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The Write Way

13 March 2009

Banging Doors!


We discussed the concept of Sliding Doors a couple of weeks ago here, and this week we're turning our attention to the all-too real fact of Banging Doors. But we're going to have to go back in time a little before we mire ourselves in the full horror of all this, so take my hand, dear reader, as we travel back to early-2008 ...

Things are looking good Down Under, in fact, the future's so bright we need to wear shades! And as a result, our across-the-road neighbours have decided to buy a larger house on acreage so they can accommodate all the vehicles and machinery used in their family business. (They haven't been able to keep any of this around here and have had to resort to hiring an expensive shed and yard a few kilometres away.)

But things are good, and the bank manager has told them they can borrow the full price for their new house, even though they already have substantial loans for their business. Because our area is becoming a popular destination for visitors and we're close to the water, they decide not to sell their current house, but to rent it out ... as a holiday letting.

Yes, I can see the hairs on the back of your neck rising; hold my hand tighter because it gets worse.

Because this area is close to the water and the house is quite big and has a pool and a "gym" (actually, this is really just an area at the top of the stairs that used to have a cupboard, but somehow they've managed to fit in a bench press machine ... but "gym" looks good in the ads), the agent told them they could ask for a high rent and then put it up even more during the "season." (Just as a by-the-by, I'm reminded of the man living in a tourist area who enquired at his local council, "If this is the tourist season, does that mean I can shoot them?")

Our neighbours were assured by the agent that she had "6 months of bookings" for them without even advertising, so they signed up.

Now now ... You'll have to stop shivering like that or we can't go on ... I know this is scary, but you must be brave ...

They excitedly told us how much they were going to get per week and did the calculations of $X per week times 6 months for us then drove off into the sunset and their new life.

Weeks passed and no-one came to the house, except our neighbours who had to come back to mow lawns, do the gardens, clean the pool and air the house to keep it fresh for all their invisible holiday renters.

Then one Friday afternoon, there was great excitement in the neighbourhood as a car with interstate number plates pulled up in the driveway and a family with 3 little kids tumbled out and ran inside ... banging the front screen door as they entered. (Yes, I see that you see where this is going ...)

About an hour later, another car, also with interstate plates, pulled up behind the first and another family emerged amidst suitcases, bags of food, cartons of beer and assorted holiday toys. This was followed a few minutes later by a third car with its full complement of ankle-biters.

We counted 14 people in a house that had previously comfortably housed 4.

The first "guests" stayed one week, during which time they banged the door maybe 23 million times.

When they packed their cars and drove off, the entire neighbourhood heaved a sigh of relief. Fortunately for all of us, there have been very few holiday makers staying, but every single lot who've stayed have followed the pattern set by the first ... Multiple carloads, two or more families, more than a dozen staying.

Our neighbours told us early this year that they'd had enough - it wasn't worth the hassles, because every time people stayed, they complained about something ... the air-conditioner wasn't working properly, the TV wasn't big enough, there weren't enough Foxtel channels connected. (Out here, we pay extra for specific channels to get sport, movies, kids' shows etc ... Well, we don't because we've never bothered with it, but apparently a holiday just isn't a holiday any more unless you can sit in a dark room and watch repeats of television shows that are older than you are.) Household things were broken and other things "walked" when the guests left.

And then there was the cleaning ...

The wife had blithely said they didn't need to pay someone to clean after each lot of "guests" moved out and that she'd be able to do it ... after all, she'd cleaned the house all the years they'd lived there, hadn't she?

We see her regularly pull up when there are people staying, carrying in clean towels and sheets and whatnot and carrying out basket-loads of dirty linen. Then she spends nearly a full day cleaning after each letting.

So since the six months of lettings never materialised, our neighbours decided to sell and put an end to their misery, but a week after the sign went up, the agent rang them to say she had a group who wanted the place for a full month and were prepared to pay handsomely.

So greed got the better of common sense (as so often happens) and the sign came down an hour before the new lot moved in.

This time there aren't three families, there are 7 overseas swimmers who are out here to train with one of our more successful coaches who uses the Swimming Complex just around the corner from us.

And you know when swimmers train, don't you?

Very early.

They start at 3.30 each morning ... banging that bloody screen door ... In and out, out and in ... We're not sure what they do that requires so many trips to the front garden, but it goes constantly until just after 4 am when they've all presumably left to train and silence reigns once more in our peaceful neighbourhood.

Now it may just be me, but I know that if I were staying somewhere different and I noticed that a door banged as I went out, the next time I used that door I'd almost instinctively put my hand or foot out to stop it banging ... Wouldn't you?

I thought so ...

We surviving neighbours have discussed the phenomenon extensively, and we've come to the conclusion that it's because people are paying Big Money to stay in the house. They seem to think that they have to "get their money's worth" any way they can, and if that involves acting like ignorant morons and disturbing everyone around them, then so be it ... It's the same mentality that makes such people leave taps running even though they know there's a drought, that makes them turn on every light in the house and leave them burning all night, that makes them leave rubbish on the ground when there's a bin three steps away.

It's enough to make you joyfully entertain thoughts of brutal murder committed with pointy objects ...

Pardon? What other kind of murder is there, I hear you ask.

Good point. In fact you've just highlighted a common problem in writing -- using unnecessary words ... saying the same thing twice ... repeating things over and over ... again. This habit answers to some fancy names: tautology, redundancy and pleonasm.

Tautology is "where two near-synonyms are placed consecutively or very close together for effect."

Pleonasm is "the use of an excessive or superfluous number of words to say something, including unnecessary repetition, especially when this is done through ignorance rather than for effect."

So people who say, "in this day and age" are doing it for emphasis and effect and that's OK, but someone who says, "I'm returning back home now" is showing his/her ignorance of the rules of language. (Remember that the prefix re- means 'back.')

And redundancy is using unnecessary or additional words in expressions such as ATM machine; PIN number; two metres long; he followed after her.

Now you know.

Of course, if you look up the definitions in some dictionaries, you'll find something like this:

Tautology 'needless repetition of an idea in a different word, phrase, or sentence; redundancy; pleonasm.'

Pleonasm 'the use of more words than are necessary for the expression of an idea; redundancy.'

Sigh  ...

But as long as you're aware of what you're doing, don't stress too much about what to call it!

This week's Little Something Extra has some tips on how to behave to avoid people around you searching the environs for weighty objects with which to fell you!

And thank-you to everyone who entered the Write101 Soapie Competition; entries have now closed and the six finalists are posted here.

Please take a moment to visit the site and vote for your favourite entry, and then get out that notepad and pencil and start working on your plot!

Did you know that it's possible to write your novel in 28 short days, working less than the time it takes you to watch the evening news?

Stephen King does it. So did Mark Twain, Jack London, Ray Bradbury, Diane Booher, Agatha Christie, Nick Daws, Isaac Asimov, Samuel Johnson and Charles Dickens.

Barbara Cartland wrote 623 best-sellers in her life, and sold over a billion books. Dr Richard Carlson wrote “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” during a 12-hour transatlantic flight – and went on to sell 25 million copies.

Even Mark Victor Hansen, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, says he’s now churning out a book every single month

To find out how they do this, you need only take a quick look at Novel in a Month, the CD course that reveals the secret to writing your novel in just 40 minutes a day over one month. See how easy it is to write your novel here.

This week's quiz:

This week, some words about how we behave with each other ...

altruism, cohesiveness, aggression, displacement, acceptance, empathy, ingratiation, heuristic, catharsis, compliance  

1. the vicarious experience of another's feelings; putting oneself in another's shoes

2. a "we feeling"; the extent to which members of a group are bound together, such as by attraction for one another

3. a motive to increase another's welfare without conscious regard for one's self-interests

4. the redirection of aggression to a target other than the source of the frustration; generally, the new target is a safer or more socially acceptable target

5. physical or verbal behaviour intended to hurt someone

6. the use of strategies, such as flattery, by which people seek to gain another's favour

7. a rule-of-thumb strategy that enables quick, efficient judgements

8. conformity that involves both acting and believing in accord with social pressure

9. emotional release

10. conformity that involves publicly acting in accord with social pressure while privately disagreeing


And an oldie but a goodie about the importance of polite society:

The Master of the house is comfortably installed in an armchair in the library, reading a newspaper.

Suddenly, James, his butler, rips the door open and shouts, "Sir, the Thames is flooding the streets!"

The Master looks up calmly from the newspaper and says, "James, please. I have already told you before, if you do have something important to tell me, first knock on the door, then enter and inform me, in a quiet and civilised manner, about the issue. Now please, do so."

James apologises and closes the door behind him. Three seconds later, the Master hears a knock on the door.


James partially enters the room and with a gesture one would make when welcoming and ushering in somebody, and with water flowing over his shoes, he announces, "Sir, the Thames."

Last week's quiz:

anagram, cryptogram, ad lib, oxymoron, tautology, chiasmus, acronym, mnemonic, cliché, zeugma

1. use of a word to govern two or more words though appropriate to only one - ZEUGMA e.g. "Mr Pickwick took his hat and his leave."

2. conjoining contradictory terms - OXYMORON

3. trite or overused expression or idea - CLICHÉ e.g. "till the cows come home"

4. a device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering - MNEMONIC

5. a game whose object is to form words from a group of randomly chosen letters - ANAGRAM

6. a word formed from the initial letters of a multi-word name - ACRONYM

7. useless repetition - TAUTOLOGY e.g. "repeating the same thing twice"

8. a piece of writing in code or cipher - CRYPTOGRAM

9. without advance preparation - AD LIB

10. reverse order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases - CHIASMUS e.g. "It's not the men in my life, it's the life in my men." (Mae West)

A Little Something Extra

Need a refresher course in how to behave in polite society? Then you can't go past Emily Post's classic Etiquette here

And have you ever asked yourself, "What would Emily do?" If so, your answer is here

Some general tips to help you get on better with your fellow travellers on Planet Earth here

Lots of tips for many different situations, from shopping in a mall to travelling on a plane and all points in between see here



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Word of the week:  Excoriate (vb) to denounce or berate severely; flay verbally; censure strongly; express strong disapproval of; to strip off or remove the skin from

This wonderfully expressive word comes from the Latin excoriare 'to flay, strip off the hide,' which in turn is made up of two Latin words, the prefix ex- 'off' and corium 'hide, skin.'

And aren't you often overcome by the urge to excoriate some ignorant oaf you find yelling into his mobile phone while you're trapped in the seat behind him on the train?

Oxymoron of the weekI’d give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

And a pithy Latin phrase you can use (to yourself ... remember your manners) if you come across any aforementioned oafs this weekend ...

Ascendo tuum

[ahs-KAYN-doh TOO-oom]

(Up yours)

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? 

Kind regards,


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