Readers of Confessions of a Cart Jockey know about a series of posts entitled A Funny Thing Happened Logging on to the Forum. This is something else that happened on a forum, but it comes with a certain dilemma.
I posted a question about whether or not people would get a certain reference that I have made in a story I’m writing. The story, by the way, is titled The Road Less Traveled, and it is an urban fantasy about a town that exists in a pocket universe.
The question was related to a particular plot item that is responsible for the existence of the pocket universe. I referred to the item as an “element”.
Whoa Nelly, did that cause a stir.
Most people who replied, replied specifically to my question about the reference and told me if they got it, did it make them groan, or if they responded they kept their reply within the scope of Easter Eggs and inside jokes.
But a larger number of people focused on my use of the word “element” in relation to the rock. They’re thinking, “periodic table”, I’m thinking, “Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Leelu”. But oh no, the scientifically minded had to respond with their atomic numbers and they had to chime in with, “There are no undiscovered elements”.
Sometimes I won’t understand where the confusion is coming from until several hours, or days later. There’s also the caveat of not wanting to discourage people from responding to questions that I have posted. Similarly, I have often replied to a poster who asked a completely different question to the one I was answering, so I can’t say I’m innocent in all of this.
As a call out to my readers and fellow writers, I would hope that when you are offering someone the help they ask, that you focus entirely on the question they have asked. It’s too easy to imagine that we know what they truly want to ask, but we’re not omniscient. Sometimes it’s nice if we check our egos and focus on the task at hand, because just like I don’t want to discourage people from responding to my queries, I also don’t want to discourage people from trying to get the right amount of help on their own projects.