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Two Entirely Plausible Communications

I received two pieces of text today that I thought should be shared. One is completely and utterly plausible, which is hilarious in that it’s not meant to be taken seriously but is better than the thing that it spoofs. The other is just sad. See if you can guess which is which!

Item 1:

Renowned Horrorman Kris Straub Reveals Development-Ready “Nightmares Park”
August 11, 2015

Seattle, WA – Kris Straub, creator of Candle Cove (now in series development at SyFy) and Broodhollow (not in development because period piece = too $$$) is giving idea-birth to a new horror legend: Nightmares Park.

“It’s basically just Jurassic Park but I replaced the dinosaurs with nightmares,” said Straub as he typed this. “It’s pretty much just going to be Jurassic Park but about dreams.”

When the sleep research conglomerate Oneirosyn licenses their dream-realization technology to a theme park company, they end up creating the world’s most terrifying attraction: a place where everyone’s worst dreams become real… but safely behind glass. That is, unless the man the cages are wired to falls asleep.

“It doesn’t make a lot of sense as a device, but there had to be a way for things to go wrong,” said Straub. Straub was talking again. “Maybe I should do it where the guy has to wake up, and that makes the nightmares escape. But then that implies that it’s just his own nightmares. I wanted it to be everyone’s nightmares. That will pay off better later.”

“The best Straub in horror is back,” said me.

Kris Straub is not Peter Straub’s son but he once saw The Talisman at an airport bookstore.

Please release this press release immediately, like it said at the top. Thank you.

Item 2:

Attention: Facebook User,

Thank you for your using “”

We are oblige to congratulate and notify you that your Face-Book Profile was used by you or someone else to register an Account with Facebook and has emerged you as one of the Luck Winners in Category “A” which subsequently won you $500,000.00 US Dollars. Your fund has been insured and its ready for the immediate release to you without hitches. Details of your Winning are:

Winning #: FB392-US7720
Batach #: 0024892JT
Serial #: DT119027834SZ

Do be informed this is not a fake notification – Its real!!

And all I have to do is send my full name and passport number to Reverend Somebody Or Other in Singapore? Because the fact that I refuse to have a Face-Book¹ account in no way makes me suspicious that this is anything other than completely true.

But my point — and I do have one — is that as somebody who gets his fair share of the internet equivalent of cold calls, Straub’s up there is actually very good on the helpfulness scale. Let’s pretend for a moment that Straub isn’t making a joke², and treat the fake press release as if it’s real. He included:

  • A title that gives me an idea what the release contains
  • A location for where things are happening
  • A reference point so I’d know who he is and what else he’s done, with link
  • A quick description of the thing being announced
  • A more detailed description

… all in the first 131 words. After the details graf it becomes more jokey, but the first half? That’s exactly how you get a press release read. The standard press release contains those elements, but is written in such a stuffy — almost ritualistic — style that it’s almost impossible to to do anything with them other than run them as a block of text that clashes with the feel of everything else on the page. The very easy voice that Straub used in both the informative and the jokey parts caught my attention as much as the gag. If this were a real thing, I would be running the crap out of this news. It’s not a real thing and I’m still running the crap out of it.

Here’s where I’ll let you in on a little secret: it isn’t easy to break the tone you thing a piece of writing requires. The content can follow all the rules it needs to, but the tone? That’s where you can make something drab into something memorable.

Late last year, I was asked to contribute a very short bit to a textbook (I’ll be able to tell you more when publication happens). Even though I was approached primarily because I have a fairly individual voice on this here blog, I fell back into a formalist, academic style that I wasn’t happy with and just wasn’t me.

In my effort to fit into what I thought was the expected idiom, I struggled for hours to put together a few hundred words. Luckily, I have an excellent alpha-reader³ who pointed out the many, many tortured constructions I’d subjected my poor words to, and who yelled at me because it didn’t sound like me.

Fresh document. Twenty minutes later (during which time no darlings were killed because I had no particular fondness for that first draft), I had something that sounded like me, that wasn’t a struggle to put together, that got the key ideas across, and didn’t fit in with the other 14 contributors (most of whom have “Dr” in front of their names) worth a damn. After it got subjected to an editorial pass to make it fit the house style better it still sounded like me. It’s gonna clash with a few hundred pages on either side, but it’s mine, and in large part that’s what the lead editor wanted.

None of us wants to read a press release by Kris Straub that follows the official rules; we want to read something that reads like Straub. And I swear to glob, if there were an identity-theft scam that didn’t follow the Official Scam Style Guide, I’d be ever so slightly more likely to respond. Find your own style in your communication — written and drawn — and work to make it as sharp as you can. Being able to write/draw in different styles is something to cultivate, but not just because you think it’s what’s expected. Find that means of expression that’s unique, that only cooks inside your brain, and use the hell out of it.

Spam of day:
See above.

¹ In my head, I hear that pronounced as C Montgomery Burns would do, or perhaps Judge John Hodgman when he talks about Bases-Ball.

² I am actually weighing in my brain the probability that Straub is actually announcing a thing that he is doing by making it look like he’s fake-announcing at thing that he isn’t doing. Schemes inside of schemes with that guy, I tells ya. But in all seriousness, I could see Straub doing a series of stories/comics/podcasts/whatever built around this very concept, and I very much want him to do so.

³ Need something professionally critiqued? Contact her. She’s highly skilled, unsparing when you need to be smacked about something not working, and utterly reliable. But please note the word professionally and don’t complain about her fee structure. Making you a better writer is not an act of charity.

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