I checked the date today and figured it was too late to write about New Year’s Resolutions. Especially since I already broke my first one: “Never put off until the tenth of January what you can do on the first.” And that should have been pretty easy to keep, because it applied to a specific month, right? ONE month. No contract. Pay as you go. Hey, no judgements here, thank you. I have a ton of good reasons. None of which you would accept from your third grader…but let’s move on!
According to National Day Calendar (https://nationaldaycalendar.com) today is:
Cut Your Energy Day: So this blog will be short, and I might sit and read all day.
Save the Eagles Day: Not necessary. They saved themselves on February 4, 2018 when they won Super Bowl LII (pronounced “Lee”) but for LIII (“Leee”) who knows? What? You mean the birds? Oh. If I see any, I’ll do my best.
Bittersweet Chocolate Day:Which I reverently celebrate as I sit here. You are lucky this not paper, or you would see the chocolate drools on it, and…
Oysters Rockefeller Day: Which my husband will eagerly celebrate in my stead. UGH!
But what I hope lights a bulb in your brain, is that you can start to write with ANYTHING as a prompt.
Even a date from National Day Calendar. Just DO it.
Now, as promised, I am going to turn off my computer and cut my energy. Unplug and do your part for the environment. Have a Nice Day!
Last time I promised to explain the difference between Rhupunt and RuPaul. I think I was pretty clear on RuPaul. If not, and you can find my archives, you can catch up.
Now, meet Rhupunt, poetic form. Wait! Wait! Don’t go yet. Seriously, you, too, can Rhupunt. It can be fun. Yes, even for you. It just takes a theme, and maybe some time, but soon, I am sure, you’ll be able to rhyme! (See how easy?)
How else can I sell this? O-o-oh. Got it. Like Big Pharma!
“No need to check with your doctor before trying Rhupunt. It is completely safe for all ages in any dosages. When you’ve tried it for a while, you’ll see it work like endorphins to relieve depression and improve your mental acuity.
“Unlike some forms of poetry, Rhupunt will not decrease bodily functions, cause PTSD, agitation, frustration, compulsion, irritation, or collusion leading to litigation. Use as directed below.”
1) must be four stanzas
2) each stanza has four lines.
3) each line has four syllables
4) first three lines in each stanza rhyme
5) the fourth lines rhyme
The repeated rhymes and terse form are particularly suited to humor.
So, are you ready?
Here’s my sample, and how about sending me one of your own?
WHEN I HATE MY CATS
by Virginia Nygard
My cats sure make
one huge mistake
to think I wake
to their command.
A plaintiff howl
a dog-like growl
make me feel foul
and loathe to stand.
I twist in bed
cover my head
try to play dead
while they demand.
Heeding their cries
at last I rise
and fetch their prize:
King Kat Food Grand!
Okay, maybe there are a few TV programs and channels left that have not been bought out or sold out to sensationalism-for-profit. But they are becoming endangered species.
I’ve heard “You are what you eat” for as long as I’ve been on this planet, and that has been a fairly lo-o-o-ng time. So listen up, you whipper-snappers! If you disagree, stop reading. You have hundreds of mind-mucking dishes to binge on. Bon appetit!
Am I alone in decrying the dumbing down of content, and the ratcheting up of violence in programming? And what does watching that stuff say about us? We settle for less than the best? Uh—yeah. Look at the state our country is in. It’s been turned into one of those base fake-wrestling, fake-reality shows. And the rest of the world is NOT laughing.
With the power of our buying habits, we can demand more programs that promote ideals, add to one’s knowledge, and can change life for the better.
We need to laugh with comedy based on the human condition, humor that helps us see ourselves through other eyes, humor that’s not an in-your-face reflection of the negative influences in society. Humor that may even, yes, inspire compassion. Not comedy learned in colleges, but on the streets of life, like some of the best performers from the past.
We need to be able to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes and learn from it all. We deserve shows based on ideals by which this country was built strong and proud and set on a pedestal of respect. The rest is mind mush intended to keep the masses controlled with the aid of a multiplicity of sales pitches and food commercials that push us to mindless consumerism and mindless eating.
I recently watched a 2018 TV drama series The Terror, based on the novel of the same name by author Dan Simmons. The series is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s 1845-1848 expedition to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. The two ships, Erebus and Terror, became frozen in the ice and their crews lost in agonizing conditions of body and mind and through the actions of a supernatural creature that haunts the crew. A second season is planned for 2019. You can judge its merits for yourself.
But here’s what I learned from watching it. If we learn from the history of prior expeditions, if we are willing to heed lessons from the experiences of others on such voyages, if we put the good of all involved ahead of our personal ambitions, we may live to try again.
And what has this got to do with writing?
Writers must continue to learn so we can write with authority and confidence about that which fires us up.
What we write can educate, entertain, lighten spirits, and enlighten minds.
In the darkest tale, we can write in a way that elevates and ignites the best not the basest in people, as divisive forces splintering this country have so skillfully done.
Stand up for what’s right.
… Or go anything else you choose, for that matter! See, I was sitting here thinking that with all the s—- (stuff) that life has dumped on me for weeks on end, my mind is frozen for something to write about except the stuff that’s been dumped on me, and you don’t want to hear that. Not with all the dumping going on in the world. Not even if it would make you feel better. Sorry.
Frozen? Yes. Mentally and physically. I woke up to 34 degrees in unsunny, overcast Florida, with a wisp of a hope of the temperature here rising to a Vermont summer heat wave of 60 degrees! I had slept to the white noise of the combination AC/heat pump barely taking a breath in its huffing and puffing to keep the house at a somewhat comfortable 72 degrees. And in my slightly wacky way, I imagined the AC part of the schizophrenic unit laughing at the heat pump, and saying, “Man up, Hot Stuff! Now you know what I go through the other 360 days of the year!”
Still, Hot Stuff’s efforts had no effect at floor level. Have you any idea what my tile floor feels like? Yes. Like walking barefoot with the polar bears—in their neighborhood! My feet hastily hustled me to the closet where I hauled down and dusted off a box with a fading label: Blue Slippers. I hauled out what I call my early-spring-morning-sky-blue suede slippers and caressed their lambs-wool lining. I was thinking that in a way, it was nice to be reacquainted since we’ve met socially perhaps three times in fifteen years since they came to live in my closet.
My feet, however, were unimpressed with my reminiscing to the point of the envy and crankiness I feel on a sugar-detox diet. To paraphrase a wise old philosopher, “If my feet aint happy, aint no part of me happy!” Once my feet and slippers were reunited, I got thinking how wonderful COLD really was. It had so aggravated me, I swung right into another of my Andy Rooney gripes—er—essays.
So, yeah, COLD is a great story starter. All you need to work it into satire or an essay is a bit of creativity—which every “very stable genius” has. And you’ll find some warm comfort in using your genius for something that makes the audience laugh with joy (or at least snicker) rather than cry in misery.
I challenge you to take a word, any word—honor, hippopotamus, truth, tricycle, courage, watermelon, love—and write something that will bring a smile or a belly laugh to someone in need of it! The world needs your talent.
Well, this is a bit awkward. If you’re looking for my September post, there isn’t one. It’s not my fault. Irma did it.
When we heard the cranky old crone was heading our way, we did what normal Floridians do—we panicked! Well, not exactly, but we were very, very worried. Tremendously worried. Trust me. Hugely worried. And we prepared earlier and more sensibly because Irma was aiming at us with a Cat-5 left hook that would flatten everything.
I thought last November brought the worst disaster that could hit our country. I was spot on target then, but as we watched Texas get flattened and flooded by Hurricane Harvey we humbly bumped November down a notch. We had a minute to breathe, then Irma bullied and bruised her way through Florida. This crazy Cousin of Harvey’s was predicted to pulverize what we might loosely call the normal way of life in Florida. Fortunately, she danced her way out of the state leaving less wreckage than Harvey. But she left us with hearts hurting for the suffering of others, and an urgent need to offer aid and comfort.
What happened next was like some nutty weatherman saying, “But wait! That’s not all! Along with Harvey and Irma, we’ll send Maria free of charge to Puerto Rico!” And since Satan apparently thought we weren’t getting to his place fast enough in a handbasket, he took matters in his own hands. Literal Insanity blasted its way through Las Vegas, and Hell came to the U.S.A. with the sight of California going up in flames like a wickedly bad horror movie.
And still good people give—even their lives—to help others. And I say a big heartfelt thanks, and blessing in abundance to all of those good people. Now, despite whatever continued cyberstalking could strip from us—besides what’s left of our dignity—for now, manmade disasters lie stuck in the sludge at the swampy bottom of the Pool of Tragic Events. But sooner or later, perpetrators will get their comeuppances! As of this writing, hope springs eternal that common decency will prevail.
Okay. If you got this far, you’ve made it through satire, sarcasm, a trenchant view of current conditions, and perhaps dramatic (tragic) irony. Merriam-Webster defines this form of irony as “…what happens when the audience realizes that Romeo and Juliet’s plans will go awry.” And, early on, many of us were alert to signs that plans were about to go drastically awry!
I use this form of writing when my first response is anger about conditions that bring horrible situations piling up one behind the other like a debacle on I-95. That’s when, like today, the spirit of Andy Rooney drifts into the room, puts a hand on my shoulder, and says, “Steady, girl. No nastiness. Teach, don’t tweet the first thing that comes into your mind. Leave that to those who know no better. Smooth and subtle…no matter what ruffles.”
(So, Andy, how did I do?)
1.) I had to enter that sales-pitch drawing; you know, the one that says I’m about to win $15,000,000?
2.) My eyes hurt. I’ve been staring at Facebook for two hours straight. But that’s important. It’s today’s link to the outside world, right? When it works.
3.) I was filling out marketing postcards for my next book, which will come out…soon…I hope.
4.) I checked into Dictionary.com and got distracted. I love etymology! It’s like word DNA.
5.) I had to file reports for my writers’ organization and that took too much time.
6.) Then I needed a break to read the comics. Everybody needs to laugh, right? Don’t bug me.
7.) I get aggravated and can’t write when I’m under pressure.
8.) I need to follow the news so I can scribble a bunch of snarky slogans.
9.) I had to clean out my desk, and that filled up the trash can, so…
10.) I had to empty the trash. I can’t concentrate with a full trash can staring me in the face.
11.) The mail came. A catalog had 20% off a blouse I really want. And shoes. Maybe I’d better look a little closer. I may have missed something.
12.) I don’t write well in the morning. Just slogans. After I watch the news. I need coffee. And half a bagel.
13.) It’s too noisy outside. What are my neighbors doing now?
14.) It’s too quiet inside. I wonder what the dog’s doing now?
15.) I can’t forget to use my Dunkin’ Donuts coupon. It expires today.
16.) I need to drop stuff off at Goodwill. And maybe I’ll check out Publix for BOGOs.
17.) I must check the newspaper before I recycle it. Maybe there’s another BOGO I missed.
18.) Found a list of upcoming events at Sunrise Theater. Oh, I need to sign up for some of these! Where’s the phone? Where are my credit cards? In my purse. Where’s my purse?
19.) Emptied the coffee pot. Ran the clean cycle.
20.) Reheated last cup of coffee. Decided “What the heck,” and had the last half-bagel.
21.) I can’t write while eating and drinking.
22.) I can’t stand having a dirty cup and plate on my desk.
23.) Had to empty clean dishes from the washer so I could put the dirty ones in.
24.) Can’t stand clutter. Had to put the clean tableware where it belonged.
25.) Now I’ve had too much caffeine. I can’t sit still at the computer.
And, dear Muse, if that’s not enough reasons, TRUST ME…. Oh, now there’s a good one for a snarky slogan. BELIEVE ME… that’s another. Boy, I’m on a roll now. Hey, Six-, ten-, twelve-word slogans–that counts as writing, no? How about that? I was writing all the time!
…or maybe not. You know me, right? The title was a clever way (if I do say so myself) of warning you as to what I am about to expound on. Short Fiction.
A woman once waved me off, saying, “I never read short stories. I like to get lost in a novel.” So I told her to get lost. Had she given my work a moment’s consideration, she might have reconsidered. Or, I could have sold her a first draft edition of my short stories with a guarantee she’d get lost in them. I often do. But that’s why first drafts are followed by second, third, and as many drafts as necessary to cut and polish a rough stone into a sparkling gem.
Another thing. There are times and places that make it nearly impossible to get lost in a novel. The bathroom, for instance. Enough said about that. Offices of doctors, dentists, lawyers—bank and supermarket lines all are examples of great short story reading areas. You can’t get lost in the novel because you’re always wondering if you’re going to be called next and if you’ll have enough time to get your stuff together without looking like a klutz. I’ve tried that. I fumble my book or glasses or pens or everything, and end up (literally) picking them off the floor. Later, under no pressure, I reread the chapter. Carrying a short story anthology with you is more efficient, beneficial and potentially less embarrassing. Sure, carrying a Kindle is cool, but real readers know that an old-fashioned book won’t run out of battery power at the height of passion, leaving you—uh—let down.
Short Fiction is fun. It’s sort of like religion. Every time you turn around, there’s a new one. Or a freakier, funnier, or more intriguing spinoff than the last. For example, you can neither pin down the exact nature and number of angels, nor get a solid word count for what a short story is. The genre’s arguably-accepted word count ranges from 1,000 to 20,000. Always check the guidelines for the contest or periodical you intend to enter or query. Their number of angels on the head of a pin may differ from yours.
Fewer than 1,000 words is called short short story or flash fiction. “For Sale, Baby Shoes, Never Worn,” created a wrenching story image attributed to Ernest Hemingway. However, in 1921, a columnist wrote that a classified ad, “Baby Carriage for sale, never used,” exemplified the plot of a story, and his example, it is believed, may have given rise to the Hemingway tale.
Sometimes the challenge comes in a number of sentences or lines. Here’s an old five-sentence story I entered in an online challenge:
(Five Sentence Fiction) Virginia Nygard 6/23/15
I sit in the dust outside Mabel’s Beauty Parlor while Mama sits inside getting a Marcel wave.
She come out so beautiful I bet the stars will hide in shame tonight…just like me.
Picking her way ‘cross the wooden sidewalk, she pats my head, kisses my cheek and then sashays to the shiny Ford Model A, just panting at the curb for her.
Mr. James Windsor Whitehorn don’t never come ‘cross the tracks unless he come to pick up Mama for doing the town like he say.
I know what you be doing, my eyes say whilst I wave them away into the night.
So, writers, stretch your mental muscle and play with various kinds of short fiction while you’re working on The Great American Novel. It could be your bread-and-butter while you’re waiting for the Great Ka-ching!
And you out there afflicted with Short-Attention Span Syndrome, Short Fiction might be the short fix you’re seeking!