Daily Flash Fiction #5 – Flash! Friday Entered (Vol 2 – 38)

Flash! Friday is another flash fiction contest, and a much more popular one than what I’ve got going.  This one is limited to only 150 words.  That can be quite difficult.  But I decided to join last Friday’s edition.  In the next few hours, the winners will be announced, so I’m pretty curious to see if my story has been picked.

Here’s my story:

A Hero’s Welcome

Fuzz Baldwin, the hero of Alpha Centauri. That’s what they’ll call me, thought Captain Baldwin as he tumbled out of the capsule into the frigid waters. Darcy Kroeger splashed in behind him.

“Hey, Fuzz! We did it!” Darcy’s smile gave away his youthful exuberance. “I landed it perfectly.”

Clinging to the inflatable ring on the capsule, Fuzz grinned. “You know what they’ll say?”

Darcy nodded. “Yeah, that ace pilot Darcy Kroeger saved the day. Turning left around Proxima Centauri was the best decision of my life.”

“Left?” Fuzz’s mouth hung wide open when he heard the click. Oh no. He craned his neck to his right.

“What do we have here? A couple of pink ones.” Four eyes on a scaly head stared back at him. “Lost?”

“Darce, you idiot! Right! You were supposed to turn right around Proxima. This is Epsilon Eridani.”

“And you are tonight’s dinner, hero sandwiches.”

I used a bit of humour for this one.  That last line came to me just as I was finishing it.  I had never intended on that.  It was a moment of inspiration.

So, what do you think?

The Power of a Headache

You ever have plans to do a lot, but a headache thwarts those plans?  That’s happened to me tonight.

I had a book review planned for tonight.  I can’t really concentrate on it.  So, I’ll do something else.  I’ll let you know about a couple things.

First, What Will You Write? #6 will be finishing in a few days.   You still have time to get your entry in.

Second, I’d still like some comments about my official website.  Please go here and leave some comments about what you’d like to see.

That’s about it.  I think I should probably get some sleep.  Sleep off this headache.  Good night everyone!

Teacher Fired For Giving Zeros Treated Unfairly

A couple years ago, Lynden Dorval, a teacher in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, was suspended, then fired for giving students zeros on tests they missed and assignments they didn’t hand in.  Sounds unfair, doesn’t it?  Well, the provincial appeal board agrees with him, it was unfair.

So, why was he fired?  Well, it was against school policy to give zeros.  Then what was he supposed to do when students failed to hand in assignments or missed tests?  Give them endless extensions until they finally did them?  What if they never do? Give them a passing grade anyway?  This policy is ridiculous.

It seems that these days schools are being incredibly soft on students.  They don’t want to hurt their feelings by giving them failing grades.  They are precious snowflakes that need to be protected from failure.  It’s a terrible lesson to students to say that they can fail and suffer no consequences.  If they don’t do their work, they should fail.  They should get a zero.

Mr. Dorval was right in this, in my opinion.  The school’s policy is flawed, and it only encourages false reporting of grades.  What’s ridiculous is that the school board is going to appeal.  So they want to strip this good teacher of his pension and pay for their unethical treatment of him?  The Edmonton Public School Board needs to go back to school and learn how to treat people properly.  They are wrong in this, and I encourage any parent in Edmonton to complain to the school board about their intention to appeal.  It’s inexcusable.

If this happened in your area, what would you do?

More Activity on My Official Website

My official website has been pretty quiet.  I update infrequently, though I did update this week with a new part of Journey to Ariadne. Read it now if you haven’t done so.

What I’ll be doing is giving updates on progress regularly, as well as tidbits of information about the story, the world, and the characters.  I may write short scenes involving the characters, draw pictures of some of the animals, and write about the world itself.  I will also work on the Ariadne Encyclopedia.

So, I’d like to ask you.  What would you like to see?

My Job and Writing

I teach English in Japan.  I’ve been doing it for more than 9 years, and should be here another 2 years.  As a result, I’ve been forced to think about English grammar and vocabulary nearly every day for quite some time.  It probably helps me with my writing in some ways.

One aspect of my job is that I have to know the proper way to say something using grammar.  Now, this isn’t always required, since I’m teaching conversation, not writing.  I teach a lot about casual conversation, as well as formal and business English.  There are idioms, figures of speech, and many other aspects of language that are not very natural for Japanese people to use.  You see, they learn grammar in school, but not conversation.  They can read reasonably well, but when it comes to speaking, they often can’t do much.  Of course, I do teach advanced students, but they’ve been studying English for a long time or have had to use it in business or lived overseas.  I’m exposed to a large variety of students, so I have to use many different kinds of language.  As a result, dialogue may be one of my stronger suits in writing.

When I began teaching, I didn’t know everything.  In fact, I found it kind of difficult to explain different rules for grammar and the difference between similar words.  This has caused me to learn a lot about my own language.  I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to grammar these days.  I guess I’m a Grammar Nazi.  I’ve also always been good at spelling.  In grade 8 in junior high school, we were given a spelling test to determine what level of spelling we had.  I had a perfect score.  I was spelling at a university level while I was 13 years old.  So when I write a draft, my spelling and grammar tend to be very good.  However, that doesn’t mean it’s great to read.

An interesting thing I’ve found is that the Japanese language has loan words from English, but the meaning is different.  For example, Japanese naive means sensitive in English.  Also, there are many mistakes that Japanese people learning English make.  For example, the usage of particles (a, an, the), the usage of almost, and verb tense problems.  Sarcasm is also not commonly used in Japan, so it often goes over the head of many Japanese.

When I read, grammar or spelling errors pop out to me.  The rare mistake is fine. But if they’re happening on every page I read, I find it difficult to read and take the book seriously.  Problems with to and too, confusing your and you’re, and mistakes with their, there, and they’re irritate me.  I also easily spot problems with quotation marks and commas when using dialogue and dialogue tags.  And the incorrect use of apostrophes aggravates me.  Maybe I could be a proofreader.  Or maybe I should stick with writing and blogging.

Do you have any difficulties with grammar or spelling?  It’s embarrassing to say this, but I often forgot if it’s embarrassing or embarassing. I don’t have that problem now.

The Importance of People Watching

Any writer knows that to write fiction, you need to understand human behaviour.  What can be better than people watching?

I’ve always been a people watcher.  This doesn’t come from being a writer, this is a side effect of my introversion.  I watch many aspects, like how they walk, how they talk, body language, posture, how they interact with others, and so on.  It’s one of my strategies for dealing with others when I have to speak with them.  And I speak with many people every day in my job.  I’ve learned to adapt how I speak with others depending on what kind of person they are.  I can usually get along with anyone, even people I don’t like very much.  While others may get into arguments with that person, I seem to be able to diplomatically defuse situations.  Of course, this only works if we speak the same language.  I know when to let the person talk, and I know how to interrupt them.  A lot of this comes from years of experience in both teaching and customer service.

All of this is important for writing, because if we don’t understand how people behave, characters will end up being very unnatural and stereotypical.  When reading a serious novel, stereotypical characters turn me off.  I don’t want cookie cutter characters, I want well-rounded people. So what you need to do is not only watch how people move and behave, but also listen to conversation.  How do they say what they say?  Take notes about figures of speech, natural phrases, and how people respond in conversation.

If you can’t get out and are stuck in front of your computer, try watching some YouTube videos.  It’s best if they aren’t staged, acted, or a monologue in front of a webcam.  Look for those candid videos where someone just happens to be recording what’s happening.  You can get real behaviour and conversation that way.  Do you want to write a fight scene?  Watch a video of an actual fight in public.  For research, not entertainment, of course.  Don’t watch a movie fight scene.  Those are choreographed and not realistic.  You can also find good arguments on YouTube.  Listen to what they say.  Listen to how their language changes.  It’s quite different than their usual calm language.

There are many ways to observe people. What do you like to do?

Reality is Stranger than Fiction?

First, I’d like you to watch this video.  After that, please read on.  It’ll make it easier to respond to my questions.

That is my daughter.  She’s 2 years and 7 months old at the moment, and as you can see, she doesn’t exactly speak English like a normal Canadian kid.  Well, that’s because we live in Japan, and she spends much of her time hearing Japanese.  Her language is mixed.  But this isn’t the important thing.

What I’d like to know is this: How would you react if you read this scene in a novel that was not meant to be funny?  Let’s say a serious novel about a young family’s struggle to become successful.  If this video were written out just the way it looks, how would you react?  Could you take it seriously?  Is reality truly stranger than fiction?