Save the Dangling Characters!

Tags

, , , , , ,

I needed to read Essential writing skills: why a bad first draft is better than no first draft by M J Wright this past week. I’ve been beating myself up lately. Here’s why:

I began a story last year in a flurry of excitement. I finished chapter 10 or 11, and the going got tough. After writing approximately 30,000 words, I started to wonder, “Is this really good? Am I wasting my time?” It was the “make or break” phase. My fear of commitment kicked in. I thought, “What if I invest in these characters, fall in love with them, and find out they aren’t who I think they are?” Weird? Maybe, but that’s how I tick. So, what did I do? I hung it up. Left it. Left my characters dangling. I don’t want to admit to you how many characters I do this to. It’s painful.

And I hate to quit. So I told myself, “You are going to finish this, even if it’s bad!” I wanted to commit to the project, to put my heart into it, but I couldn’t. I needed to know my characters were lovable, relatable. I needed feedback to continue.

None of that friend-y stuff would do. I’m talking about your best friend who reads three lines and says, “Oh, this is wonderful! You’re such a great writer! I don’t know why you’re not submitting to every publisher!” I needed the real reaction of the reader who wasn’t influenced by my wonderful personality and incredible wit. (heh)

Where could I find that? Where could I find an audience who would only pay attention to the story? If it was good, I’d know it by the following it garnered.

This is where I cracked. I gave up the dream of professionally publishing the book. I changed the story up a bit and posted it on Fanfiction, knowing I was giving it away for free. Why? Isn’t that like shooting myself in the foot? Ah, my friend, a free book is better than no book at all.

I’m deep in my latest obsession, The Kiss of the Gobboling King. It’s one of those fairytale-revisited works. It’s fun. It’s freeing. No requirements. No target audience. It’s already found a little following. Readers tell me they like Esda and Draill, so I feel safe that these characters won’t disappoint me. I can love them unreservedly. I can finish the story.

Is it written the way I imagined it, shined and polished for the bookstore shelf? No. It’s a first draft. But when I’m finished, it will be the entire first draft. That’s what matters.

A Warm, Toasty Treat!

Tags

, , , ,

It’s November, which means my mind is on food again. I thought I’d share with you a couple of my current fall recipes to season the season. I posted my Stone Soup recipe, which is a favorite year-round, but this time I thought I’d give you a meat-less soup to try. Realm rarely lets me get by with a meat-less soup, or any soup that doesn’t end in “ili” and start with “ch.” The secret to getting your meat-loving husband to eat soup is to serve it with something that contains a little bit of meat. That’s where a hearty bread spread comes to the rescue.

100_1703

Yes, another one of my fabulous photos. You can’t get enough, I know.

Vegetable Lentil Soup

2 medium carrots, sliced
2 medium celery sticks, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 cups dried lentils
1 ½ cups chicken broth
6 cups vegetable broth
½ cup water
salt & pepper
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp thyme
1 tsp paprika

Add all ingredients to a big pot, except lentils. Bring it to a boil. Add lentils. Turn it down to simmer, and simmer on the stove for an hour. (Or realize you only have about 15 minutes before your hungry husband will be home, and crank that baby up to a raging boil!)

Hearty Italian Cheddar Bread

French or Italian bread loaf, sliced in half length-wise

2 tsp Italian dressing mix
1 cup chopped, fresh spinach
3 tablespoons butter, chopped in pieces
¼ cup of cooked ground beef
2 pieces of bacon, crumbled
¾ cup cheddar cheese, shredded

Mix the last six ingredients together. Spoon beef mixture onto the flat sides of each half of the bread loaf. Broil bread in oven for 5 minutes and serve with soup. (You can use any kind of meat you have: turkey, chicken, pepperoni, etc. Be creative.)

I used homemade flatbread instead of a store-bought loaf. That’s good, too. For gluten-free folks, you can top rice cakes with the spread and toast them in the oven, too. They come out crispy-browned on top and very, very flavorful.

Your tummy will totally appreciate this!

Fall and Sour Grapes

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I was seven years old and fighting to breathe. It was Halloween day. I lay on my bed, squirming and twisting, trying to find a position that would relieve the rock in my chest. Mom’s eyes showed her concern. I knew something was wrong, but I was too tired to ask what.

She took me to the doctor’s office, where they gave me a shot in my upper arm. For I moment, my lungs relaxed and I breathed freely. It lasted only a minute or two and my lungs became lead again, inflexible and heavy. They stuck me in the other arm. Nothing happened.

I stayed in the hospital for a week. That was the year I didn’t get to be Sour Grapes, the fancy, purple villain from Strawberry Shortcake. I missed trick-or-treating altogether. I had been so, so excited. In the top drawer of the hospital bedside table were a few pieces of Halloween candy someone had brought for me.

Every Halloween finds me sick. As a child, there were years I’d wheeze my way down the street to knock doors anyway. Hay rides were the asthma attack waiting to happen.

When fall comes, I breathe in the magic and forget. I forget about the disappointment of years before. My brain has this switch that only the smell of fall can activate. Story ideas grow like kudzu vines, latching onto my thoughts, tempting me to drop the work I’m doing and join them in the jungle of my imagination. I begin to scheme: How can I get away to write? I need a few hours for this story and a couple of hours to complete that one…

But the sniffling and the coughing start. I wake up nights, stuffed up and aching in my face. I can’t look at a computer screen; the light is too harsh, the letters too blurry. The throb behind my eyes won’t go away.

Fall allergies; I didn’t want to pass this down to my kids. They wheeze, sniffle, and cough. They pull themselves out of bed like they’re leaving a vat of molasses.

The humidifiers and essential oils are out. My house smells like cinnamon, cloves, lemon, and eucalyptus. At least, I hope that’s what it smells like—I can’t smell anything! There’s a tissue box in every room. Hot peppermint tea soothes swollen throats.

And I can’t think. I can’t focus. It’s like all of this mucus has stuffed up my brain and shoved out the lovely ideas and creativity.

So, I guess I’ll cross my arms and tell you fall isn’t all that great anyway. Who cares that the leaves are gorgeous, the weather is splendid, and Halloween is just around the corner?

Feeling Pumpkin-Headed? (Pumpkin and Image By C Tennie [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m not fooling you, am I?

Ravine

Tags

, , , , ,

When I first started this blog, I concocted a fake biography about an author, Smarmy, who was addicted to Ace of Base. It just so happens I grew up liking Ace of Base. Imagine that! My kids like Ace of Base, too. Totally my fault.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve continued to love the song, “Ravine.” From The Bridge album, “Ravine” was written by Jenny after a fanatic came into her home, threatened her family, and hurt her mother. The song is a poignant metaphorical telling.

I know nothing about Jenny’s Christian faith or views. What I know is that her simple lyrics talk of reaching out to God in the aftermath of a horrible experience. I’ve been there. I’ve gone to the ravine—a metaphor for being at the lowest point; yet, conversely, a place where one gathers strength and draws close to God.

In the aftermath of an experience that leaves one shaken, a person’s character goes through a forging process. The reaction in the moment has faded, and the full horror of the situation bears down. There’s no human being to turn to and no pride to depend on, nothing but the naked spirit oppressed by Grief, Anger, Doubt, Fear. That’s the moment when one decides to go to God or reject Him.

Here are the lyrics in the bridge section of “Ravine.”

“Why do you ask why I’m not blaming my God.
I’ll tell you what; He was the only one there.”

Bad things happen in life—not because God isn’t there, but because God allows souls to choose the right way or the wrong one.

Here’s the song from RIVERBACK on youtube:

“Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.” – Psalm 107:28-30

My View As a Stay-At-Home Mom

Tags

, , ,

I read Being a Stay-At-Home Parent Is a Luxury…for Your Spouse, and I could relate to a few of Chaunie Brusie’s thoughts.

I’ve felt I had to bake pies so that the world would know I’m not a worthless member of society.

Apple Pie By Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Realm and I chuckled over this one. Occasionally, he requests homemade goodies to take to work. His top pick is apple pie. I gather his coworkers like it, too. I love the compliments, but I never thought of it as my means of giving to society. I just like to cook, and I know what it’s like to get a treat amidst the monotony of the workday.

Well, of course, it would be a luxury to the spouse who works out of the home to have a partner who stays at home with the children. Someone who is always there to take care of the inevitable days of sickness, arrange the doctor’s appointments, make sure the cupboards are stocked, and [hey], to ensure that no one steals the FedEx package off of the porch.

At my house, the kids are like security guards with their checkpoints, investigating the mailbox and the front porch throughout the day. They take the letters and packages somewhere and promptly forget about them. It’s a wonder we find our bills and get our packages at all!

I realized, in a rush of amazement, that I had spent all of our marriage feeling just a tad bit guilty for being the one who “gets” to stay home…I realized, for the first time ever, that I didn’t have anything to prove.

The Petrie family of the Dick Van Dyke Show By CBS Television [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


As a keeper at home, have I felt like I had to prove something? Definitely. Logically, I know there is nothing more important than nourishing my family’s mind, heart, and spirit. Emotionally, though, this society has made its jabs at me, and I’ve been brought low for what I do. The pressure is real. The pressure is toxic. It helped me that I realized the negativity is not inherent in me. It also helped me to make a conscious decision to refuse the notion that it is good for any society to be condescending to a wife and mother for choosing to stay at home to be…a wife and mother. I hold, instead, to the godly belief that my most noble and praiseworthy service is to my family (Titus 2:3-5). On the Last Day as I face my Creator, this is one thing over which I will have no regrets or guilt.

There are many things we sacrifice to live on one income. We don’t do family Disney World vacations. In fact, my son went to DW for the first time last year through the generosity of good friends. (The girls haven’t been there at all. It’s amazing how happy they are anyway.) My kids don’t wear what’s trendy, and I don’t, either. Eating out is a treat, not a habit.

That being said, we are so, so blessed by God that I don’t have to work for a paycheck to help provide a roof, food, and clothing for our family. We have all these things and many, many other luxuries. Yet, I think the greatest luxury is the time we have to be together.

10 of my Favorite Fictitious Characters

Tags

, , , , ,

Here are some of the book, movie, and television characters I grew up loving.

By New York : Broadway Music, publisher. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

1. Anne Shirley, “I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked and wouldn’t.” – Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery

2. Lady Catherine DeBourgh, “I’m very attentive to all of those things.” – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3. The Childlike Empress, “They were with him when he hid from the boys in the bookstore…” – The NeverEnding Story

4. Mary Musgrove, “You, who have not a mother’s feelings, are a great deal the properest person.” – Persuasion by Jane Austen

5. Nikky, “I can’t think of a lovelier way of spending my life than spinning that silver light.” – The Moon-Spinners

6. Jamie Graham, (“Would you like a Hershey bar?”) “Yes, please.” (“So would I, kid. Have you got one?”) – Empire of the Sun

By FOX 52 (Sitcoms Online “The Cosby Show”) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

7. Claire Huxtable, “We are very fortunate to have the children, Cliff. Otherwise, we would never know the joy of leaving them at home.” – The Cosby Show

8. Mary Poppins, “Enough is as good as a feast” – Mary Poppins

9. Ralphie, “Don’t bother me. I’m—I’m thinking.” – A Christmas Story

10. The Sick Grandson, “Is this a kissing book?” – The Princess Bride

When I Meet the Bad Guy

Tags

, , , , , ,

Some time ago I read a draft of a story written in the point of view of the villain. Let me say upfront that I was entirely judging this character to be in the wrong, and I wanted to explore the character’s actions. I wanted to consider the story from her perspective.

The author began with an objective voice. It was great…for the first few paragraphs. Then something happened and my interest waned. I closed the book. Later, I asked myself, “Where did that story go wrong? It started out promising!”

It doesn’t matter which character’s eyes I’m seeing the story through; for a bad guy to be, well, good, I need some questions answered.

1. When I meet Cruel Bob, I will ask him,

“What’s Your Last Name?”

There’s a scene in the movie Galaxy Quest where the guy, named Guy, knows he’s going to die because he has no last name. He panics because he has no hobbies, no love interest, no back story, nothing. He knows he’ll be the first to go. As Captain James Hook would say, this is “bad form” for any villain who is going to be around for a while.

Leroux’s Phantom was given great context, both in the revelation of his past and in his residence under the Opera House. [Scan of still of Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Cruel Bob’s a cardboard character (aka, the two-dimensional chump) who needs context, or he won’t matter to me. I want to know his temperament, his tendencies, his surroundings–anything that will help me understand who he is right when I meet him. I want to relate to him, if only to roundly hate him.

Even a drunken, violent character has his times when I can see the struggling person inside. The manipulative liar has his weak moments, when I see his doubts creep in. He’s still the bad guy, but a bad guy with a human element.

2. I will ask that devious Madame Vitriol,

“What’s Your Problem?”

In real life, it would be much easier if people would go around with “bad guy” and “good guy” signs, but in reality everyone chooses what he/she will be. They have a past and a reason for doing what they do. It’s often the motivation from their past that helped create their present path. We all have a motive. What is the catalyst for your baddie’s behavior?

The scene where Willoughby cuts off a lock of Marianne’s hair. John Willoughby was by nature a man moved by the moment, and by nurture he could afford to live recklessly. [By Hugh Thomson. (A scan from the book Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

For a writer, motives become characters in themselves. A trickster can make a bad motive look like it’s good, and, sometimes, even a character with a good motive can behave in a bad way. So, tell me about those interesting events early on in Madame’s life that changed her. This helps me to better understand her and want to keep reading.

3. Then I will ask Mr. Eville von Furioso,

“Do You Come With Commentary?”

There are characters who are clearly wrong in what they do and think, but an author who uses the narrative to harp on this is really doing the reader a disservice. The story I mentioned at the beginning of the post is a good example. The author didn’t keep the objectivism. The emotion welled up before my eyes as the lines progressed. At first, the character waited patiently, set things in order, considered the merits of her work, etc. Then the phrases and words changed. Her ‘lip curled in disgust,’ she ‘ordered,’ and she ‘demanded.’ The author’s perspective took over the story.

I don’t want to be told your baddie is cruel, manipulative, delusional, misguided, or fiendish. This isn’t persuading me, it’s hitting me over the head with a thick Board of Obvious. What if each book drew a bright highlighter through the bad guy’s every action by using adjectives with negative connotations? What if each encounter with that character was weighted down with biased phrases? A good story should give me the pieces to help me draw that conclusion for myself.

In life I have to exercise my critical thinking skills to protect myself because the world has some people who are not nice living in it. Those who have the greatest influence on the way I think are the ones I’ve come to know personally. When I meet a real, living mean person, who is sometimes warmly sympathetic and sometimes cold and heartless, I have to learn to see past emotions and realize when that person is doing something wrong.

The book characters who mimic real-life people are the ones with whom I become emotionally attached. Mr. von F can’t resonate if he comes with the author’s complimentary “view my character this way” specs. I won’t remember him. So, please, leave the Board of Obvious at home and help me work my way through Eville’s schemes organically.

Being a fan of the character-based novel, I’m looking for a good bad guy. He/She must have (1) Context, (2) Motive, and (3) No Complimentary Commentary. I’m not saying the world would be a better place if authors did this, but I can think of a few books that would be better books.

Tackle the Task

Tags

, , , ,

Shhh! Guess who’s school librarian this year? Great Dewey decimals, I am! Think small school, small number of books… I should have this in the bag, right?

By Michael Holley Swtpc6800 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I have a tendency to overthink the simple task. My mind is chock full of ideas, most of which are, well, blown out of proportion. If you asked me how to paint a tall building, my first thought would be to use a hot air balloon. A fascinating visual, yes, but it doesn’t work.

There are four ways I check my overactive imagination:

I ask God to help me.

God should be my first line of offense, not just defense. He happens to be in charge of the universe, which means he has an incredible way of dropping things into my lap right when I need them. (Does He do that for you, too? It’s nice, isn’t it?) I find out a friend I’ve known for years knows all about a subject or skill that helps me solve my dilemma. A complete stranger walks up and gives me the piece to a puzzle I’ve been wracking my brain over. My mom calls and mentions the perfect solution to that niggling problem. I’m telling you, it happens all the time when I go to God first.

Years ago, when I was working at Dairy Queen, I left my planner in the bathroom. It had all my wedding plans laid out—which included the blank page with the word, “Cake: ?” A lady walked up to the DQ counter after the lunch rush and asked, “Who’s getting married soon?” She waved my planner in the air, I walked over to thank her for finding it, and guess what she said.

“I do cakes, and my prices are reasonable.”

Need a cake decorator anyone? Ha! Not only were her prices reasonable, I got the decoration of my dreams! No DQ ice cream on a stick for my guests. Coincidence? Yes. A lovely, lovely coincidence created by God especially for me.

I ask Realm for help.

He specializes in process design, after all. I’m amazed at how he can simplify the problem and address the big picture. I told him my plans for the library this year. His eyes gleamed. He gave me a method to break down the job into manageable steps. The steps all begin with ‘S.’ If alliteration is involved, you know it’s good. ;)

Finding someone to bounce my ideas off of always helps me! Most of the time I go to Realm. Sometimes I need a family member or a close friend to give me direction.

I set a due date.

It’s hard to grow a gigantic plan when it has to be done by Tuesday. When I see that day looming on the calendar, my mind leaps from possibility to practicality. The elaborate system I’m concocting will have to wait.

I don’t consult Pinterest.

Someone once said, “Pinterest is like crack for the creative types. You begin to spiral out of control, stealing tissue sheets out of gift bags and repurposing toilet paper rolls for wall art.”

Okay, maybe I said that.

What are your suggestions for an easily-distracted creative soul?

School Time!

Tags

, , ,

Get out your paper and pencils—or iPads, as some schools have it. Time for a

POP QUIZ!

1. Which amendment in the Bill of Rights protects a citizen in criminal cases, specifying that the court cannot require or compel one to testify or bear witness against him or herself?

a. Amendment I
b. Amendment III
c. Amendment V
d. Amendment VII

2. A zebra’s stripes are its defense against lions and hyenas, two predators that have which fact in common?

a. Their females are predominantly 10% larger than their males.
b. They are both part of the cat family.
c. They can run up to 50 miles per hour.
d. They are color blind.

3. What is wn?

45 = 5/9 x wn

a. 81
b. 72
c. 40
d. 76

4. What prophet succeeded Elijah, asking that a double portion of Elijah’s spirit be upon him?

a. Noah
b. Elisha
c. Isaiah
d. Benhadad

5. Complete the sentence with the correct verb form and explanation.

“I wish I (was, were) finished with this quiz.”

a. was; singular verb form agrees with singular subject
b. were; ‘if’ or ‘wish’ changes verb to subjunctive mood
c. was; realistic wish places verb in indicative mood
d. It is a matter of hot debate.

 

The answers are:

1. c (That’s what “I plead the fifth” means.)
2. d (The zebra’s stripes were a dead giveaway, right?)
3. a (It took me forever to figure this one out. Math is not my friend.)
4. b (II Kings 2:9)
5. c (I thought it was ‘b’ until I researched it online. It’s a freebie if you went with ‘d.’)

Have you ever wondered what ends up knocking around in this brain of mine after a day of homeschooling? Well, there you have it.

And everyone needs their thirty minutes of aerobic exercise!

Everyone has a story: Rilla Zerbert

Rilla Z:

Shelly asked me three questions. How would you answer?

Originally posted on The Goal List:

After introducing the mini-interviews last week, I’ve received a lot of interest in continuing them, so consider them now a permanent part of the blog!

Today’s mini-interview is with Rilla Zerbert, an American writer working on a new book called Dragonfly Prince.

Rilla Zerbert - Photo used with permission

Rilla Zerbert – Photo used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
My temporal dream is to publish my book, Dragonfly Prince. It’s a modern Alice-In-Neverland adventure.

My eternal dream is to go to heaven. I want to be with God always. In the meantime, I’m trying to learn what it is to love in an eternal sense.

What is something on your bucket list?
I’d like to visit Ta Prohm temple monastery, dating from 1186 A.D. I’ll like to see with my own eyes the decorative carvings of the animals, specifically the stegosaurus. I get super excited by the evidence…

View original 182 more words

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 157 other followers