Met my friend, the Angry Author, today at his favorite coffee shop. Was really hoping he’d go over the critique of my short story, but straight after he got his blueberry pastry and chicory coffee, he started in.
“Know what I hate?” he said.
“Cold coffee?” I said.
Angry said, “Worse. Facebook. Twitter. The whole shebang. And don’t think it’s just me being old and in the way. It’s these damn people posting their daily word counts.”
“That’s bad,” I said. “Aren’t we supposed to write everyday. I mean, you said…”
“Hold on,” Angry said, and grabbed a busboy. “Can you tell me how many coffee cups you’ve taken today? How many plates have been washed?”
The busboy said, “Who knows? A lot. I just keep busy. I mean, who cares so long as the work’s done, right?”
Angry smiled, which was a rarity. “See?” he said. “It’s not interesting. It doesn’t say anything. Writers are supposed to be writing. How boring to think about some guy sitting in front of his computer tapping away. Sure doesn’t make me interested in reading their work if all they’re posting about is their word count. It’s no guarantee they’re good words. Most of them will get edited later, anyway. Hopefully. Unless they go ahead and self publish their first drafts.”
“What about the ones who post parts of their works in progress?” I said.
Angry slammed his coffee. “So damn presumptuous. I’ve read them, and they’re all so pleased with themselves. A clever turn of phrase. A wonderfully descriptive passage. Stuff that gets cut out later when you edit for story and trim the purple prose. Who thinks it’s a good idea to make material from their first drafts public?”
“Not me,” I said. “I’m scared to let anyone see anything until I can polish it.”
“They’ve got you captive. Just like when you go to the bathroom and someone’s dropping a loaf. In both cases, they’re forcing their crap on you. Those sites are like being in the middle of a room of prideful balloon heads, all grinning and hard selling me on their clumsy books,” Angry said. “I can’t stand it. And their works are filled with exclamation points. Do you know what an exclamation point is?”
“Emphasis,” I said.
“Wrong,” Angry said. “Imagine you’re having a nice conversation, and when someone says something profound…”
In a flash, he whipped something out of his jacket, and I had to cover my ears because the sound was so loud. The whole shop stopped and looked.
Angry just smiled. He waved at the staff, they went about their business, and he handed me a small bullhorn. It had an exclamation point drawn on it with a Sharpie. “See?” he said. “That’s the effect they have. There’s very few times you need to use one.”
“Huh,” I said. “I get it.”
“And all these narcissists sprinkle exclamation points on every line of dialogue,” Angry said. “Who walks around shouting all the time?”
“Maybe old rock stars with hearing damage,” I said.
“That’s true,” Angry said. “So that’s my soapbox for today.” He nodded my way. “I read your story yesterday.”
“Oh?” I said.
“I had the same reaction to road kill in front of my house this morning,” he said. “I thought it had a pathetic ending, gross, and I couldn’t wait for someone else to clean it up.”
I stopped eating.
He laughed. “Just kidding,” he said. “It was quite good for someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.”
“Relax,” he said. “It’ll stay between us. At least you didn’t post it online.”
“Well,” I said. “At least there’s that.”