EARWIGGING • by Derek McMillan

I was sitting in the canteen minding my own business. I had a coffee and a crossword. I swear I wasn’t earwigging, it was just that what she said was arresting.

There were two women who were clearly pregnant — I estimated they were about six months into their pregnancy, give or take. One was ash-blonde and the other was what my mother would have called a suicide blonde — dyed by her own hand.

They were the only other customers in the canteen. The ash-blonde looked really worried.

“I think they are going to kill me,” she said.

Her companion considered this with commendable calm. On the other hand, I suppose it was not her they were going to kill, but her next remark did seem a little callous.

“Well, you could at least look on the bright side. I’m sure they’ll make a really good job of it. They might have a fire, perhaps. For instance, you might be drunk and leave a cigarette in an ashtray, then it falls on the settee that you’re passed out on and you go up in smoke. Spectacular!

“They might do something like that. Or of course, more than likely your ex Nigel might find out you’ve been sleeping with Carl and cut you up with a knife. He has a vicious streak to him, that Nigel. I’ve always said it.”

“But that’s not what I want!” she complained.

“Well, you did get preggers, darling. It was your own fault, you know.”

“Well, you can talk!” She looked very pointedly at her companion’s bulge.

“Surely you realise this is a prosthetic fake pregnancy bump?” She hit it with her fist. “It was after I had that affair with Sam while I was two-timing Alex. So of course neither Sam nor Alex knows whose baby it is. In fact, neither do I, of course. I expect to find out this afternoon.”

“Well, do you prefer Sam to Alex? I mean, Sam is an alcoholic who gave you a black eye and Alex is two-timing you with Maureen — or didn’t you know?”

“I expect to find out next week, now I come to think about it. Sam is just boring. I find alcoholics have very little about them. Alex on the other hand is a bit of a lad, and with his eye for the ladies there are all sorts of possibilities. I think Alex is my best bet. Still, it’s not up to me who I go to bed with, is it?” she said wistfully.

This extraordinary conversation was cut short when a man in a suit with a flamboyant purple scarf came into, or perhaps I should say he made an entrance into, the cafeteria.

“Molly, darling. You are looking well. Now I know you talked to me about Alex but I’m afraid you’re going to go to Sam. He’s due to rape Charlene in a couple of weeks’ time so things should get quite interesting for you.

“As for you, Cynthia, did you think we were going to kill you off?” He laughed gaily. “Well, we did definitely think about it but we decided that you can just go off to stay with your aunt — the one that nobody ever sees — in Cornwall. So when you’re ready to come back, when you’re rid of your bump, you can take up where you left off. That is good news, isn’t it?

“Anyway, damn this place, let’s go and get a drink somewhere. You can pay since I’ve been so nice to you. These damned script conferences are the devil.”

I sat and finished my crossword. That was a very useful bit of earwigging, I thought. I reckoned to leak a few paragraphs to Soap Weekly on the basis of that information. Molly is a very minor character but it would have been quite a thing if they had bumped off Cynthia. I thought that titbit and the fact she was pregnant in real life should keep me in beer and cigarettes for a bit.

How was I to know that Soap Weekly had been taken over by the TV company? I found out as soon as I sent the story in. Bang went my job in security. Still, at least they weren’t going to kill me off.

Derek McMillan lives in Durrington with his wife, Angela, who is also his editor. His book, The Miranda Revolution, is available from all good bookshops or from your library.

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 average 2.6 stars • 27 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    An enjoyable, though to an extent predictable, read. I must admit, I thought the narrator was female until I got to the beer and cigarettes, which are largely, though not exclusively, a male preserve.

  • Ok, I saw this coming a mile away… Like seriously, from the second she responded callously.
    Sometimes a predictable ending is fine. But this was just too shallow of a tale to really draw me in. As soon as I guessed the ending I sped up and started getting bored, looking for another hook, since the initial hook’s curiosity only lasted one sentence.

    2 stars

  • Michael Snyder

    Good story. I’ll admit I did not see the end coming…but I rarely do as my first reads tend to focus more on language and rhythm and atmosphere and such. I do think the overall telling of the tale might benefit from more oblique dialog. At times, it did feel like characters were overstating some of the details via the use complete/formal sentences. If indeed the goal was to hide the ending, I think some strategic fragmented banter might aid and abet the misdirection. I did really enjoy hearing the blonds casually exchanging diabolical lines though. And the structure and pacing were right on. All in all, well done.

    • You intentionally read each story more than once?

      If I have to read something more than once to comprehend it I automatically deduct a star from the rating.

      To each their own.

      I agree that the dialogue was overly generous with details. It seemed inauthentic as a result.

      The suicide blonde joke was a good takeaway, though 🙂

      • Michael Snyder

        Good question and good point. With flash fiction, I do typically read things more than once. But if the piece is fifteen hundred words or more, the author kind of has to drag me headlong into the story the first time around. I’ve been known to give up on confusing stories, whether it’s the author’s fault or mine as the reader.

        I do believe it’s the writer’s job (looking at me here!) to convey what’s needed to tell a complete story. However, with a lot of flash, the word restrictions sometimes necessitate certain omissions. So oftentimes the title may be part of the story, and something I cannot appreciate until I get to the end. Plus, there’s the human factor (looking at me again!). I tend to focus on language and style with shorter pieces, then have to circle back sometimes to figure out the larger point (if there is one).

        Ultimately, I agree with your point however. The onus is on the writer to keep things interesting, refrain from divulging too much, and provide the necessary payoff. Just wish I were a little better at all of it.

        • I’m of the school of thought that if you have to make omissions to the point of damaging the story in order to hit 1000 words then you should publish it elsewhere as it is not a good piece for flash fiction pages, and then tell a new story that IS a flash piece.

      • S Conroy

        I do.
        Sometimes the author is just more devious/clever than I am as a reader and I miss clues first time round. For some very good stories I’m too busy romping about in the writing style to catch an important plot event.
        If I don’t like a story, I tend to give the writer the benefit of the doubt and give it a reread to see if I’ve misundertood something.

        • I don’t go into reading any story with the intention of needing a second read through. If I don’t understand it I will, in many cases, reread it to try and see what the editors saw in it and as a respect to a fellow writer, but I always take that as a strike against the story…ie four stars is the absolute best rating I would give a confusing story, no matter how good it turned out to be in the reread.

          If I reread something because I understood it and liked it the first time, but wanted to see if there were certain nuances I might glean, and pick up something new that makes it better, then I don’t count that as a negative mark.

          • S Conroy

            Would you dock it even if the author put in a clue that was gettable, but you for one of many possible reasons didn’t happen to get it?

          • I mentioned already that if the story is good and I reread it for extra insight I won’t dock it.

            If a story lives and dies on one ambiguous clue that, to me, means the story wasn’t entertaining.

            I look at it like this:

            Fight Club was filled with clues to the fact that Durden was a figment, but the movie was good without knowing that and finding out at the end was an aha moment. Then watching it again was great because you catch all the clues full on.

            If the movie was just a barrage of confusion and beautiful stage dressing and was only good AFTER finding out the ending, then rewatching it with the ending in mind, I’d likely never know because I wont watch a film twice if it sucks. A flash piece I WILL suffer through to look for those clues, because it takes only a moment, but it can never get my highest rating due to my personal belief that reading should be entertaining and not “work.”
            Just my opinion, though.

          • S Conroy

            Fair enough. Thanks for the clarification. I’m not so sure I disagree when you put it like that. If it’s a Non-ambiguous clue where I think, ‘shoulda got that’ and I’ve enjoyed the style and tone of the story, then I find it’s not the writing but the reading that’s lacking.

          • Also, and I don’t think my original question was clear. I asked if you intentionally read a story twice. I guess what I meant to ask was if you go into each story with the intention of reading it twice. The first read-through being to look at language and grammar or whatever you said?

            To me that seems ridiculous. That seems like throwing in a movie with the volume muted so that you can watch the actors perform and look at the setting really closely, and then watching it a second time to hear the dialogue. That might not be a good analogy, but my point is that going into reading a story with the intention of not fully understanding it on the first read-through by hyper focusing on one aspect and ignoring others seems like a giant waste of time and I see no drivable pleasure in that.

          • Michael Snyder

            Sorry, is that question for me or for S Conroy?

          • Yes 🙂

            You both responded to my original question… And I’m afraid I don’t know how to properly use Disqus lol

          • Michael Snyder

            Trust me, I get it! I’m new around here and certainly haven’t found my groove with Disqus.

            To your question…I don’t have any hard and fast rules about reading stories once or twice (or more). The vast majority of flash stories don’t really hold my interest and I don’t even finish them once. For works up to a couple of thousand words, I will very likely read them again if I enjoyed the writing or if I feel like I missed something. For stories of 500 words or less, if I finish it once I will likely read it a handful of times. For a story that condensed to really work, the whole must be greater than the some of its syllables (kinda like poetry). And as such, i want to dig for whatever gold I may have missed on the first pass. So as frustrating an answer as it may be…it depends!

            And if I happen to focus on one particular part of writing over another, it’s not intentional. No matter how hard I try, I have to listen to a song thirty times before I remember to focus to the lyrics!

            And if you’ll indulge me (and please read this with the playful tone intended…I’m really not offended and would have zero issues telling you if I were!). Your anecdote about the movie with the sound down puzzles me…as does much of the story critique I find here on EDF. For you to find the way I might engage with stories “ridiculous” presupposes that you’re imposing your expectations on my reading habits, then casting judgment. That seems to happen a lot (by other critiques, nor yours specifically) where writers on EDF get lambasted for not meeting a particular reader’s specific story expectations. When reading, my intent is to obviously understand it all in one pass. Sometimes I’m not that smart. Or I get distracted along the way by weak dialog or a brilliant metaphor or one of my kids asking a question. I’m the first to admit just how ridiculous I can be, but I try not to waste time when reading!

            Hope that helps clarify.

          • Yep. And I wasn’t intending to be brash in saying that seems ridiculous, I misunderstood your initial statement to mean that you don’t seek understanding on first read through because your focus is on atmosphere, etc.

          • Michael Snyder

            I figured. And thanks for the healthy internet exchange. Even among writers it can be hard to say (and hear) what everyone means. But I knew you weren’t being brash or meaning offense. So I appreciate you letting me use your example to make the larger point about some of the critique on the site that seems a bit harsher-than-quite-necessary at times. Now I’m going to go do a search and see if there are MDT stories posted on the site.

          • They are old and under my pseudonym, Dirk Knight

          • Michael Snyder

            Cool. That will help and thanks. I did find Barrels and Sarah is spot on. Reeks of authenticity. And that’s high praise in my book. Some downright enviable prose in places too. (And I took it all in in one reading too!)

          • The other is One More Bullet

          • Also, a lot of my work is available at mdthalmann dot com

        • Guilty. But it is okay with me whether I don’t understand or I love it to death, reading flash twice, brings me up to speed.

      • Michael Snyder

        Had another thought about all this habitual rereading business…Maybe what I should have said is that, selfishly speaking, I try to read everything as naively as possible, granting the writer trust from word one that he/she knows what they’re doing. From that first line however, the onus is on the writer to earn it and keep it, line by line. In other words, I want to read like a reader, not like an editor…at least on the first pass.

        So when I’m reading something on EDF and have that uncertain feeling that I’m missing something, I really do want the problem to be me. So I’ll continue to give the benefit of the doubt and hope there’s some kind of payoff that brings it all together for me.

        In truth, it rarely turns out that way.

        But I think that’s why I reread so many stories…because I proudly don the gullible hat on the first pass and invite the author to take me on an interesting ride. If the payoff isn’t there but I’m sufficiently intrigued, I may take another pass. If I’m lost and insufficiently intrigued, I open one of my stories and start typing.

  • S Conroy

    I caught on a bit too soon, but not right away. It definitely had it’s moments and I liked the extra twist at the end. My favourite Derek McMillan story is still “the Best of Pies”.

  • For me, the story died in the first paragraph due to the writing:

    “I was sitting in the canteen minding my own business. I had a coffee and a crossword. I swear I wasn’t earwigging, it was just that what she said was arresting.”

    was had wasn’t was was.

    I didn’t catch the story until the end. As I read each element, I kept mumbling, “Huh?” “Huh?”

    The crimes and follies needed some intrigue to suck the reader in.

    Derek, you are a much better writer than this. 🙁


  • Nice light read with my breakfast tea. Brought a smile, and on a Monday morning, what more could one ask. 4****

  • Nasty Old Critic

    Hi Derek,

    I hope I don’t offend you, so I apologise in advance if I write anything you feel is a bit harsh. Here goes…

    I too guessed quickly that the two blondes were actors/characters in another story. It was actually this double-layering of character and story that initially held my interest, hoping for more plot twists to come, as in a “real” soap opera. Sadly, for me, too much of the melodrama was “second-hand news” in the dialogue, and I thought the ending went “flat” – too suburban, too safe, too normal. I was disappointed. I had hoped for something more interesting, more dramatic, more suited to soap opera.

    Maybe you could have had one of the blondes actually poison/murder/attack the other blonde in real life, right there in the café, maybe because she was sleeping with the director in real life, and was going to get a better part? Unlikely, perhaps, as I think the director might be gay – “flamboyant”, “made an entrance” and “he laughed gaily”, but who knows? Maybe the director was in the closet, and secretly terrified that the other blonde actress would “out” him. The dramatic possibilities are endless…

    Personally (and it is just my opinion), I think you could have lifted the whole earwigging/eavesdropping melodrama into real-life melodrama. There was massive room here for much more conflict and tension. Actresses are notoriously jealous of each other (just look at Bette Davis and Joan Crawford). I think you might have slotted in some scathing sarcasm and vicious repartee (point-scoring galore and stinging personal remarks generally go hand-in-hand with soap operas).
    Or maybe a crazed gunman could have just popped up out of nowhere and started shooting at random (perhaps a long-forgotten, ex-boyfriend blinded by jealous rage?…), hopefully hitting the narrator so he does actually die, but (in the way of soap opera) lives just long enough to give his little moral piece (re-written to suit a more interesting plot) at the end as he gasps his dying breath. Maybe you could kill off the camp director as well?…

    To be honest, I thought it was a bit tame, or dull, or boring, for a story about a soap opera. I think you missed glaring opportunities for a magnificent galloping romp through the world of melodrama, blurring the barriers between character, fiction, and reality, and then finally (if you still wished) stitching on a moralising bit on at the end.

    How long did it take to write? I get a sense of it being thrown together quickly, just well enough to get published. In tone and style it was slightly guarded, reminding me of the kind of safe, sensible short story you might find in the English magazine aimed at elderly women called Peoples’ Friend. If it wasn’t that exciting, neither was it too offensive. Considering the inherent possibilities of the subject matter, you might well call this story bland – the flash fiction equivalent of blancmange.

    In short, it is basically a simple moral tale – don’t go around eavesdropping and then trying to sell the story, or something bad will happen to you, like losing your job. I don’t think Alexis Carrington Colby would have approved. It just wasn’t interesting enough. Dallas and Dynasty this story ain’t.
    So, there you are. I think this was a case of “wasted potential”. I think you could have done much more with the subject matter, and made the story much more interesting. Sorry, Derek, but the moralising ending went flat for me.

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I often have the suspicion–and I do not attribute this to deliberate writer intent but to subconscious value systems–that submitters do not always take EDF as seriously as they ought. This is only my opinion, of course. But I’ve often been very surprised by the quality of stories here by well-known, or better-known, or somewhat celebrated authors, as though they needn’t send in their best work to a place that pays only three dollars.

      And that they think readers who expect or look for complexity and depth of flavor in their morning morsel are just demanding more than they paid for.

      All I know is what the editors keep telling us–that EDF is a professional publication. So I, as a reader, expect stories that someone might have, if they’d had the budget to do so, paid a heck of a lot more than three bucks.

      • Probably an accurate assessment, but another possibility is that they had a good story once, and keep chasing the dragon trying new things.
        The first story I ever wrote for flash was barrels and I wrote it on a notepad while my family was celebrating something because the story just came to me in a Flash. Pun not intended. But then I wrote and submitted a bunch of other stories in an attempt to make them Flash and they were not as good. Since then my skill level has increased and I feel comfortable writing Flash very often, but in the beginning I had a bunch of stories that I was trying to wedge into flash format.

        • As a matter of fact I have three stories in slush right now. One of which was written three years ago and two of which were written last month. I can guarantee you that if you were to read all 3 you would know which ones were more recent simply because of the skill.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            I remembered “Barrels” as soon as I realized who MDT was, and went back to reread it, and was struck again by its essential core of truthfulness, which is the alchemist’s stone for writers, and the polishing is only technical proficiency which is secondary to the first.

            It’s also possible to polish the life out of something. So I slightly disagree with your premise here.

          • Well, as long as it’s only slight 😛

      • Michael Snyder

        Your suspicion could be spot on, Sarah. I’m new around here and haven’t quite sorted things out yet.

        I would assume (and hope!) that writers are putting their best literary foot forward, regardless of where they submit. It would be sad otherwise.

        But assuming that folks may not be submitting their “best” work to EDF, or not taking it seriously enough…I wonder if the comments section might be a factor? I’ve read dozens of online journals and EDF is one of the few where folks seem downright eager to chime in with overly harsh criticism. From regurgitating “the rules” to suggesting comprehensive rewrites to deeming works a “waste” of time or talent. All writers know the difficulty in writing stories, even not-so-great ones. But publicly ridiculing stories is easy.

        Could it be that writers are sending their “best” stuff to other journals first, knowing that they won’t have to endure all the nit-picking? “Getting published” is kind of a big deal. It seems here that some of the critique is the literary equivalent of taking a wee in the writer’s Alpha Bits. Up one minute, and way, way down the next. Of course this is all hypothetical and I have no way of knowing. But as a recent observer, it sure seems plausible.

        (Case in point…as I was typing this response–literally, about two minutes ago–I received an acceptance for a story. It’s a GREAT feeling, and one that will likely not be trodden to death in the comments section of the journal publishing it. My expectation is that most people reading the story won’t like it all that much. To each his own.)

        There could be a diminishing returns thing at work here too. Bashing stories is just one short step away from bashing the editors who vet the stories. And I’ve seen a good many forums/journals crumble under the weight of such constant criticism. That would be a real bummer for those enjoying EDF.

        Btw, I’m all for rigorous critique, both giving and receiving. So I wonder if there might be some way to assemble a sub-forum where the all that rigorous critique might happen before the stories are published? Seems that everyone involved might benefit.

        (And my sincere apologies to Derek for helping hijack the comment sections to talk about things other than the original story! And lastly, although this comment was originally addressed to Sarah, but it quickly spiraled into the broadest of observations. So I’m not singling out any one person. And certainly not Sarah…that lady can write!)

        • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

          My feeling as a writer is–yeah, I really do want to know what you think. As a human being with the normal range of feelings, I hate when someone doesn’t like my story. I hate it more when they don’t tell me why (and the star ratings of course let you understand the amount of individual hatred trying to gobble up any praise, and vice versa…).

          As a writer–if I didn’t believe in my story I wouldn’t have sent it in. But that’s just my own, creating-angle, viewpoint, and if pleasing myself was all I thought necessary (since I’m not making a living at this), I could just keep a collection, and purr over it.

          In my experience, when you get a bad review, you get really annoyed, and think that person is a troglodyte pea-thinker incapable of grasping the myriad nuances of your genius, and can be scornfully dismissed.

          Then you start to get the uneasy feeling that maybe your story could be better, or that the next time you should use a more effective technique for making your point, or maybe whenever you think you’ve been really clever, you’ve really just been tiresomely smug, and should drop that narrative voice and get a better one.

          And I think many writers are part of local groups, or seminars, or classes, or whatever, where genuine honesty is impossible to sustain if you want to sustain friendships or keep people enrolling in your product. The value of a place like this is–if someone says they love my story, I have reason to believe that is actually true, and if they say they hate it, that is likely to be true (but if they just show they hate it I suspect I can with little loss of introspective benefit not pay very much attention).

          When I respond as a reader to anyone’s story, it’s with the honest reaction the story engendered in me. And though many may disagree with this: if a writer can’t handle the genuine reaction of a disembodied commenter in cyberspace, he’s not gonna stand up well to a legitimate agent, or reputable publisher. If you’re serious about writing, you need to grow scabs and calluses. Writing is hard work, the art of the craft, like any hard physical labor. It’s not fun. And if a bad reception to something doesn’t make you bandage yourself and then get up and write harder, in my opinion don’t blame the reader.

          One reason I feel free to be free with my feelings is that my stuff is out here too, and anyone can have at it. I’m not insulated in anonymity, cackling over my keyboard, or something. I’m as much in the line of fire as anyone else.

          And thanks, Michael, for liking my stuff…

          • Michael Snyder

            Sorry, Sarah. I typed up probably a more thoughtful response and was interrupted. Then it went Poof! (And trust me, it was brilliant and insightful and…)

            I don’t disagree with you much at all. And I would certainly welcome your critique of my stories as you have tremendous insight, command of language, and you always seem to be wearing your thinking hat to the critique table.

            And that’s probably my main gripe with some of the more harsh crits. The writer spends countless hours (hopefully!) crafting a story, learns of the acceptance/pub date, and does their own little version of the writer dance. Then the comments that seemed to be quick castoffs, but have the potential to land as soul-crushing blows. I just think it’s wiser (in most endeavors) to think before hitting send, and try to remember what it was like to get that first story or two published.

            Typing fast. Hope that makes sense…

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Gosh. And here I thought you were intending to attempt to civilize me, since I seem to be regarded as the most [insert superlatively awful word of your choice] commenter ever (though a quick read of comments prior to, say, 2012 would indicate at least one reader in a worse circle of Hell than I…)

            Perhaps the comments that strike you as quick castoffs are a reader’s first visceral reaction to a story rather than a troll’s club of destruction. Those can be valuable clues to the weight of certain word choices, or stereotypical depictions, or how differently different people can react to sexually-charged scenes.

            But–again–this isn’t the HS literary club. It’s a place for people who seriously love words and what they can do (and I see the irony of that, in light of our subject…), It’s also a place for people who just want to get through that cup of coffee without having to think about their 9:30 meeting, and a bit of light distraction is all they want to see on their plate. And if an author is allergic to commentary, he or she can just check the ratings and not scroll down further, I think. (Yeah, who’s got the self-control for THAT?!)

          • Michael Snyder

            “Perhaps the comments that strike you as quick castoffs are a reader’s first visceral reaction to a story rather than a troll’s club of destruction.”

            See? Right there…

            You can disagree with me all day long, and I’ll smile right along with you, because of well-crafted comments like that. Four stars (I detracted one because you didn’t agree with me!)

            And I get your point about the HS literary club. Where I land (and this is just me) is that if I can figure out a way to express my critique in a way that’s a bit less bludgeoning, then it’s a win/win. The writer will get the intended information without needing to dial their therapist. And I hone my skills the merest bit by ignoring that first impulse and actually crafting a response (which I didn’t do here as I’m just typing fast…).

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            I thank God that EDF switched to Disqus for facilitation of comments because I can edit away the worst of my visceral reactions as even I might sometimes deem reasonable…

          • S Conroy


        • It is the removal of those nits that can take a good story to a better story, a better story to a great story. Regardless of the tone criticism is wrapped in, I cannot recall a single suggestion to remove a nit that didn’t have merit.

          Whether the author chooses to agree is another matter.

          • Michael Snyder

            I would say it depends…

            Whether or not said removal of a particular nit is actually helpful…would be in the eye of the beholder. If you write a story and I offer a nit-picky suggestion, to me that’s a tie. And in this case, the tie goes to the writer who spent hour-upon-hour crafting the story. I typically try to give the writer the benefit of the doubt (as well as the editor). So going from good to great via critique is subjective as the story itself (in my opinion).

            But the nit-picky stuff is not my biggest concern. Since you asked…and sense you seem tough and can take it (insert smiley face thingie here!)…I take issue with these kinds of crits: “Uninteresting people doing uninteresting things make for an uninteresting story.”

            First, it’s clever. It made me laugh. But then immediately I was offended for the writer (and still am if I think about it). I don’t remember who the writer was or which story, however, this kind of “critique” offers nothing in the way of help, save for the singular word “uninteresting.”

            But is that really the best way to offer that up? Wouldn’t be just as effective and not nearly as harsh to say, “This story didn’t hold my interest. And here’s why…”

            I’m picking on this comment because it’s easy and short (and yours!).

            I’ve just seen a lot of comments that do not seem to offer any insight or help other than (perhaps) to make the person typing the crit look/feel good.

            I don’t mean to make this a crusade. But as a reasonable person having just found EDF, I nearly shut it down and moved on when I perused various comments section. I suspect I’m not alone. And that’s sad because it seems like there’s some really cool stuff happening here. Anyhow, thanks for listening…

          • “Uninteresting people doing uninteresting things make for an uninteresting story.”

            I reads pretty succinct to me.

            I am certain if there was a book named “Writing for Dummies” it would include the following:

            Write about interesting people.
            Have them doing something interesting.
            Don’t bore your reader.

            To me it seems that these elements don’t need explaining. But that might be a “just me” observation.

        • S Conroy

          Interesting discussion.
          I really hope authors aren’t abandonning EDF based on the discussions, but if I’m honest, I do agree that authors here need to have a slightly thicker skin than they would in a print publication or a format where there is no forum for commentary.
          On the upside, if they can develop that extra layer, the payoff can be well-worth it at times (not always of course).
          I think if you stick with EDF long enough, you also get a sense of where the critics lie on the hawk-dove scale, which can be useful in assessing comments.
          I like the balance in your own comments, so hope you stick around.

          • Michael Snyder

            Thank you, S Conroy. I really appreciate that and do plan to stick around until I’m told to take a hike.

            And to be super crystal clear…I have not heard from anyone with regards to anything pertaining to the comments section here at EDF. I’ve just commented on what I’ve seen first hand in the actual comments. So I could be WAY off base thinking that folks might be turned off by some of the harsh criticism (wouldn’t be the first time today I’ve been dead wrong about something…). However, I have seen it before and would hate to see it here.

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            Michael: this is a perennial–or seasonal–or cyclical–or outbreak–that the editors address when emotions overspill, because there is always a commenter who declares that those of sensibilities like mine are chasing people away from EDF, and the editors observe that as long as we don’t devolve to personal attacks (of which I am sometimes accused but a thorough examination of my Disqus history will prove to be a vile I say vile calumny), no one has overstepped the guidelines, and readers and authors come and go, and come and go.

            I am very much enjoying your presence here and hope you will hang on manfully no matter what horrors may come.

          • Michael Snyder

            Makes total sense. And at the end of the day, I am totally cool with whatever rules/customs/norms/etc. are established and followed by any particular online haunt. What we all learned in third grade holds true today…If you don’t like it, you’re free to go find another sandbox on a different playground. For a number of reasons, I took the last few years off, other than writing emails for work. Now I’m back to writing every day and trying to find my sea legs again, as it were. If I haven’t offended anyone yet, I plan to hang around and contribute whenever/wherever I can. And I REALLY appreciate the kind words!

          • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

            I promise this is my last remark. Today.

            The glory of EDF is that it serves a broad (rather than genre-focused) audience. So there’s always something for someone, but maybe not every day, or even most days.

            It doesn’t take long to figure out what people’s tastes are. So the person whose toenails are peeling back from what that person thinks a wretchedly sentimental story that maybe lots of other people love) will be the person who is left breathless by a story that maybe three other people like too.

            And what seems to drive some people completely up a wall of their own construction is a difference of opinion, even when there’s no attempt to demand some sort of consensus of opinion. You (the general “you”) like something? That’s fine! But I don’t need to. Why do you (the general “you”) need my concurrence to validate your opinion?


  • Oh, the drama, the drama, can’t stand the drama.

  • Darius Bott

    I thought it was a good gag whose laugh lines weren’t fully tapped. The narrator struck me as the wrong man for the job. A security guard working at the tv studio would have known straight away the true nature of this conversation – so why’s he playing so cute with us? Personally I would have made the narrator an hysterical nong and gone for maximum madness – the subject matter was crying out for it.