These “sayings” drive me CRAZY…

Saying things like this is a sure way to get me in your face and if you use these terms in a story, without making the character a total caricature, it will get you a terrible review, which is what you would deserve for taking short cuts with the English language. You are a writer, so write, say it in a way that doesn’t only appeal to Valley Girls and Stoners.  Write for the world and avoid these phrases at ALL cost:

  1. “I am going to REACH OUT to that person” – If you are not within arms distance of a person, you cannot “reach out” to them.  You can call them, email them, make an appointment to see them somewhere, or even snail mail them  If you ever get within arms length of them, then you can truly “reach out” to them; just make sure they want your advances.
  2. “I can’t wrap my head around that” – Perhaps if you wrapped your head around a brain you would not have this problem.
  3. “Back in the day…” – What day?  Last Tuesday?  A month ago?  1899?  Get specific, tell me WHAT day you are back in.  I have posed these questions to idiots who have used this phrase when talking to me and all I got in response was stuttering inanities.  Which is why I figured they used this phrase in the first place.
  4. “Don’t go there” – Ummmm, where is it you don’t want me to go?  We were having a discussion and not traveling anywhere.  Do you want me to go to a specific place?  Should I leave the room?  The building?  The planet?
  5. “It’s not rocket science” – That’s good since we were NOT talking about ROCKETS or SCIENCE or anything remotely related to these professions.  We were talking about what to have for dinner tonight.
  6. “Push the envelope” – Well gee, I can push an envelope.  Heck, I can push thousands of them all at once.  Does that make me special?   Do you have any idea what it is you mean to say?
  7. “Think outside the box” – Sorry, does it look like I have a box on my head?  Maybe you should talk to my barber.  What box is it that you speak of?  Do you have any idea?  If not get your head out of your as…
  8. “Chill out” – Are you referring to my Martini?  I mean it is already cold.  I drink them in toast the the English language that is being slowly killed off by catch phrases.
  9. “Don’t throw (someone) under the bus” – This punishment should be reserved for people dumb enough to use this irritating phrase.
  10. “It is what it is” – But what is it?  Can you tell me or are you just using this idiotic throwaway phrase to tell me you are too ignorant to express yourself in words?

There are more but if I keep writing this, I will blow a gasket….

Never throw anything away–ever! (Part 1)

Somewhere in my house, at the bottom of a drawer, a monster lurks, just waiting to be set free.  That is a fact.  It is also a fact that after some 45 odd years, the monster has no chance of escaping.  Why I have not destroyed it yet, since it is in my power to do so, goes all the way back to a directive I gave myself during my first attempt at creative writing: Never throw anything away–ever!

The monster I speak of above is more precisely, The Monster of Mulville, a book I started writing on a 35 pound typewriter that a friend of mine found in an alley way where it had been discarded.  It was so old that finding a ribbon (remember those?) for it was a challenge but I did find one at a repair center where they also gave the old girl a tune-up.  With a refreshed ribbon and typer, I set off into the unknown.

After a 100 or so pages, my monster was laid to rest but not my passion for writing.  Over the course of the years, many stories have joined the monster and a few have even risen from the grave.  The best example of this is most likely my one and only play.

For a year or so in my hometown a movement of open mic poetry reading swept through the area like a Pacific storm.  Everywhere you looked, small cafes and bakeries were staging these events.  While I never considered myself to be a poet, I do like to get up in front of a crowd and shoot my mouth off–I even performed improv comedy for a few years.  So, I thought I would try my hand at writing poetry and I was every bit as bad as I thought I would be but people like to hear me speak because of my dramatic style of reading so I plugged away at it for a few months before finally sending poetry the way of the monster. Then one day in an acting class I was taking, the teacher told us of a one-act play festival he was planning and invited us all to submit a play if we had one.  I did not, however, I did have a 32 line “poem” that I called Stage Directions.  I had never read it out loud because it was really more of a visual work with actual stage directions written into it.  Essentially, it is an argument between someone labeled MENTOR and someone labeled PROTAGONIST.  MENTOR believes that God is just a drunken hack writer who has nothing better to do then sit around playing God while PROTAGONIST believes in the being in the traditional way.  It goes on from there.

Anyway, for years I had thought about digging this work out of my desk drawer and expand it into a play and now that I had an identified market for it, I decided to go ahead and do it with the only changes being made to the names of the characters; they were now MAN and WOMAN.  I admit, I had a lot of fun doing this because I would write a little and then get up and act out what I had written. Then I would write more and act more.  What I ended up with was a play about 15 minutes long that needed little in the way of stagecraft to put on and even less in the way of costuming.  My teacher hated it.  But then I didn’t like his teaching much either.

So, I was ready to send Stage Directions-The Play to the same place where Stage Directions-The Poem was buried when, instead I decided to list the work in a play directory and offer it free to any school that would like to perform it.  What a surprise I had in store when the first school that contacted me was the Victoria School of Performing Arts in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Think of the movie Fame when you think of this school.

They asked if they could perform it as part of their Playworks Festival which was four days of one-act plays staged, performed, and directed by the students.  Of course, I said yes.  All I asked for in return was a copy of the poster they made for it and a copy of the program (where I was referred to as an “American Playwright”–my apologies to actual American Playwrights).  I was told that my play “won the night” with the Judges which was pretty cool since a David Mamet play was also presented that night.

Since that time my play has been produced many times with the last production being at the Celebwrite! fest which was held in the Soho Theatre in London, England.  I’d like to say that my success has lead me to write more plays but all it has done is shown me that I am not a playwright; I am just a writer who happened to get lucky when he tried his hand at something new.

At one point, Stage Directions was on the verge of becoming a short story as well.  Modern Drunkard Magazine (yes there is such a publication http://drunkard.com/issues/04_05/0405_dry_war.htm ) heard about the story and apparently liked the idea of God being a drunken writer so they asked me to re-write the play into a short-story but try as I might, I just could not make it happen.

However, I may yet do this since I never throw anything away!

(NOTE: More examples of this subject to follow)