Saturday, 20 October 2012

No Fun (can be more fun) - Part 2

In the last post I shared how continually reading writing advice may create some disillusionment when trying to build your own voice and story. However reading Proverbs showed me something valuable. Each verse is writing advice if you know how to apply it to your work. Each verse shows a separate way to raise stakes, boost character profile, and add mystery.

I was in chapter 25 (of Proverbs) and recommend you simply have a read. What if the verses were writing tips to improve plot and structure? What if a new angle could be found that would break writer's block?

Consider the following verses:

v17 - Don’t visit your neighbors too often, or you will wear out your welcome.

Does your story need the enrichment of a meddling busybody? Is one of the characters nosy? Consider the traits of such a person including appearance, idiosyncrasies, and age. What makes them act like this? What is their relationship to your Key Character (KC, otherwise known as a protagonist) and the plot?

v28 - A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

Could your story use a reckless soul to move it along and provide interest and colour? He might have a hankering for dim-sum-yum or an affinityfor guns - or both.
How might seemingly irreparable brokenness add flavour to your story?

v4 - Remove the impurities from silver, and the sterling will be ready for the silversmith.

Every character needs refining and it's the process that keeps pages turning. We read because we relate and we know that learning the hard way still gets us everytime. How might your KC respond to a furnace situation (that you have been through)?

v9 - When arguing with your neighbor, don’t betray another person’s secret.

It really needs no explanation, for all the danger, excitement and cataclysmic results this can cause in all its various forms. It might be a story told from one child to another (or to her peer), or it could be the of the magnitude of Wikileaks. How characters within the story respond to this information leaves the writing world as your oyster, so use wisely.

v21 - If your enemies are hungry, give them food to eat. If they are thirsty, give them water to drink.

What would happen if your antagonist paid a visit to your KC and was suddenly nice to him? Would this get the attention of the KC as well as the reader? What alarm bells would ring and what tone would it set (or change)?

Consider verses 13, 7, and 19. How might a brainstorm on these improve your work? You don't have to kill anybody but you can afford to be a little ruthless. Test ideas and break new ground in your writing life and remember:

1) Writing publications are necessary, yet God is able to show you your own unique voice His way,
2) The Bible is for everyone.

Don't be afraid. Investigate and try new things. Simplicity is wonderful.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
Fais de l’Eternel tes délices, et il te donnera ce que ton cœur désire.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

No Fun - Part 1

Lately I've been reading a writing book by an author of renown. This guy is one amazing agent and his ideas are intense. When I started applying his advice to my current MS idea, brainstorming myself into infinity and beyond, suddenly I needed to pull back. The ideas were spiralling out of control into the realm of unbelievability.

Identity in Crisis?

Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily, however I couldn't help thinking of my market. I'm not writing a thriller, "just" a seriously good page-turner. The advice was fantastic, but writing was no longer fun. It was completely and utterly funless when it should at least be enjoyable. Following all this practical and advantageous advice left me feeling terribly formulaic.

I needed a grain of salt, and I needed to remember the real-time publishing confines of my chosen genre. It's not boring, it just ain't The Da Vinci Code.

Needing respite, I picked up my Bible and opened to Proverbs, selecting at random and landing in chapter 25. They say there's nothing new under the sun. I tell you what, every author at some point seems to have taken a leaf out of Proverbs. Writing advice is rife! It's everywhere once you know where to look. No wonder there's risk of major overload and brainiac meltdown.

We, as craftspeople seeking the original, need to remember who we are and know the genre we write for. Tips are all well and good, but there are people selling guidelines as be-all and end-all rules, and it's dangerous and can be confusing if you can't find the dividing line. Knowing your genre is so important.

I won't give up reading the amazing agent's book but I will take on the advice with a clear gaze. I want to improve, and I know the advice is very sound (and rocks!). So what do you do if the advice is all too much and you need to simplify? Check out part 2 shortly.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14

Espère en l’Eternel! Fortifie-toi et que ton cœur s’affermisse! Espère en l’Eternel!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Crossing Over

Tell me, does this bridge look like one you think you'd enjoy crossing?

Does it appear safe? Does it seem rocky? Do you think it might collapse beneath you? Give it to me straight: What's your biggest fear in facing a bridge like this one? What is the worst that can happen to you?

Have no fear. I've crossed it and can tell you it works just fine and was very supportive.

What if my word isn't enough?

Then take another look at that bridge with the crew of Russian Tall ship Kruzenshtern lined up on it.

Betcha it doesn't look so scary anymore. It's the Capilano Suspension Bridge and the setting is absolutely gorgeous! If I'd not crossed this bridge to the other side I would never have smelled cedar like it should be inhaled (the best outdoor inhalation experience of my life to date)... Ok, stick with me. Focus on the two images of the bridge.

Now imagine that's how many people could come into relationship with Jesus because they read your novel.

Get the scope? Would you cross a bridge if you knew it had lasting, eternal worth and value?

I'm most of the way through reading a book by K.P. Yohannan and it's lifechanging for a number of reasons. K.P. makes a brilliant valid point that us Western Christians should be gutted over. We're fat on the Gospel and do little with it when it comes to saving souls. We're willing to let our closest neighbours slip into Eternity unsaved while we stuff ourselves silly on every Christian growth hormone known to us (books, music, programs, buildings, etc). We'll blissfully edify our way into the Kingdom but the crux of the Great Commission goes undone.

I was wondering how this might apply to me as a writer (not just in general).

Our books are for us, and despite the goodness and value of this, we should reach a point when we ask if it's enough. At the end of the day, we all need to grow up and get moving in Christ and our fiction is a brilliant method of transport. Please don't misunderstand me. Fiction has saved me and untold others on countless occasions and in various amazing ways that I praise and thank God for. But it's not the end of the journey. There's more waiting for us. We're accountable for our words, and I know that doesn't mean only the ones that come out of our mouths. The Great Commission is for us all to fulfill.

Be brave. Cross the bridge when you come to it, and open your mouth (and pen) so God can fill it with His words. Don't just be entertaining; make it count. Determine, at some point, to write something that crosses over. Avoid the kitsch, run from the mediocre, strive for something that hits an eternal mark. It's beautiful on the other side, and it's for everyone to know about, so don't hold back.

Pause for thought: In the movie Titanic, Jack raises a toast to 'making it count'. Would there have been any impact if his toast had been, "To being satisfied"?

What have you read lately that made you consider your eternal future, or someone else's?

“It is the LORD your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him.” Deuteronomy 13:4

tu n'écouteras pas les paroles de ce prophète ou de ce faiseur de rêves. En effet, c'est l'Eternel, votre Dieu, qui vous met à l'épreuve pour savoir si vous l’aimez, lui, de tout votre cœur et toute votre âme.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

A Scene Most Worthy

One of the best parts of reading a good book is the ability for a scene to flash back to mind and bring a smile, a wince, or a giggle. I make no secret of my Siri-Mitchell-fan-status, and seeing as how hers is one of the last books I've read, the scenes from this one are still pretty clear (it'd help if I could concentrate on other things sometimes...).

If you're not familiar, you can read the back page blurb for A Heart Most Worthy here.

I fell most in love with the character of Annamaria. It had everything to do with how she handles herself, how I wish was more like her, and the way her romance unfolds. It's painfully beautiful and takes place in unexpected ways. Darn it!! I so don't want to spoil the story for you, but it's too good. Aaaaugh!!

Ok. A huge struggle with myself and I just can't tell you what takes place, but I will give you a page number. It's 268 and half 269. Siriously (pardon the pun), does anyone know how to craft a moment so worth the wait? The only thing that makes it any more complete is the way Annamaria's story concludes in the book, and how Rafaello behaves. Can there be any greater love than this?

If you were looking for juicy bits, sorry to disappoint :) You'll just have to invest and get between the pages...

Aunty's Wise Words

Earlier in the year I had a great long chat with my Aunt. She's been on the scene of my life since I was in the very early single digits. She's always been supportive of me and I couldn't ask for a better aunt. Recently we also realised I'm her only niece and she is my only aunt (even more exciting).

We share a number of similarities and among them is the tendancy to go with the flow when we'd really rather be doing something else. We've both been through the wringer in different ways and a recent text message she sent me contained these words:

"...just love everyone exactly where they're at. Everyone helps to remind me where I'm at. Attitude brings Altitude. Judging others is just judging myself. If something bothers me, it's a great indication of what's holding me back. This year I have particularly worked on speaking up rather than staying quiet and including rather than excluding, others..."

These words are easy to take as platitudes, and remind me of kitsch key lines from dynamic speaker conferences, but the poignant ring of truth to each phrase is a gem. I know she'll be reciting these words in her own mind repeatedly, and there are a few I'd love to put on my wall.

I'm praying her through her current hardships in the knowledge God can do anything, and in the meantime there's every day life while we wait for breakthroughs.

Break it down...

People will always let you know where you're at, when you've failed, when you're a disappointment. Do you love them anyway? Admittedly some peeps are harder to love than others in the face of discouragement.

If a good attitude brings you higher, where are you now?

Do you suffer from log-in-eye syndrome?

Is there a bee in your bonnet? Could it be what's stopping you from going forward?

Is it possible for you to speak the truth in love? Are you able to speak up when you ought to, or do you allow yourself to get steam-rolled and subsequently, frustrated?

Do you extend grace?

At the end of the day, it's a good thing God is bringing us to completion ;)

“[Praise to God for a Living Hope] Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,” 1 Peter 1:3

“[L’espérance du salut] Béni soit Dieu, le Père de notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ! Conformément à sa grande bonté, il nous a fait naître de nouveau à travers la résurrection de Jésus-Christ pour une espérance vivante...”