Tag Archive | dialogue

Until Next Year, Porcfest

Porcfest is officially over, and it’s been an awesome experience. It has also been a bit of a roller coaster–half of my food was ruined upon arrival, my vapor broke within hours of arriving, the trip up cost me more than I expected (although, honestly, I’m not certain where the discrepancy lies), and this morning I am out of almost everything (cigarettes, food, estrogen), while it looks like we’re not leaving today. So I’m about to have a few very rough, difficult days until I get back home.

Regardless, it was absolutely worth it. I met a lot of really cool people, of course, but beyond that, I did more to further my libertarian reach in the last week than I’ve done in the past two months, and it’s with key figures in the liberty movement: Will Coley (obviously–Muslims 4 Liberty invited me up), Daryl Perry, Rodger Paxton, Eddie Something (does a radio show I’m going to be on), and some others–and I think my rant impressed Judd Weiss.

Speaking of the rant, it was phenomenally successful. While I don’t think it was my best rant, I know that it reached people and made many people think differently of trans people. One person approached me late last night to tell me that he’d rolled his eyes when he saw me in the Whova app, having stereotyped me as one of those SJW Libertarians we’re beginning to see, and that I blew his mind when I came out swinging so hard. Dozens of others said that same, that they were thrilled to see a trans person standing up and saying the things that needed to be said.

So what did I say? Well, you’ll probably have to wait for the YouTube video, when I’ll have cropped it, adjusted the audio, and hopefully fixed it from where the recorder (some random guy who awesomely did me the favor) flipped it portrait for a bit. In the meantime, here is the link on Facebook:

The Anarchist Shemale Rants at Porcfest

So it’s been awesome. I placed third, by the way, in Soapbox Idol, but many people felt that I should have won and only lost because of point inflation. No judge awarded less than a 3 at any point, and by the end of the competition they were handing out 5s almost unanimously. That I went so early in the process (second), and still placed third despite the point inflation is really cool.

But in a larger sense, I won, because Eddie hosts a national radio show and invited me on, got my contact info, and sent it to his producer. It’s hard to win harder than that, and I think it makes the case pretty well that I really won, and the points were skewed pretty badly… I’m sorry; I’m very competitive and don’t like losing.

While walking to Will’s hotel room yesterday to get a shower and prepare to go on stage (requiring makeup far beyond my normal makeup), I happened upon Rodger Paxton again, who asked if I was leaving. I don’t remember how the conversation flowed, but I told him I hoped to be an official speaker next year, and he was pleased at the idea, told me to add him on Facebook, and said we’d make that happen.

I wanted to do a second rant about communication, because dialogue is a lost art, which became increasingly apparent as things went on. Never was I able to finish making a statement unless I was on a stage holding a microphone.

It’s easy to see why this is the case, and it’s got nothing to do with being trans or female, despite the attempts some people have made to make it into a sexism thing. I’ve seen people of all genders interrupting people of all genders. Instead of listening, people are constantly thinking about what they want to say, and they want to say it before anyone else can speak up and shift the conversation. So Person B interrupts Person A to make B’s point, which is often tangential to A’s point, and A never gets to finish. Meanwhile, instead of listening, Person C is thinking about what they want to say, and they interrupt B near the end of B’s statement, but before B has actually finished.

There are no pauses in conversations any longer. People are afraid to pause, because if they stop talking for more than a fraction of a second, one of the people, like a lion hunting prey, will pounce, and Person A’s opportunity to speak will be lost.

That’s not the way conversations are supposed to work, and it’s why most people consider me to be very quiet. I’m not quiet. I just am extremely reluctant to interrupt people. Why? Because that’s rude as fuck. When someone is speaking, you should be listening, not licking your lips waiting for the speaker to breathe so you can say what you have to say. Wait until the person finishes, and then speak.

I initially handled this by re-interrupting and saying firmly, “Let me finish,” but it quickly became too frustrating to continue doing that. But there’s no way to get a word in during these “conversations” unless you interrupt someone, because it will be a constant flow of interruptions. If you’re waiting for a pause, then you’ll never speak.

The end result is that I spend a lot of time silently listening and observing. I’m fine with that, because it frees my brain to notice and ponder things if I’m not eagerly waiting for someone to take a breath so that I can impress them with my insight. One of the things I’ve noticed, for example, is the endless series of interruptions that conversations have devolved into.

Before leaving yesterday, I watched Will, Dan the Ice Cream Man, and another dude have one of these conversations. Will attempted six times to say something, and was interrupted the first five times by one of the other two who seized upon the first two or three words, assumed they knew what he wanted to say, and ran with it, cutting him off in the process. So, no, this isn’t a sexism thing, it’s not a trans thing. It’s an American thing.

We’re rude as hell.

I shouldn’t have to regularly tell (note: not ask) someone to not interrupt me and to let me finish. And why should I feel like the rude one for calling someone out on it and demanding they allow me to finish? That’s the opposite of the way it really is. If you interrupt, you’re the rude one; I’m not rude for pushing back and demanding to be allowed to finish. But try it some time–you’ll feel like you were rude. Of course, it works better if you don’t regularly interrupt people yourself.

I know we all have things we want to say, and we all feel that what we want to add to the conversation is valuable. So are we also afraid that if we don’t interrupt or interject prematurely (such as when the speaker breathes, and we know they aren’t actually finished). But I think we’ll find that if we allow others to finish speaking, they will allow us to finish, and together we can re-learn the lesson we learned when we were five years old: that it’s rude to interrupt people.

 

Writing Thoughts 2: Description & Adverbs

notI hate adverbs.

At least in fiction, I hate adverbs, because they are often used out of place. Adverbs are the tools of weak writers who don’t know how to otherwise convey a story. Let’s take two paragraphs for example.

John was furious, and banged his fist on the desk. The force was so great that the handset fell from its place on his phone, but that was fine–he didn’t care, because the caller was on speaker. “Who in the hell do you think you are?” John shouted angrily and slammed the receiver back where it belonged–an empty gesture, but it made a lot of noise on the other end and made John feel a little better.

Just some bullshit I made up. What is John mad about? What did the caller say? What are they discussing? I don’t know, but, to be honest, I’d kinda like to find out. Anyway, there’s one adverb in that paragraph that doesn’t belong, that has no place being there, and that is there only as the tool of a weak and timid writer.

“Angrily” doesn’t belong, and many, many writers have a habit of following each “dialogue verb” with an adverb, to let us know how the person said it. But let’s remove the word “angrily” and see if it becomes any harder to understand.

John was furious, and banged his fist on the desk. The force was so great that the handset fell from its place on his phone, but that was fine–he didn’t care, because the caller was on speaker. “Who in the hell do you think you are?” John shouted and slammed the receiver back where it belonged–an empty gesture, but it made a lot of noise on the other end and made John feel a little better.

Was there ever any doubt that John shouted that angrily? Did any reader out there think that John might have shouted it happily or joyously or jokingly? The opening sentence is a little abrupt for my taste, but I did that for a reason. It’s a single paragraph–in a single paragraph, it’s going to be very difficult to both set the emotional tone and have dialogue. In a typical work of [good] fiction, the preceding paragraph would set the emotional tone, leaving us able to omit “…was furious, and…” from the sentence. Since there’s no preceding paragraph to use John’s actions to convey his anger, it was necessary in order to explain why he’s banging his fist on the desk.

Of course, we could also set the emotional tone afterward, and have this as the opening paragraph of the story, couldn’t we? Yes, but that wouldn’t be advisable. Once this paragraph has been read, it has happened in the mind of the reader, and the reader already has an image in their head of how the scene happened. If you go adding context to scenes that have already happened, you’re effectively retconning the image in the reader’s mind, and that’s not a good idea–it will become hard for the reader to trust the author over time.

But what does John look like? What does the desk look like? What color is the phone? What does John’s voice sound like? Is John in an office? What color is the rug? Is there a rug? Is there a window behind his desk, or a bookcase?

I could certainly write a few paragraphs detailing John’s office, but… why should I? I didn’t even have to write that John is in an office, and yet 99% of the people reading that paragraph will picture John in an office. They will have, in their mind, their own idea of what that office looks like. My image of John’s office has a large window, with the blinds pulled down and the setting sun casting its orange-red light into the room through the blinds, and the office is filled with the smoke of John’s cigarette. Does that resemble your office?

If I start describing the office, I force my idea of the office into your head, and it takes time to do that. How completely do I want you to see my image of John’s office? Does it matter if you have a bookcase where I have blinds and a window? Does it matter if I have plaques and college degrees where you have pictures of his family? Probably not. If some of these details are critical to the story–perhaps someone is going to aim a lasered scope through the window in an attempt to assassinate John, at which point the presence of a window and its position would become very important–then they should be included, but if they aren’t critical, then why not let the reader keep the reader’s image of the office?

When I told you about John shouting into the speakerphone, it was no longer just my story–it was your story, too. It was an experience we had together; it was an experience that we shared. Your image of John and his office are every bit as valid as my image of John and his office. For just a brief moment, I conveyed something, across untold miles and unguessed amounts of time, directly from my mind to yours. And from the seeds I planted, you grew your own garden–it is your garden. That is your John, your John’s office.

Patronizing, insulting laughter echoed from the speaker. Then with his thick accent and gruff, cracking voice, Dmitri said, “I am the one who knows your secret.”

I initially had, “with his thick Eastern European accent and gruff, cracking voice, Dmitri said…” but then I realized–there was no need to point out that he’s Eastern European. Even if that is critical to the story (and it looks like it will be), with a name like “Dmitri,” he’s not exactly French, you know, or Iranian. We can always return to it later and talk about Dmitri’s teenage years in Ukraine and how he stumbled across this secret in Minsk, Belarus. How Dmitri is a good person, but he learned this dangerous secret, and spent the next five years being chased all over the world by John’s people (unbeknownst to John), until finally he’d had enough and decided it was time to wield the secret to his advantage. All of this can be used to say that Dmitri speaks with an Eastern European accent. We could also just give him a last name that is also distinctly Eastern European; there are many ways to do it.

In the vast majority of my fiction, I stick with “said” as the verb to reference spoken dialogue, though I occasionally use words like “whispered,” “shouted,” and “screamed.” As much as I would hate seeing “Amy said loudly,” I’m totally fine with seeing “Amy screamed.” That’s a pretty large difference, isn’t it?

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Amy said loudly.

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Amy screamed.

An enormous difference, built solely from three words. I’m okay with words like “screamed” because they set the emotional tone actively–to scream is an action.But let’s not forget the bad writers who would say:

“Why won’t you leave me alone?” Amy screamed loudly.

Don’t pretend like you’ve never read something like that–bad writers are all over the place, and I’m sure you’ve read such a thing before. I know I have. This, of course, would be as opposed to screaming quietly? And screaming gently?

And whenever it’s possible for a verb to set the emotional tone, that’s fantastic. But be mindful of verb tones–one can’t ooze beauty, after all.Let’s look at the first example again, because I don’t think it was really necessary to point out so brazenly that John was furious, and it’s going to bother me if I don’t go back to that and look again.

John bashed his fist against the desk. The force was so great that the handset fell from its place on his phone, but that was fine–he didn’t care, because the caller was on speaker. “Who in the hell do you think you are?” John shouted and slammed the receiver back where it belonged–an empty gesture, but it made a lot of noise on the other end and made John feel a little better.

Ah, that’s better. See? It wasn’t necessary anyway to so awkwardly set the emotional tone. The reader has no doubt–John is not happily bashing his fist against the desk, after all. He’s not pounding the desk, which could be a celebratory gesture–he’s bashing his fist against the desk, which leaves no room for guessing: John is angry. If that wasn’t clear enough, he did it so hard that it knocked the receiver off its base.

This is, of course, the benefit of the second draft. It could be cleaned up further and refined more, but I don’t care to do it, because I’m not trying to present an example of a great piece of fiction. I’m trying to draw attention to the use of adverbs, descriptive verbs, and setting/character descriptions.