Tag Archive | writing

Things I learned at When Words Collide, 2014

Every year I attend a writing conference in Calgary called “When Words Collide”. Every year I have an absolutely supreme time, and this year I thought I’d share some of what I learned with the internet at large. 


1) Desire + Obstacle = Conflict

This should be common sense, but I had never heard the question of conflict explained in such a way before! Thanks to Anna Maria Bortolotto for this lesson!

2) It pays to be friendly

Especially at a writer’s conference.  I guarantee that literally everyone there has one thing in common: they like to read. I guess if that fails, you can always talk about the weather. 

It also pays to be friendly in marketing–give first. Your mom was right, you catch more flies with free bookmarks than with vinegar. 

3) There’s a lot more to editing than finding new ways to tell people that they suck. 

I’m still convinced that “dental draft” is a euphemism for something. 

4) No one can agree on whether or not digital publishing is a good thing. 

5) Editors really like in medias res. 

6)  You don’t always get rejected because you’re crap. Editors are actually pretty nice people. Mostly. 

7) The cake isn’t a lie, but the chocolate might be

This one is a bit of a story: there was supposed to be a chocolate social on Saturday night of the conference. My gaggle of pals and I waited for about 2 hours. No chocolate. It was all a lie. 

They did let us have leftover cake from the banquet, so the cake? All truth. 




Fandom Friday: When Villains aren’t Victims

I love villains. I love villains so much I often call myself a “villain whore”. Maybe it’s because I always felt vilified for being different. I think it’s because the villains are often more complicated (because no one ever is evil just because, but people are good just because). Maybe it’s because the villains are the hidden id. Maybe it’s because the villain always gets the funniest lines. Who knows.

However… I often hate other villain fans with the same level of passion my dark idols reserve for their respective nemesis.

 My expertise (if I can call it that: I’m basically a dork with a laptop) is in the realm of comic books and comic book movies. I’ve noticed superhero movies build and build in popularity before crescendoing with the Nolan Batman films and Marvel’s The Avengers. This had led to a “mainstreamification” of some of my favourite characters—notably, the villains. The examples I’m going to use in this post, mostly because of their popularity, are Magneto (X-men) and Loki (Thor, The Avengers). If you look at social media *coughtumblrcough* these two are the among the most popular.

These are villains that do things that everyone who isn’t an evil human being has a problem with, namely, genocide. They have complicated motivations and lives. Magneto is a holocaust survivor who was experimented on in the camps, and Loki was raised in a world he doesn’t belong to and was made to feel inferior to his older brother, Thor. Both turn to evil out of a desire to do the right thing, to the point where it blinds them to the people around them who care about them.

However, fans tend to reduce them to “woobies”.

Woobies, according to TV Tropes, are “…any type of character who makes you feel extremely sorry for them. Basically, the first thing you think to say when you see the woobie is: “Aw, poor baby!” Woobification of a character is a curious, audience-driven phenomenon, sometimes divorced from the character’s canonical morality…An important aspect of the Woobie is that their suffering must be caused by external sources. A character who suffers as the result of their own actions is a Tragic Hero and does not qualify.” The page goes on to list subtypes of woobies, but that isn’t important right now.

I don’t know if it’s because the characters are portrayed by attractive actors, or because the struggles with family (Loki) or inequality (Magneto) are things that resonate with the audience. But it happens, and these complicated villains are reduced to one-note woobies.

How can you tell that a character has been “woobified”, you may ask? If you hear fans defending the characters genocidal actions because they “believe they’re doing the right thing” or if you hear fans saying the character is “misunderstood”. For example, I recently saw a picture set of villains on Tumblr with the words “A villain is just a victim whose story hasn’t been told” featuring Magneto, Loki, Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), Gollum, and Khan, among others (http://ericscissorhands.tumblr.com/post/88703071937/a-villain-is-just-a-victim-whose-story-hasnt

You guys do know that Magneto was purposely written to have similar ideals to Hitler, right? And he admits to this in X-men: First Class.

As a writer, this annoys me. Real work went into writing these characters, creating them to be complicated and interesting. And these “fans” just ignore all of that! It would be like, for the non-writers among you, if you spent all day making a delicious cake and all anyone could talk about was how sad it was that the little icing flowers you added to the corner were wilting.

Why is this frustrating? Referring back to the post I mentioned, subsequent rebloggers have said it’s putting the abusers feelings above the abused, and implying that any victim is going to turn into an abuser. As an abused person, this pisses me right off. This is a problematic message: if you have a tragic backstory, you can do whatever you want. My abuser has a pretty tragic backstory. That does not make what he did to me okay.

You know who else has a tragic backstory? Hitler, and Stalin.

There are examples of woobies in the same universe as Loki and Magneto who have had similar and often worse (not the holocaust, though, I don’t imagine it can get much worse) things happen to them.

 In the same universe, What about Spiderman, or Batman, or Wolverine? They have tragic backstories, but they realised that they have a choice: let the sadness consume them and let the rage and hatred become them, or make a difference

And that’s the choice that all of us have.

So stop doing a disservice to the writers. Or I will become a supervillain. See how many people think I’m misunderstood then.

Hymns for the Bastards: Three.

I wore sick like a badge of honour

I don’t heal,

I just scab over.

My soul is a mess of congealing blood

Dripping dripping.

I feel you in here like a parasite

And still I feed you.

This is true sickness.

I fear you will burst out of me

Instead of passing with the waste,

Coating everything in sight

With yesterday’s feelings.

Language Moment: May 12th, 2014

banner banner

Welcome to a new feature on Sweetly Snobbish–the site where I’m always right, but at least I’m nice!

This new feature was actually given to me by my english professor and fellow poet Gerald Hill. Kind of. In his class, we had language moments, where we pointed out interesting turns of phrase. Now, it’s going on my blog.

This week’s language moment comes from the Anberlin song, “Reclusion“.

There are a lot of really neat language moments in this song, so I’m just going to pick my three favourites.

“They don’t know they’re dead to me cuz/intent never makes a sound” 

I love “intent never makes a sound”.  I think it’s a unique turn of phrase. Right off the bat, this line establishes the loneliness and isolation of the speaker, as well as their inner darkness.

“There’s a lot of seclusion/production in depression/if a stranger turns up missing/this song is my confession”

Wow. That stuff I already said? Turn that up to 11 in these lines. In this like, the fact that the speaker kills people is very, very clear. It also speaks to mental instability.  Maybe I’m just biased, though, because of the “production in depression” line. Depressed people gotta stick together.

My absolute FAVOURITE language moment, though?

“My mask is growing heavy/but I’ve forgotten whose beneath” 

I just adore this. I find this turn of phrase so powerful.  I love the simplicity in the statement and yet the power in it. It really points to true instability in the speaker, and adds an element of tragedy to the song.

This has been the first edition of “language moments”. Like? Don’t like? Tell me below!

God Bless,

Kelsey J.

Project Announcement: Hymns for the Bastards

Happy poetry month!

I’ve been waiting until this auspicious occasion to announce a project I will be embarking on.

Over the years, I have written a series of poems about bastards. Some of them literal, some of them metaphorical. I have long entertained the idea of making a chapbook out of them. So, I’ve decided to release them here, and then gather them into a chapbook come the end of the year. I will, of course, be asking you all which ones are the best and focusing on those ones.

You may have noticed that I already started releasing them. This post is more of an explanation of what those “Hymns for a Bastard” poems are than anything else.


God Bless,

Kelsey J.

Writing and Psychology: Making Language Comprehension work for you!

First of Psychology Writing Hacks! 

There’s no hard set theory on how language comprehension works (AN: this is pretty typical in most psychology, actually) but there are a couple of models on how the process works. I’m going to focus on the structure-building framework in this post, because I find it to be the most interesting.

Gernsbacher’s (1990) structure-building framework describes the process as such: the foundation for comprehension is laid at the first mention of a new topic (in our case, a character or setting). As more information comes about the object, additional concepts are added to the little mental structure. This includes inferences, and previous knowledge in the reader, by the by. If unrelated material is encountered, a new structure is begun. Concepts that are related are easier to follow. Interestingly enough, if a word with two or more meanings is encountered, the reader’s mind will choose the one with relevance to the story.

Hacking into the structure-building framework is all about making structures easy to build. The information should be laid out in a way where related concepts are introduced together. Make the information about things easy to digest, so the reader can automatically add it to their structure without much effort. Also important: cut back on unrelated information. For a piece to have cognitive flow, it is important to have the structures be linked to each other, like a little cognitive city. If information is unrelated, the cognitive energy spent building that structure takes away from energy that could be spent on the main information. On the flip side, if you want to write something that screws with your readers, just do the opposite of what I said.

I know cognitive psychology is pretty dry, so I hope I managed to make it kind of fun! Let me know how I did in the comments!

God bless,

Kelsey J.

PS: Don’t forget to check out episode two of Zombvenger! at http://www.zombiepop.net/zombvenger-episode-two-dog-days/


(Turn and face the stranger)


Guten Tag meine Freundin!

I apologise for not having this up yesterday, as scheduled. I had no internet access. As we speak I’m sitting in the lovely Moose Jaw library looking out at the town. To my left is the young adult section, and behind me is the graphic novels. The building sits on the edge of a beautiful park–all the better to see the spring thaw.

Spring is a time of change. In Saskatchewan, it means that one can actually see the ground again.

Here, on Sweetly Snobbish, it is also a time of change.

From now on, updates will be on Friday. That way I can write all week to give you all some great content. Only the best for you, my dears.  And you, my dears, seem to enjoy my Writing and Psychology posts and my poetry more than anything else. In all my experimentation, these are the posts that resonate with people the most. Thus, I will be moving to mainly posting features in that vein. New Poem Saturday and Slam Sunday will remain much the same.

In May, after my final exams are finished, I am planning on doing a month of Slam Sundays featuring local poets in my area (Regina, Saskatchewan).  We are a small but talented bunch, and I hope that you enjoy that feature.

I am also going to attempt to post more about my writing.  I find many interesting tidbits when I write, and I would like to share them with you.

I have also resumed reviewing books for the Bearded Scribe (http://thebeardedscribe.blogspot.ca/). It’s a great review site, if I do say so myself. I encourage you to take a look around it.

Finally, I have achieved some measure of stability in my personal life. I hope that the days of late posts (barring internet access issues) are behind me, and that I can work harder to provide my readers with the best possible content.

Spring has sprung, my friends.

Time to face the strain.


God Bless,

Kelsey J.


PS: Zombvenger! Episode Two: Dog Days is up: http://www.zombiepop.net/zombvenger-episode-two-dog-days/