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?)
I promise to not detail much of the above, lest I launch a rant. Legitimate, but still a rant…and ladies don’t rant—except for one who does so with courage and justifiable outrage, and a second who informs with satirical humor aimed at the state of affairs, or the Affairs of State. What prompted my muddled, misdirected condition of mind was that because my one-and-a-half-year-old Mac crapped out (thank you, Murphy) at a crucial point in my work, I had time to “poor me” and watch TV. I don’t know Murphy’s opinion on lightning, but I know it CAN strike twice in the same place. I’ll expand on only the first topic, computers, as I have not had time to see anything humorous in the others.
Let’s hop in the TARDIS and shift back almost two years. There was Murphy, waiting for me, and he did a déjà vu of the future. He struck my seven-year-old Mac’s new hard drive with a blitz of color snow like old TVs. It was a built-in omen that Mac was about to suffer a heart attack. Which it soon did. And with a flagrant fizzle, frying some of my potentially Nobel Prize winning writing.
Walt, my patient husband, loaded Dead Mac and me into the van and rushed us to Apple Hospital sixty miles away, while enduring my many Navy Post-Grad creative invectives hurled at the Apple God for birthing such a demon. The heart transplant was successful, and Walt suggested he’d deal with Old Mac’s increasing age-prone illnesses and adopt New Mac for me. After saving up the hefty adoption fee, we welcomed Newbie into our home.
Back in the TARDIS to present time. Our infant New Mac suffers the same technicolor snowstorm and craps out. Another one-hundred-twenty-mile round trip to the AH (no reimbursement for mileage) and we are told it was a software issue. “One,” I asked, “that Apple has not solved in more than two years? Somebody needs to be fired!” I have visions of the failure cause and lack of remedy.
One: In ancient times, royal seamstresses went blind sewing extremely fine stitches in royal garments. Today, I see twenty-something blind women and men tapping their white canes down China’s roads as they are dismissed from working at creating computer circuitry.
Two: Apple Gods: “Hey, tech support is for only three years. Deal with it. Suckers will get pissed and buy a new computer. That will keep us in mega-bucks, and you in your cubicles.”
What has this got to do with writing? Really? Okay. A painful situation can be alleviated with satire, a hint of sarcasm, perhaps a sprinkle of anthropomorphism, and a little bit of creativity. Much more entertaining than the slush that ends up in the newspapers as vicious opinion, right? Remember Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels? Quite entertaining and a safer approach than a direct attack on the conditions of his times.
So, here’s your assignment. Take your finest pet peeve. Ruminate on it awhile and come back with a piece that makes us see things your way…or at least enjoy your humorous approach. Write on!
Last time we covered the sensory prompts that could stimulate ideas for writing. So what else is there? Well, a lot of ideas come by using those senses in creative ways.
Here are a few:
1) Close your eyes. Flip through the dictionary, or any printed material. (It would help to have the printed matter first. On the other hand, feeling your way to some source of printed matter might give you a better idea for a story!) Next, let your finger land on a word. No matter how implausible it may seem, use that word to create a sentence. Bioluminescence? No problem: “Eureka!” the mad scientist exclaimed, “bioluminescence demands such amounts of energy that creating it in humans has just solved the problem of obesity!” Great. Write a sci-fi story! (Not this one, though. This one is mine.)
2) Choose one cartoon from the scads your friends forward in emails. Use the situation to write either a hilarious story or the reverse—a tale with a chilling twist. Someone sent me this one today: Wife is looking in the mirror reciting her flaws. She says to husband, “Say something to cheer me up.” He says, “Your eyesight is perfect.” Oo-o-oh, have I got an ending for that one!
3) Whether on America’s Funniest Videos, nature shows, or You Tube, you’ll see animals doing funny, freaky, or adorable things. Pick one and write a story from the animal’s point of view.
4) I just discovered a new reason to go to the refrigerator. Reason? Well, more like an excuse when my husband asks what I’m doing there. “Oh. I just had a great idea for a story. What if someone opened a refrigerator to find nothing but a scrumptious hunk of leftover cake like this one, and it was labeled, ‘The right person may eat me, but the wrong person will…die.’” (Works for whatever in the fridge tickles your taste buds or tingles your brain cells!)
5) If you had a 3-D printer that could copy anything—animate or inanimate—what would you copy? What would you do with it? What would be the consequences?
6) Do you keep a journal? In Beyond Déjà Vu, my sequel to Déjà Vu Dream, Jennifer journals her frightening dreams as C.J. weaves through the plot; and she records her conflicting emotions as her relationship with Chad changes. Pick something from your journal that might be viewed from a different perspective with the passage of time. Give it to a character to rewrite!
7) This idea has been done, redone, and done again, but like a good, fiery-hot ethnic meal… it bears repeating! (Burp. Yum. Sorry.) Google master plots. You’ll find sources for summations of plots and master plot exercises. You may even have read a book and thought, “If I had written this book, I would have…” Well? Do it! Use the idea and reverse it.
That’s enough for now. I’m thinking about that refrigerator tip because my stomach is grumbling like ventriloquist Jeff Dunham’s puppet named Walter, a grumpy old man. (Listen, Walter, there is no cake in the refrigerator. That was purely a writing suggestion. Okay, okay. I’ll go check again. No need to call me a dumb a**)
If you’ve never run across “dele” or “stet” in your writing, you:
1) are just beginning to write.
2) haven’t had anything proofread or edited yet.
3) are a genius who needs no editor to crank at her… sorry, “offer good advice.”
(Yes, I just used a noun as a unique verb. It’s a heck of a lot hipper and cleverer than “snuck.”)
I fall in none of the above categories. My earliest edited writing looked like someone sneaked—(dele “snuck” from your vocab)—my writing into an illegal cockfight, dropped it in the ring, and let the muddy-clawed buggers have at it. But I learned from these experiences…after I asked the editor to explain the chicken tracks.
A dele, or deleatur, is a proofreading symbol used to indicate something that should be deleted. It’s said to come from a form of the letter “d” in an old German script.
For Newbies, dele can look like a sloppy cursive capital “L” or a cute little oval head with one arm pointing down at your mistake, while the other hangs at its…nonexistent side. I’m sure that’s perfectly clear, however, to further complicate matters, there are as many variations of this symbol as there are editors.
Moving along, “stet” is from Latin, meaning, “let it stand.” It seems to have originated because, unlike bullheaded umpires and referees, proofreaders and editors are allowed to change their minds after they ruin your piece.
Stet is a complicated little device for accomplishing such a simple thing—leaving the writer’s words the hell alone! Stet begins with a circle around the word(s) or concepts on which the editor did a one-eighty. Then the word stet is written above or beside the goofed edit. Wait! There’s more. We’ll toss in a free potato peeler and free shipping! (No, sorry. Too much TV.)
But there IS more to stet. The selection must also be underscored by dashes or dots. All clear? Good. Now that you’ve memorized that…fagedaboudit!
For stet, your editor might decide to simply circle a tick in your manuscript. Don’t run out and get tested for Rocky Mountain spotted fever or Lyme disease. It’s not that kind of tick. It’s simply a check mark in a circle. Personally, I’d prefer MCIWW near anything about which the editor decided I was right. That’s my stet of choice: “Mea Culpa. I Was Wrong.”
Oh. Newbies? Did you know there’s a whole sheet of proofreading marks to learn?
But take heart; if it’s a computer file, an editor may just insert long-winded reasons why you’re an illiterate idiot who should take up pottery or basket weaving.