Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Want to write a novel?

I didn't acknowledge NaNoWriMo, and I am not going to write a post about it. Look at this instead:

The part that really resonates with me is when the one dog-thing says "I wish I could kill you and get away with it."

Monday, November 29, 2010

No Signal

A thread over at Absolute Write discusses how to handle plot complications that are easily solved with technological devices such as cell phones.

Some of the posters there are of the opinion that the easy solutions to these problems can be circumvented with plot contrivances like these:

I disagree.

The cell phone dead-zone is a lazy device and a dumb cliche.  A problem that can be solved with a cell phone is a stupid problem to have in a contemporary setting, and a character who is unequipped to solve such a trivial problem is unworthy of reader sympathy. It is sloppy and artless to have a plot that relies on the unavailability of a commonplace object.   You owe your readers better than that, and agents and editors aren't interested in working with lazy people who write stupid stories.  If that is the best you can do, why even bother?   

There are no cell phone dead-zones.  Cell phone networks have blanket coverage throughout the developed world, and widespread coverage everywhere else. Your cell phone will work on top of a mountain in a snowstorm. Cell phones are used in remote parts of Africa where there are no conventional phone lines, and people charge their cell phone batteries with generators because there are no power lines. I think the Amish keep a few cell phones around in case of emergency because their religion forbids being connected to the world through phone wires.

Children have cell phones. The elderly have cell phones. Homeless people have cell phones. Everybody has a cell phone.  If your character implausibly broke or forgot his cell phone or the battery died, everyone else in the world still has one.

The only places cell phones legitimately don't work are in subway tunnels and other underground spaces (unless there are signal repeaters built into them), in hospitals, and inside casinos (for some reason). A phone plausibly might be unable to get a signal in an enclosed space with thick walls, like a bank vault or a bomb shelter.

Anywhere else, you should assume every character is carrying a phone in a contemporary story, because readers will expect them your characters not to behave implausibly or stupidly. In fact, you should assume everyone has a smartphone with a camera and GPS and access to the Internet, and you should not fabricate problems that are easily solved with devices that people commonly carry in their pockets.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Letter From the Editor

Dear Readers:

Over the course of the past several weeks, we’ve had thousands of angry posts on our Facebook page, hundreds of letters and e-mails and dozens of phone calls accusing us of plagiarism and worse.  At first, we were angry and confused, but we’ve come to understand how this happened.

It seems people are conflating us with another, unrelated publication that has a coincidentally similar name.  We are printing this letter in our magazine and posting it on our website and social-networking pages to make it clear to people who are unfamiliar to our magazine that we are not affiliated with Cooks Source Magazine.  We do not share Cooks Source editor Judith Griggs’s lax editorial policies or bizarre views of copyright rules.

We have never published any version of Monica Gaudio’s article “As American As Apple Pie – Isn’t.”  Indeed, after a careful review of our archives, we can safely say that we have never published any article dealing with or touching upon the subject of pie, because our magazine is not about food or cooking.  We are, like, a whole different thing.

For those people, previously unfamiliar with our work, who have found us because of our erroneous conflation with the Judith Griggs Internet scandal, we’d like to introduce ourselves: we are Cocks Source Magazine, an enthusiast’s publication dedicated exclusively to the subject of cocks.  Our content is one-hundred percent original, and we obtain all rights and permissions for our freelance articles and photographs.  Our contributors are compensated for their work.

We’ve won numerous awards for our incisive coverage on a wide range of subjects such as: “The Thicker, The Better?” “Kinks and Bends: Coming At You From Odd Angles” “Foreskin? More Skin!” and “Veiny Denizens of the Himalayas.”  Our diversity issue “Many Cocks, One World” won praise from various organizations for raising multicultural awareness of cocks.

Once again, we are not Cooks Source.  We are not plagiarists.  We are innocent lovers of the cock, in all its myriad shapes and forms.  There is nothing offensive about who we are or what we do.  So stop spamming our Facebook, please.

How To Be Awesome.

If you want to know about writing, the best thing to do is see it done well.  This is a short dialog exchange from "True Grit" by Charles Portis, in which the narrator, 14 year-old Mattie Ross, is looking to recruit a Federal marshal to pursue the man who killed her father:

"Who is the best marshal they have?"

The sheriff thought on it for a minute. He said, "I would have to weigh that proposition.  There is near about two hundred of them.  I reckon William Waters is the best tracker.  He is half-breed Comanche and it is something to see, watching him cut for sign.  The meanest one is Rooster Cogburn.  He is a pitiless man, double-tough, and fear don't enter into his thinking.  He loves to pull a cork.  Now, L. T. Quinn, he brings his prisoners in alive.  He may let one get by now and then but he believes even the worst of men is entitled to a fair shake.  Also the court does not pay any fees for dead men.  Quinn is also a good peace officer and a lay preacher to boot.  He will not plant evidence or abuse a prisoner.  He is straight as a string. Yes, I will say Quinn is about the best they have."

I said, "Where can I find this Rooster?"

I'd explain everything that's right about this for you, but I am pretty sure it's self-explanatory.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Forbes Releases List of Hollywood's Most Overpaid Actors

"Papa's gotta bring the cheddar to afford his many leather-bound books"
Because people on the Internet enjoy reading lists of things, Forbes Magazine now makes a list of the most overpaid stars in Hollywood.  Will Ferrell has topped the list two years running after Universal paid him a huge amount of money to prop up its poorly-conceived and incompetently-executed epic remake of a shitty Saturday Morning children's television program devised by dope fiends.

Here's how overpaid stars get overpaid:

Step 1: "We've already sunk a lot of money into preproduction on this God-awful piece of shit, and now we realize nobody wants to see God-awful pieces of shit anymore."

Step 2: "I have a great idea to save this God-awful piece of shit. Let's get a Big Movie Star to be in it. Everybody wants to see big movie stars."

Step 3: "I'm a Big Movie Star. You'd have to pay me a metric fuckton of money to be in this God-awful piece of shit."

Step 4: "Here's a check, Mr. Big Movie Star." 

Step 5: Roger Ebert: Big Studio's new summer blockbuster "God-Awful Piece of Shit" starring Big Movie Star is a God-awful piece of shit.

Step 6: "Sup, dude. Do you want to go see a movie tonight?"
"What's playing?"
"We can see 'God-Awful Piece of Shit' at 7:45."
"Is it any good?"
"No. It's a God-awful piece of shit."
"Meh. I'm not feelin' it tonight. I think I'll just stay home and masturbate to old episodes of Glee.'"

Step 7: "God-Awful Piece of Shit" disappoints at box office.

Step 8: According to Forbes Magazine, Big Movie Star is overpaid.