Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Right What You No”

Book vs Movie: Logan vs Old Man Logan – What’s the Difference?

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Nothing like a comic book movie to analyse for differences. Much less reading. This month’s What’s the Difference? from CineFix looks at Logan and Wolverine: Old Man Logan.

Logan was a rare treat for me this year. I’m not saying it was a fantastic film that blew me away, more that I actually got to see the movie in the cinema for once. The film itself was okay. Probably one of the better X-Men films, if not the best. The strengths of the film are in it taking on the aesthetics of the Western genre. It’s weaknesses are the not unobtrusive plot holes.

The comic that inspired the movie is vastly different. While also enjoyable, the source material was never going to be adapted to the big screen. Just the number of superhero name rights they’d have to license would have made it an expensive two-hour name dropping session. But it would have been cool to see Wolverine get eaten by The Hulk and then suffer a few digestive problems.

So rather than this being an adaptation, it is more akin to thematic borrowing. Or to put it another way, they looked at the cover and thought that grey and scarred look would be a good idea for Hugh’s final outing as Wolverine. The film has more in common with Shane and Unforgiven than it does with the comic, in a good way. And I suppose if that is the sort of adaptation the movie goes for, it is a better idea than some of the others covered in this series.

And now for a philosophical take on Logan:

Let’s Get Legible


If you have ever spent any time in the comments sections anywhere on the internet, you will be aware that people’s grammar and spelling sucks. Sometimes it appears to be laziness. Sometimes the content makes it clear the person slept through their English and Science classes. And other times that is just how that person “communicates”.

But it isn’t isolated to the internet. The borderline illiterate retired football player who is now a TV personality. The weather presenter whose qualifications start and end with how white their teeth are. The cut and paster reporter who now relishes the fact that their company’s sub-editors were laid off. We seem to be surrounded by lazy or solecistic people.

This is a problem.

How can we effectively communicate in the marketplace of ideas if we can’t utilise proper grammar and spelling? Are we really going to wade through a 3000 word rebuttal argument that lacks paragraphs and capitalisation at the start of a sentence – seriously, try to not respond with “Would it kill you to use paragraphs?” How good will our comprehension of the points be if we struggle to understand what is written, let alone what is meant?

Now grammar isn’t as “proper” as we’d like to think. There is no reason to chastise someone for using literally in place of figuratively when the intention was for hyperbole. But damn you to spend an eternity watching Suicide Squad in a theatre full of people talking on their phones if you use theory when you mean hypothesis.

Language evolves over time. Generally language has become more concise and simplified to aid in communication. For example, if you read Robinson Crusoe in 1719, you may have noticed a few differences to the current version. Such as the title. Could you image the latest thriller using this snappy title?

The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un‐inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pirates.

Don’t worry, the novel is still boring laborious to read. In fact, just read the original title, saves you reading the whole book.

So being a Grammar Nazi* isn’t really the goal. But demanding that ourselves and others try to communicate clearly is a worthwhile goal. Because how am I to know if I agree with DeadMeatSlab45’s points about immigration unless I’m able to parse them through the all caps and intemperate use of exclamation points? It’s time to be legible.

I look forward to spotting my grammar and spelling errors after this post is published.

*Hasn’t that term taken on some new meaning this week!

Killing Characters

Killing characters

Another good reason to kill a character is to use their body to fill a plot hole. The bigger the plot hole, the more bodies you’re going to need.

News: Short Story Shortlisted

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I don’t often post news here. Nothing worse than being seen as someone blowing their own trumpet – and is that now officially called a Steve Bannon?

This morning I received an email congratulating me on being shortlisted for a short story award.

Dear Tyson

The KSP Foundation is delighted to advise that your story ‘Flicker’ has been short listed in the Open category of this year’s Ghost Story competition. 

The winners will be announced on Saturday 26th August 2017 at the KSP Writers’ Centre. We would also like to invite you to read your story on the night, to share with our audience. 

With our best wishes and warmest congratulations,

Kind regards,

NB: I’ve edited the email. Unless you wanted the details and directions to the event.

A little background, at the writers’ group I’ve joined we have a monthly challenge. We take a random excerpt from an award-winning novel in the KSP (Katharine Susannah Pritchard Writers’ Centre) library and use it as inspiration for a short story. Knowing that the Ghost Story Competition was coming up, several of us used the monthly challenge as the basis for entries.

I haven’t heard from my writers’ group friends as to whether they were shortlisted as well. But I do know that the judges had huge piles of entries to read, so it will be interesting to see how many there were in total. I’m betting the judges appreciated the word limit.

Job Descriptions

dayjob

Cruise ship activities director.

Nightclub owner
Drug money laundering, hiring models to chat up, and providing DJs with ecstasy.

Corporate CEO
Executive meetings on golf course, executive meetings at exclusive restaurants, executive meetings at strip clubs, and calling random staff members to remind them you’re the boss.

Cabinet Minister
Required to stand immediately to the Prime Minister’s right when major announcements are made. Responsible for nodding head in background of TV coverage of the PM making the announcement. Being responsible for any fuck-ups when the announcement goes badly (unless it can be blamed on someone in your department).

Director of Government Department
In charge of minister publicity stunts and press releases.

Plumber
Required to spend long hours as a semi-professional fisherman. Once or twice a week assign an apprentice to do some plumbing.

Electrician
Similar to plumber except with less water and shorter working hours.

Apprentice
Responsible for doing all the shit jobs to facilitate industry professionals. Good career advancement opportunities to become semi-professional fisherman.

Commercial Pilot
Bus driving with lower risk of crashing, better perks, longer hours, and shorter life expectancy due to high altitude radiation exposure.

Journalist
Press release copy and paste expert. Responsible for keeping drug dealers and coffee shops in business.

Columnist
Responsible for writing articles. Not responsible for researching articles. Cultivate sources for articles, such as fellow columnists, journalists, and bloggers with “truth” in their page title.

Police Officer
In charge of making sure others don’t do stupid and annoying shit that will hurt everyone around them. Not to be mistaken for parking meter attendants, nor strippers.

Strippers
Required to make sure not mistaken for police officers, firefighters, school girls, secretaries, nurses, or prostitutes.

Advertising Executive
Required to be a professional liar and manipulator for hire to inanimate objects and services.

Scientist
Required to have survived at least one explosion from experiments gone wrong during childhood. Leading scientists will have engulfed their high schools in flames and no longer be able to grow eyebrows. Required to find even more cool ways to blow shit up, and discover the nature of truth.

Top 5 Most Over-rated Drinks

Authors need a drink to help with the hours of writing, research, and dicking around on the internet. Some great novelists have preferred to have a scotch on hand. Some terrible writers have as well. Others can’t start writing without a pot of coffee. Others still have realised amphetamines are way better than coffee.

Which brings me to today’s topic: over-rated drinks.

For so long there have been a number of beverages that people wax lyrical about. You’d honestly think that some of these drinks were made from the waters of Pirene, or at least not made from the waters of Flint Michigan. Whether it be tradition, reputation or the cool factor, these drinks have earned a coveted place in our society that is not based upon merit – there’s a political joke to be made here, I’m sure.

1. Coffee
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Walk around most cities and you will not be able to travel more than 10 metres without passing a coffee shop. In America this coffee shop will most likely be a Starbucks and you’ll have no idea how far 10 metres is. In Australia the coffee shop will have lycra-clad cyclists sitting out the front of it. The ubiquity of these stores is indicative of the unhealthy caffeine addiction people have. Cue the “I don’t have an addiction, I can give up anytime I want” comments in the section below.

The worst thing about coffee’s popularity is that a barista will spend 5 minutes expertly crafting you a tall mocha frap with a pump of vanilla and an extra shot of espresso. Yet ask them to make you a cup of tea and they hand you a paper cup with some hot water with a tea bag floating in it. I’ve only murdered one person for daring to charge me $5 for that atrocity.

Honestly, why don’t people do cocaine or amphetamines if they need the energy boost?

2. Champagne
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Champagne – or as it was originally known, bubbly vinegar – is often associated with rich people and people dressing up like rich people for the night. True Fact: Nobody actually drinks champagne. It is brewed specifically to be sprayed around after winning a race, or to be smashed into boats. You don’t exactly need to brew something palatable if its sole purpose is for a jockey to hose down a scantily clad model holding a trophy. The model is being paid to smile and put up with that crap regardless.

The people who insist that you can drink champagne – who have an unsurprisingly high correlation with people who think cigars are cool – do have one stipulation. To make champagne “taste best”, that is to say smooth vinegar instead of “Oh my god, I’ve just drunk battery acid”, you have to drink it out of a champagne glass. They made them specifically to improve the taste. Not a joke. Someone actually thought that would help.

3. Dry Martini
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Would we even know what a martini was if Bond, James Bond didn’t drink them? The Dry Martini is really just paint stripper and methylated spirits served in a fancy glass with an olive. In some less reputable establishments they probably don’t bother hiding the fact and serve it in an old tin with a paint brush instead of the spiked olive.

Just because James Bond drinks it doesn’t make it good. When Ian Fleming wrote Bond he clearly needed a manly drink, and what is more manly than something that doubles as engine degreaser? Also, Bond was very self-destructive and was probably using the martinis to cure his VD.

4. Fruit Juice
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Fruit juice: now with 5% actual fruit!

Juice is the perfect combination of sugar, water, sugar, flavourings, sugar, fruit, and something else I’ve forgotten, possibly sugar. All the goodness of fruit… removed to fit more sugar in.

The best way to drink fruit juice is to grab a can of Coke and eat an actual piece of fruit. Unless you’re doing a juice cleanse. In which case it is best to replace the fruit with long-winded explanations about how much better you feel without all those nasty toxins in your body.

5. Bottled Water

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Oh look, they added fruit and sugar to water. What’s that called again?

Nothing says healthy like 100% pure profit. We capture, purify, fluoridate, and pipe beautiful clean water into homes around the world. And someone figured out you could bottle it and make people go to a shop to buy it for 2000 times more cost.

Somewhere right now is a Bond villain stroking a white cat, laughing as he watches a security feed of people buying his branded bottled water, filled from the tap in his kitchen. He has probably just closed a sale on a bridge and is planning a trip to the Arctic to sell some Inuits ice. Sorry, marketing executive, not Bond villain.

Collective nouns

A harem of guitars

An invisible of ninjas

A dude of potheads

A lie of politicians
yyetq
A scheme of crime writers

An awesome of TysonAdams.com readers

A crock of shit

Let’s not have a picture for this one…

A run dammit of bears

A swim faster of sharks

A tedium of golfers

A fiction of journalists

An ambivalence of decision makers

The book is always better

Except when it isn’t.

Book review: The Water’s Edge by Karin Fossum

The Water's EdgeThe Water’s Edge by Karin Fossum

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Genre fiction is all about escapism, said no crime fiction fan ever.

A young boy’s body is found in a remote park. It is clear he has been abused and then dumped. The only lead Inspector Sejer has to go on is the man a young couple passed before discovering the boy. And then a second boy goes missing.

This was an incredibly hard book to read. There’s nothing quite like the lurid details of crimes against children to really make you squirm. Karin Fossum doesn’t just make you squirm from the crime itself, either, she seems to want you to be disgusted with humans, as she peels back the layers on all of the characters. Goal achieved.

While this was a tough read, it was still a good solid crime novel. Unlike many other crime authors, Fossum seems to be able to poke at the reader. This is both a good and a bad thing, as it makes The Water’s Edge hard to recommend to others – especially if you have kids – and to give 5 stars to. One for hardened crime fiction fans I’d say.

View all my reviews

That isn’t literature too

Paradox - another word for idiocy

I recently reblogged an article from The Conversation about how awesome the Harry Potter books are, but how snobby (some?) literary people are about them. The vitriol and chastisement of the Harry Potter books reminds me of a time when I too was not on the Potter bandwagon. Oh how wrong I was.

Stupid kid’s books. It’s just The Worst Witch with a Chosen One narrative. That’s not literature!

And once again we come to my favourite book chest thumping topic. How worthy is Harry Potter and how wrong have the snobby people been about it?

I think it is worth addressing a few of the arguments that are levelled at JK Rowling and genre fiction in general. Let’s use Rowling as a stand in for all genre authors. Because all genre authors are just as successful and beloved…

Mostly the arguments revolve around Rowling not having the correct goals in her writing. Of course, these supposed goals are rather arbitrary and change depending upon who is deciding what Rowling’s goals should be. Because apparently writing an entertaining book series that sells hundreds of millions of copies, has devoted fans, promotes laudable social principles, and got some kids reading books who wouldn’t have otherwise isn’t enough for some people. They also tend to expect the world from the Harry Potter books, something that I’ll delve into further below.

Take for example this piece by Nicholas Lezard in The Guardian:

Do I need to explain why that is such second-rate writing?

If I do, then that means you’re one of the many adults who don’t have a problem with the retreat into infantilism that your willing immersion in the Potter books represents. It doesn’t make you a bad or silly person. But if you have the patience to read it without noticing how plodding it is, then you are self-evidently someone on whom the possibilities of the English language are largely lost. Source.

Ugh. I’ve got two words for you, Nicholas Lezard, and they are what your mum should have said to your dad on that fateful day.

There is so much to unpack in that small quote. Lezard starts by insulting fans of the books, then says he isn’t insulting them, then insults them again. Someone who could write a paragraph such as this is self-evidently someone upon whom the possibilities of the English language are largely lost. He’s insulting the use of speech identifier verbs whilst failing to understand the audience and style being utilised. If you expect YA to be using the same style as the Man-Booker winners you’re gonna have a bad time.

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But why insult fans, young and old, of the series? Why insult Rowling? Although she is probably insulated from such lowly criticism in her gold-lined money castle. He didn’t like something, he can critique it, but he is forgetting that a literary critique stands on argument, not insulting people for disagreeing with him.

This speaks poorly of Lezard and other such critics. In a previous post I discussed literary people defending Fort Literature from the invading Lesser Works. But this is Lezard leading a charge against the peaceful village inhabited by the Lesser Works. He has marked himself the despotic bigoted scourge of Fiction Land, seeking to crush all those who would dare be different from him.

Other critics of Harry Potter have argued that the series didn’t do enough to change the world. This piece comes from the unsupported opinions at The New York Times:

But in keeping with the intricately plotted novels themselves, the truth about Harry Potter and reading is not quite so straightforward a success story. Indeed, as the series draws to a much-lamented close, U.S. statistics show that the percentage of youngsters who read for fun continues to drop significantly as children get older, at almost exactly the same rate as before Harry Potter came along. Source.

Of course, the problem with this argument is that it requires one series by one author to change the lives of all kids worldwide… The article itself cites the series as having sold 325 million copies worldwide in the decade since the first book’s release (a third of that in the USA alone). Out of the 1.9 billion kids and 7 billion people in the world that means only 17% of kids, or 4.6% of people have bought a Harry Potter book (because nobody ever bought the whole series, or two copies of one of the books, or saw a copy in a library). To put that 325 million copies for the entire series in perspective, roughly 175 million people paid to see A film in the cinema that was tenuously about cars. A similar number paid to see the final Harry Potter film. Let’s face it: reading isn’t that popular.

Let’s break this amazing phenomenon down a bit further. There have been several studies that have looked at readers, particularly kids, and how many of them have read the books.

Percentage of kids reading each Harry Potter book

Source

This is a small survey of children (N = 233) looking at Harry Potter fans, but is consistent with other studies and with a Waterstones reader survey the researchers used to validate the small study. You can see that most kids had read the first book, but that quickly dropped off as the series continued. The studies showed that only 25-35% of kids had read all 7 books in the series, with the average fan reading 3.98 books in the series.

Another thing to note is that studies have also found that 46% and 49% had read a Harry Potter book. Or to put it another way, over 50% of kids hadn’t read any Harry Potter books, and many had only tried one (usually the first one). The most popular book series of all time still isn’t read by a majority of people.

But what about JK Rowling’s influence on reading?

This study was of only 650 kids, but it does illustrate that particularly amongst secondary school kids that they were inspired to read. More books, more difficult books, and more fiction – and if someone can point out the difference between non-fiction and fiction I’d much appreciate it.

Another study of a similar size found supporting results:

Many, though not all, of our enthusiasts consider the Potter books a major contributor to both their self-identification as readers and their wider literacy development. Perhaps the most striking change they reported was the confidence and motivation to try more challenging books or more books in general. Thus, the Potter books—particularly the thicker ones—acted as a “Portkey” or “gateway,” transporting readers into the world of more mature fiction. Source.

The increasing complexity and length of the books was cited in both studies as giving people confidence to grow as readers. But it was also noted that one of the reasons given for not reading all of the books in the series was also the increasing complexity and length. In other words you can’t please everyone, especially not kids. Unless you have ice-cream. And the kids aren’t lactose intolerant.

So the problem isn’t that the books are second-rate, nor that they aren’t encouraging people (kids are people too) to read. The problem is that even the most popular book series ever is going to have a limited impact. Rowling has managed to connect with a huge audience – for a book – which has had positive impacts on readers, such that they are more likely to go out and read more books, even the more complex books that keep the literary snobs in a job.

It is a big ask to expect one book series to have improved literacy rates. At the risk of labouring the point – any further – most people don’t read, and most people who do read won’t have read Harry Potter. The problem isn’t Rowling failing to inspire people enough. It isn’t that she wasn’t a good enough writer. The problem is that people love to make lazy attacks on genre fiction. They don’t want to admit that reading is not that popular and that what we have been doing is probably not encouraging new readers. At least Rowling was on the right track.

Modern value of reading

'...how are you ever going to text.'

Book vs Movie: The Sex of Game of Thrones – What’s the Difference

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This month CineFix do the episode of What’s the Difference? you’ve been waiting for. No, not The Game of Thrones differences. The sex scene differences of The Game of Thrones.

People are often surprised when I tell them I’m not a fan of The Game of Thrones. But after abandoning both the first book and first season, there isn’t much that could get me interested in coming back.

Some people have tried to convince me that there is plenty of nudity and sex in the books and show. I like to point out that 4% of the internet is porn. When I’ve tried pointing out that most of the characters either die or aren’t protagonists you want to follow, the response is always Tyrion Lannister is awesome…. So that’s one character. I can see why many people love both the books and TV show, but just not for me. Unless it is in a highlights reel format.

Thug Notes summary and analysis of A Song of Fire and Ice.

Wisecracks comparison to The Sopranos and Interregnum

Book Review: Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

Dead Ever After (Sookie Stackhouse, #13)Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Did you hear the one about the Vampire, the Were, the Shifter, and the Barmaid?

In this final Sookie Stackhouse novel, Sookie discovers she has many enemies. One group decide to frame her for murder. Another group decide to just murder her. Another decides to steal her boyfriend. Her friends have other ideas about letting any of that happen without a fight.

I haven’t been closely following Charlaine Harris’ series. I’ve enjoyed all the instalments I’ve read so far, and Dead Ever After was no exception. Although, I was surprised to discover this was the final novel in the Sookie Stackhouse series.* This felt like any other instalment in the series to me.

Apparently fans of the series were annoyed with the less than satisfactory ending. A lot of one star reviews have been thrown at this book. One thing seems clear, Sookie didn’t end up with the right guy. Apparently. So if you are an invested fan, this book will probably be used to heat your home in winter. For the less invested fans, this will be regarded as a solid instalment to the series.

*Yes, I can see the tagline on the bottom of the cover. Kinda hard to read when it is thumbnail sized though.

View all my reviews

Book Review: No Time Left by David Baldacci

No Time LeftNo Time Left by David Baldacci

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

If you time travel how can you have no time left?

It is pretty hard to review this book without spoilers, and quite honestly you’ll want to read the spoilers so you won’t waste your time. This short story is about an assassin who is hired to kill his own mother in the past. He does so, he ceases to exist. End of story.

Don’t worry, I didn’t ruin anything for you.

This was so predictable as to be confusing. How could such a popular author churn out such a generic waste of space as this story? Baldacci offers no unique take on this well worn trope, he doesn’t give us an interesting character to follow, his story has massive plot holes, and he doesn’t even offer money back…. Okay, I did get this from the library, but I still feel he owes me money.

The positive reviews I have read for this story appear to be from long time fans. This is my third underwhelming outing with Baldacci. There won’t be a fourth outing.

NB: I do apologise for posting a negative review. Normally I avoid mentioning the books I haven’t enjoyed. I’m making an exception with this review because this story reeks of a big name author and their publisher putting out any old dross they feel like.

View all my reviews

Why The Hobbit Sucks

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Before anyone starts, I’ve always thought The Hobbit sucked. I was never a fan of the book, so even a semi-faithful movie adaptation was going to underwhelm me. But there are lessons to be learned by writers (and readers) from The Hobbit movies.

Recently I had a series of posts (1, 2, 3) about The Lord of the Rings movie adaptations, in which I discussed how much I enjoyed them. The movies managed to be awesome and cut out the long waffly bits. The movies were better than the book. But what about the 3 movie adaptation of the 1 book story? Well, here’s a 6 video discussion of the 3 movie adaptation of the 1 book story!

Just Write/Sage Rants dissects the flaws in The Hobbit movies. The videos highlight some of the more important aspects of storytelling and payoffs for the reader, and how they weren’t well handled.

The Characters – The Dwarves

Tensionless Action

Unresolved Plot Lines

Bad Romance

Philo$ophy of Adaptation

Comments and the Extended Editions

Hemingway Spoilers – Wrong Hands

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Source: Wrong Hands by John Atkinson.

Reading format

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One pointlessly heated discussion that seems to occur with painful regularity in reading circles is which book format is superior. Do you prefer audio, or digital, or paper, or papyrus, or clay tablets? Personally I can’t see anyone topping the long-term data retention of carving stuff into stone cave walls. Bit time-consuming for authors though.

When this discussion starts everyone rolls out their usual banal reasoning for their preferred format. Without fail someone will talk about the smell of dead tree books (DTB), or the feel of eviscerated tree flesh in their fingers, or refer to some dodgy research that denigrates e-books. For some reason the reading world is filled with technophobic troglodytes intent on proving that their old-fashioned way of doing things is better.

Currently I read books in three different formats: DTB, e-book, audiobook. I like reading all three formats and they have various advantages and disadvantages. I have many fond memories of dead trees. The time I used one to level a table with an uneven leg. The time I threw one at the TV on election night. The time I used a bag full of them to prop open a door with a hydraulic hinge. Good times. I’m sure I have some fond memories of e-books and audiobooks…

Let’s run through a few pros and cons of the three formats.

DTB Pros:

  • They are a book.
  • You can read them.
  • They make you look smart/nerdy when you have lots of them on shelves.
  • Can turn to the end of the book to see if that character actually died.

DTB Cons:

  • Being a physical entity they have to be physically moved to your house.
  • Generally more expensive than an e-book.
  • Are heavy and awkward to hold.
  • Hate having tea spilt on them.
  • Can’t stop a .45 slug, despite claims to the contrary.

E-book Pros:

  • They are a book.
  • You can read them.
  • When you want another you just download it instantly.
  • Everyone thinks you are reading the latest political biography when you are really engrossed in the love triangle between a teenage girl, a 100-year-old pedophile, and a smelly dog (yes I got dragged to the Twilight films by my wife).
  • Text can be resized.

E-book Cons:

  • E-books can’t be used to start a fire in a life threatening situation.
  • E-book files won’t be forever, but the database will be, which means updating your collection.
  • E-readers cost money too.
    • Dedicated e-readers are the domain of avid readers, everyone else can just read on their phone or tablet.
  • Hate having tea spilt on them.
  • E-readers are even less likely to stop a .45 slug.

Audiobook Pros:

  • They are a book.
  • You can read them.*
  • Can be read when you’re doing something else.
    • Exercising and reading is a personal favourite.
    • Certainly a better way to read when driving.

Audiobook Cons:

  • Can be expensive.
    • Are becoming cheaper in digital versions.
  • Some voice actors don’t have great voices, nor acting.
  • Takes longer to read… unless you read by sounding out the vowels still.
  • Are probably the least likely to stop a .45 slug.

What is my key point out of all of this? If you like reading you will like reading regardless of the format. The medium isn’t the message.

The reality is that we have to stop with the snobbery of the format wars. Every format has benefits to enjoy. Every person I have met who has bravely tried e-books and audiobooks has commented that they were unsure until they made the leap. Then they fell in love with all the formats.

I love books in all their forms, you should too.

*Yeah, go ahead and try and argue that point. I dare you.

Old Timey Complaint Letter

Complaint letters

Taking Criticism

One of the most important aspects of writing is taking criticism. It is an important skill that you need to develop in order to:

  • Tell the critic how wrong they are;
  • Explain to the critic in excruciating detail how they just don’t understand your art;
  • Make an extensive list of places the critic can go to think about their mistakes.

See more from JP:

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How to Write an FAQ

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Most companies and organisations have an FAQ page these days. What should be a chance to address Frequently Asked Questions often turns into a telling display of the values the company or organisation holds. A lot can be gleaned from the FAQ, and not just opening times and how many health code violations they have accumulated.

Recently I was looking for local martial arts facilities and came across an FAQ page that painted the organisation in a bad light. This isn’t the only poorly written FAQ I’ve come across, but I’ll use some quotes from it as an example.

What you don’t include says as much as what you do include.

FAQs are meant to be about sharing information. Hey, we’re a friendly organisation, just letting you know a bit more about us. So when you avoid sharing information you come across as deceptive as a used car salesman, or as useless as a Scottish underwear store.

How much does training cost?
We do not have contracts or direct debit arrangements; you simply pay the fees to your Branch Instructor at the beginning of each calendar month. You do not pay any fees for months in which you do not train. Our monthly training fees are probably the lowest on average for any mainstream martial art school in Australia.

So, those fees would be how much again?

By not actually including the pricing people can only assume that the fees are ridiculously high, or that they want you to sign over your soul as payment. At least they don’t straight up ask for your firstborn.

Obviously the answer was intended to convey that the fees were competitive to similar services, and that they have easy payment options. They probably didn’t include the pricing because it probably varies by dojo and class sizes. But by not putting these competitive prices in the FAQ it gives the impression that a guy with a curled up moustache will con you into signing up to a ski resort timeshare, while also pressuring you to join up and pay exorbitant fees.

Lesson: be transparent.

What you do say says a lot about you.

If you are a relaxed organisation or business you might include some joke Q&As. If you are friendly you might include some oversharing information to appear personable – or possibly unhinged if you go too far. If you are a jerk then you won’t be able to help yourself.

Can I compete in tournaments?
No. [Our martial art] is a traditional martial art, not a martial sport. We train to perfect technique for real self-defence applications, not for point-scoring or competitions. We believe that, as opposed to the sports approach, the traditional art approach builds physically stronger and more mentally confident practitioners.

So, other martial arts suck?

Nothing makes you sound like a prat more than belittling others…

I’m doing this to help. Not to be a prat. Honest.

Obviously you want to promote your organisation or business, and obviously you think your organisation or business is better than others. But there are ways to do that without walking over to the competitor’s place and taking a dump in the middle of the floor.

This answer could have been phrased in many ways. They could have suggested that their martial art is a good base for moving onto sports applications, perhaps name drop some members who have done that. They could have just left the answer at stating the two are quite different styles of the same martial art, and they focus on the self-defence style. Instead they couldn’t help but stick the boot in and suggest the other styles are crap.

Lesson: don’t be a dick.

How you say something says a lot about you.

There are several ways to say the same thing. There are several ways to skin a cat. If you decide to skin that cat by starting from the tail down, it says one thing, whilst starting once the cat is dead says something else. What the hell did that cat ever do to you anyway?

Can I cross-train in other martial arts?
No. [Our martial art] is a traditional martial art, so all members are expected to show the traditional loyalty to a single master instructor… Bear in mind that our general philosophy is that it is better to learn one art, and learn it extremely well, than to learn several arts to a lower level.

So, I should phone you before I make any decisions? Do I pledge my fealty in writing or by polishing your shoes with my tongue?

What was obviously meant to be a diplomatic answer about the rise of mixed martial arts (MMA) and people learning multiple skills, comes off as a decree about slavishly devoting your soul to this martial art and the master. How dare you be unfaithful!

The mindset of telling someone what they can and can’t do in the hours they don’t spend at this dojo is that of a manipulative bully. You will obey. You will conform. And we’re doing it for your benefit, so you will take our abuse and love us for it. You kinda expect them to have a lesson listed on how to be abusive to your spouse or partner somewhere else on the website.

They could have stated that most students don’t cross train. They could have paraphrased some Liam Neeson, ‘You will learn a particular set of skills. Skills you will acquire over years of dedicated training. Skills that will make you awesome at breaking boards.’ Instead they showed themselves to be exactly the sort of people you don’t want to learn martial arts from.

Lesson: don’t be a dick.

Hope that helps.

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