The all important first sentence

Everyone who even attempts to write knows where I’m coming from on this. You break out the laptop, open up your word processor and prepare to dazzle the world with the next Twilight. Your fingers are perfectly placed on the keyboard, you have everything you need to start your novel.

Except where to start.

Everyone says if your first sentence doesn’t pull someone in, the rest of your story doesn’t even matter; no one will read it. Suddenly no starting point is right in your mind. The pressure of creating someone great finally hits home.

All of the negative possibilities come to mind at once. You struggle to find that perfect sentence; the one that will give readers the sense that they absolutely have to read your story. Unfortunately, everything looks wrong, no sentence is good enough.

So you stare at the blank page and decide that maybe you can’t write the next great American novel.

Then it hits you.

This is just the start, this is the first draft. It can only get better from here.

So you bang out a first sentence; and that sentence becomes a paragraph, and that paragraph becomes a page, and so on.

It might not pull in a reader, but that first sentence is just the first step. It probably will change slightly, If not completely, with each draft. It doesn’t matter if the first sentence of your first draft doesn’t blow you away. Expecting greatness out of a first draft only results in disappointment.

So write that first sentence of your first draft and move on. You can always go back and fix it. That’s what the first draft is for. And if you let the first sentence trip you up, it could effect the way you write the second.

And the second sentence is just as important.

Advertisements

Dads cook too (my introduction to gender politics)

This post is in the same vein as the recent Freshly Pressed post “Where are all the dads” (when I learn how this linking business works, I’ll do it).

I grew up with a father who loved to cook. For the first few years of my life, my mother cooked dinners for me and my brothers, and she was good at it. But, some point after we moved from our small apartment to our house (I was around 10 years old), my father did most of the cooking. I didn’t think anything of it until I mentioned it to one of my friends. He expressed shock that my father cooked, and not my mother.

I explained that yes, my dad cooked most of the time, but sometimes my mom did too. Later, I asked my parents about what my friend said. They told me that years ago, women didn’t work, they stayed at home and cooked and cleaned for their families.

This was an interesting concept to me. I’d grown up in a house where both my parents worked, something they had to do to support our lifestyle. I wondered why my friend thought it was odd for my father to cook if women didn’t do all the work at home anymore.

That was my first real run-in with gender roles. After that, I started to notice that gender roles were regularly enforced on television. It made no sense to me, even as a child. If we didn’t insist on gender roles anymore, why did the people writing television shows do it?  Why had my friend expected it?

This is something that I continue to see today. There are more stay at home mothers on television than stay at home fathers. Which is something that’s no longer reflected in reality. In commercials for cleaning and food products, the only people using said products are women. And when the men try to do the same, they’re portrayed as woefully incompetent, even stupid.

I’ve seen one too many ads involving a man being completely overwhelmed by taking care of his children, baking, or even operating appliances. Isn’t that just two varieties of sexism presented as humorous? It’s the same patting a man on the head and saying “Your place isn’t in the home, that’s for your wife.”. An idea which is damaging to both sexes.

This is the reason stay at home dads feel emasculated, and why people are perfectly willing to perpetuate it. After all, a man couldn’t possibly be happy providing for his family if he’s not operating heavy machinery or sitting behind a desk to do it. And how could a woman feel she’s doing anything but betraying her maternal nature by pursuing a career to put food on the table?

Perhaps people aren’t defined by their sex any more than they are by the color of their hair. And maybe expecting them to live their life according to what box they check on a form is limiting to everyone involved.

Just my two cents.

“Show, don’t tell” and other meaningless writing “advice”

Since I’m writing a novel, it should come as no surprise that I have no clue what I’m doing. So, like many writers I seek out various “Writing tip” sites and blogs.

Some of these blogs offer genuine, useful advice. And a surprising number of them do it for free. As a result, I’ve learned quite a bit about  plotting, character, and world building without spending a dime; which is great for me, because I’m broke. However, I’ve also run into a pattern.

A lot of these sites give the exact same advice on a few subjects. For example, every site repeats the old saying “Show, don’t tell.” and etc. But very few of them elaborate as to how these things are done. It’s easy to say “Write good dialogue” and pick up your check. It’s not so easy, however, to give examples of how to do it.  And once a site spouts more platitudes on writing than advice. I’m on my way.

See, as someone writing a novel, I expect to find help online. this may be presumptuous, but the expectation is still there. I don’t expect someone to hold my hand and tell me exactly what to do and when. But there should at least be help beyond just throwing someone out to the wolves. At least give me a knife. To help someone doesn’t mean to do something for them. It means showing them a map when they’re lost, giving them basic directions to follow, or not, by their own discretion. Or simply supporting them through a rough patch and telling them you’ve been there.

You can’t just throw them some clichés and pat them on the back, expecting your “effort” to do the work for you. It will only make them seek out someone who’s better at what you do. Writing advice is no different, “Show, don’t tell” means nothing. But ” Show through action and emotion what falls flat with words.” gives someone a basic idea of how to do it. Don’t just tell me why I should listen to you, show me why.

10 Pop Culture Theories Worth Knowing

This is worth checking out.

Funk's House of Geekery

The age of the internet has turned waxing lyrical about our favourite fictions into a global discussion. With that has come the fan theories that fill in the plot holes and add to – sometimes outright change – the meaning of the story. Once you’ve sifted through the many, many explanations why Sherlock and Watson are totally gay for each other there are some real head scratchers. Here’s nine you should know plus one of my own.

10. The Pixar Unified Universe Theory

Pixar is home to more than a couple of theories – Andy’s parents are getting a divorce, WALL-E is psychotic and murdering other robots for parts, etc – but none are as popular or encompassing as the recent unified universe theory. What’s enjoyable about this theory is how thorough it is. Every movie created by Pixar from Toy Story right up to Monsters University exist on a single timeline…

View original post 1,593 more words

We all remember the 90s

A little while ago, a trend started on the internet and, by extension real life. 90s nostalgia.

Sites like buzzfeed capitalized on this, posting lists about boy bands and acid wash jeans (who else remembers pogs?). And then it started to get very unoriginal.

At first it brought to mind things I barely remembered, like beetleborgs and Alex Mack.

But then they started focusing on things that survived well into the noughties. “All That” “spongebob square pants” and Britney Spears come to mind. And my nostalgia was replaced with thoughts of “nobody forgot that” and I promptly started ignoring the lists, blogs, and sites dedicated to the 90s.

I found myself rolling my eyes when someone started a sentence with “do you remember…” ;and suppressing a strong desire to scream that yes everyone remembers Rugrats, the show was on for over a decade! Ditto Friends, Buffy, and The Lion King. There’s hardly a person alive who hasn’t seen The Lion King at least a dozen times. And now, most of the people alive to see these things the first time around are watching them with their kids.

Please spare the world any more of this “nostalgia”. Everyone remembers the 90s. And if not, we can watch the entire decade on Netflix.

So, Millennials are the “useless” generation?

I think it’s weird that there’s a word that supposedly defines our whole generation. And I don’t have a problem with people using the word for me and my entire generation.

What I do have a problem with is the way people use< that word. Specifically, when people use it to describe someone who is willfully unemployed and completely unmotivated to fix their situation.

For the record, yes, I am currently unemployed. But at no point did I choose to be. I also wouldn’t describe myself as unmotivated.

A year ago, I made the decision to go to pastry school. And I worked my ass off to make it through and graduate with my class.

Since I started pastry school, I’ve been applying for jobs every day. Scouring job boards and going door to door. I’ve given my resume to nearly every company in my city.

And before you say it, no, I’m not limiting the search to bakeries and restaurants. I’ve also applied to retail, fast food, and office positions.

Many of my friends are unemployed as well. They’re also doing anything they can to change their situation. And guess what? We’re all “Millennials”

Does that sound unmotivated to you?

“Racism” on TV

Apparently, people thought that this Monday’s episode of How I Met Your Mother was offensive. This doesn’t make sense to me.

Okay, it makes a little bit of sense. They dressed up in traditional Chinese clothing (including putting Ted in fake facial hair). But to me it was clear that it was meant to be a tribute. The jokes were not mean-spirited in any way. There was no “Yellow face”, no over the top stereotypical “Asian” accents, and Barney didn’t even make a “yellow fever” joke. What I saw were action sequences reminiscent of classic Kung Fu films (of which I’ve seen many), and lighthearted humor.

At no point did I feel it was offensive. I also did not feel that they were “Hijacking” Chinese culture to use for humor. I can understand this point of view, but I feel that it was unfounded.

However, I’d like to point out the hypocrisy of those outraged, as is my right. If in this episode, Marshall had gone to Ireland to learn the art of stepdancing. And he ran into a drunken redheaded Irishmen. People would not have said a word.

That situation would have been even more offensive. And yet, a white character going to Shanghai and meeting two white women who ate noodles with chopsticks, and did not speak with affected Chinese accents, was unforgivably racist?

I don’t buy that for a second.

The discovery writing process

Yes, this is another post about writing. Specifically, about how much of a double edged sword it can be.

I’m a discovery writer, which is a nice way of saying that I despise outlines. Seriously, outlining holds me back. I already over-think my life into an anxiety  ridden mess. I don’t enjoy doing the same for my writing.

But, being a discovery writer has its setbacks. It makes writing a little more fun and natural but it also has the effect of making you rethink every sentence you write.  Here’s the whole process:

You open up the word processor of your choice (no specifics, I don’t want to start fights). Usually, you have a basic idea of what you’re going to write, and nothing else. So you start writing. And you keep writing for hours on end, however many pages you can handle before you’re mentally exhausted. For me, that’s usually five or six pages. And then you’re stuck. Left with only the vaguest idea of where you want your story to go, you decide to revise. You look at the first paragraph.

It’s terrible. You think to yourself “What was I thinking when I wrote this?” and you see your story start to crack apart.

So you revise.

You trade the stilted dialogue for something that sounds more natural to your characters. You fluff up the description a bit and erase what doesn’t work anymore. Now it actually looks decent! And then you take a deep breath and close your word processor.

Seconds later you’re on Youtube, watching the keyboard cat video for the nth time. And you’re heart starts to race and you realize that you may not have saved that document. You race back to your word processor and your worries are confirmed. It’s gone.

Oh well, you can start over tomorrow. And it’ll probably be better.

Do I Really Want a Job Anyway? (Yes. Yes I do.)

They said it better than I could.

Poor Writers

I pause at the door as I try to make myself appear goal-oriented but also fun loving. Fast learning and relaxed. Great personality. Awesome at cash register-ing. Good vocabularly.

Deep breath. Ok.

I walk in. It can be any place, probably retail but maybe my dream job, maybe the Gap or Starbucks or the headquarters of an awesome NGO or the White House. Anywhere. I smile.

tomhaverford

“I was wondering if you guys are hiring?” (This part always bugs me. I’m not a grammar person, but something about the passive voice or past tense or just plain stupid, and I already sound like a moron.)

The reply is usually positive. Like, Oh, yeah! Perfect! We were just sitting here in this store/coffee shop/office building/White House just waiting for someone like you, to come in and be so fun/relaxed/educated/etc and wow us with your job hunting skills. You, they seem to say…

View original post 430 more words

What I hate about the job search process

Steel yourselves, people, this is a rant.

hate looking for work. Yes, I said it. Now, there are some of you who have jobs, and you think you know what I’m talking about because you’ve “Been there, man”. But you really don’t, and you really haven’t.

In the past five years (i.e. how long I’ve been looking for work. Ouch) the job search process has drastically changed. You used to be able to walk into any old place and get an application, and fill it out that same day, but now? “We only apply from online.”

What.

And guess what? I apply online, like a good girl, and I wait. And I wait a week, and I call to follow up (as told by everyone, ever) and I wait some more. Do you see the problem here? If you’re lucky, you get an interview which could eventually lead to a job. But you could also have your application ignored, or worse, completely unseen by a hiring manager. And more and more companies are going automated thee days. Why? Because it’s easier than manually sifting through application after application.

It’s also a completely dehumanizing and frustrating experience. This is the modern job search process.

And I hate it.

Rant over.