Friday, April 8, 2011

Go ahead, write something shocking!

We are surrounded by a sea of bland, flavorless fiction, non-fiction, blog posts, bathroom wall graffiti.... The mucky waters of conventionality are rising and we will drown if we don't fight back.

How did we get to this point? Most of us learned to write in school. The purpose of a school is to homogenize us, to turn each of us from individuals into part of the school collective. *You Will Be Absorbed* says the school.

The school does the work so well that the child learns to rigidly conform even when proclaiming himself a non-conformist. All the non-conformists conform to a rigid non-conformist code.

As a result we are conditioned to see the bland and ordinary sentence as the safe and correct and grammatical sentence. And our readers drop with soft little thuds as they die from boredom.

So: write something shocking! Don't do what they expect you to do. Instead of 'she went to work as she did every day', write 'down! down! down! she fell, into a vat of melted lawn furniture'.

Don't write about some accountant who can't get the girl, write about the guy in purgatory who just found out Adolf Hitler is moving in to the purgatory-cabin next door. Write about the guy who sees fairies in the back garden--- then calls the exterminator.

If you are afraid to shock people with your writing, you may well end up seeing your writing coming to a screeching halt. After all, even if everything in your novel seems bland and inoffensive, something in it will offend somebody somewhere.

I am finding lately that my best writing in years is coming from a project that has an element in it that would shock the secular publishers silly, and another aspect that would put off Christian publishers as well.

Doing this is not safe. It's not practical. But at least it's not boring.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

we kissed when I was 8 and he was 7....

...and now he's the Gay latino Elvis impersonator, El Vez. Maybe it's just as well I quit kissing boys...

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Using Babelfish to write poetry

I have an unnatural obsession with machine translation. I have a great time using the various internet sites that provide computerized translation from one language to another, like Babelfish.

Since I am a person that actually knows about languages (during my Pagan days I translated a Pagan booklet from German into English) I know that computer translations usually suck. They are helpful if you already know the language you are translating into well enough to catch mistakes, but otherwise they can be trouble.

But while Babelfish and her sisters may not be able to solve the world language problem, they do have another use. They can write poetry.

You see, one day I was testing Babelfish to see how well it could translate into Korean. I know next to no Korean, so what I did was I wrote a test sentence: "My cat Claudius has a neurological disorder", translated it English-to-Korean with Babelfish, and then cut-and-pasted the resulting unknown Korean sentence into Babelfish and did a Korean-to-English translation.

This is what Babelfish spit out at me:

To my cat Claudius
there is a military force
at the nervous crane.

Who knew Babelfish could write a haiku? So, anyway, I slapped a title on it ('catpoem/claudius') and added it to my collection of poetry written. It is now included in Where the Opium Cactus Grows.

In this first case I liked what Babelfish did enough to keep it pretty much as it was, I just arranged it into three lines.

Most of the time Babelfish poetry is more work. You might have to run it through a couple of languages (Asian languages seem to work best), and pick-and-choose the best results and do a lot of rewrites. But it produces some pretty cool imagery and can help to fire up those creative juices on days when you just don't feel like writing anything.

Here is today's poetic rough draft:
1. (original sentence) The werewolf's girlfriend is now pregnant. When will the puppies be born?
2.(after translating into Korean & back) werewolf' s girl friends now are pregnancy. The pup when will be inherent?
3.(after translating 2 again into Korean & back) werewolf' s girl friends now are pregnancy. The pup of the case which will be characteristic?
4. (tranlation of 3 into Dutch and back) werewolf' s the little girl friends pregnancy now its. The young of the case which characterising will be?
5. (translated 4 into Japanese and back) werewolf' s now pregnancy of the friend of the girl. The young person when is the fact that it characterizes?
6. (translated 1 into Japanese and back) werewolf' The girl friend of s now becomes pregnant. Is the puppy when born?

1. (original sentence) How many puppies, how many? Only one, says the ultrasound machine. How odd, how very odd.
2. (1 translated to Korean and back) How many many pup, how many is many? 1 revealed the supersonic machine only. How many is odd, is quite odd and is how.
3. (1 translated to Chinese and back) How many puppies, how many? Only one, said the ultrasonic wave machine. How strange, how is strange.

These are the raw materials.

The werewolf's
little girl friend
now becomes pregnant.

The puppies of this case
when will they be inherent?
which will be the

How many many pup,
how many is many?
how many is odd
is quite odd
and is how.

the pregnant little girlfriend
and the wolf
will have one

Not really happy with that--- you don't get a military force at the nervous crane every day--- but will print it out and bury it in a file for awhile, then do some revision and reworking, add and subtract a bit.

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