Welcome to my writing pages. This is a new adventure for me as I delve into the realm of the World Wide Web! I will share the novels I’m working on, the research I’ve done for them, and tips on how to find inspiration for your own writing. Although my tips are aimed at teens who are just starting to write, they can help any beginning writer. You may also find me on Facebook at JPC Allen Writes.
I am not a poet, but I occasionally get ideas that can only be expressed in poems. I wrote the poem below in response to the poem “January” by John Updike in A Child’s Calendar. I love these poems. While I like the one Mr. Updike wrote about “February”, my poem better reflects my feelings about the month.
The wind is grayer.
The days are colder.
The month gets longer
As it gets older.
At first we loved
The clean, bright glow.
But now it’s simply
Snow on snow on snow on snow ….
Writing in Time — February
I don’t know if many people have this habit, but I like to read books at the time of year in which they are set, if that season or month is important to the story.
I only read Christmas stories and poems in December. I am always on the look out for a good Halloween mystery and read them only in October. The climactic chapters of one of my favorite books Watership Down takes place during a thunderstorm in June, which makes me want to read it in that month.
I like to use the season and weather as key ingredients in my writing. So I was thinking about what kind of storyline would work best in February. Because I have only ever lived in temperate climates, I can only talk about February within that frame of reference.
February is a frustrating month. Even though I like winter with it’s snow and sub-zero temperatures, by February, that weather has grown tiresome. With Valentine’s Day in it, the month can be even more frustrating, depending on the status of your relationships. Lent sometimes begins in it, too, and all that focus on sins can be depressing. February 29 makes the month unique, but making such a contrary month longer may not be a good thing.
This all means that February is a great month as a setting for a story. I could use February as a symbol of a character’s dull, routine life that changes dramatically on February 29, that unique day of the calendar. If I wrote romance, I could have the dramatic change occur on Valnentine’s Day. If I wrote fantasy, I could give February 29 some magical significance. If I place Lent in the month, I think I would have to carry the story to Easter because Lent is pointless without Easter, just as it would be pointless for characters to focus on sins or shortcomings without offering hope for them in the end.
How do you see February as an inspiration for writing?
Role Models II
Last week, I talked about how I had looked in the Bible for a person who had the same problems with anxiety and timidity that I do. While praying one day, I thought of Gideon.
When God first calls Gideon, he calls him a mighty warrior. But his actions don’t fit our idea of a mighty warrior. When we meet Gideon, he is hiding in a wine press to thresh wheat so the invading Midianites can’t take it. And Gideon carries out God’s first order, destroying his father’s altar to Baal, at night because he is afraid of his family and neighbors.
When God inspires Gideon to assemble the Israelites to drive out the Midianites. Gideon asks for two signs just to make doubly sure he is doing what God wants. As the Israelites travel to confront the Midianites, God tells Gideon he wants him to use fewer men so the Israelites will recognize that it is God who has beaten the Midianites. God tells him to only take three hundred. Gideon must be worried because right before the Israelites attack, God tells Gideon to sneak into the enemy camp and eavesdrop. A conversation between enemy soldiers gives Gideon all the encouragement he needs.
It’s interesting to note that when Gideon has doubts, God is right there to support him. In other stories of the Bible, when a person doubts God, he or she often gets a harsh response from Him. But I think the difference is Gideon doesn’t doubt God and His powers. He doubts himself. I believe God doesn’t mind genuine doubt, if we really have questions that we need answered before we can have confidence in following God’s will.
It’s very comforting to know that God can use me, like Gideon, even when I am scared. I often feel I should have more confidence if I am doing God’s work. But Gideon was scared when he destroyed his father’s altar and still got the job done.
God does such a thorough job of building up Gideon’s confidence throughout the story in Judges that eventually he is ready to lead three hundred men against thousands. He really is the mighty warrior God said he was when He first spoke to Gideon. God knew it all along. Gideon just had to realize it.
Several years ago, I prayed that if God needed to change me into a more Christ-like person to please do it gently and slowly so as not to scared me with His awesome powers. He must have agreed with me because I feel His guidance in gentle nudges rather thunderous blasts. God knows what I need and what I am capable of doing. I just need to realize it and realize God can use a scaredy-cat just as easily as He can a lion.
Advice from C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis is my favorite nonfiction Christian writer. I don’t have an opinion on his fiction, except that I really liked A Horse and His Boy when I was a kid, and I couldn’t stay interested in Out of the Silent Planet.
I like this article because the author adds comments to Lewis’s tips to bring them up-to-date, although most of his advice is timeless.
Naming of My Names
My novel and future novels are set in a fictional West Virginia county where several generations of the same family live. I created family trees to build naming patterns. For example, a teen character might have an old-fashioned name because he is named after his grandfather. I also try to use different naming patterns to distinguish between families.
The Stowecroft family is the leading family in the county. I decided that each generation would use the most popular names at that time. So a ten-year-old might be named Jacob and his father, Jason. Using popular names keeps the Stowecrofts distinct from the other more eccentrically named families. It also makes the reader think they are bound to popular opinions and maybe even bland or unimaginative.
I have had the most fun creating the names for the Kimmels, a vast family of crooks. I got the idea to use nature and weather for their names from my grandfather. He told me that when he was a boy in West Virginia in the 1910’s, his grandparents had neighbors who were named after the weather – Winter, Rain, Jack Frost.
Using nature for the names of the Kimmels brands them as different from the rest of the characters in the county. The family has five main branches, which I may have to prune, but to help my readers keep the characters straight, I have each branch use its own unique naming pattern. The Kimmels are named after the weather. Three brothers are named Cy, Cane, and Tor, short for Cyclone, Hurricane, and Tornado. The Sims are named after jewels and elements, and the Pratt have months for names. I had such a good time coming up with whacky names that I realized I had too many characters and had to whack off an entire branch.
When naming, I keep in mind something I read about J.R.R. Tolkien. He said that he worked very hard making his invented languages and the names that came from them as much like real languages as he could. He thought that their consistency would aid in making Middle Earth seem like a real place.
As fiction writers, we want readers to be able to dive into our imaginary worlds and take them as real. Creating appropriate names for our characters can help in making the unreal real.