Stop Pretending

Stop pretending. This isn’t you.

Why are you hiding? You think they’ll never see through the mask? You think they won’t like what they see when they do?

Pretending is exhausting, I know. It must be hard to keep up a facade all the time. That’s why you cry every night, isn’t it? That’s why you never let anyone in, why you never show that face to anyone but me. It’s easier to wear the mask when nobody knows what’s underneath.

You keep telling yourself that it’s better to play a part, to blend in, to be “one of them”. You think if you always tell them exactly what they want to hear, then maybe they’ll like you. You think their approval can make you happy. You’d rather feel accepted than dare to stand out by letting them see what’s on the inside, even if it chips away a little piece of you every day.

But I know you’re better than this.

Don’t give me that look. You know I’m right. The glass between us can’t protect you from the truth. That’s why you came looking for me, isn’t it? Why you always look for me in your weakest moments. You want me to help you, to encourage you, to save you. You want me to tell you what you already know.

But I can’t tell you anything, can I? Everything I’m telling you, you’re really telling yourself. I’m just the voice; the words are all yours. You have the power to save yourself.

That’s it. There’s that smile. You feel your confidence growing, don’t you? Hold onto that feeling. You know what you have to do now. You’ve always known.

Start listening to this voice in the mirror, the voice inside you.

Don’t be afraid anymore. It’s time to discard the mask for good. Get out there and show the world this face, your real face, the face of someone who’s comfortable in their skin and doesn’t give a damn what anyone else thinks. Only then will you finally be free. Trust me, that’s the only face you’ll ever need to be happy.

Stop pretending to be somebody else, and start being you.

Five Reasons I Love Historical Fiction

If you read my recent post about the progress on my 2016 reading goals, you may have noticed I’ve been reading a lot of period fiction this year, and it’s really been inspiring my fascination with history! I love reading stories set in the past for much the same reason I enjoy science fiction and fantasy: they show me a world I could never see or experience for myself. And what more could you want from a fiction genre?

So continuing through my “five reasons” series, here’s a list of five reasons I love historical fiction. Enjoy!

1) It offers a deeper insight into human history.

History is fascinating, but there’s only so much we can learn from textbooks and history lessons in school. It’s one thing to read facts about past events, it’s another to live them. And while living said events ourselves would only be possible with a time machine, we can at least get a taste of what they were like through the immersive experience of narrative. Action, emotion, drama, all the things that make us human have the power to make a historical account much more engaging and relatable. That’s why I feel like I learn more about history from certain fiction books than I ever did from history lessons growing up: you can only really understand the driving forces behind human history when you feel like you’re reading about, you know, actual humans!

2) It shows the evolution of human behavior.


Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (Pride and Prejudice, 2005)

Reading many works of historical fiction set in various time periods gives readers the opportunity to observe how human behavior has changed over the centuries. What ancient civilizations once believed to be the work of the gods, we now approach as topics of science, and several subjects that seem commonplace to us today were once considered too shocking and scandalous to even be mentioned in proper society. Human beings drastically alter their ways of thinking over generations, so indulging in historical fiction offers an entertaining means of seeing those changes: through a narrative timeline!

3) It reveals the most consistent traits of human nature throughout time.

On the other hand, historical fiction can also show us the things that haven’t changed over time. After all, no matter how far we’ve come as a species since the dawn of mankind, human beings technically still are and always have been animals. There’s a reason history tends to repeat itself, and many authors like to explore the most consistent patterns of society by implementing elements of past events into present- and future-setting stories. This is where historical fiction ties in with many futuristic works: the most fundamental human traits – love, fear, survival instinct, social bonds, etc. – often become the driving forces behind major events like war and revolution, regardless of generation or time period, past or future. And speaking of the future…

4) It helps predict the future course of human history.

It may seem odd at first to think knowing the past is the key to predicting the future, but my dad always taught me that it’s important to study history because only by understanding humanity’s past mistakes can we hope to avoid repeating them. When you have a clear picture of the direction in which the human race has been heading for the past few millennia, it becomes easier to predict which areas we’ll progress in and which patterns we’ll keep falling into. And as mentioned above, this often makes for great futuristic fiction material. For example, technology continues to improve at an accelerated rate, but there will always be people who try to use it for the wrong reasons. If history really does repeat itself, then the one thing you can expect with absolute certainty from future generations is that they’ll keep making the same mistakes their ancestors did for thousands of years!


Downton Abbey Season 2 takes place during World War I
(source: Adeeni Design Group)

5) It makes for entertaining reading!

This is just my opinion, of course, but there’s something vastly entertaining about diving into a book set in a past time period. It’s like stepping into a time machine and being transported back to days when people acted and thought differently, technology wasn’t quite as advanced, and society had expectations that would greatly contrast with our modern-day views. I especially enjoy historical literature that was written during the time period in which it takes place, as it offers the additional insight of authors who experienced those times firsthand. To be able to see the past through the eyes of people who lived it is what makes historical fiction such a unique and fascinating genre!

What about you? Do you enjoy historical fiction? What do (or don’t) you like about it?

Word of the Week: Plagiarism

Word: plagiarism

Pronunciation: PLAY-jə-ri-zəm

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

So I was doing vocabulary research on Oxford Dictionaries‘ website last week when I noticed that one of the top five trending words in the world was “plagiarism”, and I laughed to myself because I knew exactly why. Anyone following American political news right now has almost definitely heard about a rather embarrassing incident that happened last Monday night involving a speech delivered at the Republican National Convention, which apparently contained several lines lifted from a speech delivered at the Democratic National Convention eight years ago. There’s a lot of controversy surrounding this incident at the time of writing this post, which is to be expected: no one would want to be accused of “plagiarism” in the middle of a political campaign!

“Plagiarism” is the act of stealing someone else’s work or ideas to pass off as one’s own. The word arose in the early 17th century and comes from the Latin noun plagiarius, meaning “kidnapper”. This noun stems from the noun plagium “kidnapping”, which likely derives from the Greek noun plagion, also meaning “a kidnapping”.

Truth be told, the word “plagiarism” has been sitting in my vocabulary list for quite a while. Being a writer and a biologist, I’ve long been familiar with this term; it’s a practice that artists and scientists alike are heavily discouraged from exercising, and that we’re advised to be on the lookout for when our work is widely circulated. Also noteworthy is the verb form of the word: to “plagiarize” is to “take (the work or an idea of someone else) and pass it off as one’s own”. If your characters tend to steal work from others to claim as their own, feel free to write about the “plagiarism” going on in your stories, as long as you don’t practice it yourself!

Bonus: if you found this particular news story entertaining, you may get a kick out of this video from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert! Enjoy!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

Five Seconds

(What If? Exercise: Read the description here.)

Jenny stared at the clear sky above her, while all around, the sounds of screaming and crying grew fainter. She winced at the sharp pain running up her leg, knowing that if she’d just waited a few seconds after the light turned red, she’d still be on her way to school right now. But it was too late; for the next hour, her world would be nothing but sirens, blood, and darkness.

Matt trembled as he fumbled with his cellphone, his heart pounding in his ears. He kept trying to piece everything together, but it had all happened so fast; one second, he was swerving to avoid the boy on the bike, the next, he was slamming on his brakes and screeching to a halt. He was terrified to think he’d soon be explaining to the police that the girl had come out of nowhere, and he hadn’t even seen the lights change.

Cory sat on the sidewalk with his face buried in his hands and a bicycle lying beside him. Two strangers sat on either side of him, patting him on the shoulder and reassuring him that it was an accident, that he wasn’t to blame for the car or the girl, but he knew the truth. He had put off getting his brakes fixed for too long, they had cost him those precious few seconds of reaction time, and this terrible accident was all his fault.

Donna knelt beside the poor girl lying on the pavement, feeling uneasy about the youth in her face and the odd angle of her broken leg. The woman wasn’t usually so affected by her job, but the knot in her throat now was only too real, and she kept her eyes averted as she helped her colleagues move the unconscious teenager onto the stretcher. Knowing that a matter of seconds could just as easily have taken her own adolescent daughter, she resolved to do everything she could to get this girl back on her feet and moving forward in life once more.

Nick watched helplessly as the ambulance drove away down the street, taking with it the girl who sat in front of him in Math class every day. In that moment, it occurred to him that everything left unsaid, everything that could have been said, had been taken away in the span of a few short seconds. Terrified at the thought of never getting another chance, he decided that the first day she was back in school, he would finally tell her exactly how he felt.

These pieces are based on What If? Exercise 97: “Nanofictions”. The exercise is to write five flash fiction pieces of three sentences each, which may or may not be connected by a common detail. The objective is to understand how to focus immediately on a troubled situation and learn how to identify the details of drama. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

Back to the story

What If? Writing Prompts: Humor IV

Here’s another round of “What If?” Writing Prompts for you to enjoy! To keep things lighthearted, this week’s batch is set to the theme of humor. What silly tales can you spin from these ideas? Enjoy!

What If - Parchment and QuillWhat if… someone charmed/cursed you to speak only in puns?

What if… you noticed all the animals around you had “shifty eyes”?

What if… a monster showed up at your door… to ask you for something mundane?

What if… every time you spoke, candy fell from your lips?

What if… everyone had a theme song that played whenever they entered a room?

Have fun writing more humorous stories!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

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