Check out my fiction -
Check out my science fiction series - The Fall of the Altairan Empire

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Importance of Storytelling

"Fiction is just as vital. What do we humans do on weekends? We go to movies, we read, we watch television, we play video games—all of which require WRITERS. Humans require entertainment to remain sane. Stories instruct, inspire, and fuel our hope and imagination. Without that we die, or go crazy, or go crazy then die. We risk losing our humanity. The writer’s contribution is more than valuable, it preserves and grows the human condition. Tyrants burn the books first for a reason." (quoted from July 23 entry)

I love the thought expressed in this paragraph. I've been frustrated over this very issue for the last several years. It seems Hollywood has forgotten that movies are more than special effects and beautiful people, movies are, at their heart, STORIES. The last few movies I've seen were major disappointments, not because they lacked visual appeal or acting abilities, but because they left the story behind. If they have a coherent story at all, it is usually so riddled with plot holes it becomes ridiculously unbelievable. And yet, they make millions. Have we become so inured to lame stories on TV and at the theater that we no longer demand decent storytelling? Have we forgotten what real stories are?

Novels fare a bit better, but most of the bestsellers have mediocre writing and poorly constructed plots. But even a poorly written story is better than none at all, right? Maybe not. Good books exist, but it requires a lot of digging to find one. The end result is worth it. When storytelling happens, magic follows. Good storytelling captivates the imagination and frees it to soar. Poor storytelling is a thin shadow in comparison.

I work at a center that runs high-tech starship simulators ( What we do is essentially interactive storytelling. Most of our staff are teens. Most of them have only a rudimentary grasp of storytelling. Few of them are even aware that they are storytellers. The potential they hold in their hands as they create the stories is awe-inspiring. Few of them ever reach that potential, but when they do, they unleash a storm of creativity in themselves and the crew of their ship that is beautiful beyond words.

Storytelling is an art, one that can be learned. Back to the quote at the beginning, bad storytelling is better than none at all. Good storytelling is transcendent. The keenest disappointment is felt for the story that could have been superlative but because of lack of skill or laziness, falls far short, landing somewhere south of mediocrity.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Just when you think you've seen everything... have children. They do the strangest things. When you ask them, "Why did you do that?", the answer is usually, "I don't know," spoken in very bewildered tone of voice.

My kids have pulled some doozies over the years, so many I've lost count. Most of them blur together in a haze of years of sleep deprivation.

I had one child, maybe six or seven at the time, who sat in one of the tall lego canisters. And got stuck. He was hunched over, waddling through the house with a big plastic bucket stuck to his rear, howling for help. His siblings were laughing so hard they couldn't stand. It took us half an hour to finally remove it. When asked why he sat in the bucket, his answer? "I don't know."

Life's lesson? Don't ask. They don't know either.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Power of Courtesy

I've been working as a customer support tech for the last five months. I've learned quite a few "life lessons", but the most powerful one has been the power of being polite.

I answer emails for an iPhone app company. It's me, at home, by myself, working when I have time. It adds up to a handful of hours per month and a little extra income. I suspect many app companies have even less. I try my best to make sure all emails are answered within no more than 72 hours, usually less than 24. So imagine my surprise when a customer sends me twelve emails within two hours and is absolutely livid that they were not answered immediately. It was after eleven at night when he sent them. I'd answered his first email, finished the rest of the queue, and gone to bed. (I'm a mom and I work several jobs, I'm tired that late at night.) The next day I log on and am faced with increasingly angry emails. I respond as politely as possible, trying to resolve his issue. He sends a message back complaining that we are a terrible company because we do not have someone sitting a the computer 24/7 just waiting for emails to answer.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love to be paid $10/hour 14/7 just to wait for emails to answer, but I don't have that kind of life and the company I work for doesn't have that kind of money.

The customer ended with an abusive rant that left me upset and angry. Guess how much service he's going to get from me if he ever needs more? He will still get basic assistance because I can be professional, but I won't go out of my way to help him.

That's just one example. I've had quite a few others.

The basic lesson? If you want good customer service, try being polite and reasonable. Even if you believe anger and outrage get you more, you'll still leave the impression that you are an insufferable, arrogant jerk. Karma or not, the reputation you earn will catch up sooner or later.

More on customer support lessons later.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Musings on figments

So each blog post should be some snippet of existential wisdom, right?

Here's one for today:

I'm painting my bathroom. And I'm reviewing a publishing contract. And listening to my kids watch TV. And doing customer service emails for a company. And wondering what we're going to do for health insurance. And trying to decide what's for lunch.

Who are we? It depends on which hat we're wearing at the time. I'm a mom, a novelist, a customer support tech, a maid, a cook, a chaffeur, a nurse, a financial consultant, a whatever-I-need-to-be-at-the-time. So, at this second? Confused.

My novel, Nexus Point, is almost ready to hit the shelves. A few minor details to mop up, a date to set, and I'm published. It's frightening at the same time it's exhilirating. Like the line from a song, it's like I'm naked in front of the crowd because these words come from me, my soul on paper. Sort of.

Writing a first person novel is intriguing. I'm so deep in my character's head I don't know where she stops and I start anymore. I dream her life. And I wonder if she's dreams mine, except she lives in my head in a universe that exists only in my imagination.

Now I have a chorus of very unhappy characters letting me know they don't appreciate being figments of my imagination. Maybe I've reached the stage in my writing where they need to come live in your head for a while. In a few weeks, they can start doing just that.

From my head to yours. Enjoy.

How's that for existential?