Some Popular Wisdom Charlie Sheen Should Consider

When a celebrity flames out-and this was damned impressive as far as flameouts go-why does the star in question (or in rehab) so often blame everyone but himself for his misbehavior? Even more disturbing, the character Charlie Sheen plays on Two and a Half Men is basically Charlie Sheen without the ex-wife, the kids, or the consequences of his actions. As I thought about him, and the crap he keeps pulling (the women he threatened, the drugs, the drinking, the egomania), cliché by cliché kept popping into my head. You know, that common wisdom people tell you when you screw up. So here are a few things Sheen may want to consider the next time he schedules an interview with TMZ:

1. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Seriously. Calling his producer a charlatan, a troll, and a turd, and worse? The man who made Sheen’s drug-, booze- and porn star-infested lifestyle possible? Save it for the tell-all. And please, please, hire this woman to write it.

2. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. During his tantrums, where he repeatedly provoked producer Chuck Lorre by using his Hebrew name, Sheen apparently forgot that his real name is Carlos Estevez. But when anyone brings this up, he claims they are anti-Latino. He denies his own roots in the quest for the almighty dollar, and then calls other people anti-Latino? Okay, put that on the list for things to talk over with Dr. Drew.

3. Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. That means rehab, buddy. And not the drive-through variety or the kind he can do in the comfort of his own home with his Little Therapist Nanosecond Addiction-Cure Kit. Sheen’s case is more serious than that.

4. Little pitchers have big ears. Like it or not, he has kids. If he’s going to do blow with hookers and porn stars, don’t bring the kids to the same hotel.

5. Money doesn’t grow on trees. Or perhaps in that strange, little world inside his head, it does.

6. Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt. This one speaks for itself, don’t you think, Mr. Bayonet Arms? And if he’s so pissed about the media getting it wrong and maligning him, pull a Sarah Palin and STOP talking to them!

7. Don’t get caught with your pants down. See number six.

8. A fool and his money are soon parted. So are fools and their contracts.

9. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. If you have any doubt, consider this statement, from his rant on Alex Jones’ radio show: “I got magic and I got poetry at my fingertips and I’m, y’ know, most of the time – and this includes naps – I am an F-18, bro, and I will destroy you in the air and I will deploy my ordnance to the ground.” Either he’s practicing for his next career as a rapper, or he’s on a serious power trip. Hey, it’s called Two and a Half Men, not One Guy With a Bunch of Supporting Characters. Who, by the way, helped make Sheen very rich. Do you see Jon Cryer or Conchata Ferrell out there having tantrums or rapping on the radio? No.

Here’s a few more clichés for Charlie Sheen: Hasta la vista, baby. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out. No soup for you. Next!

Five Reasons Why I Hate Your Web Site

I’m a writer, which means I spend a lot of time on Facebook and reading my friend’s blogs doing research on the web. Consequently, I must have landed on more pages than ex-Senator Mark Foley. Many of these sites are great, and I can get what I need quickly and easily and get on with my article about the medicinal value of Madagascar hissing cockroaches. Some sites, however, have ticked me off so thoroughly that I’ve vowed never to return. Here’s what I hate about your web site:

1. You make me give up my e-mail address just so I can read your content. This is so wrong. Not only does that input window block everything I want to read (I imagine that’s its purpose), but it immediately raises all kinds of red flags. What’s going on? What are you hiding from me? Is your confidence in your content so low you won’t think I’d add myself voluntarily to your mailing list? Because I’m easy that way. I’ve come to your site of my own volition, probably because I thought I’d find something useful or interesting there. All you had to do was ask for my addy. Now, I won’t give it to you, no way, no how. So there.

2. Things blink and flash at me. This is obnoxious. Cut it out. Tell the advertisers on your website to cut it out. It makes you look cheap and spammy, and not like a place I, nor my editors, trust for reliable information.

3. Your color scheme is atrocious. Science backs me up; some color combinations make text more readable than others. Also, like many other people navigating around the web, I no longer have 20-year-old eyes. Forcing me to read gray content on a white background does not make me very happy with you. If there’s absolutely nothing you can do about your color scheme, at least offer a “print article” button that puts your content in an easy-to-read, lovely, black-on-white format.

4. Your embedded media starts up without my say-so. I liked your direct mail piece enough to click through to your website. I liked your headline enough to keep reading. But then, into the serenity of my writing room comes blaring music or a bright, chipper voice extolling the virtues of your upcoming FREE webinar. Sorry. I won’t be attending. Give me the option of hitting the “start” button next time.

5. Your ad claims are egregious. I’m not stupid. I know there are no miracle cures for certain diseases, and there is simply not one thing I need to do to eliminate belly fat. When I see stuff like that, I want to run. Which is probably the one thing you need to do to eliminate belly fat.

What are your web-surfing deal breakers? Let me know! Maybe if enough of us get together on this, we can make them stop.

What Is Your Character’s Deepest Desire?

Maybe you’ve heard this canard tossed about in writing conferences or on writing blogs: your protagonist has to want something.

So, what the heck does that mean? Isn’t it enough, you might think, to just tell the story?

Well, technically. That’s the bare bones of the beast. But to really make your fiction pop, your protagonist needs a compelling goal that will keep readers turning pages to see how he or she is going to achieve such a seemingly impossible task.

Think about some of your favorite and most riveting novels. The ones that kept you up past your bedtime, while you read another chapter and another chapter and another chapter. The protagonist probably wants something desperately, deeply, and so badly that he or she would be willing to sacrifice anything up to and including his or her life.

For example, in Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, one of the protagonists, Miss Skeeter, desperately wants to tell the stories of the African-American women who work as maids in the racially-charged environment of 1960s Mississippi, where the consequences of telling these stories could mean getting the maids fired or imprisoned. She wants this so badly that she turns her back on societal expectations of a white woman in that time and place and finds herself ostracized by her former friends. But she still does it. And we keep reading because we want her to achieve that goal.

For the two young Afghani women at the center of Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns, their desire is to stay alive in their war-torn country under the thumb of various oppressive and violent regimes. As readers, we’ve developed sympathy for them and pull for them to succeed.

This overarching desire doesn’t always require bigger-than-big heroic action. It could be quieter, but still as compelling. The protagonist of Anne Tyler’s The Accidental Tourist just wants to get on with his life after losing his son in a random shooting. The nonagenarian nursing home resident of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants just wants to tell the story of his amazing life with the circus.

What about your protagonist? Is it an old score he wants to settle? An unmet desire?  Curiosity about the path not taken, when she meets an old friend who took it? (This is basically both protagonists’ desires in the film, The Turning Point. Excellent rental, by the way.) Or is your hero in danger and looking to escape? If you’re writing literary fiction or something with a more character-driven plot, see what drives your character. This should give you some hints about what’s important, what’s worth leaving the comfort of his or her daily existence for, and maybe, what’s worth risking everything for.

Still have no idea what your protagonist wants? Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Try this writing exercise that’s really worked for me. Get into a quiet place, where you won’t be disturbed. Take a few deep breaths, and imagine that your protagonist is sitting right next to you. Fill in as much detail as you can in your mind, down to what he or she is wearing, and even the subtle gestures this character makes. Then do a little interview. Ask your protagonist what he or she wants. Be patient and pay attention. What you learn might surprise you.

What are some of your favorite protagonists from the novels you’ve read? What moves them? What do they want? What keeps you turning the page?

More Wordplay

Here’s some fun wordplay to shake your brain around. Open a new document, close your eyes and type the FIRST WORD or PHRASE that comes into your head that starts with A.  Add a space after it and immediately type the first word that comes into your head that starts with B. Keep going. Don’t think, just type the first thing that pops into your head. Don’t worry about skipping letters or repeating themes or patterns. Do as many rounds as you want until you start to feel giddy and brazen, or until you are typing random strings of letters that, while spelling a fine and even heroic word in Old Norse, couldn’t pass for English in any subculture of the English-speaking world. Here are some of mine:

androgyny Battista California Denmark England first gunfight hostage indescribable  jackass  Kalamazoo  meddle  Nancy Reagan  Oscar the Grouch  proofreader  question  Rastafarian  Satan  Tony Award  underling  West Coast  X-Ray  yellow fever  Zulu

apple beast  chastity  devil  equine  festive ghostly harridan  internal  Jason Ritter  Kraft Macaroni and Cheese  Louisiana  manatee  nuts  open  Pasha  queue  root beer  seditious  truck  undervalue  vestigal  wiggle room  xenon  yowl  zither

androgynous  Babylon  carrot  dolomite  elephant  Fashion Week  ghastly  horrific  indescribable  jackal  kickball  locomotive  Mouseketeer  nicety  opinionated  pup  query  rendezvous  storyline  trackball  underling  vast  worldly  Xerxes  Yahtzee  Zabar’s

ask better cherry dogma estuary flash gerund hello indolence jasmine Kremlin lollipop mastodon nevermore opine pistachio querulous rotund stalagmite truculent undermine veronica wishbone Xavier yesterday zephyr

Want to give it a try? Let’s see some of yours!