December 21, 2010
By John Eldredge
The book begins with Sam Gamgee's quote, "I wonder what sort of a tale we've fallen into?" From there Eldredge proceeds to remind us just exactly what kind of a tale it is that we humans have been born into. We have been born into a world at war, into the midst of an epic story of beauty and devastation, trust and betrayal, good and evil, love and sacrifice. People love sweeping, epic stories conveyed through movies and books, and it is because those stories echo the nature of the story we live in... the story we were created for.
Eldredge discusses the basic plot structure that every great tale more or less follows, and you may be surprised to realize that it is the exact structure of the story of our world.
While this book was intended as a resource for Christian living, I am also going to recommend it as a resource for Christian writing. "Every story we tell is out attempt to put into words and images what God has written there, on our hearts," Eldredge says in the book.
That kind of helps it all make sense, doesn't it? The reason that books like Lewis' The Last Battle or Tolkien's Return of the King can reduce us to tears, the reason heroes like Aragorn and sacrifices like Boromir's have so much power to move us... the reason we writers have this overpowering, unexplainable longing to write a tale of that caliber: a truly epic story that will move people the way these tales move us.
I suspect I'm not the only one who sometimes thinks "Is writing (fantasy, sci-fi, etc.) really what I should be doing with my life? Isn't there some way that I can serve God even more?"
But after reading this book, I don't think you'll wonder that any more. Yes, God may tell you at some point that your time as a writer is over and it is time to move on to something else that He has for you. But until then, just remember: it may be a fictional story you're telling, but dragons, sorcerers, warp drives and all, every epic tale is an echo of the true epic tale we're living in.
December 16, 2010
I can't count the number of times I and one or more of my writing friends have lamented to each other that "No one seems to be publishing the kind of things we write!". It's true that the speculative genres, while growing slowly and by very small increments, are not exactly big in the Christian publishing industry right now. It's not the publishers' faults. What logical reason is there for them to spend money publishing something that only a tiny minority of people are reading?
Unfortunately, that problem is just the tip of the iceberg. In the midst of a national economic crisis, the publishing industry as a whole--Christian and secular--is facing tough times. Financial risks have gotten riskier, and no one wants to take them. Sadly, rookie writers and speculative genres are financial risks.
So what are we to do, up-and-coming writers of speculative fiction? Shall we hunker down and wait for the current crisis to blow over, hoping to emerge on the other side to find the industry more willing to gamble on us? Shall we commit that great literary sacrilege and change what we write to follow the market trends? I say: "Not on your life!"
Literary agent Rachelle Gardner has a great post up on her blog today, from guest blogger Marcus Brotherton. As well as being entertaining and humorous, his post is extremely encouraging and inspiring. Read it! He proposes that writers help the publishing industry they depend on by buying one hardback book a month in 2011. The figures he has come up with illustrating the impact this would have on the market are astounding.
But I would like to take his theory a little further than that. Writers of Christian Speculative fiction, let's take the initiative and be the change we want to see in the Christian publishing market. Let's be the ones waiting at the bookstore for the release of that new fantasy book; let's be the ones standing in line at that Christian sci-fi author's book signing; let's be the ones making speculative fiction and its authors not quite such a big risk for publishers.
It won't happen overnight, and our efforts alone won't turn the massive USS Christian Fiction around. But we can be the start, the leaders, the pebbles bouncing down the mountainside gathering speed and followers until--hopefully--they become a landslide.
What are your thoughts on the market for Christian speculative fiction and what we can do to influence it?
December 14, 2010
A great artist painted a picture of the Last Supper. When he was finished he called in a friend to look at it, and asked for his opinion. After gazing at the painting for a few minutes, the friend said "Those cups on the table are the most magnificent cups I have ever seen."
Much to the friend's surprise the artist picked up a brush and some paint and methodically painted over each cup, shaking his head and saying "I failed."
Dismayed, the friend asked the artist what he was doing. The artist replied "I wanted you to see Christ, but you saw the cups."
Writers, does your work show Christ to people? Do they read your writing and see God's grace, love, and sovereignty reflected in your poems, essays, even your fictional stories?
I would like to challenge you all to think about that when you pick up that pen or put your fingers on that keyboard--today, tomorrow... every day.
It's not about us. It's not about the stories. It's about Who the stories point to.
December 6, 2010
The 'Writer' moment came shortly after I dragged myself into the house at 8:30 Saturday night, cold, weary, and convinced that high-heeled dress shoes were originally invented as slow-onset torture devices. There was a letter in the mail for me... oddly, addressed in my own handwriting with no return address. (?) I quickly thought through everything I had submitted, sent away for, or requested during the last couple of months, but came up with nothing that matched this. I opened the envelope to find three of my poems that I had sent away to a magazine four years ago and had long since forgotten about, along with a polite little note thanking me for my submission, but regretting to inform me that they couldn't use it.
And no wonder! The poems that, four years ago, I considered fabulous were downright embarrassing to see printed up so professionally, a painful reminder that I had actually had the gall to submit them. The whole situation was too ridiculous for me to feel very badly about the rejection--after rereading those poems, I knew I deserved it! It was a good learning moment, though, a good reminder of the progress I've made during the last four years as a writer.
How about you? What is a recent Writer Moment you've had, and what have you learned from it?
December 2, 2010
Honestly, in spite of the tension and stress NaNo created, I'm glad I did it. It was a great chance to push myself, practice meeting a deadline (something every writer should work on, no?), and as a bonus it really made me appreciate the freedom I have the other 11 months out of the year. It was so refreshing to open up my computer file this morning and ask myself: "Hmm... what do I want to work on today?"
Of course, my main priority is getting back to editing Son of The Shield and start writing the sequel. I'm hoping that, with the help of a few good buddies, I'll have SOTS in good enough shape to start sending out queries this next year. Another world to explore: the world of publishing and marketing!
But along that line, literary agent Rachelle Gardner has an excellent post up on her blog today, from guest blogger Mary DeMuth, discussing marketing strategy. Would you believe that, in spite of what the experts tell us, it's still okay to be you, even when it comes to getting your book and your name out there? Click Here to read the complete post--I found it incredibly encouraging!
November 29, 2010
Total Word Count: 50,971
I won!!!!! My first NaNo ever, and I won!!!!
I have just concluded a glorious evening of eating end-of-NaNo pizza, enjoying cream soda and dark chocolate-covered pomegranates, and watching my favorite movie of all time, The Young Sherlock Holmes, to celebrate. My wonderful mother (without whom my successful completion of NaNo would not have been possible--and I mean that in all seriousness) spent the evening with me, sharing in my revelry... since celebrating all by yourself isn't half as much fun as celebrating with a friend.
The only down side is that--well, The Pirate Shrine isn't finished yet! Nearly 51k words and I'm still just on the verge of the big climax of the story. My characters just will not be rushed, not for me, not for word counts, not for deadlines, not for anything. I'm seriously hoping that the story will wrap up around 52 or 53k--surely no more than that! (Famous last words) At any rate, I'm hoping to get the story finished up tomorrow, and then I'm closing that lousy computer file that I've lived in for the last month, and moving on to something with a much lower stress level!
I've got a host of exciting new projects lined up, so for those of you who have so patiently stuck with me through the drudgery of NaNo, keep sticking around for the adventures to come!
November 28, 2010
After ten days of being woefully way behind schedule, and three days of cranking it out to get caught up, I am now one whole word ahead of schedule! So now I am enjoying a celebratory bagel complete with melted butter and strawberry cream before putting in another hour or so of writing time tonight.
We're cruisin' the home stretch, people! Only 51 hours of NaNoWriMo2010 left! (At least in my time zone, anyway. I don't know about yours.) Oddly enough my entire family, none of whom are writers, have all jumped on my little bandwagon and are nearly as consumed with NaNo as I am at the moment. Between Mom and my brother James I haven't had to update my word count on the site a single time today--but the two of them have collectively updated it about 14 times. Any time I stray too far from my desk chair one family member or another commands me to "sit, stay, and write!" Both of my brothers have, at some point today, informed me that I will finish on time or else (the details of 'else' have not been specified). Their enthusiasm has struck me as a little odd, but... well after all, I've known they were all odd for years. : P
So, to those of you who have already finished and become verified 2010 winners, congratulations! To those of you, like me, still plugging away towards the finish line, keep at it! We're almost there, and you can do it! To those of you who chose or were forced to drop out early on, well... I understand. Really. Better luck next year? We'll see.
I'm off now--got to get back to the story that I seriously doubt will conclude itself in 3,332 words... although it may, you never know. If it does though, it's going to have a serious bottle-rocket ending. Only one way to find out!
November 15, 2010
I'm currently behind schedule, but the plot begins to thicken... and that isn't necessarily a good thing. When Day 1 began, I really didn't have that much of a plot, so I'm grateful to have one(23k of plotless words would begin to get very tiresome) but now the storyline is growing more complex--and I didn't think Tor's story would revolve so much around his journey to faith--and I had no idea that Marcus got captured by the enemy--and I didn't realize that one enemy was actually trying to double-cross another enemy... yeah, you all get the idea.
Basically, I'm charging ahead at full steam with no headlights and absolutely no idea where I'm going. So come December 1, the novel that is now waiting impatiently beneath my internet page may be a totally different story than the one that I started out with--or thought I started out with--on November 1. But, such is NaNo, I suppose.
Now I'm off to get back at it. There's a cream soda screaming my name from the refrigerator, but I've told myself that I can't have it until I'm caught up on the weekend's word count... no matter how late I have to stay up to do it.
November 10, 2010
I got to introduce my favorite character yesterday! Of course, I didn't know that he was going to be my favorite character, probably because he wasn't at all the type of character I expected him to be (that seems to be a recurring theme for me in this story) but he made the whole day of writing a treat! He's one of those characters whose personality and mannerisms are so distinct and clear that you don't have to figure out anything they say or do for yourself; they just do their thing, and you write it down.
My main character now has a trusty sidekick, and I'm off to do the breakfast dishes and get back to writing!
November 8, 2010
November 6, 2010
I took a bit of a break from writing yesterday, although I was able to have a good little 'writers' conference' with a couple of my NaNo writing buddies. We exchanged stories of writing woes and gave each other pep talks... though all of us were still in one degree or another of panic when we finally parted ways. Ah, well, what would NaNo be without panic?
I wrapped up the evening by attending an absolutely fabulous Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert with my parents and siblings--our family Christmas gift a bit early. If you guys have never seen them in concert, check their website for their 2010 performance schedule and find out when they're coming to your area. Trust me: it's worth the high ticket price!
With that over, though, I'm ready to get back to writing... and start playing TSO Christmas music.
November 2, 2010
No, I don't plan on journaling every day of NaNo, necessarily, but we're still in the very beginning stages so there are a lot of important things going on to journal about. First of all, congrats to all my writing buddies--your word counts are looking great! I know some of you haven't been able to update your counts yet due to problems with the site, but I've talked to most of you via email so I know that your novels are coming along beautifully! Keep up the good work!
As for me:
I'm developing the horrible feeling that by December 1 the Narnia soundtrack will start making me break out in hives. So far I've listened to "The Blitz, 1940" 9 times today--it's a great invasion/naval battle track.
After lying awake listening to a grandfather clock 'bong' all night I did some quick calculations and discovered that a standard grandfather clock actually 'bongs' 1038 times in a 24-hour period. (So the next time someone asks you how many times a grandfather clock 'bongs' every day, you'll know what to tell them.)
My main character isn't shaping up to be quite the handsome, intrepid hero I had hoped for pre-November. Handsome, I suppose so; a good fighter, sure; a good military leader, absolutely. Shy, awkward, and terrified of public speaking? Unfortunately, yes.
Oh, Torsten, what am I going to do with you?
November 1, 2010
Well, I made my word count quota for today--only 29 days to go! Ugh... yeah. 29 days to go.
Well, anyway, I'm happy. I've made my quota for today and a little extra for tomorrow. Maybe that'll make up for the time it'll take to go and vote in the morning. (Make sure none of you forget, by the way!)
I've got to admit, though, that even though it's only the first day of my first NaNo, things aren't exactly as I thought they would be. First of all, my plan to go to bed early last night and get a good early start to writing this morning didn't exactly work as well in practice as it did in theory. Oh, I got to bed early, all right, but I laid awake half the night,wondering if it was time to get up and if that noise in the kitchen was really just the wind or some freaky intruder.
I finally gave up trying to sleep and got up at 5:30 this morning, got dressed, made myself a cup of tea, sat down in front of my laptop, opened a new blank Word Document, and typed: The Pirate Shrine, Chapter One. Then I hit "Enter"... and panicked.
There was that cursed cursor, blinking away at me, and I hadn't the faintest clue what to write! So, I took a deep breath, told myself "Quantity over quality," and then wanted to slap myself for uttering such sacrilege. But I did it anyway--closed my eyes, pictured the opening scene in my head, put my hands on the keyboard... and started writing!
The day went pretty smoothly for the most part (if you don't count a minor disaster involving paraffin wax and a hapless little sister) and right now I really think that I can do this! With that being said, though, it's 9:30 pm and I still have dishes to do, so I'll quit journaling and get to it. Maybe I'll get a little more writing in before I go to bed, too. Good night, NaNo-ers, and hope you all got in a great first day!
October 30, 2010
In addition to updating my word count on the NaNo website, I'll do my best to post an update once a week or so here at the Lair. Any of you Lair Dwellers who are doing NaNo too, feel free to leave comments updating us on your own word count!
Good luck, everyone, and write well!
October 19, 2010
But then I had the privilege of actually reading the results. For being written in only a month's time, the stories were remarkably good!
And, after another year of listening to "Mary, you really should do NaNo, you really should. Even if just to say you've done it, come on, just do it, you really should," I finally came to the conclusion that I might as well. What could it hurt? Er--ahem--besides adding me to the aforementioned pile of hysterical gnomes, that is.
I am officially signed up for NaNo now, waiting very nervously for November 1 to dawn, so that I too can begin my journey to white-haired gnome-hood!
So, Lair Dwellers, how many of you are undertaking NaNo this year? I'm MaryRuth (one word) on the website, so look me up and I'll be happy to add you as a writing buddy! After all, if you've got to be a hysterical gnome, you may as well have company doing it, no?
September 28, 2010
But, alas, it doesn't work that way, and so I am left with the humongously overwhelming task of editing Draft 1 of my novel, Son of The Shield--all 108,642 words of it (as of last count at 1:00 this afternoon). Yes, it is a huge novel.
These days, editors seem to want stories that top out at 100k max, and with that in mind I'm trying desperately to reduce my word count. Unfortunately, I keep finding and being informed by friends of all these scenes I need to add to clarify and develop things. So far I've only come across two scenes in the entire novel that need to be cut.
However, aside from those little problems, I have actually started making great progress with editing, for the first time since finishing Draft 1 at the end of December!
Since there's a lot of clarifying and explaining to be done throughout the novel, I'm focusing on streamlining as a way of reducing word count right now. It can get frustrating, taking down the word count 1 and 2 words at a time, but it makes for better quality, so I'm glad to do it.
And, the big thing that has (finally) kick-started my editing: I have finally managed to nail down my main character in my head! I know it sounds crazy, to have been working on a novel for three-and-a-half years and to just now be able to really grasp a character's (especially the main one) essence, but it's the truth.
I've had trouble with this character from the beginning--everything from understanding his thought processes and feelings, to simple things like being able to picture his face clearly in my head. I've had recurring dreams of being in the world where SOTS takes place, running in circles trying to get a look at this character's face, and he keeps turning away from me. No joke. Needless to say, this created a major problem when it came time to develop his character and write the dialogues, thought sequences, and scenes that he starred in. I managed to bungle my way through a blurry and disheveled Draft 1 in spite of it all, and since I was my only critic at the time I could let myself get away with it. But then came the critiques from my cohorts, Heather, LoriAnn, and Katrina. And they weren't letting me get away with anything. They dragged me, kicking and screaming, to face the awful truth: my main character needed to be more solid, more developed. But no matter how I tried, he just wouldn't seem to come to life like the other characters.
Until last week, that is!
I am absolutely ecstatic that Sorek has finally come to life in my mind! Now I can picture his physical appearance perfectly, and I understand his personality at a very deep level. And to make matters even better--he's really cool!
I'm really not sure what triggered the change and made him finally come to life for me, but I can tell you that it is making editing SOOO much easier! Instead of feeling like I'm dragging my main character around and forcing him to act out scenes like a marionette, I'm watching him take charge of his own scenes and live out the story like he's supposed to. Draft 2 is finally underway and rolling... and I'm beginning to think that this might actually shape up to be a pretty good story!
September 20, 2010
(Sometimes the best way to get inspired to write is to sit down and read some really great writing!)
The golden-rod is yellow;
The grapes' sweet odors rise;
I never can forget.
September 7, 2010
Face it, guys: we ARE weird! Like it or not, we writers simply are not normal. Period. Just because something is normal for a writer does not mean it is normal for any other species of human. It's high time we just accept the fact.
Now, we have some options as to what we do with that fact. We can continue being insulted by remarks and jokes about how weird we are; we can try to convince our non-writer friends and family members that it is they, not we, who are abnormal; we can follow in the footsteps of Mr. Edgar Allen Poe and become morbid, suicidal drunks; or, we can step back, take a good look at just how weird we really are, and learn to accept it with grace and humor.
We are what we are. We can't do anything about it, and we can't change how 'normal' people see us, so why waste time and energy being insulted or angered by it?
Admit it: we're writers, we're weird, and we love it. It's time to shake the sand out of our feathers and learn to laugh at just how crazy we really are!
One of the ways that my personal case of writerhood manifests itself is all over the walls of my bedroom/office. I have a pad of sticky notes that I keep on the end table. If I need to suddenly write something down, I just jot it down on the Post-It pad and slap it to the wall for safe keeping until I need or want it. Then of course, I have the whiteboard hanging on the wall, for more organized visual storage of ideas. It currently contains the title list of the fantasy series I'm working on, as well as my current favorite quote and my current reading list. Not that I have anything against writing in a notebook. Indeed, I have several notebooks stashed in various purses, bags, jacket pockets, and locations around my room. It's just that I like having things on the wall, too, where I can see them and look them up at a moment's notice.
How about you? What are some of your laughable writer's quirks?
August 23, 2010
I'll be honest, the cover made me a little edgy when I first saw it. It kind of had that 'romance novel' look to it, and I am really not into romance novels. Rest assured, dear readers, this is not a romance novel! Yes, a romance does develop between two of the characters over the course of the story, but ... well, that's different.
Anyway, the main character, Hemiunu, or 'Hemi' to his friends, is Grand Vizier to the pharaoh Khufu, and the designer and architect for the Great Pyramid at Ghiza. He and Pharaoh Khufu grew up together, and both are hiding a dark secret regarding the mysterious death of a young woman many years ago, when they were still boys. Both of them are hiding the secret, but neither of them actually knows the full truth of it...or so they claim.
When Hemi's friends start being murdered, he begs Pharaoh for permission to investigate, but uncovering the murderer may mean uncovering the truth of an event they have both sworn to keep secret forever. It also leads Hemi to meet some new and surprising people who introduce him to a God other than the statues he serves in Egypt's temples.
This books makes a fabulous read; it combines an historical adventure with a delicious murder mystery. The only problem I found with it was that it is written in first-person from the viewpoint of a man. Being written by a female author, I think it sometimes doesn't accurately reflect the way a man would view or think about a given situation. But, the character development is deep and thorough, and we the readers get the feeling that we know Hemi personally.
City of the Dead gets a great rating from me (in which case, I should probably develop some sort of rating system to go by) and I will definitely be adding it to my bookshelf at my first opportunity!
August 18, 2010
August 3, 2010
~From Creating the Story
It's true: elaborate, detailed character development is important, but it won't get you anywhere without deep, familiar knowledge of human nature. A writer has to know and understand the workings of the human mind and apply their knowledge to their characters in order to effectively transport a reader into that character's thoughts and struggles. A reader cannot identify with a character on a deep level if that character's mind doesn't function like a realistic human mind.
So that leaves us, the writers, with the task of learning and studying human nature. You'd think it would be totally easy--after all, we're humans, aren't we? Of course we know how we think!
But it's not always that easy. We tend to take our human nature for granted; it's part of us, so we don't think about it that often, just like you probably take your right leg for granted. Have you ever just sat down and studied your right leg, the way the muscles fit together, the way the tendons flex and move when you bend your knee, the way the components of your knee joint work together? I'm going to venture a guess and say that most of us probably haven't. So have you ever sat down and analyzed your own thought processes and mental gear-grinding?
A warning: don't become over-analytical! You don't want your writing to become bogged down with the minute details of every character's thought processes, nor do you want to get so into the habit of analyzing yourself that you spend all of your time analyzing potential decisions rather than actually making them!
The microscopic details of characters' thought processes aren't what's important. What's important is the understanding of the character's nature that you bring to the page. Even if you don't openly display your understanding in a lengthy dissertation on why Character A made this particular choice, if you have that deep, intimate knowledge of human nature and the workings of the human mind, it will show. And if you do it well, the reader will benefit from it without even realizing that it's there.
July 26, 2010
Why are we creative? Why do we seek to write, sing, and paint? How can we make something from nothing?Tolkien’s The Silmarillion speaks of the creation of the Ainur, the Holy Ones, by Ilúvatar’s hand, by the Flame Imperishable, the secret fire. What is this secret fire? Whatever it consists of, the Secret Fire is heavily associated with sub-creation, the making of a world in which both onlookers and the creator can enjoy.
After rashly making the Dwarves, Aulë the Smith, one of the Valar, says to Ilúvatar, “The making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee and the child (that) makes a play of the deeds of his father…(does so) because he is the son of his father.”
The making of things is in my heart from my own making by thee. Tolkien’s essay “On Fairy-Stories” goes further into this concept, but Aulë’s words struck me with their poignancy. We are creative because we were created in the image of the great Creator God. But our acts of creation are not as powerful as his, for while we may paint a rainbow or sculpt a stallion, only he can make the rainbow or the stallion. No matter how real our work is, it is only a mirror of God’s work.
But earlier in The Silmarillion, even before the making of the Dwarves, Ilúvatar sits and listens to the music of the Ainur. He then takes them to the edge of the Void and shows them a vision of the world that is to come. When the vision fades, he speaks of their desire for this vision “shall verily be; not only in your thought, but even as ye yourselves are, and other. Therefore I say: ‘Eä!’ Let these things Be! And will send forth into the Void the Flame Imperishable, and it shall be at the heart of the world.”
At this point, one can see that the Flame Imperishable, the Secret Fire, is of Ilúvatar, and with Ilúvatar, and yet separate from him, for it burns at the heart of the world. But perhaps the most startling reference to the fire lies in a comment about the world after the end of days, when “the themes of Ilúvatar shall be played aright, and take Being in the moment of their utterance…and Ilúvatar shall give to their thought the Secret Fire.”
And the choir that is to sing the themes of Ilúvatar after the end of days does not consist merely of the Ainur, or even the Elves, but of all the Children of Ilúvatar, both Elves and Men.
Would Ilúvatar truly give the Flame Imperishable to the work of mere mortals? Could the stories of Men be given existence in the same plane, the same reality, as the authors?
Such a concept is too hard to grasp. Can you imagine walking with your characters as you walk with your parents or siblings? If you knew that someday, somewhere, your words were given the Secret Fire—that everything you wrote came to pass exactly as you foretold—how would that change your writing?
July 19, 2010
Imagine that someday, a person will be moved to tears by something you have written. Someone will laugh delightedly at the antics of a character who was born of your imagination. Someone will be inspired to strive for greatness by the heroes and heroines in your story.
Someone will stay awake until some ridiculous hour of the morning (even though they have to get up and go to work later) because they just can't put your book down. Someone will be waiting at the bookstore door when it opens on the day that your next book hits the shelves. Someone will stand in line for hours for the chance to meet you and get their copy of your book signed.
Someday, someone will look up at you, and at how far you have come in your journey, and will be encouraged to keep trying even though it is far from easy.
Today, write for that person.
July 12, 2010
July 8, 2010
June 28, 2010
June 21, 2010
June 18, 2010
As writers, I’m sure that all of us have at one time or another had a friend or relative lovingly suggest that we are completely insane.
“If you don’t want that character to die, why don’t you just change the story so that he lives?”
“What do you mean you didn’t see that coming? You wrote the story!”
“You’re laughing at something your character said? You’re the one who wrote what she said!”
“Your character isn’t cooperating with you? Seriously…”
“You’re the writer – just make the characters do whatever you want them to do!”
Yes, I suppose we can all admit that to a ‘normal’ person, we writers are just a little weird. However, weird though we may be, perhaps we’re not crazy after all! Here is my theory – a scientific explanation – as to why we writers can’t always control what our characters do, and why they sometimes surprise us:
When you meet a new person – a real one, say, at church or at work – the first thing you get is a visual of their physical appearance. You introduce yourself and start a conversation with them, usually asking questions pertaining to the immediate surroundings and/or circumstances (Are you new in town? What brought you to this church? Have you worked here long?).
Then you start asking broad, generalized questions (Where are you from? What do you do for a living?). Then you begin moving on into more personal questions, learning opinions, etc. while still keeping a bit of distance (What kind of movies do you like? What did you think of the election results?).
Gradually, as a relationship develops, you can begin asking more personal, intimate questions, learning who the person is at their very core (What is your deepest desire? Your greatest fear?) and as they begin to learn to trust you in return, they will often share their deepest, darkest secrets with you.
Once you know a person at this level, you can begin to predict with some accuracy how they will respond to given situations. Have you ever had someone tell you “So-and-so did such-and-such,” and you knew in your very heart that there was no way on earth that story could be right? That is because you know that person, and you know how they respond.
These stages of getting to know a person work much the same way for writers getting to know a fictional character. For me at least, the first thing I get from a character is their physical appearance. I start asking questions, then, starting with broad, generalized questions, and moving on towards the deep, intimate questions, until I know who that person is at their very core.
My theory is that your subconscious mind does not know the difference between a fictional character and a real person.
Think about it: you have given your mind the same information and stimuli with the fictional character as you would have with a real one, starting with physical appearance and moving on into who the person/character really is in their heart of hearts.
Just as your subconscious mind allows you to ‘just know’ what your best friend will do in a particular situation, it allows you to ‘just know’ what your character will do. To change it would be to force them into doing something out of character. When you write a line of dialogue or action for another character, your subconscious mind can process all of that information and make a prediction as to how your main character will respond. The result is that witty line of dialogue that you find so hilarious; that recourse that you really don’t want the character to take but that they are bound and determined to take anyway; that action response that you never saw coming, but that makes perfect sense.
And that is why a fictional character can feel so real to us, just like they were a real person.
So, while we writers may still be eccentric and weird according to our friends and relatives, maybe we’re not completely insane after all. What do you think? Does this theory sound viable to you? Or do you have your own theory about why the writer’s mind works the way it does?
June 10, 2010
June 7, 2010
June 5, 2010
June 1, 2010
My all-time favorite fictional character has to be the great Mr. Sherlock Holmes. That is probably the reason that I also love the show “The Mentalist”. For those of you who may not have seen it, the main character Patrick Jane is almost a modern counterpart of Mr. Holmes – only lacking the austere aloofness.
In the case of both characters, the thing that sets them apart and makes them the best at what they do is their ability to pick up on minute details and form accurate conclusions from them. The most surprising thing about their methods is that they work! Granted, in the case of Mr. Holmes we always get the explanation of how he knows what he knows, and we don’t often get all of that with Mr. Jane. But a person who is paying close attention can actually learn a lot about you just by noticing details.
With that in mind, I’m trying to work on putting good details in my writing – details that don’t just give the readers a vivid picture of the (character, building, etc.) but that make sense and actually help us learn more about them. And we all know how important that is to good writing, especially fiction.
I decided to experiment with it one day a couple of weeks ago. My mom had taken me to visit a newly-opened yarn shop in town. While we were inside, I decided to learn as much as I could about the shop’s owner without actually saying anything to her.
Here’s what I noticed:
1. She’s had a facelift – maybe two.
2. She tans and colors her hair.
3. She’s wearing a huge diamond wedding ring and diamond pendant.
4. The shop is brand-new, opened in February.
So now here’s a question for the Holmes and/or Jane fans reading this: What does her husband do for a living?
P.S. Yes, you can figure it out using only the details I gave you above. I did it, and I was actually correct! Can’t wait to hear what you come up with!
May 29, 2010
May 24, 2010
April 13, 2010
In the Democratic Review, November 1844, Edgar Allan Poe began his article “Marginalia” with the following words:
“In getting my books, I have been always solicitous of an ample margin; this is not so much through any love of the thing in itself, however agreeable, as for the facility it affords me of penciling suggested thoughts, agreements, and differences of opinion, or brief critical comments in general. Where what I have to note is too much to be included within the narrow limits of a margin, I commit it to a slip of paper and deposit it between the leaves…”
Now, I have a few friends and acquaintances who consider marking in the margin of a book to be ranked somewhere between ‘a hanging offense’ and ‘a mortal sin’. Most of those are the same friends who would like to see me dead about now…
But I digress.
I share Edgar Allan Poe’s love for marking in my books. It may be as simple as a single line underneath a sentence or description that struck a chord with me. It may be a brief note on why a particular paragraph is particularly well-executed, or a note of agreement or critique. Sometimes, as Mr. Poe said, it may even extend to a slip of paper tucked in between the pages. Regardless of what form it may take, the majority of my books are full of notes.
To those among my readers who may be going into cardiac arrest about now, I can only say “sorry”. I know many of you will agree with me when I say that there is nothing like the moment when you read a sentence, a description, a line of dialogue that touches something… stirs something… awakens something… deep inside of you. Those moments are sadly few, far-between, and worth remembering.
Yes, my books are ‘marked up’ and full of notes – but I will always be able to remember the moments when a turn of phrase or well-crafted verse captured my fancy. My books have the same feel about them as my house: not always spotless, perhaps, but lived-in, comfortable, and well-loved nonetheless.
So, all your readers out there, let’s have it: which category do you fall into? The ‘thou shalt not mark in thy books for any reason’ category, or the note-takers category?
March 19, 2010
The fate of a nation...
And the faith of its people...
Have collided with the destiny of one man.
A twelve-year-old war and a centuries-old enmity are racing to a catastrophic finish. The country of Moritar has rallied the forces of evil in a merciless onslaught against the nation of Adelfia. The force of their desireto destroy is equalled only by the force of the Adelfians' determination that they will not be conquered. And the scale of victory and defeat is balanced in the hands of a man withno true loyalty to either side ... a man who is a traitor no matter which side - and diestiny - he chooses.
February 26, 2010
Since then it has been a frenzy of trying to adjust to the loss of our family patriarch. It's a strange feeling when you see or hear something and think "I've got to tell Pa about that - he'll just love it!" and then realize that you can't. It's odd to walk through my grandparents' house and hear only the sounds made by an empty building. But inspite of all that we're happy for him and can't wait to join him on the other side with our Savior.
So if, during the last two months, any emails and phone calls have gone unreturned, any blog or apricotpie posts have gone unread, birthdays unnoticed, struggles unencouraged, victories uncongratulated, etc. - tell me about it! I've missed you all, and I'm eager to get back 'in the loop'. Now that things are starting to develope some sort of routine (and I've got a brand-new-just came-home-from-the-store-last-night-!!! laptop to write and post on!!!) I'm back on line and dying to get back in touch and on top of things. So if there's any big news, interesting news, just news in general, or if you just want to talk and help me ge tup-to-date on all the goings-on, fill me in - pretty please!