The Twitter Imperative

classroomFabulous thing, this integrating of blog and tweet business. You write your headline, develop your theme, and press the button so that publication and dissemination occur simultaneously. Magic!

Or at least it is if, once twitter has separated it from its context, the headline doesn’t look like your geography teacher’s demand for the submission of your homework . Reading my previous post, plucked bald of its message and lying exposed on Tweetdeck, I suddenly see the words ‘Did you read ‘Madness’?’ in a different context. This time my hopeful inquiry born of earlier discussion is replaced by the image of an irate school ma’am, hands on hips, peering from under outraged eyebrows at her class of recalcitrants with a look that suggests the outbreak of World War III would not be a good enough reason for failing to return the essay on Australian flora and fauna by the prescribed deadline.


So, it’s thank you to people who pitched up to detention as required and apologies to those who felt they needed to get a note from their mother to avoid withdrawal of privileges!

Did you read ‘Madness’?

If you did, just out of interest and in relation to the post on profanity, what is your impression of the language used in that story? I won’t remind you because I’d like your thoughts based on what you recall rather than a dissection of the words themselves. We talked a lot in various exchanges about realism and the kinds of expressions particular characters might use and this is clearly a situation in which the main character might be expected to let rip. I wonder, then, how far the impression of authenticity was affected for you by what was or was not said?

You may turn over your papers, your time starts now…


Madness: new nano fiction post

In the bleakest corner of hell and damnation, Clarisse had finally found sanctuary. Knees pulled up around her ears, gown pulled down as far as possible towards her bare feet, she plucked and twitched with her fingers over the abdomen containing His Child. continued here

Writing as cabaret

sketchHere’s a thought. Ever seen those sketch artists on the street or at local fayres who produce a portrait of you in a matter of minutes and you love it just because of the unique focused attention it offers? Well, how about an equivalent for writers/wannabe writers? Quite a few talk about doing their writing in cafes or bars (here, it would be the local pub – wey hey!) which presumably means either buying quantities of coffee or beer or trying to avoid attention while making just one last three hours. What about trading your services for a bit of free sustenance? What about offering punters a 250/500 word story with their name in it in exchange for the odd freebie drink? Netbook, mini-printer, instant profile raising, and a comfy seat for the afternoon in convivial surroundings, what’s to dislike?

I live within walking distance of several pubs so that’s my summer sorted out!

Language most foul

I have recently unfollowed someone for using the C word in a tweet. The offender gave a cursory apology but, in suggesting that those of us with ‘delicate sensibilities’ should ‘cover our ears’, rather belied himself.

As a writer of court reports, some of them addressing abusive and criminal behaviours and requiring verbatim quotes, I am not unfamiliar with offensive language nor too fragile of constitution to repeat it when required. In fact, in therapy sessions, when clients have no other words for something and use, let’s call it a ‘street’ word so as not to attract unwelcome attention, I will use that word myself in the interests of unambiguous communication.

But what about fiction? I’ve noticed that none of my characters is inclined to swear. They don’t use profanities any more than I would myself and they would certainly never use that word even in extremis. So am I being prudish, unreal, and disconnected? Avoiding the gritty and down to earth man-in-the-street dialogue that demonstrates urban credibility? I’m not sure. You see, I’m pretty happy with dramas that manage without it – or at least without the peppering that seems to go with some writers’ view of realism.

Like smoking, gratuitous use of offensive language (language designed to offend, not language that has been defined as offensive by some mysterious authority) bothers me as it seems to represent a laziness of thinking. I wonder what else the characters could be doing or saying if they weren’t mouthing off or manipulating a cigarette without adding anything to the story. I particularly dislike it in books because the writer is forcing me to articulate, albeit sub-vocally, a word I would not normally use in a similar situation. Critically, I notice gratuitous swearing and smoking and I absolutely don’t notice its absence.

What I also notice and find laughable are the attempts of family magazines to asterix out particular words. Our Radio Times, a bastion of British Middle English Society, does this frequently with reports of interviews in which rock, film, and acting legends feel moved to express themselves rather strongly. Sometimes I agree entirely with their use of the word and so, to see it represented by its first and last letter bookending a bunch of  *****s as if we wouldn’t know what the word might be seems bizarre. More bizarre can be the RT’s decision about what constitutes an offensive word – the colloquial for excrement apparently is, while ‘arse’ is not – and so children can read about the latter but have to guess, giggle, and smirk about the former. And substitute words such as ‘sugar’ and, in more contemporary context, ‘frack’ (Battle Star Galactica) – well, what is that all about?! After a while, we all know what it represents so how is different from the word it is replacing?

What’s the deal, then, on ‘language’ in literature? Is there a difference between the way male and female writers approach this? Do some women go overboard with it as a kind of compensatory strategy? Is there room for wusses whose characters will more likely say ‘Oh bother!’ than ‘*****!’ when the ghoul from deepest Hades rounds the end of their blind alley? And, rather like the writing of scenes of intimacy, how do you convince your mates that this is fiction darn it, and not a window on your own perverse little world!

Post script: spellcheck did not argue with ‘frack’, what’s that tell you I wonder!

Writers and writerly things: Part 2

Appended to my last post (the text, not the bugle) was a suggested link titled ‘Aww man, we gotta blog?!‘ An unpromising catch at first glance but, being trapped in the middle of an edit for a clinical journal, I was tempted as if to chocolate and made the click. This was it, a blog about blogging for PhD candidates (PhD.umpingground) which neatly articulated my drift of yesterday and collided it with another from my research world. So, writing blogs are for writing, practising writing, practising writing for an audience, marshalling thoughts, expressing ideas, asking questions, learning how to present arguments, and keeping a running commentary of your progress without trivialising either the work or yourself. Staggeringly useful, staggeringly relevant. Unlike the ‘People who bought this also bought that..’ nonsense you get on shopping sites, although I do feel for the author whose book brought up no suggestions at all. I mean, could they not find even a pamphlet that might fit?!

Writers, writing, writerly things

You know those mornings when you’ve missed the alarm and you very slowly become aware of increasing levels of light filtering through your eyelids? Assuming you don’t now have 30 seconds to wash the dog, post a sandwich, and comb your lipstick, this is a moment of dawning. A dangling of consciousness between the loose freedom of unstructured sleep and the linear organisation of strategic necessity. Left foot, left knicker leg, try to get the bra the right way round, remember to remove spotty dog slippers before leaving the house. That kind of linear. Dawning is a moment of minor epiphany, a realisation, a peek into the mirror of self scrutiny. I think I just had one. I think I just figured out what I’m supposed to be doing here. On these blogs, other writers write about writing but I just write. I add my two penn’orth to these other blogs, amateur burblings (mine) about tasks I know little of in practical terms, then I come back here and tell tales of rats and wellies. Hm!

To be fair, and I should be, after all it’s me I’m writing about here so I could just give myself a break, this blog’s primary purpose is (was?) to get me writing something, anything, that isn’t academic, and to do it frequently. I also wanted somewhere to put all those little products of writing exercises that were born of creative sweat and so deserving of their place in the sun whatever anyone else might think of them. But is that enough? Do I need now to start addressing the process and art of writing itself? What evidence do I have that this would be in any way illuminating – even to me? Does it matter?

Actually no, I don’t think it does matter. Largely because I believe that dialogue is always better than insularity when it comes to ideas and philosophies and even if I am my only audience, the act of framing, articulating, and exposing my thinking can hardly be detrimental. If someone else stumbles over it and is entertained, all well and good. Maybe they will feel moved to add to the body of debate. I found and now very much value Linda’s blog for its frequent questions that confront all of us and give us reason to reconsider or review something. I doubt I will come up with anything as insightful in the forseeable future but I hope to improve the quality of my own contributions there in reflection of those others who are clearly writers first and foremost.

Back here, I will do a bit more thinking about what it is makes writing such a driving force, what readers want from those of us who try to produce, and how best to get the product in front of the consumer. I will need to interpolate the Deep and Meaningful with my idiot ramblings though. I like my idiot ramblings. And anyway, I can copy and paste them into a letter at Christmas to send to my tech-phobe relatives. Recycling or what?!

My rat is back…

rat on cushionAnd this time it’s serious! There seems to have been a brief absence although, to be fair, I’ve not been sitting peering at the bird feeder all hours of the day and night. I have, however, been there at regular times and Ms Rat has not and I suspect the reason has been what used to be called ‘confinement’. Mrs Rat, instead of perching on the feeder and stuffing herself with seeds and raisins while the finches and sparrows hurl abuse from the sidelines, was this evening, nipping up the tree trunk, hopping over onto the platform, and making off with a seed or two back down across the edge of the pond and into the undergrowth. Pups! She’s feeding pups! Little madam has been and gone and done it and now I’m a grandmother!

Of course, chances are she’s actually next door’s rat. Certainly she wasn’t there before the fence was repaired and so, now that the canine equivalent of the Berlin Wall has been erected (expressed purpose: keeping our assorted dogs from snarling at each other through holes they’ve deliberately created in order to get annoyed), I reckon she’s found herself on the West instead of the East and up the duff, to boot. Well, home is where the bird seed is, it seems and so we have a maternity unit in amongst the ivy. How come not a single one of my various putative hunters, all too happy to claim feral credentials most of the time, have not intervened? I’ll be reviewing their Terms & Conditions forthwith, oh yes!