Monday, October 12, 2015

For the Love of Whatever, It's called Show, Don't Tell!

Sorry to be late but at my cousin's wedding on Saturday, I stepped wrong in my heeled sandals and wound up with a sprained ligament in my ankle. Good news, hopefully I won't be on crutches for four months. Bad news, I have to wear a boot. But hey, I'd much rather deal with a boot for maybe a month (that's what the Doctor said) than four months on crutches. Yeah...I wonder if this injury unseats the time I broke my femur (after falling out of a tree) as my stupidest injury.

If you ever decide to get involved in writing, the commandment you keep running into over and over again, is "Show, don't tell." I admit if you're a newbie, it can be difficult to find the proper balance. That's one of the problems with writing: to paraphrase Captain Barbossa, the rules are more like guidelines. About the only ones that are set in stone are essentially, "Read, write, and rewrite." With other so-called rules or commandments, nearly anyone can pull a book off the shelf that breaks a rule yet is still damn awesome. Most will say, "Don't begin the story with your protagonist as a baby," yet the Harry Potter series does and it's just awesome.

So when it comes to, "Show, don't tell," there should probably be a few caveats, because like I said, it's about what works for the story or works for you. Sometimes it's perfectly okay to tell, rather than show. In these cases, it's usually because said detail is a minor one that can be dealt with quickly. Many Sci-Fi fiction has faster-than-light travel, which is currently a violation of the laws of physics, but rather than boring/confusing the readers to death by trying to explain how it all works (and inevitably said writer will get stuff wrong because few writers have PhDs. in physics), just show how having said travel affects the story. Make some one-line babble about "Tachyon particles" or "Arc reactors" and get to the part where your characters do stuff, already!

As for when you should "show" a general view, always defer to show. Experience has taught me that it's easier to fix a story with too much detail, than too little. With too much, you just play brutal editor and hack and slash through stuff in your document; it's far harder to figure out how to layer more stuff on a skeleton. But really, when it comes to stuff like character's emotions/reactions, yeah, you should show the hell out of that stuff. Don't say, "Character X is sad," show us his/her sorrow. Talk about tears or show their inner monologue! Just don't do the single-tear trope. That one always cheesed me off, because personal experience has taught me that no one looks good when they're sobbing.

I'm doing this diatribe because in this week's selection, I keep wanting to get some brass knuckles with the words "Show" written on them and pound the shit out of Ellanjay. Because there are so many missed opportunities, so many parts where if you gave them to any writer worth a dime, they could have made good hay out of all this. The majority of this week's selection involve the Tribbles dealing with the loss of Chloe. Anyone could see dramatic potential in a group of people reeling from the loss of a friend. But Ellanjay just do the text equivalent of "They are really sad" rather than plunge further. But I suppose, like I've said in the past, if Ellanjay did opt to "Show, not Tell" and in doing so, showed just how horrific all these horrible disasters would be, physically and psychologically, that would cut down on the gloating. Because as Fred has said, Ellanjay aren't writing these horrific scenarios out of a genuine desire to see people get saved; they are Jonah, doing their part by preaching, in hopes that they can sit around and gloat when God exterminates the brutes!

Okay, sorry, I'll get to the book now. Just thought I should do some talking, is all.

The chapter begins with a part that makes me shout, "Come on!" Because it's something lends itself so perfectly to showing, yet they squander it.

THE FIRST thing Vicki wanted to do after the broadcast was see Chloe’s son, Kenny. She found him with Chang’s sister, Ming Toy. Kenny came to Vicki right away, and she held him tightly for a long time. The boy was still asking where his mother was and when he would see her.

“Buck should be here tomorrow,” Ming whispered to Vicki.

Kenny reached for Vicki’s hand, and she sang him songs and helped him get to sleep that night, with the promise of exploring Petra in the morning.

Again, anyone could see great dramatic potential in this scene. In the interest of being as accurate as possible, I went to the Left Behind wikia to look up Kenny's age. From what I can tell, he's around three or four years old. With that in mind, it can't be too hard to see the dramatic potential that could have been mined from all this. Picture this: having to explain to a young child that his mother is dead and he won't be able to see her. Okay, Kenny's situation is different in that the Tribbles have absolute confirmation that Chloe will show up again in a year, but still. A kid his age doesn't exactly have a lot of life experience. Maybe he's heard of other people dying as a result of the myriad disasters, but it's still different when it's your mom. Also, again a child his age doesn't have much in terms of coping skills/being able to express his feelings in a constructive manner. Anyone whose been around a child under the age of five, will tell you that kids that little are real crybabies. They have all these emotions that they don't fully understand, that are so much bigger than them, and they can't fully articulate. So when they get overwhelmed, they inevitably start crying.

So I'm calling BS that Kenny would just meekly go with Ming and not pry further about his mother or start wailing when he heard the terrible news. I almost said, a three or four-year-old probably wouldn't be comforted by dribble about how "Mommy's in Heaven" when he really wants her with him, but truthfully, that dribble doesn't work on anyone, even if they are old enough to drink. Here's a hint: sometimes the best thing to say is, "I'm sorry," and from there, offer to do something. Clean house or make a casserole or something.

There's also this line.

Vicki could tell Judd was shocked by what had happened to Chloe, but they didn’t want to talk about it in front of Kenny.

Again, so much wasted dramatic potential! You could have a had a scene similar to one in Season 8 of The Dreamkeepers (a fan-continuation of the Kiwi drama, "The Tribe") where Judd and Vicki talk about their feelings regarding Chloe and wonder whether they should go on as scheduled with the wedding or put it off a little while longer out of respect for those mourning the loss of Chloe. When a project done by a bunch of fans online for fun has better writing than something published by an actual publishing agency, you've failed!

But I've said many times that I have a dim view of the Vicki/Judd relationship: that they're mostly getting married so they can have sex, because they're too chicken to just engage in premarital stuff then ask forgiveness afterwards.

For those of you wondering how the Tribbles will deal with their grief, fear not! Token Jew is hear with his platitudes that wouldn't comfort anyone human.

Oh and apparently Albie's among the dead. I don't know if that had been mentioned before and I overlooked it (because I've been known to do that sort of thing) or if this is the first instance his death has been mentioned. I'm also wondering whether he's even been mentioned at all in the series before, but I'm too lazy to look it up. Here's a hint, guys: it's okay to do callbacks to the adult books, but they have to make sense. That was what I ranted about regarding the death of Steve Plank: given that in the kids' books, he'd never been seen or mentioned before that point, it's pretty stupid to expect the target audience to know and care about his death.

Anyway, the words of Token Jew. As you probably guessed, said eulogy is so generic and non-specific that you can practically substitute any name you want in place of Chloe's and it'll still make sense. In fact, if you're really, really bored (like I am), just start putting in your favorite fictional character's name. Sort of like one of those Google searches where you put in "[Your Name Here] was killed by" and see what comes up. Apparently I die a lot of vampire-related deaths, making me wonder if I should switch to a garlic-based body wash or something.

“Because both Albie and Chloe were people of the Word. Oh, how they loved God’s love letter to them and to us! Albie would be the first to tell you he was not a scholar, hardly a reader. He was a man of street smarts, knowledgeable in the ways of the world, quick and shrewd and sharp. But whenever the occasion arose when he could sit under the teaching of the Bible, he took notes, he asked questions, he drank it in. The Word of God was worked out in his life. It changed him. It helped mold him into the man he was the day he died.

“And Chloe, our dear sister and one of the original members of the tiny Tribulation Force that has grown so large today. Who could know her and not love her spirit, her mind, her spunk? What a wife and mother she was! Young yet brilliant, she grew the International Commodity Co-op into an enterprise that literally kept alive millions around the globe who refused the mark of Antichrist and lost their legal right to buy and sell.

“In various safe-house locations over the past half-dozen years, I lived in close proximity to Chloe and to her family. It was common to find her reading her Bible, memorizing verses, trying them out on people. Often she would hand me her Bible and ask me to check her to see if she had a verse correct, word for word. And she always wanted to know exactly what it meant. It was not enough to know the text; she wanted it to come alive in her heart and mind and life.

“To those who will miss Chloe the most, the deepest, and the most painfully until we see her again in glory, I give you the only counsel that kept me sane when my own beloved were so cruelly taken from me. Hold to God’s unchanging hand. Cling to his Word. Fall in love with the Word of God anew. Grasp his promises like a puppy sinks its teeth into your pant legs, and never let go.

Again, it would actually help if Token Jew would actually mention specific traits related to Chloe. What was her favorite movie and why? Also, it's nice he made some acknowledgement of the massive task she was in charge of, but it would also be nice if they mentioned how the Co-Op worked in the first place! I'm assuming Ellanjay's thinking goes along the lines of "She gets stuff at Wal-Mart" but as anyone would tell you, the stuff at the Wal-Mart, they require materials and fuel in order to get into the hands of consumers. It's a basic fact: everything you use, eat, or wear, the materials had to be harvested and shaped, before finally being transported to shelves. All this requires human labor (which needs food, water, and sleep) and frequently, it requires the burning of fossil fuels in order to power the machinery needed to make and transport this stuff. But I have a feeling if I were to ask Ellanjay point-blank how Chloe's network works, their thinking is (sorry to repeat the joke, but it works) akin to that of the Underpants Gnomes path to riches.

I'd also like to know how Chloe went from being a Stanford Sophomore who managed to cross much of the country in the wake of the massive chaos caused by the Rapture to a stupid brat who whines rather than confronts her man when she thinks he's cheating on her, but I'm assuming that's easily explained by the God-botomy that happens whenever a character kneels before Zod. Because nearly every character was a helluva lot more interesting before they bent the knee.

Token Jew ends his eulogy by quoting the last few verses of 1 Corinthians 13. I provided said link because while I enjoy picking on Paul as much as the next Liberal Christian, for all his faults, his views regarding God and Jesus were probably much more nuanced than Ellanjay's. Plus, as a former Jew, Paul wouldn't be anywhere near as patronizing when it comes to the Jewish people. Also, as many will point out, most of the really misogynistic passages that people with Ellanjay's politics like to cite, weren't actually written by Paul.

But for all of Paul's faults, there's a reason 1 Corinthians 13 aka the Love Chapter, endures. While in some passages, Paul remains stubbornly a man of his time with the prejudices of someone of that time, in the Love Chapter, he does manage to transcend those limitations, even for a bit, and that warrants celebration. Plus, love him or hate him, Paul saw Jesus as someone who'd bridge the gap between God and Man, not a vengeful djinn who'd throw you into Hell unless you say the right words with the right amount of sincerity demanded.

The chapter ends with Vicki and Judd getting married. Again, they fast-forward through this, in spite of the dramatic potential. There are a few good small details about Vicki wishing that her friends could serve as bridesmaids or that her or Judd's parents were there, but it wraps up pretty quick.

When the time came, Chang Wong linked by video with the group in Wisconsin so they could see the ceremony. Judd and Vicki had chosen a beautiful spot overlooking the spring of water. Everyone said Vicki looked lovely in her dress. When Vicki saw Judd, she tried to keep from crying but couldn’t. She wished her family could have been there to share the moment. She wished she could have met Judd’s mom and dad.

They had written their own vows and both wept openly as they read their words to each other. Tsion spoke for a few minutes and challenged both Judd and Vicki to give their love to each other and their lives to God. “We do not know exactly what the next year will bring, but my prayer for you is that you would both grow in the grace of our Lord, until he comes again.”

Again, it would be nice to hear their vows and hear their internal monologue on this important day, but that would actually be good, necessary details that would actually flesh out the characters, and you know Ellanjay prefer worthless padding above all else.

Throwing on a second chapter because the first one was short and because I'm feeling generous.

The chapter begins in the viewpoint of Lionel. Knowing Ellanjay and how much they suck at juggling characters, this will probably be Lionel's only appearance for a while.

I'm afraid there's not much really to talk about in his section. He just talks and thinks about stuff and watches the news. Again, there's interesting potential that could be mined, especially in parts where he talks about how he feels useless and pitied because he's always given light work. Because even though his pain is mitigated by the fact that he'll get a new arm when TurboJesus returns a year from now, it's still a loss, one that would require him to work around. Certain chores are difficult if not impossible to do one-handed. Ever try cutting up your meat for dinner? Kind of difficult to use a knife and fork with just one hand.

After this bit with Lionel, we cut back to the group in Wisconsin. One of them, Mark, has fallen astray from the RTC faith in that he wants to actually do stuff. As I recall, in the single-digit books, he was the guy who wanted to join one of the militias in armed insurrection against Nicky, so props to Ellanjay for a little consistency here.

Marshall Jameson paced in front of the computer. “I understand your feelings, Mark. I’ve wanted to start a rebel radio station to tell people the truth, but some things are too dangerous.”

“Why are we so concerned about staying safe?” Mark said. “Isn’t it more important to get the message out?”

Conrad Graham slapped his hands on his knees. “If that’s your goal, I might go along with you, but you’re talking about fighting the GC. What could you possibly accomplish?”

“You saw what they did to Chloe,” Mark said. “If somebody had tried to take those Peacekeepers out before they caught her, she wouldn’t have lost her head.”

“Reports from the Trib Force say she went outside trying to protect her family and friends,” Marshall said. “But a rescue mission would have backfired. They didn’t even know where she was.”

As you probably guessed, I am totally on Mark's side in this debate. Like I keep saying, they have absolute confirmation that all this stuff is true, so why don't they just stand outside the centers where Nicky distributes the his Demon-Mark and preach until the GC cart you away?

I admit that my knowledge as to how Chloe was captured and the "tortures" she endured at the GC's hands, comes solely from this website. If I am wrong, I'm sure aunursa will chime in and correct me, but as I recall, Chloe was captured because she was an idiot who decided to head outside and confront a threat on her own, rather than alert the others in the bunker so they can all deal with it. Because heaven forbid Our Buck lose a few hours of sleep! Though that does actually seem within character. Chloe, as a good and proper RTC, knows that on the great hierarchy that rules the LB-verse, she ranks below Our Buck. His concerns matter above all else and it's generally understood that as a lesser being, Chloe must bow her head and sublimate her concerns to his. But Chloe's capture still remains one of those moments where you shake your head and wonder how the hell she got into Stanford.

The other tribbles are like, "We don't want to see your face on TV." But Mark continues to make good points, pointing out that they have enough help in running the website, so they don't need him around. The Tribbles ask, "So what do you want to do?" And Mark, continuing to make all the points, basically says he wants to go after the GC. Again, I know Mark will eventually be humbled and brought back to the one true tenet of RTC-ianity, which is, after loving God and Jesus, to do nothing, but I continue to side with him. In most fiction, the guy who wants to go after the bad guys and stop them from killing innocent people is generally seen as the hero. Granted we could ask why he isn't going after Zod, given that he's responsible for everything including Nicky and the GC, but I'll take what I can get.

Because like I keep saying, heroes are generally people who value human life above all else. That's what made Avengers 2 so awesome: when Ultron was like "Okay you can stop me from wiping out all life on this planet or save a city full of innocent people" the Avengers' collective response is "STFU! We're doing both!" And they proceed to. :sighs: I know I need to stop gushing so much about the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it's just so awesome. I know people don't gush as much about Avengers 2 as they did about the previous Avengers film, but I still think Avengers 2 is a damn awesome film, well worth your viewing time. The problem was that The Avengers was so awesome that Avengers 2 had a lot of expectations riding on it. For the most part, I think it met most of its story-telling goals.

I do wonder if Avengers 2, with its awesome gee-whiz action and heroes who actually do value about innocent lives, rather just paying lip service to it...part of me wonders if it wasn't just thumbing its nose at Man of Steel just a little. Again, as said in previous snarks, Man of Steel is one of those movies that provokes nothing but frothing, profanity-laden rants out of me. Since I don't want to alienate my online readers the way I have people in real life, I'm not going to go any further into my Man of Steel rant. I will say that the Marvel Cinematic Universe understands that a large reason why we like Superhero films, is the spectacle. We know the idea of a billionaire battling evil in a robot suit of armor he built himself is inherently ridiculous (and they do make nods at it), but at the same time, we love it because it's inherently awesome at the same time. Don't get me wrong, when it does come time for the big hero-villain smackdown, they do take it seriously and not have both sides constantly punning like in Joel Schumacher's Batman and Robin, but like I said Marvel knows we love Superhero films for the awesome ridiculous spectacle and they deliver.

All right, I'll stop geeking out and get back to work. :(

Colin suggests they make contact with someone living near Chicago, a woman named Lenore. I have no idea why they think that will steer Mark back to doing nothing, but hey. Mark's selection ends with them trying to call her, but the number not getting through! Meanwhile, I make the Invasion of the Body-Snatchers scream. Because it had been established that communication networks require no upkeep or maintenance whatsoever, that they are as tough and hard to get rid of as dandelions. Hence why they still have Internet and cell service no matter how many acts of God strike back to back.

We cut to Vicki, who is waking up. Once again, Ellanjay miss an opportunity to flesh out their characters, but they do manage to confuse the timeframe, just in one paragraph.

She lay back and stretched. Being married was a lot different than she had thought. There had already been disagreements to work through. Her childhood image of “happily ever after” was gone. Marriage was truly a lot of work.

Yes, because I'm a drooling pervert, my immediate thought in response was, "So the sex was that bad?" But I'm raising an eyebrow, because it couldn't have been more than a couple of days since the wedding; shouldn't Judd and Vicki still be in the honeymoon phase of their marriage? But given RTCs' hangups about sex, my immediate response seems disturbingly accurate. I find myself wondering about all the RTC kids who manage to do what their parents/pastor wants and save it for marriage. I can't help but think of how awkward it is, come their wedding night, when after so much buildup, they're finally allowed to get it on. You just know there's going to be some of them going, "The Hell?! This is what everyone made such a big deal over?!" Because as many will point out, your first time is rarely as earth-shakingly magical as so many make it out to be.

There's actually a cute bit where Judd decides to serve Vicki breakfast in bed. It's one of those bits that this series sorely needs more of, characters behaving, well, like humans towards one another, as opposed to sitting around and passively watching as Horrific Disaster Number 6549871651567 happens.

There's so discussion about Manna. Basically it's a light flaky pastry that tastes sweet and dissolves on the tongue. There is a brief mention about how God must have added extra vitamins to it. I wonder if that was put in, in response to all my criticisms about how a diet consisting of Manna and Quail probably doesn't provide all the necessary daily nutrition requirements. In fact, later on when they talk about how people have lost so much weight on a diet of manna, I fought the urge to make a smart-ass remark about how malnutrition would quickly take the weight off.

There is another nice human moment where Judd and Vicki talk about how they feel so guilty for being happy when so many others in Petra(like Buck and Kenny and some unnamed NPCs) are going through appalling emotional pain. It's a small thing but I come to celebrate the rare moments where characters act human and show compassion for others.

We cut back to Mark. Mark has decided to leave in the night, but runs into Charlie, who wants to come with him. That's seriously all that happens.

The chapter ends with Lionel and a little bit where Ellanjay once again tries to convince us that the tribbles are totally in danger this time for real, guys!

I'll just quote so you can enjoy said passage:

“Look at this,” Chang said. “The GC intercepted your message. It never got to your friends.”

“What? How could they—?”

Chang clicked on the e-mail from Kruno Fulcire’s aide. He pointed at the bottom of the screen. “See this? It’s code for the higher-ups. I think they’ve finally broken into the Young Trib Force Web site.”

“No,” Lionel gasped.

“That’s not the worst news. Looks like the GC has a location for your friends. If we don’t alert them, they’re dead.”

Nice try, but you can't fool me! I know this will all lead to an interlude as pointless as condom-dispensers in the Vatican City. You can try and try, but I've been burned too many times to fall for that trick again.

I'm going to assume that someone gently pointed out to Ellanjay that Satellite Internet, especially Satellite Internet under control of a Satanic NWO, can be easily tracked. Again, it should have happened a lot sooner, leading me to suspect that Ellanjay only took this into account as an excuse to pad out the series.

And that's it. I'll try to have the next part Saturday or Sunday. Hopefully nothing else will happen that will keep me from my duties.


aunursa said...

I went to the Left Behind wikia to look up Kenny's age. From what I can tell, he's around three or four years old.

I believe Kenny is three years old. He was born 2 1/2 years after the Rapture.

Kenny would just meekly go with Chloe and not pry further

You mean, meekly go with Ming.

Chloe was captured because she was an idiot who decided to head outside and confront a threat on her own, rather than alert the others in the bunker so they can all deal with it.

That's correct. She didn't want to wake Buck from his beauty sleep.

Mouse said...

Yeah, I'm blushing in embarrassment at the obvious typo, aunursa. I already went back and corrected it, but still, kind of blushing here.

Firedrake said...

Ow! Sympathies.

Bathing in garlic makes you more attractive to dragons, of course. As does wearing a honey glaze.

Ah, no, it's not worthless padding: it's an assurance that what proper people do is have a Good Christian Wedding in a "beautiful spot". And so should you, dear reader. Don't care if you can't afford it.

Are cæliacs allowed to be RTCs?

spiritplumber said... Sidefic for this round. It's a bit scattershot I'm afraid.

Mouse said...

Thanks for the latest chapter, Spiritplumber. I don't know if anyone else reads your little ficlets but they should; they are pretty cool.

spiritplumber said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
spiritplumber said...

Thank you! I'm using Left Behind as mythology for one of my RPG scenarios, Tripocalypse. The premise is that the LB stuff happened... now it's 20 solar orbits after the Glorious Appearing, and spoilers for where the ficlets are heading to :)

I've also rescued a Kingdom Come liveblog (KC is a sort of LB post-quel set in the Millennial Kingdom) from deletion, you can find it at

The KC setting would make for a fantastic game of Paranoia....