Word of the Week #149:

Ambience

As a writer, I often get the opportunity to converse with readers and learn what they like or dislike in books.

Over the past few years, too many of the readers I encountered are of an unusually impatient variety. 

They have neither the temperament to endure the few pages, and occasionally chapters, of descriptive background a good book might need before the plot takes over, nor do they have the ability to appreciate the mood that needs to be bolstered by the seemingly insignificant details in the background of the story.

These are the kind of people who think Edgar Allan Poe is dull and Agatha Christie is slow. Well, not that Christie isn’t slow, but that is part of her charm.

It may seem odd, but I believe this impatience is borne out of mental lethargy. Minds that have been benumbed by decades of cinematic indulgence.

Think about it. If I want to talk about a secluded cabin in the woods, it would take me hundreds of words to make the reader understand the extent and limits of its seclusion. In contrast, a movie can do that in a single still, and cover the cabin, the woods, the weather, the sky, everything you could want and more. 

After all, they are not stupid to say that a picture is worth a thousand words.

But in a book, there are only words. And this is exactly why we need thousands of them to tell our story.

If only each reader could differentiate the subtitles of a movie from a book…

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Word of the Week #137:

Proposition

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I am currently in the process of querying, and for the first time I feel like I am actually doing a good job.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the term, querying refers to contacting literary agents and hoping they like your work enough to want to work with you.

Over the past few weeks, I have noticed that the process is eerily similar to asking a girl out.

Think about it.

Firstly, you always present yourself in the best light. You talk about yourself and what you do, and hope they like what they see.

You learn about their interests and preferences, and modify your approach to convince them how you can cater to those.

You adhere to their rules, even if you do not understand or appreciate them.

“Double-spaced manuscript? Sure! Why? Well, this is not for me to ask, is it?”

You start feeling good about yourself. Why wouldn’t you? You’re nice. You have worked hard all your life. You should have confidence in what you bring to the table.

After you have poured your heart on the page and hit the send button, however, you find every single thing you would have done differently, from that one comma before a conjunctive adverb to that shirt you wore to your high school graduation. What teenager appreciates Pink Floyd! Well, there is nothing to be done about it now.

And once you do send it, you are consumed by your curiosity. You cannot possibly just sit there and wait for a response; you have way too much on the line. Unfortunately, that is what you have to do. You cannot keep badgering them.

“Did you read it? Did you like it? Did you like me? Say, want to make this official?”

You may keep thinking that the whole day, but saying that will get you labelled a creep. You do not want that, do you?

And if, as is quite likely, maybe you get a rejection. And not even a thoughtful, well-crafted rejection that tells you what you did wrong or what you could have done better. Nothing that shows you that they respect the efforts you made. Just, “Yeah, I don’t wanna…”

Obviously, your heart sinks. You are devastated. You want to ask, “Why? Why not me? What do I lack?”

It is true. It is natural. But ask yourself this, is that the kind of men you want to be? Really, are you going to be that guy?

Surely, there could’ve been many reasons why you did not make the cut.

Maybe they’ve never seen a guy like you and don’t want to take a risk. Maybe they’ve seen too many guys like you and want something new. Maybe this is just not the right time for them. Maybe they are already with someone. Or maybe they believe you are just not ready.

All understandable reasons, you would realise.

So, what do you do now? Well, you cannot keep wallowing forever, right?

Maybe you work on yourself a little more. Understand what sets you apart, and what holds you back. Present yourself better. Maybe trim down on some of that mass around the middle.

You keep improving, and you keep looking. Because you know that once you find the right now, together you are going to build something magical.

In the end, that is what makes this endeavour worth it.

HWAITING!

Word of the Week #134:

Balefire

Gah! I am so tired… I’m in so much pain…

Why, you ask? I mean, I hope you do. You seem nice, after all. Okay, I’ll tell you.

Have you heard of a thing called the Halo effect?

It is basically why women forget about the pain of past pregnancies and choose to have another child.

If you think about, it is the entirety of Domino’s business strategy. The remote possibility of some remnant of a happy memory will draw a customer back is the only reason they are still in business.

Now, you see, I love playing basketball. The thrill, the joy, I can hardly put it in words. And that is basically what I am supposed to do, right?

So, anyway, I haven’t played much over the past few months. Hardly any since I hurt my knee in May, and definitely none since I moved in July. I have been back to the gym and on the court, though. Nonetheless, the feeling of a real game is not something you can ever emulate in any solo drill.

As it would turn out, I had forgotten quite a few things about the game over these months.

I am still good at making passes, which is a relief in itself, but getting into spots where I can receive passes was something with which I really struggled tonight.

And my defence, in general, was just abysmal. Like, for the first few possessions, I seemed to have no idea where to go or what to do.

Luckily, I am a quick learner, and apparently an even quicker relearner. Within half an hour, I had improved drastically in every aspect.

That is when it hit me; I had forgotten the most important thing about basketball.

It hurts… Hurts like hell… Hurts like a hundred nails being hammered into my shins… Hurts so much that I have been whining about it for the past four hours!

Gah!

Of course, it is not like that will stop me from going back, tomorrow evening.

Yeah, it will hurt, but it will be worth it.

Well… At least as long as I don’t break my knee, or my shoulder, or my ankle, or something new.

Word of the Week #127:

Gastronomy

I like cheesecakes and I cannot lie
You other brothers can’t deny
That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty plate
And a cheesecake in your face
You get sprung!

I love good food.

Maybe you’ve had a long, dreary week. Maybe your spouse is being especially annoying. Maybe you didn’t get any sleep because your cat peed in your bed.

Whatever may go wrong in the world, the moment you put that first spoonful of cheesecake in your mouth, all your pain and sorrow just melts along with its soft, creamy love…

Unless you are lactose intolerant, perhaps. Or diabetic.

Still, you know what I mean, right? Food does have the power to change the world, your world, from the inside.

It is not surprising that I love good food. Who doesn’t, right?

Well, at least that is what I used to think, till I really went out in the world and met more people.

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are.”

— Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

I often notice that people who have no appreciation for good food are rather bland individuals.

I mean, look at this:

Or this:

Or this:

How can I ever trust someone who does not love these, right? Sounds reasonable to me.

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”

— George Bernard Shaw

So give me some cheesecake, and you will see how much I can love you.

Word of the Week #119:

Deluge

When it rains, it pours.

We have all heard this, right?

Well, throughout the course of my life, I have always found it to be true, but rarely have I experienced it quite as literally as in the past week.

Last Saturday, we saw 265mm of rainfall in a span of 8 hours. In contrast, the average rainfall for the entire month of July is 317mm.

And according to meteorological experts, the worst is yet to come.

Sounds like a good time to jump off SS Sinking Ship, if you ask me…

The odd thing is that we have now come to expect and accept what are clearly major anomalies in the weather. Getting the entire month’s rainfall over a single weekend cannot be normal.

Just imagine it: Can you eat a month’s worth of food, and then not eat for the rest of the month?

Okay, “a month’s worth” is not very specific, I suppose.

Consider it this way… An average adult consumes roughly 2500 calories a day. That is 10 slices of a supreme pizza from Pizza Hut. So, roughly 300 slices a month. Now, does each pizza have 6 slices or 8? Let’s assume the latter. So, 37.5 pizzas.

Now, imagine trying to eat 37.5 pizza in two days. Will you eat yourself into the hospital or into bankruptcy, that is the question.

Wait… I forgot the point I wanted to make… And now I want pizza.

The point is, never try to get work done when you’re starving.

And maybe stock up on food and water and drinks and batteries, and get ready to stay indoors for a fair part of the week.

And for the love of God, turn off those ACs that are permanently cranked up to 22°C. You are only making it worse.

A storm is coming. And, by all accounts, it is only going to get worse.

Word of the Week #114:

Scourge

Have you heard of Murphy’s law?

I have mentioned it once before on this blog, so I would expect that you have…

The precise wording still remains unclear, but the general interpretation is that everything that can go wrong, does.

Now, I generally stay as meticulous as I possibly can, and try to keep the margin for error so slim that the consequences do not pile up.

However, all it takes is one jolt to put everything way out of order.

I cannot quite trace where this sequence began, but I have been feeling that these days, whenever I try to do something, whatever can go wrong just does.

For instance, every afternoon, I go to play basketball at court significantly far from my home, and between the extreme heat all afternoon and the kids’ training all evening, I get precisely an hour to play.

Now, as it is, my margin for error is already not great. But what can go wrong? Well, apparently, quite a lot…

Sometimes, I will get dressed, put on my socks, and be half a dozen steps from the door, when splash! I step into a pool of fresh, warm pee.

Yeah, our kids are not entirely trained, yet. Have I talked about them earlier? I should.

Now, cleaning it up, then washing my foot, luckily not feet, and changing the socks takes up roughly a quarter of the hour. Significant.

Sometimes when I do not step into pee, my vehicle just refuses to start.

Of course, my vehicle is ancient, so I tend to include a buffer for that. But when it is so broken that I have to go to a mechanic, as I already have twice this week, that is more than 25 minutes easily.

If my vehicle does start after the first few tries, and I get to the court right on time, I should get an entire hour to play, right?

Well, not if it starts to rain with little to no warning. Not enough to actually cool down the scorching streets, of course. No, it will only rain enough to leave the court unplayable for just about an hour.

And, if I do not step in pee, manage to get there on time, and it does not rain, what happens?

Well, a guy manages to jump onto my leg, breaking my knee and leaving me bedridden for over a week.

Now, on the days that a guy does not break my knee, and of course also the day that he does, I will come home drenched in sweat, longing for a nice shower. That is not too much to ask, right?

Considering how often I have stood under the shower with not water raining down on me but the realisation that, well, the tanks are empty, apparently it is.

When the tanks are not empty, I go into the shower, let the water wash over my skin, and just as I am starting to work up a decent lather, the door bell rings. Repeatedly. Incessantly.

Having washed myself as much and as fast as I could have, I come running down the stairs, only to realise that my Dad is indeed home, and has answered it already.

And if this does not happen, my shower is completed without any incident, what happens?

I come out of the shower, a towel draped over my head, leisurely wiping my hair, when I suddenly realise that those are not droplets  of water that I feel creeping down my shoulder.

I am, however, a moment too late, as  I sense a dozen successive bites across my shoulders and back.

Freaking ants! Sounds ridiculous, right? I mean, what are even the odds?

Already a couple of days have passed since that particular incident, and I still have no clues how those ants ended up in my towel.

Now, in the face of such odds, it would be understandable if one were to grow dejected.

However, I have found that the uplifting words of a great man, one Dr. Ken Jeong, always get me up and running.

Not today, kind sir. Not today.


PS: I have been trying to take a shower for the past 4 hours. It would appear that the odds are against us, tonight…