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Posts Tagged ‘Huffington Post’

Made you click, didn’t I. That’s what you call “click bait,” my friends. And it has permeated our culture like the tendrils of fungus growing across that forgotten box of kung pao chicken in the back of your refrigerator.

Here are some other examples:

From the Huffington Post:

Rand Paul Flees in Terror From Mexican Immigrant”

From Gawker:

Game of Thrones Actor Gets Stabbed in Bar Fight, Orders Another Drink”

From BuzzFeed:

“The 10 Friends We All Definitely Have”

From TMZ:

Only True Pros Can Golf Off My Penis!!”

Since I only have about another ten seconds before you click on the next tawdry headline, let me tell you a secret: I can make you a superhero.

WordGirlWordGirl Superhero Training, PBS Kids, Google Play

Still with me? Okay, so here’s the deal:

Step No. 1:      STOP READING THAT SHIT!

Step No. 2:      Watch The Daily Show’s Jordan Klepper tell us like it is, in brilliant fashion:

The Daily Show Teaches Students About Online ClickBait”

Step No. 3:      Join the movement to be a better Internet trawler.

Look, I’m just as guilty of taking the bait as the next guy. How the hell do you think I found those headlines in the first place? Between those and Facebook memes, most of us don’t bother actually reading real news anymore. Or real anything, for that matter. Just more in the dumbing down of America.

But we can change that. It will take hard work and determination – things that seem to be lacking in people these days – but we can make the world and ourselves smarter. Start by reading one REAL news story a day. Go to a site like BBC News or Al Jazeera America and pick an article to peruse. You might be asking why I don’t recommend CNN or MSNBC or FOX News and I would answer that they are all terribly biased one way or the other and barely better written than the click bait stories.

You can support good writing and its writers by visiting their sites/blogs frequently and sharing them with your friends and family (hint, hint). A couple of my favorites are Stonekettle Station and Terrible Minds. As you probably knew already, I lean a little left in my thinking. If any of my conservative readers (Hello? Anybody there?) have some suggestions for their side of the aisle, I’ll gladly entertain them.

There are also these things called books. The classic version comes equipped with tactile interface, fresh ink smell, and never needs charging. It also can be a pretty good bug smasher, in a pinch. But if you’re one who just has to have that electronic gizmo in hand, there are plenty of options from Amazon’s Kindle, eBooks.com, Project Gutenberg, or iBooks.

Want to make your superhero conversion complete? Go read with a child, or someone who’s housebound or hospitalized, or help the illiterate learn. Open up that plethora of new worlds to another person and watch her blossom.

And finally, I challenge you to send at least one text a day with correct spelling, punctuation and grammar, just to freak your friends out. When they ask if you’ve been kidnapped by aliens, tell them about that cure for baldness.

 

© 2014   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.

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So, those of you who participated in this year’s NaNoWriMo might actually be crawling out of your word-smithing stupor by now. If you’re one of those who made it across the finish line with 50K+ words, good on you. If you’re one of the also-rans, even better, because you stuck your toes in the water and learned something. The only “losers” are those who weren’t brave enough to try in the first place.

Probably the one lesson everyone learned is: writing isn’t easy. It’s a lot more than just putting words on the page in some sort of order. It’s looking at a blank page and wondering just where to start in the epic miasma floating around in your head. It’s listening to the characters tell their stories in a jumbled mass and trying to decipher it into something that makes sense. It’s point of views, verbal tenses, story through-lines, picturesque descriptions, witty banter, bad guys, heroes, cats sitting on keyboards and not nearly enough tea. And that’s all AFTER trying to squeeze in the time to write in the first place. Sometimes just that alone is enough for the Charlie Brown Happy Dance.

I have yet to officially participate in NaNoWriMo. Plenty of excuses as to why not, but not really any good reasons. This year, since I was already in the middle of my latest novel, I set a goal of matching the pace required of actual participants – 1667 words a day. In looking back over the log I kept, I managed to hit that mark only once in 30 days. My grand total for the month? 15,926 words. That averages out to about 530 words a day. Some people might snicker at that, and I initially was disappointed with myself. But then I made a realization: that’s 530 words more than most. That’s another page, another scene, another plot point, another conversation in the bag. It’s forward progress, and that’s what really matters.

So I won’t be one of those authors that put out multiple novels in a year. I’ll be in good company. Cormac McCarthy (The Road) has released ten novels in a career spanning five decades. Joseph Heller had seven over the course of his half-century career, though arguably none better than his debut, Catch-22. J.D. Salinger (Catcher in the Rye) and Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird) each only had one novel to their credit (though they were some doozies).[i]

Not to say I’m anywhere close to the caliber of those esteemed gentles, but it does help to know that there are great writers in the world that don’t push out words at the speed of light. Some can (here’s looking at you, Isaac Asimov and Stephen King), and are damn good at it, but those guys are freaks of nature. The rest of you exploding all over the place might need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

 The Internet and electronic publishing have made it far easier to get words out there (this blog a case-in-point), but, sadly, it hasn’t made writing any better. In fact, the deeper into the Information Age we plow, the worse writing seems to get. With editorial oversight slim to none on most aggregate news sites (i.e., The Huffington Post), poor grammar, lousy punctuation, mixed tense and badly constructed sentences are more and more common. Yes, language and writing are constantly adjusting to new trends and discoveries, but I have a problem w/u typng n txtspk 4 my nws. Maybe I’m just an old fuddy-duddy, but I think you should always put your best foot forward when presenting to the public. It’s more than just imparting information – it’s representing YOU. And if you ignore the proscribed formal rules to write like a schlub, that’s what people will think of you. Take the time to do it right because what’s on the Internet stays on the Internet, and one day what you have out there may play a big part in the next phase of your life.

That’s why I try my best to write well here. Yeah, it’s just a little vanity blog, somewhere for me to rant, but there are people reading it (even beyond my family!), and more literary agents and publishers are researching an author’s on-line presence as part of the decision-making process. If the day should come that one of them happens upon these musings, I want them to see a unique voice with consistently good writing, not some lazy schlub who can’t be bothered with proper form. Form matters in the publishing industry. Content is still king, but following the rules of writing is the difference between a lovely evening and cannibalism: you can declare “Let’s eat, Grandma!” but don’t be surprised if somebody starts running when you let loose “Let’s eat Grandma!”

The bottom line: it doesn’t matter how fast you write, only how well. I’ll take a decent 500 words a day over 2000 words of crap anytime. In our instant-gratification society, we are all pressed to produce, produce, produce, now, now, now with little outside incentive for quality. So we have to make that conscious decision within ourselves to put the best we have out there. Otherwise, we’re all just schlubs running from the cannibals.

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.


[i] Check out  “10 Authors You Didn’t Realize Never Wrote Second Novels” for some other startling examples of one-hit wonders.

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I have three nieces and a nephew on my side of the family, three of which are still teenagers of varying degrees. All of them have “friended” me on Facebook. Why they would want to be “friends” with a cranky middle-aged broad like me is still a mystery, but I’ll take their perceived interest as a compliment. The vast majority of their other friends are real-life and age-appropriate, so I mostly try to stay out of their business. Lurking quietly allows me to peek into their lives and keep an eye on any drama. I’ve put my two cents in on occasion – mainly to offer what I hope is helpful advice – and have yet felt the need to rat them out to their respective parental units. Not having my own children, it’s given me a real education about what our youth is going through in our modern world. And it’s also shown me that our kids can’t write for shit.

I blame the phenomenon of texting for why “because” turns into “cuz” and “to/too/two” is simply “2,” and why punctuation and grammar seems to have gone the way of the woolly mammoth. Humans are basically lazy (that’s why we keep inventing things to make our work easier), so when the first clunky text-enabled cell phones came out it was a natural progression for the earliest users to minimize what they were typing for the maximum effect. When the tweens and teens took to the cell phone like a duck to water, it was expected they would become even more inventive in their abbreviations. But when I need a translator to figure out what all the letters, numbers and emoticons are actually saying, I find myself sympathizing with those early scholars who were tasked with translating Sanskrit.

Sadly, that abbreviated method of writing has bled from texting onto social networking and is beginning to drown more mainstream communications. I can’t go a day without finding typos, bad grammar, slips in punctuation, or lack of proper capitalization on something I’ve read from the Internet. Those sorts of problems seem to be commonplace on “news content aggregator” sites (i.e., Huffington Post, Yahoo! News, Examiner.com), which are fueled by bloggers uninhibited by editorial over watch. But I’ve seen the same issues on sites I would expect to be more diligent in such matters. The vernacular is becoming the accepted form and “proper” English is to be left behind like so much offal (look it up).

It’s happening in the spoken language as well. I’m by no means an expert in the field (and certainly not free of any linguistic mistakes), but there are some commonly accepted phrases that just burn my little OCD heart. The term “we’ve got” (and its various pronoun variations) is everywhere and I find it just WRONG, despite what Grammar Girl might state. Let’s just think about it for a second, shall we?

We’ve got = We have got

We’ve got the weather. = We have got the weather.

You either HAVE the weather (present tense), or you GOT the weather (past tense). Using both just makes me think you didn’t pay attention in English class, which automatically lowers my opinion of you. Sorry, I’m cruel that way.

Another of my verbal pet peeves is “gotten.” It even wormed its way into a question on Jeopardy, where I thought the last bastion of intellectualism held sway. The clue was about national parks and read, “…this park has gotten more visitors…” I could only stare at the screen with my mouth open. Really? “Has gotten” over “received,” “welcomed,” or even plain ol’ “saw”?????

This is another example of how language is evolving. The University of Michigan states “I haven’t gotten the bills done yet” is a perfectly acceptable sentence in modern English. I look at that sentence and cringe and not just because it reminds me of things I need to do, but at the inelegance and waste it promotes. “I haven’t done the bills yet,” or “I have yet to do the bills,” or “The bills aren’t done yet,” or “I didn’t do the bills yet” seem much better choices to me. Using more words doesn’t mean you’re smarter. Language, whether written or spoken, needs to travel smoothly and freely. If it gets too hard to read or listen to, the ideas you might be trying to impart may not be fully understood, or – worse yet – lost entirely.

But the sad truth of the matter is, we live at the crux of another major change in our language and, hence, culture. English a thousand years ago was very different from our modern English. Just to give you an idea:

Excerpt from Prologue to “Beowulf” in Old English (circa 1000AD)

HWÆT, WE GAR-DEna in geardagum,
þeodcyninga þrym gefrunon,
hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon!

Translated into Modern English [1]

LO, praise of the prowess of people-kings
of spear-armed Danes, in days long sped,
we have heard, and what honor the athelings won!

If there’s that much change over a millennium, one can only imagine what future English will look like. I suspect it will consist largely of emoticons and abbreviations, and be completely unintelligible to the likes of me. Much as I – and others of my ilk – grouse about it, language is a living thing. It constantly changes, adapts, edits, rearranges, and inserts words, styles and meanings at every opportunity. What I was taught in school forty years ago no longer holds the same level of importance today, and will just be a great mystery in another forty years.

But don’t expect me to jump right on board. As a science fiction writer, my job is to look forward. As someone who must have order in everything (read that with a German accent), I will still hold stubbornly to my well-trod ways. I’ll either die as that crazy lady in the spooky house on the corner with all the books and cats and the nervous canary. Or when civilization falls and electronics fail and I’m the only one who knows how to read all the books you’ll need to rebuild, I’ll be the one in charge.

Either way, luv u 4vr

© 2013   Cheri K. Endsley   All Rights Reserved.


[1] Taken from http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/beowulf.asp. But translations are interesting things. For further discussion of translations, see http://www.nvcc.edu/home/vpoulakis/translation/beowulf1.htm.

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