One Step at a Time

Life’s waves of turmoil and despair are crashing over me non-stop, with one knocking me over and another on top of it before the prior one subsides. So, what else is new? We all go through periods of strife and pain. But, why so much, God? Why now?

As life flies by, faster each day, I find it harder to digest all that happens. First, it’s a lack of a job. Then, the loss of connection with long time friends, followed by children that move away, both physically and mentally. The hardest of all is the mental loss.

What did I do wrong? Why is my child avoiding me? My first reaction is to blame myself. I did something to alienate him. My opinions on politics, the country and the world don’t match my child’s. Okay, so that’s not the worst thing that could happen. I am thankful that he is living and well; successful in his work, happy (seemingly) with lots of friends.

There is a change, however. A gradual movement to fewer visits; visits for big events such as Christmas or Thanksgiving, or a birthday being the ones worthy of the effort of traveling. They are short affairs, with the exit at the end of the visit quick and early. It’s like, if there is too much time spent together, something might be said or done that is disagreeable.

Are there issues hiding behind the smiling facade? Secrets that would be uncomfortable if shared? Has something happened that is too painful, or objectionable to speak of? Doesn’t my grown child know how much I love him? How much I would do for him; even if I don’t like things now central in his life?  That’s what unconditional love is all about. But, the same unconditional love also means doing the hard things; saying what needs to be said only because it is for the good of the receiver and it is said in love.

My husband loves to tell me (too often I think!) that truth hurts. We can know in our hearts that what is said is for our well-being, but in our heads, it hurts and we want to shun it. It comes down to the fact do we trust the person who tells us these things in love, or do we trust what the world tells us that is not necessarily the best for us or even the truth.

This is my real fear; that my child will believe the world’s lies before listening to, or even considering that what I say is the truth spoken in love. I fear he will be misled, lured down a road of lies, deceit and even betrayal. I fear that it is a road that could end in spiritual death.

When gazing upon the world’s current stage of events, it is easy to see how so many are affected by the emotion of the masses. Little to no consideration is given to the truth of matters discussed (more like shouted and screamed and threatened). Too few stop to consider the true consequences of their actions, both on themselves and on others. The pleasure of the moment, or what seems to be the politically correct thing to do, often outweighs the rationale or sanity on any given issue.

I look at these things and want to wrap my arms around my child and whisper in his ear to be wary, to watch out for the handsome devil, the cleaver deceiver. I want to beg him to stear clear of the lies that tickle one’s ears; ones that are used to coerce and manipulate.

As I take this unwelcome and uninvited journey, I realize I must give up control over the situation and plead with God for His mercy and justice. Daily, I beg Him to intervene and do what He knows is best and to help me let go of what I think is better.  I pray to Him to intervene in the life of my child and his eternal fate. As my knees get calloused, I slowly acknowledge it is out of my hands. It is only His hands, which are bigger and stronger, that can hold onto my child, and me at the same time.  And, through it all, faith is the only lamp I have to light the pathway in front of me, one step at a time.

Making Characters Work for You

Oh what to eat first! Just more food for thought!

Oh what to eat first! Just more food for thought!

We’ve discussed memorable characters and briefly touched on some of the qualities that make them work. But what really makes a character work in a story, movie or book?

For those of you who watched the tv series, Breaking Bad, you’ve seen great characters at work. The series has characters you can relate to; love, hate and even feel sorry for. But, if you were really into the series, you can say one thing, there is no character there that does not elicit some type of reaction from the viewer. Hmmm, wonder why that is?

In dissecting the issue, let’s look at some of the character traits. Walter White is faced with a life threatening situation. He also is strongly motivated to provide for his family. He’s so motivated that he is willing to do just about anything to accomplish his goal. In seeking that goal, he goes out on many limbs and does things that no one, well at least most anyone would ever expect of him.

Then, look at Jesse. He is also pulled into Walter’s world and while his motivations are drastically different, he embarks on a journey with Walter that changes him profoundly. They have conflict, dramatically different views on many things, but as they progress through their journey together, they also learn how the other looks at things. Even when they disagree, they slowly develop a semblance of respect for the other.

Okay, so I’ve oversimplified things – I didn’t want to do any “spoiling” for those who have not seen the show. But, these characters are very complex. There are no simple solutions to their dilemmas and their motivations are not all about any one thing, but arise from different layers in each of their lives. They are not one-dimensional, but multi-faceted. They can feel sympathy for something simple or complex. They can react with rage over big or small events. They can withdraw or lash out because of situations encountered. And all of these things can create tension; between the characters and between the characters and events, or objects, that create some dissonance in their psyche.  All of these add interest and tension.

Interest and tension. One creates the other. Create tension between two or more characters and interest blooms. Create even more tension, distress, conflict, or whatever to put characters at odds with each other or their environment, and interest grows. Interest keeps the viewer and the reader engaged.

Much has been said about making sure characters encounter conflict. It is true that this is the basis for tension which is what keeps people on the edges of their seats, or as an author wants more than anything, readers turning the pages!

Food for thought and hopefully, a little stirring of the juices here! Until next time – happy writing!

Memorable Characters?

I love books, tv shows, and movies that develop characters that I can relate to one way or another.

Even characters from different centuries have the same basic needs as we do. Use that to make relatable characters.

Even characters from different centuries have the same basic needs as we do. Use that to make relatable characters.

As humans we love knowing we’re not alone. Seeing someone in a situation similar to one we’ve experienced, or in one that we’re glad not to be experiencing, helps us to develop empathy for the character. When we connect in such a manner, then most anything that happens in the story becomes interesting as we become eager to see how that character responds, or even survives.

In Against Their Will, I tried to make the characters human as we all are while instilling thrills, suspense and even some dreams into the equation. Who wouldn’t want to have success in Hollywood and garner fame and fortune from doing something one is driven and loves to do? Who wouldn’t want to have a charming and attractive hunk seek us out and devote his resources to saving (us) our female character?

So, I wrote about the things I like in a story! Fast paced, suspenseful, a little romance tossed in and the fear and rapid heart-beat of not knowing who or what is after our protagonists.

Lynn McCane is a strong-willed but beaten up reporter who has had more than her fair share of hard knocks tossed her way. She’s fighting to survive in more ways than one. Don’t we all? Matt Grayson is riding the rocket to blazing stardom and yet, he’s most concerned with the more important things in life, family, legacy and ultimately love.

Oh, I know a lot of this is wishful thinking; to have these things in life. But, I believe the human condition is made up of hope and looking for better things, and by giving these to the characters while putting them through the ringer is a way of capturing readers’ attention.

Not everyone likes this kind of story. I get that. But, the process of building characters so they can be related to, appreciated, sympathized with, and even hated, draws the readers’ emotions into the process and an emotional tie is hard to break.

My challenge to you, and to myself, is this; think hard and long about how you can make your characters relatable to your target audience. Not every audience will relate to your characters and we all like and are attracted to different personality types. So if one person doesn’t like your characters, it’s not the end of their world or yours. It just means that person does not represent the target audience you want to write for. And that is okay!

Twelve Gifts for Writers

Give them time – Writers get pressures pushed on them all the time by those who either don’t have a clue or who sit in judgment as to what they really fill their time with. Give the gift of time to your writer; be considerate. If you want or need them to do something besides write, ask with hope and genuine understanding that you know what they’re doing is important.

Image courtesy of cescassawin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Giving precious gifts to others doesn’t always require money or gift wrap!Image courtesy of cescassawin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Give them understanding – Even if you don’t know what it’s like to be under a deadline, or the pressure of being creative, let them know you are trying to understand. Writers work as hard as anyone else, but because they usually do it on their own time, not their bosses time, so many people jump to erroneous conclusions that they must be lazy or really don’t have work to do and then make erroneous judgements on the writer’s work ethic.

Give them reasonable expectations – Just as we all struggle to fit everything that is demanded of us into our days, writers do as well. How we communicate to writers about what we want or need determines the level of pressure the writer feels in meeting those unspoken expectations.

Give them encouragement – Encourage them in their work. Even if you don’t understand what it is like to be a writer, let them know you’re supportive and are wishing them the best. Writers need encouragement, from those who write and those who don’t.

Give them space – Don’t constantly ask them to go to lunch, or to this event or that function. This is not to say writers don’t need a break. But if you ask and the answer is no, let them know you understand. Reaffirm that you would love to get together but on their time frame.

Give them help with daily chores or duties – If you are the spouse of a writer, or even the roommate of one, help them out when they are deep in the middle of a tangled plot line and can’t stop to put the dishes in the dishwasher. They may lose that all important train of thought that solves the mystery of the primary characters!

Give them peace and quiet – If your writer works while you are in the same space, try to be considerate and let them have few to no distractions while working. Compromise is the great truth to this scenario. And it can go both ways. By giving your writer some space, you’ll most likely get consideration as well. When that big game is on, shouts and screams for your team won’t get snarled at – unless your writer roots for the opposite side!

Give them protection from distractions – If your writer is busy at work and the phone rings (yours or the home’s) don’t wait and make the writer get it. The same goes for if someone is at the door.

Give them your ear – Listen to your writer. Encourage them to talk about their plot, or their characters. Don’t be too eager to jump into the conversation but rather encourage them to talk by asking questions, or for clarification. This is helpful in it gets the writer to think about his or her work and can often led them into new insights on their work.

Give them your support – Support is really one that sums up several of the other items. But it also includes being their for your writer when they get that 100th rejection letter, or they inadvertently lost everything from chapter 15 due to forgetting to hit the “save” button. Sometimes writers, like all of us, just need to know someone else stands on the same side with them.

Give them your honesty – If you are asked to read a portion of the writer’s work; be honest. Being honest is telling the truth but with love/gentleness and so on wrapped around it. Like, “Gee, I know you’ve been working so hard on this piece, but for me, I just don’t think the male character is a good fit for your protagonist. I envision something more like. . .” Cushion the criticism by making it only your opinion and stating your preferences, not what you think it should or should not be.

Give them your unconditional love – Finally, give your writer some love. When we hear the word love, we usually think romantic love. But, there are many more types of love to give and receive in life. While you’ve been encouraged to give honesty, support, your ear, encouragement and space to your writer friends and family, more importantly, you can give them your unconditional love. This means that no matter what he or she does, you will still love them. This makes a safe place for anyone to retreat to whenever the world gets too rough or sour and one needs to “lick their wounds” and retreat. Loving someone unconditionally means that no matter what they do, they can be forgiven and not lose their standing with the person who is doing the forgiving. This type of love has almost become a foreign concept in today’s world. But, many years ago, Unconditional love was born in a lowly manger, born to take on all the bad things each and every one of us does in our life time. And there is nothing we can do to earn His love and forgiveness. It is given freely. Once we accept this free gift of forgiveness, we learn that we are loved, no matter what, and that is the most liberating gift anyone, not just writers, can receive.

Merry Christmas and don’t just give these gifts to your writer, but to anyone in your life.