Advent-a-thon

Today kicks off the countdown to Christmas and the last slice of 2016. Who’s ready for 2017?

Last month was July. Right?

Ha! Well, I do love this time of year. There’s just no other month that is so general and yet so specific in all that it encompasses. It has a “feel” to it. A Decemberness.

Embrace it or want to deny it, December is upon us. So I’m stretching out my arms and welcoming it with what I am going to call “Advent-a-thon”.

I’ve always liked the idea of advent calendars. My kids counted to Christmas with a variety of ones over the years starting with the chocolate behind a little perforated window to different versions of hanging ornaments on a tree. The year I found one that had little drawers inspired me to get more creative with the daily surprises.

So with no more delay, let the Advent-a-thon begin.

Happy First Day of December. Go have a chocolate!

P.S. — Have advent calendars come a long way or what?

 

Epilogue

 

ep·i·logueˈepəˌlôɡ,ˈepəˌläɡ/nouna section or speech at the end of a book or play that serves as a comment on or a conclusion to what has happened.
ep·i·logue  /’epəˌlôɡ,ˈepəˌläɡ/ – noun : a section or speech at the end of a book or play that serves as a comment on or a conclusion to what has happened.

What do you think of epilogues? Are they overkill or handy summations?

For me, it depends. I like a well-paced story. I get frustrated when the pace jumps abruptly to the end and everything wraps up quickly and thoroughly. It is synonymous to having a great outing with someone who has just realized they are late for a meeting, stuffs all belongings into a bag and kiss-kiss “Toodaloo, ’til next time!”

However, I also don’t like a story that should have ended shortly after the resolution of the main conflict and then just keeps going and going. It’s like continuing a sports game after the clock has run out and it’s clear that one team has scored more points than the other. “Get off the field already, let’s go celebrate or something.”

Most stories have a definitive ending even if there might be lingering questions in a reader’s mind. In those cases, an epilogue is favorable. Much like those movies based off a true story then puts up quick details about what happened to each character over time after the big event.

An epilogue can offer that quick source of information to settle lingering thoughts.

 

Details

details

Storytelling is in the details. Most stories when broken down can sound just like any other story. “Girl meets boy. Events happen. They fall in love. They live happily ever after.” “Life is good. Bad event happens. Battle ensues. Someone prevails.” “Life is ordinary. Something is discovered. Events take place. New inspiration is found.”

Details breathe life into a story. Building characters and the world they live in is a painstaking process. Authors detail every aspect of what makes that character do what they do, react the way the do, think and feel they way they do. Those details don’t always get written into stories but they exist on scraps of paper, old files, mental images, etc. And when a writer has done their job well, the character they build becomes as real to the reader.

 

Commitment

Commitment to a goal is a key part of fiction. The main character will stop at nothing to reach that goal which might be clear from the beginning or unfold over time. It might multiply or narrow down, and seem unattainable at times. The protagonist may even lose sight of it, but her/his commitment to reaching it will fuel the story especially as problems arise and challenge the desired outcome.

The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one story in particular that comes to mind when I think of an intense and undying commitment to a goal.

 

Beauty

How significant is beauty when considering a protagonists attributes?

At this moment I can’t think of a novel that the protagonist didn’t possess some form of beauty.

Katniss is a kick-butt competitor who doesn’t need outer physical beauty to achieve her goals. Yet I’m pretty sure there was no doubt even before Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal that she was physically attractive..

Harry Potter was initially geeky, skinny and wild haired. There is reference to his awkwardness but as I remember he was never described as hideous. He certainly has an inner beauty (handsomeness) that makes him a desirable friend and a protagonist readers want to see prevail.

Many protagonists have visions of themselves as less than they are, but most of the time a secondary character will point out that she/he has no idea the beauty they possess.

Gone Girl is a great example of outer beauty vs an ugly heart. **Stop reading here if you haven’t read the book and plan to.** I don’t believe this story could have ever been pulled off if she hadn’t had outer beauty to manipulate the situation.

Can you think of a story that strips the protagonist of all beautiful attributes?

 

Attitude

  

I pulled an April Fool’s joke on myself — I never took my first day of A to Z out of draft. Ha!

So A to Z Challenge begins now — April 2 🙂

How much attitude should a character have?

Sometimes it’s a secondary character who gets to take the most risks with extreme attitude — harsh snarky, silly nonsensical, comical, etc.

The antagonist thrives on a heavy dose especially if they rely on deplorable behavior to push the main.

Does the protagonist needs to match each level of attitude? Without it, will he/she bore the reader?

Can characters saturate a storyline with too much attitude?

Can a protagonist have more than everyone else?

Is it genre specific?

The Write Life

Reflections from a big weekend at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. In short, it was amazing as usual.

My fellow writers have been making posts about their experiences and it has been fun to see the personal and shared takeaways. Inspiration is in bloom.

The theme that threaded its way into my personal experience: “You got this.”

While my manuscript is well beyond draft, it’s not at a place I can personally call “done”. The loose ends are a mix of doubts and a tingling sense that I’m forgetting something critical but can’t quite place my finger on it. No one has explored the numerous uncertainties with me more than my greatest supporter, my husband. He often sees in me what I can’t always see in myself, patiently reassures me when I’m steering toward another revolution of the “here we go again” topics, and understands that the words are the code behind the program. Much like users of software, the reader wants a seemingly bug-free experience.

To get there, it’s a personal journey that’s rarely taken alone. It’s a contradiction. In order to learn and grow we need the influences of great writers before us, hungry learners beside us, and strong supporters surrounding us while weeding through subjective viewpoints and absolute rules with numerous exceptions.

And just when a clear path emerged, I discovered there is no real destination. Writing as a whole is about the journey, the adventure of straying off course, reaching various check-in points for refueling, continually setting markers and determinedly marching forward.

For the first time, I can see the point where the “done” marker for this particular manuscript will be set. I’m a strong believer in following my gut. That feeling of knowing what sits within the core of what this work means and why I need to get to it. This is my fourth writing conference and with each year the vision has gotten clearer. Among the incredible spread of writerly wisdom and knowledge, three workshops caused me pause.

  • Angel Smits in “Making Characters Matter” confirmed my need to dig deeply into the souls of my characters. While patting tear-rimmed eyes, she shared haunting tales of the inspiration behind her latest story. People, whether fictional or not, are motivated by the same things. Events define us and human needs motivate us.
  • Brandy Vallance in “Unlocking Personification and Metaphor” reminded me in the most beautiful way that I need to follow my gut and listen to the whisper my manuscript is calling for. To, as she so eloquently put it, “Pluck the metaphorical guitar string and let it resonate throughout the manuscript.”
  • Barbara Samuel O’Neal in “Cornerstones of Excellence” focused on those refined details that take a revision from good to great. Tasked us with exercises to amplify senses in a given moment and uncover the complex layering of memories.

Outside of workshop sessions, our keynote speakers offered laughter, advice, and nuggets of wisdom.

Mary Kay Andrews, the late bloomer, and Andrew Gross, the retailer gone thriller writer, inspired me with personal stories of their highs and lows in reaching significant markers of success. Each story unique but carrying the commonality of being driven by the passion to write with no sure steps, no guarantees, and no definitive end point.

I was reminded that there are a lot of ways to become a writer and a lot of variations of the published author. That it can be a hobby or it can be a job. We decide what it’s going to be. But if it’s going to be a job, then stop waiting for the muse, sit down and take care of business.

One of our keynotes, Seanan McGuire reminded me of the life lesson we all encounter at some point. Usually earlier than we are ready for, life is not fair. And in this unfair world where some people have advantages over others, be kind.

Of the many highlights, meeting R.L. Stine, who was not scary will remain a favorite memory. He was funny and a pleasure to mingle with. There was an air of comfort that accompanied him. He told us he didn’t understand writers’ self-doubt. “What is this self-doubt? Just sit down and write.” Many of us looked on dumbfounded, heads swirling with burdensome writing experiences trying to make sense of this rather simple notion from the man who has authored 330 books and has reached countless readers — not only young but from an unexpected fanbase. So, I salute those words…you’re right Bob, I’m gonna sit down and write.

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P.S. My name is Aaron Michael Ritchey and my success is inevitable.

Garden

Easter flowers (2)

I’ve been enjoying my Easter flowers today and thinking about garden to life comparisons.

“Friends are the flowers in the garden of life.” — proverb

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” — Lady Bird Johnson

“Your mind is a garden. Your thoughts are the seeds. You can grow flowers or you can grow weeds.” — unknown

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” — Abraham Lincoln

“The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” — proverb

“Every flower must grow through dirt.” — unknown

“May my words, like vegetables be tender and sweet. For tomorrow I may have to eat them.” — unknown

Drama and Diarrhea: One and the same?

 Can be explosive
No one really wants to be around it
Can be caused by ingesting toxicity
Causes bloating
Many people have experience with it
For some people it’s chronic
Can be a sign of serious illness
Unpleasant
No one wants to be part of someone else’s
Can be contagious
Uncomfortable
Urgency to react
Can cause a quick exit

D

Drama or Diarrhea:

Avoid ___________.

If you bring ___________ to the pool, expect everyone to jump out.

Dreams and ___________ don’t mix well.

_________ limits freedom.

Flush the __________.

___________ stinks.

Don’t be a __________ queen.

~~ Deidre