Bullying and the Queen

This week’s blog article on writing has been moved to next week.

This week’s blog article is about Queen Elizabeth II’s death and the unexpected vitriol that has made its way to social, mainstrea, and alternative media.

According to a peer-reviewed study by researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia, social exclusion is the most common form of bullying and even worse than violence because of the long-term effects on the victim as well as the bystanders. Social exclusion bullying includes excluding people from activities and groups by spreading harmful rumors and insisting these rumors are true. Furthermore, it is made clear that associating with those who are being socially excluded will lead to being socially excluded by extension by way of relational aggression.

If a person chooses to opt for being a bystander to the bullying, they perpetuate the bullying by way of social reinforcement.

When Queen Elizabeth II died at her Balmoral estate in Scotland last Thursday after being the royal monarch for 70 years, there were sincere expressions of grief from people around the world. Unfortunately, there were also some very horrible things said and posted on social media about Queen Elizabeth II.

Many are tying the evils associated with the past of the British empire to Queen Elizabeth II personally even though she had NO political power. She was not the head of an empire. She was a figurehead.

Yes, colonialism and imperialism were not good things but the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II goes beyond the past history she inherited from previous monarchs and governments of the British empire. I’m not suggesting we romanticize the generations of evil visited upon other empires but she was not personally responsible for those evils.

When she ascended to her position as monarch, the sun no longer set on the empire.

That was because in 1926 — the year the Queen was born — the Balfour Declaration stated that countries of the British Commonwealth were not ruled by the United Kingdom. They were no longer considered colonies. Yes, they swore allegiance to the crown, but they were their own countries.

The declaration was formalized officially in Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster in 1931 — when the Queen was just a child — further entrenching the fact that the countries affected by the Balfour Declaration were autonomous.

In 1949 — while the Queen was still a princess — the London Declaration dropped the prefix “British” from the Commonwealth’s name and emphasized the freedom and equality of all its members in a co-operative pursuit of peace, liberty, and progress. Allegiance to the Crown was no longer required.

No country is free of having made mistakes and bad decisions. In fact, mistakes and bad decisions continue to be made by governments around the world to this day.

But while some are vilifying the Queen, consider a few facts:

  1. Slave trade was abolished by the British empire in 1807 and in Britain’s dominions in 1833. Thirty years after that, the United States began its war to free slaves.
  2. The idea of self-government for some of Britain’s colonies was suggested in 1839 by (John George Lambton) Lord Durham suggesting that decisions on foreign affairs and defense which would be determined by Britain’s government (not the monarchy). Self-government began shortly thereafter in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Cape Colony.
  3. In 1907, British colonies had complete control over their country’s internal affairs and were granted the status of dominion.
  4. When World War I ended in 1917, Britain did not sign the peace treaties on behalf of its dominions and colonies. The dominions themselves signed the peace treaties for themselves, and they joined the League of Nations as independent states.
  5. When World War II erupted in 1939, each dominion made their own declaration of war just as Britain made their own declaration of war.

But here’s something to consider: Burke’s Peerage Partnership claimed Queen Elizabeth II was the Prophet Muhammad’s 43rd direct descendant through his daughter Fatimah. Should she be held accountable for all that has gone wrong over those generations on that side of her lineage? It’s an interesting question to ponder for those who are so intent on attacking Queen Elizabeth II.

My point in writing this entry is to underscore that much of what people are trying to hold Queen Elizabeth II responsible for happened long before she was born, and the efforts to address those wrongs came about before she was crowned Queen Elizabeth II.

Those who cheer at her death and those who wished so much ill will towards her in her final days are forgetting history — perhaps unintentionally — and forgetting that she was a mother to four children. She was a grandmother to eight children. She was the great-grandmother to twelve children.

Let’s be respectful and remember not to speak ill of the dead. For those who are being mean-spirited and rejoicing in the death of Queen Elizabeth II, I’m not even saying you have to pretend to have liked Queen Elizabeth II.

No one is asking anyone to forget the atrocities that began in the past before Queen Elizabeth II became Queen Elizabeth II.

What is being asked is that people recognize that acknowledging the good in someone’s life does not invalidate that which was not good, and vice versa. Let’s have a balanced, respecful remembrance instead of a polarized retelling of that person’s life.

Let’s not speak ill of the dead.

Let’s knock it off with the bullying.

Let’s work at making this world a better place in which all people can live.

Elyse Bruce
9 September 2022

How Bumper Stickers Can Help Your Writing

Over the last few years, there have been a number of memes warning people of all the information they voluntarily hand over when they decal their cars or answer questions that reveal their secret imaginary character name or punk rock name or holiday name. The problem is that many people think those are innocuous memes that can’t really hurt them.

But what if authors and writers treated their work with the same attention to detail as criminals invest in their scams to collect as much personal information as possible with their victims being complicit in that effort?

There is a lot to be said about including what most people consider useless details in your writing. For one thing, it helps readers connect with the characters in your story. For another thing, it explains without explaining how it is that characters in your story may know so much about other characters when it’s not obvious how they cam about all that information.

This blog entry is meant to showcase how much information is provided on cars by way of decals to help authors and writers better understand how they can blend details into their stories that come in handy later on in the story.

Imagine the car ahead of you is decaled the way many cars are these days with bumper stickers and stick people and all manner of things that say more than the car owner may realize.

First off, the make and model and year of the car says a lot about financial status of the car owner. If the car has primer in some places and rust in other places, multi-colored panels and doors, and a garbage bag duct taped to one of the doors, chances are the household his car comes from isn’t worth considering for a burglary. But if it’s a new model vehicle that looks like it’s well maintained, chances are the owner of the car has other items at hom that are just as well cared for and expensive.

If the car has a personalize license plate, that indicates the owner likes to show off what he/she/they have. Chances are high they have other expensive items he/she/they like to flash about to impress others. To make matters even better, personalized license plates makes it easy to spot the same car repeatedly helping criminals to determine what the car owner’s usual patterns are when traveling about town.

For example, if you see that car driving past a specific intersection at the same time of day Monday through Friday, you know where the driver of that car is going to most likely be found at that time of day Monday through Friday unless there has been an unexpected change in the day-to-day routine of that car owner driving that car.

That bumper sticker that says you’re the proud parent of a student who attends a specific school is a clue as to where the car owner most likely lives (it’s not a given because if the driver is a non-custodial parent, it’s information about the neighborhood in which the driver’s child lives).

We’ve all seen those vehicles with the stick figures in the window showing the make-up of the family unit. Usually they display the adults, the children, and the family pets. No dog included with the kids? Chances are there’s no dog at the house otherwise the dog would be included. That means the chances of a big dog guarding the house is greatly reduced … maybe all the way to nil. That’s good news for someone planning to break into your house while you’re away from home.

If a dog is included with the stick figures, chances are there’s also a cute sticker about the breed of dog they own. If it’s a funny sticker about a vicious small breed, criminals know what to expect. If it’s a funny sticker about a goofy big breed, criminals know what to expect. Criminals will prepare for the kind of dog advertised in the sticker the car owner put on his/her/their car.

If there’s a sticker that indicates that one of the two adults with access to the vehicle is the spouse of someone in the military or who is a long-haul trucker or who works on the oil rigs, chances are it means the spouse with that job is away from home at least fifty percent of the time. All criminals have to do is figure out when that spouse is away from home and breaking into the house is suddenly easier because there will only be one adult instead of two to deal with at the time.

When a child is part of a team that won first place in a sporting event, chances are a decal announcing that will be found on the car. Now we know what school one child for sure attended in which year for sure. For example, if last year, the school team was the winner at the Intermediate School level, you have a good idea how old at least one child in the family is. If the win was five years ago, you still have an idea how old at least one child in the family is.

But wait, there’s more. If there’s a sticker on the car indicating which politician they have supported in the past or currently support, criminals will be able to guess to what degree the car owner may or may not have guns in his/her/their home, and whether they are likely to use those guns if someone breaks into their home. Supporters of a peacenik party are far more likely to try to talk criminals into doing the right thing than supporters of a non-peacenik party.

At this point, I’m sure you understand where I am going with this. As the saying goes: The devil is in the details.

To make your story as rich as you can write it, it’s imperative that you remember to include details in such a way that readers don’t realize how many details they are being fed. Readers enjoy picking up on clues along the way, and that spells the difference between a good story and a great read.

Elyse Bruce
2 September 2022

How You Get There Matters

There are plotters, and pantsing plotters, and pantsers but if you want to hit the mark of writing the story you have in mind to write and to do so with successful regularity every time you write a story, you need to be a plotter or pantsing plotter.

Compare writing a story or novel to going on a day trip or an extended vacation.

When you go off on that trip or vacation, it’s not enough to have a vague idea of where you hope to get to once you’ve set off. You have to plan– to varying degrees — so you don’t wind up someplace you’d rather not be.

Before you take the first step out of the house, you have to know your final destination and any destinations you plan on stopping at along the way. You want to know your GPS isn’t going to take you to Toronto OHIO in the U.S. when you intended to go to Toronto ONTARIO in Canada. You especially don’t want to find yourself in Toronto TEXAS — a little spot that popped up in 1882, found itself to be a small village of about 100 inhabitants (most of whom worked the quarry on the tracks) some 40 years later, and then died in the 1930s, never to rise from the ballast dust again.

Toronto TX according to Google Maps.

If you want to vacation in Trinidad and you mean that beautiful Caribbean getaway, the last thing you want to find out is that you’ve just landed in Trinidad TEXAS or Trinidad COLORADO — not because Texas and Colorado aren’t intriguing travel destinations, but because neither of themisin the Caribbean!

If you want to make it to Toronto ONTARIO in Canada or Trinidad in the Caribbean, make sure you know how you plan on getting there from what roads and highways you may wish to travel to the mode of travel you would like to use. If there’s a body of water involved, you won’t be able to drive on over from the mainland.

Plan your itinerary.

Decide if you’ll be traveling light — a few clothes and even fewer traveling companions — or if this is going to be a huge affair with luggage galore and companions to fill every minute of the day. But before you start packing, find out what the weather is supposed to be so you don’t pack clothes that aren’t weather-appropriate.

Will you be planning a lot of late nights out at fancy restaurants and dance clubs or will you be doing the typical tourist trip? Maybe you’re interested in partaking of the museums and theaters. Then again, perhaps you want to hang out on someone’s very expensive yacht in the harbor.

It’s rare that someone will just show up somewhere, throw up their hands, and say, “Show me what you’ve got place I didn’t know I was going to visit!”

Even if that’s your approach to planning day trips and extended vacations, without planning you might learn after returning home that you missed out on a few excellent places and events that would have taken your trip from good to excellent or even unforgettable (for all the right reasons).

It’s the same mindset when you write a story or novel. If you don’t know where you want your book to end up, wherever it ends — good or bad — is all on you, the author or writer, and the many intriguing details that might take your story or novel from good to excellent or even unforgettable (for all the right reasons) won’t be found.

So if you intended on spending a cozy, romantic weekend in Toronto north of the 49th parallel or soaking up rays on the beaches in Trinidad but find yourself lost somewhere in Texas or wandering about in Colorado, enjoy your time there but remember to plan your next sojourn to keep that from happening again.

Elyse Bruce
26 August 2022

Reality-Based Action Versus Intention

If you want your characters in stories to be believable, you have to make sure each of them acts and reacts as an individual, not as different aspects of the same mind or thinking. In order to achieve the diverse fictional society you envision, you need to study human behavior and human interactions, and decide which of your characters will have specific characteristics and behaviors.

One thing many authors and writers overlook is the gap between action and intention. Yes, what a person intends to do when compared to what that person actually does regardless of whether the person in question is real or fictional.

There is value in creating this gap — in varying degrees — for each of your fictional characters because this gap is where your characters will struggle and fail and express how they feel about their struggles and failures. Their personality traits and fictional beliefs will drive how they deal with the gap between what they were fictionally going to accomplish and what they fictionally managed to accomplish.

Create Fuzzy Goals For Your Characters

The best way to create this gap is to create unclear goals for your characters. For example, if the goal isn’t defined, your character will find it difficult to stick to the path that will lead to the goal. With a fuzzy future, it’s difficult for characters to follow through on their plans. The good news is that your characters can change how they deal with defining their goals.

Create An Understanding Of Your Characters’ Motivations

Once a goal is established and your characters go about working to achieve their respective goals with varying degrees of success, be certain you build strengths and weaknesses in to create a difficult (again you decide the degree of difficulty) path that leads to success or failure.

Set obstacles in your characters’ paths. Align their actions with their intentions. The better the alignment, the better the chance of success. The less focused, the better the chance for failure.

Create Realism or Unrealism For Your Characters

Just as in real life, there are those who have unrealistic dreams and unrealistic expections while there are others who are more in tune with how much effort is needed to achieve their goals.

Your characters who succeed will be those who know how to adjust their goal and their efforts so they make steady progress towards their goals. Your characters who fail either won’t make any adjustments or will make the wrong adjustments which will allow them to blame someone other than themselves for not achieving success.

Final Note

Be an observer of people when you are out and about. Notice how some people struggle with basic interactions while others seem to glide smoothly in society. Pick up on the behaviors of picky people and take note of the behaviors of easy-going people. Be sure to see how certain groups and subsets of behaviors go together while others are absent. Remember that the most realistic fictional characters are those that mimic people you see every day going about their business in your community and people who are interviewed for the news.

Elyse Bruce
12 August 2022

Are You In Charge?

In writers and authors groups on social media, group members oftentimes complain they suffer from writer’s block or that their story has stalled and they don’t know how to overcome those hurdles. The problem with writer’s block or having a story stall happens long before the writer or author gets to either of those spots in his or her or their writing, and all the coffee in the world won’t fix that problem.

Followers of my blog know that I prefer plotters and plansters to pansters. Pansters run with whatever comes to mind and are most likely to run into writer’s block or to have their story stall. Plotters and plantsers (plotters who leave room for the unexpected in their writing) have a structure across which to build their respective stories. That being said, sometimes a plotter or plantser will also wind up pulled under by writer’s block or unable to push their story forward because they just can’t get the story to the next idea.

Eliminate distractions in your story.

Seriously. If there’s something or someone in your story responsible for distracting you from the main plot, chances are that thing or person needs to be excised from your story. If that thing or person doesn’t add to the story or advance the plot in any meaningful way, that thing or person is a distraction in your story. Get rid of the distraction.

Park your thoughts so your characters can speak their minds.

That doesn’t mean you can’t step into your characters’ shoes. As authors and writers, your job is to be each of the characters in your story as authentically as possible. However, just because your characters speak doesn’t mean they have to agree with your opinion on how things should or shouldn’t be done.

If you’re writing a murder mystery, you don’t have to view life the way the murderer does … or how the victim(s) and suspect(s) may view life. Yes, keep your eye on what you want people to take with them once they have read your story, but don’t dictate to your characters how they have to feel or think about what they are doing.

Let their true nature push the story forward and keep an eye on loose ends that might need to be tied up before the final reveal in the last chapter or paragraph.

Practice authentic silence.

Don’t feel compelled to tell readers what the think or feel. Authentic silence is when readers wait for true feelings and moments to reveal themselves. There’s a sense of accomplishment for the reader when this happens. It’s as satisfying a moment as when an author or writer plants secrets in the story along the way and waits to see how many readers will find them.

Be aware of your characters’ body language.

The little things like having characters smile or frown, lean in and bac away, make or avoid eye contact, nod or shake their head, looking at their watch or cellphone, fidget, tap their foot, drum their fingers against a desk or table, and more reveals more about the characters doing so than the words they speak. So does not saying words you would expect them to say or sharing their thoughts.

This isn’t an info dump. This is making the story as rich and layered as possible without leaving a bitter taste with the reader. Provide enough details via body language that readers can decide for themselves if they like or dislike certain characters, and if those characters are believable to your readers.

Final Note

The best leaders, just like the best authors and writers, are those who don’t need to lord their position over real people and/or fictional people. They provide the parameters by which all must abide while allowing everyone the freedom to be themselves. As the author or writer of your stories and books, only you know if you are being a good leader as you write and edit your stories and books, and it all begins with asking yourself, “Am I in charge here?”

Elyse Bruce
5 August 2022

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