There’s also been a lot of churn generated over the fact that several Democratic congresspeople are not attending the inauguration. I say churn because the truth is that every inauguration has been skipped by a bunch of the congresscritters. One of Washington state’s Democratic reps admitted this week that he’s only attended two during his 20 years in office. Many have announced that they’re not attending specifically as a boycott. And the person who has been getting the most criticism for that is Georgia Representative John Lewis.
Lewis had previously skipped George W. Bush’s first inauguration. It was particularly hilarious watching trump supporters calling Lewis out on Martin Luther King Jr Day. See, Lewis worked with King, back in the day. Way back in 1960 he was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders. By 1963 he was involved in the leadership of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, an early African-American civil rights organization. He participated in King’s marches. He organized marches of his own. He endured beatings, survived firebombing, and more.
So to see clueless white people, particularly clueless white D-list celebrities, try to lecture him on what Martin Luther King would do or say if he were alive today (or to see them lecture Lewis of all people in what it takes to win civil rights battles) went beyond both hilarious and pathetic.
I do agree that we shouldn’t spent too much time and attention on who is boycotting the inauguration and other symbolic acts. Symbolic acts are important, but much more important is to fight for our rights. We need to get more people doing more than just tweeting, even if some of it is satisfying in a gallows humor sort of way: Dismayed Trump voters tweet about losing their Obamacare benefits and GOP Congressman, Overwhelmed by Constituents Concerned About ACA Repeal, Sneaks Out of Event Early. And then, of course, there’s this: Donald Trump may have just destroyed the Republican effort to repeal Obamacare.
Of course, that’s only one of the dozens of fronts that the Republicans are hoping to roll back people’s rights, take money and benefits away from ordinary Americans, and give massive tax cuts to a very small number of people and corporations that are already mega-rich.
But, part of the fight is going to involve getting Trump riled up. We can’t use ordinary tactics to deal with him. He doesn’t respond to reason, to polls, or to the usual forms of political persuasion and leverage. A couple months ago when I was having a very difficult time finding any aspects of the election outcome to be hopeful about, I re-tweeted someone’s comment about impeachment, which started a conversation with a friend who made the assertion that Trump is a control freak who will resist being manipulated by the Republicans as much as he resists other things. I think that is a serious misunderstanding of Trump’s personality.
He is absolutely not a control freak.
Control freaks work hard. Yes, I am speaking for personal experience. Control freaks actually need to be in control. Control freaks need to micromanage every aspect of things in their lives. Abusive control freaks monitor the people under their control constantly, and yes get really angry if they feel they’re being manipulated by the people who they expect to obey them. Trump is not a control freak, because all that paying attention and monitoring and micromanaging takes time and effort that Trump doesn’t want to expend. It takes effort and attention that I think he is fundamentally unable to focus on.
Trump is an attention whore who takes credit for other people’s work.
That’s a very different dynamic. There’s a reason that Trump’s son approached the various vice presidential possibilities with an offer to be “the most power veep in history” because the vice president would be in charge of all domestic and foreign policy while the president was busy “being in charge of making America great again.” Trump will make pronouncements. He loves making pronouncements. He loves barking out orders and expecting other people to do the hard work to make it happen. He loves belittling people. He loves getting applause. He really loves it when people fear him. So he will make threats. He will fire people. He will try to turn the full power of the presidency on completely outmatched targets out of petty vindictiveness. He’ll be inconsistent. He’ll change his mind on something a half dozen times.
But he’ll sign off an anything and everything that he doesn’t perceive as interfering with his real goal: which is to get all the attention he can get, while looking for ways to enrich himself. He has no shame, no empathy, and no sense of decency. He is dangerous, as much for the kinds of people he enables and empowers as for his own capabilities. He will never take the high road.
So it’s okay to feel happy when things don’t go his way. We just can’t stop at the feeling.
A lot of people, not just the moderates that Dr. King talked about in that quote from Letter From Birmingham City Jail, rationalize and deny the existence of bigotry by making appeals to certain fallacies. Academically, we often state those myths as five fallacies:
- Individualistic Fallacy: racism/homophobia/antisemiticism/etc is perceived as being only interpersonal, ignoring the systemic structural realities (such as underfunded schools)
- Legalistic Fallacy: the belief that abolishing racist/homophobic/religious laws automatically ends the bigotry.
- Tokenistic Fallacy: the inference that the presence of members of the marginalized class in influential positions in society proves that all bigotry has ended.
- Ahistoric Fallacy: the belief that the denial of basic rights in the past has no lasting effect on subsequent generations (“but slavery is over!”).
- Fixed Fallacy: assumes there is one and only one kind of discrimination, not recognizing new forms that emerge in context of societal and legal changes.
There’s an academic paper that explains all of this: WHAT IS RACIAL DOMINATION?, by Matthew Desmond & Mustafa Emirbayer of the University of Wisconsin—Madison, if you want to get into it. It’s rather long and involved, but if you open the PDF at the link and search for Five Fallacies you can jump right to their discussion of the fallacies. The paper is focused on racism, but the fallacies apply to all kinds of bigotry.
All of those fallacies contribute to that preference for an absence of tension rather than a passion for justice that Dr. King talked about. It’s the classic “Can’t You Get Past it/Live and Let Live Fallacy.” Or maybe another name could be the “Respectful Disagreement Fallacy.” It’s the belief that as long as a person isn’t physically attacking you right this moment, and is framing their critiques in polite-sounding language, than it can’t possibly be racist/homophobic/antisemitic/misogynist/etc.
So the bigot talks in dog whistles (coded language that doesn’t sound overtly like bigotry to people who don’t know the code), claims to respect or even feel love for the community targeted by their language, and if we point out that they are being racist or misogynist or antisemetic or homophobic, we’re the ones causing a problem. And people who think of themselves as moderate or enlightened turn on us. They don’t just look the other way from the bigotry and bigoted policies that the community is enduring, they actually enable it.
Which means they’re part of the problem. They’re not being neutral. They’re not seeing things from both sides. They’re not being nuanced. They’re oppressing other people.
I wish there was a simple solution. I wish I had some words of wisdom. Instead, I’m just stuck with this regrettable conclusion, having to try to educate people who don’t think they’re being an enemy.
“Over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed in the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice: who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.”
— Martin Luther King Jr, Letter From Birmingham City Jail (1963)
Another in my series of posts recommending web comics that I think more people should read:
The Last Halloween by Abby Howard is the creepy story of 10-year-old Mona who is reluctantly drafted to save the world when, one Halloween night, the monsters find a way to escape the shadow realm and start killing humanity. Since there is at least one monster for every human (all seven billion of us), the odds are stacked against our unlikely hero even more than usual for these sorts of things. Abby Howard is also the creator of The Junior Science Power Hour which I’ve recommended previously. Abby created this strip as her pitch in the final round of Penny Arcade’s Strip Search, which was a reality game show where web cartoonists competed for a cash prize and other assistance to get their strip launched. Though Abby didn’t win, she started writing the strip anyway.
I like it a lot. It’s one of the strips that I binge read in chunks. It’s a bit darker than I usually like, but also very compelling. And the story keeps going in different directions that I expect. It’s very nightmarish. I think more so precisely because Abby works only in black and white. If you like the comic, you can support Abby in a couple of ways: she has some cool stuff related to both of her strips in her store, and she also has a Patreon.
Some of the comics I’ve previously recommended: Some of these have stopped publishing new episodes. Some have been on hiatus for a while. I’ve culled from the list those that have gone away entirely.
“Deer Me,” by Sheryl Schopfer tells the tales from the lives of three friends (and former roommates) who couldn’t be more dissimilar while being surprisingly compatible. If you enjoy Deer Me, you can support the artist by going to her Patreon Page!
Scurry by Mac Smith is the story of a colony of mice trying to survive a long, strange winter in a world where humans have mysteriously vanished, and food is becoming ever more scarce.
And I love this impish girl thief with a tail and her reluctant undead sorcerer/bodyguard: “Unsounded,” by Ashley Cope.
Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu is the story of Eric “Bitty” Bittle, a former junior figure skating champion from a southern state who is attending fictitious Samwell College in Massachusetts, where he plays on the men’s hockey team. Bitty is the smallest guy on the team, and in the early comics is dealing with a phobia of being body-checked in the games. He’s an enthusiastic baker, and a die hard Beyoncé fan.
Muddler’s Beat by Tony Breed is the fun, expanded cast sequel to Finn and Charlie Are Hitched.
The Young Protectors by Alex Wolfson begins when a young, closeted teen-age superhero who has just snuck into a gay bar for the first time is seen exiting said bar by a not-so-young, very experienced, very powerful, super-villain. Trouble, of course, ensues.
Fowl Language by Brian Gordon is a fun strip about parenting, tech, science, and other geeky things. The strips are funny, and he also has a bonus panel link to click on under the day’s strip.
Tripping Over You by Suzana Harcum and Owen White is a strip about a pair of friends in school who just happen to fall in love… which eventually necessitates one of them coming out of the closet. Tripping Over You has several books, comics, and prints available for purchase.
The Junior Science Power Hour by Abby Howard. is frequently autobiographical take on the artist’s journey to creating the crazy strip about science, science nerds, why girls are just as good at being science nerds as boys, and so much more. It will definitely appeal to dinosaur nerds, anyone who has ever been enthusiastic about any science topic, and especially to people who has ever felt like a square peg being forced into round holes by society.
If you want to read a nice, long graphic-novel style story which recently published its conclusion, check-out the not quite accurately named, The Less Than Epic Adventures of T.J. and Amal by E.K. Weaver. I say inaccurate because I found their story quite epic (not to mention engaging, moving, surprising, fulfilling… I could go on). Some sections of the tale are Not Safe For Work, as they say, though she marks them clearly. The complete graphic novels are available for sale in both ebook and paper versions, by the way.
Oglaf, by Trudy Cooper and Doug Bayne is a Not Safe For Work web comic about… well, it’s sort a generic “medieval” high fantasy universe, but with adult themes, often sexual. Jokes are based on fantasy story and movie clichés, gaming tropes, and the like. And let me repeat, since I got a startled message from someone in response to a previous posting of this recommendation: Oglaf is Not Safe For Work (NSFW)!
“Mr. Cow,” by Chuck Melville tells the tale of a clueless cow with Walter Cronkite dreams. If the twice-weekly gags about a barnyard of a newsroom aren’t enough excitement for you the same artist also writes and draws (and colors!) some awesome fantasy series: Champions of Katara and Felicia, Sorceress of Katara. If you like Mr. Cow, Felicia, or Flagstaff (the hero of Champions of Katara) you can support the artist by going to his Patreon Page. Also, can I interest you in a Mr. Cow Mug?
Wide Impact: Highly Effective Gmail Phishing Technique Being Exploited The tl;dr version: this particular hack involves the hackers sending emails from a hacked account, to people in that account’s contact list. So it starts with you getting an email from someone you already know. But it’s much more clever than that! They take text from previous messages that person has sent, and it isn’t random. They find messages where the person has sent attachments, and they construct the new message from it. So if it’s someone you know, the phrasing of the subject and the text sound like something that person would write. The attachment in the new message is merely a screen capture, and it hides a link to their fake Google login in page. So you click on the attachment from a friend, and you’re told to view the attachment you need to log in to Google, and they get your username and password. And within seconds, they’re going through your account and sending more hacked messages to your friends.
They’ve even constructed the login page so that if you take the precaution of looking at the address bar in your browser before you start to sign in, you see “https:accounts.google.com” so you think you’re at the real Google. You’re not.
Once they’ve got your password, they can read all your email and do other things to your account.
The linked article has screenshots and advice for how to recognize this kind of attack, as well as steps for what you can do to see if you’ve already been hacked. Check it out!
And this one is less about hackers: Security backdoor found in end-to-end encryption system used in WhatsApp. The Guardian reports that security experts have found that since buying WhatsApp, Facebook has added a back door. In updates, Facebook denies that his is a backdoor to government agencies and claim they will fight any attempts from governments to access accounts.
Which is meaningless.
The existence of the backdoor means that when Facebook loses that fight (because of court orders, for instance) that the backdoor will be used to read the supposedly secure communications. The original design of WhatsApp and similar end-to-end services didn’t have a backdoor because if one exists, it will be exploited eventually. Also, Facebook’s description of the service currently lies and says that they can never read the messages. With the backdoor there, yes they can.
While we’re on the subject of cyber security: Cellebrite, a Major Dealer of Hacking Tools, Has Itself Been Hacked. This is one of the companies that makes tools that allow people to hack your phone. After indulging in a moment of schadenfreude that these hackers have been hacked, we then have to worry about what is in that 900GB of data that was stolen from them. Since the dump “contains what appears to be evidence files from seized mobile phones” among other things, who knows whose personal information has been stolen. Supposedly Cellebrite only sells their tools to law enforcement agencies and the like, but it has been previously shown that those agencies include some very shady regimes. And in the case of their mobile hacking devices, those things could be resold or stolen from those agencies and be in anyone’s hands.
And let’s do one more: E-Sports Entertainment Association hacked; profiles of 1.5 million customers exposed. The leaked data includes real names, phone numbers, and birthdates. Very useful for identity theft. Not much you can do about it once the information has been stolen.
So, if you want to know more, click through…
Whether you write your story in order or more free form, there is usually some form of modularity within the story. A very short story may consist of a single scene, but longer stories are usually broken up into multiple scenes, groups of which may be gathered into chapters (or acts), and so on.
These modules of narrative provide a means of packaging bits of your story into digestible chunks. How you structure them controls the rhythm of the story, providing a sense of movement through time and or space.
And they can be tricky.
Unfortunately, the way I do a lot of my own writing is intuitive, now. I’ve been writing fiction since grade school, and I started reading articles in magazines such as The Writer and Writer’s Digest also during grade school, so I’ve internalized a lot of processes to an extent that I do them without a lot of conscious thought. My honest first answer to the question, “How do you decide where a chapter ends?” is, “It ends when you get to the end.”
So let’s start with some definitions. These aren’t necessarily authoritative definitions. You’ll find a lot of writers with similar but still different definitions of these things.
A scene is a building block of the story. You can think of it as a single brick in a wall, or the next pearl on a necklace. A scene usually happens at a single location and for a short, continuous period of time. Every scene in your story should fulfill a purpose. Ideally they should serve several purposes. The sorts of purposes scenes can serve are:
- Advance the plot
- Introduce a new character, theme, or problem
- Create suspense
- Establish or develop the setting, a character, or a problem
- Provide information the reader will need later to understand the action
- Foreshadow coming events
- Create atmosphere
These aren’t the only purposes scenes can fulfill. It can be argued that some of the purposes I have listed are subsets of others. Creating atmosphere could be thought of as a specific type of establishing the setting and problems facing the characters in it. I’ve seen other lists of possible purposes for scenes include as separate items things with which, to me, are simply subsets of the ones above. For instance, a lot of people list building sympathy or antipathy for a character as a separate purpose, whereas I think of that as just one type of establishing or developing the character. But those are quibbling details.
The important thing to remember is: a scene shouldn’t be in your story if it doesn’t serve one of the purposes for furthering the story.
I like to write scenes from a particular viewpoint character. Most of my stories are written in third-person subjective. That means I look at the scene from a particular character’s perspective. I’ll tell you what that person sees, hears, and feels, but without getting into the head of any of the other characters in that scene. So that means that if I need to get into another character’s head, I need to have a separate scene for the character.
So you can think of a scene as a single incident in the chain of your story. For instance, “When the lieutenant asked the maid about the abbey,” or “When the young noble spoke to his imprisoned mother,” or “When the princess argued with her husband about a family visit.”
A chapter is harder to define. Chapters are, largely, the result of tradition, rather than having a clearly defined purpose in a story. The usual explanation is that chapters were invented when scrolls were replaced by books. A single bound book would contain stories, records, or other information that had been in a scroll. The pages which represented a single scroll would be demarked as a chapter. During the 19th century, when many novels were serialized in magazines before being gathered into a book (if at all), chapters were often the monthly or weekly installment of the story. So, one answer to why books have chapters is because people expect books to have chapters. They don’t always, of course. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books, for instance, seldom have chapters. There are breaks between scenes, but no marked chapters.
If a book has chapters, one of the purposes they fill is to break the story into bite-sized chunks. They can provide breaking points where your reader knows she can set the story down and come back easily. Of course, one of the secrets of an enthralling book is chapter endings that entice the reader to keep going, so you don’t want the break to feel like a finale.
Chapters can help organize the story in ways other than “this happened, then this, then this…” If your characters aren’t all in the same place, you can use a chapter to gather all of the scenes which happen at the same (or nearly the same) time but with different characters. Or you can gather a bunch of scenes which have some thematic parallels (though if they are happening at very different times, you may have to take extra pains to communicate to the reader when each scene occurs).
I like to think of chapters as episodes in a serial story. If my book were a television show, for instance, with each season having an overarching plot, each chapter would represent a single episode of the series. So each scene is an incident, then each chapter is a collection of related incidents.
For me, a chapter needs to convey something that feels like a satisfying episode. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it tells a complete story, but when the reader reaches the end of a chapter, it should feel as if they have completely an important step in the journey, with a clear feeling that there is more journey ahead.
People often, therefore, recommend ending chapters on cliffhangers. And I agree with the sentiment, but dislike the terminology. Don’t get me wrong, I end plenty of chapters on cliffhangers. But the term cliffhanger is often interpreted to mean that one or more of your characters are in physical peril, and not everyone’s story has a lot of moments where characters finds themselves looking down the barrel of an unexpected gun. Cliffhanger can be any form of unresolved character tension. If one of your characters is being question by the police, most of the scene can be revealing the character’s personality while revealing various details about the situation, and a perfectly acceptable cliffhanger is for the interrogator to reveal a piece of damning evidence that ties the character to the scene of a crime. Even better if the character thought they were being questioned about a robbery, and the revelation is that there is also a dead body at the scene–you’ve raised the stakes to murder! Any situation that makes the reader asked, “Oh, no! How’s he/she going to deal with this?” can be your chapter ending.
You don’t have to end the chapter at each moment that evokes that curiosity, of course. Sometimes I have a bunch of cliffhangers within a single chapter. In a fantasy novel I’m working on right now, there’s a battle in which a dragon and her ally (a witch) attack a carriage carrying three monks and a runaway prince. I depict the battle in a number of scenes, each from the point of view of a different person involved in the battle. Each scene in the story ends at a moment where the viewpoint character has just tried to do something, or finds themself confronted with something unexpected. Then I move to a different character and show what’s happening from that viewpoint. You can do this with the other sorts of cliffhangers, too. If your chapter is a collection of scenes happening at nearly the same to characters who are in different locations, you might end each scene with that character making a discovery or realization that gives them pause.
I tend to be a seat of my pants writer in so far as I seldom write up a formal outline until I’m in a revision stage. But I usually have an idea when I start a new chapter which incidents I want the cover next. I also tend to make the chapters close to the same length. So sometimes if I notice the word count is getting higher than I thought in a scene, I’ll decide to move one of the scenes into the next chapter… which means I’ll have to think about how to make the scenes that share the next chapter feel as if they belong together.
I don’t always make chapters exactly the same length. In one of my current projects, for various dramatic reasons, I have one chapter that is a single sentence, and another that is only eight sentences.
This is a rather long rambly way to get back to my original answer: I end chapters when they end.