Archive for the 'Eccentric Tangent' Category

Jan 05 2013

Some Brief Observations on Writing From a Marketer

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

  • If you’ve ever wondered why so many stores use bizarre prices rather than whole numbers (e.g. $9.99 rather than $10), check out my article on pricing psychology. (Short answer: the prices look cheaper, so customers are more likely to buy).
  • Ads with the word “you” or “your” are generally more likely to persuade readers to make a purchase. Personally, my ads with “you”/”your” are about 11% more persuasive. I’m not sure that people consciously notice these little personal touches, but they definitely have an effect. 
  • Some people read an ad and are wavering so close to making a purchase that even a little burst of enthusiasm might seal the deal. My ads with a single exclamation point are 6% more persuasive. Fortunately, nobody likes multiple exclamation points. I’d go crazy if I had to write like this!!!
  • I mainly write 2-line online ads for Google, so my perspective here may be biased. In my limited experience, customers are more receptive to an unsubstantiated claim (like “Great [products]”) than any sort of evidence to substantiate the claim.
  • The average customer actually does care about proofreading. My strongest recommendation for young writers would be to pay attention as closely as possible to spelling/punctuation/grammar in schoolespecially if you are thinking about possibly pursuing a full-time writing job.


2 responses so far

Jul 24 2012

Iron Man Virus Hits Iran?

Hackers with a Stark-like appreciation for AC/DC have apparently let Iran know about their musical tastes. “[Iranian nuclear facilities] have been hit again by a bizarre attack forcing nuclear plant workstations to pump the song Thunderstruck by heavy metal band AC/DC through the speakers at full volume.”  Among other things, this would suggest that the scene in Avengers where Tony Stark hijacks the PA system on a helicopter (to blare AC/DC) is plausible.

4 responses so far

Mar 12 2012

If You’re a Fan of Chess…

Published by under Eccentric Tangent

I found this Bobby Fischer graphic novel interesting.  It’s refreshing to see a use of chess that isn’t a Hollywood cliche (e.g. the villain bullying the hero around the board until the hero unleashes a checkmate at the last moment).  I think the characterization could be stronger, though–that would probably help give it some appeal beyond chess fans.


If you’re not a chess fan, it’s similar to a sport, but with more violence*, State Department shenanigans, and (above all) bedroom hijinx with Russians of dubious character.  In most sports, if a guy flops, he’s probably trying to draw a foul call from a referee.  In chess, a guy flops because he drank a KGB cocktail.


*Assuming you’re playing it right.  Who would waste poison on a beginner?

One response so far

Dec 10 2010

Anti-zombie research is proceeding apace

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent

The U.S. Army bought about 100,000 M4s last fiscal year, improving the nation’s zombie readiness levels from “doomed” to “screwed.”  In your face, zombies! Also, the Navy is working on a electromagnetic railgun.  When the zombie dolphins are upon us, we’ll be ready.
It's not like Aquaman's gonna stop them.

Other exciting military technology that could mess some zombies up:

  • Nuclear rifles
  • Flying jeeps
  • Chain-saw robots.  Brilliantly, these would be powered by biomass furnaces, which would keep fallen humans and plants from turning into enemy combatants.  (Also, gasoline would surely be in shorter supply than bodies).

2 responses so far

Oct 21 2010

How Rowling organized one of the Harry Potter books

Published by under Eccentric Tangent

One of the things that strikes me about her organizational scheme is that she kept track of the month of each event, information that’s was rarely referred to in-story but is very important to maintaining coherence.  If you’re not sure which month you’re depicting when you’re writing a scene, even the weather becomes a potential continuity hazard.  She and her editors were freakishly good at keeping everything logically consistent.  (The closest thing to a continuity error I found in the HP series was a student showing up at Hogwarts the year after she should have graduated, and some religious texts have pages with more continuity errors than that).

34 responses so far

Aug 12 2010

B. Mac, 1–Bee, 0

Published by under Eccentric Tangent

After a sting to the head and a precautionary shot of Epinephrine, we can conclusively say that I am alive and the bee is not.  In your face, Mother Nature!

4 responses so far

Jul 10 2010

My most important advice ever

Published by under Eccentric Tangent

When you do a barrel roll, try to flip your vehicle an even number of times rather than an odd.



3 responses so far

Jun 30 2010


I passed the Foreign Service Exam.  Getting closer!  The Personal Narrative Questions are next.  🙂

5 responses so far

Jan 08 2010

Math Comedy? Michael Jackson Proves That 28/7 = 13

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent

No responses yet

Oct 31 2009

Overheard in Washington

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent

“I hate reality television. If I wanted to see conmen humiliate themselves, I’d watch C-SPAN.”

No responses yet

Oct 28 2009

A quick bit of academic wisdom!

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent

Overheard at a college tutoring center…   

No, the Underground Railroad was not the world’s first subway system…   I don’t care what Wikipedia told you. 

2 responses so far

Oct 16 2009

The Best of #Queryfail on Twitter

Published by under Eccentric Tangent

The query is a letter written to an agent or publisher explaining what you’re writing and why they should want to represent/publish you. #Queryfail collects amusing anecdotes about authors that need to work a bit more on their pitch.

  • “The only thing worse than ignoring guidelines because you think you’re special is actually telling me that in the query.” — AgentGame
  • “Querying for a book you admit isn’t great, but saying you thought you’d take a shot at getting an agent anyway? Obnoxious.” — AgentGame
  • “REMEMBER 50k words is not enough to get your novel published – most pubs want 75 – 120k novels!” —EelKat [B. Mac adds— most of the advice I’ve seen in this field suggests that first-timers should stay south of 100,000 words, but some genres are more forgiving than others.]
  • Before you query, read your first few pages aloud and tape-record yourself. I bet you’ll identify problems.
  • All agents who received “Book Query 51” today, raise your hand.

No responses yet

Oct 15 2009

Hah, I liked this…

Published by under Comedy,Eccentric Tangent


The author behind My Writer’s Block got off lucky with this one– it definitely wasn’t that easy for me to get rid of Vista. 

This reminds me of my freshman year, when Dell computers suddenly started melting (and at least once bursting into flames) across campus.  I signed on as a marketer for a team of computer guys who were selling homemade computers that were suddenly desirable.  Our motto was “one melted computer is a tragedy; a hundred melted computers are an opportunity.” 

13 responses so far

Sep 26 2009

Comic Books in the Courtroom

Here’s an amusing excerpt from a Washington Post article

“We are at a point where no one could have even imagined 15 years ago,” said Albert J. Lurigio, a professor of psychology and criminal justice at Loyola University who has written about electronic monitoring and privacy since a New Mexico judge, inspired by Spider-Man comics, became the first to sentence a defendant to home confinement with an electronic monitor

Does this mean we’re on the verge of surgically implanting explosive nanites in dangerous parolees? In your face, recidivism!

No responses yet

Jul 20 2009

Comic-Con Travel Advice

I’m just getting back from San Diego.  If my brother had had the foresight to schedule his wedding a week later than he had, perhaps we could have done Comic-Con.  (Because comic books are obviously awesomer than real life… haha).  Here are some San Diego tips that might help you if you’re going to Comic-Con.

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8 responses so far

Apr 10 2009

Angry Students at Penn State

Penn State recently released a workplace orientation video about potentially angry students, such as veterans. But which angry students did they miss?

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3 responses so far