello old friend.
I have my plastic smile in.
Their shades haunt my days and torment my nights.
If you smile while you cut all ties they dont notice.
You're alone, you're unknown, you're unremarkable, they don't see, they don't hear, they don't care.
Goodbye old friend.
The clock stopped, and no more alarms.
Each day a new pain, a new scar, a little death.
I curl up on your tombstone now.
Who is the frail figure? What does he want? Where are his friends? Why is he alone? How did he become this?
Goodbye old friend.
I stand here one last time.
There are no tears or hugs for me. There is no warmth in this cold December. There is only hard acceptance in the end.
Finished chemo on May 23. Had my follow up and all the extra tests. No sign of cancer. My hair is growing back....it did change color - sort of. My hair was very fine before chemo, it’s even finer now. So fine it appears colorless. Hopefully this is short lived.
My supervisor at work thought I breezed through chemo, until the last two treatments. I guess I’m good at hiding fatigue, weakness and burning pain. For a while I thought I would have to quit teaching because I would forget the topic in mid-sentence. My students made a game of it, trying to be the first to jog my memory or come up with the word I’m describing.
I’m working with a physical/occupational oncology therapist. This is not fun. The therapist says my nerves are a bit mixed up and slow in sending signals. I believe it, the other day the cat clawed me, I couldn’t feel his tail under my foot. For the last month shoes and socks felt like someone was driving nails into my toes. It’s still uncomfortable to wear shoes, but not painful. I still tire easily but I’m getting more energy back. So recovery is slow, but I’m shuffling along and taking frequent breaks.
Therapy. Counseling. Mental health. Talking doctor.
Whatever your choice word for it, that seems to be where I've landed. BEFORE THE PANIC SETS IN, I'M FINE. Well... that's a relative term, but there's no need to worry about me. I've been feeling depressed and uncertain about my future for a long time now, and it's getting in the way of my work.
It's not what I thought it would be. For one thing, I don't come close to fitting on the damned couch. My person seems to like cognitive behaviour therapy. They're challenging me. Making me articulate what I believe, where those beliefs came from and how they affect my life in subtle and not so subtle ways. I don't know what I'm supposed to feel after sessions, though I'm going to guess that having sore legs is not typical.
I don't like feeling so exposed. It's good for me to think about the things they're having me think about, but the way they stare at me... I feel like a science project run amok. They look at me the way I look at a particularly dismal essay response, just sitting there studying it, trying to figure out what to do with it. It's been very superficial so far, we're still establishing who we both are in the process and nobody seems interested in delving too deeply into my childhood, which is a kindness.
I do think I chose well. My person has a similar background to me, at least in some ways. I confess I don't know them overly well yet, but we both have sports and being LGBTQ in common, so I can talk about those sorts of things much more freely than I otherwise would. More to the point, I don't have to explain things about my athletics frustrations because they get it, they've been there and can talk to me about those same issues from my own perspective instead of just a counselor's perspective, which can feel patronizing at times.
It's only been a couple of sessions, but it seems to be helping? I have some more motivation to do things that I need to do for work and for school. I'm not lapsing into melancholy each night and questioning everything I do. I still have a LOT to work through though, and it's nice to have someone who can help me work through things.
Anyways, that's me. I guess this is my new project now, fixing myself. Yay me.
Almost a year ago, I met someone, older than me, with whom it turned out we shared some things in common. We both knew the same city where he had grown up, we both had a desire to write. He had already written a number of stories and books, but was no longer writing. I had practically not even started.
There was a unity and empathy between us. Unexpectedly, he gave me a tablet, which he said he no longer had any use for, and with that tablet a draft of a story. A story that he would never write, but which he said I could use. I should not mention his name, this was the only condition.
So I began writing his story, but, of course, I elaborated, invented, and imagined, although I also checked out a few facts on the net. The story in not finished, I’m not sure where or when it will finish?
This type of writing, I discovered, has a genre all of its own, a fictionalised biography. A person's life story based partly on fact and enhanced by the author's imagination. Materials are freely invented, scenes and conversations are imagined; the writing depends almost entirely upon secondary sources and cursory research.
Initially, the story was rejected and criticised by a number of people. Something which set me back. How was I to continue writing in the face of several negative comments? Was it my inexperience? My style? What would be the point of writing a book that no one would publish? Nevertheless, I was confident I could write and set out to prove my worth with two other stories. Thus, I ended up writing three totally different books.
I had no idea what or how to title the draft story I’d been given, and which I was turning into a fictionalised biography. Until I happened upon a definition in the Urban Dictionary: Camp echo - a place where people find their BFF’s, Best Friend’s Forever. When you go to camp echo your dreams and goals are high. Cabin secrets, fun, and more fill your summer for seven weeks. Camp echo is the best place in the world.
Camp echo is the most beautiful place on earth. With tall trees, an open lake, huge fields and one big family. At camp echo the campers come and stay, never wanting to leave. The tears will flow and you never want to let go of the best seven weeks of your life. With inside jokes and memories, there’s never a day wasted. There’s a true magic about camp echo. The bonds you make will last a lifetime. Eagles fly.
The title struck a chord with me, although it was not going to be a story about a summer camp, it embodied all those emotions and experiences. Meeting people, dreams, goals, and discovery. There was an element of life at play. It was not my life, and not the reader’s, but surely anyone would recognise it was real.
The summary I wrote and re-wrote, to introduce the story and tell readers what it was about, probably fails to do it justice. My writing probably fails to do it justice. But it’s a great story. It deserves to be told. Fictionalised or not, it is someone's life.
Finding the pub was easy. You wouldn’t even need to know the name, but he did. Jonathan had specified the time and place. The crowd of early evening drinkers spread outside onto the pavement. Under any other circumstances Max would have ignored them and walked on by. But he very much wanted to meet Jonathan, he was banking on getting invited back. Jonathan said the pub was near to where he lived. Max squeezed his way through the crowd as one or two heads turned his way, but he was mostly ignored. Still he was careful not to bump anyone or spill anyone’s drink. He thought about Reuben as he found the front door and went inside, it seemed distinctly full of leather men. Somewhat daunting, but he was a boy with a mission.
Once I found somewhere I could self-publish, I’d been rejected by every site I’d submitted the story to, I uploaded, with trepidation, the first chapter. The choice is limited for self-publishing gay writing, Nifty and Gay Authors, I started posting this story on the latter site. Slowly, as the chapters got posted, I picked up a handful of followers, some likes, and best of all one person who wrote chapter comments.
“I liked the way that, in spite of the fact that it was nearly all dialogue, we managed to get to know so many different characters.
“The drug bust brought back a personal memory of being searched for drugs as a student back in the late 60's.
“And have I remembered to say how much I am loving this story?”
Those comments were invaluable, and the support of this one person had a huge impact on my nascent writing career. I started to write my own book and this wonderful person agreed to read, comment and edit, what in effect was my first online story, now finished. Perseverance, combined with what is a completely different type of story, allowed me to find an online publisher. Now that first novel is about to be published online.
I have not forgotten Camp Echo, and with one shortly to be published novel under my belt, I have once again turned my attention to this story. My only dilemma is, what do I do when the draft story outline and notes I inherited reach an end? I have thought about paying my retired writer friend a visit, and if he were willing, to interview him about what happened next. However, I am neither certain that he would be willing or that that is a good course of action. Like the camp echo definition which describes seven weeks of summer as the timeframe during which everything happens, perhaps this should be the life cameo I was given, and end quite simply where it ends?
Some time ago I became seriously ill. With seriously, I mean getting close to meeting Azrael personally, at least three times. With a white blood cell count considered extremely high even for the type of illness I had, the resulting stroke, hemiplegia, pneumonia, and cerebral edema, to be able to walk and talk again almost like before, I have to count myself lucky.
What I learned: Life as you know it can be over in a blink of a moment. In theory, I knew this, but suddenly being confronted with the actual fact, brought it really home.
Today, I rather do what brings joy to me and mine. I prefer spending time with friends and leave when I’m not wanted. This doesn’t mean I don’t speak up when I feel it is needed.
I was personally invited to partake in something that was meant to be a reminder of the consequences of hate and marginalization.
Finding out my poem has been ignored has hurt, I give you that. So much so, my initial reaction was a hissy fit and the strong urge to leave in a huff, LOL. I’m over being stupid now. I was reminded I still have a series to finish, friends to talk to, stories and poems to read and such. Thank you for that.
Ok, so you all may remember an article that I did on exposition in your fiction a few months back...but I'd like to go a little bit more in depth when it comes to finding ways to create and finesse that exposition, how it works, and why it works.
Basically, it's the art of writing without writing. It's the craft of being able to paint a vivid picture in the minds of your readers to deliver a message without having to write it out for them. There are certain techniques that you can use to accomplish this, but in order to truly understand how and why they work, you have to realize how you're doing exactly the same thing on a daily basis. Once you're able to realize that...the rest will come naturally.
So, ladies and gentlemen...welcome to 'Exposition, Round Two!
Take a moment, and think about the people who might cross your path every day when you leave the house. When you go to work, go to school, go out shopping, whatever. Think about how much real life exposition is being fed to you without a single one of these strangers saying a word. Maybe you see a guy who you think might be a car mechanic. Why? Is it because he walked up to you and said, "Hi, I am a car mechanic"? I would certainly hope not. If he does, ummm...cross the street. Hehehe! But think about it. Maybe he's wearing a wife beater t-shirt with some oil stains on it. Maybe his hands look as though they've been digging around an engine all morning. Maybe he's got an oily rag hanging out of his back pocket. There are things about his look, and his actions, and the materials he's carrying with him, that would give you that impression. That doesn't mean it's the RIGHT impression, as looks can be deceiving (He might be a high priced lawyer who likes to work on his Mustang on his off days s a hobby)...but these are things that are familiar enough to you to paint a picture. Your mind is doing this all day. Maybe you see someone with a cardboard sign saying he'll work for food, maybe there's a lady wearing a 500 dollar pair of sunglasses and a bright red dress walking with a briefcase and talking on her cell phone, or maybe you see someone with a red nose whose sniffling and constantly reaching into her coat pocket for another balled up wad of tissue. Think about all of the times you looked to see if someone was wearing a wedding ring, or the times you saw a soldier in uniform, or noticed a kid with a black eye. All of these visual clues are telling you a story about who these people are and what's going on with their lives at that particular moment...without having them say a word. It's describing these visual cues and actions in your writing that can help you get around a lot of exposition when you're feeling stuck and can't see another way out. Take in those details, and think about how you would describe this person, this situation, this environment, to someone else...and get them to draw the same conclusions that you did. It helps when you realize what you're looking for.
Sometimes I have to babysit my younger cousins, and I'll walk into a room...and suddenly they sit straight up and look at me wide eyed without saying a word. Hehehe, it's immediately like, "Ok, you either saw something, broke something, or spilled something, so fess up!" The fact that they're being angelically quiet conveys a whole LOT of information in a very short amount of time. Now, does that mean that they actually did anything wrong? No. But I can safely assume that something is off about their behavior. It's behavior that's familiar enough that pretty much anybody walking into that room would come to the same conclusion.
When you're writing, I feel that it's important to visualize every moment of every scene. What's going on? What's the tone? How do they look? What are they doing? You can add those details to your scene to deliver the same information that you want to deliver, but without having it come off as boring or awkward. I had an art teacher once who told me that when you draw a triangle on a piece of paper...the triangle doesn't exist. You draw three connecting lines, sure...but the triangle itself is an illusion. It's simply the empty space being brought out by the lines surrounding it. Exposition can be delivered the same way. By describing the surrounding factors with visuals and dialogue, you can avoid a lot of "Hi, I am a mechanic" moments in your story.
As a writer, it's your duty to set the stage and sync it up with certain connections that your readers can recognize and follow. Let's say you have a character who's a drag queen, and performs at a nightclub on Saturday nights. Now you can start your story off with a long explanation of your character's backstory, and how they knew they liked drag, and when they started working in the club, and "Oh, by the way, my name is Harry." if you wanted to. There's nothing wrong with that. OR...you could start your story with your protagonist fitting a wig on his head and fixing his make up...there's a knock at the door. The boss walks in and says, "Let's go, Harry! The club is packed tonight, even for a Saturday! You're going on in two minutes!" Your readers now know that it's a man in drag, his name is Harry, he's a performer, and he works at a club on Saturdays. Takes, like...three sentences and a line of dialogue, tops. And it's a bit more engaging than having to read Harry's life story before getting to the actual focus of the scene. Instead of your audience reading a history lesson...you're bringing them into your world right away. Hopefully in a manner that will come off as interesting and intriguing.
Now I, personally, write most of my stories in the first person. So I can deliver a great deal of exposition through the inner thoughts of my main characters and bring my readers along with me. However, when it comes to all of the other characters in my story, their thoughts, feelings, and motivations have to be relayed through observation. My protagonist doesn't get to be a mind reader (Except for that one story where the protagonist is a mind reader! Hehehe!), so I have to describe anger, attraction, heartbreak, shyness, from outside the source. And it would be easy in some parts to simply write down what needs to be said and be done with it. I won't say that I've never done it, and won't do it again, but I try to avoid taking the easy way out more often than not.
Down below is the very first paragraph of a short story that I wrote called, "The Kissing Game". It was one of those little innocent/not-so-innocent Daydream Shorts that was just meant to capture one small moment in time. They're supposed to be quick and to the point, so there's not a whole lot of room for backstory and character development here. They have to feel real, and they have to be able to connect to readers right away. So exposition was given in a way that sets the stage, but a lot of the details are merely implied. Even if the readers don't realize how much and how little information was actually given.Quote
Every time I asked my friend, Jared, why we were doing this, his answer was always, "Because…it's 'practice', Tommy. You know, for the real thing. We're going to high school this fall. That's, like…real school, you know? We don't want to go out there and get ourselves a couple of cute girlfriends, just to end up looking like we don't know what we're doing. Girls talk! Their gossip will ruin us forever."
Now, what does this short paragraph actually tell you as a reader?
- The main character and the love interest are friends.
- The main character's name is Tommy, and the love interest's name is Jared.
- They are 'doing something' together for practice.
- They're going to high school for the first time in the Fall. That makes them about 13 to 14 years of age.
- Jared is obviously straight, and is looking to get a girlfriend and high school status. Also...he mentions getting 'ourselves' a couple of girlfriends...so chances are that he doesn't know his friend Tommy is gay.
That set the stage, the audience is locked in, ready to go. Boom. Done.
Now...what doesn't that first paragraph say? How long have they been friends? Did they grow up together? Did they meet two weeks ago? When did they start kissing each other? Does Jared live next door? Across the street? Across town? Is there a parent in the house at the moment? Did they lock the door? Is Jared really straight, or is it just an excuse to make out with his friend? Where are they? The city? The suburbs? Summer camp? The beach? The park? Is it Summer time? Spring break? A snow covered day in January? Who knows? None of that stuff is mentioned. Nor does it need to be. It's not important to the story in the least, so why even go into all of that?
A good strategy for writing exposition is figuring out what is, and what isn't important. Exposition is the art of answering a question that wasn't asked. So if your readers don't need to know certain details about a scene or a character, and it isn't going to have any further impact on the story later on...cut it out. Trim it down, and let your readers fill that part in for themselves. I'm willing to bet that a majority of my readers saw those first few sentences and pictured two boys, long time best friends, in a bedroom when their parents weren't home, possibly over Summer break, close to going back to school, in the early afternoon. The thing is, if you read it again, I didn't give out any of that information in the first paragraph. This could be current, or it could be placed in the 80's, or the 90's, or a post apocalyptic world being rebuilt by society to get back to normal. Hehehe, but unless those extra details are directly needed for me to tell the story I'm trying to tell, there's no reason for that extra detail to be there.
In the story, "A Class By Himself", the main character's mother works in a diner. She's a waitress. I displayed that by having her work long hours, standing on her feet, coming home exhausted, bringing food home in plastic cartons, falling asleep on the couch...and it's a part of her character. Not only that, but her character is an important part of the story as a whole. The fact that she's a waitress, barely makes enough money to make ends meet, and likes to cook, is also a big part of the story. So those details were given and occasionally reintroduced to the reader as needed.
Now, compare this to the mother in "The Secret Life Of Billy Chase". She works for a living too, right? She's doing something to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. So, after reading 450 chapters of the story...tell me...what, exactly, does Billy's mom do?
Hehehe! Crazy, right? I don't even know what she does for a living! If I ever bothered to mention it, then I forgot. LOL! The point is, it's not important. It doesn't play into the rest of the story, so that bit of exposition isn't needed. Maybe she's a nurse, maybe she's a corporate defense lawyer, maybe she's a professional female WRESTLER! Hehehe, but it doesn't add anything to the other parts of the story, so it doesn't have to be said. Sometimes she's at home, sometimes she's not...and the reason is ‘work'. Done. The readers can fill in the rest on their own. And chances are, they don't care.
If your main character works in an office….what kind of office? Doesn't matter. An office. In your reader's minds, they will probably think of cubicles and paperwork and copy machines and water coolers...and that's all they need to know. Does he work on payroll? Accounting? Does he balance budgets? Does he work customer service? Doesn't matter. He works in an office. Done. Now...if he happens to be an accountant, and he finds out that a great deal of funds are being used to hire contract killers in foreign countries...and that's what your STORY is about? Well, then you might need to be a bit more specific. But if it's just a passing detail to round out your character, then mention it vaguely and let it pass. At least that's how I would handle it.
Now, one last thing before I wrap this up...
To make things a bit more visual, this is a short horror film that I found on Youtube. It's a fun little flick to give you the creeps, but I want you to pay attention to what information is being delivered to you from the very first shot, and through the first two minutes or so of dialogue. Look at the surroundings, listen to what's being said, and see what is actually being told to you...and what isn't...but you sort of fill in the blanks regardless.
Your readers are probably doing the same things when they read your work.
So...watching that, what do you think was told do you? And what do you think you made up on your own? Spend some time to meditate on it if you like.
The very first thing that you see on the screen is a cardboard box with the words 'Toby's Room' on it. Immediately, you can assume that this mother and son are moving into a brand new house. And he's probably not used to sleeping in a big room by himself, so he's a little scared by the idea. Also, he says that he misses his dad...to which his mom quietly says that she does too. Which would cause me to assume that there was a death or an accident of some sort. Either way, we've established that 'Dad' isn't around. A lot of information seems to be given to the audience right away, and you kind of go along with it. Because we know how movies work, and the exposition is being quickly given to us by showing us a situation that feels familiar.
However, and I'll go into more detail about this on my 'Plot Twists' article later on...a lot of my assumptions about this short film are more illusion than direct information. And if you play around with that illusion a bit, you can really shock your readers by subverting their expectations. Playing mind games with what they thought they knew, as opposed to what you were really telling them. Hehehe!
For example...is that little boy really 'Toby'? I saw a box with the name Toby on it, and I made an assumption...but if I wanted to throw a monkey wrench in the works, readers might find out that this boy isn't Toby at all, and 'Toby' is another little boy tied up in the basement somewhere, because this boy and his mother burst into their house and took over! LOL! He's never referred to as Toby once in the whole film. Not by name. But...in my head, that's what I was thinking. Imagine if it was all a nightmare, and the mother kisses the boy goodnight, saying, "Goodnight, Carl." And then goes down in the basement where you see a mother and her son, bound and gagged by the furnace. "Goodnight, 'Toby'." That would be cool!
Did his father die? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he was shipped off to war. Maybe he got caught banging a leather clad bear from the 'Manhole' club! Maybe he got relocated to another dimension to work with Billy Chase's mom! Who knows? But...did I NEED to know? Nope! Not important. Not for this particular story. I was given just enough information to make the appropriate assumptions, and that's all that needed to be said.
The director had eight minutes to make a movie. The dad's history? Not important. The reason they moved? Not important. Who is the Number Man? What's with the rhyme at the beginning? What's with the numbers on his chest? Is he supernatural? Is he a figment of the boy's imagination? Is he an escaped mental patient? Doesn't matter. It has nothing to do with the story this very short film had to tell. And anything that was left out? My mind filled it in anyway. So it's a win, in my opinion.
So when it comes to exposition in your stories, try to find clever ways to deliver the information needed for your reader to get a sense of what's going on...but ONLY the information needed. Trim the fat, and have faith that your audience is doing a lot of the work with you. Their imagination is carrying half the load. You can avoid a lot of exposition when you practice with this idea, and spend your energy enhancing the details that do need to be given. In a future article, I'll get more into how you can use your readers' own assumptions against them to turn the whole story upside down! Hehehe!
But, until then...as always, I hope this helps! And happy writing!
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A surprising thing I've come to realize, which shouldn't be surprising, is that a lot of my anxiety and depression is not actually anxiety and depression. I will not say I am not anxious or depressed. Going outside of my house, talking to people, trying to interact in a normal way is a source of constant anxiety. I've always had an uneasy feeling about other people when dealing with them face to face. I don't like it. It opens me to allowing another person to stare at me, judge me, form an opinion of me, and possibly reject me.
With that in mind, I've come to think that a lot of these emotions I feel that sometimes people pressure me to seek professional help for are not actually the emotions that are the real problem. I constantly analyze everything around me as well as within me. Following that train of thought leads me to believe that most of my problems in my emotional regulation of myself are not anxiety and depression. They are anger and frustration.
I don't voice these things because it sounds like a pity party. Why did this happen to me? What did I do to hurt someone else so badly that I deserve what has happened to me, as if there is some cosmic being doling out punishment based on my deeds? Why does he or she or they not listen to me, why don't they understand, why do I even have to try to make them understand? Because they SHOULD understand. Why is it that people tend to leave me or I tend to leave them?
As any person with half a brain would do, I think about this in terms of well, if you have a problem, learn from it. Figure out the pattern, figure out the mistakes, figure out how to move forward knowing what to do better. I get frustrated and angry a lot. It can be anything, but it's usually related to my interpersonal relationships, and the way other people see me.
It shows up in strange ways. The other day at work I was working overtime, which I was already annoyed about, because at the same time I had a million things on my mind. Primarily that my kidneys might be failing because my legs and ankles decided to swell like crazy, and I was already consigning myself to death. Turns out it was the medication I was taking, and it felt like someone dropped a bag of concrete onto my legs, ankles, and feet, and still feels that way (though most of the swelling is gone). But that fear caused me to be frustrated, angry, annoyed. I thought to myself that it is insane that I am sitting at a desk pretending this is a normal moment when I could be going through the last moments of my life due to organ failure and I will never go on dialysis again, ever, so it was the real death moment in my mind.
And I got PISSED. I was so angry that my life is held hostage by me working and keeping my insurance and keeping up with things that seem insignificant in comparison to "remember the last time you almost died, remember how that happened, remember how you remembered everything one moment and then the next moment you woke up a month later and they had to give you a new organ? Remember that shit? REMEMBER IT?! Why the fuck are you sitting here apologizing to crazy random stranger for something that was not your fault, when you might be dying?!"
Frustration hits. The voices in my head keep telling me "hospital, hospital, hospital, you're dying, right now, if you don't go now they'll tell you it was your own fault you're dying later, but the hospital is a horrible place so only go there if you really are dying. Are you dying? Fuck if I know." Which makes me want to call out of work and just go because while I am so ready to just call it quits I'm not REALLY quite ready. I haven't lost all hope of everything quite yet. It's a strange place to be. It's like a conversation with death saying kill me, but not yet. Kill me now, but not really right now. It hurts, but not enough I want to quit. I want to quit, but I don't.
All the while, I have a customer taking me forty-five minutes past my overtime shift. Why? Because of something that was not my fault or the customer's fault. It was an epic fuckup of doom I was dealing with that two managers didn't know how to fix and they brushed aside what was going on because they couldn't fix it, and being me I was like oh hell now, I'm pissed now, let's SOLVE THIS MOTHERFUCKER. Which it did get solved. Btw, for your comparison, usually I can get a customer on and off my phone in two to three minutes total. But I was not about to let that go once I got my teeth in it, I was like NO, this is bullshit, I am dying here and you give me this, you give me THIS?!
And I realized, that anger and frustration are bad, bad things that have no place in the world, just like shame and guilt. I was more incensed because of the synergestic effect there. I was pissed, my customer was pissed, and together we turned into one pissed off frustrated freight train that was going to solve this goddamn problem. I started being snappish at no one, because in my line of work you can't snap. You have to be calm, collected, cool, reasonable, reassuring. But he heard the cracks in my facade easy.
You ever started working on something for someone and got so pissed off about the roadblocks that they start losing their anger because yours overshadows theirs? That's what happened. I was ready to fight. I was completely prepared to snip someone down to half their height if they dared cut off my path to a fix for this person, because I'll be damned if I stayed 45 minutes after work to lose. Heads up, if your pissed off customer tells you to calm down, that should be an eye opener.
So I thought about why I reacted so strongly. What made me get to that point of unyielding rage that I was going to make something happen no matter who stood in my way? And as stupid as it fucking sounds, as inane and simple and absolutely unbelievable it came down to the AA saying HALT. I was hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. All at once. And I didn't tell myself to try to find a way to make the situation more bearable, more tolerable, more normal. I flew straight to crazy town.
Now, I have decided I will implement some things, and no matter what anyone else says or does, I will use these. And if work or anyone else has a problem with that, then they can take it up with me by submitting it in writing and giving me about three weeks to respond so I don't say something snappy and mean.
Which brings me to the first thing. Wait. Just wait. Don't say or do that. Just wait. And that wait can feel interminable, but it is worth it. Count to ten, recite a poem in your head, take a deep breath, do a mundane task like counting backwards by sevens, and if you can take your focus off for a moment that lash out moment will pass. It also gives you time to think about the second thing.
Jokes. Fucking jokes. Just don't look at it like a life or death, don't look at it as a personal attack, don't look at it as THIS NEEDS DOING NOW AND WE HAVE TO BE SERIOUS. No, we fucking don't. Things can wait. And things can definitely wait if there is even a small smile to be coaxed out of a situation. The world needs more people smiling and laughing instead of yelling and screaming. There is no point in going to war over a situation that can be laughed at. Furthermore, humor inspires camaraderie with those you are trying to engage, so why not use it? We can al act pissed off, but it takes effort to turn a situation on its head and laugh at it.
Third, abandon your high principles. Nobody fucking cares. Don't move contrary to your values, but don't stand on PRINCIPLE. That is a fool's errand, and a great way to get knocked off your high horse. Speak your truth calmly and quietly, and do not allow yourself to respond to attacks in kind. Don't get mired down into an argument over what is right or wrong, but focus on what is BEST. The path of least resistance is usually a good one, and if modified a tiny bit, can allow you to hold your values while passing through. And by no means am I saying keep your head down and ignore injustice when it rears its head, but I am saying that you can pick your fights while making your opinion known in a productive manner.
Fourth, and this is the most difficult for me; be kind to yourself. How can I expect everyone around me to respond to me with anything other than derision when that's all I hold for myself? The same judgment I hold for myself when turned outward suddenly becomes so much more hospitable, caring, genuine, concerned. It makes no sense that I rub my own nose in my mistakes when I'm so willing to forgive them in others.
Fifth, quit deleting what you want to say. Quit doing that. JUST STOP. That leads to frustration and anger, Jamie, so say what the fuck you mean to say in a way that isn't totally offensive and gives other people at least a chance to like or dislike you. Quit wanting to say something and stopping. Quit typing a text and erasing it. Quit doing things up until the moment you could be rejected. Believe people are also people just like you, that they feel the way you do, that they want the things you do. Okay that last one is more about the anxiety, but still, as I said, it leads to the frustration and anger.
Well, I've had enough of telling myself what to do by typing it out. Things have been grim. Finances are tight, I live alone now, I don't really know what my next move is. Which is a source of frustration because usually in the past I've had a plan. The plan usually involved a boy. Well, at the moment, I don't feel equipped to deal with any relationships. I want one. Not gonna lie, these past months, three relationships totally destroyed (albeit for good reason), so it feels like nothing will ever be worth fighting for again. Lemme clarify.
I don't ever fight for myself. I just don't. I have a weird variant of social anxiety disorder that allows me to find a person I like and fight for them. Ask me to go to the doctor by myself and I can find all sorts of reasons why I don't need to do that, why I can't do that, why I won't do that. Give me another person who needs a doctor and I would carry them, despite my crippled ass, and I would make sure they were taken care of. I need the motive, I need the all encompassing flaming passion that this person is important to me and I will do this thing I don't want to do because they need me to do it. I've done it a million times before. In fact, I think I might have an issue because I love doing that, I love seeing other people happy as a result of my actions. It is what makes life worth living to me.
And before you get all weird and say "Jamie, that's the wrong reason to live for!" Yeah I know, but, sometimes life makes us the way we are and all we can do is work with what we're given. I like to think of myself as someone who augments. Put me with the right person and I will raise them up into whatever heights they seek, and I will make sure they fly high, straight, and true. Just ask my ex, he's waaaaay better than when I met him, and I still worry about him even though we may not be talking lately and that might be my fault or it might be his fault (it's his fault, just in case you were wondering, and I hope that the bastard he's with dies in a horrible fiery car crash of doom because that fucker was mean to me but hahahahahahaha just joking cause humor is supposed to be an antidote to anger). That's enough purpose for me right now. I don't need to be great. I just need to find people who can benefit from me and I from them. Sometimes I feel as if that means I'm broken.
Yes, me feeling like I need other people makes me feel like I am broken. The great secret of my generation is that everyone needs other people, but we just pretend like we don't. I don't have to be at the forefront, I don't like the attention or acclaim of many. I think of all the interactions I've had and I come to this conclusion. I don't need to be great.
I just want to be kept.
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