Future Learn: Start Writing Fiction: Exercise 1

The challenge:

Write a paragraph (50 to 100 words) containing one fact and three fictitious elements. You can write about yourself, about your interests, about history – about anything you like. Then try the reverse – write a paragraph containing three facts and one fictitious element.


My mother always said that enduring an unusual name would build character, which is why I’m known as Max even though I’m female. My brother fared even less well, being dubbed Bonzo, and under this influence my sister eventually came to name her own children Denver (a girl) and Hendrix (a boy).

I grew up on a council estate in the midlands where I was lucky enough to attend one of the best, most forward thinking primary schools around in the late 70s. It was just as well, because my senior school left a lot to be desired, what with being rebuilt around us and staffed by teachers who ranged from astounding to dire in their skills. Going to school on a building site is not an ideal situation, but if generations beyond my own were to see school buildings without holes in the floor, leaking walls and dangerous staircases, somebody had to endure it. I often left home in the morning and found somewhere better than school to be, much to my parents’ chagrin.

Why blog?

A long, long time ago, when the internet was new and shiny enough that people wrinkled their noses up when you said you had a computer in your living room, I discovered online journals. The first one I followed to any degree was called Joel’s Mundane Life. It was… kind of mundane. And at the same time it also carried an air of fascination as it did that whole goldfish bowl thing before Big Brother did. Here was a person putting himself in a voluntary zoo, inviting people to look at him, and regularly sharing daily life happenings for me to compare my own to. I decided to follow suit and created an online journal myself, and then waited for something to happen that was worth writing about.

When that didn’t want to happen, time passed and I looked further afield and found people forming communities around online journalling. They were mostly American and so when I tried to join in I named my work “UK Correspondent” and earned… very little viewership. I experimented with php and found a way to set parts of the posts to be private and visible to friends who I gave a login to. And one day I made a throwaway comment about how everyone I knew ought to have a journal so I knew what they were up to.

“Well, actually…” said my friend Ang, linking to her reasonably new livejournal. I found others I knew over there, and jumped ship from my own carefully crafted site to join in with the community. Time passed. There was a surge and a settling. I created a thriving, busy community of science fiction fans, and they all drifted away and I stopped being easily identifiable as an SF fan and Livejournal was acquired, changed, sold to Russians, and out of favour. I stopped writing there. So did many others.

I tried to write again, but it felt like shouting into a void. And it was easier to set everything to be friends-only than to work out levels of privacy I wanted to apply. And I saw a million other people blogging. And I felt like joining in. And I felt that on some level I could do better than others. And I realised I want to keep my content, rather than send it to unknown entities. And I discovered the Indieweb which cemented that feeling further.

And I felt weird about putting myself on display.

And then I read a blog post about visiting friends who have kids. It’s written in a very sardonic manner and is blunt and hilarious in equal measure. And I read a little further and found this article:


and I figured, why not?

I’m lucky enough to have an employer that doesn’t really care what I get up to in my spare time, nothing I post on social media is likely to lose me my job and my colleagues come in all manner of weird and wonderful (and mundane). They know I go to science fiction events and that I play larp events in my spare time, and they don’t particularly care.

I’m not sure why I have a desire to make a little mark on the web, but maybe it will become clear one day. Meanwhile, though. I get to log my life in a way that lets me look back one day, in a way that is new and fresh and will no doubt keep me interested for, ooh, maybe a whole week or two.

We shall see.

Things I learned from podcasts, part 1

I’m not sure if listening to podcasts is something you’d describe as a hobby, it seems a little too passive to me. However, I do spend an inordinate amount of time engaged in this activity. I don’t watch a lot of television, but I consume about four hours or more of podcast content in my day to day life.

I combine popular science, technology, web development, current affairs, language acquisition, writing and drama in my huge list of audio entertainment and all kinds of interesting tidbits come up. I figure an interesting point to me could be an interesting source of knowledge to others, and so I’ve decided to share the odd bits here.

So, without further ado we come to this snippet of information:
The dot above the letter i is known as a tittle. It never occurred to me that it might have a name other than “dot” since we talk about dotting “i”s and crossing “t”s so regularly, but there you go. The reason it came about was to distinguish the difference between combinations of letters that could be confused in the popular gothic style of handwriting when it was first used. Apparantly, the original symbol was a small crescent oriented like the letter n and placed above the small line representing “i” but it diminished over time – at least until pre-teen girls started replacing them with hearts!

Thanks for this factlet are due to Grammar Girl and her Quick and Dirty Tips.