Sunday, July 24, 2011

My personal list of writing cliche`s

Every writer has a list of pet peeves. For your entertainment, I've complied mine along with reasons I avoid these words and phrases.

  1. "Basically": People tend to use this as a safe word. When they don't know what to say, or how to say it, they'll say basically, as if to draw attention away from their lack of words and make it seem they're summing something up for our benefit.

  2. "At this time / at this current time / at this present time": Dear God, I hate it when people use these phrases. Wishy washy, formal garbage, but that's not even why I despise them. I have read authors who try to use them in narration, and the problem with that is formal language sounds so insincere. Masking the real message with neutral-sounded language. Be bold! Use words like "right now / now / NOW, BITCH!"

  3. "I have to (do something / hurry / STOP HIM)!": If your narrative is so weak you have to tell the audience how dramatic the situation is, consider another draft.

  4. "With every fiber of my being.": This used to be a very poetic, dramatic line, but now it's a cliche`

  5. "To what end?": Who says this? Maybe if you want your character to come across as well-educated, but it also sounds stuck up and awkward.

  6. "Well, it must be somewhere!": See #3.

  7. "Hunker down": I remember when the press used this during the Iraq invasion coverage to try to make everything sound so dramatic. It didn't work. It sounds like a phrase writers use to inject drama into an undramatic situation.

  8. "How scared were you? How useful is it? –and all the variations.: More common interview questions brought to you by the press. What point is there in defining degrees of fear, or levels of usefulness? What other way is there to respond to this question than with "I was very scared"?

  9. "As it were": See #4.

  10. "Albeit": In narration, this is sometimes acceptable, but in speech? I have never heard anyone use this word, so I'm inclined to leave it out of narration as well.

  11. "Latter / former” sentence structure (i.e. He was either a hero, or a coward. Some believed he was the latter, but he himself believed he was the former.): This might've made a writer sound educated back in the 1700's, but today, latter / former is not eloquent. It's confusing. Every time I see it, it reminds me of computer code that has to be parsed, forcing the programmer to figure out which value matches up with which variable. I don't want to write sentences that have to be parsed. The meaning should leap out at the reader.

  12. "Shenanigans": This is not the 1950's.

  13. "Furrowed his brow": To me, furrowing sounds like something a farmer does to his field. It does not conjure up a mental image of a man raising or lowering his eyebrows. Words must form some sort of image in the mind, and if a word does not do this, it should not be used.

  14. "Sortie": Again, no mental connection between the word and the thing it names.

  15. "He’ll always be with us (in our hearts).": It amazes me how often I hear this line today. It's one of the biggest cliche`s in the book and there is no way to state this without sounding corny.

  16. "Please don’t die / don’t be dead!": See #3. I hear this one in anime quite a bit it seems. Trust your visuals. Trust the flow of your story. You don't need to tell us how dramatic the situation is.

  17. "I don’t expect you to understand.": Melodramatic. Also a conversation stopper.

  18. Statement: “I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” Response: “Well, now you do.”: This is not a good comeback. It's childish. You're better off leaving the statement unanswered than resorting to this.

  19. "Verbiage": More formal, passive-aggressive businessspeak. Avoid.

  20. "Moral fiber": Used to be poetic, but now it's been done so many times it comes across as stupid.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I've watched way too many science shows over the years. I enjoy them because they teach me things I should've learned in school. I've probably learned more about history and science thanks to the History Channel than all 12 years of school. Not the Science Channel. All they ever show are reruns of How It's Made. Though Through the Wormhole is turning out to be a good series. And lately the History Channel is less to do with history and more to do with swamp people and driving on icy roads in Alaska. Formula for modern television: take every occupation and turn it into a TV series! God, I hate reality shows.

But there are some fundamental things I just don't get. Physics and chemistry teach us that matter is made up of protons. Everything from the keyboard under my hands to the air I'm breathing is made up of protons packed into tight balls with electrons spinning around them.

There's always been one question about atomic theory that's eluded me. Why is there such a difference between each element on the periodic table? Take gold (Au 79) and mercury (Hg 80) for example. These two metals couldn't have less in common. Mercury is highly toxic, is liquid at room temperature, and has low conductivity of electricity. Gold, however, is solid at room temperature, is nontoxic and conducts electricity very well.


Atomically speaking, the only difference between gold and mercury is one proton in the nucleus. How does the addition or subtraction of one proton change every property of the element? Why does the matter behave totally different just because of a proton? How does the number of protons in the nucleus change the properties of matter?

This is a fundamental question to which I have never found an answer, and I've never heard anyone address it before. Oh, sure, I've heard the ol' analogy that stories are just different combinations of the same letters, and matter is like that, too, but that doesn't help!

To me, I could take a pencil eraser and set it on the table, and it would be a pencil eraser. Then I could take a dozen pencil erasers and arrange them in a tight little ball. No matter how many pencil erasers i collect together, it will still be an eraser.

Poor example, I know, but to me it does not make sense to combine more of the same thing and end up with a totally different product. That's what happens on the periodic table. It is mind-bending to think about, and that's why I like watching those sciency shows.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Search terms

This is a special message to everyone who found my blog via these search terms:

"gay triceraton"

"mary poppins text"

"watership down text"

""don't shop when you're hungry" "no no no""

""james steele" nike"

"the brave little toaster online read"

I wish I had what you were searching for. Really, I do.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lion in My Bed

New story published in The New Flesh, Lion in My Bed.

This is one of my favorites, and one of my oldest attempts at flash fiction. It was also my first 4x6 story. A very small group of people will remember when I first printed it on a 4x6 photo print and kept it behind the photo lab counter for curious people to discover. Feels good to see it on a real publication at last!