The Importance Of Choosing The Right Words

The Importance Of Choosing The Right Words

Words are impactful.

In recent events, there was a train accident in New Jersey, where many people were hurt and one was killed. The tragedy was broadcasted on the news within seconds and it didn't take long for it to go viral of course; in less than an hour most people knew what was happening. One news station ran the headline "Just One Killed." That struck a cord within me -- how belittling to the family of that victim that headline was and how the words he used had such a negative connotation. That got me to ponder on how much power our words have on people, a power that can easily persuade a million viewers to think of an event in a certain light. Like instead of seeing a tragedy, we see something good since "just" one person died, even though one death is still a tragedy and still very much so matters to many people.

Somehow with that little word, we have belittled the meaning of someone who played such an important role in someone's life. So no, it wasn't just one death -- it was a person with a name, a face and a story. She was a mother who was dropping off her young daughter at daycare, then she caught the train, the last train she would ever catch. She had just moved from Brazil and was starting a new life in America. There were many people, like her family and friends, who think of her death as the most terrible tragedy they've ever experienced -- not just one death. So we cannot simply belittle the death of her, because her life isn't a victory to celebrate because just one person died. No it wasn't just one person at all. She was so much more. She was a mom, a daughter, a wife and she mattered. So should her death and so should the way we talk about her tragedy.

This is just one example among many of how impactful the words we use can be. Words can persuade, belittle, justify, insult, compliment and change people in so many ways. We walk around every day, spitting them out of our mouths without a second thought. These words are important though, because despite the childish rhyme "sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me," words do hurt and serve a great purpose in our society. Words like the ones in Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech changed millions of African American lives in terms of equality. President's words, media's words, even your own words impact so many people around you.

So I challenge you to think about just how impactful your words are and your voice is. Take that into thought when you say things, do things and communicate. Also, think about how you can help change people and the world with just your words -- that you can change how people think by what you think by just expressing your thoughts into words.

Cover Image Credit: Google Images

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'Rick And Morty' Creator Dan Harmon Dishes On His Creative Process

The creator of 'Community' and 'Rick and Morty' explores the creative process.

Dan Harmon is the enigmatic creator of such hit series as Community, Rick and Morty, and Harmonquest. He's a podcaster, writer, and all-around neurotic visionary.

For decades Harmon has channeled his frantic mind into work that manages to be carefully crafted and utterly unique. He's also a self-described student of storytelling. For many years before he found mainstream success, he blogged about storytelling and offered advice to his contemporaries. His description of a character's journey in any story - film, novel, television, and campfire alike - has exploded in popularity.

It is nothing new. It is an elegant rewording of basic story structure that has been talked about for centuries. That doesn't make it meaningless. Just as stories evolve over time to reach new audiences, so does the breakdown of what makes a story moving. That analysis must keep pace with the speed of our stories.

Considering that 96% of Americans have a podcast and nobody can stop bingeing to save their own life... presented in all it's adolescent glory... a poor retelling of Dan Harmon's "A Hero's Journey"... which is already a reworking of Campbell's "A Hero with a Thousand Faces"... with only a few drum rolls more... for the reading pleasure of my nonexistent fans... who want quick, digestible articles... that don't linger or pause... so without further ado...

The Hero's Journey: Paraphrased to Perfection Plus Alec's Thoughts That Should Be Disregarded, Probably.

Harmon begins his explanation with a basic map: a circle divided into 8 equal segments. You know, a pie. At each interval along this delicious 'clock' is a step in the protagonist's journey. The first!

1. You

The character. The lonesome cowboy, maybe. This is a lens through with the viewer will experience the story. This is (usually) a person who is about to be thrust into crisis. No story ever allows its protagonist peace of mind. If not in the very first moments, then catastrophe will befall our character sooner rather than later.

Characters aren't meant to be real people. Even in a biography, never believe that you're meeting the man himself. Characters are tools used to reflect the tensions that come with living on Earth. They look and sound real but they are little more than mirrors. They are funhouse reflections of ourselves, twisted and prodded to give the viewer insight into the realities our character will never know. They must:

2. Need

want something! The character must be proactive, making a clear choice based on a desire. Something is wrong in this character's life (remember that 'crisis' from mere seconds ago?) and nothing will change without action.

The character must connect with their desire before choosing to:

3. Go

dive into the journey. In order for the story to truly begin, the character must start walking down the long road. If Link collects his sword then goes back to take a nap, the Legend of Zelda doesn't happen! The character must make their first plunge into the great unknown.

There must be stakes! Danger! Whether physical or mental, this must not be an easy climb. This is a new world that the protagonist must enter - a world that pulls at the very nature of the character as they:

4. Search

hunt in a new world. After taking the leap out of crisis and into adventure our protagonist must struggle. Indiana Jones wouldn't make for much of a franchise if Indy always found the treasure, no problem at all. There must be series of trials and tribulations as our character inches closer to the desire that brought him there in the first place. As they crawl deeper into a world of intrigue and confusion, eventually they will:

5. Find

discover what they were searching for. This may be literal - the gold nugget that they so desperately searched for - or it may be figurate: a fatal discovery, a change of heart, a newfound friend.

This, most importantly, is where our character begins to climb back up the circle of the story. They have been tried and tested. Now, they have fallen to the deepest trenches and will begin their journey home (whatever the hell that means). They must:

6. Take

use the lessons learned from their struggle and turn to their ultimate challenge. This new foe is the greatest of all, but it may hardly be the reason our hero began their journey in the first place. With a sword between their teeth, this is when our character ascends to the mountaintop as a new man. Scarred and tired, they:

7. Return

come back to the world they left having become a new person. In the darkness of their adventure, they learned how to grow. The tension reflected in the character has been explored: Thesis/Antithesis/Synthesis isn't just a high school English guideline... it's another name for the 3 Act Structure.

Now, they must defeat that ultimate baddie. It will ultimately be because of their:

8. Change

personal growth that they will succeed. They will become, as Harmon says, "The Master of Both Worlds," having survived their adventure in a dark world and returned home to the light as a savior. They will be heroic, sometimes. Defeated, occasionally. They will never be the same as they began.

Cover Image Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

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The Realness And The Rubbish

What reality TV offers its audience

I watch a lot of reality TV.

Most people’s immediate mental image when reality TV is brought up is mind-numbing Kardashian Jersey Bachelor Teenage Pregnancy cultural slime that is dumbing America down one “unscripted” episode at a time. I share this same disdain towards a lot of the shows that dominate Bravo, MTV, and ABC (especially the white hetero-pile of toxic sludge that is “The Bachelor”) but with a lot of these shows I find myself unapologetically, sometimes regretfully sucked in.

Our modern concept of “reality television” didn’t really exist in America until 1992 when people stopped being polite and started getting real on “The Real World” where seven strangers were picked to live in a loft in New York City: today, 25 years later, it is inescapable. In my twenty years of experience consuming media I have learned that reality TV is one of the easiest ways to connect with people. In the fifth grade I remember discussing “American Idol” with my science teacher and my classmates like it was a religion. In junior high “The Glee Project” capitalized off of adolescents’ obsession with Finn Hudson and high school glee clubs. Today, on “Bachelor” nights groups of girls congregate in dorm common spaces with TVs across my university’s campus. In my own world “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is practically the fabric of mine and other fanatics’ lives. The day after a queen is eliminated I am either in mourning or praying for my favorite’s numbered days in the competition. I remember when I was young there was a cartoon called “Total Drama Island” that was a faux-reality parody of shows like “Survivor” that my friends and I were absolutely obsessed with. I’m still traumatized by the memory of my parents telling me I couldn’t watch anymore because it was too mature for my age.

These reality shows (one merely a parody of reality) have quietly (or not so quietly) influenced me and Americans for years and I’m trying to work through the thoughts surrounding this controversial subject. Many agree that reality TV is frivolous, fluff, lacking any real substance. It’s where the thin, the white, and the heterosexual go to drink, debauch, and embarrass themselves with each ridiculous fight. Most of the TV shows we know have been proven to be fake, unreal, tearing down the edifice that reality TV has built up.

But I love it.

I can’t get enough of it.

Most of the TV I watch and actually keep up with is reality, past and current. The more I watch of it, I realize that a lot of it is filth. So unimportant, so uninspiring, so unartistic, but I can’t stop watching. I’ve realized, though, that it’s because reality TV isn’t a sprint, but a marathon. There’s so much of it that you have to sift through to find the gems worth your attention. In a normal TV show there’s only so much room for boring air time, footage without purpose; everything is deliberate, while reality isn’t supposed to be. Real life isn’t exciting 24/7: it can get messy, it can often seem pointless. But you need to sit through most of it to get to the good stuff, just like with reality TV.

How many episodes of “The Hills” did I have to sit through to get to that single, mascaraed tear that falls down Lauren Conrad’s cheek (“You know why I’m mad at you, you know what you did!”)? Countless seasons of “The Real World” were watched to see that guy slap Irene in Seattle after she outted him. Kim K losing her diamond earring in the ocean and crying has reached peak memedom (“Kim, there’s people that are dying.”) The night Taylor Hicks snatched the crown off of American sweetheart Katharine McPhee’s precious head on “American Idol” would go down in history as The Day the Music Died. And then there’s that guy from “Survivor” who lied about his freaking grandmother dying just to not get voted off the island.

So, I’d like to validate the hours I spend watching twenty somethings get into yet another drunken fight or the parents with way too many children or a Hilton sister milk a cow with the thought that I am waiting. Waiting for that culturally defining moment that I’ll have seen first hand and not after being recycled into a tweet or a meme.

I also hold out hope that these shows are actually real, or at least hold onto some thin shred of reality. I’d like to think that in the finale of “The Hills” when the camera pans away from Brody Jenner to reveal a soundstage, implying that none of the past six seasons were actually real, that this was just an artistic choice, not telling of the actual scriptedness of the show. We’ll never know for sure whether “Laguna Beach” was the real Orange County or just the fake one, so for now all I can do is hope.

Cover Image Credit: unspalsh

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