Kisses and Eggs

Glad you could join us for the next kooky episode of Elliot’s Adventures. If you’re new here, you can catch up by returning to the beginning, and reading really fast…

Elliot K
Photo credit: Grayson Hartman

Walter never stopped to question why he had opened his heart (and his mouth) to the little stranger lying so helplessly on the river bottom. It was his nature to care. Ask anyone.

Ask his wife, Darlene. She had seen his compassion and compulsion to nurture everyone he met when they were just small fry in school. But it had been during their senior year, when they had both worn Kissing Fish masks to the Enchantment Under the Sea Masquerade that she had known he was The One. He was the one she chose to bear the ultimate responsibility of carrying their adorable roe to term.

Every spawning season since, Walter had protected his soon-to-be progeny from marauding pike and sinister scuba divers. And he had never — even accidentally — swallowed a single one. Around the reef they called home, he had earned his reputation as the World’s Greatest Dad. Ask anyone.

Ask Darlene — if you can find her.

This season, something had gone terribly wrong. Walter had woken one morning in the kelp bed he shared with his sleek and shiny wife, his mouth full of kisses and eggs, only to find he had no one to share them with.

Darlene was gone. Walter went in search of her.

That’s how he found himself here now, in water definitely in need of a pinch or two of salt, swishing swiftly to the surface, hoping to find a safe place to deposit his unresponsive passenger where the poor little guy might have the chance to breathe again. He broke through the watery ceiling, the golden late afternoon sunshine causing his babies to wiggle energetically in its unaccustomed warmth. Urgently twisting and turning, Walter spied a log floating in their direction. It already had passengers of its own.

“Heh!” he called.

Lorenzo scanned the stream for the source of the unexpected call.

“Owah heah!” Walter hollered.

The gondolier steered his boat toward the sound, blinking at the stunning sparkle reflected from Walter’s mouth.

“Hey, man! Whatchoo got in there, dude?” he drawled, mesmerized by the twinkling lights. “Diamonds?”

Walter shook his head and lifted his jaw just far enough above the water to rub Elliot off his lip onto a crack in the smooth bark of the gondola.

“Whoa, dude! What’s that?”

But Walter had already disappeared.

And Elliot still wasn’t breathing.

To be continued…

Previously, on Elliot’s Adventures ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ Next time . . .

#AtoZChallenge A-to-Z Fictioneers: Interested in original fiction? Here’s a list of writers who are writing stories for the 2017 A to Z Challenge. The author’s link will take you to their “A” post. If you know of any other story writers I can share, please drop the link in the comments!

Today’s twofer from April 15, 2016:

Kindly respond. Kindly.

questionmark

There is a different attitude here. Commenters are kind. Not everybody comments; even I don’t comment on every post I read — there simply isn’t time. But apparently there’s time for a little magic. This is a story about being saved by that magic.

First, some background.

When I read, I read critically. That’s not to say I criticize, but I use critical thinking skills rather than just accept everything as Truth, Wisdom, or Excellent Writing. This is probably a direct result of Dad’s admonishment:

“Don’t believe everything you read. Don’t believe everything you see on TV.” Dad

When I do comment, I try to add something to the discussion, not just repeat what others have said. If I have questions, I’ll ask them. If a blog seems to be masquerading as Truth, Wisdom, or Excellent Writing, but I see Hypocrisy, Arrogance, or Delusion peeking through the eye holes, I make a choice.

  1. Stop reading and move on without leaving any mark except the automatically counted Hit.
  2. Leave a Like to acknowledge I read the entire piece. Or,
  3. Dig a little deeper.

Isn’t that how honest critics respond?

The key to providing an honest response is kind honesty. Hyperbole doesn’t help; it’s rarely honest. Gushing doesn’t help; it’s disingenuous. Sarcasm doesn’t help; it’s destructive and mean with no redeeming factors except to bring a cold giggle to people who enjoy those kinds of putdowns as long as they aren’t the target.

I have taken to saying:

“I don’t claim to be an Ursula K. Le Guin or even a J.K. Rowling, but I know good writing when I read it.” Me

(I like these little quotation blocks. Sometimes I use them to laugh at myself.)

I’ve promised you a story about being saved by magic. It begins here:

I found a blog I shall not name that presented itself as a mindful search for Self. Every entry I read was a glowing lesson in self-assurance and serenity. Contentment. But its name was at odds with the inner peace it purveyed. With guidance from its author, I dug to its deepest roots and found a tragedy so unfortunate, you would be excused for believing it was as unique as the poor sufferer held it to be.

Unless you knew how often this particular tragedy plays itself out across this country. Or you knew first hand the agony of dealing with a different tragedy of similar proportions.

That doesn’t make any of them less tragic, and each has personalized variations to be sure, but this one had some gaps in the telling. Those gaps left me believing the author accepted responsibility only for having had the best intentions, which other people then misinterpreted. And all the while, s/he knew s/he carried more blame for the tragedy than s/he was willing to own.

To some degree, a fraud, misleading many followers into believing s/he was a victim of other people’s irrationality and lies. Followers who were drinkin’ the Kool Aid.

I carefully crafted my comment to express my honest sympathy while still questioning several points that made no sense if the reader dared to examine the author’s version of the Truth. In the politest way possible, I called the author out.

Even as I wrote, I had an icky feeling in my gut. Was I stepping over a line? Was I hiding skepticism and disapproval behind sympathy? Was this response passive-aggressively cruel? Was it really necessary that I register my opinion? There was a real hurt here, after all.

Knocking my Doubt on its ass, my Willfulness took my Sense of Justice by the index finger and said:

“Do it. Post it.” Willfulness

My Sense of Justice is easily aroused to action.

Here’s the magic. The instant I clicked on “Reply”, my response vanished. Not into Your Comment is Being Moderated Land. Into the ether. Gone.

And I realized I’d just been saved.

Before I try anything like that again, I need to test these waters because there is a different attitude here than over on, say, Facebook. While I want to write fearlessly and honestly, I don’t want to be cruel. I believe that balance is possible, but I’m new to blogging and I need some guidance.

What do you think? Should I express my doubts when I have them? Should I keep them on my own space and not in the doubtee’s comments? Should I keep them to myself?

I’d really like to know what you think. Just be kind.

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Author: Sue Ranscht

I am a writer. Let me tell you a story...

37 thoughts on “Kisses and Eggs”

  1. In regard to comment or not to comment on “difficult posts/bloggers” 99% of the time my comment rule for myself is, don’t comment unless I read something special.. Otherwise I just move on.. The exception a “self help” blog.. If I see the post as harmful to others that may be seeking solutions, I try to just be to the point about my opinion..
    In regard to sarcasm, used properly, it makes for great humor.. Like most things, it can be used to hurt or help, help as in adding good natured humor..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Over the last year, I’ve come to believe your 99% rule is the best way to respond. Turns out, the blogosphere is populated by the same variety of darlings and douchebags as the 3-D world. Because we can choose to allow the d-bags into our sphere or not, it doesn’t seem worth pursuing, unless — as you say — you can see some potential harm.

      My writing partner considers himself to be “mostly sarcastic” (akin, I think, to the concept of being “mostly dead”), but he ascribes to the biting-with-pointed-teeth school of sarcasm. I have to admit there seems to be a certain art to sarcasm “used properly” which eluded my range of artistry for the first six decades of my life. A couple years ago, I discovered a sarcastic voice I’d never used and started writing a humorous story I never imagined I would have been capable of writing. In two slightly different short story forms, it earned publication in one contest anthology and a quarter-finalist ranking (with a glowing critique) in last year’s ScreenCraft Cinematic Short Story Contest. Even if those things hadn’t validated my effort, I had begun, and continue, work on the novel, Sarcasm Font. What I learned very quickly is that it’s just so darn much fun being Romero Russo! Even so, his personality hasn’t bled into my 3-D life except when I think or write as him. I guess that makes him an alter ego (not to be confused with an alt-ego. 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My sarcasm is toned down online 😄
        Mostly because it’s usually displayed with gestures and/or facial expressions..
        I like your snarky humor, for someone who didn’t do sarcasm, you do it well and in the “write” spirit.. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I think it’s a tough call. On the one hand, you can’t just sit back and let a fraudster lead people on with false ideas. On the other hand, it doesn’t look good to call someone out on their blog comment section, which is essentially a public forum.

    Maybe sending a private message or email with your misgivings would be a better option? It lets you voice your thoughts with minimal chance of it blowing up in your face.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That certainly sounds like a better option. Had my comment actually posted, I’ve come to believe it would have been polite, but still bad form. I’m glad I didn’t have to learn that lesson the hard way. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Elliot’s adventures are keeping me on the edge of my seat, and I like all the other characters with their lives and personalities interjected in the mix.

    As for your serious question. When you were describing this particular blog, a particular blog came to mind that I follow, and I’m wondering if we are thinking of the same one. The blogosphere is large, but I’ve noticed I and the people I most interact with tend to run in the same circles. If it is the same blog then I don’t feel as guilty for my doubts to the same, and if it’s not, your description still parallels it enough that my guilt is still eased a bit.

    It’s not an easy answer. When it comes to confessing of past trauma’s, I tend to believe first because not being believing is a huge contributor to trauma; however, I also don’t think asking clarifying questions is a terrible thing if the blog has been left open for comment.. The person doesn’t have to answer and if they decide to continue saying what they’ve been saying, it’s their blog, and they can choose how they want to engage. This is not to say the comment box should be free game for trolling or abuse, but it is very possible to remove that option.

    When it comes to commenting/critiquing writing, critiques make for better writing, and there’s a definite art to giving them. The kind that help and the kind that hinder are also highly dependent on the writer in question. I tend to shut down in the wake of snarky, sarcastic, blatantly cruel critiques, but if you’re honest and not mean, it may sting (and this is more because I’m a perfectionist and I HATE when I mess up), but that’s why we have editing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It makes me very happy to know how much you enjoy Elliot’s little world. I like to think populating it with characters who seem to have complete lives of their own that simply intersect with Elliot’s before they continue on their way unseen, makes the entire serial more interesting.

      I don’t believe any of us needs to feel guilt over skepticism regarding any blogger’s veracity, especially if our gut reaction is doubt. I don’t know if we’re talking about the same blogger, but I understand that legitimate victims of trauma who encounter disbelief from family, friends, and authorities are subject to deeper trauma.

      This blogger doesn’t fit that description. S/he has thousands of followers whose comments are universally sympathetic and unquestioningly sycophantic. I had asked why the blogger’s message seemed to contradict the blog’s title, and the blogger gave me the link to the story behind their family tragedy. Having had some personal experience that mirrored that narrative, I recognized some signs of deflected blame and denied responsibility. Then I did some research that confirmed what I thought was happening. After my comment vanished, I realized the best thing I could do was just not follow along.

      Your approach to critiquing someone else’s writing sounds humane and helpful. Snark, sarcasm, and cruelty don’t contribute anything constructive. At the same time, I’d rather a critic state exactly what they find problematic in my writing and why, than have somebody offer generic praise without specifics. Sure, tell me what you like and why, but then tell me honestly where you think my work needs improvement. What doesn’t make sense? What did you find annoying? Anything is fair game. That’s the kind of critique I give, too, if the author wants honesty.

      I’m grateful we’ve connected. It’s a pleasure to converse with you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I try to do compliment sandwiches, and I try to avoid generic comments. Like if I find something annoying, I want to tell the author *why* it was annoying. Otherwise what’s the point of my comment? She can’t fix it if she doesn’t know what it is. There’ a definite art to critiquing, and everyone seems to have a different approach AND to like different things. I have friends who like the snarky, sarcastic approach. Oddly, though I love sarcasm, I’m far too sensitive to appreciate it in critiques, so while my one writer friend really loves this particular agent, Query Shark, I find her way too snarky for my tastes.

        It sounds like you did the right thing with that site by not following along. Sometimes the best response is no response at all. I’ve learned that as I’ve gotten older. It’ll just turn unpleasant in a way that’s as productive as cruel critiques.

        I’m happy for our connection, too! We have different viewpoints on some things, and I like when that happens in a cordial fashion because it means I can possibly see things in a different way! I love your idea about doing something creative for every rejection. It takes something negative that’s just going to happen and turns it into something productive and positive. I’m still working on my own idea/version of that, but my post backlog is probably long enough to get me through the next decade 🙂

        Like

  4. Oh no!!! Elliot needs mollusc to mollusc rescusitation…
    Hmm. Enjoyed the second read too, one to make you think..the key point for me was kindness. You hit the nail on the head there, I feel, there is always room to be kind or express an opinion kindly. Great post, thank you 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m enjoying Elliott’s Adventures. 😊
    The second part of your post was very thought provoking. I wonder what happened to the comment when you tried to post it? Was it the Universe coming to the rescue? Hmm…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had something (borderline clever, I’m sure, and certainly kind) to say about Elliott, but now it’s completely escaped me after reading Part II. Which, in a way, is what happened with your Magic in Part II. Just a different means to the same end. So maybe that means my comment wasn’t so clever after all. Regardless, it was definitely kind because you’ve got an entertaining story going. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You can probably start a spin-off series “Finding Darlene” 😉
    Breathe, Elliot. Breathe!
    As for the second part, there’s constructive criticism and then there’s the destructive kind. When it comes to criticism and offering comments, I stick to the “If I don’t have anything nice to say, move on without leaving a comment. But if the post resonates, I leave behind a comment.” Mostly.
    But then again most posts I tend to read are fiction. So I’ve really had to question the authenticity of the source..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lol. A spin-off series. I love the idea, Shweta! I do enjoy imagining the independent lives each character Elliot meets has outside his interactions with them. It adds depth even if we don’t follow those lives.

      I admire your self-restraint and deliberate actions to leave a positive imprint wherever you go. My mom also advocated the philosophy that “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” At the same time, Dad insisted, “Don’t believe everything you hear or read.” I came of age in the 60s and 70’s, and I took the “Question Authority” philosophy to heart. When added to my innate sense of justice, I do sometimes feel called upon to call out dishonesty, dissembling, and disinformation in order to fight the good fight against those who paint themselves as blameless when in fact they cause harm. It’s a constant internal battle. lol

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! All those characters do add depth. If you do take up the idea of starting a spin-off series, I will definitely read it! I’m really enjoying Elliot’s adventures.
        I think it’s really great of you to take up such “good fights. Hah, yes – the internal battles. I have those too but in the end, I stick to the “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” policy!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. The more I think about spin-offs, the more ideas flow. When it happens, you will be among the first to know, Shweta! Thanks for the support and inspiration.

          I do admire your kindness and self-restraint. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Those critical-reading skills are grossly needed in the up and coming generations now weaned on the internet’s constant stream of ‘news’.
    A good rule of thumb: always check the ‘sources’ are they primary or secondary; are they legit or fluff and need to be further researched, etc. Interesting to note: a source that leans one way or another isn’t nec “bad” just need to take that into account to further distill the stuff that’s being read.
    BTW: I’m really enjoying the adventures of Eliot!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree, Laura. Knowing the source’s veracity is key. Sometimes all it takes is a click on Snopes, sometimes it takes some digging. And you’re right — a slant just gives us another point of view, which it is wise to accept as an opinion that might be just as valid as a differing view. We need to be able to understand the the difference between opinion and fact. Seeking out accuracy is a mindset we need to teach our kids, not just at home, I think, but in school, too. Critical thinking skills don’t seem to have the value among the general population that I believe an informed Democracy needs to function effectively, but that can change if we work at it.

      And I’m excited that you’re enjoying Elliot’s adventures. 🙂

      Like

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