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A Hole in My Ceiling by Colin Kelly

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A Hole in my Ceiling by Colin Kelly is a rather troubling story that raises some exceptionally important issues. It appears both on AD and at CW, where it is expected to reach a younger audience. Although the story is a very realistic look at how a couple of young teens deal with the accidental discharge of a gun, it sidesteps some very important issues. I am not myself a gun owner and I'm not particularly fond of guns. In my career I've helped a number of boys and young men put their lives back together after they were shot up as a result of gang violence. Some of them were themselves gang members, but a lot of them were unlucky enough to get caught in the crossfire.

Although Hole in my Ceiling has a happy ending, it's actually quite likely that the boys will be caught. Just as a drill going through a piece of wood tends to splinter the wood where it exits, exit wounds from a bullet are always bigger than entry wounds. A target pistol may not be very powerful, but it can still kill. The bullet from such a weapon has a low velocity and by the time it exits a rooftop, chances are it would tear away a chunk of the shingle rather than cleanly going through it. There's also a bullet out there somewhere, probably in their yard, and it could still kill someone if hit by a lawnmower blade. Clearly, the best thing for the boys would be for them to fess up, but they're teenagers and they probably won't say anything until a roofer tells the parents that the chunk of missing shingle was caused by a gunshot from underneath.

Personally, I think this story was a missed opportunity. It actually minimized the outcome from mishandling what turned out to be a loaded weapon. This was a perfect teaching moment, particularly for the audience at CW. The boys should have had to face the music, and Rafe's father should have had to come to terms with the tragedy he very nearly caused. No child should ever be given a gun or even handed a gun unless they've had thorough training in gun safety. Every gun must be considered to be loaded, even if the clip's been removed. Every gun must be considered to have a bullet chambered. A gun should never be treated as a toy - it's a lethal weapon. Children - even teens - should be supervised by adults whenever using firearms.

Colin, this is a nice story with a couple of teens who act like typical teens. It has a happy ending, but it could have just as easily been a tragedy. Unfortunately, I think a lot of your younger readers a probably scratching their heads, wondering how a gun with no bullets could have gone off. I hope you'll consider writing a sequel that deals with these issues.

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On 8/6/2018 at 9:16 AM, Altimexis said:

A Hole in my Ceiling by Colin Kelly is a rather troubling story that raises some exceptionally important issues...

I hope you'll consider writing a sequel that deals with these issues.


It's interesting that you suggested that I write a sequel to A Hole in My Ceiling. I've actually thought about doing just that. I even have some of it plotted. There are some hooks in the story to connect to a sequel:

When Rafe offers the gun to Toby so he can hold it, Toby defers. He tells us "Actually, I didn’t like guns. I wasn’t interested in holding it."

Rafe tells Toby that the gun is a "target pistol" a.k.a. a competition handgun, which is described on Google as: "Competition handguns are made to get on target and shoot fast and accurately with an emphasis on recoil reduction for quick follow up shots." (So it's a pistol that can be used for any purpose — it's a handgun.)

The was actually a bullet in the gun. (Rafe's father should have made sure that the gun was unloaded 1) When he bought the gun from a dealer at a gun show, and 2) Before he gave it to his son — which shouldn't have happened until they went to the target range.)

Rafe's father didn't give Rafe any instructions about storing and carrying and using the gun — Rafe doesn't say that he did or didn't. (Thus he becomes culpable for the damage caused to the roof in Toby's family home.)

Later, Toby is thinking: "I thought about what we’d done and if it was good enough to keep the rain out. Since the bullet went all the way through the roof — the outside of the roof, too — and we didn’t do anything to fix the outside, it probably wasn’t going to solve that part of the problem." (This shows that Toby realizes the problem might be bigger than their solution.)

Of course, being a young teen, Toby also thinks: "But as long as the rain wasn’t coming into my room, that was the most important part." (Of course, that isn't the most important part.)

So, maybe I'll write a sequel to this story. In my copious free time. ?

Colin  :icon_geek:

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I do hope you'll write that sequel, Colin. Although I have never shot a gun in my life and am no fan of the second amendment, I am well aware of the fact that kids who are raised with guns are much more likely to show them proper respect. I'll never forget an episode of the 1960's era TV program, Candid Camera, in which young kids were filmed as they discovered an unloaded handgun. Without fail, all of the kids picked up the gun and played around with it as if it were a toy. The only exception was a kid who'd been taught how to use a gun for target practice. That kid, who looked to be about 8 or 9, actually told the kid who was with him to leave the gun alone, as it might be loaded and someone could get hurt.

I would hope that in this age of ubiquitous guns in the U.S., along with teaching active shooter drills in all our schools, that we also teach kids to respect guns and to never handle them except under the supervision of an adult. Obviously, if these young teens received that kind of training, though, they didn't learn from it. Of course teenagers in general think they're immortal. I applaud you for writing the story in such a way that you captured young teens and their behavior perfectly. I think the sequel would be invaluable in reminding teens that acting responsibly takes priority over covering up their mistakes, particularly when a parent fails in their responsibilities as happened in this case.

Oh, and Cole, I hope you realize that I wasn't being critical of Colon's story, which was very well written, but was expressing my concern that the young readership of CW might get the wrong idea from it. Not than I expect a 12-year-old to get the idea that they could get a boyfriend by showing them a loaded gun, but kids learn a lot from what they read. One of the most important lessons anyone can learn is that sometimes the consequences of not being caught are much worse than from accepting responsibility in the first place. This would have been a perfect story to illustrate the point in a way that kids would understand it, which is why I hope Colin will write a sequel.

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I knew that you weren't criticizing the story per se, Steve.  But you were suggesting it be written differently, and that didn't seem entirely fair to me.  Colin was writing a story the way he wanted it written.  It wasn't meant to be a moral lesson to kids.  That wasn't his objective.  Is such a moral lesson a good thing?  Sure it is.  But not every story, on CW or anywhere else, is going to provide the sort of advice you were asking for in this story.  Just like every story with teenage sex isn't going to go into a lecture on condom use.  That's a horribly important message for teens.  Quite possibly a lifesaving one.  But if it doesn't fit in the story the writer is creating, then it is best for the story that it not be there.  If the writer wants to explore that avenue, he can do so in a story that's structured to include that message.  What goes into a story and what does not are among the dozens of decisions we make with everything we write.

I think it's important that writers be able to tell a story the way they want it to be presented.  Telling them that in someone else's opinion they should be written differently just, well, I've already explained my point.


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I have been following this thread with interest and -  admittedly with some concern - since it was started. 

I think the message that guns are dangerous became pretty clear to the boys in this story, its readers and to young people in general. 

I don't believe - however - that a young author, who devotes a goodly percentage of his busy waking hours to providing an upbeat website and reading material for gay and questioning young people, should try to take on every aspect of every social issue in every story.

Colin presents a story in a frame of reference in which kids perceive life.  His own youth and personal experience provide a lot of insight into what is important to young people and that is what makes his stories credible with young readers. 

Colin is an excellent writer.  I don't think he should be goaded into writing a 'sequel' to stress a message that parents, educators, and media should have made quite clear. 

The good sense of today's young people should not be underestimated, and what young person - gay or straight - wants to be preached to in the reading material he seeks as entertainment?

In short, I totally agree with Cole's summation above.


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With apologies to The Bard, methinks the reader doth protest too much.

It's a nice, well-written story about two young teens who must respond to an accident and who do so with aplomb. Even mom's faked out! The kids could just as easily have been messing around with a compound bow and launched an arrow through the ceiling and roof. (And yes, they can.) But they chose a familiar object - a gun - which we all recognize and, more or less, understand. I guess they could have made it a .44 and had a sub-story about the EMS dispatched two blocks away for a plunging gunshot wound to a six-year-old, or the mysterious downing of an airplane on final approach to a nearby airport that struck two school buses on the highway or... or... or. But the author chose to relax and make it a simple story. And a good one. Focusing on a couple of clever kids and leaving the earnest advocacies elsewhere.

For the record, btw, I do not own a gun of any sorts, do not belong to the NRA, etc. Although I played with thermonuclear weapons in the Air Force, but those punch much bigger holes in ceilings and wouldn't do much for the story line.

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43 minutes ago, ChrisR said:


For the record, btw, I do not own a gun of any sorts, do not belong to the NRA, etc. Although I played with thermonuclear weapons in the Air Force, but those punch much bigger holes in ceilings and wouldn't do much for the story line.


Based on what you played with, the story line for 'A Hole in My Ceiling' might have read:

… Rafe was standing between my bed and the window that looked out on our backyard. He stretched his arms up toward the ceiling, closed his eyes, yawned with his mouth really wide open, the button was in his right hand, and he squeezed both hands like he was making fists, and

The End

Of course, it would have needed a different title, too.

Colin  :icon_geek:

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On 8/12/2018 at 9:32 AM, dude said:

I don't believe - however - that a young author, who devotes a goodly percentage of his busy waking hours to providing an upbeat website and reading material for gay and questioning young people, should try to take on every aspect of every social issue in every story.

Heavens, I wouldn't expect Colin to make every story a fable. What he writes and how he writes it is up to him. I do love to play devil's advocate, however, and can be quite a devil myself. On the one had there is teenage behavior, which Colin captured so well with this story, but on the other hand is the reaction of the reader, and that can have unintended consequences. I'm not faulting Colin for writing a very entertaining story. However, some younger readers, particularly at CW, might come away thinking how cool it was that the boys got away with it and became boyfriends too. I don't think anyone would come away thinking that it's OK to play with a gun, but a lot of the younger readers wouldn't know why the gun went off. I do have a bias here, having taken care of many gunshot victims during my career. I've helped kids paralyzed by a bullet to cope with life in a wheelchair. I've seen kids die. Saving even one kid that fate would be well worth adding a paragraph or two to the story.

I'll never forget the time that Mike censored a story I wrote that contained a detailed account of a kid slashing his wrists. He didn't succeed by the way, but his attitude was detached and his account of the whole thing was rather clinical. I wrote the episode the way I thought the protagonist would have written it, but it was a virtual how to account on slashing one's wrists and in very poor taste. When Mike called me on it, I changed it immediately.

I really do hope that Colon writes a follow-up story. It's not that A Hole in My Ceiling needs a moral per se, but the consequences of trying to cover up what happened could be very entertaining in and of themselves. I'd also love to see blame placed squarely where it belongs, with the father who unwittingly gave his son a loaded gun.

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