Saturday, June 30, 2007

meme of eight

I've been tagged by Greta Christina to tell you eight wonderfully random tidbits about my tiny self!!! It's an honor to have been tagged by a real pornographer (just one step removed from Susie Bright herself!) since -- as you know -- we love to talk about porn here at "Letters from a Broad..." but really it's all just talk. ;^)

Here are the rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
5. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

(Actually, the rules seem very similar to the rules of most memes, except for the fact that the rules must be explicitly posted first. Maybe it's just stricter than the average meme...?)

Anyway, here are eight random things about me:

1. I'm under an absolutely insane deadline for a project at work, and it's really, really cutting into my blogging time. I keep saying I'm going to cut back on blogging, and lately it has become a sad reality. Because I hate it when my real job cuts into my hobby of following a hundred million blogs. Normally just because you don't see hits from me on your stats, it doesn't mean I'm not reading your blog -- think RSS -- but lately I haven't been doing even that. On the other hand, when my project at work is done, it's going to be amazingly cool.
2. My cousin is going to be visiting me in a couple of days. (Not Aerin, a different cousin. In fact we have a lot of cousins.) I'm psyched to have the opportunity to get to know my cousin better. I'm not sure I've ever met this cousin except during one family reunion fifteen years ago when she was a baby. But her family is cool.
3. I'm madly cleaning my house this weekend so that my cousin won't think that we live like cave-people. ("But we do live like cave-people!" protested my husband when I told him that.) I'm hoping to get the house up to the level that normal people's houses look like at their worst. From there I can apologize for the mess. I wish I were exaggerating, but anyone who knows me knows that tragically I am not exaggerating at all. Not even a little bit.
4. Okay, maybe a little bit. But not very much.
5. The charm on my keychain is a 1 gig USB memory stick. I'm not really a gadget person, but this thing is really convenient -- I use it all the time!
6. When I was in grad school, I used to keep a copy of Susie Sexpert's Lesbian Sex World in my office on the shelf with my math books. I'm not a lesbian or anything, but it was a great conversation starter.
7. I used to go by "Carrie" until I was 21 years old. Now it's weird for me to think of myself as Carrie. I still like the name, but it make me think of "me as a kid" -- someone who isn't quite the same as "me, now." On the other hand, I'm perfectly happy to answer to chanson.
8. I've only see two movies on the big screen (in the theater) within the past 5+ years. Those movies are Cars and Shrek the Third. The next one will be Ratatouille.

OK, now for the tagging part. Unlike Greta -- who politely asked people's permission before tagging them -- I'm just going to pick eight random people off the top of my head right now. Let's shoot this one into Outer Blogness:

Floating in the Milk, From the Ashes, Lemon Blossom, Todd, Sister Mary Lisa, Equality, Aerin, and -- while we're nepoting, my BIL Mike.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More whale naughty bits!!!

Ever since I posted about the birds and the bees and the whales I've gotten a whole bunch of search queries by people looking for pictures of whale genitals.

Why? I have no idea.

Some bloggers get annoyed when their blogs attract search queries that look like they may be from weirdos. But I'm not like that. Whenever I get those weirdo queries, I like to see it as just more free data for my inner anthropologist. Plus only cool people read my blog, so I'm willing to give these people the benefit of the doubt!

If they're looking for such an image, I'm sure they have some legitimate scientific and/or whale fetish purpose for wanting to see whales getting it on.

So without further ado, here's the picture you're looking for:

a whale of a big zizi

(I've linked to the image instead of inlining it to protect those with more delicate sensibilities.)

See that big pointy white thing in the picture? Yes, that is what you think it is.

(I bet you thought I was going to link to some entirely different picture just to be funny. Nah, the real thing is funny enough.)

Poor whale!!! He probably had no idea that he was going to become a porn star!!!

Actually it's possible that this may be the largest penis ever filmed in a sex scene. According to the documentary the testicles alone weigh more than a full ton!!! Mere human porn stars -- eat your hearts out!!! ;-)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

All about Lourdes!!!

A couple hundred years ago, a fourteen-year-old went to a secluded grotto to pray, and saw a divine personage appear. (This story seems weirdly familiar, doesn't it?) The divine personage was of course the Virgin Mary, and the fourteen-year-old was later canonized as Saint Bernadette.

Lourdes is one of the most popular religious pilgrimage sites in the world. According to Wikipedia, it has more hotels than any city in France besides Paris. The Catholic church has officially declared that the waters of Lourdes have the power to miraculously heal people, so Lourdes is the prime destination for every Catholic whose health requires a miracle.

Lourdes is a popular spot for healthy Catholics as well. I mentioned to a colleague that I was going to Lourdes, and he told me his story of visiting Lourdes when he was a kid, in Catechism. The healthy push the sick (in special wheelchairs of Lourdes) to the healing waters to bathe. An endless procession of the dreadfully ill marinate in the miraculous pool from morning until night. Then it's your turn to get in. "That you don't get sick from it -- that's the miracle!" he said.

I haven't participated in any of the religious aspects, but I've learned a lot about Lourdes by observation. One popular custom I've noticed is to buy candles and place them in one of these candle-boxes:

Those are just the little ones. If you need a heavy-duty prayer candle to help your miracle along, you can buy a 20 kilogram candle for only 150 euros!

If you look closely at the photos above, you can see the candle box says (in several languages) "This flame continues my prayer." So apparently you start praying, and lighting a candle holds the line open with God while you go off and do something else. I thought it was pretty hilarious when Mr. Deity called dinner blessings "spam", but the Catholics have gone one step farther -- they actually call up God and put Him on hold!!!

(The things God has to put up with -- it's a wonder Mormons aspire to take that job...)

I was a little taken aback when I saw there was a medical station (open 365 days a year) right on the plaza of the Basilica! But... what do you need doctors for when you have the miracle of Our Lady of Lourdes right there? Never mind, don't answer that...

The best thing about Lourdes however is the souvenirs!!! Downtown Lourdes is an endless collection of block after block of the kitschiest holy souvenirs you've ever laid eyes on!!! The Wikipedia article warns that some may be shocked by the crass commercialism, but shocking is really the wrong word here. I think the word they're looking for is "hilarious"!!! I don't care whether you're one of those grumpy atheists who's always lamenting the popularity of magical thinking or one of those prudish Christians who thinks that religious items should be respectful and dignified -- when you actually get here and see this stuff, you can't be shocked because you're too busy rolling around on the ground laughing!!!

Seriously, for this alone Lourdes is worth the trip.

Some of my Catholic friends have told me about playing games like competing over who can find the tackiest souvenir in all of Lourdes. I keep wanting to play that game (or the variant where you count how many different household items can be made in the shape of the Virgin Mary), but we almost never have any time for souvenir shopping since we go there to visit our aunt who is too old to walk all the way to town. I know I shouldn't be disappointed -- I should be thinking about aunty and not about my own selfish desire to take a million outrageously wacky photos to post to my blog. Still it would have been great fun if I'd had time to see if I could find myself a glow-in-the-dark rosary or a magic 8-ball Jesus or perhaps an authentic shroud of Turin replica lampshade.

As it was, all I got this time were a few photos I took through the window of the taxi on the way back to the train station:

The other thing I was curious to see was the wax museum. It boasts life-size wax statues of the entire Last Supper (DaVinci style) and of Pope John Paul II!!! I'm a little hesitant about that place though because it may cross that fine line between tacky and scary...

Oh well, maybe next year!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

How I got my name

The first Internet forum I ever got involved in was RfM.

I hardly knew what an Internet forum was in those days, but I read a bunch of the archived threads and wanted to join in the conversation. To do that, I needed a handle.

For a couple of seconds I thought about picking something Mormon-related. But that was the one constant shared by everyone on the board, and I figured it would be better to go with a name that highlighted something unique about me. So I decided to take my first name (Carol) and translate it into French. Thus chanson was born.

Over the next couple of years I as used this same handle on a bunch of different forums (fora?), I discovered a couple of amusing things: (1) not everyone speaks French, and (2) "chanson" -- as a username -- looks a lot like C. Hanson. I thought it was kind of funny that people made that assumption, so I figured "Hell, let's roll with it!"

In a lot of ways my novel grew out of my online adventures, so I decided to use my new identity as my pen-name. (Or nom de plume if I'm sticking with my snooty French-isms.) I threw in "L" as a middle initial partially because my real initials are C.L.H. and partially in honor of Lynn, the main character of my novel. It's fiction -- not autobiography -- but my pen-name is fictional as well, so maybe it's the real autobiography of the fictional author...?

A funny side note is that that means my fictional pen-name in full should be "Carol Lynn Hanson." Of course that immediately calls to mind Carol Lynn Pearson, and you might think I did it on purpose. But you would be wrong: it's pure coincidence. I don't have any connection with Carol Lynn Pearson except the obvious (we're both women who write about Mormons from a Mormon perspective). She's also something of a mother-figure to the LDS gay community -- see Connell's fabulous story for a bit of what I'm talking about -- and sometimes I like to imagine myself in a similar role. (I don't know if any actual gay people think of me that way, but perhaps I'm sending them a subtle motherly vibe.)

My real name isn't much of a secret -- if you follow this blog, you've probably figured it out already. I don't post my real name here though because I use my real name professionally. I have a new Java book coming out in a little more than a month, and when my professional contacts google my name, I want my Java books and other professional writings to come up, not this... ;^)

Then there's the other part of my Internet name: my blog title "Letters from a Broad..." Peter Walters (who I met through exmo-social) came up with the name. For the first six months of this blog's life, it was a column in the (now-defunct) student paper the Utah Valley Monitor (which Peter founded).

I liked this name from the beginning because it reminded me of when I was a kid and the same ridiculous pun got me included in a boys' club (they wanted to be the "Traveler Society of America and Abroad" but for that of course they needed a broad...). I can't tell if it's feminist or anti-feminist of me to have decided to go with (and stick with) this blog name. Really, I don't mean anything by it, and it kind of weirdly seems to fit the theme of the blog, so I'm planning to stick with it.

Sometimes the names people use on the Internet seem more real than people's actual names. Your Internet handle is something you've made up for yourself, and it usually means something -- it's not just something chosen for you by earlier generations. On the other hand, it seems like most serious long-term internauts end up just using their real names eventually.

And you -- does your name have a story?

Monday, June 18, 2007

Novella wrap-up!

Just last week, I finished posting the four-chapter novella Youth Conference:
* Let the Manhunt Begin!,
* Doomed Unrequited Love,
* Sexual Purity, and
* Another Great Year at Youth Conference.

This has been a lot of fun, and I agree wholeheartedly with what William Morris said about why Mormons should embrace the novella. My project -- posting this story on the web -- proves some of William's publishing-related points right:

* "I think the novella would work well on the Web (serialized or not), especially if it was presented in a creative format — with accompanying images, music, discussion, glosses/hperlinks, sidebars, etc.": A novella serialized on the Web? With images? And discussion? Is it narcissistic of me to imagine he was thinking of me when he wrote that and now he's helping others to my brilliant idea? ;^)

* "novellas are a quick, yet often satisfying, read — even a one-sitting read": My logs show he's right about the "one-sitting" part. It looks like more people have been following the story as a serial than reading it in one shot, but quite a lot of people have read Young Women's and/or Youth Conference in one sitting -- a few people per day. (Yes I do read my logs very carefully -- because I'm curious about what works and what doesn't -- and I can tell if someone is actually reading the story or just paging through it.)

Some of his more literary points about framing and the connection with drama are also interesting, and I'd be curious if anyone here has any comments about them.

Now, as you probably already know, my novel Exmormon is composed of a series of (interrelated) novellas, and I'm planning on posting the whole damn thing!!! Slowly but surely...

The next section/novella on the agenda is Part III:Saturday's Warrior. I've scheduled that one to begin on September 18. Why such a long wait? Because I don't want to skimp on the high-quality cartoons that you've come to expect from this novel. ;^)

Unfortunately, I've only got one new one done so far for the next section:

(I know they don't look like much, but they take forever, and Saturday's Warrior is a long segment that will need a lot of them...)

Anyway, that gives you plenty of time to get caught up on parts one and two before part three begins. Not that you need to read the earlier parts to follow the later parts (the beauty of writing a novel as a series of novellas!) but you can if you want to. :D

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Death II: deal with it!

I've made some progress since my post about why I don't like death.

Every now and then I feel this glimmer of "It's not such a horrifying thing that I'll never see what becomes of the human race and that one day (and forever after that) my consciousness will cease to exist. That's life, and when I'm dead I won't know the difference."

I'm always really proud of myself when I think that way, but unfortunately those moments are few and far between. Most of the time it's more like a constant stream of (whenever I get a free moment) thinking "Now what was it that I'm not supposed to think about since it leaves me paralyzed with dread, yet there is absolutely nothing I can do about it? Oh yeah, death. D'oh!!!"

Maybe that's why I keep so busy?

I think I've pinpointed part of the problem, though. It upsets me to contemplate my "legacy" i.e. how I will be remembered after I'm dead. The Indigo Girls' song about Virginia Woolf illustrates what I'm talking about:

They published your diary and that's how I got to know you
key to the room of your own and a mind without end
here's a young girl on a kind of a telephone line through time
the voice at the other end comes like a long lost friend.

One of the main reasons I write is to make a connection with people. So in some ways this stanza represents a beautiful dream -- to continue to make new friends through my writings even after I'm no longer there to do it in person. The problem with this dream comes a little later in the song:

if you need to know that you weathered the storm of cruel mortality
a hundred years later I'm sitting here living proof.

See the problem?

As sweet as that sentiment is, Virginia Woolf did not "weather the storm of cruel mortality." She's dead. Completely dead. As dead as Charlemagne, as dead as Ozymandias, as dead as some random Mesopotamian peasant whose name has been forgotten for seven thousand years. (Actually maybe even more dead than Ozymandius since he's a fictional character.)

So the "telephone line through time" is a sad image because in reality it's a one-way communication. Virgina Woolf cannot meet her new friend or swap confidences with her or go out for tea with her or even know of her existence. It's almost a pretty picture except that a main protagonist is absent. So the ultimate fantasy happy ending -- being loved by future generations -- isn't a happy ending at all.

Again my Mormon formation shows up as a part of who I am today. All of the focus and value placed on family history has made it so that when I write, I think of my audience as "future generations." That's the wrong fantasy for an atheist to have. There's no reason to shoot for the "most influential people of all time" list because even if I were to make it, it's not as though I'll be there in heaven signing autographs for people. If I want to make a connection with people through writing, the time is now! (Through a blog, for example...)

I'm not saying one should forget about future generations -- far from it. You shouldn't forget about the needs of future generations any more than you should forget about people in need who are alive right now. But if you're a humanist, you work to leave the world a better place for their sake, not your own.

That said, if someone is reading my stuff after I'm dead, I'm not going to say "No! Put it down! Right now!!!" (How could I? ;^) )

I don't have a problem accepting a lot of the limitations of being human (see QZed's post on that), but I guess I'm still working on accepting the fact that my total experience is limited in time as well as space. Baby steps!!! :D

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lourdes retrospective!

This past weekend, my little family went on a trip to Lourdes.

"What is an atheist family doing visiting one of the biggest religious pilgrimage sites in the world?" you may be wondering. Well, as I discussed here, my husband's aunt is a nun and lives there.

My husband's aunt is a really old lady -- she'll be turning 96 next month -- and she's amazingly healthy for her age. She's all there mentally, she can walk with just a cane, and she doesn't even appear to be losing her hearing. (Every time I see her, part of my little brain say to me "when ninety-six years old you reach, look as good you will not." One of the perks of not believing in God is you can have the still small voice channel Yoda if you like.) Anyway, my husband has kind of adopted her as a grandma since he doesn't have any living grandparents, so we've been visiting Lourdes every year or so for the past few years.

I have plenty of stories to tell you about Lourdes (how could I not? ;^) ), but first let's start with some photos of our various visits:


Leo was just a tiny baby for our first trip. Here we are walking down from the convent to the "sacred grotto" where Mary is said to have appeared.

The marketing genius of Lourdes: The water -- said to have miraculous healing properties -- is free. But... You don't want to bring home your magical water of Lourdes in an ordinary bottle!!! You need a Virgin Mary souvenir bottle for it, like the ones the woman in the background is holding.


Leo got a little bigger for our next trip.

Here Nico and his daddy are petting the Virgin Mary's sheep. Is this religious or sacreligious?


After watching Mary Poppins a few too many times, Nico thought that his aunty's hat and cane were for doing a song-and-dance number...


Here's Leo during our latest Lourdes adventure!!!

Monday, June 11, 2007

Another great year! -- the conclusion of Youth Conference

For that night's dance, the last dance of the conference, Amy and I were more resolved than ever to talk to Y and Z and dance with them. This would be our last chance of the conference to get together with our true loves, and besides that our other prospects hadn't really panned out.

The beginning of the dance didn't offer us any more obvious openings than the previous two dances had. We realized that we didn't really have much choice in the matter: if we wanted to talk to them, we were just going to have to get up the nerve and walk over to them and start talking. It shouldn't be so hard! People just walk up to other people they know and start conversations every day. Why couldn't we bring ourselves to do it? Read more ->

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Carnivals, carnivals, carnivals!!!

It's carnival time again, and blog-whore that I am, I submitted posts to a bunch of them!!! Please have a look at the Humanist Symposium, the Carnival of the Veil, and the Carnival of the Godless!!!

Better yet, I got the coveted link from pharyngula!!! Here's the secret: PZ is not impressed by fawning, but he loves it when people make fun of him. ;^)

In other news, John Dehlin has invited my brother to be a pundit on his new show, Mormon Matters!!! Wow!!! Meanwhile, Dehlin won't even add me to his blogroll over on Mormon Stories even though I've asked him to a couple of times. I feel like I'm back at Youth Conference: it's, like, a popularity contest and all my siblings keep beating me at it... >:^(

Well, I guess I can hardly complain. ;^)

Friday, June 08, 2007

The "new atheism" controversy explained!!!

In my previous post about whether atheists should try to stamp out religion, I think I made the question a little more complicated than necessary.

What it really comes down to is this: There are two types of atheists, which (for simplicity) I'll call the "nice atheists" and the "mean atheists." As P. Z. Myers points out, it's absurd to call atheists "militant" since it's not as if they're burning down churches -- they're just criticizing religion. However, it's not unreasonable to suggest that some atheists are not very nice.

The difference between the mean atheists and the nice atheists is that the mean atheists think that religion is ninety-nine parts pure stupidity mixed with one part lying, opportunistic con artists. And they want to tell that to religious people whenever they're asked to "respect" someone's faith.

The nice atheists, by contrast, believe that religion is more complicated than the stupidity-plus-con-artists model and/or that we should at least make an effort to get along with religious people.

The fight between the two groups is this: When the mean atheists and the nice atheists get together, it's not so much that it annoys the mean atheists to be asked to play nice. It's more that they just want to be able to call the nice atheists names like "sniveling milquetoast" and the like. Y'know, while they're at it. Because when it comes right down to it, the mean atheists just want to have fun. And I respect that.

Because I'm a nice atheist. ;^)

This firmly tongue-in-cheek post is dedicated to all of the atheists who don't like to "respect" people's faith... ;^)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Is religion the problem?

Should we try to eliminate religion entirely? Deconvert the world?

These are the big questions making the rounds of the atheist community these days.

I say it depends on what your goals are. Let's say for the sake of argument that the goal is to leave a human-habitable planet with a sustainable human society on it for our descendants. Preferably a free and open society, and not some bizarro soylent-greenish solution like "okay we have enough resources for everyone to live happily until they're thirty, then we have to eat them..."

Given our current globally-interdependent world, creating a sustainable human society/lifestyle will require a great deal of cooperation among all of the peoples of the world.

(This post will be full of unsubstantiated claims and opinions like that one -- please feel free to dispute any or all of them in the comments.)

I think religion can hinder cooperation and understanding among peoples, but I don't think it's necessarily the primary obstacle. And setting out with a goal to eliminate religion can interfere with more important goals.

Consider the goals of freedom of/from religion, separation of church and state, and a free society with a shared secular public sphere. Consider the goal of high-quality public education, which is what allows people to recognize the difference between actual freedom and the slogan "freedom" (and vote for the former in a democracy). All of these are goals where lots of believers can get on board with us.

There's one thing to keep in mind about believers who are political moderates: Just because they're not violent/dangerous/insane, that doesn't necessarily mean they're not attached to their faith. If they get the impression that the ultimate goal of science education (and/or freedom of religion) is to eliminate religion, many will feel threatened and start to sympathize with the theocrats. There's no reason to alienate our allies like that. Keeping crap-masquerading-as-science out of the schools is not some sort of stealth evangelizing for atheism, and it benefits the whole society. People of differing worldviews can coexist and interact in a free society as long as they agree to do so.

Some say that if there were no religion there would be no war. After all, it's easier to convince people to go out and kill other people if they think it's God's will. God kills people all the time, and carrying out his will is -- by definition -- good. And it's easier to convince people to risk their own lives if they think martyrdom leads to paradise, not to true death.

Still, I think that -- even without religion -- the root causes of war would still be there. War is fundamentally about competition over resources.

People who feel confident that they will see their children grow up to be successful adults have little to gain and lots to lose from violence. The most dangerous people are those whose prospects are so bleak that they're better off taking resources by any means, including killing and risking death. I talked about this in my fertility, mortality post. Any human community can be persuaded to get along with any other human community -- regardless of religion -- as long as it's in their interest to do so.

I would argue that the converse is also true: That (regardless of religion) any human community can be persuaded to kill any other human community if it's in their interest to do so. Humans have a remarkable ability to stereotype and make assumptions about any human community they see as "other." It's weird, but while you naturally see that your own community is full of all different types of people, it's nearly impossible to avoid mentally flattening different races and nationalities into cartoon caricatures. Even educated people who know intellectually that foreign societies have the full spectrum of human qualities still have a difficult time feeling on a gut-level "they're more like us than they are different." Actually living in a city where you're surrounded by people of different origins (or living in a foreign society) seems to be the only way to see that people are the same, and even then it's not clear whether you're learning that "people everywhere are just people" or whether you're merely expanding your own community.

The problem (as well as the "adaptive" value) of mentally simplifying other groups is obvious. The belief that "they're like that, they're not ordinary people like us" is what paves the way for the belief that "they can't be reasoned with; we have no choice but to kill them."

I think that the meta-strategy for peace and sustainability is to see to it that the children of every country have a real opportunity to grow up healthy (again see fertility, mortality for details). See to it that every parent has the expectation that all of his/her children will live to adulthood, which makes it so that investing themselves completely in raising a few treasured children well (and not a quiver-full of disposable warriors) is the most attractive strategy.

How does religion play into this? Regardless of what is written in any official holy book, most people are going to act in their best interest. When it's time for war, those who like the scriptures about God killing all the infidels will rise to power, and when it's time for peace, those who prefer the passages about God loving everyone will rise to power. I figure we might as well make friends with that latter group and compare notes with them. They're the ones who are in a position to sway the (political) opinions of the average believer.

Let's look at this in terms of strengths and weaknesses: The advantage that the fascists, racists, fanatics, and theocrats have is that they enjoy lockstep, unswerving, unquestioning obedience from their followers. Their disadvantage? They can't get along with their closed-minded counterparts in any other racial/ethnic/religious group.

For those who want a free, open, secular/pluralistic society it's the opposite: Everybody has an opinion, nobody will unquestioningly follow the leader through right and through wrong. So our weakness is that most of the time we're marching in a bunch of different directions at once. But our strength is cross-cultural cooperation. Every race, creed, and culture has its open-minded people, and by definition their superficial differences aren't a barrier to working together.

If we can agree (atheists as well as people of faith) on meta-strategy, we can start to make progress on how to carry it out. It's easier said than done at every step of the way, though, so we'll see...

Monday, June 04, 2007

The scripture-chase!!!

Our lunch group this time was down to me, Amy, and Tammy. Annette and Jenny were sitting with Tony and some boys from his ward, and April, Cookie, and Alexandra were all sitting with Andrew and Dan. Since it appeared to be 'eat lunch with the boys day' I looked around for Bill, but I couldn't find him. I saw Y and Z off at a table by themselves, but we weren't exactly invited to go sit by them. Then I looked for Tom and Greg, and saw that they were sitting with Kimberly and Lara.

"Well it looks like we've been abandoned," I said.

"Yeah, and I'm absolutely furious about it!" Amy said. "If that Greg thinks that he can be with Kimberly whenever she's free and then come running to me whenever she's not, then he's got another thing coming! He's not so cute to be worth putting up with treatment like that!"

"Yeah, you're better off without him," I said. "We probably were never going to see him again after Youth Conference is over anyway."

"How come today all of the sudden they're having lunch together?" Amy asked, still clearly annoyed. Read more ->

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Storytelling: fiction vs. memoirs

Which do you prefer to write? Fiction or memoirs?

Fiction writing has some great advantages over memoirs. When you're recounting something that actually happened, a lot of times the story would be more interesting if it had happened just a little differently. With a memoir? Tough luck! With fiction? No problem!!! :D

Since you don't have to be true to the facts, fiction gives you more liberty to be true to the story.

Still, I love writing memoirs. I've written far more memoirs than I've written fiction. I think memoir-writing is good exercise for writing fiction since it requires the same storytelling skills.

When you're writing a story that actually happened, it's not as though it has been recorded in your brain in some canonical form and you just need to download a copy from your brain onto the paper. You need to craft the story: decide what to include, what to skip, and how to say it. Even something as basic as deciding where an episode begins and where it ends is part of the difference between a memory and a narrative.

(Ninja writer C.V. Rick is an example I've stumbled upon recently of an excellent memoirist who has been turning memories into engaging stories and posting them.)

Personally I haven't written much fiction at all in the past year. It's not that I don't want to write fiction -- it's just that I don't want to sit down with the intention of writing fiction. I'd rather wait until I feel like I have a particular story to tell. That's how I've come up with all of my best work.

At the same time, I want to stay in practice so that when inspiration strikes, I'm ready. That's where memoirs come in: they're storytelling without the story-inventing part.