A Brief Rant On Weight Loss

You know what happens when you lose weight?  You’re the star of the show.  Everyone goes wide-eyed when you enter the room, tells you how good you look, asks you what your secret is.  You get your moment on stage where everyone stops and kisses your butt.
And then we wonder why women are so unhealthily obsessed with weight.
Look, I’m not opposed to losing weight as part of a healthy program.  But I do wonder what it would be like if we had the same astonished reaction to someone wearing a button saying “I think I’m wonderful just the way I am” and everyone crowded around to tell them how sexy they were and asked them how they did it.  Because there’s a constant stream of positive feedback for altering yourself to fit society’s needs, but pretty much zippo for happy self-acceptance.
You’re only sexy if you’re in flux.  When you hit a “normal” weight, people stop congratulating you, stop telling you you’re amazing, stop paying attention.  Is it any wonder yo-yo dieting’s a constant in life?
Is there any way we can actually get people to compliment you for who you are right now, and not just when you’ve changed significantly from last week?

The Annual Tradition: A Love Letter To Those Who Kill

Every Memorial Day, I link to my Memorial Day essay: A Love Letter To Those Who Kill.
Two years ago, someone expressed concern about the gendered language of this essay, of the repeated usage of “our boys” when there are, in fact, a lot of women in the military risking their lives as well. She felt that using the term “our boys,” though traditional, renders women invisible. She asked me to revise the essay to change this.
Unfortunately, a combination of “this is a snapshot what I said then, no matter how dumb it may sound to me now” and “I’ve watched George Lucas edit his shit into horror” and “I’m not sure in editing I wouldn’t change the meaning/introduce other errors which would then need to be edited” makes me have a rule that I don’t edit an essay at all once it’s been up for a day or two. (Otherwise, I would doubtlessly edit some of my more controversial essays into such well-reasoned processes that people would wonder what the fuss was about. And the job of this blog is not to always make me look good or enlightened.)
But she raises a good point. This year, I’ll ask you to raise an extra-special toast to the women in our services, and will go out of my way to reference the women (and the gendered flaw in the essay) whenever I link to it in the future.
In any case, flaws and all, here it is.

Tales Of A Fourth-Rate Nothing: Busking On The Wrong Street Corner

During Clarion, I coined the phrase “busking on the wrong corner” to describe the phenomenon of “entertaining writing that doesn’t serve the story.” It’s the reason writers have to  kill their darlings.  It’s the trap that stops a lot of good writers from making the transition to great.
“Busking” is the practice of playing in public spaces for donations – you know, that guy playing the guitar, his guitar case open before him, full of scattered singles and quarters.  Buskers are often some of the most talented musicians.  But the buskers’ art is also partially a knowledge of where the crowds are.
You can sing your fucking heart out on a corner where there’s no foot traffic.  If you’re really good, you might make a few bucks.  But if you’re really good and really smart, you’ll position yourself near the subway where people are pouring out by the hundreds as rush hour ends, a place where even a mediocre musician can clean up.  Part of your strength is not just the raw force of your musicianship, but knowing where to place that skill so it’s maximized with silver rains of spare change.
Writers (me included, oh so included) are often putting their talents to use on the wrong corner.  This chapter is brilliant writing, it’s got great characterization, it’s exciting.  But underneath, the scene is at odds with what the story is trying to do, and what you’ll wind up with is a great scene that advances the story in the wrong ways.
Lemme give you the real-life example: the lead character of the novel I’m plotting right now, Autumn Akeley, is a taxidermist.  In the beginning of the book, Autumn is deep in the woods on a rumor, searching for the Hulk.
Why the Hulk, you ask?  Because she’s not just any taxidermist – she makes wild viral videos online parodying recent movies in order to drive business to her online taxidermy shop.  Autumn’s latest planned video (“The Bearvengers”) needs a gigantic, light-skinned animal she can dye green to play the part of the Hulk.  Autumn does not kill animals for her entertainment (she takes the death of any creature very seriously), but she just got a tip from a hunter that there’s a decaying grizzly in the woods she might be able to use.  She tracks it down with her friend Karla and examines the corpse – it’s a little too moldy for her liking, but it has very light fur.  She thinks she can salvage it.
Then a shot rings out across the forest: there are poachers in the woods.  As someone who hates to see an animal killed senselessly, she does not take lightly to poachers.  She sets off to investigate, starting the chain of events that sets up the novel….
…Now, that’s a pretty good scene.  It’s got an interesting character doing something we’ve never seen done before in a book, it displays her odd compulsions, it allows us to watch her work (if you have a character with an odd profession, people love to see the fine details), and for a short intro it’ll do quite nicely.
And yet we are busking badly here.  Why?
Because this novel is about Autumn’s friendship with Karla.
Okay, unfair, I didn’t tell you that – but the whole point of the novel is that a new man in town with a shadowy past begins to romance Karla, causing a rift when Autumn discovers the man’s past as a serial killer.  And this scene, while good in a vacuum, utterly fails to set up the dynamics of Karla and Autumn and their friendship.  In fact, you’d be excused for forgetting the existence of Karla in this summary, because while we can put in some nice dialogue and characterization to set up Karla’s character, the underlying structure of the scene is not about her at all.
This is a great scene for a novel featuring bold Autumn Akeley, bold adventurer.  It’s a terrible scene for Autumn and Karla’s big fight – especially since the next scene involves Autumn tracking down poachers, which has even less to do with their friendship.  And if you’re not a careful writer, you’ll think this is an awesome scene because it’s got it all – humor, good characterization, a quick hook to action – without realizing that it’s an awesome scene that’s structurally at odds with what you want to do in the long run.  It doesn’t set up the things that need to be established.
It’s a good scene in isolation.  In context, it’s a darling that needs to be killed… Or at least dramatically changed so that Karla does something so interesting here that the scene metamorphosizes away from Autumn’s search for the Hulk and into an expression of how Autumn and Karla couldn’t get along without each other.
The point I’m making here is that had I written that chapter, I’d have been very proud.  It’d be a nice, 1,500 word opener that would grab the reader, full of lovely details and fun stuff.
And then I’d have to place it into my trash folder, because ultimately it doesn’t do what it needs to, then hunt for the right scene to write.

More FetLife Posts

I’ve been quiet here as I’ve been slogging through the usual Seasonal Depression, but I did post two essays over at FetLife (TheFacebookforkinksters) that you may be curious about:  “Depression. Fucking. Depression.”, which deals with how depression affects my sex life, and “Ropeweasels,” which deals with the issue of me being tied up. (There’s also “Fireplay and Me,” an oddly poetic musing on setting women aflame, which I don’t think I linked here but maybe I did.)
In addition, my humor essay “So I’m Going To Become A Dom” may be my most popular essay ever, with 612 comments and 965 loves.  I guess it’s all about the specificity.

An Odd Change In A Dying System

Back in The Day, when I had infinite people reading me on LiveJournal, I’d post an entry and the comments exploded.  I’d hit “post,” and five minutes later I’d have fifteen comments.
Now, I make a big ol’ important post and sometimes I don’t get a comment for half an hour.  That used to unnerve me – is this a bad entry? Did I say something wrong? – until I realized what was happening.  English LiveJournal is slowly dying.
What used to happen was that the LJ friends page was like Twitter or Facebook now – so constant a stream of data that you just refreshed your friends’ page and wham, new entries.  Maybe you didn’t check it twenty times a day like I did, but the friends page was a ritual where my latest entry popped up in real time.  I was a part of the info-stream.
As LJ use has declined, though, the traffic patterns have changed for me.  People no longer read my blog as part of a daily pulse; it’s in their RSS feeds, or bookmarked separately, or they wait for me to post the interesting links to Twitter (since I don’t Tweet-spam every post).  I still get roughly the same number of comments, but as opposed to arriving in one explosive comment-dump, they now arrive scattered over the course of two days, like late passengers departing a red-eye connection.  I’m read at their convenience, not the convenience of LJ.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is a little weird.  Some days I post a SRS ENTRY and then wait until I get one comment just to ensure someone’s listening.  By the time I get out of the tub, I have like three comments, which used to be the sign of an entry falling on its face.  Now, I’m patient; the user feedback will arrive in due course.
If you write it, they will come.