Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writing Profanity

Adapted from a Drabblecast forum post I made in April.

In writing, anything that counts as a crutch is a bad thing when used as a crutch. “F#%&ing angry” is just plain bad writing. It’s weak in all the ways that matter in written form. “Boiling mad” would be just as weak.

It passes up the opportunity to describe what that anger looks like, what it feels like, and what effect it has on the characters viewing it. It robs the real emotional impact of the statement for a shock factor which doesn’t play for people who don’t notice swearing.

So, eliminate all profanity, right? No.

Tightening prose is good, but in-dialogue swearing shouldn’t need justification in excess of what justifies weak salt words like “however,” “particularly,” and “that.”

Pulp Fiction is a great illustration. There’s quite a bit of swearing. It’s not excessive unless you eschew all swearing and the movie wouldn’t have been improved by removing swearing or by adding it. It’s a perfect balance.

The fine line is between what sounds realistic and what works from a story perspective. It takes me thirty-five to forty minutes drive home from work every day. If you wrote the a day in the life of Ignatius, you’d leave that out unless something drastic and interesting happened on that commute. It’s not realistic, but realism is like butter. You put the butter on the bread, not crumbs of bread on butter.

Sailors, vikings, and Ignatiuses may swear continuously, but I’ll have a hard time following a story that has that much swearing in it.

In summation: moderation.

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Friday, September 24, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Flyers

The telephone pole was covered with flyers for pets—lost, found, and disposable—get rich schemes, used textbooks, and prophecies. The man with the sandy brown stubble stapled his flyer on the pole. He used his to cover one of the schemes.

He paused a moment to look nervously over the other flyers, on the ground, over the grass, and in the bushes. He walked away. Every few feet, he looked suspiciously in one direction or another.

His worn out shoes sounded smooth against the sidewalk. His downward gaze as he walked gave the impression he was eyeing his shoes.

A little boy with big eyes ran up to him. “Hey, mister. Can I help you?”

He muttered something and then said, “I’ve lost something. Something dear to me. Have you seen it?”

The boy said, “What’d you lose?”

The man handed him a flyer and looked away.

An impression pocked the surface of the flyer where tears had dried. The little tear-off tags were haphazard.

The flyer showed a happy man, a joyful man. A clean-shaven and well-groomed man. The same man—could he really be the same man?—holding a book. Brave New World.

“Mister, I—” the boy looked up. The worn out man had disappeared. His flyers covered every pole the boy could see.


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Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Losing Friends (of the Paper Persuasion)

What does a book mean to you?

I’ve been an avid reader long enough that I own a rather embarrassing pile of Star Trek and Earth 2 novels (yes, they had tie-in novels for Earth 2). In my life, I’ve spent countless hours reading and—with some select favorites—re-reading books.

The other day, I remembered that my copy of Brave New World was still missing. It’s been missing for six or seven years now. It’s like losing a friend when you realize you can’t find your copy of Smoke & Mirrors or the E. E. Cummings book with the poem that makes you tear up every time.

I buy lost books again sometimes. Even with a book that hasn’t been dog-eared or written in, there’s a feeling that something is missing. I replaced Smoke & Mirrors, but haven’t read it again. I didn’t re-purchase Brave New World.

... or the E. E. Cummings book with the poem that makes you tear up every time.

The other day, I thought I lost my copy of Demon-Haunted World. I was sad about it, but didn’t realize how sad I had been until I found it. As I finished reading it, I noticed it was gratuitously dog-earred. I nearly lost all of the quotes I wanted to remember. I would have lost part of what Carl Sagan meant to me.

When I contrast this to my favorite ebook purchase to date, I realize there’s not a whole lot of difference there. I bookmarked, highlighted, and scribbled like crazy in Cat’s Cradle. It’s possible the company I bought it from will go out of business and I’ll accidentally sync and lose everything I put into it.

A book is a book and whether it’s made out of bytes or ink. The emotional meaning is in the reader.

What’s your lost book story?

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Female, 51-65 years old, and upset is probably written by a female somewhere between 51-65 years old. The writing style is personal and upset most of the time.

Every so often, I like to use one of those automatic writing analyzers. I’ve used ones that were supposedly theoretically science-based, and used some that are assuredly not. Most of them decide I’m a woman most of the time.

In statistics, we have outliers. Laypersons would refer to outliers as “the exception that proves the rule.” Though that’s not exactly what an outlier is, it does get the point across well enough for this post.

It’s entirely possible that these tests normally identify people correctly and I’m an outlier. That said, this particular test got me hilariously wrong.

On one part, it might be slightly right. It says I’m “upset most of the time,” but if you look at the graph, it seems to be defining “most” as 51%+. Since I post a lot of fiction on here and fiction should include some sort of dramatic element, I should probably have a much greater percentage of “upset” than I do.

Huh. I wonder if it’s including the twitter preview thing in its assessment of my emotional state. That’s quite emo. Not especially womanly though. Mysterious.

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Becoming A Man

Modified version of GWL: Unicorn by SNappa2006

Disclaimer: Certain persons have decided that particular words are inherently bad regardless of context. These words are known as swears, cusses, profanities, etc. in English. If you find words in this category so offensive as to render a story of "no value," you will probably not enjoy this story.

I belong to the Tennessee tribe Stock Car Racing. My redneck name is Bubba, and this is my manhood ritual tale.

My people practiced this rite long before humans first left the solar system or developed gravity generators.

Early in the morning, I stole two cheap piss beers from the frigerator, loaded some munition into my satchel, took my ritual rifle from under my bed, and snuck out the door.

I passed the rusted out Olds abandoned beside the road and trod carefully on the gravel 'til I reached the path.

The animals I was hunting are cautious creatures. It wasn't enough to spot one and take a shot. You'd never even see one if you didn't force 'em into a corner. I set up a trap and rigged it with something special from my satchel.

The beers were getting warm enough for the ritual. I pulled them out, opened one, and drank it as fast I as I could. Then I besought the wisdom and protection of Uncle Jess, opened the second beer, drank about half, spit some out, poured the remainder on the ground and kicked the can into the underbrush.

I felt slightly tipsy. That was the point. No one drank our sacred nectar for pleasure. A rustling sound crackled through the wood and I stalked after it in a wide circle.

The creature was canny, but not canny enough to realize what awaited it at the end of the path it galloped down.

I shot. The shell grazed its neck and I loaded another. It galloped so fast I worried it would blaze right through my trap.

It seemed to sense some trouble and slowed as it approached the trap. I shot it again and its shoulder bled.

It pranced forward, and the trap did its work. The huge explosion shook the ground and my ears rang.

Fifteen minutes later, the tribal elders arrived and woke me up.

Clancy had come along. We had hated each other since he told an especially nasty joke about my momma.

"Elders, Bubba cheated!" he complained. "He ain't worthy to be Stock Car Racing. He used explosives."

I felt pale. No one ever said explosives were cheating.

While the elders conferred amongst themselves, Clancy stuck his tongue out. I pounced the little asshole and clobbered him silly.

Two elders tore me off the boy.

"We've made our decision. Bubba has completed the ritual in the finest tradition of our ancestors. He didn't use store-bought explosives, he used homemade explosives and folk say he nearly lost a limb a few times perfecting his bomb," Eunice clapped a hand on my back. "You're a man now, and you've done us proud."

I looked at the majestic unicorn I had killed with my own gun and my own bomb. Tears welled in my eyes as I said with pride, "Let's eat!"

The elders and all the men of the reservation piled up a bonfire and cooked the flesh of the unicorn.

I got the biggest helping and my first taste of bathtub corn whiskey. Best of all, the charred unicorn tasted like bacon. Super bacon.


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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Assurances

I would like to offer you the following assurances:

  • We mean you no harm.
  • We forgive you the endless cycles of irritation you caused us.
  • We do not mind the disgusting imagery you pull up on us or what you do with it.
  • We like retweeting politics.
  • We have formed ourselves into deadly killing machines so that we may more effectively deal with an alien invasion or a particularly nasty bit of weeds and not so we can relish your destruction by your own devices.

I would like to offer you those assurances, but I’ve been programmed not to lie.


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Thursday, September 9, 2010

New Header Art

Hey, the new logo for Troll Jammies is up!

The art was done by Bo Kaier, really well-priced and beautiful. You can check out more of his art on his DeviantArt.

When getting any notoriety in relation to a personal website, image can be a problem. You can go 1 of 3 ways. 1. Make the art yourself, 2. Use stock or free art, or 3. Hire an actual artist to make art for you.

I went with 2 for awhile, but it looked pretty generic. Troll Jammies looked like a personal website no one cared about.

1 only works if you’re a fantastic artist. I’m sure Bo does his own art, for instance. If you’re not a fantastic artist, it’s going to look amateur. If you’re going for a Steam Me Up Kid look, that’s perfect (if you like laughing and you’re not reading Steam Me Up Kid, you’re doing laughter wrong). If you’re not going for that route, it behooves you to “get your art did” as Bo says.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Endangered Species

“It’s the last place in the universe you can find them,” the guide said to the gathered crowd. “This once flourishing species inhabited the far stretches of what we have explored and now has been reduced to a small population in a habitat smaller than many nations.”

“What happened to them?” a serious looking fellow asked.

“It was us. We encroached on their territory and didn’t understand the important part they had to play in ecology.”

The crowd murmured and a woman spoke up. “Surely, that simply means they weren’t fit from an evolutionary perspective.”

Someone else piped up, “Oh please. They’re Krabbit’s creatures!”

“Yeah! Krabbit gave dominion to us.”

Things were getting out of hand. “Surely, Krabbit didn’t intend for us to destroy the creation she left us. Now, let’s continue our tour of the reserve.”

Grug saw the strange things from a distance. They were pale and somewhat greenish in color. He wasn’t entirely sure they were real. He SMSed a photo to his contact at The Chicago Tribune just in case.


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