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Venting Your Frustrations Needs Elegance

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Sept. 3, 2022

So it came to my attention that J.K. Rowling has taken revenge against her ‘internet trolls’ by writing a new book called The Ink Black Heart. According to reviews (I haven't read the book) the plot of the book reflects the author's experience of mass-condemnation over her views on trans people and trans activism. Needless to say, the ‘trolls’ were delighted at the new fodder they were given, and I'm sure they'd love to be featured in the next installment in the particular series.

Since I haven't read the book (and don't intend to), I can't speak to the quality of the writing or anything like that. What I can definitely see, though, from the fact that a significant majority of the reviews focus on how the entire plot is a thinly veiled rant about how she was harrowed by internet trolls or persecuted/doxxed/cancelled by people that took offense to her stance and views on a very delicate issue, is that she took to the whole thing with a sledgehammer when she ought to have used a chisel.

It's not a new thing or even a rare thing that an author vents their frustrations, advocates their positions, and generally amplifies their wishes, wants, needs, and wishful thinking through their work. There are even mugs about it:

The point though is to be elegant about it, rather than a wrecking ball.

The best approach for such a thing would be to make sure you don't opt for the 2-dimensional, really one-note protagonist/antagonist pair: show your readership that you have paused to consider the angle of the character representing who you want to vent about or who you want to trash.

Then, you make sure your protagonist (the one that will be doing the trashing) actually has the moral high ground OR can justify their position in such a way that they are the better answer in the conundrum presented by the strife between them and the antagonist. That would require that the protagonist's views also have pros and cons, but the pros outweigh the cons for some reason based in grounded reality.

An excellent example of such a thing done right is Marvel's Civil War comics. I doubt anyone was venting there, but they do present opposing sides in ways that don't cartoonishly villify either, which IS the way to go when you want to vent without further polarizing or alienating your readership.

Once that is established, then you show the antagonist go too far and in going too far they cross a line that ends up making them the villain or at least the one in the wrong. That doesn't mean that your audience will necessarily side with you (especially if they are the ones being cast as the antagonist/villains) but you have a fighting chance to make them consider that going too far is, actually, going too far.

That, at least in my opinion, is venting with elegance. Does it guarantee satisfaction to the author? Depends on their personality I guess, and how much the emotions are still raw regarding whatever it is they're venting about.

Does it guarantee that the targets of the rant/vent will come around? Absolutely not. But they may not be able to call the author out like Rowling has been now.

Finally, a last tidbit:if you vent about something that happened to you in a story that is almost identical to what transpired, with the people that angered you as the villains and your self-insert as the hero, perhaps don't go on the record with quotes like this: “I should make it really clear after some of the things that have happened the last year that this is not depicting that,”

A. Nobody is going to buy it even if it's true
B. Everyone is going to consider it confirmation for the opposite.

So that's what I wanted to say- but I feel I can't wrap up without a small ‘addendum’ if you like…

On the actual issue of Rowling's stance on trans rights, I only have one thing to say: I am a professional in the mental health and education field, with a Master's degree in Applied Educational Psychology and a lot of extra research credits on how an individual develops within a society's circles, how they are influenced, and so on (Ecological Systems Theory, if anyone's curious). I have looked into and keep looking into the transsexual phenomenon among other things for quite a few years and I still don't feel confident to have a solid opinion or stance on things Ms. Rowling comes across as factually adamant about. The only thing I'm confident about is that a) if it doesn't harm others b) if it doesn't harm you c) if it helps you be happy, constructively functional, and constantly evolving towards actualization, what you do is none of my business. My business is to make sure you have access to it. That's all.

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Ironscarf at 5:32PM, Sept. 5, 2022

Oh don't worry about that! Even if we manage to focus on all that tiny text for long enough to take it in (and that's a big if), there's very little chance any of it will be retained tomorrow.

Amelius at 11:01AM, Sept. 5, 2022

Also, I know tone is hard to detect in text posts so know this isn't a "yelling at you" response just because it's a lot, but I do think you need to understand some things because I find it troubling how much bad info you repeated there, we have impressionable old folks here!

Amelius at 10:30AM, Sept. 5, 2022

ya can't make compromise with people who are suggesting genocide is the solution to "the trans issue" and anyone who defers to that in any way is NOT an ally, no matter how much you want to play nice with violent bigots. Log Cabin Republicans learned they weren't welcome even when they were willing to sell out other gays for the conservative party. Radfems siding with actual far-right movements then getting shocked when the leaders of those movements turn out to be violently anti-feminist (surprising no one but them). Candace Owens is black but she's happy to lie about slavery and racism in America. If black folks criticize her, it's not "tearing the black community apart!" I mean, what is the prescription here? Smile and let people spread misinformation that damages your movement? I certainly don't believe in call-out culture where dragging someone is the FIRST thing you do when someone screws up, but there's only so many screw ups until it becomes a pattern of behavior.

Amelius at 10:17AM, Sept. 5, 2022

And it's not the LGBTQA tearing itself apart, it's tradfems and nazis infiltrating the groups and sowing discontent the way they always do-- from TERFs with "Queer is a slur" campaigns to separate the "undesirables" (as in, the enbys, trans, asexuals and bi/pan an so on) and nazis having a panic that queer acceptance hasn't been this high since the Wiemar republic and you know what happened last time queers and women started getting acceptance-- dismantle the health clinics, burn the books, ban the language (this is all happening NOW) More transgender folks die by suicide, and violent crime (gay panic defense ring a bell?) perpetuated by reactionary conservatives than are "bullied to death by their fellow trans!" so that claim is ridiculous. Kiwifarms literally exists just to bully transgender people to death. You know why it can't be "make love, not war" anymore? Because look at the side you picked to defend here, liars and hatemongers, you're not on sidelines, you picked a side.

Amelius at 10:01AM, Sept. 5, 2022

@TheJagged: Yeah for real, being trans doesn't get him a "get out of criticism free" card for repeating transphobic talking points? Believe it or not, the world is full of "Pick Me's" who will throw their own people under the bus. Absolutely nobody is calling lesbians bigoted for having preferences for cis women, that's a pernicious TERF lie which has been debunked over and over. Daphne Dormar ended her life, but that is NOT why it happened. How about you read what her actual roommate said about her instead of using her as a prop like Chappelle did:

TheJagged at 12:03AM, Sept. 5, 2022

But speaking of RL issue... The trans fights just make me just sad. I don't care about Rowling either way, she's rich she'll be fine. But there's a zealous subset of genderism fanatics who have invaded the lgbt rhethoric, and will hunt you down as soon as you speak out ANY concern regarding trans issues. Inlcuding gay & trans people themselves. I mean my god, Buck Angel gets called transphobic. Like, for real? That guy has done more for trans acceptance than these attention seeking TikTok jagoffs ever will. Lesbians get called bigoted for not wanting to suck "female dick". Dave Chapelle's trans friend gets bullied into suicde by other trans people. What kind of backward bizarro universe have we entered. The ever growing lbgt acronym is tearing each other apart and my not-quite-queer ass is standing on the sidelines feeling lost... Like, guys, come on, whatever happened to make love not war?

TheJagged at 11:51PM, Sept. 4, 2022

You can't reason with trolls, but you can troll them back twice as hard. I don't often deal with RL issues in my stories, as i feel this stuff kinda taints my creations... it ruins the whole escapism angle. I draw specifically to get away from reality as far as possible. When I do utilize "take that" characters or storyline to something that bugs me IRL, i do it in metaphor. Let's not make it not toooo obvious that this is a veiled criticism of organized religion... it's the Church of, err Terranus the Earth Tyrant. Yeah that works.

JillyFoo at 10:34PM, Sept. 4, 2022

She could have had it all, as long as she kept her opinions to herself. Ahhh. School libraries still promote Harry Potter. Kids still read HP. School classrooms still decorate HP themed. HP still was a popular theme to celebrate every Halloween. With all this, I question if HP series will stand the test of time.

Ozoneocean at 8:11PM, Sept. 4, 2022

Cool post Tantz! With the "venting" thing I use incidents as inspiration for conflict scenes rather than as a fantasy revenge. It's more useful that way :)

Tantz_Aerine at 3:10AM, Sept. 4, 2022

Well said Amelius.

Amelius at 9:05PM, Sept. 3, 2022

(had to rush out to help friend in middle of rant) I fully admit to having used art to vent my frustration-- even Stephen King has had his real-life villains feature in his stories (like the hyper-religious woman in The Mist, and Carrie's mom, the fanatic in Misery, alcoholism...) but his never come off as soapboxing because most people know someone like that in real life-- Rowling makes villains of people asking for basic human rights that are hurt over their favorite author being so hateful toward them after pretending to be an "ally". Her words are quoted by American conservatives to strip rights from people and silence them through the law-- her "opinions" are not mere harmless words, and her detractors are not mere "trolls". Rowling really thinks she's some kind of martyr for freedom of expression while actively trying to tear that right away from queer folks. Crocodile tears.

Amelius at 12:22PM, Sept. 3, 2022

Also, framing the people that criticize her as "trolls" is playing right into her delusions-- she's a transphobe and an antisemite who's buddy-buddy with fascist far-right bigots, she could put that energy into being a better person instead of writing screeds about how she was "bullied for having an opinion" I really wish she would shut up. Her thousands-page pity party is hilarious as it is pathetic. Her feelings were hurt? Does not amount to the lives she has ruined.

Amelius at 11:55AM, Sept. 3, 2022

God, Rowling is such a cry-bully, in addition to being a crap writer.

Banes at 11:21AM, Sept. 3, 2022

@Ironscarf - it's amazing how often- and well-fed the trolls are from the looks of YouTube comments sections I've seen. That basic law of not feeding them is hard to resist I suppose. S'a natural instinct. But "don't feed the trolls" sounds like a fine horror movie title! xD

Jason Moon at 6:56AM, Sept. 3, 2022

Lots of better things she could be writing about. You just need to ignore people like that and create. Encouraging those ugly trolls are exactly what they want.

Ironscarf at 6:34AM, Sept. 3, 2022

I haven't seen any reviews yet but if this is a fair summation of the book, I can't understand why any author would waste their creative energies in this way, especially such a successful one. How can she have spent this much time on the net without seeing the clearly marked signs - DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. If she's managed to take these experiences and weave them into an inventive and enlightening comment on our times then more power to her, but it doesn't sound like a great book pitch. Good fodder for a horror movie on the other hand?

Tantz_Aerine at 3:54AM, Sept. 3, 2022

Commissar_Tarkin: absolutely, yes.

Tantz_Aerine at 3:54AM, Sept. 3, 2022

Hushicho: well, I don't know these characters throughout their various iterations and progress, but what I read (separated from anything else about them, if you like) and the presentation of the two sides appeared well done to me. Now, if the character personalities were bent out of shape for that presentation, that's another transgression that of course would disqualify my example within that context :)

Commissar_Tarkin at 2:46AM, Sept. 3, 2022

"Creative ranting" is indeed rarely done well, and usually best avoided, especially in the cases where it's going to be incredibly transparent. If your entire motivation for writing a particular piece can be summed up as "I'll show 'em! I'll show 'em all!" you might want to put the proverbial pen down and step away from the table. However... ah, screw it, I'm not going to get into any of that.

hushicho at 2:34AM, Sept. 3, 2022

I certainly would not agree at all that the Civil War debacle in comics was even remotely a good way of doing things. It's a story that changed characters to fit what its lazy writing required, and it completely disrespected both characters and readers. It's a good example of some of the greatest problems related to this topic, where characters are forced into situations and made the mouthpiece of an author who doesn't fundamentally understand the characters and why it doesn't suit them. Their stories and personalities are secondary at best, when the writer just wants to make a statement any way necessary.

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