A writing-focused blog run by a college student. Tags to watch for are [cyr thinks out loud] and [cyr does the writing thing]; everything else is not my content. I talk in the tags.


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Let’s take a minute to talk about hope. I’ve been thinking about this on and off since I made the post about fear, because the two go hand in hand. If you’re afraid of something, you probably hope that fear won’t manifest - “Wow, I’m afraid of spiders, I hope there are none hiding in this bed.” If you’re hoping for something, chances are you’re afraid of what will happen if that hope isn’t realized. Isn’t there an awful lot of unrealized fear behind the innocuous statement “I hope they got home okay”?

There’s a lot of positive power behind hope. That link with fear, though, makes it a double-edged sword, for the same reasons. Are you hoping that something good will happen and working to increase the chances of that, or are you hoping to stave off something bad? Having a good thing happen or a bad thing not happen are both goals, and goals don’t get reached if you don’t work towards them. Are you actually working to avoid that thing you’re hoping won’t happen, or just hoping blindly that the shiny power of hope will keep you safe?

Is it reasonable to hope for that particular thing? Again like fear, the context of the feeling is important. Hoping you win the lottery is well and good - that would be great, and it won’t really impact your normal life if it falls through. Hoping your alcoholic relative doesn’t come home drunk and beat the tar out of you again is a lot less realistic, and you’d better make plans to be out of reach before they get back from the bar.

The reality of the situation has to match up with hope for hope to be worthwhile. It’s a terribly slippery thing, because it depends on the hopeful to determine if their hope lines up with reality, and to pick a new course of action if it doesn’t. People aren’t accustomed to thinking of hope in logical terms, or to assessing a hope’s practicality and shunting it aside if they need to. That disconnect is where it becomes a trap. Hope alone won’t change your life, hope and effort will.

Six-Word Memoirs: Entertainment

90s sci-fi movies are so important.

Let’s take a minute to talk about fear. It’s a really important motivator and I’m wondering why I don’t see it present more often in media. It doesn’t come up too often in traditional fantasy novels - about to fight a horde of goblins? A shiver runs down the protag’s spine, if that. Hiding from the evil minions? Hold your breath, that’s all. Afraid of that dragon? Don’t worry, the fear won’t impact your battle with it in any meaningful way, because there will be no mention of it once you’ve found the damn thing.

Which, frankly, is kind of dumb. Your characters don’t feel fear beyond that one line? Are you sure? What happened to it? Dragons are scary. Fear of something that big and important doesn’t just go away. If your characters aren’t afraid, tell me why - have they been in a lot of battles before? Is there some trick up their sleeve that will keep them safe? Are they actually not afraid because they’re some type of berserker or psychopath?

There’s got to be a because. For everything, but especially fear. It’s a huge motivator, and very visceral. Use it! Everyone is afraid of something, whether it’s dragons or zombies or the fear of a breached ship hull or fear of a post-college future. That impacts their narrative and opens up avenues for exposition. I’m sure lgbt lit handles this better than mainstream, because the closet narrative would seem to lend itself to expression of fear and, through that fear, motivation.

Tell me what your characters are afraid of. If it’s something I can understand, I’ll empathize with them. If it’s something I don’t feel but can understand, I’ll watch them with fascination to see how they react. If I can’t see why they’re afraid, or why they aren’t, I’m not going to understand your character. If I don’t understand your character, I’m not going to be interested. Make people afraid.

Six-Word Memoirs: Journals

If I die, burn without reading.

Homework Time

Hey all, I’m in a class that’s requiring me to do market research for a hypothetical product my group and I are ‘developing’. The line of devices we’re pitching is called the Infinite series; they’re smartphones and tablets with a built-in 3D printer. “Lost your bottle opener? 3D print yourself a new one from the comfort of your own home” and all that.

So if you’ve got about 45 spare seconds to answer five whole questions, please take the survey and help me carry the group project.

I was recently introduced to the idea of a six-word memoir. It’s a pretty simple project - you pick a topic, or your whole life if you’re daring enough, and try to sum it up in six words. Smith College has a good summary article, and the project has its own site, so go check them out if you’re interested. The point is, I tried writing some of them, and they’re both surprisingly difficult and a lot of fun. There may be some peppered in through the other posts in the coming days, is what I’m saying.

About Favorite Sister:

It’s been a long time since anyone told me “write a poem for homework”, so when I got that over the summer, I didn’t expect to actually like the results. The poem is patterned on a famous poet’s style - bonus points if you can figure out who.

Favorite Sister

I have seen the new statue in front of the courthouse,

The great winged thing with its scales wrought in brass,

And a blindfold fixed so tight to the face

That there is no hope of peeking.

It stares at me nonetheless,

Accusing, guilty.

Fickle creature that she is, attuned to attitude –

Impossible not to be, a composite creature like that.

She knows I like her sister better,

The one who isn’t made of bits and

Layered pieces of other peoples’ recollections

And carefully culled impressions of what should have happened.

The voices of the courthouse are scrambling themselves,

Weaving into a vast oceanic hissing.

The statue glares and tastes the air,

She wears her scales instead of carrying them.

The other sister is not here to help me, she is

Far away, far from the great press of people,

And I will not find her here.

She does not care for gatherings.

That sister is surely off in secluded places,

Peering into private conversations held in quiet open spaces,

Impressing pointed messages as surely as any rocky shore.

She pries apart the secret ways we think of each other.

Indifferent to her sister with the scales,

Her clean dive slices through our shrouding preconceptions –

Expecting no thanks for the clarity she brings, the favorite sister

Only insists that we look at what she shows us.


Hey everyone so in Michigan (the state that I live in) they have just passed a law stating that all further abortion insurance will be banned unless the woman has bought additional preemptive coverage. Even in cases of rape, incest or a woman’s life being in danger. This law was passed by a congress of 80% male. I don’t really think I need any further explanation as to why this is SO IMPORTANT but anyways, there is a petition opposes to the “rape insurance” law and it would be fantastic if you could take some time out of your day and sign it! Here it is: http://act.watchdog.net/petitions/4178?l=R2SWPIbhM2s also if you could spread this around that would be super helpful!

I do not live in Michigan but this bill is appalling and getting more signatures on this petition would be great. The Governor of Michigan shot the bill down last year, so anti-choice group Right To Life made a citizen’s initiative because the governor can’t veto those - it’s extremism, pure and simple. The president of Right To Life Michigan has compared rape to car accidents, as in, rape is an accident you gotta be prepared for. It’s disgusting. All other concerns aside - and believe me, I’ve got plenty - rape is not an accident. It’s a deliberate crime. Requiring people to pay extra money to deal with the consequences of being attacked is a disgusting thing to do.

If enough people sign this petition, the measure will go to a public referendum (statewide vote). That’s a good thing because, surprise surprise, even many pro-lifers believe in exceptions for rape and incest. So please read, sign, and help shoot this terrifying bill in the face.

Let’s take a minute to talk about subtitles or, rather, a conversation I had with a friend about subtitles a couple days ago. It started with a joke about my need for subtitles, since I sometimes forget that my normal indoor voice is everyone else’s quiet murmur, and we ran with it.

It’s a really entertaining idea at first, because subtitles are hilarious, and I could probably put up with that for such persistent entertainment, even if they’re only things like [mangles pronunciation] and [makes cat noises]. Then the more you think about it, the cooler it gets - what if every person has a line of subtitles floating an inch in front of their collarbone? Do the letters in dyslexics’ subtitles switch around and get hard for people to read? Can you put an RSS feed on them, all Twitterlike? (We came up with a bunch of questions and examples for able and disabled people alike, but I’m not recounting the whole conversation so you guys should use your imagination).

Then there’s the subtle but important differentiation between subtitles and stage directions. One is a comical happenstance and the other is a dystopian nightmare in the making, because subtitles deal with sounds but stage directions deal with sounds and thoughts and intentions. There’s a world of difference between reading funny captions about the noise someone’s making and the reason they’re making the noise. There would probably be a huge decrease in violent crime - it’s much easier to avoid someone whose subtitles read [approaches with malevolent intent] or [thinks nervously about bomb in backpack] - but there are some snags too.

What about the fallout from talking to someone and seeing their subtitles read [feigns interest] or, worse, [feigns affection]? What happens when you have no privacy because every thought or action you have is splayed across your chest? How do you cope with that, and what does it do to society? My bet is that the fashion scene changes into something weird and wonderful, with people trying to cover up their subtitles inconspicuously (or very, very conspicuously), but what do you guys think? Dystopian or worth it for the sharp cutting of bad things?