Monday, January 07, 2013

Mr. Know-It-All Owns Up

If you don't get this reference
Mr. Know-It-All is very disappointed.
Every once in a while I'm reminded that I don't know everything.

Yes, yes, it's true and I accept it. If I knew everything I probably wouldn't be here trying to engage in a conversation with people who don't really know me.

A while back I pointed to this article as a reminder of things one should watch out for when editing a draft. Then I saw this article saying the first article is nice but writing is more than that and writers should be aware of these things, too.

Point taken.

Here's the summary for those of you who didn't click through on either article (and shame on you - you should read their stuff, I do):

Ask the big questions, show your characters' character, make the reader care, and then offer a big payoff. If you do this cleanly without annoyingly obvious grammar mistakes, you'll have a nice book in the end.

Sounds simple, dunnit?

In the grand discussion of writers' capabilities, it should be. The writer should have been taught (either formally or informally) that a clean manuscript is a must so that when one is being critiqued it can be read for structural problems. Again, that sounds easy and it should be.

But often it isn't. I think it has more to do with how people interact every day and tell stories to one another on the phone or via email than anything else. There's little respect for individuals in every day life and that's translating into some prose. There's a paradigm shift coming and it is slow moving, like beach erosion, rather than tsunami-like, washing away all the old stuff that "doesn't matter any more".

Formality is dying.

It's going away in schools and in job interviews and I see it and you see it in the deaths of little things every day. People don't use turn signals when they drive. After all, I know where I'm going why do you need to? People use the speakers on their phones to chat with their doctors in a crowded coffee shop. After all, I'm not ashamed of what's wrong with me, why should you be? The last seat on the bus is taken up by a backpack and an angry-looking person who doesn't want you to sit next to her. After all, it's her personal space, isn't it?

Why do we think that a space where the general public is allowed to occupy (like say a restaurant dining room) is the same thing as a public space? Parks are not the same as a business. Why do we behave as though we're entitled to be impolite to anyone we want?

There are levels of privacy that we are willing to give away with our rights as American citizens and it doesn't bother the vast majority. In fact, that vast majority tends to think of anyone who bristles at giving up something that "doesn't matter any more" as a trouble-maker or perhaps just an unhappy person who needs to get laid.

We tear one another down because we can, because it makes us feel better. Why don't we help each other more? Put on that turn signal. Take that conversation somewhere else. Let someone who's been on her feet all day sit down for the bus ride home. It's not that much to ask or even to give.

Both articles are helpful and insightful and neither is absolute. I link to them so that you can go read them and learn something I didn't know at some point and needed to learn again. I write this blog in the hopes that I'm reaching some form of intelligent life that wants to engage in a conversation. This isn't a marketing platform, folks. Well, it is, but that's not the point. It's as much me wanting to open a dialogue with other like-minds and maybe even some who aren't alike so that I can learn things.

It's a little more formal than me just setting up on a street corner and evangelizing away, but not by much. Here are my thoughts. What are yours?

Because I don't know it all. Not by a long shot. But I do want to learn as much as I can.