I confess I cried. Yes, near the end it brought tears both for the characters and me. Finishing a project is like wondering what to do on the day after Christmas. Content, but sad. Joyful, but empty. The idea for this story began thirty plus years ago. Yet it ended far differently than I envisioned. (Those willful characters again.) Now that’s it’s done, I’m amazed at the way it turned out. And glad. But sorry.
I have plenty of other work to do.
But today I found myself wandering. Mentally, emotionally and even in daily life. I actually made dinner early for a change because I didn’t have to drag myself away from writing. I hardly knew what to do with myself. Like an empty-nester whose chicks have all flown off, I’m ready for the next adventure, but not quite over letting the last one go.
Even my blogging is uninspired.
And that’s that. The end.
How do you feel when you complete a writing project?
I confess I don’t have time to write a blog post today.
The truth is I am in the final pages of my first novel and all the good stuff is happening. Since I never know what my characters may do, especially in the heat of crisis, I’m afraid to leave them alone too long. I already took too long over dinner. (My son needed really needed me.)
So now, I beg your leave with apologies. I will come back next week and attempt to offer something helpful, challenging (thinking of last week…) or encouraging. May God bless you.
Until then, I hear my protagonist calling. She’s in a real dilemma and doesn’t know what to do…
Oh, and FYI my first book, The Miracle of Us: Confessions of an Online Dater, is on sale on Amazon in paperback or kindle, or you can order a slightly imperfect copy for a great deal (thanks to a printing error) on my website.
What do you do when your characters start doing things you didn’t plan?
Not only did the riveting writing make it a great read, but the impact of the message kept me wanting more. I had a hard time putting it down. The characters drew me in as if I were making new friends, and I cared about their struggles. The author did a fabulous job of giving just enough plot sprinkled with back story to make me feel like I was reading a mystery. But there’s nothing mysterious about the truth presented. We are created in the image of God.
The unfolding story subtly gripped my heart.
The next thing I knew, tears were falling. Especially when I came to these excerpts:
He hasn’t treated me with respect. He wanted to use me for his own purposes. He wasn’t interested in what’s best for me. I can forgive him for that, but I don’t have to be in relationship with him. I don’t want to let him treat me, one of God’s creations, like that.
All those things she said…they came from hurt. Deep, piercing pain. And I was never strong enough to stand against the power of that pain when it came out in her words.
Read it for yourself and see how it speaks to you.
Thanks, Ginny. I have a feeling you wrote out of a place of your own pain. God’s using you to heal.
What is a book that has changed your perspective of yourself?
Author, Sherry Kyle, has written a delightful novel that weaves a thread of forgiveness and redemption throughout the lives of four very real and loveable characters.
“When the alcoholic father of Jessica MacAllister’s son reappers in their lives, Jessica and her son go to her Uncle George for advice and refuge.
Following a year of grief, Evelyn Sweeney is finally ready to move on. Pondering her new path in life, her mind drifts to her first love, George MacAllister.
When the lives of these two women cross, they discover that one heart-shaped ring binds their stories together. But will the results be a rekindled faith and new hope, or will it lead them both back into the darkness they’ve fought for so long?”
The Heart Stone was hard to put down.
The romantic possibility and tension as well as intriguing suspense kept me engaged and guessing. Jacob, the 6 year old son, had me smiling and even brought an outright laugh. By the end, I felt as if these characters were my friends who had overcome obstacles and grown emotionally and spiritually. I wished the book didn’t have to end.
Sherry Kyle’s gift as a connector of people shines in her novels which rekindle and reconcile relationships. I believe Sherry’s ability as a writer grows with each new release. I can’t wait for the next one.
Well done, Sherry.
The Heart Stone, Published by Abingdon Press released on April 1, 2013 and is available from these retailers:
Or, an attempt to encapsulate infinite amounts of wisdom in less than 800 words.
Mc Nair Wilson, our keynote speaker, inspired us as creative people to:
Be yourself. What do you do best? Who are you, really?
Take risks. Just start something. Everyone fails. You have before, you will again. Don’t fear it.
Challenge assumptions. God expects us to live in more abundance.
Stay Curious. Do what people think can’t be done. God’s name is I AM and He is holding you.
See differently. Write a story no one has written before. Do. You.
Be confident. God’s on your side.
Tell the why. Pay more attention to life.
Remember that Jesus showed us humor, humility and humanity.
About editors and agents.
Practice talking about your manuscript. Agents and editors expect you to be nervous so don’t fear them. Know your story well. Be prepared to answer their inquiries and be willing to ask them questions too. If an agent or editor has to tell you no, it isn’t personal, it’s about the right editor at the right publishing house at the right time. Don’t give up!
About the craft of writing.
The four D’s:
Desire sets our protagonist on a particular path that pulls the reader through the book.
Distancing happens with each conflict that knocks her off the path.
Denial is the point when it seems that our character will never attain her desire.
Devastation goes beyond denial, pushing our character back to the beginning.
A boring or confusing story is actually a symptom of a writer not having a concrete desire with high stakes for each of his main characters. We can approach our story with this simple formula:
Protagonist wants (action words – verb) so that (specific result or outcome).
For me, it’s actually much harder than it seems. Being specific propels the character through the story, but that same specificity feels elusive to pin down. I’m still working on it.
Use restraint and control with our words. (Rein ‘em in boys!)
Our sentence structure needs to keep the tension taut like a rubber band during our story. Too many words weigh our story down and alleviate the tension. We may lose our reader. Make it easy for our reader to remain engaged. Anything that stops the action (or forward momentum) is a reason for our reader to stop reading.
Use sentence rhythm. (Who knew?)
Our sentence rhythm needs to match the beat of the action in the scene. The sentences should reflect what is going on in our character. High action or nervous tension? Use short sentences. Complex sentences make the reader wait to get to the action. Don’t make your reader wait. There is a fine line between suspense that engages the reader and frustrating our reader by not giving enough detail. Each sentence should answer a question and raise another one.
Show, don’t tell. (We’ve heard this before, right?)
We want our reader to feel the scene not just read about it. Use all five senses and chose your words and their placement for the greatest impact. Split up descriptions and place them strategically to show without stopping the action. Add emotion by showing it in the dialogue and action of the characters without explaining or naming it.
And finally, about characters.
Point of View
Pretend there is a camera attached to the side of your POV character’s head. He can’t see himself (don’t cheat with a mirror), only what he would be looking at or thinking. Limit your point of view changes to new scenes. You personalize your characters by the way they perceive a setting or scene.
Knowing your characters intimately will help you create real dialogue that shows who they are without tags. Try taking out all the speaker attributes and see if you can tell who is speaking. Use action wherever possible and only add in “he/she said” when necessary to avoid confusion. Long, uninterrupted speeches aren’t natural. (Okay, maybe only for me …just ask my husband). Keep it short.
One parting note…
My mentoring group teacher, Brandilyn Collins pointed out to us that when we evaluate our own writing, we judge it based upon the same level of craftsmanship with which we wrote it. Therefore, find a more experienced critique partner (or professional editor) to help you discover the deeper issues you may be missing in your writing.
Phew. I made it. Only 760 words. And that was only the first day. (Just kidding)
My “practice” novel is almost to the midway point.
I’ve been slogging through the past few chapters of A Voice from the Past as my characters face some emotional changes. They seem true to life in their expressions and quandaries, but somehow, at least to me, I want more from them. More action, more depth, more life. And direction. Maybe they want to call the shots, and I am battling them for control. I don’t know. I’m new to this. Remember? An amateur.
Yesterday, I found myself staring down one of my characters.
I wondered what to have them say next. In that moment, I realized once again how helpful the advice gleaned from the wonderful teachers at Mt. Hermon’s Christian Writers Conference was to me. The reason I could look my character in the eyes is because James Scott Bell taught us to develop characters by finding actual pictures of them from stock photos on the internet and answering questions about all the details of their lives.
Karen Ball, an avid coffee lover, explained that she creates characters by assigning how they like their coffee! She described making coffee for them and sitting in her writing studio drinking coffee with her characters. They come alive for her that way. Real coffee, real characters. Very cool!
So, I have a notebook with all my characters pictures and bio’s in it.
Whenever I need more from my characters, I go to the notebook and flip to that character’s page. Then I ask,
if you were real, what would you do or say right now?
It sounds a bit crazy. Maybe people would say eccentric. Okay, perhaps even neurotic. I say helpful. Necessary. Enlightening.
Now, if only they’d talk back…
How do you make your characters come alive for you?