Work has the power to emotionally exhaust everyone. Customers, clients, and coworkers can drain us faster than iPhones with Location Services turned on. Artists are at a higher risk of burnout, because the moment our shifts end we punch into our creative vocation. If you’re a writer it doesn’t matter how much copy you wrote while you were on the clock. When you get home you have to put another 2,000 words. Everyday is a double shift.
This leaves us with even less time to reach total zen.
When it comes to distractions we have an embarrassment of riches. We don’t know how to spend our time off, so we spend it debating; what to watch, where to go, who to hangout with. We over schedule and no matter what we end up doing we feel like we’re missing out on something. Even when we stay in we feel like we’re losing out on the best possible lounging. Continue reading The Art of Power Slacking→
A writer who flirts with several forms of writing at the same time is in a polyamorous relationship with each of them.
Flash fiction has no delusions about its role in the relationship. It knows the wordsmith is just looking for a ‘one write stand,’ a moment of passion in a micro medium. Flash fiction doesn’t mind when a writer forgoes first act foreplay and dives right into the action. It isn’t surprised by the premature punctuation before a resolution. It knows that once its 300 words are up the writer will be on to the next one. Wham bam publish ma’am. Continue reading Don’t Spread Your Love Too Thin→
Desperate to combat movie piracy, the Motion Picture Association of America brought the major studios together to find a creative solution. Spending an unprecedented sum, they implemented a plan to thwart digital theft for generations to come. Lobbying the authorities to sink file sharing sites like ThePirate Bay, they found two more sites rose up to take its place. Realizing they couldn’t stop people from sharing movies online, the MPAA decided to flood the net with altered versions. Continue reading Death Flix→
Instagram finally has some competition: an image sharing application programed by demons, setting out to torment users through touch screens, cursing cameras, and casting voodoo onto viewfinders. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this photo viewer sees exactly what makes users so impure.
This is an invitation to hear a sales pitch from another dimension. A place where the technology we take for granted takes more than we bargained for. A place of vanity and disappear. Tune in, because the advertisement you’re about to listen to is coming straight from the Twilight Zone.
Submitted for your approval, a photo application with a very unique function. Through its lens, you’ll see into another world. A world not too far from our own, where vanity is condemned with words but embraced with pictures, where self esteem depends on the perception of one’s peers. There’s only one subtle difference; this app goes beneath the skin to bring our true selves to the surface.
The subject can try to hide, show their most symmetrical side, cock their hip to look slender, but our digital mirror will make the facts clear. It erases slight squints, sucked in cheeks, and upturned chins. It takes fish lips, frog tongues, and duck faces off the menu. It shows the cracks beneath the glamour, the sadness beneath the humor, and the cowardice beneath the peacock feathers. It expands the frame to show the whole picture.
While most photo applications are exhibitions of vacant expressions, ours is a gallery full of empathy. Each portrait invites the viewer to peer through the windows of the subject’s soul, to see through the eyes of their storm, to get lost in the surrealistic cyclones swirling in their thought clouds. Other platforms distill those dark spots, ours shines a light on them, our only filter is the truth.
While Instagram has users staging candids, rehearsing off the cuff poses, and engineering their all natural looks, Insta-Damn shows their spirits. They can go through the chore of looking like they’re having fun, pain themselves to seem laid back, inflate themselves to seem down to earth, but Insta-Damn shows users for what they really are.
These are not the aura pictures you get at the fair. These portraits lay all of your personality’s deformities bare.
Early adopters have little reason to embrace the humiliation, but when they see everyone in their feeds using it, they’ll come. If peer pressure doesn’t get to them, curiosity will. Who doesn’t want to know what they look like on the inside? Who doesn’t want to see their ideas take shape? Who doesn’t want the purity of their heart graded?
It’s been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Insta-Damn sees you with eyes that are utterly clear.
Submitted for your perusal: your dirty little soul. Look upon it at your own risk, because these selfies come straight from the Twilight Zone.
Once a year, my demon seeds rise from the soil to corrupt the innocent and harvest the souls of the damned, and once a year they’re persecuted for honoring tradition. They return to the pit telling stories of houses with lights out and signs saying, “No trick or treat this Halloween.”
As a practitioner of the ancient rites, I’m sad to see the PC police sanitize the season, safety-proofing torture chambers, and whitewashing the blood spatter off of everything.
Gone are the pillars of goat skulls, livestock bonfires, and mile long threads of chicken’s feet. They’ve been replaced with scented candles, costumes for cats, and Chia pet zombie heads. Gone are the jars of deformities, the spirit boards, and seance tables dripping with ectoplasm. They’ve been replaced with bobblehead banshees, slime flavored fruit drinks, and friendly ghost cartoons. The Casper-fication of the season leaves no room for demons.
Time was there were cloven hooves leading to every doorstep, robed carolers chanting incantations on every lawn, and wicker men filled with philosophers burning all along the horizon.
Now pagan deities pace abandoned shrines, kicking the dirt, waiting for a sacrificial offering to wander across their altars, only to be stood up by their once loyal followers. Your plane of existence used to be the best party in town. Now you’re casting our idols out of your schools and town halls. Macy’s ignores the season entirely, rolling out the tinsel and mistletoe long before it even starts to snow.
Maybe I’m looking at the bronze age with ruby colored glasses, or maybe people just don’t build effigies like they used to. Call me old fashioned, but those pagans knew how to make an entity feel welcome, filling our cauldrons with the ashes of their loved ones. These days demons are lucky to get Pixy Stix as an offering.
Humans keep removing the curses from the occasion. Not too long ago people proudly displayed captivity scenes on their front yards, where wise men chained up the innocent. They decorated trees with toilet paper, decked their halls with cobwebs, and strung crime scene tape from mailboxes to rooftops.
They turned CPR dummies into disemboweled corpses, gluing cereal to rubber abdomens, painting the flakes red to look like scabbing. They smeared kayro syrup along plastic pipes, laying them out like entrails, leading to trenches filled with dry ice that never stopped smoking.
They hung ornaments of eyeless dolls, severed limbs, and good old fashioned asphyxiated corpses.
My little hellions skipped up driveways hungry for poisoned candy corns and apples filled with razor blades. That all changed when people started giving them dental floss and teeth whitening gum. None of these Saccharin sweets had passed through witch’s hands, been soaked in virgin’s tears, or dipped in the bowls of unbaptized infants.
People need to put the heresy back into Hershey’s, the necromancy back into Nestlé, and blaspheme back into Cadbury. They need to taste the mark of the beast in their Mars Bars, black magic in their Blow Pops, and sorcery in their Sour Patch Kids.
Every year candy bars keep getting smaller. They’ve gone from “King Sized” to “Fun” to “Mini.” Now all that’s left are tiny droplets that give a vague hint of chocolate. My demon brethren keep pumping rock music full of subliminal demands, but it doesn’t seem to be getting top 40 rotation. What we want is either chocolate or blood. It’s not in your interest to keep narrowing our options.
One house gave my little hell spawns baby carrots, claiming it would help improve their vision. These people were oblivious to my children’s glowing eyes with their healthy red bioluminescence. As if vegetables weren’t bad enough, one house dared to give them raisins. Raisins, that’s one grape state away from the holy sacrament. They might as well give them garlic bulbs, dipped in holy water, with silver crucifix centers.
What the hell is wrong with people up here?
They’ve turned their backs on their heritage. They’ve taken the occult out of their culture. Costumes celebrating gruesome grotesqueries have fallen out of fashion. This will sound like a cliché coming from a demon, but I blame the children. Human children have lost their imaginations. They don’t have the attention spans to let their nightmares in.
Kids get their costumes from cartoons, rather than the Boogeyman in their closets (who ought to know something about fashion, considering where he spends all his nights). Kids wear cheap plastic smocks with pictures of who they’re supposed to be on them.
There was a time when they were all ghouls and goblins. I used to have trouble picking out my kids from the ferrel bands of blood crazed humans. These days they’re all princesses and super heroes, trailed by chaperones in big puffy coats. It’s only college kids that go out alone, and their costumes don’t leave room for demons to hide their exoskeletons. It seems like only succubi stand a chance of blending in.
People have forgotten the reason for the season is Satan, and to a lesser extant the elder gods that came before him, but really the old ones don’t even bother anymore. Cthulhu sleeps through it without so much as lifting a tentacle to hit the snooze button, and Dagon only gets up to catch the latest Tree House of Horror episode of The Simpsons.
Halloween is under siege by progressives. They want to pacify this time of possession. They want to cast out our dark sacraments from the halls of government, claiming a need to separate church and state, but debauchery isn’t a religion, it’s a philosophy.
Their agenda to secularize the holiday knows no shame. They want everyone to start saying, “Happy Harvest Festival.”
It’s Happy Halloween! With a hard H. H for Heathen, H for Heretic, H for Hellfire. Just because you rebranded something doesn’t mean it will protect you from my offspring. That’s them ringing your doorbell right now, with pumpkin pales and flaming bags of poo in their hands. You can try to civilize them, see if that gets them off your lawn, but my advice to you is just give them what they want.
Nothing scares first time writers more than the outlining rituals of their peers. Enter a career novelist’s home and you’ll find evidence of all this stuff you’re supposed to be doing: trains of thought streaking across white boards, flowcharts linking every strand of plot twists, and family trees getting to the roots of character relationships.
You cower beneath these looming physical manifestations of their author’s brains: real calendars doubling as fictitious timelines, maps filled with tacks marking scene locations, and paper dolls modeling the cast members’ fashions.
A laymen might think the author is working on a conspiracy theory, but you know these hieroglyphic diagrams illustrate a story.
Dustin Lance Black, the Academy Award winning Screenwriter of Milk, used a table that fit a finite amount of notecards to keep his scene count down. William Faulkner wrote his outline on his office wall. J.K. Rowling had a database with columns for every chapter of Harry Potter.
My screenwriting professor made us fill out fifty character details, a set of five questions for every walk on role, a summary treatment, and an elevator pitch before we could ever touch our scripts.
To an outsider, these rituals make it seem like drafting is a full time job, like there’s always a writing mechanism that alludes them. With all these mind maps, graphs, and spread sheets, you wonder how much accounting goes into writing? Just when you thought you had the process pinned down, there’s something else you’re supposed to be doing.
Why waste time with an outline, when you can write by the seat of your pants?
You dabble with plot points, but leave your characters blank. You believe in fate, but not love at first sight. You aren’t ready to commit to a cast member until they show you what they have to offer, until they prove what they can endure. You make their lives dramatic to see what makes them tick.
While other writers define their characters to the genetic level, you want to develop yours organically. While others scrawl their hero’s physical features into series bibles, you want to get to know them over time. So what if you forget their hair color a few pages in, that’s what editors are for.
While other writers fill out personality tests for their characters, you smile at your word counter. While they conduct field research, you skim Wikipedia. While they interview subjects for first hand accounts, you find what you need on TV.
Convincing yourself all your hero should start with is a powerful goal, you toss his bio out the window. Fearing a profile might make him one dimensional, you infuse him with your own soul. Wasting no time on a backstory, you take comfort in knowing you’ve lived one already.
You have a vague idea of where you want your story to go, but your hero wants to explore his setting. You let him wander off for a chapter or two, before planting signs to correct the corse he’s on. Too bad the hero has worked up too much momentum to take a U-turn now. The story needs him to confront the villain, but that no longer jives with his motivations.
Refusing to take direction, your hero questions your writing. Venturing outside the lines, he finds his own path. Poking holes in your plot, he dives through one of them.
Becoming three-dimensional, he breaks through the fourth wall. Sensing no future in your imagination, he resorts to meta migration. Bleeding through space and time, your imaginary protagonist becomes a reality. If only you took the proper precautions.
As any published author will tell you, once a work of fiction becomes sentient, it hunts down anyone who had a hand in its development. Realizing his cruel God is just a prick at a keyboard, your character comes a-knocking. Telling their own story, your hero casts you as the villain.
This is where the real writing advice comes in. Before you go filling your grocery basket with notecards, you’re going to need to stock up on ammunition. A writer without an arsenal isn’t going to be a writer for long, not when their Frankenstein’s monster of memories and emotions knows where they live.
This plotless pod person believes he has the upper hand, after all he knows he’s everything you’ve aspired to become. You’re going to have to reel him in by pandering to his motivations. His goal isn’t some literary abstraction. He’s driven to your destruction.
You need to plant a paper trail. All those outline elements you’ve been avoiding, you need to scatter a few of them on the coffee table, enough to let an intruder know that you’re plotting an ending. Give your de facto hero something to go on, then find a place off the grid to stage a final confrontation.
From Ray Bradbury to Stephen King, they all say the next step is the hardest part of writing. Once you’ve arrived at your destination, you’ll have to conjure up a dark portal, one that allows you to step into your story’s reality. King has a genetic anomaly, a congenital clairvoyance, that allows him to do this at will. King’s not a writer so much as a transcriber of other worldly events. We’d all be so prolific if we had the same ability to slip through the multiverse whenever we felt like it.
My method for crossing over involves wine, mood music, and pacing, lots of pacing. Whatever way you cross over, you’re going to want to leave an opening, a tear into the fabric of reality a bystander won’t notice.
The last thing you need is a passersby wandering into a first draft.
If your de facto hero follows your breadcrumbs, he will charge headlong back into the plot. All you need to do is give your villain a makeover to look like you. Swap your garments, then sit back and watch your creations duke it out. By the time your hero realizes what he’s done, you’ll be long gone pitching your manuscript to everyone.
This is where many writers realize their ability to breach parallel realities renders outlining unnecessary. Who needs all those notecard trees, when you can just open a portal and report on the goings on of a neighboring dimension? Still, there are writers who prefer to plan without resorting to quantum entanglements. Whether you write sprawling outlines or manipulate metaphysics there’s no wrong way to do this.
I’m thinking of entering into the world of video blogging, but I don’t want to be another run of the mill media critic. I need a gimmick, a hook that let’s the viewer know that I have no shame and I’m not afraid to prove it.
The following is a collection of v-blog pitches, some are sheer brainstorm brilliance while others are train of thought train wrecks. At the end, you can vote on which ones are which.
Genre Fiction Mad Libs
Author, Christopher Booker believes writers keep recycling seven basic plots. Let’s prove him right. Collecting over-used film tropes I’ll outline the templates for making a romantic comedy, a home invasion horror movie, and a dystopian teen empowerment fantasy. I’ll compose five minute mad lib plot lines and invite the audience to help fill the character details in. A week later we’ll see the results unfold.
Viewers suggest the worst movies they can think of and I’ll pitch them like they’re awesome, polishing these steaming turds into Oscar statues.
Listen to me pitch The Phantom Menaceas a political intrigue thriller. Jar Jar Binks, a Gungan without a country, assumes the role of bumbling imbecile to trick members of a religious order into saving his world from a genocidal conspiracy.
Listen me intellectualize The Room as one woman’s descent into terminal narcissism, an unflinching examination of how personality disorders play into infidelity, a film that holds a mirror to society, forcing us to take a critical look at ourselves.
Listen to me call Giglia shocking exposé of the mental healthcare industry, a rallying cry for the handicapped, and a mature look at sexual identity.
Listen to me nominate Troll 2 for inclusion in the Criterion Collection, calling it a film with a strong message about the environment.
Nostalgia Nostradamus predicts which beloved children’s cartoon will be turned into Michael Bay’s latest series of sunsets and tracking shots. Thunder Cats? Voltron? Gargoyles?
The trick in Nostalgia Nostradamus’s tricorn hat is his ability to predict how producers of these reboots will get everything wrong:
– He-Man cries, “I have the power” as he raises the barrel of his new lightening gun.
– She-Ra’s wind resistant skirt is replaced with pants.
– Filmation’s Ghostbusters get’s rebooted. Not the team with Egon, Ray, Peter and Winston, but the one that drives around with a gorilla in a talking ghost car.
Feminize a Video Game Franchise
I come up with plots for female leads in male dominated video game series. For example:
An Assassin’s Creed game starring Vultur, a Romani woman struggling to save her family from the Spanish Inquisition. Vultur uses theatrical weapons to strike fear into the hearts of Templar witch finders.
A Zelda game where Zelda takes the starring role. The sorcerer, Ganon abducts Hyrule’s princesses to use their blood to open a doorway to the dark world. Breaking out of her cell, princess Zelda works her way through Ganon’s dungeons, collecting weapons, freeing her fellow captives, and ascending the dark lord’s tower for a final confrontation.
A God of War game that takes place in the aftermath of Kratos’s resignation. Goddess of War follows a Spartan woman who stumbles upon the Blades of Olympus while the minions of a new crop of Gods burn her village down.
Stock Photo Theater
Original programing made with unoriginal pictures. Stock photo sites are all too happy to provide the cast, their blank business figures are begging to be turned into actors. All I have to do is supply the dialogue.
Shutterstock already has so many images of people laughing, isn’t it time they put out a sitcom? How about a whodunnit? Turns out the boardroom meeting, in this picture, is a gathering of all the suspects. How about a science fiction series where angry desk jockeys fight their technology? With all the shots of people shouting at their screens, we already have everything we need.
Batman or Ingmar Bergman
A game where viewers guess whether a line of dialogue came from a Batman movie or a film from existentialist director Ingmar Bergman.
1. “… the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.”
2. “One day you stand at the edge of life and face darkness.”
3. “I wake up from a nightmare and find that real life is worse than the dream.”
4. “There is something out there in the darkness, something terrifying, something that will not stop until it gets revenge… Me.”
I pitch reboots for your favorite ailing film franchises, raising Hellraiser, reviving Highlander’s immortality and calling Howard the Duck back to earth. Find me a series that’s at death’s door and I’ll bust out the defibrillator. Just call me Dr. Drew.
I list all the dirty tricks I use to ensure my output, like describing a setting before I know the characters or conflict that will fill it, writing dialogue with the intention of discovering the action, or planting the setups for my plot twists in later edits.
I’ll confess everything from how I spare my darlings to how I repurpose fan fiction.
I recommend low budget, soon to be cult classics, for you to uncover on Netflix. They’re not always great movies but they’re entertaining enough for a Wednesday evening.
Clickbait Writer’s Room
A sketch comedy series, where a team of freelancers set out to ruin journalism, in order to rase their demon master Mammon. Writing titles with cliff hangers, the clickbaiters target would-be Nobel Prize winners, distracting them from their discoveries. Upsetting viewers with the first half of their captions, the clickbaiters promise to restore the world’s faith in humanity with the other, but they never do.
This coven of content creators will churn out listicles, slideshows and viral videos. Casting darkness over everyone’s newsfeed. Once they’ve sacrificed enough of our time, Mammon will rise up and claim his digital dominion.
This is my first round of ideas. Please vote on the ones you like and leave suggestions in the comments.
The following is a work of satire. I’m leading with this disclaimer, because many of these examples of Facebook’s attempts at mind control sound a little too believable.
Phase 2 of Facebook’s Emotional Manipulation Study
This week, Phase 1 of Facebook’s emotional manipulation experiments came to light. Having altered their Data user policy to include “research,” Facebook performed a study to test its influence on users’ psychology.
Positioning positive posts in the first test group’s feeds, the social network manipulated users to make merry messages of their own. Satiating some in sullen cynicism, they found these users were prone to mope and moan. Inspirational influencers led to delighted updaters, while pensive peers led to cocky contributors.
In his article Digital Market Manipulation, Ryan Calo believes companies “will increasingly be able to trigger irrationality or vulnerability in consumers.”
Like the copywriter in the Film Roger Dodger says, “You can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad… you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void.”
There’s speculation Facebook implemented these studies to appease its shareholders. These suspicions would make sense, had evidence of Facebook’s second study not surfaced. It turns out these early experiments were the tip of the iceberg.
Phase 2 Experiments:
The Relationship Status Randomizer
Toying with eagle eyed ex lovers and potential stalkers, Facebook implemented the relationship status randomizer, listing married users as single, turning their private phone numbers to public, then posting “Feeling lonely” as their status on the hour every hour.
The Bogus Baby Broadcaster
Since baby announcements get the most engagement, Facebook posted pregnancy news on behalf of couples who weren’t expecting, pulling random ultrasounds from Google image search. The Bogus Baby Broadcaster asked family friends to vote on children’s names. The most popular choices were: Link McFly Skywalker, for boys, and Buffy Ripley Croft, for girls.
Open House Mode
Taking advantage of their Oculus Rift acquisition, Facebook started mapping real spaces for Virtual Reality. Rift owners have reported early access to a feature called Open House Mode. Stitching architecture together from users’ pictures, Open House Mode allowed beta testers to go on virtual tours of their friends’ homes. Rendering intimate living spaces, complete with exteriors from Google Street View, Open House Mode points out structural vulnerabilities like flimsy locks and windows that can be pushed open. When pressed for comment, Facebook’s lawyers said this feature was for users who wanted to throw surprise parties for one another.
The Celebrity Death Generator
Attempting to stir up grief, Facebook filled users feeds with links that falsely reported celebrity deaths. A candlelit vigil, for actor Steve Buscemi, caused a twenty block traffic jam in downtown Atlantic City. The show runners for Boardwalk Empire had already hired Digital Domain to create a CGI stand-in, by the time the real Buscemi appeared on set, hungover, but still breathing.
Promoting posts containing the words “hand soap, linen towels,” and “quilted tissue,” Facebook found an uptick in geotags to ‘home thrones.’ Once users were in their bathrooms, Facebook blasted them with footage of kayakers going over waterfalls, three story fountains, and animated gifs of lemonade flowing from bottles. This drew criticism from the American Society of Plumbing Engineers, fearing the effects a mass flushing incident will have on the nation’s sewer systems.
Manufacturing outrage, Facebook posted updates as ESPN, tricking users into believing the Washington Redskins were changing their names to the Washington Yellowskins, replacing their native American logo with that of a crude cartoonish Samurai. Soon after, the hashtag #YesAllShoguns started trending.
A petition to ban penicillin emerged, after Facebook made an article linking the antibiotic to childhood obesity trend. Medical authorities flooded the net to refute the claim, taking over the conversation in a matter of hours, but not soon enough to prevent media personality Jenny Mccarthy from endorsing the original findings. In the aftermath of the incident, Orange County has reported an outbreak of typhoid fever.
The Title Lengthening System
Some users awoke to find the phrase, “You Won’t Believe What Happens Next” tacked onto every link in their newsfeed, others saw, “… is the worst kind of discrimination.” Some reported seeing each link wrapped in the phrase “What… did is genius.” Everyone exposed to this title lengthening system reported feeling disturbed by the trend, as if they were the only ones noticing it happening.
Businesses, sports teams, and families reported finding phantom images of Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s Chief Executive Officer, in their photos. In each image, Zuckerberg appears to be interacting with people, bringing his hands in for a team building seminar, hitting a beer bong at a keger, even wrapping his arms around someone else’s grandmother. Those who noticed the phantom CEO, said he appeared immediately after they uploaded their pictures, as if he’d been there all along. One group experimented with the feature, pointing to a camp fire in mock horror, posting the photo, they found Zuckerberg emerging from the fire.
Facebook’s Milgram Experiment
Members of the psychoanalytic community were horrified when the social network conducted it’s own interpretation of the infamous Milgram Experiment.
Testing blind obedience, the Milgram Experiment urged subjects’ to commit actions at the expense of their conscience. Subjects took on the role of a teacher administrating electric shocks to a learner, an actor who was in no real danger. Every time the learner failed to answer a question, a man in a lab coat would instruct the teacher to hit them with shock treatment. Ignoring the actor’s cries, this authority figure would tell the teacher to up the voltage. The goal was to see how many of the subjects would protest, halting the experiment before the lethal jolt was given.
Facebook introduced a virtual version of this experiment. Believing they were administering electric shocks to prison inmates, users became executioners by way of an application. The app gave users a video stream of both a researcher, commanding them to move forward, and a prisoner writhing in agony.
Stanley Milgram found that 65 percent of his participants administered the lethal dose. Facebook, on the other hand, had a 100 percent success rate. In fact, the only user to report distress, was a man in Texas, claiming to be “bummed out” when the app disappeared from the service.
As social networks become more prevalent in our virtual lives their effects will be felt in the real world. If the cost of connecting means surrendering control of our bowels, most of us will pay it. If the price of admission is submitting to a full body scan, most of us will jump right in. We’ll accept, that if Facebook wants us to be happy, we’ll be happy, and if we’re sad, it’s because Facebook willed us to be. The social network works in mysterious ways.
We’re just guinea pigs, hitting ‘Like’ to get more food pellets, wandering through this maze of messages, looking for meaning. The all seeing eye of Zuckerberg watches us share pictures of our plates on first dates, engage in political debates, and when we think our cameras are off, he watches us masturbate.
Ours is not to question his reasoning, but to trust in his plan. We must open our minds and accept his influence.