Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Gritty, Coming-Of-Age Short Story Plot Generator For Male Writers

Are you a dude who would like to write a gritty, coming-of-age short story?  Considering the market for these is seemingly endless, why not?  Well, I've made it easy for you.  Simply combine the following elements, in the order you choose:
  • An Awkward Sexual Encounter
  • Drinking or Drug Use
  • An Asshole Male Friend
  • A Fight

1. The protagonist is a young male (duh).
2. To add spice, this story could take place in, say, the 50s or the 80s, or, you know, whenever you, the male writer, were your protagonist's age.
3. To add additional spice, the protagonist could be Jewish (if the writer is Jewish) or Catholic (if the writer is Catholic),, never mind, just pick one of those two.
4. The fight must be a physical fight (i.e. fist fight).  Weak, boring verbal arguments do not count.
5. The drinking/drug use could fall anywhere on a scale of Boone's Farm to Heroin, depending on how gritty you want to be.
6. The protagonist may be an asshole, but the Asshole Male Friend must be more of an asshole.
7. For economy, you may combine these elements.  It's always a great choice to have the protagonist and the Asshole Friend get drunk/high together and then get in a fist fight, preferably because one of them had an Awkward Sexual Encounter with the other's girlfriend or mom or something.
8. If the writer is gay, the Awkward Sexual Encounter can occur between the protagonist and the Asshole Friend.  This has the added bonus of being extra-gritty AND allowing the writer not to include any female characters whatsoever.

You can write several versions and make something of a career of Gritty, Coming-Of-Age short stories.  But if you get ambitious, feel free to just repeat the elements over and over again, and you've got yourself a Gritty, Coming-Of-Age Novel.  But you'll probably need to add a death somewhere in there, too.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The curse of questioning.

My mother makes decisions very easily.  She does a little research, finds something that makes sense to her, and goes with it.  When it comes to training her dog, she follows that Dog Whisperer guy.  When she wants to make a major purchase, she consults Consumer Reports.  When we were babies, she looked everything up in her Dr. Spock book. 

I wish I could do that.  I don't know if it's personality differences, or a result of coming of age with internet access, or some combination of the two, but I find it very hard to find One Solution to any given problem.  Because, there are so many "experts" out there!  And they disagree with each other!  And you can find them all (and their various legions of followers) stating their cases on the internet!  And I can't seem to stop myself, whenever I hear advice, from looking it up online, and seeking out alternative opinions.  Sometimes I spend hours doing this.

In recent years, I have developed a decent ability to see and understand both sides of an issue.  This is mostly a good thing, but it can make it hard for me to make a moral decision and feel certain that it's the right choice.  Exploration of moral gray areas is a major theme in my writing.  It makes for great drama.  It's not always so great in real life, though.

Two areas that I spend a lot of time researching are, not surprisingly, parenting and nutrition.  I've grown really tired of articles along the lines of "Ten Foods You Think Are Healthy That Are Actually Unhealthy" and "Five Ways You Are Damaging Your Baby" etc.  People love to write these things, I guess because it's fun to tell other people they're WRONG.  Then, I suppose, they get a lot of hits on these articles because everyone wants to share them on Facebook so that they can get the pleasure of telling their friends and family that they're WRONG.  One thing these type of articles tend to say is some version of "do the research yourself, and you'll see that I'm right!"  This amuses me, because I usually find that the more research I do, the more nuanced and muddy an issue gets.

Of course, ultimately, one has to make a decision and stick with it.  I choose to be vegan even though I don't believe it's necessarily the One Best Way To Be Healthy And Moral.  I believe, based on my research and personal experience that it can be healthy, that it can help the environment, and that I would prefer not to eat or harm animals, if I can avoid it. 

Parenting is a bit stickier for me.  I have some friends who are strong adherents to Attachment Parenting, and some of it makes sense and works well for me, too (like breastfeeding and cloth diapering).  Other things, like co-sleeping, do not currently work for me.  Sometimes it feels easy, in the moment, to fall asleep while nursing Anton in bed.  Problem is, we both tend to wake up more often, and I tend to get squished into uncomfortable positions, resulting in back and neck aches, and if he wakes up and I don't immediately realize it, he can and will crawl off the edge of the bed.  Sometimes he will sleep in his own bed without much fuss.  Sometimes he won't. 

One major issue is, I like my own space in bed.  I don't snuggle with David when I'm sleeping.  When I lived alone, my cat would sleep on top of me, and I didn't mind that, but generally I don't want other humans touching me when I'm trying to sleep. 

Anton slept really long stretches in the first few months of his life, but now?  Not so much.  I know this is normal.  I know he's not some evil baby, trying to manipulate me.*  But more sleep needs to happen, somehow.  Last night, David was remarking about how I've changed my mind a few times about what I would and wouldn't try to get him to sleep more.  I readily admitted that I am stumped on this issue.  I've tried various methods, and haven't found one that works.  It has become quite apparent to me that no One True Way of parenting is going to work for me.  I wish it could be that easy...but it's not. 

I guess it's time for more research.

*I have to say, I find it slightly questionable that people feel so certain that they know exactly what a baby or a dog's thought process is in a given situation.  I mean, how can they be so sure whether or not the dog wants a human to be its "pack leader" or a baby, if left in a crib, will believe his parents don't care and have abandoned him to die alone?  Don't babies and dogs have some diversity in how they react to situations?  And how can we really be sure, given that none of us has been a dog or remembers being a young baby?  There I go, questioning again...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

If it's not one thing...

So, since Anton started day care, he's picked up just about every germ in the world.  Sometimes David and I end up getting sick, too.  It's getting quite old.  Anyway, it's been a few weeks since I've been actively sick, but I developed a sinus infection after my last cold.  This has happened to me a couple of times in the past, and I would treat it with steam/neti pot/huge doses of Vitamin C until it went away.  Which usually took...a LONG time!

Well, this time it got so ridiculous that I had horrible headaches and even visual effects (no, it wasn't a migraine, it was just my sinuses).  So I broke down and got some antibiotics.  And then it went away!  Yay!

But...then the antibiotics (amoxicillin) gave me a scary rash that sent me back to the doctor!  Not cool!  Apparently this is fairly common for kids, but can also happen to adults.  The rash is made worse by sun exposure, so it's all over my chest, neck, and face.  It's fading now and looks mostly like a splotchy sunburn.  Gah.

The doctor told me to limit sun exposure.  NO JAZZ FEST, he said!  Oddly, that actually makes me feel somewhat better.  I hadn't planned to go to Jazz Fest anyway, because, sadly, Anton is in a phase that I don't think would be very Fest-compatible.  He mostly likes to crawl, stand, and cruise around.  Sitting in a stroller all day?  Not so much.  But I was feeling sorry for myself for not being able to go, so it helps to have an actual medical reason as well.

Anyway, at least I have a cute kid to hang out with.