Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wake Up!

Jeff's problems may have been deeper than simple exhaustion.

The biggest problem with an opening is all the pressure that is on it from the start. You have to introduce the reader to a compelling character (not necessarily the MC, but still compelling), ground the reader in the setting, and entice them to read on. That's a lot to cover in a short period of time.

A waking character may actually be the best way to start things, but keeping in mind the checklist of items we have to cover to create a story that people will want to continue reading, it OFTEN (not always, just mostly) isn't the best way. No one is at their best when they wake up. They may not be at their worst, but usually they're groggily grasping for a reality while trying to figure out how, if not why, a non-existent cat coughed a hairball into their mouth. Waking up also suggests that this is just another day in the life of that character. Unless the world is already well-established, and the character is well-liked, it's unlikely anyone wants to stick around while Rob has his morning Monster energy drink (because he hates coffee) brushes his face, shaved his teeth, and whatnot. If you handwave past that, because it's not important, than why didn't you handwave past the waking up too? If something exciting is happening upon waking, then it's more likely you could have just slipped ahead to that, rather than going through the effort of creating a realistic, albeit boring, wake-up scene.

A "rude awakening" might work, but you have to couch it carefully, otherwise it becomes exactly what it is: an attempt to create tension and conflict when it doesn't actually exit in a world readers don't know with characters that aren't fully-formed yet.

So, yeah, a "wake up" scene isn't necessarily the worst thing that you can write, and if you can write it well and meet all the opening criteria, then go for it. The writing will stand for itself, and any decent editor/agent will see that. You do run the chance the an editor/agent even slightly off their game will read the first few lines and send you your rejection notice.

Monday, June 11, 2018

MoviePass and the Case of the Ticket Stubs

The Force is NOT strong with you!

Dear MoviePass:

Taking pictures of ticket stubs is an unnecessary burden for those of us using the service as intended.  If there are issues with fraudulent behavior, tag those accounts and require THEM to take pictures of ticket stubs.  Cancel or place those accounts on hold.  Contact those account users and try to ascertain what the problem is.

Alternately, just FIX your system. 

What you don't do is place the burden of multiple extra steps which can cause all kinds of failure points on your users.  This is just like when Netflix tried to divide their streaming from their DVD service.  You're placing multiple barriers of entry on users who aren't abusing your system, and just want to go see a movie.  If you truly are interested in making MoviePass "sustainable for the entire community" then definitely don't threaten "irreversible termination of your subscription" of users when no suspicious activity has ever been noted.

Thank you for your kind attention!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wedding Cake Confusion

Let them eat cake, just not from Masterpiece Cakeshop!

I keep having to repeat this, so I’m posting this to my blog with all the necessary details for my own benefit.  

This is not an invitation to argue.

Yesterday, June 4, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) made a ruling on a case between a baker, Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop, and the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.  Phillips refused to bake a wedding cake for David Mullins and Charlie Craig.  His stated reason is that making a cake for a gay couple is a violation of his religious beliefs.

The Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating against their customers on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

It seems pretty straight-forward.

However, SCOTUS decided in favor of Phillips.

This makes it seem like business owners can now discriminate against people if something about them goes against their religious convictions.

It does not.

The decision was incredibly narrow, threading the needle between the legality of the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act and Phillips’ First Amendment right to religion.  The Colorado Commission, when executing its anti-discrimination law, came down so heavily on Phillips that it created an obvious bias.  Legally speaking, they weren’t wrong, but they were so extreme in the application of the law, that according to the majority decision written by Justice Kennedy, “[Phillips] might have his right to the free exercise of his religion limited by generally applicable laws . . . [but] the State’s obligation of religious neutrality” is still required.

That is, the State has to at least make the appearance of being impartial when walking the line between anti-discrimination and Constitutional exercise of religion.  This does not mean that businesses can discriminate, but rather that the State of Colorado erred when showing extreme hostility toward Phillips.  Kennedy’s decision also affirmed that that the protections for same-sex couples remains in place and enforceable under various state laws like those of Colorado.