The Emoji Literature

This may seem a trivial post, but I don’t believe it is. My vehicle has a Bluetooth operation that allows it to read my texts. I find it verbalizes emojis. An example is if someone texts me with a sentence like “Thank You (smiley face emoji).” I hear an emotionless woman’s voice say: “Thank you, Smiley Face” .

Recently Facebook took a new step in evaluating posts. Where it used to be a thumbs-up or thumbs-down they have now added emojis to the evaluation key. So what does this have to do with literature? I’m not sure yet, but something tells me it will have an effect. Internet chat started, and texts facilitated the odd means of communication that we have now including TU, CU, OMG, LOL, IMHO, LMAHO, TTYL,TMI, SLAP, B3, IDC, BFF, and more than I can count, but now we also have the emoji configured every way imaginable.

Even as an old guy I can accept this, but when my emotionless voice message interpreter in my vehicle says to me “I’m at *$, LOL, Where U, **// 459 4EAE,” it still throws me off. Now that we have an emoji every couple words I’m more confused because the emotionless female voice in my vehicle says things like “I’m at *$, happy face where U frown face, **// 459 blush face 4EAE”.  Then I ask myself why I can’t understand this simple English language.

I recently read that a 12 year old girl faces charges for posting gun, bomb, and knife emojis on Instagram. As text acronyms and emojis filter into our everyday language it will be interesting to see where and how they land in our literature over the next ten or fifteen years.  Perhaps there will be a crime novel such as “The Emoji Killer”.

Confession of a writer

Last year I began attending a writers’ group.  We read what we write and criticize each other.  It’s a healthy experience, but it seems people don’t like to beat up on their peers.  They’re too nice.   I love it when someone beats my writing up.  Not because I’m a masochist, but because that’s the only way I really learn.  Kick my butt, I say, and they say my writing’s pretty good.  No, I say, lay it on me.  But they don’t.  That’s not my confession though.

Here it is:  I attend a writers’ group because when I criticize someone’s writing, it causes me to look much deeper into my own.   There’s nothing more humbling then telling someone they shouldn’t use too many adverbs, or whatever, (in front of a group) then realizing that I’ve made the same errors and my writing is up next.  

As corny as it sounds, the real benefit, for me at least, of attending the writer’s group is that it makes me a better self-editor.  It took me a few years of writing before I started this because I tend to be a loner and prefer to live in a cocoon and write in a corner somewhere.  Not to mention, there’s always someone cocky in these groups who believes he or she is God’s gift to the literary world just waiting to be discovered.

I’m wondering if anyone else out there attends writing groups and whether or not they find any benefit.  If so, let me know.

The Novel and the thirty second ad

I recently read that a one hour program in the United States contains typically 15-16 minutes of advertisements per hour.  We’ve accepted that 25% of our hour with our favorite show will be advertisements, but the interesting part is how the ads are changing and what it might be doing to our psyche.   The trend seems to be towards 15 second ads, based of course on the notion that Americans’ attention span is shrinking.  Right now nearly half the ads are thirty seconds and the other half are fifteen seconds.  If we watch a program with sixteen minutes of advertising we can see sixty-four thirty second ads, or 128 fifteen second ads in an hour.  Of course, we see a repeat of the same fifteen second ad over and over so by the time we go to bed we’re seeing images of some Insurance guy as our best friend.

The point you ask?  A fifteen second ad must be very focused and waste no time, just like writing a story in today’s market.  The upshot is this.  The average adult in the US watches 5 hours of television a day.  Hmmm… That’s 640  fifteen second ads/day or 4480 ads/week, or 232930 ads/year.  What?  A quarter million?  Ok, in reality some half of those ads are thirty second ads so you can cut that in half.  That’s only 115,000 ads a year, or so.  I neglected to ad in the YouTube ads we run into, or the pop-ups, or the focused Facebook ads.

There’s good news though.  Children 2-11 years old only watch about twenty-four hours of TV a week so they’re only getting about two thirds as many ads.  Whew, under 80,000 ads a year. 

So what does this have to do with writing a Novel?  It’s not news that structuring a novel has changed since Moby Dick.  We want an audience, but we have to pull them away from the Internet, or the TV.  We have to write short scenes, tight scenes, and gripping scenes.  Considering that a thirty minute program has to tell a complete story in about twenty minutes of thirty second scenes, the challenge is evident.

Now, here’s my kicker.  A prediction based on what I see on YouTube who appears to be the king of forcing thirty second ads and five second choices.  I predict that as Amazon keeps growing the market for electronically formatted books, the time will come when after ten pages, an ad will pop-up before one can continue reading.  Hey, nobody’s watching TV anymore, everybody’s online and the advertisers need to reach us somehow so we can know what we want.

My conclusion:  Keep trimming those scenes, keep them short, keep the suspense high and always drop in a teaser for the next scene.  You can buck the system but you can’t fight the evolution of the machine.

The Maladjusted Writer

I never ever thought of myself as a rebel, but others have called me that.  I was also told that I wasn’t well adjusted by a Corporate Human Relations manager.  I remember telling him that the problem wasn’t me; it was that my boss was an idiot, and I couldn’t allow myself to follow stupid rules.  This seemed to come as a surprise to the HR department.  I guess they figured anyone who graduated Magna Cum Laude in Engineering would be sufficiently institutionalized to carry out the corporate duty of generating revenues for the company so the CEO could get his thirty million a year or whatever.

Bottom line,  F— that.  Does that mean I’m a rebel?  You decide.  I kept quitting jobs with my middle finger in the air until one day I realized they were right; I wasn’t well adjusted, at least to a world of idiotic rules.

At some point, I quit changing jobs, and changed careers.  I decided the only way to have independence is to be independent.  I opened my own business, followed my own path, and held true to my own convictions of right and wrong.  I grew my business, and sold it for enough money that I don’t have to work again unless I want to.

What’s this have to do with writing?  I will tell you.  I don’t write according to commercial guidelines because I don’t write with the goal of earning money.  I write for the same reason I read.  I love reading great stories.  I want to write a great story.  That may never happen, but one thing I’m sure of:  It will damn sure never happen if I follow commercial guidelines.  The great books I’ve read were not written as commercial projects.  Few were successful at the time of their writing, and they were written by someone who didn’t really care if they were a commercial success.  They were written by some lonely writer living in his own little world sharing his unique interpretation of the world.  Often it was an interpretation that nobody else had come across, and sometimes one that the world wasn’t yet ready to accept as truth.

My conclusion:  Trying to write to a commercial script is for someone whose goal of publication and commercial success outweighs his or her desire to write a great story.  Thus, before I really started writing, I spent a good portion of my life attaining a position where I could write whatever the hell I wanted and not give one rip shit what anyone thinks about it. 

Of course that’s easy to do in a blog, but in a novel?  Yes, I think that’s how a novel should be written and that’s how I wrote mine.  It’s not published as of yet, but the few who’ve read it believe it will be.  I’m currently writing a sequel.  I write to make people think, to challenge their belief systems and morals to the point of discomfort.  Discomfort works well in fantasy because it’s easy to return to the real world.  When discomfort pushes its way into the reality we live in, it’s not as palatable. 

That’s the type of story I enjoy reading and writing.  I don’t think it means I’m a rebel any more than the fact that following bullshit rules in some corporation seems like a waste of my time and energy.  ­­­­­­I hope you’ll do the same when you write your novel or short story, or whatever.  Write it without caring about commercial formulas, current market conditions, or success.  Dig deep, find your interpretation of the world, and write the story you have to tell from your heart.  By the way, I don’t suggest quitting your job or flipping anybody off.  Being rebellious doesn’t really lead anywhere; being maladjusted might.

The Prompt

I constantly peruse the blogs and internet sites for various writing exercises.  Writing prompts haven’t helped me much in the past.  After all,  I can look around my room and find plenty of prompts, from the Nutcrackers on my mantle to the college graduation gift my ex-wife gave me before we were married.

Recently, I began working with a book called “Fast Fiction, Creating Fiction in Five Minutes” by Roberta Allen.  This short book taught me that when employed properly the prompt can allow one to reach deeper into the sub-conscious.  The theory, and it seems to work, is that if given a prompt and five minutes to write a complete short, there is no time to consciously think of a story.  Thus, it flows from within.

In this book, it’s recommended to carry out six five minute prompts in a row.  After 30 minutes, you have six shorts.  With thirty minutes a day you could theoretically have forty-two first draft shorts in a week.  Granted, many or most of them may not be stories that one wants to expand on.  Eventually though, one of the stories strikes a chord and connects and you want to finish it.

This cute little book also gives a lot of tips on writing a good short story so when you do revise your story you have plenty of tools to work with.  The key is to not revise while writing the five minute story.  Just let the nonsense, misspellings, bad grammar, and whatever else shows up flow for five minutes.

It has an interesting way of uncovering personal hang ups that may prevent you from reaching your full potential for creativity in writing.  At least, it did for me.  Try it and you’re sure to learn something about yourself.  I’d love to hear what you think about the exercises.

The Mountain and the Novel

I love to climb mountains and I love to write. Writing a novel is so much like climbing a big mountain that the only just way to compare them is to lay out some quotes from both mountain climbers and writers. If one replaces the word mountain climbing with novel or writing or vice versa, it all makes sense.

Writers Quotes found at: http://pasikarppanen.net/quotes/q-writ.htm#Writing is hell

Writing is not a genteel profession. It’s quite nasty and tough and kind of dirty. Rosemary Mahoney

Writing is the flip side of sex – it’s good only when it’s over. Hunter S. Thompson

Writing is so difficult that I feel that writers, having had their hell on earth, will escape all punishment hereafter. Jessamyn West

If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. William Zinsser

Writing is the hardest work in the world. I have been a bricklayer and a truck driver, and I tell you – as if you haven’t been told a million times already – that writing is harder.  Lonelier. And nobler and more enriching. Harlan Ellison

Mountain Climbing Quotes found at: http://winterclimb.com/articles/item/1-climbing-quotes

Nothing substitutes a large apprenticeship, a heap of experiences which converts into the base of intuition. Doug Scott

It’s always further than it looks. It’s always taller than it looks. And it’s always harder than it looks. – The 3 rules of mountaineering

Just a reminder – a guidebook is no substitute for skill, experience, judgement and lots of tension. Charlie Fowler

If we ever have children and they become climbers I’ll tell them, “Stay away from expeditions. They’ll make you poor and neurotic. Greg Child

I don’t want to write about climbing; I don’t want talk about it; I don’t want to photograph it; I don’t want to think about it; all I want to do is do it.” Chuck Pratt

If you’ve climbed the first 140 meters it doesn’t mean that you’ve succeeded; you are going to succeed by climbing the last 10 meters. Alain Robert

I’ve tried many sports, but climbing is the best. The beauty of this sport is that no matter how good you get, you can always find a way to challenge yourself. Randy Leavitt

Thriller Survey

This is a quick survey for crime and thriller fans.  I’m very interested in hearing from anyone who enjoys reading the following authors.  Specifically from the authors below, let me know two things.  First:  Which one of these authors is your favorite, Second: List each author for whom you’ve read at least one of his books.  (and just for fun let me know if I used “whom” correctly in the above sentence, and of course, anything else that’s on your mind.  Thanks!

1.) Dave Baldacci  2.) James Patterson  3.) John Grisham  4.) Robert Ludlum  5.) Lee Child  6.) Michael Connelly  7.) Harlan Coben  8.) Richard Price