Sunday, January 10, 2010

Do You Have Control Issues?

Gender-neutral language was a zero-tolerance issue for me as a rhetoric teacher. Probably because I grew up reading he and him in print and was told those terms included me. Bull. When many texts were written he and him meant precisely what they mean today – men, not women and men.

I explained to students that when they choose to use male pronouns in place of gender-neutral pronouns, they choose to exclude me. As a writer you have complete control over the words you choose to put on that blank screen or page. You are the Master of that Universe. What power!

Some of us are reluctant to let go of control in our writing and squirm when our contribution on Hooks & Storylines doesn’t end up directing the story as we planned. A few anglers have expressed a bit of frustration to me: Why isn’t someone following up on what I started? Where did that name come from? I named her something else. How did so-and-so get from career A to career B?

These discussions reminded me of the difficulties rhetoric teachers face when crafting a writing prompt. What we think is perfectly clear may be interpreted differently. I was delighted with the hook an Angler suggested for Sci Fi & Fantasy. However, I changed Heaven’s Annex to Destiny’s Annex because I thought the story might skew religious. No problem now; Destiny’s Annex became a bar.

The challenge on Hooks & Storylines is to write a compelling installment that’s true to the tale. Add something to inspire the next Angler. Then let it go, enjoy the excursion, and bite with a new idea on Live Bait later. If you want to develop your idea your way, add it to Open Water.

Some of us dream of ruling the universe; some of us hope for a good night’s sleep.

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