Monday, August 30, 2010

The Important Thing We May Forget

 

One little thing we may forget while writing a story could make the difference between a sale and a rejection. So, that little thing turns out to be not so little after all, doesn’t it? What is that little thing; our character’s goal.

Our characters must have at least one goal.  They must each have a dream or a desire; something they are working toward or wish to acquire.

Your character’s goal could be what makes or breaks the story. For example; sometimes the goal is something the character desires so desperately he/she will do anything to get it. This type of goal seems to fit right in there with motive. It makes the reader wonder if  the character wants it so badly he’d kill for it? It also makes the reader care about the character acquiring that goal.

Now doesn’t that add an element of suspense to the story? Doesn’t that keep the reader glued to his/her seat and the pages turning?

In The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction, author Barnaby Conrad writes that:

Memorable characters have goals, attitudes, and qualities which keep them from conventional responses. They are briny, perfervid, driven beings caught up in some quest or vision. . . Les Miserables would lose most of its bite if a laid-back Inspector Javert limited his pursuit of Jean Valjean to weekends and holidays; there would be no dramatic thrust if Captain Ahab was less than full-throttle in his seek-and-destroy mission against the white whale; there would be no Maltese Falcon if Brigid O’Shaugnessey, Caspar Guttman, and Joel Cairo had stopped short of murder and duplicity in their quest for the fabled black statuette.

While the goal of a character may seem like an unimportant matter to some writers, we must see that a character without a goal is equivalent to a book without a story to tell.

Do you agree or disagree? Why? How desperately do your characters want what they want, and how far would they do to get it?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Five Ways To Lose Your Readers

Image by motivatedphotos.comclip_image002

Want to lose your reading audience? Of course not. Yet, readers make mistakes and do just that. I’ve listed five of many blunders that are guaranteed to cause you either to lose your readers or put them to sleep.

1. Interfere with the story.

I don’t believe anything is worse than an author who interrupts the story. Some feel a desire to stress how intelligent they are by adding additional, unnecessary content to the story. All that does is scream ‘Author! Author!’ It’s nothing more than the writer showing off.  And it’s patronizing. Think of it as telling a joke and stopping before the punch line to explain more because you assume your listeners aren’t intelligent enough to get it. 

2. Create unbelievable characters.

Make your characters look, speak and behave like the characters of another, or many other novels. You know, cardboard or cookie-cutter style.  That will either put the reader to sleep or cause him to toss the book across the room. It sounds like writing 101, however, I’m sure you tell me of many books you’ve tossed for that exact reason. It’s almost as though the author is trying to recreate a popular character with whom readers are already acquainted.

3. Forget about pace.

Who needs to bother with pacing a novel anyway? Let it go where it goes.  You know, stream-of-consciousness. They’ll follow along, right?

Wrong!  Pace is vital to a novel.  Compare pacing to horseracing. According to William Noble in Conflict, Action And Suspense, “The key to good pacing is to recognize that there are moments of acceleration and deceleration in every horse race…in every story.”

4. Leave out conflict and suspense.

Leave out opposing characters, arguments between them, and the sense that something is about to happen, and you’ve lost what could’ve been faithful readers. If you don’t develop a sense of impending doom or have the forces of nature interfere with the story, you have no conflict or suspense.  Your characters must ask questions, search for answers, and stumble upon obstacles (or bodies). And consider having your chapters end with cliff-hangers. That makes it almost impossible for the reader to put the book down.

5. Finally, don’t give your characters any goals to achieve or secrets to keep.

Throughout the story your main character should desire something. There should be something vital at stake, or an important decision to make. Develop a sense that she could lose what’s most important to her if she makes the wrong choice. Maybe give her a shady past, or a skeleton or two in the closet. If so, she would have secrets and that would heighten your story.

What other ways can you think of to lose readers? What blunders have you made?  I’d love to read your responses.

Also, Carol Riggs has an exciting new young adult novel titled: Junction 2020 available http://carolriggs.blogspot.com/: Check it out!

Monday, August 16, 2010

In Response to Rachelle Gardner’s Hair Ripping Blog

This blog is a response to literary agent Rachelle Gardner’s blog and comments on self-publishing. I posted it last November and received such a great response I felt the need to re-post it. (http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com)

If I were Rachelle, I’d be ripping my hair out at the roots. Why can’t we all just agree to disagree?

Can a self-published author find an agent and publisher? Yes and no. The question is: Is the writing good enough? The answer: That depends upon the author. For example: I have three POD suspense novels available through my website: http://www.mj-macie-mysterybooks.com. I have painstakingly edited each novel and put my heart into every sentence. Some self-published authors have not. Some authors slap words on a page, or worse yet stream-of-conscientiousness on a page, and call that a book.

Recently, an author published by Simon & Schuster sent an email asking why I had chosen to go with POD. She stated that my work had been edited, I have a natural talent and that I had captured her interest from the beginning of the book. My answer: I listened to God and my husband. “Get the work out there and they will respond,” my husband said. So, I did and my novels are selling.

One of the responses I received to this blog stated a reluctance to purchase a self-published book because, “They are so horribly edited.” This reader paid twenty dollars for a book and found spelling errors. Yes, we all know Word corrects those for us; however, this author didn’t bother to use the spell-check. Yes, I agree not editing the work does give self-publishers a bad rap.

Another reader responded that books are expensive enough as it is and would rather pay money for one published by a reputable company than take a chance with a self-published author who may not have edited his/her book.

One reader made a contrary response. This one stated that with traditional publishing the author in many cases has to do all their own promotional work. In addition, the author has to sell a lot of novels to earn a return, so unless the publisher was going to pay a large advance, there was no advantage to publishing the traditional route.

Finally, one reader stated that, “Self-publishing doesn't equate second class books. It could. But it doesn't have to!”

What do I think? Can a self-published author find an agent and publisher? Absolutely! Will it happen? Well, that depends upon the author.

What do you think? Do you believe a self-published author can find an agent and publisher? Do you prefer going the traditional route or do you prefer self-publishing? Have you had any luck going the traditional way? I’d love to hear your responses.
http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com/

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Faux Pas

Is it improper to invite someone to check out your blog? To leave your link in a response on theirs?

It seems I’ve committed this major faux pas and was confused as to why. I thought one of the reasons for links was to make things easier for the internet user. In fact, one of the reasons for the internet is to make life easier for the user. I found both links and the internet have made my life a great deal less stressful. I’ve also made a few friends by leaving a link to my blog. New friends in which I have something in common.

I asked myself, what’s the harm? If they leave a link to their blog and I want to check it out, I’ll click, if I’m not interested, I won’t. No big deal, right? Turns out I’m wrong.

So why all the fuss about leaving a link to your blog in a response? I have graciously been informed that many writers don’t appreciate us leaving our link in a response to their blogs. To all those writers I’ve linked, I am truly sorry. I meant no harm. I now understand some writers look at a link attached to a response as advertising our sites on their blogs. I now understand how that would appear as intrusive and offensive.

What do you think? Are you also guilty of advertising on another's blog?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Guest Blog From Carol Riggs on Dialogue

As a believer in ‘Show Don’t Tell,’ Carol’s July 14, 2010 blog http://carolriggs.blogspot.com/ doesn’t simply point out the errors in dialogue use, but ‘shows’ how to correct them by example .

Image by:rubypencilediting.com

clip_image002WEDNESDAY MAKEOVER: DIALOGUE
There are two extremes with writing dialogue. One is narrating and describing lengthy feelings and thoughts in the middle of a conversation to the extent that it breaks up the flow of the dialogue and makes the conversation hard to follow. Don't be afraid to carve some of that out and leave a streamlined back-and-forth without the "he said" and "she said" tags. The other extreme in writing dialogue is to have a conversation totally without tags or hints about what the main character is thinking or feeling--or rambling on so long the reader is in danger of losing track of who is talking. The best course of action is usually something in between.

DIALOGUE SAMPLE:
       Amy stormed into her room, where her little sister Mitzi sat giving Veterinarian Barbie a severe haircut with Mom's material scissors.
       "Where's my necklace?"
       "What necklace?"
       "You know the one. The one I got for Christmas, the one with the stars on it."
       "Dunno. Haven't seen it."
       "I bet you have."
       "Nope."
       "Liar. I saw you flicking at it yesterday when it was hanging on my lamp."
       "Then why are you asking me if I've seen it?"
       "Stop being a brat! I need to wear that necklace for tonight's party. The last time I saw it you were fiddling with it, so you had to have done something with it."
       "I didn't move it. You probably moved it yourself and forgot. Or Mom knocked it off when she was vacuuming."
       "Mom didn't vacuum yesterday. She did it Friday."
       "She always vacuums on Saturday."
       "Not this week. She did it a day early because she had to pick up Ryan from basketball."
       "I don't know, you creep! Leave me alone."

COMMENTS:
While there is a good back-and-forth going on here, it's pretty stark. We don't want to add so many descriptions and tags that it starts to bog down the conversation flow, but the natural rhythm of the dialogue and the clarity of the passage could be improved if we added a few tags and actions. In the case above, for starters, the first dialogue line needs a tag in order for the reader to be 100% certain that it's Amy saying the first line (especially since that first line is on a new line/paragraph).

REWRITE:
       Amy stormed into her room, where her little sister Mitzi sat giving Veterinarian Barbie a severe haircut with Mom's material scissors.
       "Where's my necklace?" Amy said.
       Mitzi didn't look up. "What necklace?"
       "You know the one," Amy growled. "The one I got for Christmas, the one with the stars on it."
       "Dunno. Haven't seen it."
       "I bet you have."
       "Nope." Mitzi kept snipping.
       "Liar. I saw you flicking at it yesterday when it was hanging on my lamp."
       "Then why are you asking me if I've seen it?"
       "Stop being a brat! I need to wear that necklace for tonight's party. The last time I saw it you were fiddling with it, so you had to have done something with it."
       "I didn't move it," Mitzi said. "You probably moved it yourself and forgot. Or Mom knocked it off when she was vacuuming."
       "Mom didn't vacuum yesterday. She did it Friday."
       "She always vacuums on Saturday."
       "Not this week," Amy said, her fists on her hips. "She did it a day early because she had to pick up Ryan from basketball."
       "I don't know, you creep!" Mitzi cried. "Leave me alone."


The tags included here not only add a little tone and color, but they make it more clear who is talking. They also give clues as to how the characters are feeling (Mitzi not looking up, continuing to snip, Amy's fists on her hips indicating anger or impatience, etc.). http://carolriggs.blogspot.com/

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Little Attitude Adjustment

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Image by gastricbypasstruth.com

Last week I suggested we adjust our attitudes and make that day the first day of the rest of our lives. Today, let’s interweave that idea with the last few blogs about avoiding Writer’s Apprehension Disorder (WAD).

Now, let’s add a new twist to that scenario. Let’s see how all this information will line up with our prose and enhance our confidence in writing. 

Face it, writing novels is enjoyable but it isn’t always easy. Yet, somehow we push ourselves and get beyond the ‘hard parts’ with a sense of accomplishment and a new determination to keep going. When the novel is finished, edited and ready to present is when the real work begins. And it is in this stage that many writers’ self-confidence begins to waver and sometimes deflate. Why? Because we’ve sent the work out and were rejected.

Rejection is never easy but we all must face it and learn from it. I know; blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard it all before. Yet, has it really sunk in? How can you tell if it has? Ask yourself what your reaction was to your last rejection? Your answer will tell you if it sunk in or not.

Moving on, now that we’ve learned how to avoid WAG and how to make each day the first day of the rest of our lives, let’s see how adjusting our attitudes from pessimistic to optimistic makes the final steps ─ the road to publication ─ easier.

A few tips to make the adjustment smoother:

1. Refuse self-deprecation. Tell your mind to rebuff thinking such thoughts as, “I can’t do this,” or “So and so is a better writer.” Those are not growth thoughts. Try, “If it’s been done before, I can do it as well,” or “I may be just as good as so and so, but won’t know for sure until I get my work out there.”

2. Don’t cringe at the competition, embrace it. Let’s learn from other writers, the established writers, while continuing to see ourselves as unique writers.

3. Finally, remember only you have lived your life and experienced your experiences as you have experienced them. Others may have had similar incidents but only you experienced them as you had. In other words, only you can breathe life into your characters as you come to understand them from their experiences. The experiences you’ve created for them. That makes you unique.

How have you adjusted your attitude? What changes have you made in your thinking and how have they influenced your writing? I’d love to read your responses.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Today Can -And Should - Be the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Image by Raphael Castello400px-So_Many_People

I know you’ve heard the saying, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Like me, you’ve probably heard it so many times you’ve not taken the time to consider the meaning.

Let’s flip the coin. What are you going to do today to make this day the first day of the rest of your life? What one deed will make today stand out from yesterday and every day before that? How will it ensure tomorrow will be different?

How about some suggestions:

1. Today you finish editing your manuscript.

2. Today you finally send out that query.

3. How about if you change the way you look at your spouse and/or children?

4. Maybe today should be the day you adjust your attitude toward a co-worker or a neighbor.

I could fill pages with a variety of suggestions, however the point is anyone of the decisions you make will change your life. Your life my change in a small way or it could change in a large way. Whichever you choose, go ahead and make today the first day of the rest of your life.

What have you done to see that today is a special day? What attitude adjustments have you made to ensure you maintain your focus? I would love to read your responses.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Progressing Instead of Regressing in Our Writing Endeavors

How to Avoid Developing Writer’s Apprehension Disorder (WAD) Part 3: Worry

So far in our series we’ve discussed dread and anxiety, two potentially crippling symptoms of WAD. In this third and final segment, we’ll discuss worry. The Oxford American Dictionary describes worry as allowing one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles. Who of us is not guilty of doing that?

We worry about the pace of our novels, the structure, the setting and on and on. We also worry about the characters we create. Are they three dimensional or cardboard? Are they the same characters we created for another novel showing up on these new pages?

All authors struggle with these concerns. When it comes to developing characters, even bestselling author Elizabeth George states that, “Sometimes I think I have nothing new to say about anyone. I worry that I’ve already created these people before, in one book or another.” (216; Write Away, Harper Collins, 2004)

How do we control this urge to worry, causing us to slow down in our writing?

1. Move forward. Instead of wasting time worrying about various concerns, allowing them to cause us to regress as writers; we should postpone the matter. Keep writing the novel and save the concerns for the editing stage. You may come to find most of those concerns no longer exist.
2. A better idea would be to release yourself from the burden by praying and laying your worries at the Lord’s feet.
3. Another way would be to quote scripture. For example: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life.”(Matt.6:27, NIV)
4. Finally, speak with a trusted friend who will help and encourage you.

Throughout scripture we see how senseless and time consuming it is to worry. What do you do to prevent yourself from worrying about completing the writing you have set out to do? Do you have any tips to help writers to stop worrying and continue writing?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Progressing Instead of Regressing in Our Writing Endeavors

How to Avoid Developing Writer’s Apprehension Disorder (WAD) Part 2: Anxiety

Have you stopped writing because you feel apprehensive about how others will respond to your work? Are you battling negative or anxious thoughts about who you are as a writer or questioning if you are a writer? If you have these symptoms and are hesitating to continue writing because someone gave you negative feedback, then you are probably suffering from WAD: Writer’s Apprehension Disorder. In part 2, we will focus on anxiety.

According to the Oxford American Dictionary, anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. Do we not always feel uncertain while we are writing and while we are waiting for a response from an agent or publisher? Philippians 4:6 states that we should be anxious for nothing. That is easier said than done. If we’ve finished the work and edited it to the best of our ability, then we should submit the novel, right? However, if we become anxious at this stage of the process we will feel hesitancy instead of confidence at submitting our work. Below are several reasons why:

• We feel we are not a good enough writer.
• We feel our story is not good enough to sell.
• We fear we missed errors and/or typos.
• We feel the rejection (how dare we automatically assume we’ll be rejected?) will be too painful and we can’t cope.
• We fear we’ll be left with a sense that we have nothing left to contribute and should quit.

If you have experienced any of the above feelings, you are not alone. In Write Away, bestselling author Elizabeth George states, “Writing continues to be a scary proposition for me, as I don’t see myself as particularly talented and I wonder how much longer I’ll be able to massage novels out of my meager storehouse of gifts. Daily, I show up at the computer, and I hope for the best. But when I’m reading someone’s stunning first novel –like Cold Mountain or Ingenious Pain, a British first novel that I’m reading- I think, what am I doing? My God, I am so insignificant a storyteller in comparison with these guys. But then I tell myself that all I can do is my best, telling the story as well as I can, leaving the rest up to God.” (157; Harper Collins, 2004)

If we did the best we could why should we feel our work is not good enough? I found after reading one of my favorite authors that my work just can’t compare. However, I need to realize that I shouldn’t be comparing my work with hers but viewing my work for its own value.

I believe even the most skilled writers fear they’ve missed an error or typo. The solution to that is easy. Have someone else read and critique the work. A second set of eyes should be able to pick up anything you miss.

We all have to deal with rejection, not just in our writing. We need to realize and accept that rejection isn’t just a part of life, but a part that we can use to our benefit. We may feel our work is finished only to find ourselves rejected because the work isn’t finished. We can huff and stomp a foot or we can get back to the drawing board and finish it. Chances are by going over the work again the writing will improve and the characters appear more alive. So while we hate the pinch of rejection let’s celebrate the growth as a writer and the more powerful and enjoyable outcome of the newly edited novel.

Sometimes we all battle with the sense that we have no purpose and have nothing left to offer the world. That’s when we tell ourselves maybe we should just give up writing altogether. These would be times when feelings of depression are creeping in and must be squashed with the Word of God. Jeremiah 29:11 states that God knows the plans He has for each of us. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”(NIV)

No matter what stage of dread or anxiety we may be battling, the best thing to do is go straight to the Word of God. In those scriptures we will find truth and comfort. We will also find the will to continue what God has ordained us to do.

Are you experiencing anxiety? Can you think of other symptoms of anxiety causing hesitation in submitting or continuing your work?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Progressing Instead of Regressing in Our Writing Endeavors

How to Avoid Developing Writer’s Apprehension Disorder (WAD) Part 1: Dread

Using last Monday’s blog, The Song that Silenced the Cappuccino Machine, for inspiration let’s delve into our series on progressing instead of regressing in our writing endeavors. Part 1 of our series focuses on dread. WAD includes symptoms such as dread, anxiety and worry. These are all forms of fear and these fears can overcome us as struggling, or even as published writers.

Last week I mentioned we all have a purpose in life and potential. When we allow dread, anxiety or worry to prevent us from fulfilling our purpose; writing, or to make us feel as though we have nothing to contribute, we must resist believing the lie and remember God said otherwise. In Write Away, bestselling author Elizabeth George states that, “Writing a book is terrifying. I can see why some writers go from book to book at a pace that allows them virtually no time off. I don’t want to live that way, and as a result, I have to face my demon fear each time I begin a novel. But Steinbeck faced it; Marquez continues to face it. If Nobel Prize winners can admit their fears, so can I.” (207; Harper Collins, 2004)

Have you stopped writing because you feel apprehensive about how others will respond to your work? Are you battling negative or anxious thoughts about who you are as a writer or questioning if you are a writer? If you have these symptoms or are hesitating to continue writing because someone gave you negative feedback, then you are probably suffering from WAD: Writer’s Apprehension Disorder.

In the first stages of dread you experience a sensation of panic at the thought of continuing your work, so you stop writing. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, dread is “a great fear or apprehension.” This sensation could keep you from continuing due to fear of negative outcome or fear of conquering the challenge. Dread makes us procrastinate or give up altogether and it can be crippling to a writing career.

Also in Write Away, George states, “When I was creating For the Sake of Elena, I became so incapacitated by fear that I was having trouble getting out of bed in the morning. I finally resorted to saying, ‘These are only words and I will not let words defeat me’ in order to get up and get to work. Thus I struggled to the end of the novel.” (47)

I find George’s words encouraging, since I experience the same feelings myself and spent the longest time believing I was the only one who did. I fell into dread’s trap and had to pull myself out. Dread keeps our stomachs in knots, our minds confused, and stops us from enjoying our lives. Most of all, dread keeps us from completing the task we set out to do; to finish writing the novel. If we do overcome the dread and finish the work, our joy is short lived because dread reappears to keep us from querying an agent or publisher. Dread feeds on doubt and insecurity. Simply put, dread steals our joy, ruins a good mood and leaves us with a sense of gloom or despair about our abilities as a writer.

How do we overcome the dread we battle and find ourselves succumbing to?
• First, we need to set our minds to recognize the symptoms before they overpower us. The best way to recognize dread is through prayer. We should ask the Lord to open our eyes and give us discernment when these unwelcome feelings begin creeping in.
• Another way to overcome dread would be to speak with a trusted friend, someone to whom we could pour out our hearts and receive encouragement. If possible, an established author or agent who is willing to offer advice to writers.
• One more way would be to change our focus the moment we feel hesitancy or dread appearing. The longer our thoughts are on our fears the more powerful the dread becomes. 2 Timothy 1:7 states, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (KJV)
• Finally, the most powerful way to overcome dread is through the Word of God. Speak the scriptures. Hebrews 4:12 states “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.” (KJV).

Throughout the Bible, God tells His people, as He tells our hearts today, not to fear [dread] or worry. Why, because He is in control. Let’s keep that in mind and keep writing. Next week Part 2: Anxiety.

What about you? Have you fallen into dread’s trap? Do you battle with dread? Do you procrastinate when it’s time to write or submit your work? How do you cope with your dread and keep writing? I would love to hear your responses.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Song that Silenced the Cappuccino Machine.

Someone forwarded this to me in an email and I don’t know who the original author is, however, it goes perfectly with the theme of a series of blogs I plan to share beginning next Monday.

We all have a purpose in life and potential. God gave that to us. When we allow dread, anxiety and worry to prevent us from fulfilling our purpose; writing, and allow that fear to make us feel as though we have nothing to contribute, please remember that God said we all have something to give back.

The SPARROW at STARBUCKS: The Song that Silenced the Cappuccino Machine.

It was chilly in Manhattan but warm inside the Starbucks shop on 51st Street and Broadway, just a skip up from Times Square. Early November weather in New York City holds only the slightest hint of the bitter chill of late December and January, but it's enough to send the masses crowding indoors to vie for available space and warmth.

For a musician, it's the most lucrative Starbucks location in the world, I'm told, and consequently, the tips can be substantial if you play your tunes right. Apparently, we were striking all the right chords that night, because our basket was almost overflowing.. It was a fun, low-pressure gig - I was playing keyboard and singing backup for my friend who also added rhythm with an arsenal of percussion instruments. We mostly did pop songs from the '40s to the '90s with a few original tunes thrown in.

During our emotional rendition of the classic, "If You Don't Know Me by Now," I noticed a lady sitting in one of the lounge chairs across from me. She was swaying to the beat and singing along.

After the tune was over, she approached me. "I apologize for singing along on that song. Did it bother you?" she asked.
"No," I replied. "We love it when the audience joins in. Would you like to sing up front on the next selection?"
To my delight, she accepted my invitation. "You choose,"
I said. "What are you in the mood to sing?"
"Well. . . . do you know any hymns?"
Hymns? This woman didn't know who she was dealing with. I cut my teeth on hymns. Before I was even born, I was going to church. I gave our guest singer a knowing look. "Name one."
"Oh, I don't know. There are so many good ones. You pick one."
"Okay," I replied. "How about 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'?"
My new friend was silent, her eyes averted. Then she fixed her eyes on mine again and said, "Yeah. Let's do that one."
She slowly nodded her head, put down her purse, straightened her jacket and faced the center of the shop. With my two-bar setup, she began to sing.
Why should I be discouraged?
Why should the shadows come?
The audience of coffee drinkers was transfixed. Even the gurgling noises of the cappuccino machine ceased as the employees stopped what they were doing to listen. The song rose to its conclusion.
I sing because I'm happy;
I sing because I'm free.
For His eye is on the sparrow
And I know He watches me.
When the last note was sung, the applause crescendoed to a deafening roar that would have rivaled a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. Embarrassed, the woman tried to shout over the din, "Oh, y'all go back to your coffee! I didn't come in here to do a concert! I just came in here to get somethin' to drink, just like you!" But the ovation continued.
I embraced my new friend. "You, my dear, have made my whole year! That was beautiful!"
"Well, it's funny that you picked that particular hymn," she said.
"Why is that?"
"Well . . ." she hesitated again, "that was my daughter's favorite song."
"Really!" I exclaimed.
"Yes," she said, and then grabbed my hands. By this time, the applause had subsided and it was business as usual.. "She was 16. She died of a brain tumor last week."
I said the first thing that found its way through my stunned silence. "Are you going to be okay?"
She smiled through tear-filled eyes and squeezed my hands. "I'm gonna be okay. I've just got to keep trusting the Lord and singing his songs, and everything's gonna be just fine."
She picked up her bag, gave me her card, and then she was gone.
Was it just a coincidence that we happened to be singing in that particular coffee shop on that particular November night? Coincidence that this wonderful lady just happened to walk into that particular shop? Coincidence that of all the hymns to choose from, I just happened to pick the very hymn that was the favorite of her daughter, who had died just the week before?
I refuse to believe it. God has been arranging encounters in human history since the beginning of time, and it's no stretch for me to imagine that he could reach into a coffee shop in midtown Manhattan and turn an ordinary gig into a revival. It was a great reminder that if we keep trusting him and singing his songs, everything's gonna be okay.
The next time you feel like GOD can't use YOU, just remember....

* Abraham was too old
* Isaac was a daydreamer
* Jacob was a liar
* Leah was ugly
* Joseph was abused
* Moses had a stuttering problem
* Gideon was afraid
* Sampson had long hair and was a womanizer
* Rahab was a prostitute
* Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
* David had an affair and was a murderer
* Elijah was suicidal
* Isaiah preached naked
* Jonah ran from God
* Naomi was a widow
* Job went bankrupt
* John the Baptist ate bugs
* Peter denied Christ
* The Disciples fell asleep while praying
* Martha worried about everything
* The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
* Zaccheus was too small
* Paul was too religious
* Timothy had an ulcer
* Lazarus was dead!

No more excuses now!! God can use you to your full potential. Besides you aren't the message, you are just the messenger. God bless you..

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Character’s Moral Convictions

Make Your Main Character Stand Out from the Rest

Do you want your main character to stand out in a natural and acceptable way? Try a subtle, yet powerful, character trait: strong moral convictions.

Moral conviction means making the right choice or doing the right thing. Usually, this involves making a sacrifice or letting go of something. When writing a story, creating a character with moral convictions shows, instead of tells, the reader that the main character either doesn’t fear being different, or would risk reticule from others for standing firm in his or her beliefs. To the character, the sacrifice involved would be worth making because it would result in the greater good for those he or she cares about.

For example, have him refuse to cheat at a game of cards though an opportunity presents itself. Or have him turn down the chance to be unfaithful to his girlfriend, even if he thought the other woman was irresistible. His courage in walking away would show he was a man of great self-control. In addition, it would show he had the insight to understand he would face consequences for his actions, even if no one else learned what he had done. Have her refuse to sleep with her fiancĂ© before they are married. Or have her refuse to ‘fudge’ the books at work or steal cash from the company drawer, knowing no one would ever suspect her. She would know and that would be enough to keep her from doing it.

The point is, create a main character that wants a clean conscience. Overdone character traits like walking with a limp or chain smoking won’t due. However, a character that will follow his or her convictions instead of doing what everyone else does, just because ‘everybody does it,’ will. A character willing to make the necessary sacrifice because he or she believes the outcome of the situation would be worth it, stands out.

In addition, a character’s strong moral conviction shows, instead of tells, that he or she has an inner strength that the other characters, and the reader, can’t help but respect. Even if they don’t agree or believe in his or her moral convictions, both reader and supporting characters should be impressed.

Because it’s never easy for anyone to stand alone in what they believe, the fact that a major character does makes him or her a more memorable and endearing character. Isn’t that what sells books? Strong, unforgettable, engaging and interesting characters, that against all odds, refuse to compromise their ethical beliefs under pressure.

Finally, remember to reveal the convictions in a subtle way. The main character cannot preach or brag about his or her beliefs. That would turn the reader off. The convictions must flow naturally throughout the story, as part of the storyline. By the character’s previous behavior, these convictions should also show that it’s the only way this character could react to the situation.

Read more at Suite101: A Character’s Moral Convictions: Make the Main Character Stand Out from the Rest http://writingfiction.suite101.com/article.cfm/a_characters_moral_convictions#ixzz0qZbFAE3t

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Favorite Opening Lines or Just Favorite Lines

Thanks for the feedback on the opening lines blog. Now I'd like to know your favorite opening lines from other novelists, famous or not, or just your favorite lines from a novel.

Right now my favorite opening line is from Harlan Coben's, No Second Chance. "When the first bullet hit my chest, I thought of my daughter."

Doesn't that make you want to stop everything and find out what happens next?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Your Opening Lines

Right now I'm struggling with the 'hook' or opening lines for my latest novel so I thought I'd ask for help. Nothing sparks the imagination like reading the opening lines of other writers.

Would you like to share your inspiration to help spark mine? I'd love to read your opening lines and have our readers comment on them. I believe we could all learn from this experience. What do you say?

Send me your opening lines and I'll post them and ask for feedback.

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