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Posts Tagged ‘writers’

It has been a full day of catching my breath. From blissful hours spent reading to actually enjoyable editing (editing? fun? who knew?) to mindless Internet research on topics my strange little brain finds interesting, my inner-introvert has been thoroughly coddled. And I am better for it.

The weekend was busy to new dimensions. Highlights include a family viewing of Inside Out, an accidental Carnival experience, and being carted across a muddy stream on my brother’s piggy back ride. In between Father’s Day fishing, my International Sister’s brief homecoming, and massive technical glitches during practice at church (PS. service itself went quite perfectly), I have lost all ground on besting my coffee addiction, earned “kiss-face” from my niece (hint: it’s very slobbery), finished one of the most confusing books I will ever read, and managed to fit in at least seven hours of sleep each night. What more could a girl ask for?

Not much, I’ll tell you. Not much.

Blog Bonus Feature: I’m currently working to build a believable backstory for a character. She/He (I won’t tell you which) is changing sides in a war. As an author who wants the character to still be lovable (otherwise the betrayal will feel cheap or anticlimactic), I am finding this to be a new kind of challenge. I’ll keep you posted and hopefully learn a few things I can share with my fellow writers.

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What are your plans for this Memorial Day Weekend? Perhaps to spend time with family, avoid the rain by slipping into a movie theater, catch up on the housework, or maybe to cuddle up with a blanket and a cup of tea to write? I will be at the Maine Bible Quizzing Retreat in Winthrop so I am sure I will be thoroughly drenched come Monday. Since I will be away and you might be writing let me leave you with one last portion of writing aid.

Perfectionism roams the world seeking to devour unwitting writers. Perfectionism not only gets you stuck in the mud, spinning your tires in a vain hope for escape, but it also vaporizes the joy of your craft. Don’t let it.

Take a stand against perfectionism this weekend. It starts by letting other people–trusted friends or family members at first–read your work. You have to accept that you will never perfect your novel. You can grow it and shape it, but it will always be a product of a human and thereby faulty. You also cannot control what others will think about your work. Fifty people may like it; one may not. Perfectionism makes you hold onto the one negative comment until writing is a labor–not of love.

Very often the difference between published (or self-published) authors and (unpublished) writers is the author’s willingness to look in the face of a novel, admit its faults, and love it enough to share it with the world anyway.

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Creating unique characters is a really good thing for a writer to do. We all know that. Those characters are often what make us fall in love with a series. This is proven in books like Artemis Fowl (where a 12-year-old criminal mastermind was a character people loved to watch) and Percy Jackson (where a demi-god with some small disorders, a simple wit, and a devotion to doing right pulled readers in). But such characters generate their own problems.

I have this character in my new novel and she has a creative background that makes her a loner. Now, I love how distinctive she feels. But how do you write about a loner? How do you have her interact at all with your other characters? You have to create a believable reason that would draw her into the company of others (and keep it unique). You cannot place a loner in a group for no reason. Writers like designing ‘tough-guy’ characters, but we do not always follow through on logical reasons for them to utilize the help of others. Let’s talk about such contradictions for a moment, and how to do them right. Because contradictions can be very alluring in novels (take the above examples of Fowl and Jackson).

InXsardis my character Vaylynne was a rebel working with the royal family. A rebel working with royals? People could believe it because of how it happened. It was not an instantaneous decision. There was a dramatic enough event to pull her skills into service, but even then she secretly worked against the royals for most of the book. This gradual change could be followed and readers could route against her in the beginning and for her in the end without too much of a stretch in their reality-based minds. Let’s face it, writers rarely have reality-based minds. Our imaginations float to the clouds until anything seems possible. This is why we hire editors or assistants: to bring us back to planet Earth.

Here is the thing to remember. The more unique your character, the greater the challenges. Just be sure to generate a situation or a logical progression that allows readers to really buy the decisions your character makes. Otherwise, their uniqueness will fade away as disbelief fills the reader’s mind.

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I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m an American or because I’m a writer or because I’m the last kid so I have basically lived as an only child for a while, but all three of those categories seem to have major tendencies to want to be alone. We, especially writers, have romanticized the idea of living in your own apartment with your own car and your own kitchen and living room. Most of us cannot wait for the adventure that will take us away from home to experience grocery shopping for ourselves, road trips by ourselves and rooms to ourselves.

Writers are control freaks. We live in little bubbles where when a problem arises it takes only some careful thought and a few key strokes to make everything better. When we emerge from our laboratories into the harsh reality of life it can be a shock. Authors get used to bossing around their characters, sighing at their computers, having background music for the scene. When other people enter the room we have a problem. We feel completely at a loss for how to communicate with them. When you’re used to flowing so smoothly in and out of conversation with your characters, it is difficult to experience.

And like all good little writers, Americans and only children, I idealized aloneness. I jumped in the deep end, moving twenty hours from home with no one I knew for seven hours. I have made two road trips. The first six and a half hours to Virginia (the second half of it by myself) and the second an hour drive last night. My brother’s wife’s brother and his wife just moved to Sumter, an hour out of Columbia and invited me over for dinner. It was a great time, but as I was driving back in the dark with the sounds of a flat filling my ears and my heart with fear and frustration (not again!), I was once more confronted with my intense desire not to be alone (the first time had been in the late hours of my solo trip to Virginia). No flat, safe trip home, but a lot of stress. I don’t like being alone!

That is not an easy realization to come to when communication is so painful and some of my favorite moments are with my imaginary characters, but it was one necessary to learn. The people around you, with all their flaws and with all of yours, are important. Squeeze out the time, drain the energy, invest in them.

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Ever noticed how the more loveable heros tend to take a sibling or a cousin along on the adventure with them? Not always, but typically the characters who are not proud and the ‘i don’t need any help; i can do it myself’ type sweep a family member along. Or perhaps they spend the entire book thinking about a parent–what would their father think? or how to avenge their mother’s death (I covered that in another post). What is the logic behind this?

Well, to make an exciting story, authors strip the hero away from their homes, lives and the people they love. And very few characters (the proud type usually) can do an impossible feat like the one authors give them without someone to support them. Heroes will meet many helpful characters along the way, but there will be that one person who stands beside them through it all–taking none of the credit and giving all they have to give. And the typical author makes this a cousin or a sibling or a friend that is like a sibling. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” People need other people and so the supporting cast is born.

Why is it usually a family member who bears the hero’s burden? Because family is the God-given support system. In the garden of Eden, God gave Adam his wife Eve. Later He gave them children. And the Bible has entire sections devoted to how parents should treat their children, children their parents, and spouses their spouses. When these relationships malfunction it can have dire consequences (think of how many times the story is about betrayal. Brother turns against brother and the fight between good and evil goes on between them). When Issac and his wife Rebekah chose favorites with their children, it led to Jacob tricking Issac  into giving him Esau’s birthright. Esau was planning on killing Jacob after Issac died, so Jacob fled the land and never saw his father again. He had lots of trouble with his uncle and the whole situation was messed up. When the family had issues, their lives had bigger issues. (Sidenote: if you have taken my previous challenge to trust God and do something ‘great’ right ‘now’ with your life, then remember to keep your family in order first. If you are a child, respect your parents in all things. If you are a husband or wife, take care of your spouse first. God gave us the family as our trust first and foremost. We must take care of them or everything else will fall apart.)

Look at a story that played out much differentially than the one above. You probably know this one a little better–that of Mary and Joseph during Jesus’ early years.  When Mary became pregnant with Jesus through the Holy Spirit, she was shamed before the entire community.  Joseph was not planning to stand beside her, but when an angel spoke to him, he did. He was Mary’s friend that supported her during her historic struggle. Her cousin Elizabeth was also a great comfort. And after the child was born, King Herod tried to have Him killed. God spoke multiple times to Joseph about how to protect his family. So we see that without the family, Mary and Jesus would have been in a lot more trouble. God would still have worked it out, but He used the family to save their lives and give the strength to go on.

That is why the family is so important to our heroes–because God gave them to us. When the rest of our security is stripped away, God (in His great mercy!) leaves us someone to help us through. Authors will forever mimic the way God runs the world. No matter how much writers change the environment–even creating entire new worlds with what they think to be entire new concepts–all creation bears witness to God. Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “…there is nothing new under the sun” and writing is no exception. If you are a fellow writer, look for the principles that are basic in life and incorporate them into your story (it is okay, even good, to mix them up a little, too. People want to read about struggles different from their own that can correlate to their own.). This will make it believable and touching to the reader. Keep the family as important (in writing and in your own life), because, really, it is.

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