Cyber-bullying (MT#7)

It took a while before Eileen (my wonderful roommate) and I decided what topic we wanted to focus on in our documentary.  We skipped around from dreaming, to cyber-bullying, to stress, and then back to cyber-bullying.  The cyber-bullying problem always struck home to me because I’ve known so many victims (but don’t we all?).  In fact, I was a target at one point.  I dated this guy whose friends despised me, so they used to make nasty comments on my pictures.  I’m only admitting it because it seems so silly now; how could I get so worked up over people who I considered idiots?

My cousin was victimized, as well.  Someone posted a picture of her and her friend on Facebook, and a few people began to post crude comments.  And my cousin was only 12 years old when this happened.  Thankfully, she’s strong-willed and approached one of her school’s counselors about it.

Cyber-bullying, although a seemingly harmless problem, has become an epidemic amongst the younger generations.  They’re so susceptible to raw emotions (thanks to hormones and puberty) that nasty comments gnaw at them.  Megan Meier, a 13 year old girl, was bullied to the point that she hanged herself in her closet.  Although Megan’s story is tragic, it reminds us that this is a huge issue which effects approximately 35% of teens (it’s hard to get a specific number, so I’ll have to look into it).

So why is cyber-bullying so effective and popular?  Behind the computer, everyone’s strength suddenly flares and an unknown courage is found; it’s easy to type up a mean comment and click send.  Suddenly, someone can say a nasty comment that they were thinking before without having to worry about facing the person’s reaction.  A cyber-bully may believe that his/her comments are only words, but those words can tear the victim apart.  A victim can hardly escape the ridicule, as well.  Unlike playground bullying, cyber-bullying follows the victim home; it constantly tortures the victim.

Megan’s story is horrifying, but the sad reality is that she’s not alone.  Eileen and I want to shed light on the effects of cyber-bullying.  Some might be as simple as blocking a person online and moving past the situation.  Other times, the victim might lash out against the bully (which only creates more negative attention).  But sometimes, in very particular and certain situations, the victim might be pushed too far.  Without cyber-bullying, the internet might feel like a safer place for teens to enjoy themselves and fully open up; first, the cyber-bullying must end.

Update:
Here’s our documentary.  Enjoy!

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An Innate Process (Re #4)

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to work on Patrick’s story in the past few weeks.  I’ve started a novel (an idea that I’ve had for a long time).  So far I don’t have as many words as I hoped I would by now, but it’s been a great experience.  I dove into the new character’s story, starting when he just began puberty.  It’s his own recall about his life and everything that led up to the dreadful consequence he’s suffering while he’s writing his memoir (although he takes it a bit too lightly originally).

It’s been odd just diving into this story without any fear of how well it’s written; actually, it’s been a relief.  Without the constant pressure to please any readers, I’ve let go and really settled into the story.  It all comes naturally; whatever happens next is organic.  Although I still wouldn’t call it a masterpiece, what I’ve written is beautiful (to me, at least).  The words possessed my fingers and molded the story on the page.  Even if it is awful so far, I’m surprised how freeing it’s been to forget about readers and just do it.

Lately, though, there has been something troubling me: Will I be able to finish it?  I’ve only finished one novel once (it had about 86,000 words), but the idea of leaving a piece that’s so important to me unfinished frightens me.  But, as Christoper Boone says, “I wrote a book and that means I can do anything” (Haddon, 222).

The Curious Incidient of the Dog in the Night-Time (RFW #7)

“I wrote a book and that means I can do anything”
(Haddon, 222)

The combination of dedicated research and an engrossing, consistent narrative voice makes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time a memorable story.  Haddon’s creation, Christopher Boone, is a fifteen year old boy with autism who sees the world in a straightforward way.  Haddon’s ability to capture details through Christopher’s calculating eyes ignites a fantastic relationship between Christopher and the reader.

This aspiring astronaut, mathematical genius observes the world in a literal sense.  He doesn’t understand the imagination, he thinks the concept of life after death is foolish, and he definitely can’t grasp figures of speech.  “I was just noticing how things were, and that wasn’t clever.  That was just being observant” (Haddon, 24).  Christopher’s perspective shows us a clouded view on life.  While he can count the number of red cars he spotted on the road that day, he can’t comprehend facial expressions or other people’s emotions.  Boone captures the view delicately by insinuating to the reader what’s really going on through the fog; Boone really shows instead of tells.

After finishing The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, I realized good writing doesn’t require fancy language and imagery sprinkled throughout the text.  Good writing requires care; care for the character and his/her particular story.  If an author cares about their character, the rest might come naturally.  Suddenly, simple language and every day speech becomes poetry.  Just like that, Christopher Boone is born into the world of literature.

Where Boone succeeds, he also falters.  While Christopher’s upfront, yet clouded view brings us straight into his mind, Boone’s approach is almost too obvious and literal.  He forces something down the readers throat and continues to repeat certain ideas and descriptions.  Although I don’t mean to critique his style (especially since I’m no more than mediocre), but I found myself rolling my eyes at certain points where Boone made what he was attempting to say too explicit.  Just as one of Christopher’s interesting quirks is his inability to comprehend metaphors and figurative language, it also becomes a bit of an annoyance.  If Boone’s intention was to drive his reader a bit nuts, then he succeeded.  I felt that he made sure to include figurative speech within the dialogues constantly just so Christopher could say something along the lines of, “I didn’t understand what he was saying here because it doesn’t make sense” (that was god-awful paraphrasing, but you catch my drift).

Boone’s too forceful and in the reader’s face with Christopher’s personality and, while he develops a really great, fascinating character, he also relies too heavily on it.  But maybe that says something.  As I mentioned before, a writer should care about his/her character, and Boone really seems to.  Even I, as the reader, really cared about Christopher.  So Boone’s approach, although a bit ‘in your face’, achieves what every writer hopes for: creating a story and characters that the reader cares for.

(This was a really great book, overall.  Check it out if you get a chance!)

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. New York, NY: First Vintage Books, 2008.

On the Fence: Creative Writing Groups (RFW #6)

It’s odd how much integration occurs within the context of writing about writing.  A few days ago, Prof. Torg had us annotate an article by Peter Elbow called “Writing Without Teachers: The Teacherless Writing Class.”  It revolved around the idea of creating a writing club, in which all the participants were fully dedicated and ready to write as well as read.  Elbow encouraged the idea and gave several different tips to have a successful writing group.  I guess it spoke to me since I’m not only in English Comp, but in Introduction to Creative Writing, plus I work at the Writing Center–oh, did I mention I meet with a writing group once a week, as well?

Right now, my life revolves around writing, and I want to keep it that way.  King, however, believes the writing group ideal is nothing more than every writer’s dream.  He mentions in On Writing that he attended a few writing seminars in college: “The result was a four-month period in which I could write almost nothing at all” (King, 238).  While Elbow believes a writer should push themselves to write and have even their most horrific work critiqued, King enforces the idea it might be pointless.  Critiques might be vague, unproductive, and downright lame.  Besides, if you’re forced to write for a bunch of readers, your writing begins to reflect what they want to hear instead of what you want to say.

I’m a bit on the fence with the argument.  King’s methods plus his radical voice always steer me on an admiring path, but I enjoy being part of a ‘writer’s colony.’  I can see where he’s coming from, though.  Over the past few months, I’ve been so worried that my stories (whether it’s for English Comp or Intro to Creative Writing) are perfect, that my original voice slips.  Suddenly, there are too many critiques pounding at my head and I want to escape.

Basically, I haven’t been able to write.  Alright, I can write–you all see the Patrick Miles III posts.  But is it my best?  I doubt myself so much with every word choice and wonder if I’m being too dramatic to too boring to the point where I lose the story and the voice.  King’s words echoed so profoundly in my head as I read them, yet I want to stay with my writing community.  I want to be criticized–after all, how will I get better if someone doesn’t show me what I’m failing at?  Elbow understands: he knows (like King) that writers need to read and write.  Maybe King just carries warning signs.  The writing group can’t be the only audience a writer strives to please (King believes in an Ideal Reader; I don’t have enough experience to state what I believe).  Otherwise, the writer’s voice becomes lost in a sea of other writer’s and suddenly, the work is no longer his/hers. I understand.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ve lost something because of how much I’ve dedicated to making my class appreciate my piece.

Or maybe I’m just trying to make up an excuse.

Molding (Re #3)

I originally wrote over 1,000 words for the next continuation, but after reading it again, I tossed it.  Something keeps blocking me from fully capturing Patrick’s voice.  Maybe it relates to the challenge of writing in first person, but I can’t seem to choose Patrick words.  I re-wrote it, straying away from my original idea.  In fact, I’m eliminating the moment where Patrick plays football with his floor-mates (or at least moving it).  Patrick’s phobias with dirt are quite crucial with the story (I’m not sure how yet, but they make up a huge part of Patrick’s life and create a wall between him and certain experiences), but I think I made them too dramatic in the first chapter.

To Patrick, his phobias are like any other person’s fears.  Sure, he might scrub himself pink and freak out before brushing his teeth in a dirty sink, but he believes his behavior is normal.  It adds to his almost delusional view of life.  Art, along with new characters (who I’ve been contemplating about adding) will add to Patrick’s transformation and act as guides.  How, though?–I won’t tell if you don’t ask (Actually, I have no idea–so don’t ask).

Anyway, I re-wrote this second section while working at the front desk of the Writing Center.  I’m currently sitting at the desk, surrounded by total silence (it’s just me and one other person).  So I figured it would be the perfect time to write.  The silence and complete concentration in the story definitely helped with writing it.  Before, I kept distracting myself and constantly struggled between Patrick’s voice and my own.  Although I’m still not thrilled about Patrick’s overall tone, it’s shaping into something.  I just need to practice first person more and polish him up…

(On a side note, November is “Write a Novel November”, so I’m taking the challenge and attempting to write 50,000 words by the end of November.  I’ll probably stick with Patrick’s story.  Wish me luck!)

Patrick Miles III vs. Morning Rituals (MT #6)

I’ve been mulling over the idea of Patrick playing football on his first day and decided to trash it.  Although I haven’t physically done it yet, I will during another re-write. 

Nightmares plagued my childhood, ranging from getting buried alive to being trapped in a room covered in dirt.  The latter kept me awake at night.  At least the notion of death and a final end comforted the buried nightmare.  However, I couldn’t escape that room.  No matter where I put my feet or hands, dirt stuck to my skin.  The dreams died down as I got older; I guess I realized how stupid they were.  But that night, I found myself trapped in a room covered in dirt.

Fear cascaded through my fingers as I jolted awake, unsure where I was.  As sleep’s intoxicating effects wore off, I recognized my dorm’s familiar features. the nightmare jumbled up my memory, or maybe the crushing desire to go back home disoriented me, but I forgot where I was.  I  scratched my arm, ignoring the anxiety building in my chest.

I  grabbed my toothbrush, slid into my slippers and wandered down the hall to the bathroom.  The bathroom didn’t sparkle like it had the night before.  Around the showers were splotches of mud and a few strands of hair.  Some people are such pigs.  I wrinkled my nose, carefully avoiding the dirt strewn across the tiles.  When I got to the sink, hair and odd stains clogged the drain.  I couldn’t brush my teeth in something so vile.  Nausea erupted in my stomach.

“Mornin’,” someone called behind me.  I pivoted to face Chris.

“Morning,” I mumbled.
He joined me in the sink next to me and began to brush his teeth.  I watched as his toothbrush accidentally touched the tip of the sink’s nozzle, then went right back into his mouth.  The nausea escalated.

“So, we’re gonna go graf freakfast in a fit…wanna come?”

The toothbrush  still dangled from his mouth as he spoke.  A bit of toothpaste flew from between his lips onto the mirror in front of him.  I suppressed the urge to tell him to wait until he finished brushing before he spoke.

“Sure.”

He grinned at me as the toothpaste foamed down his lips and dribbled down his chin.  I wanted to brush my teeth.  I hate the taste of morning breath—who doesn’t?  But I couldn’t bring myself to do it as Chris’ rabid smile faced me.  He finally spat into the sink, washed his toothbrush, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Come by my room after you’re done.”  He smacked my back with the hand he just wiped his mouth with.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.  When he left the bathroom, I frantically peeled my shirt off, checking to see if he stained my shirt.  Nothing.

I succeeded scaring myself shitless.  But, that’s the price I pay for despising dirt so much.  It’s not that I’m necessarily afraid of it so much, no matter how terrible it feels when it’s buried deep within my nails; it’s the purest form of disgust.  And can you blame me?  Dirt is disgusting.

It took a few minutes, but I mustered up the courage and brushed my teeth.  Even as the toothbrush brushed passed my lips, I shivered in fear of staining my perfectly white teeth.  It’s not crazy.  Everyone as their dose of fear and phobias.  Mine just happen to revolve around maintaining perfect order and keeping everything polished.  A clean room is a happy room, after all.

And Chris and Art’s room was far from happy.  Clothing leaked from their half un-packed bags and an unfinished bag of chips already lay on the table.  It’s large mouth greeted me as I walked in.

“Dinin’ halls got good food, I hear,” Chris announced.

A large lump of blankets on one bed muffled something incoherent.

“Get up.”

“Jusf-five moreminufs.”

Strands of crimson hair peaked from the covers as Chris yanked them off the bed.  Art grunted, squirming and shielding his eyes.  “The fuck?” he groaned.

Then, he glanced towards me.  I suddenly couldn’t figure out why I accepted Chris’ offer.  Nothing good would come out of Art and I attempting to be friendly.  The chip bag’s mouth on Art’s desk snickered at me.

“Morning Pat,” he mumbled.

“It’s Patrick.”

“Kay.”

He rubbed his blood-shot eyes and glanced around the room as if uncertain where he just woke up.  We headed to breakfast shortly after.  Art had an uncanny ability to get ready under five minutes.  In fact, I doubted he brushed his teeth.

The dining hall’s ceiling towered far above our heads, strewn with ‘Welcome Freshmen’ signs and too beautiful pillars aligning the walls.  I stopped for a moment, admiring the architecture.  At home I attended a church which held a resonating style.  Sure, I rarely listened to the preacher much (religion and I never cooperated well; I just attended for my family’s sake), but I could examine the spectacular archways and masterful craftsmanship for hours.  And us Texan men, especially those of us who understand culture, can really appreciate good craftsmanship.

“Holy shit,” Art muttered.  I almost expected him to comment on the architecture.  Alright, expected isn’t the best word–I hoped he would.  But instead, he said: “They have pancakes.”

Sacrificing Your ‘Darlings’ (RFW#5)

“It’s always easier to kill someone else’s darlings than it is to kill your own.
-King (213)

It sounds a bit morbid, but don’t worry; King isn’t being literal.  The ‘darlings’ he mentions aren’t actual people, but the piece of art that a someone created.  He refers to stories as an author’s ‘darlings’ throughout On Writing, emphasizing how our pieces are like children.  We mold them and watch them grow; it’s why tossing them or butchering them until they’re unrecognizable hurts.  It’s a requirement, though.  I believe writers must hold the ability to destroy their work in order to add strength.  It’s an odd idea, but one that I clutch onto after finishing a piece.

In the quote above, King’s referring to re-reading and revising a story.  He believes writers should step back when they’re finished with their work and wait a few weeks before picking it up again.  Sure, a certain familiarity lingers in the story (it’s your story; of course it’s familiar), but the writing can seem foreign after such a long period of time.  This distance creates the illusion that someone else wrote the story.  As King says, a writer is “rediscovering [his/her] own book” (King, 214).  The foggy bias fades and suddenly a writer discovers certain mistakes, holes, or inconsistencies that weaken their piece.  Believe me, that clarity relieves a tremendous tension, which originally corrupted the writer’s ability to find something wrong with the piece.  Although King doesn’t mention this, reading out loud can benefit the writer as well.  A sentence which sounded clear in the writer’s head can become a deformed, awkward statement as it leaves the writer’s lips.  Suddenly, dialogue sounds both unnatural and unrealistic, or worse, a phrase that the character wouldn’t say.

I revise everything I write, whether it’s the next day or the next few weeks.  There’s always need for improvement and (sometimes) the entire piece just sucks.  That’s when I toss it and re-write.  I never regret the decision because it strengthens the story; I kill one ‘darling’ to save another.  Alright,  I’m sure King would have advised me to wait before completely starting over with Patrick’s story, but did you read the first two chapters?  Complete crap.  I’m not claiming the edited version is a masterpiece, but it’s better than the original (much better, in my opinion).  Sometimes, to continue a story needs to be scrapped and re-written.  Otherwise, a writer may follow a path that they detest–and no writer wants that.  So, sacrifice your darlings for the good of the piece; sometimes it’s necessary.