Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Flash Fiction as therapy - a present help in time of bullying

A short while ago, I encoutered vicious internet bullying from a group of people in the Amazon forum. It was distressing, but it's in the past, and I'd put it behind me. But James Crawford's post yesterday, which I am sure struck a chord with most, if not all of us (more about that later!) made me remember it, and I've decided to share something major that I learned from the experience.

When the bullying was at its height, I took what, for me, was the right step - I sought help from a trusted friend. That's thing one of course, as James made so clear yesterday - it's a mistake to suffer alone when you're bullied. You need the support of your friends. Anyway, my options were limited as far as direct contact went - in the middle of the night, in a remote country place. But ah, the Internet. I called up my good friend Kriss Morton in Alaska.

I knew that Kriss would be supportive and provide some balm for my wounded spirit, but as importantly, I knew that she had considerable experience with Internet bullying. Just as I expected Kriss was immensely supportive and also had practical suggestions for what to do about it. I started to feel better. Just being reminded that someone cares about you is vital.

Then, to take my mind off it, she offered to do an author interview with me for her literary blog, Cabin Goddess.

Anyone who's done one of Kriss' author interviews knows how much fun they are. It's not your same old, same shit different day list of questions. As I worked through the interview I felt even more better - because of course focussing on work does have that effect, almost always. And then I came to the kicker question, which is really the subject of my post today. There was the option to write a piece of flash fiction.

Flash Fiction, for those who don't know, is a super-short story that's written to a time limit. I'd always dismissed it as just a silly party game, but this night I decided to try it. Kriss challenged me to 500 words in half an hour, with the key word Darkness. I wrote the story which appears below.

Well that was a revelation. Of course it's well known that old wounds and scars can be healed in the process of writing a novel. But I wasn't prepared for the instant, first-aid fix that writing this short piece gave me. For anyone who writes, I believe this is a very, very powerful tool in dealing with any kind of negativity.

Here's the piece I wrote:


Dieter hit <POST> with a flourish and settled back in his chair, smiling. That would send her off to cry in her little bedroom for sure. Stupid bitch. He’d a short way with n00bs. That’s what they were for, to be abused. Dieter had been posting in the forum for a year now, and had racked up an impressive 57,326 posts, qualifying himself as a Senior Elder in the forum’s ranking system. Everyone in the forum respected him. He had lots of friends who agreed with everything he said. He was a God! He hit the Track This Discussion button. He’d get alerted in his email whenever anyone posted. He couldn’t wait!

He switched back to his email screen. There were fourteen automatic reminders from the forum. Good – things were jumping this afternoon! Great stuff!

Someone had responded to his attack on her original post, pointing out that he was in error. Dieter’s brain went momentarily blank with rage. How dare they! He was The Dietz! He had to be kowtowed to! Well, he’d fix her little red wagon. She’d soon learn not to talk back to The Big D!

His fingers flew over the keyboard. Long practice made him adept at composing the most hurtful reply possible. Never mind the facts – it made the n00bs even more fun if you told a few lies. They got all outraged and tried to set the record straight! What a fun day he was having!

He opened another window, went to Google and put in the n00b’s name. Oh, glory, glory, she was a published author! Now he could give one star reviews to all her books and get all his followers to do the same! That would really make her cry. Let’s see, there was a Smashwords link. Ah yes, she’d given an author interview. What could he twist from that to make her squirm? Oh nice, very nice, she’s admitted she doesn’t know anything about promotion. He took a swig of warm, flat Coke, flexed his fingers and began to type. Soon he was lost in pleasure, almost orgasmic with delight at his cleverness.

Suddenly the door to his room crashed open. His mum stood there, swaying slightly. The sickly reek of gin and stale tobacco wafted off her.

“DeeDee, it’s two o’clock. Did you take your medication?”

Dieter sighed. “Just taking it now, Mum.” He wheeled himself down the hall to the bathroom, from long practice avoiding the hall mirror with its cruel reflection of his obese body, lank, greasy hair and acne-spotted face. In the background his mother’s voice faded away….

“And you can get this pigsty cleaned up, God, it stinks in here, you little bastard, if I ever find out who your father is I swear to God I’ll….”


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