At least one of my senators Doesn’t Get It.

So I wrote to my congress people, and I got a nicely vague, waffley letter back from one of them. I know he’s just trying to keep everyone happy, but I don’t WANT vague and waffley, I want him to tell me he’s going to vote against the damn bill. Otherwise, it feels entirely too much like he’s just trying to keep me soothed and placated while he’s planning on voting FOR it.

Dude. I don’t want the internet to become TV. I don’t want to live in fear that some fuckwit griefer is gonna come across my site and decide to use SOPA/PIPA to fuck with me, just because they fucking CAN. Given what I write, it’s waaaaaay too likely that someone will use SOPA/PIPA to keep my stories offline.

I don’t want to see hundreds of thousands of forums, of stories, of creative and brilliant people to just disappear. Believe it or not, but someone has pirated First Flight — it turned up on ebookr.com, and I was both somewhat excited (someone thought it was worth stealing!) and annoyed (hey, someone stole First Flight! and the blurb, straight off Dreamspinner’s site…). I sent off a DMCA notice, and they, to their credit, responded appropriately. (In fact, they responded so quickly and politely that I’m seriously considering uploading a couple of my free reads.)

Do I spend hours of my day, trolling pirate sites, looking for anything of mine? No. If someone posts about a pirate site to one of the many mailing lists I’m on, I’ll go take a look, but until ebookr, I’d never found anything of mine. It’s not like it matters to people who pirate stuff — they’re gonna do it no matter what the law says. I’ll poke at pirates if I find them, but in general it’s not like it matters in the grand scheme of my writing life. Hell, at least they’re NOT trying to scrub my presence from the web — pretty much the opposite.

SOPA/PIPA are the antithesis of pirate sites in that regard. It wouldn’t affect the pirates at all, but it could–would–affect ME in a big way. Yeah, it would be nice if we could keep people from stealing stuff, but that’s just not going to happen. The internet is the best thing to happen to my life: it has brought me friends, it has expanded my horizons, it has allowed me to learn things I never would have even known I WANTED to learn. I want my internet to stay pretty much exactly the way it is, full of the sparkling dizzying array of wonder that is humanity. With SOPA/PIPA in place, the internet will likely become TV: catering to the lowest common denominator; run by people who think Jersey Shore and Desperate Housewives and I don’t even know what insipid sitcoms are on these days are what *I* want. I come to the internet to get AWAY from that crap, because no one asks me what *I* want — and it sure as hell isn’t THAT.

You can have my adverbs and adjectives when you pry them from my clammy, tightly-curled fists.

Why you want to wait until I’m in full rigor is beyond me, but hey. To each their own, right?

I don’t understand– No, that’s not true. I understand why people get annoyed by thesaurus abuse, and I understand why people get annoyed by an overabundance of pedestrian adverbs. What I don’t understand is the absolute lack of compromise that I see in OMG NO ADVERBS/ADJECTIVES OR YOU SUCK!!!! “writing rules”.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that Kristen Lamb may be the one and only person I’ve ever seen to author a list of “writing rules” who actually explicitly states that it’s boring adverbial phrases like “she smiled happily” that need to die in a fire — but something like “she smiled, gleefully wielding her scalpel” is acceptable.

See, the thing is, you canNOT write without adjectives. Since I’m a highly visual person, I find examples to be far more illuminating, so here! Let’s have another experiment:

This is the first two paragraphs of my Sailors story, with every adjective, adverb, or other remotely descriptive word removed:

Everyone lined the railing. Tevseth was searching.

There. Tevseth caught sight of Kelvi, watching healers helping the men.

No adjectives, no adverbs, no prepositions. What do we learn from this? Well… There’s a railing… And some people, two of whom we’re maybe supposed to start caring about, but…

But what railing? Where is it? Who’s Kelvi, why should healers bother helping the men, what is it that Tevseth sees? Why the hell should we give a tin-plated rat’s ass? Who knows? I sure don’t — and if someone wanted me to read their story and this is what greeted me? I’d be clicking the ‘close tab’ X or the back button without bothering to see what happened in paragraph three.

So here, try those two ‘graphs again, this time with the dreaded and deadly descriptors (but no alliteration):

Everyone who could stand lined the railing as the Sea Dragon limped into the harbor, two and a half weeks late. Tevseth could see the crowd on the docks—most waving, some jumping up and down—and leaned forward, searching for one familiar figure. It wasn’t until they were manuvering into their berth that he found him.

There. Gold-brown hair glimmering in the sunlight, green eyes he couldn’t see yet, a wiry body half a head shorter than most and a full head shorter than himself. Tevseth’s throat went tight as he caught sight of Kelvi, standing toward the back of the crowd and watching the town’s healers helping the badly injured men off the boat.

There. Now we know where the railing is and what it’s attached to: on a boat! We also know why people are at the railing — they’re finally home. Tevseth is looking for someone among the crowd — not an easy task, because the crowd is just as happy to see their sailors as the sailors are to see home — and we know when Tevseth finds him. We immediately know that Kelvi is important to Tevseth (physical reaction); we also see that Kelvi is watching the healers because there are injured men that need help getting off the boat. We can guess that Kelvi is probably looking to see if Tevseth is among those who can’t move under their own power, but that’s not nearly as obvious as the rest of it.

And all of that information is conveyed through the use of adjectives, prepositions, and at least one adverb. Oh, and italics, but I’ve covered those elsewhere.

So no. I’m going to just keep on ignoring the screams and wails of THOU SHALT NOT when it comes to adjectives and adverbs, because I am trying to tell a story, here. Something made up out of whole cloth. Fake. Factitious. Fiction. If I tried to do it without adjectives, adverbs, or any other descriptors, you’d have something like “There was man.” and that is IT. Not really a story, there, not as it is.

(Edited to remove another prepositional phrase.)

Apparently, I think you’re stupid.

From the post ‘4 Writing Crutches That Insult A Reader’s Intelligence‘, on Kristen Lamb’s blog, after the usual “NEVER USE ADVERBS OR YOU SUCK” advice*:

In fiction, bold font and italics are almost never acceptable. Again, if the prose is well written, the reader will stress the word(s) in his head. Trust me. We don’t need to hold our reader’s hand, or brain, or whatever.

Bold font I’ll give her, because in fiction, bold font is the exclusive domain of things like chapter headings and the like. Italics, on the other hand… I don’t agree that “well-written prose” automatically equals the reader “stress[ing] the word(s) in his head”. Let’s try an experiment!

Here I have a passage from First Flight, italics removed. Can you tell what’s supposed to be emphasized?

The top came open easily, and he stared. Eggs. LOTS of eggs. More eggs than he’d ever seen in his whole life, as far as he knew. Chris picked one out and held it up, suddenly realizing that he didn’t know how to get them open. He needed help. He needed a tool. He needed… a spoon.

And here’s the same one, with the intelligence-insulting italics in place:

The top came open easily, and he stared. Eggs. LOTS of eggs. More eggs than he’d ever seen in his whole life, as far as he knew. Chris picked one out and held it up, suddenly realizing that he didn’t know how to get them open. He needed help. He needed a tool. He needed… a spoon.

I don’t use italics because I think my readers are stupid. I use italics because I want my readers to have the story the way I see and hear it in my own head. That’s what they’re looking for, after all–the story that I am telling. Don’t I owe it to them to tell it the way it and the characters demand it be told?

As usual, the post ignores dialogue entirely. Here’s another little experiment with italics, this time with Benny and Phil. (This scene is in first-person, from Phil’s agrammatical POV.)

“Will was drunk and he was being silly. Was that it?” I was gonna say no, but he kept talkin’. “Or are you planning to kill me?”

“Kill–Sweet Jesus! What the hell?” I stared at him, my mouth flappin’ ’cause I din’t know what to say about that. Din’t he know me? “What the hell? Why the hell would y’think that? I ain’t gonna kill you, Benny; I ain’t even thought about it. Kill you? You lose your mind or somethin’?”

Benny shrugged. “You’ve heard the other guys talking about that kind of thing. It’s happened before.”

Where does Phil’s emphasis fall? How do those words sound, what cadence do they follow?

Here’s the original version:

“Will was drunk and he was being silly. Was that it?” I was gonna say no, but he kept talkin’. “Or are you planning to kill me?”

“Kill–Sweet Jesus! What the hell?” I stared at him, my mouth flappin’ ’cause I din’t know what to say about that. Din’t he know me? “What the hell? Why the hell would y’think that? I ain’t gonna kill you, Benny; I ain’t even thought about it. Kill you? You lose your mind or somethin’?”

Benny shrugged. “You’ve heard the other guys talking about that kind of thing. It’s happened before.”

So did that make you feel stupid? I hope not, because all that was supposed to happen was that you were supposed to hear Phil’s voice, loud and clear.

I’m the sort of person who, if they were going to insult someone, would make it a bit more obvious than through the use of formatting in my writing.

* Which, to be absolutely fair, she did** temper with the note that one can use adverbs as long as you weren’t pedestrian about it.

** This is non-fiction, so it’s okay to use italics.

Kind of you, but no.

Got a rejection on Neighbors, today. Not a big deal, actually — I think I would have been more surprised if the story had been accepted, for various reasons that I don’t think I’ll discuss here. (For the record, because I’ve been shouted at before: the quality of the piece(s) submitted are not among said reasons.)

The rejection letter was fine, but the editor expressed the hope that I’d try again in the future. I’m afraid I won’t, given my track record with both said editor and their own publishing house. It’s not that I’ve had nothing but rejections and am full of bile and seething resentment, not at all. It’s that I don’t think we’re a good fit for one another.

I wish them all the best of luck, and hope they got lots of stories that they loved, but I’m just going to save us all the time and trouble by removing them from my ‘to submit to’ list.