Manipulation

Social media has, over the past decade, provided the dark, moist space for the growing of dissatisfaction with one’s life, the nurturing of pity parties, and the harvesting of comments to make everything better. Posts abound that are cryptic, setting up the existence of a disaster, the worst news, an awful experience, demanding the weak-willed to respond with “What’s wrong?” even if the responder either is or isn’t all that interested in the details.

For example, I’ve run across far too many posts that are along the lines of “I can’t believe what just happened to me!” or “If I had to relive this day again, I couldn’t do it!” or even something as simplistic on the surface as “Why me?” Realistically, the response to the last question should be, “Why NOT you?” since you can’t be bothered to explain what’s wrong and you’re maneuvering your friends into flocking around you, cooing sweet encouragements and giving you cyber-pats on the back, kissing your boo-boo with electronically-posted lips.

The bottom line is this on social media: Either say what you mean or refrain from posting. If you’re going to cry for help, be honest with yourself and with your friends. Make it real from the beginning. And while you think this might be a cold, distant, and mean interpretation of such posts, understand that I’m really not a meanie; I care about my friends, their ups and downs, their obstacles and triumphs. But I hate being lied to and manipulated by people I know, and you should, too.

That being said, books are another story (pun intended). Writing a story of any length should be as manipulative as the above examples. It should draw the reader in and make them ask questions. And it should reveal details in a manner that keeps the reader wanting to know more. If a cryptic statement begins a story, it should be mysterious enough to intrigue but not so vague as to disappoint. Take the exclamation above: “If I had to relive this day again, I couldn’t do it!” I can think of dozens of questions just begging to be asked and answered during the course of the tale. A day that was filled with one comic event after the other. A day that was filled with losses, one after the other. A day of fetid anticipation about results from a test, about hearing from someone about something important. A day that just didn’t go right with no end in sight. Any one of those routes could produce a worthwhile story, and the reader would be – even mildly – manipulated into wanting more and more details.

That’s the beauty of fiction vs. life. In writing fiction, the author can change words before anyone sees them, getting them just right, lining them up just so. In life, however, this perfection is difficult to achieve. Just sayin’.
(04082014)

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