Writing Tip

lily-960387_1280Easter as Inspiration

As a writer of Christian fiction, I can find endless themes in the Easter story: renewal, sacrifice, forgiveness, love, rebirth, and resurrection are just a few.  So many different people are involved in the story, each with his or her own backstory, I have myriad sources from which to create characters.

Since I can’t address all these in a single blog post, I’ll just focus on one: the Easter story as a story arc, mimicking the themes of Maundy Thursday to Easter.

Maundy Thursday – Story starts with some kind of celebration with all the main characters.  One character is sad for some reason.bible-2167783_1280

Good Friday – A tragedy occurs.

Holy Saturday – Charcters react to tragedy.

Easter – The tragedy is turned on its head somehow, becoming the opposite of what the characters thought it was.  Because of this, most of the characters are profoundly changed for the better.

I wouldn’t have to plot my story over four days.  I could have it unfold over years if I wanted to, but I would use the the four days as described as my anchors for the action.

I wouldn’t even have to mention within the story I was following the pattern of Easter.  J.R.R. Tolkien used many Christian themes in The Lord of the Rings, but because his characters live in Europe before the introduction of Christianity, they can’t say Aragorn’s return to the throne is like the Jews waiting for the Messiah.  But readers can make the connection.

I would love to try my hand at writing a story as I have outlined.  Maybe I will get more inspiration.  Does Easter inspire any ideas for you?  Let me know!


Writing Tip

calendar-162126_1280Writing in Time — April

As with the other months of spring, I am not a huge fan of April.  The better weather and new growth means one thing to me: more work.

Luscious green grass means it will need to be mowed soon, and when you have acres to cut, it’s no small chore.  Soon we will be planting which means weeding can’t be far behind.

When I worked in the children’s department of public libraries, April meant more work because we were gearing up for our summer reading program, an enormous undertaking.  We had to get a lot done in April because in May we were busy with visiting schools to promote our program.  We would take a deep breath in April and not let it out until mid-July.

cherry-trees-1567310_1280So if I use April for a setting, I will use it for comic effect.  My main character is the one person in the story irritated with spring.  A lot can go wrong, in a humorous way, when working outside.

Speaking of humor, the month kicks off with April Fool’s Day.  I am not a big joker, but the holiday does have a lot of possibilities for storytelling — two or three characters spend the day tricking each other.  Or a joke has unexpected consequences.  I could turn the holiday serious – someone is accidentally killed by a April Fool’s Day joke.  Or was it an accident?

April also makes me think of storms, so I often see it in my head as a month of darkness.  In a temperate climate, it’s the first month of the year when you expect dangerous storms.  An April storm would be a great setting for a climax between two  competing characters locked into some kind of duel.  The month’s dark and stormy nature can be used as a metaphor for secrets.  I could write a story about long-held secrets that finally come to light at the height of a storm.

I know I have skipped over Easter, but I thought that holiday should have entry to itself, which I will write about next time.


Writing Tip

group-1825513_1280Strong Verbs Not Allowed

From the writers in my writing group, I’ve learned that dialogue tags are out of style.  You should only use “said” with maybe “asked” and “whispered” sprinkled in.  And only use “said” when there is no better way to indicate who is talking.

The style now is using action statements to show who is speaking.

Don’t write:  “Don’t do it,” I warned.

“You can’t stop me,” sneered the Evil Villian.

“Help me,” screamed the Hysterical Victim.

“I’ll do whatever I can,” I vowed.

Do write:. “Don’t do it!”  I charged up the stairs.

“You can’t stop me.”  The Evil Villian grabbed an automatic.

“Help me!”  The Hysterical Victim strained against the handcuffs.

“I’ll do whatever I can.”  I dived for the gun.

I see how they second version provides more information to the reader to help him create a more vivid mental picture.  I also understand how tags can be overdone with characters replying, yelling, crying, adding, interrupting, gasping, and so on.

You can also convey the delivery of the dialogue with the words used within the dialogue.

Instead of:  “That’s terrible,” he growled.

Write:  “That’s the worse news I’ve had all year.”

The second line delivers more meaning, it’s more precise, more colorful.

But …

Personally, I don’t mind reading tags, if, as I said above, it’s not overdone.  I like to know how the dialogue sounds.  The action tags give me clues sometimes, but I think a verb describing the sound of the voice in the dialogue tag give just  as much information.

I don’t know when the minimizing of dialogue tags began.  I find a lot of them in older books, from 50 years ago or longer.  Perhaps it has something do with TV shows and movies.  People are so used to storytelling being visual that authors try to copy that action as best they can in print.

Authors of current children’s books still use a variety of verbs for dialogue tags.  The technique makes the story easier to follow.

So what’s your opinion?  Should no one ever growl or yell or sob?  Or can these be used sparingly?

Scripture Saturdays

hope-2046018_1280Still Hoping

I wanted to tell you how I was doing with giving up worrying and taking up hope for Lent.  Not very well is the answer.  I have been worrying a lot.  Not the stomach-sickening, paralyzing kind of worry, but the sneaky, persistent sort that makes me feel miserable before I can figure out why.

It is so alien to my nature to hope.  It feels false, like I am wearing an outfit I don’t like.  And our culture in general, in the arts specifically, equates hope with rose-colored glasses and chasing rainbows.  I can’t even estimate the number of times I have read that a TV series has “improved” because this season the storyline is darker, or an actor is excited her character has taken a dark turn.

I understand why artists turn to dark themes.  They believe that can get more dramatic mileage out of the destruction of a marriage than the restoration of one, out of a best friend’s betrayal than her faithfulness.

But it’s extremely difficult to live with such depressing expectations.  Since my feelings in this area often trick me, I will go with what I know, and what I know about hope I have found in the following verses:

Psalm 31:24: “Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord.”sun-622740_1280

Psalm 42:5: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”

Hebrews 6:19: “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”anchor-57748_1280

This is one I love Jeremiah 29:11: ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to proper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

Yesterday I actively hoped instead of worried about a problem.  I felt my heart grow lighter.  I came to the conclusion that since neither hoping or worrying changes the outcome of a situation in reality, I might as well hope.  Like any other skill, I have to practice it.

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