The Top Ten Facebook Crimes – Chapter Five

facebook userBook Number Three, Chapter Five

Chapter One – An Unexpected Start to a Sunday Morning

Chapter Two – Sleeping on Your Front

Chapter Three – Destination Obal B

Chapter Four – Half a Hot Dog in a Handbag

 

Sunday morning into the afternoon, somewhere in the city.

I appear to have turned into a Facebook bore.

I know, Facebook. Like, who would bother when you’ve got Twitter, and Instagram? I just used to go on it for the occasional nose, and maybe once or twice I posted a pic of me and various other people getting drunk, or one of Corky the cat doing his cute-sy stuff. I maybe posted something once or twice a month.

I never posted up inspirational quotes about love, friendship and/or fitness, or a bet that 97 percent of my friends would never share this earnest quote about cancer, or reply to a post with one word, and preferably a word that was flattering, that described me.

But now? Now I seem to do all the above. And yet at the same time, I have ten times the number of friends on Facebook I used to have and people keep sharing my shite. Those inspirational quotes seem to be very popular indeed, and my Facebook friends appear to love all those sickly pictures and videos of cute kids I keep posting.

And not one person has made a sarcastic comment about this: Celebrating our 20th year of marriage. Can’t believe we’ve been together and so happy for so long. Love you so much baby. You’re the best which was posted a week ago.

20th year? Well, that ties in with the dodgy wedding pic on the landing I guess. Continue reading

The Joys of Internet Research

nailsHow did writers manage years ago – research-wise?

I’m a big believer in the powers of the search engine. Ask a question – any question – and someone’s asked it before you. Here’s a case in point. Yesterday, I wanted to describe someone going into a beauty salon. Those of you who do make use of salon services, particularly nail bars, will know there’s a certain very strong, chemical smell associated with them. What is it?

I began to type the words, “what does a nail salon” in. By the time I’d typed “sm”, auto fill had kicked in, and the suggestion “What does a nail salon smell like” appeared.

Dead Cats

The first site I found was on answers yahoo – and funnily enough, was from someone writing about nail salons and wanting to know what that smell is. The answers weren’t terribly helpful. Someone had suggested dead cats, but one or two sites later and I had my answer.

Ethyl acetate.

That’s just one example. For the book I’ve just finished (first draft only), I needed to know if exploding cars happen often, what takes place at a memory clinic, how Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, what happens during a medical termination, when Glasgow Caledonian became a university, if Botox is a brand name or a generic name for face-freezing injections, and the lyrics to a number of songs,* all of which was revelaed with some judicious searching.

Alternative Words

Then there’s the joy of the online thesaurus. You discover you’ve just used the same word three times in the last two paragraph and off you head to the thesaurus to find an alternative.

I have no idea how writers managed before the internet. Did they save up all their queries and then go to the library? Did they have to phone people up? Would the novelist writing about a nail salon 25 years ago have phoned up a salon and asked the question? As a result of the difficulties of research, did writers just write about things they knew a lot about?

Thanks heavens for the internet, hmm?

 

*Those lyrics might need to come out. I’m trying to work out if I would need to pay a fee for them, if I misquote them slightly, or have characters speak the lyrics to each other. There’s more information about using lyrics in your writing here.

Preposterous Endings and Implausible Plots

The burnt-out car - it doesn't happen half as much as Hollywood would have you believe.

The burnt-out car – it doesn’t happen half as much as Hollywood would have you believe.**

Last week, I watched a film I thought preposterous and a book that featured an implausible plot.

It made me think because when you’re a writer you imagine various scenarios in your head, trying them out to see if they work or not, and rejecting plenty of ideas because they seem unbelievable.

It’s the biggest contradiction about fiction – good films and books need to be believable. Even if you’re writing about teenage boy wizards and their adventures saving the world from a malevolent man everyone fears to name. (Except for the said teenage boy wizard.)

By the time I’d got to the end of Jason Bourne, I had switched off. The last car chase (and there had been a few beforehand) seemed ludicrous, as did the final fight which was long, drawn out and physically impossible. Films like to throw together the main good guy and the main bad guy for a final fight, the main bad guy always managing to miraculously escape everyone else’s efforts to bring him down.

The book I read* featured three women who managed to set up a business together which was of course an immediate success. They all managed to find the loves of their lives at the same time so that the book had a happy – and very neat – ending.

It did make me think though. Should writers spend too much time worrying about the plausibility of their plots? Does it make something less enjoyable if the ending is predictable and unrealistic?

Plenty of us go to the cinema or read books for escapism. When life’s pretty uncertain, why not watch something or curl up with a book where you know the goodies will win, the baddies will get their just desserts and the heroine will find love?

I’m currently fretting over several elements of my own book, wondering if they are realistic enough. I’m worried about a car crash, where a car conveniently explodes (forums online suggest car explosions are nowhere near as common as Hollywood makes out), the progress of an old woman’s Alzheimer’s (I suspect I’ve made it too quick for plot reasons) and the timings of some revelations that I fear have come too thick and fast.

Making something interesting and making it believable don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but I’d rather write a book that people read and don’t feel forced to mutter, “Oh, for God’s sake! Seriously?” or “What a load of rubbish!”

 

 

 

*I don’t like giving mean book reviews, so I’ll keep the book’s identity a secret. And actually, I did quite enjoy it.

**Picture thanks to Jeff Buck.

Y’know? No – That’s Why You’re Telling Me

microphoneYears ago, people who weren’t used to public speaking or presentations would pepper their speeches with ums, ahs and ers.

The good old days, hmm? The modern equivalent is “you know”. If you’re a regular listener to podcasts as I am you will hear this phrase repeatedly. Americans are particular offenders, but the practice is spreading.

I find it grating. The odd use here and there is okay – although I’d prefer an er or an um – but I listen to podcasts where people use it every few words.

If you listen to broadcasting professionals, such as those who present BBC radio shows for example, you probably won’t hear the phrase. “You know” separates the professionals from the amateurs. To stop using it, or at least to stop over-using it, a presenter needs to slow speech down.

There’s a tendency these days for people to talk too fast. Modernity encourages short attention spans so we all speak quickly, desperate to get our multiple points across. If you listen to old broadcasts or speeches from politicians, you will notice how slowly they speak. Slower speech sounds more authoritative and measured.

Sometimes I find myself using it in speech. It slips in if you haven’t given enough thought to what you are saying. If you’re an offender, keep this in mind:

“You know?” I don’t know. That’s why you’re telling me.

 

Deep-Fried Marshmallows

If you’ve ever worked with clients, you’ll probably know what I mean by this short story.

Fish_n_chips“The thing is with clients… they know for sure what they don’t want, but seldom know what they do want.”

“Too right! You’re expected to be part magician/part mind reader.”

“My mind reading skills have failed me of late.”

“Well, the usual trick is to give them the opposite of what they asked for.”

“Mmm, might work. When I gave them what they requested, they hated it.”

“Oh – they really didn’t like the battered, deep-fried marshmallows with ketchup?”

“Not one bit of it.”

“You could try fish, and maybe serve it with some fried potatoes?”

“I’ll give it a shot.”

 

©Emma Baird 2016

Cat in a Box!

cats in boxesLike many cats, mine loves a new box. I open it up, empty out the contents and in he jumps. There’s usually a bit of proprietorial scratching too as he marks it out as his new toy.

At least it distracts him from wanting to sit beside my laptop. It’s always the left side and it usually involves disabling the caps lock key. On a few occasions, he’s managed to turn the laptop off – two times, I was in the middle of composing complicated emails. The emails vanished. Once, I was updating a book, changing a few words here and there. That wasn’t saved either and I had to rely on my becoming-increasingly creaky memory.

Cat experts suggest you install a supervisory shelf in your home office – some kind of high-up structure that allows your cat to survey everything and sleep if he wants. I’ve tried putting a box with a blanket on my desk, just the blanket and a pile of paper. But nothing is quite as nice as the naked left-hand side of my laptop.

The non-cat lovers among you might be thinking the obvious: can’t you just shut him out of the room? For years, we’ve operated an open door policy. If there’s nothing a cat likes more than a new box, there’s nothing he hates more than a closed door. Besides, being head-butted by an attention-seeking cat is kind of cute, hmm?

The joys of working from home include spending more time with your loved ones, pets included.

The Woman Who Died a Lot – a Review

The Woman Who Died a Lot (Thursday Next, #7)The Woman Who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s a while since I’ve read a Jasper Fforde book – and this one did not disappoint. Here’s advice to anyone new to JF. When you start reading, it will seem like absolute nonsense, but persist. Ride the nonsense roller coaster and you’ll be rewarded.

Like all previous Thursday Next novels, the gags and puns come thick and fast. Explanations for common-place things – such as why Aldi never has any brands you recognise – are witty. The mocking of local government and large corporations is cleverly done.

There’s a lot in this book that will make you smile. I loved the idea of hard-core librarians, feared more than the SAS.

Another added bonus are the illustrations and the postcards at the back. Pictures used to be commonplace in books – up until the First World War when they disappeared because of paper shortage. It’s nice to see them.

I would hesitate to recommend this book to anyone who is new to Jasper Fforde because it helps to know a bit of background about Thursday, the main character. Start at the beginning with The Eyre Affair and work your way onwards.

View all my reviews

100 Not Out – A Review

100 Not Out100 Not Out by Gordon Lawrie
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Searching for something to read for your commute – whether that’s for work or for a flight out on summer holidays? Try 100 Not Out. The author has collected together examples of his flash fiction, i.e. very short stories, grouping them in categories such as love, crime, politics and more. Many of the stories will make you laugh out loud – they will certainly make you think.

A light, but satisfying read. I’d thoroughly recommend it.

View all my reviews

Annoying Habits

RockyDear oh dear oh dear… recently, I thought it would be a good idea to add another cat to our household. Now, cats are notoriously territorial and my resident cat in particular is King Bee of the Area. He took to the new cat like a duck to… a shotgun? The Sahara Desert?

Cats that are confined indoors, rather like the new cat we adopted, find all kinds of ways to amuse themselves. One thing they like to do is knock stuff off shelves – and it was this particular habit that inspired some Friday Flash Fiction.

Annoying Habits

“My precious – where are you?”

Sod it. Lucia had lost her wedding ring. Some might argue that her fidelity had gone eons ago, but the ring bound her to a long-ago promise. The naked fourth finger of her left hand was too obvious for her liking.

The Cat sniffed. One of his little – some might say cute, some might say annoying – habits was knocking things off shelves. Spectacles, kirby grips, the occasional wedding ring* taken off for cleaning…

The Cat didn’t judge, but Lucia’s last affair had pushed certain boundaries. Tom’s youngest brother.

Who also happened to have a dog.

©Emma Baird 2016

 

*My wedding ring went missing for a week. It tuned up six days later, resting near the toilet. Hmm