This piece first appeared on Loren Kleinman’s blog on writing. Check it out at lorenkleinman.com, and follow her on Twitter @LorenKleinman. The above photo was taken by Keane Amdahl follow him on Twitter @FoodStoned.
Seduce the Words out of You
Writer’s are told to draft everything before rushing in. We’re told to have an outline to refer to when we get stuck. It’s a good check against writer’s block. It’s hard to lose the plot, when you can see every link in the chain. You know what happens next. You know your responsibilities. Your role in the relationship is defined. Continue reading Seduce the Words out of You (Audio Blog)→
Everybody needs their space. Everyone has their comfort zone, their bubble, their line that you just do not cross. We keep our guards up, because the world is constantly hitting us with its battering ram. We wall ourselves off, because we know what it’s like to feel exposed. We wall ourselves off, because we value the things we’ve already lost.
When those walls feel like they’re closing in, it’s because someone is pushing on them. When we don’t feel like ourselves, it’s because someone has gotten under our skin. When we wake up on the wrong side of the bed, it’s because the thing that haunts our dreams is lying on the other side.
This is the dark conclusion to my cyber-bully storyline. It’s the reason the entire piece is called, “The Moderator.” I write flexible outlines to allow my stories to swerve into the kind of dark territory this one lands in. The ending had me questioning if this was one of the worst, or best things I’ve ever written. The jury is still out on that, but the story had an impact on me.
I owe a debt of gratitude to @Raishimi for scanning through the story for grammatical mistakes. If you like intensely clever dark short fiction, check her blog out here.
In part 3, Jeremiah Jenkins has tracked down the cyber bully that outed him online. A man named River. Armed with his target’s whereabouts, Jeremiah has come to San Diego with a plan of his own.
The Moderator PART 3: Bridge Trolls
River walked down the sidewalk with his eyes buried in his phone. It was as big as any touchscreen tablet, except this one made calls. He was using an application that took advantage of the camera. It allowed him to type and see the ground at the same time. With an e-cigarette screwed into his lips, River was a master multitasker. He took a puff. Static crackled inside the pipe. He exhaled. The vapor trailed behind him. Continue reading The Moderator PART 3: Bridge Trolls→
In the previous installment of The Moderator, Jeremiah Jenkins found himself outed by a fellow cyber bully. He’d made a death threat and his rival The Straw Man called him on his bluff. That night a cyber mob hacked his accounts and warped his online identity. They posted pregnancy news on FaceBook, turned him into a rogue NSA agent on Twitter, and added terrorism to his LinkedIn resumé. They killed his career opportunities, his relationship prospects, and his reputation. The trolls put his head up on a pike for all the world to see.
In part 2 of this 3 part tale, we catch up with Jeremiah in the middle of a psychotic break.
I owe another debt of gratitude to @Raishimi for catching many of my grammatical mistakes (I love it when people point those little buggers out to me).
The Moderator PART 2: The Straw Man
That night, Jeremiah dreamt he was sprinting down cobblestone streets. Oil lanterns passed by in a blur. He swerved as a horse drawn carriage barreled down on him. He dove to avoid being trampled. When the horses past, he heard his pursuers’ feet stomping behind him. Their numbers had grown. Minute men had answered the call. Pedestrians had been enveloped into the horde. Street workers dropped the tools of their trade, and picked up other ones.
I’m afraid of the kind of traffic this story will bring to my blog. There’s some nasty buzz words lurking in these prose. Words I wouldn’t want to show up in a search engine, or across a national security agent’s desk.
The characters who use these words have no regard for their meaning. They sling vulgarities at the wind, with the glee of infants hurling smartphones onto concrete. They make casual death threats. They reference acts of terrorism with the enthusiasm of screenwriters referencing pop culture.
These characters speak their minds with not a filter, but a megaphone. Their real life counterparts have been jailed for things they’ve said in jest. They’ve ruined lives, or worse, played a part in ending them.
If the government makes revisions to the First Amendment, it will be because of something one of these people said.
Don’t worry, I’m not about to berate you with racial or homophobic slurs. These characters have used them so often they’ve lost their meaning. They have to resort to craftier insults to get their points across, to scrape the bottom of the barrel clean through, to mine it for new depths.
They’re a case study for etymologists. Linguists will cite them as the ones who broadened our definition of profanity.
Their real life counterparts will desensitize us to things we hope to never see. They don’t pull punches. If I’m to tell their story, neither can I.
Tragedy plus time equals comedy. The hero of this story has interpreted the quote to mean that making fun of tragedy is funny. He’s about to learn that some words are sacred. Some invocations summon things that won’t go back into the depths. Some threats have consequences.
Especially when he makes his threats here, in the Twilight Zone (sorry I had to do that).
I owe a debt of gratitude to @Raishimi, @FoodStoned, and many others who post under the hashtag #AmWriting. Many of you were eager to let your inner trolls go on a rampage. You helped come up with many of the cyber pranks featured in this story. You’re all very evil people.
I cannot stress how much hair this story had me pulling out. At seven-thousand plus words, I decided to break it up into three different parts:
Ever lean on your support system only to find it can’t support your weight? Ever vent only to find yourself plugged up? Ever put yourself out there only to learn there’s a curfew for people like you? Yeah, I know the feeling. You ask for a hand, only to get the low five. Either they don’t get what you’re going through, or they don’t want to.
It’s hard to find a sympathetic ear when they’re all wearing headphones. It’s hard to rest your weary head when they all have such cold shoulders. It’s hard to get the storm cloud out of you when all you’ve got are fair weather friends.
This is a story about my first attempt to wow people with my work. I was a kindergartner hosting a Halloween carnival in the middle of July. I poured my heart and soul into the project and got negative returns.
There’s a lesson to be learned in failure: if at first you don’t succeed, you’re doing it wrong. If humiliation teaches us anything it’s how to wear humiliation better. Every artist has to learn to take feed back. Every artist has to develop a callus around their heart, a skin so thick they could stop bullets with it.
This is a piece for those people brave enough to put themselves out there. The ones who go out among the trolls seeking validation. The ones whose bright eyes never dim. The ones who no matter how many times you knock them down, they scramble back up to their feet, and brush their shoulders off.
This is for the people who look to the Internet and say, “I have something valid to contribute and I’m going to keep trying until it finally resonates with someone.”
Persuading yourself to write is like pulling off a long con. You play the parts of both the mark and the convincer. The mark has something you want, time and dedication. Neither you, nor they, want to give those things up willingly. Time scheduled is time spent, and you want to keep your options open. You’ve got a Netflix queue that isn’t going to watch itself. Dedication requires persistence, and you already have enough on your plate. No one wants to feel like they’re clocking into a second job.
You’ll have to swindle the time and dedication out of yourself. You’ll have to get yourself to write without realizing that you’re doing it.
Don’t spend too much time on foundation work, or you’ll get wise to what you’re up to. You’ll see all of those character biographies and get nervous about meeting new people. You’ll see the settings mapped out and your agoraphobia will kick in. You’ll see the scene list and imagine your calendar filling up with X’s. If you let yourself realize how daunting the task of writing can be, you won’t want to do it. Continue reading Grift the Words Out of You→