Monday, April 27, 2015

Common Sense Instructions from the Bible: Part 1

     A friend of mine was blogging about wealth (among other things) and how it is meant to be shared.  You think about the lonely miserable old miser.  You think about the joy they would have if they had someone to share with.  Wealth is not meant to be squandered but neither is it meant to be horded.
     My friend went on to say that God did not give us wealth as a trick test to see how much we would give away.  And, as I read that, I thought of how many times it has been portrayed that way.  "God gave you good things just to see what kind of person you are.  You will be graded on the percentage of your goods that you distribute to the needy."  Is that how it is?  No.
      But are we supposed to share our wealth?  Yes.
      God gave us good things for us to enjoy them.  And we already established in the first paragraph that you will enjoy your wealth so much more when you share it.  That's how it works.
      How many times do we twist good instructions and make them into distasteful rules?  Common sense shows us how much more fun it is to share good things -- why do we make it a burden?  It's as if God said "Come eat this delicious meal I have prepared for you," and we said, "we are required to eat this.  He must be judging us on how much we eat.  Must I undertake this great sacrifice?  Who is He to tell me to eat His food!"  It's ridiculous.
      Share your wealth.  Make sacrifices as Jesus did.  Rejoice in the path set before you.  Delight yourself in the Lord.  And don't drag your feet when He gives you instructions.  :)

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Too Much Drama, Not Enough Action

"Too much drama, not enough action."


I've talked about this before, but I am coming back to it because I have seen this drama/action ratio again.  This time, it was in the first 2 episodes of OUAT.  I didn't especially like it, so I spent an evening mulling over WHY I didn't like it...so that I can avoid the same mistakes in my own writing.
Before I start, I should reiterate that I only saw 2 episodes.  I know several people who absolutely love this show, and I am sure that there are great things about it that I overlooked.  So, don't be angry with my judgments -- I know they aren't perfect.
Going into the show, I knew that it was a tremendous favorite among several groups on the blogging world.  And therefore, I had a kind of disney princess/robin hood/king arthur expectation...which was inaccurate.  Also, OUAT is not the sort of show that I typically watch so it all seemed new and strange to me.

Here is what I saw:

Pros: mystery.  Honestly, the only reason I watched the second episode is because I was confused over what was going on and I was somehow so sure that if I only watched a little bit longer I would figure it out.  Personally, I would have liked to be able to follow the story a little better, but the pieces that they gave me were just enough to make me crave to solve it.  And that "cliff-hanger" technique keeps people's attention.

Cons: there was a lot of drama.  Tears.  Heartbreak.  Dispair.  Agony.  But I wasn't sure why.  I felt like I was watching it, not living it.  There was no realization in me, apart from the character's reactions, of the gravity of the situation.  It felt something like this (words in red are my reaction/words in black are the example):
"Oh, no!  I tripped over a pink shoelace!"  <terrified character grasps her own throat and looks about wildly>
What's wrong with tripping over a pink shoelace?
"I can't believe you tripped over the pink shoelace!  Don't you know you could get us all killed?  SHE will be after you when the sun goes down. And she is not going to catch me within 2 miles of you." <second character starts to run away from first character> "Stay away from me!"
Okayyyy...so I guess tripping over pink shoelaces invokes deadly wrath from a female character.  Still not sure why, but, okay, I'll go with it. 
See what I mean?  I prefer a story where I already know the deadly promise regarding the pink shoelace.  I want to cringe when the character passes by the shoelace.  I want to yell at the book or the screen "Watch out!!!"  And, when she trips on the lace, I want to gasp at the same time as she does because I KNOW what could happen next.
In OUAT, I couldn't see the stakes, except as the character dialogue (usually post-catastrophe) revealed them to me.  That is not my favorite style.

Observation (neither pro nor con): They used character dialogue quite a lot to catch you up on the minimal information you needed to know to process a scene.
For example: I see a girl sobbing on the bed, and I have no idea who she is.  But another character comments that Snow White couldn't be at fault because Snow White has such a good heart and never does anything wrong.  Now, even though I haven't come to know Snow White myself, I have the character insight in order to understand how heartbreaking it is that Snow White is in this situation.
Personally, I think they overdid this technique.  Too often I was handed information in character dialogue.  However, it is a technique to be mastered, and it was neat to see how they used it.


I say "too much drama and not enough action," but here is another way to put it: a good story is a mix of action scenes and reaction scenes.  In my TCK story, there is an action scene where Amos is attacked by a Drago.  Shortly after is a reaction scene, where Amos reflects on how close he came to dying.  Readers need the reaction scene to help process what is happening.  But in OUAT, I felt like nearly every scene was a reaction scene.  Where were the action scenes?

I tell you all this, not to put down any other writer, but to encourage you to avoid pitfalls that even popular shows can have.  I turned OUAT off after 2 episodes and do not plan to watch any more.  The mystery alone was not enough to hold my attention when there was so much drama and very little action.

Have you critiqued any stories lately in order to improve your own writing skills?

Thursday, April 23, 2015

12,239

Hi.  This one, which I am calling JW, is coming so fast.  I told you I usually give these things a couple days, but I think I am going to let it reign until the weekend.  I am up to 12,239 words now, and I'm very close to the halfway point.  It would be crazy to stop now.  Besides, I'm nearly biting my nails to see what happens next.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

6,474

     So I wrote a tiny snippet of nothing and then fell in love with it.  I got to thinking that maybe I should play with it for a couple days.  I do this with plot bunnies that won't go away.  If I let them free for a couple days, I often capture enough information to store them away and come back to them at a later date. 
     Wednesday, I let this snippet free.  And I wrote 6,474 words in the story.
     I don't know if I have ever written that much in one day.
     I plan to let it run free tomorrow and then we'll see what we get.  At this pace, I'll have a first draft on my hands before I'm done.

WordplayWednesday


     "Benjamin Cooling."

     Jemma shook the offered hand.  "Is that your name?  Or an air conditioning company?"

That WAS the ER

This is a "bit of nothing" that I typed on 4/10/15 because...

  1. I needed a break from every story that I am working on, 
  2. I was inspired to try "showing instead of telling" by a Go Teen Writer's contest that I am too old to enter, and
  3. I wanted to write about somebody who is exhausted from a long day of work only to find that she's got a long, exciting night ahead of her.

Yeah.

I might could give you a good reason for that last one.


stethoscope-and-medical-chart-on-table


     Jemma shut the clinic door on the last patient of the day and sank into a chair.  Everything ached -- her arms ached, her feet ached, even her head ached.
    Carolyn poked her head into the office.  "Hey, nurse Jemma -- are we done?"
    Jemma rubbed her forehead.  "Yep, Mrs. Greenclair was the last name on the schedule.  I've never seen so many patients in one day.  I don't know how you do this every week."
    Carolyn disappeared down the hall, and a moment later Jemma heard the water running in the sink and the clink of dishes swimming in soapy water.  Then Carolyn's voice came drifting down the hall.  "Did you empty the trash and clean the tables for the night?"
     "Not yet, but I will."  Jemma pushed herself up and then sank back down again.  Getting up was too much effort.  Just two more minutes maybe...
     Dr. Harincourt bustled into the office carrying a stack of charts.  "Jemma, dear, do you remember the weight of the patient before Mrs. Greenclair?"
     Jemma groaned and leaned forward, dropping her head onto the desk.  "Nooooo...I don't remember anything," she moaned.  "I don't even remember my own name anymore."
     The phone rang in the background and Jemma heard Carolyn's crisp voice answering.
     "Carolyn!" Jemma mock-sobbed under her breath even though the assistant was too far away to hear her.  "Don't answer the phone!  We're closed!"
     "Poor girl!" Dr. Harincourt said sympathetically.  "You look ready for your weekend off."  He dropped the charts onto the desk.  "Can you file these for me?"
      "Hey, guys, there's been an emergency."  Carolyn appeared in the doorway.  She was white as a sheet, still clutching the phone receiver.  The sight of her made Jemma's heart flip-flop.
     "We don't handle emergencies here." Dr. Harincourt frowned and waved his hand.  "Tell them to go to the hospital ER."
     "That was the hospital ER." Carolyn clutched the doorframe.  "They are full.  They are sending people here.  There's been a bombing..."
     Carolyn's voice suddenly sounded far away.  The room seemed to spin around Jemma.  She reached for something to grasp, and then the world went black.
   

Monday, April 20, 2015

Acts and Layers


     I've been working on ToP in my spare moments, trying to figure out how to say all that I want to say.  The thing about ToP is that it is layered.  There is not just one arc.  And that is true of many stories -- especially big, fat ones.  But what I haven't learned from "how-to" articles is how to plot all of those layers.



     One of the things that I am doing is a character relationship chart, which I invented (and shared here).  
     Some relationships stay steady through a whole book, but many of them follow an arc.
Examples:

  • Strangers to friends.  
  • Love at first sight to a lasting solid relationship.  
  • Friends to enemies.  
  • Enemies to arc-enemies.  
  • Enemies to friends.
     And those relationships may be viewed differently by the different parties involved.  Maybe Joyce was trying to make friends all along, but Brenda couldn't see that until the end.  Maybe the hero thinks that the villain is his adoring fan when all along the villain has been flattering him while plotting his downfall.  Maybe Angie thinks Ben is just a geeky neighbor when Ben is really an undercover bodyguard sent to protect her.
     So the chart really helped me to plot that out.



     Another thing that I am doing is multiple copies of a "key scenes list."  You find different variations of these lists on a number of writer help sites.  GoTeenWriters has one, if you need one.  But you've probably already seen them.   Glimpse of normal world, inciting event,...big twist,...climax, denouement...you get the idea.  These lists of important events don't tell you what is happening in a specific story -- they are an outline of things that happen in every good story...an outline that you can then fill in with your own story details.
     So I made multiple copies of this key scenes list.  And then I filled one out for each plot layer.  And I order them in line of "most important."  For example, the most important layer in ToP is Petura's own self-journey.  I filled out an outline of the big twists and climaxes and all the plot points relating specifically to her learning about herself and what she wants to be.  This layer is going to get the most attention in the book.
     There is another layer with the young men courting the princess' hand in marriage.  ToP is not a romance novel so this is farther down on my list of importance -- it won't get as much "screen time" in the book.  However, Petura goes through an arc of meeting these different suitors and learning how to choose...or if to choose at all.  So I filled out a list of normal world, obstacles, twists, climaxes, etc for the courtship parts.
     There are questions of government and rebels and greedy countries.  These follow their own arc through the book and so I filled out the key scenes as if this layer was a story of it's own.
     And so on and so forth with all the arcs I wanted to feature in ToP.  The only rule I made was that the Acts (Act I, Act II, Act II) must line up chronologically with each other.  If an arc is big enough to impact the whole book, then it must work together on a timeline.
     For example, in Petura's self-journey arc, Act I is all about her meeting the characters of her new world and trying to fulfill Calene's request.  In Petura's courtship arc, Act I is all about her wrapping her brain around the idea of finding a future spouse.  I will make the climax of both "Act I's" to happen around the same time, and then they will both escalate together into Act II.  Eventually, all my different arcs will be so interwoven, you won't be able to tell them apart.


          At least, that is the plan.  And I am going to adjust this plan, filling in what needs to be filled in and inventing what needs to be invented, until I am ready to let myself loose on the page.  I haven't forgotten that TCK and BC are both ahead of this one in line to be written.  And I am content to wait.  But, oh, won't it be exciting when I get there!!!


Friday, April 17, 2015

April's Chatterbox: On Foot

I wrote this piece especially for the Chatterbox event, but it might eventually find its way into ToP.  Enjoy!



Petura lifted her chin and her skirts simultaneously and sat down on the fallen log.  Bits of rotting bark brushed loose and scattered across her satins.  Petura brushed them away but they crumbled into the finest damp powder and smeared mahogany stains across her pink gown.

Heron watched her and then turned, striding away through the forest.  Dry twigs snapped under his feet.

"Where are you going?" Petura felt a twinge of alarm.  Surely, he wasn't leaving her alone in the forest!

"Come on.  I'm taking you home."  His steady stride didn't slacken.

"You can't be serious.  The palace is 2 days travel by carriage."

"Then I am taking you to the nearest lordly dwelling and dropping you off there."

"On foot?"

Heron was getting farther away but he still did not stop.  "That is my usual method of travel, m'lady."

Petura stood up.  "There is no need to walk to anywhere."  She crossed her arms.  "If we wait here, my brother's men will find us."

The young man stopped then and swung his head to face her with a wry smile.  "Unfortunately, I haven't the luxury of sitting around and waiting on your cavalry."

"And you expect me to follow you for miles and miles...like a loyal hound?"

He waved a hand carelessly.  "Or sit there by yourself and wait for the bandits to return."

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

You Never Know What You Might See

One of the fascinating things about living around people is that you never know what you might see.  For example, the other day I was sitting in my car by a gas station, watching the traffic passing by.  Suddenly I noticed a car slowing as it neared the station.  Just as it reached us, an old, heavyset woman with long straggly white hair stuck her head out of the window and yelled "Woooo-Hoooooo!!!!!!" at the top of her lungs.  Then she settled back in her seat and drove on.

Like I said, you never know what you might see.  So keep your eyes open.  Truth is often stranger than fiction.  :D

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

It's Not a Movie

I read a post recently that struck me rather hard.  It pointed out the common error of writers now-a-days, trying to write their story as if they were a movie director.

Guilty.

I totally was trying to do this error on purpose, too.  Whoops.

When we watch a movie, we see the glances and sighs and pointed glares.  So much emotion is conveyed in these "glances."
In my attempt to "show" and not "tell," I started using acting-script as a language.

But it doesn't always work in a book form.

Writing is its own art form.  Don't try to copy movie form.

It was an interesting admonition.



If you want to read more, check out this post by K.M. Weiland: Show What Your Character is Feeling and Thinking (and Do It Like a Writer, Not a Director)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ain't We Got Fun! Cover Reveal

A picture of a man in New York.
(I copied it from the internet for this post because it seemed appropriate.)


Not so very long ago, two girls wowed the blogging world with their joint presentation of a story set in the Great Depression.  One of the fascinating things about this story (in addition to the story's own wonderfulness) was the way the two girls did it together -- I loved the letters.  And now, I am very pleased to announce, their story is to be published.  Hurrah!!!
Furthermore, I am very pleased to announce that the cover reveal is today and that I have the privilege of sharing it with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, the cover of Ain't We Got Fun!


1935: It was never much of an issue for Bess: living contentedly on her family's farm, despite the Depression which loomed around them. But when her older sister Georgiana takes off to New York City to make a fortune and help Papa out, feelings of adventure and wanderlust strike Bess at home. Through their lively letter correspondence, the sisters recount to one another their adventures, surprises, and heartaches, leaving little room for depression. For in a world of such wonder, ain't we got fun?


And now to meet the authors: 
 EMILY CHAPMAN, also known as Bess Rowland, is a young hobbit living in the dear old South, and she is entirely bonkers. She's a dreamer, an optimistic pessimist, and an introverted people person. Blue skies, dancing, Disney, and whipped cream make her happy, and she swears she's been to Narnia. She's been a reader all her life, became a writer because of that, and published her first novel, Cry of Hope, in March of 2014. But without her Savior, all of this would mean nothing. It is in Him that she puts her hope. “And hope does not disappoint us, for God has poured out His love into hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.” – Romans 5: 5




                                           

EMILY ANN PUTZKE and Gi Rowland have two big things in common – their love for God and coffee. Besides writing historical fiction, Emily enjoys being an aunty, photography, Irish dancing, spending time with family, attempting to play the guitar, reenacting, and reading. She loves polka dots, war movies, and all things vintage. Her first novella, It Took a War, was published in December of 2014.



This delightful story is scheduled to be released to the public in paperback and ebook formats on May 25, 2015! Feel free to check back on this blog for more information. Or you can go to the author's blogs:
Emily Putzke @ http://www.authoremilyannputzke.com/
Emily Chapman @http://www.emilychapmanauthor.com/

I can hardly wait!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Music: TobyMac "Beyond Me" - LYRICS



This is a song about how God calls you to things SO BIG that you can't possibly take credit for them.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Time Traveler Coming Soon

     Have you ever written a letter to yourself, and sealed it to be opened at a later date?  I have.  I used to call them time-traveler letters.
     A friend inspired me last year to do the same on my blog.  So I wrote a post and scheduled it to be published a year later.  A year seemed like such a long time!  But here I see it on my posts list, and it will be published on May 1st, 2015 -- at the beginning of next month.
     I can hardly wait to see what it says!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Jenny the Penslayer


There are many reasons she is called the Penslayer.
But the title suits her...or at least, it suits her writing.  And it is only through her writing that I know her.  Through her blog and her two published books.
What is it that she slays?  There are many things, no doubt, slain by her pen.  But tonight I came to realize that she slays my chains.
Chains of fear.
There is a part of me that shrinks back from being seen.  How can I share my deepest philosophies?  Who would understand them?  How can I speak the poetry that beats in my soul?  What if people laugh at it?  Or a Mrs. Barry is offended by my Anne-speak?
I don't know exactly how Jenny slays these fears.  All I know is that there is a depth in her writing that speaks to me, calls out to my most inner thoughts.  And when I pick up my pen again, the fears are gone -- at least for a little while.
I do not agree with everything she writes.  And maybe she doesn't agree with everything I write.  But I do know that she somehow spurs me on to be a better writer, in a way that no one else ever has.  And while I never want to write exactly like her, I do hope someday to be a penslayer in my own way.
Three cheers for the Penslayer.
May she always pursue excellence in her writing
and call out excellence in ours.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Beautiful People: Brant and Mason

Hi!  I'm linking up with Sky and Cait's Beautiful People: Sibling Edition this month.  You can check out Sky's hosting post here: http://furtherup-and-furtherin.blogspot.com/2015/04/beautiful-people-sibling-edition.html

This time I will be talking about Brant and Mason, from my story "Broken Clouds."  They are brothers.  Brant's about 14 or 15 years old.  Mason is about 7 years old.  Here it goes!

1. What is the first memory they have of each other? Brant's first memory is coming home from spending the day at a friend's house and being introduced to his small, red, screaming brother.  Mason doesn't have a first memory -- Brant's just always been there.
2. Describe their relationship in 3 words. Brant is the protector, boss, and occasionally the creator-of-fun-things-to-do.  Mason is the I'm-cute, don't-be-mad-at-me, let's-do-something part of the relationship.
3. What kind of things do they like to do together? Get ice cream, go to the store, swing (Brant pushing the swing, of course), play ball.
4. What was their biggest fight? I don't think you can call them fights.  First of all, Brant is a lot bigger and stronger and smarter (due to age only) so he quickly wins in any situation.  Second of all, neither one is much of a fighter.  Brant is more likely to shut his own mouth and doggedly pursue his convictions in silence.  Mason is more likely to want to please as much as he can.
5. How far would they go to save each other? Brant would do anything to save Mason, and he would be smart and determined and hold nothing back from rescuing him.  Mason would do anything to save Brant, too, if he thought he could, but he's not very skilled at it.  
6. What are their pet peeves about each other? Brant is annoyed with Mason's eagerness to make friends and to please just anyone.  He thinks that Mason will be ruined by being too open with strangers.  Mason is sometimes annoyed that Brant is so bossy and sometimes grumpy.
7. What are their favorite things about each other? Mason has a way of seeing everything as new and wonderful.  Brant likes that, even while he worries over it.  And Mason's favorite thing is the way his brother thinks of fun things to do.
8. What traits do they share? Mannerisms, clothing, quirks, looks, etc? Yep.  Some are conscious mimicking by Mason, who idolizes his big brother.  Some are purely due to family traits.
9. Who has the strongest personality? Not a fair question.  Each personality is strong in its own way. And each are vital to the story, too.
10. How does their relationship change throughout your story? It opens up to let Kelsey into the mix.

Life is Pretty Exciting These Days

Getting ready to head home after running some errands at work.
     Life is pretty exciting around here these days.  I left TCK to sit for a few weeks, and now I am plunging back into edits.  I found that a couple of my themes were nebulous, and nebulous is never good.  Subtle is good.  Nebulous?  Not so much.  With my material, I could take the theme one of two ways.  So I am trying to decide where to go with it.
     I sent TCK to one of my beloved beta-readers on April 1st (along with a plea, begging her not to pull any April Fool's stunts on my story -- I can take criticism like a champ but jokes are too much when my baby/story is involved).  And I sent it to a couple other readers later in the week.  Can't wait to get all their feedback and work on my story again.
     Pouring over the list of "what I should have done" (aka, an editing checklist) always sparks my imagination for stories yet to come.  Which led me back to Broken Clouds and ToP.  I am dusting them off and figuratively building the scaffolding for them.  This is exciting, as we always have the highest hopes for stories yet unfinished.
     The writers of Rooglewood Press' upcoming anthology (to be released this summer) are on my mind.  They are likely in the midst of editing their works.  I think they have until the middle of this month to get their corrected manuscripts back to their editor.  That is very exciting and I hope that is going smoothly for them.
     In my own humble life, I am nearly finished the training for my non-writing career.  And, on a smaller scale, I am caring for some pets (my own and others) and house-sitting for a friend with a houseful of delightful little animals.
     I hope your life is every bit as delightful.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Introducing the Caves: More Rooms to Explore

Greetings, all!  I have returned for my final installment of cave pictures...for now.  Today I bring you more places to explore.

Right this way, folks...


Knock, knock.  Does somebody live here?


Almost home...


A special place, perhaps?


There are things to see everywhere you go.


(Ignore the railings and electric lights, please)


Maybe this would be a good place to sit and think?


Thank you for joining me, everyone!  And I hope you now have an idea of the world that is so special to Amos.  See you around!

 If you missed the other posts on cave pictures, you can check them out here:
Scenes from Deep Underground
Cool Rock Formations
The Water Scenes
Glow Worms
and today's post: More Rooms to Explore