Teens, Social Media & Bullying

bullyIt’s that time of year again.  School is back in session.   And while some kids are excited, others are dreading that walk down the hallway, knowing that friendly faces will be few and far between…

Living in a small town, I always thought bullying was a big city problem.  I mean, small town America is  apple pie and baseball and cookouts.  It’s safe.   But I was wrong.  Bullying is everywhere – even if we  don’t want to acknowledge it.  I’ve  spent hours wondering how, when and why bullying became so  prevalent.  I don’t have the answers.

Back in the day:

When I was in school, kids worked out their differences on the playground.  A punch here, pulled hair there, a bit of rolling on the ground…  A trip to the principal’s office and in most cases – problem solved.  We didn’t have to worry about school shootings.  Heck, we were shooting skeet in my eighth grade physical education class.   Hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.

In high school, many of my classmates enjoyed hunting.  It wasn’t uncommon for them to bring their shotguns to school.  They left them in their trucks, secured in a gun rack.   After their last class, they’d head out for an evening hunt.  As crazy as it sounds, it never crossed our minds that someone might use a gun with the intention of hurting others.  Guns were for hunting – they helped put food on the table.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I know there was bullying.  I saw it.  But – it wasn’t to the extent it is today.

Today, everything has changed.

Social media is as dangerous as it is wonderful.  It has opened up the world.  We are aware of things going on in other places that we might never have known.   Yet on the flip side, social media can be as deadly as any drug addiction – particularly with teens.  Times may have changed but teens are pretty consistent.  Peer pressure is as much of a problem now as it ever was.  The need to be part of the group is still strong.

It’s not uncommon for a teen to be suicidal because of the unrelenting assaults – verbal or otherwise.  It’s not like bullying stays at school.  There was a time when home was a refuge.   Now bullying invades our homes, our cars, etc.  It’s everywhere we are.   And who brings it in? It’d would be nice if we could blame some masked bandit.  But no – the truth is never that easy.  The truth is this:  We invite the bullies into our homes.  We offer them rides in our cars.   We literally give  them access to our most private and safe places  –  and we do it via social media sites.

I’ve often wondered why teens feel the need to constantly check posts and comments.  I mean, it really doesn’t make sense to me.   If a person doesn’t  like me – that’s okay.  There are plenty of others who do.  And that’s my point – why do teens keep subjecting themselves to this?  It’s kind of like watching mice in the drug experiments – they just don’t seem to be able to help themselves.

And what about the bullies?  What could make someone become a complete boil on the buttocks of humanity?  Did my generation do such a lousy job parenting that in essence, we created the problem? Or does sitting in front of a computer screen, with no one watching, bring out the worst in some people?   And how is it that the bullies completely missed that all important life lesson:   We should treat others the way we want to be treated.

There have always been and always will be bullies.   It’s just one of those nasty facts of  life.   While we may not be able to stop the bullies, we can lessen the damage by refusing to allow the them into our safe places.  Disconnecting from social media is a good place to start.

 

 

 

 

The Importance of Descriptions

Descriptions are important – they help set the stage for pivotal events by connecting the reader to specific places and times.  It is easy to fall back on generic representations. Example:  The night was dark.  The night was quiet.  But living in a rural area, nothing is further from the truth.  A summer night in the south is teaming with activity.

Sitting on my deck, I was amazed at how noisy silence can be.  I was surrounding by a veritable symphony of sound:  crickets chirping,  frogs croaking, mosquitoes buzzing and dogs barking.  Lightening bugs were darting near the wood line, flashing their bottoms, hoping to attract a mate.  Bats were swooping overhead, their bodies looking like dark shadows against the waning light as they searched for dinner among a buffet of flying insects. Kit-Kat had sidled up beside me, stretched her body then rubbed against my leg before disappearing into the darkness.  See what I mean?  There’s a lot going on out there in the dark…

Let’s think about the air.  Is it heavy with humidity?  Or does it offer cooling relief from a hectic day?  Is the wind a gentle breeze? Or do you hear it howling in the treetops? Maybe the wind isn’t blowing at all…

How about the smell?  Is the scent of honeysuckle hanging in the air?  No? Maybe it’s the smell of the steaks the neighbor is cooking, making your character dread the leftover pizza in the refrigerator or reminding him/her of how alone they feel…

By taking the time to immerse ourselves into our characters’ experiences, our scenes will feel more authentic which will allow our readers to connect with our stories.

A Crock Pot Can Be A Writer’s Best Friend

chefIt’s Sunday and that means we’re one day away from Monday…  That’s kinda depressing…  The work week begins again.  If you’re like me, your day is something similar to this:  At work by 8:00.  Off by 5:00.  And then, you go to work again – but this time it’s at home – laundry, dinner, dishes, kids…  The time between 5:00 and lights out – goes by too fast – and there’s not a lot of time left to write.  So, I thought I’d share a Crock Pot Recipe that I found from Fix-It and Forget-It.  Maybe it will help free up a little time for you to work on your story!

Chicken Cordon Bleu

 

4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

1/2 lb. deli-sliced cooked ham

1/2 lb. baby Swiss cheese, sliced

10 3/4 can cream of chicken soup

1 oz. dry stuffing mix, prepared according to box direction

 

1.  Layer all ingredients in the order they are listed into your slow cooker.

2.  Cover and cook on Low 6-8 hours, or until chicken is tender but not dry.

 

Happy Eating!  Happy Writing!

Avoiding Continuity Problems

Writing a novel takes time-it’s not accomplished overnight.  For many of us, it may take several months and this can lead to problems in the storyline. To put it simply – we forget the little stuff. The lack of continuity can ruin a good story simply because the inconsistent details become a distraction too big to ignore.  

Ex: The heroine was walking to her car – however, when she arrives – it has become a truck.  It’s a little thing but it takes the reader out of the moment.

While each of us has a different writing process, there are things we can do to minimize the lack of continuity in our stories.
1.  Besides outlining or storyboarding, consider a timeline.  Timelines are a great way to “see” the story as it unfolds.  Although, there are timeline creators available for download, I prefer to make my own. I tend to get pretty detailed – time/dates, character introductions & events (major and minor).  For quick reference, I add things like daily schedules on the side.
2.  Know the setting.  Whether your setting is fictional or not, you must familiarize yourself with the layout of the town, spaceship, etc.  Take the time to draw a map – labeling streets, buildings, corridors, etc.
3.  Know the characters.  Create a character biography sheet detailing everything:  physical description, birthday, likes/dislikes, hobbies, family/friends, quirks, and important events that have impacted the character’s life.
 4.  Know your objects.  If your character has an iPhone at the beginning of the story, he needs to be an iPhone in chapter 5.
5.  Keep track of time:  Make sure that the weather matches the time of year. 
6.  Read & Revise.  A story is fluid – taking shape as it progresses.  There will be times when ideas & characters appear and BAM! the story takes an unforeseen turn.  Don’t just insert the idea/character and move on.  Look at your timeline, outline, storyboard, lists, etc. –  then fix the problem. 
By taking the time to create reference lists, we can minimize the occurrence of story inconsistencies.
 
 
 
 
 
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