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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weary of False Heroes.

I should be finishing the revisions my patient editor is waiting for, but I can't. Not yet. At least not until I put on paper a sense of outrage I feel after glancing at the editorial section of the Houston Chronicle. I hesitate actually committing because some will perceive my words as near heretical statements.

You heard me. Heretical.

Yes me, even mild, even tempered, consistently cheerful me can get riled up on occasion. And I am now. On page B12, covering over three quarters of the page, is a photo and text of a new graduate's commencement address. Part of the speech, what I can only assume the paper considered the most passionate section, is in italics above the photo.

Normally, I pass on reading such things, especially when I'm in the middle of revisions, but the nature of the italicized words and photo drew me. And, angered me. Not because the woman didn't deserve to graduate or because she was condoning something horrific like mass murder. No, I was angry because she painted herself as a hero facing the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, forever standing firm, never bending or bowing despite nearly insurmountable hardships, hardships she seemed to think were not of her making, but instead were cruelly thrust upon her.

What were these hardships? Four pregnancies, starting at age fourteen and ending at 25. All as a single person. Sad? Yes. Stupid? Certainly. Worthy of assistance? Of course. Hardships that only her courage enabled her to survive? Hell no. This woman deserves her diploma and all the accolades anyone gaining a Bachelor's degree deserves. What she doesn't deserve is the right to consider herself a hero.

I can hear you condemning me for my lack of sympathy. But I do not lack sympathy, I lack false sympathy for chest thumping false heroes. At the age of 14, this young woman chose to have unprotected sex. How heroic is that? The heroic person is the young woman that steps outside of the clique and does not get pregnant, does not have a baby at 14, does not have three more in the next ten years as a single mother, does not drop out of school. The courageous young woman graduates from high school, attends the college or training in her field of choice, graduates, and then starts a family. That is courage. That is something to brag about, to shower accolades upon.

For some reason the truly heroic woman is often ignored. We are often forced, through media, to focus on the bravery of the single mothers staying in school. These single mothers should receive all the help we can give them, but they are not the courageous ones. Those who choose to take the different path, the one less traveled, are the true heroes.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Zapping Those Pesky Words to Extinction.

Today, I want to talk about how to handle those words and phrases that seem to sneak into your manuscript uninvited and unwanted. I have no doubt, you didn't write the phrase "dragged her..." (add the body part of your choice, i.e. arm, hand, wrist, hair, leg, elbow--as you can see the list can go on and on) over fifty times in your 72,000 word novel. Neither did I. 

The problem is that between the time I submitted it to my editor and she actually began editing, somehow--my money's on osmosis--they appeared not once or twice. That would have been reasonable and acceptable. No, the dragging of some body part occurred 51 times. 51 times. How is that possible? Actually, now that I think about it, it had to fairies. Clap if you believe the fairies did it. 

What's that? Wrong line? Wrong story? Ah well. If it's not fairies, then the only logical explanation is that I wrote them, but don't you think I would have noticed? Clearly, I didn't. To make it worse, there were more, many more including shouting, yelling, crying, jerking, pushing, shoving--oh, well, you get the picture. No use destroying what little dignity I have left by beating my dead, overused, horse.

Okay, so here's how to handle such things.
Step One: Be ruthless. Get rid of them all, every one, or if you can't bear to part with every single shout, leave in a couple and no more.

Step Two: Use your search and replace feature. When I finished revising the first half of my manuscript (Come on give me a break. My heart couldn't take on the entire thing in one fell swoop. My merciful editor gave it to me in bite size pieces and just like the miniature oreos, they were much easier to handle.) 

Where was I? Oh yes, Search and replace. I checked every term I knew I'd overused and zapped them into extinction. How did I manage such a feat? Ask my thesaurus. Since it can't talk, and they say a picture's worth a thousand words, check it out.
Pretty sad, huh. 

The good news is that I've created a much better story, one with more interest and one without the usual suspects of tired and overused words. Let's twine together everyone.