Tag Archives: Butcher

Why Permission Slips are Still Essential


by Lillian Csernica on May 12, 2016

Once again, my sons’ high school administration has made me furious.

Earlier this week John came home with a full color brochure full of quotations from famous people and some really disturbing photos.  The subject?  The cruel and brutal treatment of farm animals and how they are killed and processed for our food.

Horrifying?  Oh yes.  Was that all?  Oh no.

There was a video.  Plenty of gross, heart-wrenching detail.

Whoever was behind this went for the hat trick by providing a speaker who hammered the message home even further.

John was really upset.  I sent an email to his teacher/caseworker expressing my outrage over having not been allowed any kind of parental review of such disturbing material. I asked very clearly to know who had approved this material for the class.

As usual, she didn’t know a thing about it and said she’d look into it.  The next day I got an email from her saying she’d spoken to the Health class teacher who told her some other students had also been upset by the subject matter.  Really?  Gosh, who could have seen that coming?

Nobody answered my question about  who approved the material in the first place.

John’s teacher/caseworker assured me this would be taken into consideration for next year.  What about this year?  What about these students?  What about the damage that has already been done?

I have followed procedure by contacting John’s teacher/caseworker.  I’m in the process of making an appointment to talk to the principal.  I don’t expect much.  The school year is almost over and the administration will probably just make the usual soothing noises and promises of doing better next year.

Not good enough.

I will have a name, and if I don’t get one, I’m going to keep going up the chain of command until somebody takes responsibility for this.

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Filed under autism, Family, Food, frustration, Horror, Lillian Csernica, nature, neurodiversity, parenting, special education, veterinarian

U is for Unpredictable


by Lillian Csernica on April 24, 2013

A long time ago when Tangent still published a print edition, I wrote a column reviewing short horror fiction. My number one complaint? Predictable plotlines. That’s a major weakness in any story regardless of genre. Editors and publishers (and reviewers!) want to see fresh, new, unpredictable storytelling.

How do you learn the art of writing unpredictable plot twists? Reading widely in your field certainly helps. Knowing what the competition has already done will help you stretch beyond that. Look at Jim Butcher‘s Dresden Files. In book after book, Butcher just keeps raising the stakes. You have no idea how Harry Dresden is going to cope with the latest set or impossible odds and grueling emotional stakes. Jim Butcher delivers every time.

 PLOT: Brainstorm all the possible ways your protagonist could try to solve the problem situation. No matter how obvious, how logical, how predictable. Dump all of that out of your head onto paper. With that list in front of you, you’ll begin to get ideas for more creative and unpredictable solutions.

 CHARACTER: Many writers start with a character in mind. Here are two ways to proceed.

  1. Give that character some kind of physical or mental trait that is unpredictable. Be careful with this one. Check your chosen “symptoms” against known medical conditions. You might create a character that seems unique when in fact you’ve reproduced the traits associated with autism, especially Asperger’s Syndrome. (Every Aspie is unique, but that might not be what’s best for your story!)
  2. Take something away. During bad weather an airplane pilot goes deaf and can’t hear the instructions from the air traffic control tower. A master chef suffers some trauma that takes away his senses of taste and smell. A professional photographer gets hit in the back of the head in just the right spot to make him or her “face blind.” What do these people do now?

SETTING: Put that character into a situation so foreign to his or her native environment, educational background, moral paradigm, etc. that solving the problem situation is going to take a whole lot of luck and adaptation on the run.  S.M. Sterling does a brilliant job of this in Island in the Sea of Time, the first book of the Nantucket Series.  When a strange storm blows up off Nantucket, things go so wrong that when the weather clears, both the island and a Coast Guard windjammer are stranded in the Bronze Age.

You also have the option of combining two or even all three of these story elements. Just don’t go overboard.  There’s a fine line between the Unpredictable and the Unbelievable.

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Filed under Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, Horror, Writing