As a college student, and particularly as an English major, I have become proficient at taking threads of evidence and constructing from them a somewhat solid-sounding argument--even if the threads of evidence seem to not have much to do with each other. In fact, half the time, I don't believe in my own argument. I just throw together a bunch of high-sounding nonsense and pray to God that I get an A.
This practice is quite common among college students. The technical term for it, I believe, is BSing.
Believe it or not, even writers who aren't college students are guilty of this. You'll see this quite a bit in literary criticism, especially when they say that X is clearly a metaphor for Y and that the author uses a teddy bear to symbolize sexism, racism, colonialism, and/or a heteronormative patriarchy. You know. Crap like that. (I'm not saying that the critics are always wrong. But I'm certainly saying that they're not always right.)
More unbelievably, I'm guilty of BSing my way through things that aren't school projects. Where I Stand is, as far as I'm concerned, a decent novel that makes decent sense. But (spoiler alert) did you know that Alva originally tried to poison Rowan instead of Drostan? My sixteen-year-old self decided that it would make for a better story, and I went to great lengths to justify my decision. Saying that Alva's one and only true love had been killed by an Irish blacksmith fifty years ago, and now she was out for revenge.
And you know what's worse? Lukas's name wasn't always Lukas. In fact, his name was something quite different until I sent out the final draft of Where the Clouds Catch Fire to beta readers. It was quite a stupid name, too--just a translation of a Gaelic word. I was thirteen when I came up with it, so I'm trying not to beat myself up too much over it. (And to be fair, Alynn is just a corruption of the Gaelic word alainn, which means "beautiful," because my 9th-grade self thought that beauty was the main mark of a female protagonist.)
Anyway, I changed Lukas's name to Lukas because none of my beta readers could pronounce his old name. I'm exceedingly glad that I changed it, too.
Luckily, I'm able to go through several drafts of my works and get lots of feedback just to make sure that all my BSing makes sense. And now, if you'll excuse me, my parents are watching America's Funniest Home Videos downstairs and it sounds hilarious. I'll see you next week!
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.