The Importance of Story

Do you remember your mother or grandmother reading stories to you when you were small? When my son and grandsons were little I read to them before bed. As they grew I encouraged them to “read” their favorite stories to me. Since we read Dr. Suess and Paddington Bear over and over again, they knew what happened on every page and could almost recite the words before they could read.

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There are quotes from books or films (stories) that stick in our minds and never go away. They speak to us. They make us laugh or cry or think. “Everything looks better with pearls,” is one of my faves. I don’t wear pearls but I remember watching Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day in films and they always had pearls on and looked beautiful and confident.

These days superheroes are very popular, everyone wants to be a hero, save the day, have superpowers. Imagine it? Of course, you can, we all can. Stories about ordinary people who find out they have extraordinary gifts inspire us to be greater.

Everyone has stories in them. Our lives are vignettes, scenes that play out every day. Sometimes they are boring, but they can just as easily be exciting, frightening, or romantic. Share your stories. If you don’t want to write them down, speak them to others, take photographs that tell a story, paint a picture, write/sing a song. We all love a good story.friends_n_rain

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November where are you?

Okay, what happened to November? It was here and now it’s gone.surprise

I looked back at the calendar to see just why and it appears to have been inordinately busy, with family visiting, holidays, and birthdays. All good things. Is it my imagination or does time go faster as you mature? I suppose scientifically it does not – but it appears to, none the less.

There’s always something that needs to be done – but do we make good choices? I confess I don’t always. Do we make time for the things that truly matter? I hope so. Some things can wait another day, like dusting and laundry. But sharing a conversation or coffee with friends are important. Make time for them.

Our children grow up, move away and have families of their own. Soon the grandchildren are grown as well. Time does not stop or slow down for any of us, no matter how much we want it to. Some days I am amazed how much time has passed in my life then I think of all things I’ve experienced and realize it’s been not only productive but incredible.

Will things slow down in December? Doubtful. Will I enjoy it? Absolutely. I’d like to repeat myself – make time for the things that matter and have a healthy, happy December.

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Writers are Readers, too.

You’ve no doubt heard this one before, good writers – READ.  It’s true!  I write mainly women’s fiction, so I do a lot of reading in that genre.  I also read chick lit, mainstream fiction, mysteries, thrillers, romance and much more.  Check out my Goodreads.com books and you’ll see that I am a diverse reader. If there’s a book review in the paper or a magazine I have to read it and if the story sounds good, then it goes on my list of things to read.

 

man_looking_thru_binocularsWhen I find a particular author I enjoy I tend to read everything they’ve ever written, but reading debut novels is enjoyable.  Sharing any new found book treasures is a must.  Many of my friends and family like to book swap, and if we’ve gotten the book from the library we make sure and email the title and author around the group.

Occasionally films will come out about the lives of authors or based on one of my favorite books.  It’s fun to get a group of writers together to see a matinee and then get coffee and hold a discussion.  We writers have such an interesting way of viewing things.

There are lots of book clubs out there that get together and discuss their favorite stories. reading books(But, you have to read them first.)  Kansas has a statewide reading event each year that is fun to participate in.  You will overhear book conversations in the grocery store and all around town.  It is like being a part of a really BIG book club.

Many of us have a library of unread books that we have collected from friends, book sales at the library, yard sales, and those bought with coupons from the local bookstores.    When I’m finished reading and sharing a book, I donate it to the library so others can partake of its pages.  The bottom line is – you can never read too many books.  And reading good books will help you become a better writer – I PROMISE!

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Editing my fingers to the bone.

Sorry, I’ve not been posting regularly lately, but I’ve been editing, editing and editing some more. The 1970’s YA novel is now a 1980’s YA novel because the youth today know the 80’s references and so do their parents. So, the story can promote discussion….YES!

The new title is “Every Move You Make: I’ll Be Watching” and yes it has suspense, romance, betrayal, friendship, obsession and abandonment, not necessarily in that order.

tvSTAY TUNED!!

Who tells the story?

kids_sprinklerThe art of perspective, or who tells the story, is vital to a story well told. What does that mean? Usually, the best person to be the main point of view character is the one who changes the most or is most impacted by the events you are portraying. I’m not talking about “I” telling the story (this is POV and the HOW), it can be first person, but it can also be third person (he or she), or the all seeing god-view. I personally like third person, because, “I” can only know what “I” know and not what is going on in any other character’s head. The experience portrayed in this photo could easily be told by one of the children, but also by the mother who witnesses their play. She would no doubt have a similar experience to share from her childhood and be able to relate it using all senses. My point here is that POV and the teller are linked.collage_heart

In romance, the story is about the two lovers (to be or not to be). There can be lots of interesting secondary characters, but they are not the most important to the story – it’s the couple finding their way to each other. So, even if the maid can tell the story, the story is about how the lovers get together, not how she feels about the job or the price of beef. It can be interesting to see an observers view of how a romance transpires, but there is too much distance to the emotions in the story to be satisfying to the reader.

In the story, Driving Miss Daisy, the driver tells us about Miss Daisy and their relationship. He has a very interesting perspective of his charge and is able to share her antics with honesty. Their friendship evolves over the story as her health devolves. We perceive the racial tension in the south, but these two people overcome that barrier. She needs his calm dependability and he needs to be needed. (I confess I saw the film and didn’t read the book, this is how I perceived the story telling.)

glasses_paper_keyboardSo, how does a writer decide who is the best to tell the story? If you aren’t sure, I suggest trying to write it through a couple of different character’s (or POV) and see which flows best. My short story, “The Crossroads” has always been from Sylvia’s POV, but it was in first person first. When I changed it to third person it flowed better. It is “her” story, and no one else could tell it better, but as an author I had to put some distance between us. Being her in the “I” in the story, put me too close to see everything clearly. We decide “who” and “how” the story will be told.

“The Book Thief” interestingly enough was told from the point of view of ‘death’, but it was the young girl’s experience during this time in WWII. As narrator he was able to express the darkness of the time.

What makes the best “teller” in your story? That’s for the author to decide. Experiment. When you’re recounting the story of your toddler in the store shouting, “Mommy, what’s a jock strap?” It’s mommy’s embarrassment and toddler’s antics that make the story. It wouldn’t work if the toddler told how he did this, so the best person to relate it is Mommy or the clerk standing on the ladder witnessing the exchange. friends_n_rain

When I was little my grandmother always told me the way to understand why someone acted a certain way I should, “Listen harder. Walk around in their shoes for a while.” In essence that’s what an author does. We listen to our character and put ourselves in the story in order to relate the feelings, smells, sounds, textures of the experience. If we are lucky, we grow so close to the story that for a little while we become the characters and their story becomes even richer.

Enjoy the journey, my friends.

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Life is not a straight line…

Life is not a straight line. We bounce around and find our way through.

forget me notsIf you follow your “curiosity” it will give you clues. Be aware. Be open. Listen. Trust that every place you go is where you are supposed to be in order to gain experience, wisdom, grace, humility, discipline, faith…

This was especially true in my twenties. But I have to say that even at my current age I must not fall into the pit of focusing so hard on one outcome that I miss opportunities to grow. How about you?

When I’m writing a story and think I already know the ending it’s surprising what can happen along the way. New characters appear. Old characters change. Assumptions made no longer apply. And sometimes the ending morphs as well. Follow the path, wherever it leads you.

I love when I’m reading and the story surprises me. Occasional unpredictability can be inspiring – emotional – even educational. But writer beware of throwing a huge rock in the soup, it will totally change the flavor and splash not only the broth, but the reader right out of the pot.

snoopy happy danceI’m a fan of satisfying endings. Who wants to read about a total loser who never ever wins? Totally depressing. You want readers to feel hope for the characters, satisfaction that the story ended as it should and they didn’t waste their time.

I hate to see a cool character die or an antagonist that can’t be redeemed (even just a little bit). In life, those things happen, so they have to occur in story as well. What is story, but the telling of a life experience (real or imagined)? A path taken that resulted in certain consequences that the reader can relate to, utilize as a lesson learned in their own lives, or imagine and enjoy.  which way signLife is not a straight line…so the story can’t be either.

Enjoy the journey, my friends. I plan to.

 

 

 

Live and Learn and Pass it on

“Live and learn and pass it on” is a good motto, and one that hopefully will stay with me well into the new year.

So, what have you learned in 2015?

I’m going to give this a try myself and see what lessons I’ve learned this past year.

  • You really are only the age that you feel. (Some days I feel younger than others.)bonnie_jan_50s

 

  • Keeping your teeth healthy (brush, floss, don’t grind) is super important, unless you want to only eat soft foods after your teeth fall out. (Had two root canals this year.)
  • Most really good accomplishments started out with the thought that it couldn’t be done. (This includes skills that you thought you had to pay for – installing light fixtures, tearing up old carpet or wallpaper or ceramic tile. I learned how and saved some bucks.)
  • Exercise will keep you fit and feeling younger. (So will manual labor, but walking and yoga are more fun.)
  • Wcchipcookiesarm cookies from the oven are far superior to cold ones from the cookie jar. (Therefore, I only bake a dozen at a time and enjoy them fresh each day or until the dough runs out.)
  • Good cooking is all about the seasoning. (As is a good life.)
  • Enthusiasm is catching, not something you can teach.
  • Even when I have pain, I don’t need to be one.
  • When you drop a slice of bread it always falls jelly side down. (It happening to my grandson was a good reminder.)happy_person
  • There’s nothing more attractive than a smile. (It improves your face value.)
  • We can’t be lovable all of the time, but when we’re not is when we need love most.
  • Doing something in anger usually makes more work for later. (Especially when you’re stripping wallpaper.)
  • You find out who your true friends are when you have a terrible job that you need help with. (And help might be in the form of prayer or a hug, or extra hands to do the work. It all counts!)
  • I’ve learned that you don’t always get what you pay for. (Contractors is a perfect example. If they are called “Affordable” they do a cheap job.)
  • Receiving (and sending) cards is a fabulous way to reach out. (I love getting and sending surprise notes in the mail.)
  • An un-watched pot will either boil over or boil dry. Every time.
  • Laundry is never “done.” (Unless you are in a nudist colony, I guess.)
  • reading_lotsReading a good book on a rainy day with a quilt and fuzzy socks is awesome. (And I do this as much as possible, with or without the rain.)

 

  • The value of human touch is priceless, especially when the touch is filled with love.
  • Not seeing your kids or grandkids for a year is TOO LONG.
  • I’ve learned that storytelling is what helps us touch, teach and support one another.
  • You can learn something from everyone you meet.
  • Be generous with praise. It costs nothing and reaps huge rewards.
  • You can find anything through Google. (My husband does it all the time.)
  • Don’t wear white if you’re planning on eating salsa or tomato sauce. (Nuff said)
  • Moving is really hard physically, emotionally, and financially. (Sometimes it’s worth it!)
  • Pick your battles. Not everything is worth fighting about.
  • Nothing is more delightful than a baby’s laugh. (Toddler giggles are up there, too.)baby_kissyface
  • Be kind. Always.
  • Make time to do the things you enjoy.
  • While humans plan, God laughs.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I’m sure before I drift off to sleep tonight I’ll think of another lesson learned. The point is living and enjoying the days we have on this earth. And taking care of each other, too.

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Location, location, location

Everyone is from somewhere and I just happen to be from Kansas, so that’s the location I write about. It is home. It’s where most of my family lives. It’s where I grew up. It’s a place that knows all seasons.seasonsoflife

When I first started writing fifteen-years-ago I was told that nobody was interested in stories about Kansas. You know, that’s not exactly true – look at the Wizard of Oz. Many times I heard, why Kansas? Nobody famous is from Kansas. Ha. President Dwight Eisenhower might beg to differ. There have been many notables, for example: Nobel Prize winners, actors (Dennis Hopper, Dee Wallace…), authors (Langston Hughes, William Inge…), artists (like Gordon Parks…), musicians (Melissa Etheridge…), athletes (George Brett…), aviators (Amelia Earhart…), journalists (John Cameron SwayzeWilliam Allen White…) and so many more. I’ve only listed a few of the many amazing people who were born in Kansas.

kids_icecreamEvery location, no matter how mundane seeming has Stories. Secrets. Families. Intrigues. History. People are born, live and die in Kansas and relate very well to stories about their home. The Midwest has its special qualities. The sunrises and sunsets in Kansas are amazingly beautiful across the vast flatness, as well as the Flint Hills.

couple_sunsetThere was a time when writers were told to only feature exotic places in their novels. All those who has lived or visited exotic areas raise your hands! I’m sure there’s quite a few, with remarkable and ancient things. But where can you find a place where you belong? Do you want to read about places you may never see? Okay, yes, I do – sometimes. But the stories that touch me deepest are the ones I can plop myself down on the couch and live there.

I’ll admit it. I love reading about other cultures. They are fascinating. But I never quite “feel” like I’m a part of the action. I’m only an observer. There are times to be an observer and times when you want to be in the middle of things. For me, Kansas is the middle of everything. That’s why I write about it.

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What location resonates for you? What stories have you read that “took you there?”

“The Crossroads” is here!

During the great depression jobs were scarce and the hope for a bright future even more so. For Sylvia Gray her life of poverty, cleaning, cooking and taking care of her three brothers is about as bleak as it can get. With her father out of work and nipping at the jug, her mother has to wait tables at the diner to make ends meet. All the family puts their support to the eldest of the brothers. There’s nothing more for girls living in the back hills of Arkansas in 1935. But Sylvia wants to finish high school and get a job so she can make her own way.

THE CROSSROADS novella available on Amazon.com

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