Why Voice Matters

Back in my photography days, I worked with a start up Not For Profit that wanted to teach photography to the groups least likely to be given the opportunity to learn.My mentor’s most cherished moment was having a student crying, because she’d never thought she’d get to try photography. No one had ever thought to ask this woman if she’d like to try it.

Her photography was stunning.

The participants in the classes absolutely rocked. Their pictures told stories beyond the obvious. They saw the world differently, and looking at their artworks made it easier for me, and many others, to see the world a little differently, too.

Though we sing the praises of the healing power of creativity, we tend to only let it be accessed by the affluent and the able bodied. We assume that disability of any kind means unable, rather than differently able, and a lot of fantastic voices and ideas are lost to that social stupidity.

This year’s Queensland Poetry Festival seems designed to kick the status quo squarely in the balls. The focus is on resilience, and giving space to those who rarely get a look-in at such events. And you know what? It’s glorious to watch it all unfold.

The event I went to today, for example, involved performances by Word On The Street, and Brotherhood of the Wordless.

Word On The Street is a poetic offshoot of The School Of Hard Knocks. The School works to engage, educate, and empower disadvantaged, socially excluded, and marginalised people through a range of creative projects. They kick a lot of ass creatively, and if you ever get a chance to see a performance by any of the School’s programs, do it.

Today’s Word On The Street performers were performing for the first time at a festival, and honestly? You couldn’t tell. These are the sort of heart-breakingly honest, painfully beautiful poems. They weren’t your typical love poems; instead they were raw, utterly spellbinding stories of loss and strife, filled with the sort of hope the world needs so much more of.

The beauty of their work was in the way they found ways to make universal some very specific experiences. I can’t, for example, tell you what it’s like to be so hungry that a piece of chicken from a rubbish bin is a cherished find. But through the artist’s words, it was hard not to relate to those longings, those places in life where desperation and drive come together. It was hard not to think about those moments where our joy looks incredibly different to the joys felt by those around us.

You’ve got to admit, that’s a lot of emotional punch in a poem about a piece of chicken.

*

The Brotherhood, meanwhile, are a group of performance poets who, due to a variety of conditions, can’t speak. At this point, you’d be forgiven for asking how the hell that works. Though the poems are crafted by a non-verbal artist, they’re spoken by a support person (usually a family member of friend).

That is really, really important, y’all.

This isn’t someone speaking for a non-verbal person in the traditional sense (and by that I mean: this isn’t a person deciding what a non-verbal person thinks or feels, and gate-keeping the thoughts and feelings of another human being), but sharing deeply emotive, utterly important work. The speaker is the brush through which the art is shared, not the artist or the artwork.

If you ever get the chance to see the Brotherhood perform, do it. Because here’s the thing: if you’re a teacher, you need to see this. If you work in disability services, you need to see this. If you spend your days caring for people with severe health issues, you need to see this. If you’re a parent with a non-verbal child, my Gods, you need to see this. Why? Because it’s easy to forget in the constant chaos that you’re working with people with hopes, dreams, and ideas to share.

But also? If you’re in love with language and creativity? You need to see this.

Like Word On The Street, the Brotherhood is the good kind of kick in the ass.

As a society, we think that inability to verbalise thoughts equates to an inability to think or relate. And you know what? All the big themes are there in the Brotherhood’s work. Love, longing, hope, and fear. But there’s also humour. There’s creativity. There’s everything that mainstream society fails to see in non-verbal or differently abled people.

The poetry from both groups is heartbreaking, poignant, and intellectual. It cuts through the social BS about what marginalised people are seen as capable of, and points out something it’s far too easy to forget: race, gender, religion, or circumstances, we all share core fears and experiences. We all want to be loved, and we all get scared that we’ll never find someone who sees us as we are and thinks we’re enough. We all want to be valued, and we all want to contribute. And we all want to share our experiences and ideas with those around us.

Both Word On The Street and The Brotherhood value people, and stories, that we don’t often give a lot of attention to. And giving those people the space and time to be heard? It’s so, so important. Not just because they’re entitled to that space and time- because they are. Not just because watching marginalised people unapologetically take to the stage and deliver powerful truths is beautiful to see and utterly vital- because it is.

Creativity, and especially stories, are so, so powerful. They give us a chance to learn and grow in a profound way. They give us a chance to see the world in a new way, and to learn to be better, more compassionate and empathetic creatures. They save us in our darker moments, and they help us to remember that we’re not alone. We need stories that are vulnerable, yes. But we need stories from voices that we don’t often hear from.

We need stories from people who aren’t white, who aren’t male, who aren’t heterosexual, who aren’t able-bodied. We need stories from the disabled, from the homeless, from the mentally ill, from those struggling with addictions.These are voices desperately needed in our world, because everyone deserves to know they’re not alone, and that someone else has experienced and survived similar circumstances.

We believe that fairy tales teach children that dragons can be defeated. But isn’t it just as vital to remind adults that they’re not alone, and that their experiences are valid, and worthy of being shared?

This isn’t about saving people, or patting people on the head and pretending to care. It’s not about extreme misery-lit, and competitive miseries. It’s about remembering that we’re all human, and we’re all worthy of having our stories shared, acknowledged, and respected.

 

Confessions of a Cookbook Loving Ranter

I’m reviewing a lot of cookbooks lately. I’m incredibly okay with this. I have a thing for cookbooks that comes relatively close to rivaling my thing for journals. For something that’s generally short and seemingly easy, recipes are really hard to get right, especially with all the copyright issues around them. With the ever growing number of cooking themed blogs and books out there, it’s always interesting to see what new ideas people can bring to the topic. Like all genres of writing, there are issues at play. And since those issues are currently giving me an eye tic, both as a reviewer and a barely functional home cook, it seems as good a time as any to talk ’em out.

Don’t leave things out.
Seriously, an ingredients list needs to be complete. By this, I mean that literally every edible thing that goes into that freakin’ dish is mentioned in the ingredients list. Don’t tell me half way through the processes that I needed to have salt and pepper, or cold water at a certain temperature, or whatever other random crap you happen to have remembered at that point. Include that bastard in the ingredients list.

That’s the entire freakin’ point of the list of ingredients: it tells me what I need to use to make a dish. It’s your job as the writer of a recipe to have that shit sorted long before I ever lay eyes upon it. Typically, people using a recipe just write out the ingredients list and go shopping or prepping from there. Which means that, unless they’re aware you’ve left things out and are checking over your recipe like a frustrated teacher in marking season, they’re going to miss ingredients. That’s an almighty pain in the ass, and one that doesn’t make the writer look good.

If I have to stop what I’m doing to chill water or make ice- or worse, head out to the shops- I’m not going to be happy, especially if it means having to start the cook all over again. If I have to stop and go grab or prepare something mid way through a cook, I’m hoping every time you bake, it burns. I’m hoping you confuse salt and sugar for the rest of your natural life. If I have to red pen a book to be able to use the recipes in it, I’m wishing you cookery ills like you wouldn’t believe.

Conversely, if it’s in the ingredients list, it needs to be used in the recipe. There’s a surprising number of recipes out there that call for an ingredient that never gets used. If you as the writer have skipped a step, the reader has zero chance of perfectly recreating the dish. And now they’ve got a random ingredient they need to do something with. This is not a good way to look professional, or have people wanting to try more of your recipes.

Keep it freakin’ simple.
This ‘I’m gonna say this recipe has three steps, but each step has, like, 18 processes’ thing frustrates the hell out of me. So let’s clear up that issue. This is the point of a recipe: in the simplest language possible, a recipe tells someone who has never made the dish before exactly what they have to do to make that freakin’ dish.

That’s it. It’s meant to be simple, clear, and direct. If you’re showing off, you’re doing it wrong. If it’s wordy and rambling or going off on tangents, you’re doing it wrong. If it’s an intimidating block of tiny text with no white space, you might actually be Satan.

Too many processes jammed together make it easier for people to skip over steps. Bad things happen when people skip steps. At best, they wonder why the hell you created and hocked the steaming pile of grossness congealing on their plates, and never buy another of your books or try another of your recipes. At worst, they flood your Goodreads or Amazon reviews with hate because the food tasted like barf.

Seriously, if people have to rewrite your recipe to be able to use it, you’re doing it wrong.

There are no ad breaks in recipes. 
If the information doesn’t directly impact the process, it goes in the notes section. What that means is that you don’t interrupt the processes to shill products. Yes, I know you’re paid to say it. No, I don’t actually care why you’re hocking that particular product. I don’t need the sales pitch rammed brutally into the processes.

Fine, have a tools list where you say to use a particular brand of product. Or even go the Tupperware™ route and use the item’s full branded name in the processes if you really feel you must (though that’s irritating). Whatever. But if you really feel the need to declare, in detail, your love of a certain brand of spatula, just add it into a notes section at the end of the recipe. People skimming over the sales pitches are more likely to miss a process, which tends to bring about barf-tasting food and the urge to set fire to the cookbook responsible.

Spell check is your BFF. So is proper grammar and punctuation. 
Does anyone else remember the ‘freshly ground black people‘ screw up? Yeah. Don’t do that.

But also? Make sure it makes sense. Capitalise brand names if you’re using them, make sure you have deleted all the words you were meant to. Read it out loud to yourself. No, really, it’s the best way to find screw ups in your writing. Find yourself a tame English teacher, and give them a print out and a red pen. Find the angriest home cook you know, and ask them to tell you what they think. Not the nice people who’ll tell you it’s wonderful while quietly throwing out their attempts at cooking it. The ones who’ll call you out on things with flailing gestures and rich profanity.

Get it to the point that anyone who stumbles onto that recipe can look at it and believe they could make it. Give us pretty pictures (and if you need help figuring out how to do that, look at Kirsten Tibballs ‘Chocolate‘ for some phenomenal visual foodgasms) and white space so our eyes don’t bleed. White space is your friend. It tells the brain (rightly or wrongly) that it’s an easier recipe- which means better chances of success, and more people are likely to try it.

You know those recipes that make you think you’re capable of achieving them? Those ones that inspire you to try, those ones that become a family favourite?

Yeah. Make that kind of recipe.

True Crime & Tangents

I’m reading some true crime for reviewing at the moment, and… there are issues. Nothing so soul destroying that I threw the books away or anything like that- I’ve even got post it flags and notes throughout. But still, there are elements that make them far harder reads than they should be.

So here are some things I’ve learned about true crime writing while reading:

There’s a difference between factual and boring.
You don’t have to ramp up the cheese factor, or anything like that. But readers should have an emotional connection to the story being told. These are not fictional characters. They are real people who lived, and loved, and whose lives were cut short. The person who killed them lived in our communities with us. They passed as utterly ordinary. We, or someone we love, could have passed that person on the street, or come into their sights somehow, without ever even realising it. That is a scary, scary thought.

Don’t turn an emotional event into a dry retelling from a history book. You can be truthful and factual without losing the emotion behind the event.

Vague doesn’t suit you.
I’m not saying be so graphic you’ll give everyone nightmares or make readers puke. True crime does have to balance the family’s feelings, the victim’s modesty, and the right to privacy of the perpetrator against the information being relayed.

But let’s be honest: vague descriptions are worthless. If you’re ‘showing readers around’ a crime scene, do it in such a way that they can picture it, at least a little. ‘Forest’ is meaningless. Are we talking dark, cool, lots of trees close together? Or rocky bushland style forest where there’s lots of light and heat and at least a bit of space between large trees? You don’t have to explain the injuries in graphic, morbid detail, or the stench of decay, or be graphic about the crime itself. But the place is important, so we should be able to know, at least a little, what it looked like.

You’re writing about something you clearly think readers can and should care about. Give them the chance to care about it by adding details where possible.

People matter. 
If you’re talking about a person, especially a victim, make sure readers can picture them. Give them life, and make them memorable. Being vague ups the chances that even your most dedicated reader is going to get confused, especially if there’s more than one victim being discussed. Let’s say your perp targets young blonde women. As a reader, I need to be able to tell them apart, need to remember who is who and where they fit in the timeline. Maybe one woman always wore a certain colour. Maybe another wore a particular necklace everywhere. There are always differences. Perhaps their killer considered them interchangeable, but that’s not an idea the reader should ever, ever hold.

Honour the victims by letting them be unique, memorable people beyond the notoriety that comes from being a part of a crime.

They didn’t have agency in their final moments- someone else exerted control over their futures- but gorram it, each and every ‘victim’ is far more than that. That was a brief span of time in years of life- don’t diminish them by making them nothing more than a victim. Every single person had hopes, dreams, and plans for the future. They weren’t arbitrarily wandering around, awaiting their fate. They existed and had meaning before they came into contact with the perpetrator. They were, and are, more than an act of violence committed upon them.

Let me put this in real terms: whenever there’s a mass shooting in the US, we all hear about the killer, right? And the victims don’t rate a mention in the mainstream narrative beyond how many there were. Even when they’re little kids, or teachers using their bodies to shield little kids, everyone is so hyped up about omg MONSTER that they forget that there’s other people involved. It’s like suddenly, these innocent people become statistics or props rather than human beings. Their lives become a tiny footnote in the story of the killer, which, to be honest, is BS. Inadvertently, the media/true crime writer is falling into the exact same mentality that the murderer had: that the killer matters more. That those people don’t matter beyond their role as victims. That they have been made lesser than and meaningless beyond their role in the perpetrator’s life.

Just… don’t.

If the story is self-focused, make that clear.
If the story is looking at how a crime impacted you personally, then don’t frame it as if it’s a procedural focus. There’s a difference between, say, a detective’s account of a case they’ve worked on, and a detective’s account of how a particular case impacted their life. One is true crime, the other is memoir with a true crime element.

Memoir focused work is about you. The story of how a case was solved is not just about you. Both are totally valid options in telling the story- it’s only a problem when you call it something it actually isn’t.

When a procedural focused work starts spotlighting one hero in a team (especially if that hero just so happens to be the writer), it casts serious doubt on what’s being said. The story is bigger than a single person, and when it looks like the story is being driven by ego, readers start wondering how much is true, and how much is edited to make you look good.

Tangents are the Devil’s work.
Maybe there’s this thing that’s e’er so slightly connected. It’s one of those if you squint just so and the stars align right, you can make out the teensiest hint of connection there type deals. Don’t go there. Don’t run off on tangents, especially ones where the only real connection is yourself.

If you’re talking about unsolved crimes that are possibly the work of the person you’re writing about, fine. That’s entirely relevant. But if other cases have nothing real to do with the story you’re telling, leave them out. If they don’t fit the MO, and are known to be the work of someone else, why are they being mentioned? What do they add to the story?

This is also a point where memoir need to be signposted. If you’re talking about other things you’ve done in your career, it’s got no business in a book about how a team solved a particular case unless it’s explicitly connected to that particular case.

Answer the big (relevant) questions.
When you’re talking about an actual crime that actually happened, questions arise. Some are fairly important- why did someone do something in a particular way? Why did the methodology change, but only once? Was the killer acting alone? What triggered the event?

Maybe you can’t answer all of them, but at least try.

If there’s doubt about those answers, give the information to the reader and let them decide.

Conversely, though:

Evidence me, mofos.
There are little bits and bobs that add detail and flavour, sure, but when it comes to the big ticket ideas, like oh, say, a person’s guilt? I want, and need evidence. ‘He accidentally confessed to me in a private, unrecorded conversation, even though he’s denied it forever’ isn’t evidence, because it’s got nothing to back it up. You can’t prove it in any meaningful way, because both sides have bias and the motivation to exaggerate or withhold the truth.

It seems a little too convenient, truth be told. He lied to you in the investigation, and the trial, and in interviews after he was jailed, and yet somehow, he just happens to blurt out a random confession-ish declaration? He was a fiercely controlling sort, but he just so happened to goof while you were right there in front of him? Convenient.

It’s also especially problematic when the admission isn’t clear cut, but can be taken as a ‘yes, I know you think it was me’ rather than ‘it was me! *evil maniacal laugh*

Hakuna your tatas with that ‘good and evil’ shtick.
Someone’s life has been taken, or destroyed. The story is sensationalist enough without adding the good and evil melodrama to the mix.

I don’t need to see a writer calling the perpetrator evil, or a monster, or any of those other overused buzzwords that distance the perpetrator from humanity so that we can all go to bed thinking that he’s not like us. We’re safe.

No. Screw that. The devil is not in that perpetrator, and when you’re writing true crime with that mentality, you’re missing the point. The devil didn’t do it. A human being did.  It’s not about angels and devils and darkened souls, it’s about the good and bad inherent in all humanity. It’s about how one person can do horrible things to other people, often without anyone really noticing. It’s about how society deals with that, and heals from it. And learns from it.

As soon as the ‘monster’ card gets played, we stop learning. When we pretend that perpetrators aren’t human, it’s easier to assume that there’s nothing we can do about it. They’re just these things that show up from time to time with no warning and no chance of stopping them. Psychology says that’s not true. So let’s leave that boogegy boogedy crap out of true crime writing, shall we?

An Apology to the Writers I Annoy

I wrote just under 11k yesterday- yes, my brain hurts right now, even as I’m gearing up to write 11k more today. I’m participating in the Queensland Writers Centre ‘Rabbit Hole’ event- three days of writing in the State Library. Nothing else. Just writing.

I love the chance to sit my butt down and make stuff happen. But I realised yesterday that I’m increasingly wary of writing my daily word count on the board. After I wrote my word count yesterday, one of the other writers asked me if I use a lot of small words, or just write ‘a’ over and over. That it happened in front of two writers I really admire only made it more mortifying.

Because these people don’t know me, they don’t know that I panic in these moments, and end up sounding like a complete bitch because my words get jumbled, and I’m trying to get the hell out of the situation, and what would be witty in a less tense conversation loses its charm in all the self-recriminations. Also? Pretty sure I have resting bitch-face of the vocal chords.

The sad part is that it used to be funny to me when people said stuff like that, but now it’s just painful because it’s always followed up by people taking my achievement as a personal insult, or a reason to invalidate their own efforts. Always.

If you’ve never had someone take something you’re proud of and beat themselves about the head with it, I can assure you it isn’t fun. It’s hard to maintain your personal pride when it feels like your success is actively hurting other people. And if you’re anything like me, it ends up with a leap into ‘helpful reassuring mode’, and putting your own efforts down in order to make other people feel better about their achievements.

Not okay.

I don’t think people are trying to freak me out, or trying to be mean. I just think we all get caught up in the BS idea that there’s One True Way To Write™, and if you’re not doing it that way, you’re a fraud of a writer and should have all your pens and tech thrown onto a bonfire. People, especially writers, seem to think that all writers should be insanely productive and type 10k a day without breaking a sweat and publish multiple books a year while raising a family and working full time, all the while learning how to speak fluent Mandarin and building orphanages in Africa. In heels like that chick in Jurassic World™.

Uh, no.

However much you write is perfect. I’m not being an asshole when I tell you that. I actually, genuinely mean it, so please stop with the eye rolls and scowls when you seem to ask me for validation and I give it to you. Whatever works for you is freakin’ phenomenal. There are billions of people in the world who don’t get to write 10 words a day for their own amusement- so yeah, you’re kicking ass if you hit any kind of milestone. On the other hand, if life’s kicking your ass and you take a day for you, that’s just as brilliant. Taking care of yourself isn’t something you should feel bad about. Whatever works for you.

What it comes down to is this: we all write differently.

The people today who ‘wrote the least’? They weren’t sitting on Facebook all day, they were editing as they went. They were crafting sentences, and fixing them along the way, and they’re going to have an easier time of it in edits than I will.

I respect the hell out of that dedication. Right now, though, it just isn’t me.

Me? I can’t see the plot holes until they’re on the page. Sometimes, that’s not an issue. Other times, I write a dozen or so new versions to fix those plot holes, get disheartened, and put the story in a drawer to fester and die. I’d like to not keep doing that, so I’m changing the way I do things. I’m not trying to write perfectly, or even brilliantly at times like this. I’m just figuring out the story, and challenging myself to get something down rather than contemplating it for another few years and still winding up with big-ass plot holes everywhere. I struggle with character voice sometimes, too, and this helps me figure out who the characters really are.

It’s like writing fanfic for my own stories- it takes the stress out of writing because it doesn’t have to be perfect. And because it’s just faffing about on a page contemplating things, it’s easier to hit those bigger milestones. If I was editing the shit out of what I wrote? I’d have maybe 1k. Probably far less, because when it’s about crafting the best sentence possible, I’ll stare at a sentence for an hour and cry.

My way of writing and editing would drive other people mad, and the reverse is certainly true. But it doesn’t mean that anyone is going about it wrong.

I said I wanted to apologise to other writers, so here it is:

If you’re feeling insecure about your writing based on the word count I make at a writing event, I’m really sorry. I’m sorry that you feel like you have to compete with the writers around you. because you don’t. You’re a writer. You don’t have to prove yourself to me, or to anyone else. You’re not my competition. I am my competition (and sometimes my friend Luke is too, but only when it’s agreed upon in advance).

I’m sorry that you’re not celebrating your achievements, because you deserve to be. Word counts are arbitrary numbers that say more about methodology than talent. Whatever you achieve is brilliant, and I wish you could see that. I get why people don’t, because most days I think my writing is shit and I’m a total hack. Doesn’t stop me wishing other people could see their creative worth, though.

This isn’t me playing Elizabeth Gilbert and saying I have shit worked out. I really, really don’t. The majority of my writing life is me sitting, wondering how the hell to get to the other side of an issue. But if there’s one thing I know, it’s that writing a novel and getting it published is really, really hard. It’s a hard industry, and I’m pretty sure it’s made harder when we’re all running around kicking the crap out of our own work. If I’m dismissing my own work, what right do I have to expect anyone else to take it seriously?

Frankly, my work deserves better. So this is me, refusing to play anymore. I’m sorry, but I’m not going to keep dismissing my work to validate yours when everyone’s efforts are already valid as hell.

Holding drafting work up against someone else’s, even if it’s just to make them feel better about their work, is like throwing two puppies in a cage and making them fight to the death.

It’s wrong. There’s no reason to do it, at all, and about a billion really good reasons not to. And when it’s all over you’re left with the bloody wrecks of two formerly beautiful things that didn’t want to fight it out in the first place.

I’m not okay with that.

Tropes That Need to Die: Rant One

There are always going to be tropes that irk people- it’s the nature of the writing game that not everyone will love what you do. But there are some that get trotted out regularly that really need to be sent to the old tropes home to live out the rest of their lives well away from modern writing.

I’m guessing this will develop into a series, but for now, here are the big ticket, ‘hell no’ tropes that are doing my head in at the moment:

All women want babies

QI-short-answer

Uh, no. Not all women want to be mothers. And that’s totally alright. No one is being thrown out of the sisterhood for refusing to spawn. This trope on its own makes me ragey, because there’s more than enough proof out there that parenthood isn’t for everyone, and that women (like men) can live fulfilling, wonderful lives without becoming parents.

The problem is that the ‘baby crazy’ themed tropes are a remnant of very old, not that relevant ideas around what women are, and what they want. It doesn’t say it’s okay to want babies (which it is), so much as it makes it mandatory for the female characters to be focused on motherhood above all else. It reduces female characters down to one course of action, and when all of your female characters are all about aspiring to motherhood all the time, without any other focus or real sense of self, it’s a parody of a gender rather than a group of realistic and well-designed characters.

It’s shitty, lazy writing.

But worse is when it leads to the next trope:

Women go crazy/dark side in the pursuit of motherhood

loki smackdown

I kid you not, I read a novel this year where two women (who had up until that point had zero interest in having children) suddenly and inexplicably began acting out of character, becoming almost monstrous in their quest for motherhood. These otherwise reasonable human beings were suddenly demonic in their need to reproduce, pushing aside all of their morals and all of their earlier life achievements because BABIES.

They became such horrible people that instead of being sympathetic to their plight, I was furious that this was how women were being depicted in 2015. I was furious that it made a mockery of the experience of women who have struggled to conceive, who want children for reasons more honourable than ‘I’m bored’, ‘I’m lonely’, or my personal favourite, ‘how funny would it be if I got pregnant before my sister, who is devastated by her inability to have children?’

These are women I don’t understand, cannot relate to, and have never met in real life. I know women struggling with the realisation they may not be able to have children biologically. I know women struggling to conceive. They are hurt, they are vulnerable, but they aren’t turned into horrible people by an inability to conceive.

You’re pregnant? The love of your life might be your half-brother.

brave merida

I am really sad to say that all of these tropes showed up in the one book.

I know, right?

Occasionally these tropes are done well, and they’re heartbreaking and add depth to the story. But more often than not it’s a lazy way of skyrocketing the tension completely out of left field. There’s no rhyme or reason for it, no signposting that it could be a possibility. You get close to the happily ever after, and suddenly, there’s this random dose of conflict thrown in.

Even the trope of ‘In love? He might be your brother’ bugs me, because it’s a needless way of adding drama that rarely comes across well. But when a woman finds out she’s pregnant, then has to deal with that in the name of narrative conflict and tension?

Ugh. Just no. Unless you’re really, really careful, it comes across as though you’ve created this foetus for the sole intention of debating whether to abort it or not. There are very few authors who can keep from making it feel like they’re holding the foetus hostage until the audience cries enough.

This isn’t to say abortion should be a taboo subject- honest discussions about the decision to keep or terminate a pregnancy are important in the real world, and in fiction. But if you’re throwing random emotionally charged issues into a story for no real reason beyond making readers cry, and you’re not giving those subjects the time and attention they need to be honest, then just don’t. It’s not fair to drop emotional bombs on your characters, and then act as though it never happened or had no real consequences. If you’re going to tackle difficult subjects, it needs to be about more than shock value.

 

 

Rant in F Minor

I want to write a response to the ‘I used to be an MFA teacher, watch me whine!’ article. I want to point out just how ridiculous the idea is that this man has ever been allowed near impressionable minds. I want to rage at the unfairness  that someone could read his sanctimonious BS and turn away from their goals because someone in a position of supposed authority has told them it’s hopeless.

Having said that, Chuck Wendig over at Terrible Minds has already perfectly summed up my rage. If you’re okay with cussing, you can see Chuck’s reaction here.

Chuck Wendig is my spirit animal.