Stepping into the forest of my mind

Stepping into the forest of my mind
Just as every journey begins with a first step, every story begins with the first word.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Types of Secondary Characters in Fiction or Memoir Part 2 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop



To pick up where we left off in June about secondary characters in story or memoir, there are many types of secondary characters in writing. Some secondary characters come to the writer at the time she begins creating the story. I think of these characters as the primary secondary characters, the ones who are most involved with the protagonist and appear the most in her story.
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While I knew my family would be in my memoir journey attending college, I never thought about including some friends and professors. But they are secondary characters, nonetheless.

Secondary characters can be thought about like this:

Primary secondary characters are the ones involved closely with your protagonist; i.e. family members, close friends.

Initial secondary characters are the ones that come to the writer at the beginning of the story writing. Let’s say you need a pivotal character to help move the plot along; i.e. a police officer or doctor, a co-worker, or murderer.

But there is a third kind of secondary character. They are the ones who come to you as you create the story. The unexpected acquaintance at a bar or café or the cab driver or stranger you meet at the airport. Someone who offers key information to help move the plot forward or to a satisfying conclusion.

Secondary characters can help establish what’s considered normal in your story world. In my case, my family establishes what life is like for Victoria prior to starting college.

But the family also becomes not so much enemies for the protagonist like in fiction, but rather obstacles at times during Victoria’s college journey.

My family’s role in the memoir is threefold. They set up the memoir story world before Victoria begins her college journey, they become the impetus for her to actually begin college, and they become both sounding board and obstacles along her journey.

The third kind of secondary characters holds important information for the protagonist. In my college memoir, this kind of secondary character is a friend who informs Victoria that she can attend a community college part time. A professor encourages Victoria to slow down and listen to the students around her. The Phi Theta Kappa Advisor informs her that the Ivy League is a possibility. These are the characters who push Victoria beyond—she believes—her capability. They force her to see and then seek the possibilities in her college journey. A scary endeavor to be sure. They move the memoir story forward.

*Please feel free to offer comments or ask questions on any secondary characters in my memoir. This helps me to move forward in my writing.*

An example of a secondary character who holds a key piece of information is like Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when she informs Harry where she heard a male voice and saw the yellow eyes coming from the circle of sinks in the third floor girls lavatory.

All characters require a backstory to help them feel real to the readers. The backstory doesn’t need to be as involved as it is for the protagonist. Remember, backstory is what happened to the character BEFORE the story present. In Myrtle’s case, she was a student at Hogwarts who was killed in the girls’ lavatory because she wasn’t a pure-blood witch.

Secondary characters should continue through the story so the reader isn’t wondering, “Hey, whatever happened to Moaning Myrtle?” In J.K. Rowling’s Potter series, Myrtle pops up whenever she has information to share with Harry and the reader. In other words, whenever she can move the story forward. And that’s the key.    

            Why exactly do you need secondary characters?

            In reality, we don’t go through life alone. Neither should our protagonists. We have [and need] family and friends, work associates and strangers who help us with life issues or events. Don’t cheat your protagonist out of needed connections throughout your story. No one really lives in that deep, dark cave, seeing to their own personal needs. Never having troubles. Content. Happy.

[Although sometimes, I’d like to hide in a cave to be able to finish this memoir, one with electricity and internet hook-up of course.]

The protagonist is not the only character who affects the story world. Secondary characters impact your protagonist’s journey. Remember, your protagonist is still driving the story, but the secondary characters can support or impede the main character’s journey. But all the characters need to move your story forward. And each character needs to be different and have an important part in the main thrust of the story.

This is particularly difficult in memoir.
           
Story is not only about the external plot details and obstacles. Remember that story is the internal struggle of the protagonist. Secondary characters add tension to the internal problems of the protagonist.

In every story, the tension and problems are shown through scenes, the lifeblood of story. These are the interactions between characters, not just narration.

            Like I said before, in memoir or fiction, each secondary character needs to have a specific personality, a reason to be, that benefits the main storyline. As the writer, you include only the facets of secondary characters’ lives that pertain to the story you are telling.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here


Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?


            Yes. And yes. Frankly, I don’t see how major life events can not affect someone—especially writers. As many of you know from last month, my mother passed away in late August. And I was part of the hospice team caring for her. Mom came to my home to live out her life. But before that, she was sick for a long time. All this has affected my writing greatly.
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            Have you ever tried to concentrate and write when you’re preoccupied with something else? For me, it’s next to impossible. My brain keeps circling back to my primary concern. In this case, my mother. I felt I would be lost without her. [And I am!]

            However, my writing has helped me through this dark period in my life. When my mother was living with me, to keep myself sane—in between caring for her, a 24 hour a day job—I tried to remember the gift of her life in my family and my extended family. Photos from her life journey, when she was well, helped prompt me to write a moving eulogy. [At least the people who attended the funeral told me it was moving.]

I crafted Chicken Soup essays about the advice Mom passed down to her children, to me. I made a memory book of her life for my siblings and the great grandchildren who won’t know her. Mom was the first reader of my short stories. Now I bother my busy husband and children to be first readers. Don’t tell anyone, but they’re not as pleasant about reading my work as my mother was.

You see, my mother was more than a first reader. She was my sounding board, my mentor. She’d sit there quietly for hours as I brainstormed nonsense and stared into my computer. I always knew what I needed for story, but I couldn’t figure out how to make this particular story work—at least in the beginning. And that’s where Mom came in. She’d offer her good judgment, the concrete, typical situations and events that would normally happen in any situation. This would shake my brain loose from the common truth to dive into the realm of exciting adventure or tense danger that lives in my stories.

            Mom’s gone now, although I still seek her advice in my writing. She lives on in my heart and mind. Occasionally, I hear her words spill out of my children’s mouths. I smile. If only Mom would channel some of her wisdom about my memoir to either my children or me. Here’s hoping!

Thanks for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  


Tuesday, September 18, 2018

What Are You Trying to Prove Through Your Writing Part 2 #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


Elle, in a comment to my July Author Toolbox post about intention in writing, had it right. She said, “purpose must infuse each scene, each chapter of our stories.”  This is true. Each character needs to be necessary for the story you are telling--complete with its themes. And each scene needs to not only fit into the purpose of the story, but also build the story logic.
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            I’d like to add that story needs to say something about life, and it does so by character growth. I think writing with purpose infuses our scenes and therefore our stories.

What are you trying to prove to the reader?
In my present college memoir, I feel I’m demonstrating that naiveté comes in all forms, even a mother trying to go to college and thinking she knows how the classroom works.

Before Victoria begins her college journey, she thinks all she needs to do is pay attention in class and learn what the professor teaches.
Not quite!

It started with the Math I review course. Supposedly, Victoria scored high enough on the math entrance exam to take a week-long crash course in math. She was excited. She thought if she purchased the math book and studied, she’d be fine.
Nope!

A few intense days of the children making her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches because she was incapable of creating anything edible once she returned home from class, woke her up. The professor had been handing out worksheets without explanation, stating that she wasn’t going to insult their intelligence by re-teaching these math procedures.
Victoria finally looked around the classroom. She was the only non-traditional student in the bunch. Her own children were the ones who told her to ask the teacher for help. Once the prof showed her how to do the first problem, she had no difficulty completing the worksheet. But the prof needed to show her a problem for each math topic.

When she took full-length semester courses, for many of the subjects, there was more teaching in class.
  
            However, Victoria’s naiveté didn’t stop there. Continuing with the assumption that a student just needs to listen to learn, Victoria discovers in the higher levels of education at university, the professors offer insight and maybe guidance, but then allow the college student to come to her own conclusions. Or be lost in the swirling details—like Victoria! 

*Please feel free to offer your thoughts or comments regarding Victoria’s naiveté or ask questions about how a non-traditional student may feel lost when attending college with students young enough to be her children. This helps me to move forward on my memoir. Thank you!*

Let’s look at a few books and see if what I think the point of the story is matches your own. I’m hoping you might have read one of these titles. 
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

Consider E. L. Konigsburg’s middle-grade novel From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler first because it’s short and a classic. 

In this middle-grade book, Claudia Kincaid is like many children. She wants to be recognized for who she is; a smart 12 year old who plans things meticulously and always seems to know where she’s going and what she’s doing—until now. I don’t wish to rehash the plot, but I feel the point of the story is finding something to help you feel important.

Or how about this adult novel?   
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is about mixed families [Asian and white] and mixed feelings, racism, and fitting in. But it is also about understanding each other and understanding happiness and how to find personal happiness—not someone else’s. I feel the point of this story is how miscommunication can ruin families or relationships.

            And because I write memoir, I wanted to include a non-fiction example.

http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg wrote Kate Remembered and showed the interconnectedness of Hollywood and Broadway during Hepburn’s life time. He also demonstrated how Hepburn was always in charge of her own life. And that’s the way it should be, right?

To move forward in any project or plot, both writers and characters need to come to terms with whatever is keeping them from achieving their goals. For me, it is my fear of uncertainty. Would I be able to complete this new task of obtaining a bachelor’s degree from college? I need to consider that many people struggle with fear and doubt before starting something new, something that might take years to accomplish.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here


Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?


            There’s a great question. At this time, I publish YA short stories, mostly with Cricket Magazine. The good thing is that Cricket buys first rights and then, after the 60 day exclusivity period, the rights revert back to the writer—me. This allows me to publish the stories again in any format I like so long as I give first publication credit to Cricket. I believe this is standard practice in publishing. Please advise if you know differently.     
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            Selling first rights to a market allows for top dollar in that market. Second rights allows for more money being made on the same story. I had published a non-fiction essay in Listen Magazine and received my rights back. Then I sold the same piece to a school board up north for a reading test they were putting together. And again, the rights revert to me.

            Of course, I need to take advantage of having these publishing rights. I should try and publish my short stories as an anthology or as e-book singles. I need my own artwork for any books I publish.

Do any of you have some suggestions for graphic art or how I can make my own photos or artwork look good on covers or pages? These are YA stories, remember.  

Also, if any of you have suggestions on where I should go to self-publish or e-publish short stories for young adults, please offer tips and/or websites or publishers to visit. This is a task I need to learn how to do or learn where to go to look for assistance. I hope to learn lots from your blog posts this month!

            As for my full-length college memoir manuscript…sigh…

            I took the month of August off to work on writing projects, remember? Well, my mother had been sick and in and out of the hospital for a long time. I, like my siblings, had been caring for her, allowing her to live independently as much as possible. In August, that all changed. I spent the month caring for my dying mother in my home. Which I would do again in a heartbeat!

I was only able to submit a few short pieces of writing this past month. The Lord finally blessed my mother with peace on August 27th. And after planning for the funeral, I hope to try and shake some of the sorrow from my shoulders, and hopefully out of my head—even if only for a little while—to be able to concentrate on writing again. Wish me luck!

Thanks for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  



Tuesday, July 17, 2018

What Are You Trying to Prove Through Your Writing? #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


            I have more to discuss about secondary characters, and I’ll continue on this subject in September. I’m taking the month of August off to work on writing projects. For right now, I’d like to discuss purpose in writing.  
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When authors sit down to write, they need to consider the purpose of the story or essay they wish to create. Aside from trying to entertain or offer inspiration, discovering the specific intention for a piece of writing will help the author stay focused. Having a specific purpose for your writing gives structure to your book project. You make decisions on what to say and how to say it based on this purpose.

I read an informative post by Jennie Nash about writing with intention. You can access it here. Nash believes that when writers are clear on their intention for a piece of writing, that intention will guide the writing process.

This makes sense to me. Writing with intention is knowing the purpose of your story or memoir. It’s having a point to make. The purpose of the writing project is what the writer is going to show in this story or memoir, and through that intention, the writer shows why the story or memoir is important her.

            Why am I writing about my college journey as a mother of five?  
To demonstrate that fear and doubt are a part of life. You can’t let them keep you from attempting difficult tasks.
To demonstrate that if you trust in yourself to do the hard work, you might discover that you’re smarter than the world would have you believe.

*Please feel free to offer comments or ask questions about the purpose for my memoir. This helps me to move forward in my writing.*

Authors should give fiction, memoir, and even poetry a purpose to help keep themselves focused on their intent.

So how does writing with intention give structure to a project?

It forces you to think in specific scenes. It keeps you thinking of the writing project as a whole. Because you have a firm purpose for this piece of writing, you consider scenes or experiences that prove what you want to share with the reader. You ask particular why and how questions of each character and scene. How does this scene fit into the purpose of the story? Why is this character necessary in this story?

You’re not just reaching for isolated thoughts or bits of action. You are selecting connected information, characters, scenes, or actual events. Remember to think: what are you trying to prove to the reader? In my case, I’m trying to prove that even an unprepared and insecure mother of five who struggled early in school can survive college if she studies constantly.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here

Please note that I will not post in August of 2018. I have many writing projects I desperately need to address. Thanks for always reading my Adventures in Writing blog posts and sharing your insight. It means the world to me. Enjoy your summer!



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time?


            So when I boarded this emotional rowboat called a writing career, I just wanted someone—other than my family—to tell me my writing was good. You know, publishable. And then once I received that, I wanted to be published all the time.   
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Is this really so unreasonable to ask for; someone to like what I write and want to publish it? Well in my boat, it is. Do I know why? No! The story planks all seem to be cut from the same watertight tree. But every plank or so seems to squeeze out a “rejection” leak.

I’ve rowed through so many emotional rapids, sideswiped the “Almost” ship several times, and got sunburnt awaiting the life ring of reply to hopefully pull my story into the magazine of choice. I’ve got blisters on my fingertips.

These stories don’t just flow out of a shield volcano like on Hawaii’s Big Island, you know. They take planning and much too much thought and worry that I’m doing it right. I need to hide away in some cave with an internet connection to create them. Yet the family still somehow tracks me down.

Now it’s not always my family’s fault, I have to admit. Many days, I just sit in my rowboat and stare at all the plot threads and notes dangling off the port side. I’m surprised the fish don’t grab them and flip my boat. My memoir about attending college as a mother of five feels like the dead albatross hanging around the Ancient Mariner’s neck in Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Will I ever be able to break free and just write?  

            This is why I remain in the IWSG Sea. You all keep me sane and encourage me to continue to submit my YA short stories and work on my college memoir. I’d be lost without you. Thank you!

And thanks for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Please note that I will not post in August of 2018. I have many writing projects I desperately need to address. Thanks for always reading my Adventures in Writing blog posts and sharing your insight. It means the world to me. Enjoy your summer!


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Secondary Characters in Fiction or Memoir #AuthorToolboxBlogHop


Because memoirists can’t change what happened and who is involved in the particular memoir slice of life story they are telling, it’s all about what they choose to show the reader about the secondary characters in the memoir and what they choose to leave out. And whatever the memoirist tells or shows needs to be explained through the lens of the protagonist.  
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Secondary characters grow and change within the story arc of the protagonist in fiction or memoir.  You don’t want just plot puppets, characters used to move the story forward without any background or desires of their own. All characters think they’re the hero of their own story according to Lisa Cron in her Story Genius course. But when you’re crafting a story, you want the protagonist driving the change within the story, not the secondary characters.

In memoir, the other characters are real life people. And the reason why they are in the story is to amplify and support the protagonist’s transformational arc of change. The reader needs to get a sense of what the secondary characters are about and what their specific agendas are. They are real people with real lives. The memoirist can’t change anything about their real lives or she’s writing fiction—not memoir.

In my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, my husband and our children play an informative role in helping me and hindering me in my attempt at college. I felt like a specimen under a microscope with not only my own family watching to see how I handle college, but also my mother and siblings. I felt like everyone was waiting for me to fail.

            Like in many families, my five children are all different. But as the protagonist in my memoir, I not only need to distinguish each of my children for the reader, I also need to remember to include only what matters about their lives to the story I am telling, my journey through college, my understanding of what education is all about. When I talk about distinguishing each child, I don’t mean what they look like. I’m talking about their personalities, how they act, what’s important to them and how that affects me the protagonist in the memoir.

            For instance, my second daughter Michelle is the family brainiac. Every family seems to have one! But what does that mean to Victoria in the memoir story. It means that even at a young age, Victoria relies on Michelle as a family [and later college classwork] sounding board. But because Michelle is young and inexperienced in the beginning of Victoria’s college journey, Michelle still wants Mom’s attention, still needs to be individually noticed within the family.

Marie, the oldest, is special needs. She consumes most of Victoria’s time and is the impetus for Victoria to begin college. Marie can process only one thing at a time. Victoria has trouble remembering this and frequently becomes frustrated.

My husband Bill’s task in the memoir story is to be the voice of reason. He tries to get Victoria to stop and listen to others, a very difficult job as Victoria’s always short on time. He feels Victoria is consumed by her studies [true], thus taking too much time away from family, increasing his workload, and denying him “couple time.”
Bill’s job is to counter what father had said to Victoria. Bill needs to change what is ingrained in Victoria, that she’s not good enough for college/not smart enough for college. He, along with other secondary characters, chips away at Victoria's misbelief that she’s inferior to those who attend or attended college. Victoria can do whatever she sets her mind to—even if she needs to study/learn differently or take longer to do so, like Marie.

My son William, the middle child, is smart, but needs to be watched to be sure he does all his assignments. He’s laid-back, not high-strung like Victoria. During Victoria’s college years, he has a calming effect on her.  But he, too, wants his time with Mom.

The family is used to having Victoria’s time. She doesn’t mind. This is her life. But if Victoria wants to succeed in college, things would need to change because she still learns differently, like her daughter Marie, and needs to play catch-up with the more traditional college student.

            *Please feel free to offer comments or ask questions about my secondary characters. This helps me to move forward on my memoir.*

            Whether it’s memoir or fiction, each secondary character needs to have a specific personality, a reason to be, that benefits the main storyline. As the writer, you include only the facets of secondary characters’ lives that pertain to the story you are telling.

Once again, I’d like to thank Jennie Nash of Author Accelerator and Lisa Cron for helping me to understand these concepts in my memoir.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you. To continue hopping through more amazing blogs or to join our Author Toolbox blog hop, click here


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Write with Chrys Fey Guest Post

Today, I’m sharing my Adventures in Writing blog with a good friend and fellow writer from InsecureWriters Support Group, a knowledgeable and helpful group of writers.

Chrys Fey has a new release, and it is my pleasure to assist with its launch. Here’s Chrys to give you all the details.

NEW RELEASE & GIVEAWAY!


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sparks you need to write, edit, publish, and market your book!

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on every page, including 100 bonus marketing tips. You’ll also discover how to
write specific scenes and characters, adding depth to your work.

•        Spark One:
Being a Writer
•        Spark Two:
Story Essentials
•        Spark
Three: A Book’s Stepping Stones
•        Spark Four:
How To
•        Spark Five:
Character ER
•        Spark Six:
Editing
•        Spark
Seven: Publishing
•        Spark
Eight: Marketing
•        Spark Nine:
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•        Spark Ten:
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With so much information, you’ll take
notes, highlight, and flag pages to come back to again and again on your
writing journey.


BUY LINKS:




 AUTHOR BIO:

 Chrys Fey is the
author of the Disaster Crimes Series, a unique concept blending romance,
crimes, and disasters. She’s partnered with the Insecure Writer’s Support Group
and runs their Goodreads book club. She’s also an editor for Dancing Lemur
Press.

Fey realized she wanted to write by
watching her mother pursue publication. At the age of twelve, she started her
first novel, which flourished into a series she later rewrote at seventeen. Fey
lives in Florida and is always on the lookout for hurricanes.
 
Chrys Fey’s Links:




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Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: What’s Harder to Create: Book Titles or Character Names?

            For me, I’d have to say that book titles or short story titles are more difficult to create. Titles are the nicknames of story or plot. They are essential to grabbing a reader’s attention to purchase or actually read the story.     
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


            Can I come up with a perfect nickname—or title—right away? Nope! Sometimes a title comes to me as I start to create a manuscript, but more often than not, the title changes by submission time.

            Titles need to be clear, concise, and direct to be of any use to both readers and writers. You want to make a reader stop and consider the subject or topic in your writing from the title. You are enticing the reader into your story, your pages, your book. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, titles need to encompass the meaning of your writing.

            *I realize some literary titles may not conform to these ideas.*

            Have you noticed that non-fiction titles are usually longer than fiction titles? I feel this is because non-fiction writers want to be clear about what is in their pages. Let’s take The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown as an example. This historical non-fiction title lets the reader know exactly when, where, and what will transpire in the pages of the book. [It’s a great book, by the way!]

            I realize that many writers feel a short title is easier to remember than a long title. And that’s basically true, as long as the short title captures the essence of the story. Here are just a few titles I plucked from my shelf to show you how the titles encapsulate the story.

Louis Sachar’s YA novel Holes encompasses the main thrust of the story in the one word title. The reader [or maybe just me] immediately wants to know why the youth are digging all these holes in a desert. Is it just punishment or is there a deeper secret?

In Elizabeth George’s novel What Came Before He Shot Her, the whole story is literally about the days before the protagonist supposedly shot someone. In essence, it explains how the whole situation came about.

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You is thematically a story about communication. In it the reader discovers the inner thoughts and lives of the characters that, unfortunately, they can’t seem to communicate to each other in the story present.  

For my short stories, I tend to create shorter titles: Brotherly Love, Natural Instincts, and Emerging from Darkness, to name just a few. In those titles, the editor felt the story was encapsulated: brothers struggling to listen to each other; a protagonist understanding and thereby surviving in nature; a protagonist finally coming to grips with her past to be able to live her present.

In one of my non-fiction titles: Pedalers’ Express: Ocean to Ocean, the title tells the reader how [on bicycles] and where [from ocean to ocean] the journey takes place.  

            I could go on and on, but I’m sure you have thoughts on the purpose of titles and their construction, too. Please feel free to share them in the comments section below.

Thank you for visiting Adventures in Writing. Please follow my blog if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in the comment so I can be sure to do the same for you.

This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.  

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Going Beneath the Surface in Story #AuthorToolboxBlogHop



To go beneath the surface in your story, or shall we say beneath the plot, the writer needs to ask why what happens in the plot matters to the protagonist or the characters in the story. As Lisa Cron of Story Genuis fame says, the plot gets its emotional weight based on how it affects your protagonist who is in pursuit of a goal.
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Let’s see how it works in two books I enjoyed.

The Boys in the Boat, Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown is an historical non-fiction book told as a riveting story. The plot is about how these nine disparate, poor American college boys finally come together as a team to win the eight-oared crew race in the 1936 Olympic Games in Germany. [Eight oarsmen, 1 coxswain = nine American boys in the boat]
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com
That’s what happens.
But who would really care if not for the why it matters to one particular boy in the boat, Joe Rantz. This book is mostly his story. Of course, Brown brings to life all of the crew members, the coaches, the boat builder, Joe’s family and girlfriend, the Depression, the Dust Bowl, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany.
What Joe has always wanted is a family who cares about him. The reader watches Joe’s attempts to get his father and step-mother to care about him, to be proud of him. And we feel Joe’s pain as he is abandoned again and again by his family.
We see his misbelief become a reality, that he can’t trust anyone to be there for him. The reader is part of his search for family and connection. And he finds it in rowing and realizing that he can trust his fellow crew members.

In fiction, John Grisham’s The Client works the same way. The plot is about the suicide of a mafia lawyer who knows about the mafia cover-up of a murdered Louisiana senator.
Okay, it’s about the mafia’s dirty works. Why should it matter to regular folks?
It matters because the protagonist, an eleven-year-old, street-wise but poor boy named Mark Sway, tries to prevent the lawyer from committing suicide.
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com

Okay, so what?
It’s the backstory in any story that helps the reader understand why the plot matters to the characters.
Mark’s always wanted security for him and his mother and younger brother. He’s been taking care of them since before his abusive father left.
What happens in the plot matters to the Mark because he feels responsible for bringing a mafia threat into his family. A heavy load for an eleven-year-old to bear. Like any good story, problems escalate. Not knowing who to turn to, Mark retains a lawyer for his family with a dollar. Together Mark and his lawyer Reggie Love, a woman with her own complicated backstory, end up in a race to discover the body before the mafia moves the body.  
Again, this all matters to Mark because he doesn’t want his family to live in fear of the mafia killing them.

            I’ve only given a basic outline of what I’m trying to show here with the above two titles. It’s easier to show how the questioning system works with finished stories. It’s much harder to do this in your own work of creation.

In each scene, the writer needs to know:
What the characters go into the scene believing,
What they want, and
Why what is happening in the scene matters to them.

By the end of each scene, the characters need to change; their outlooks on the situation, their feelings, or their next moves, even if it is just slightly. Writers need to let the reader into the character’s head.

In the first scene of my memoir about attending college as a mother of five, Victoria is at school with her special needs’ daughter Marie. They are meeting with the guidance counselor from the high school to choose a curriculum for Marie.

Victoria enters the scene believing that she’s inferior to college-educated professionals, but if she can only get the counselor to understand Marie’s needs and what Marie wants to do in life [attend college to become a teacher], choosing the curriculum will be easy.


What Victoria wants in this scene is for the counselor to listen to Victoria. [Counselor ignores Victoria.]


Why what is happening in this scene matters to Victoria is because she is reliving her own struggle of trying to convince her parents that she desired to attend college, and Victoria, too, was told that she was not college material.

Victoria changes by the end of the scene [only slightly] by deciding, as a mother, to give her daughter the opportunity that Victoria was denied so long ago. Victoria allows her daughter the opportunity to at least try to attend college. [Counselor makes Victoria sign paper stating that if Marie fails high school it’s Victoria’s fault because Victoria wouldn’t follow recommendations made by teachers and the Special Education Department, people who are more educated than Victoria, who wanted Marie to stay in Special Ed classes.]

Writers of fiction as well as memoir need to remember that we never just give us the what in the story. We need to always dive into the why. In other words, when creating story, writers need to know the questions to ask of every scene, every character:
What happened?
Why did that happen?
What did the character do as a result?

If we keep asking why and where the feeling is coming from and what does it mean to that person, we can discover the true meaning of our story.

I want to thank JennieNash of Author Accelerator and Lisa Cron for helping me to understand which questions to ask for each scene in my memoir.
*As before, please offer any insight or comments you may have about my college memoir. Thank you! * 

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Insecure Writers Want to Know: Does Spring Inspire You to Write More Than in Other Seasons?


            Ah spring, the awakening of nature! Or is it more a rebirth of creation? Writers, as well as other artists, create. If we think in terms of creation, writers create new worlds, whether they’re alien, paranormal, magical, historical, or contemporary. These worlds must be logical and the writer needs to understand them explicitly. Writers also need to populate any new world with realistic characters and create believable struggles and offer new insights. If writers consider the spring season as a time of new creation, then yes, it can be a great inspiration to begin something new.  
http://victoriamarielees.blogspot.com


Do I, personally, write more in springtime than in other seasons? I don’t think so. I try to write the same amount in all seasons—as much as possible. Notice the important verb in that sentence: try. My writing comes in many forms; i.e., blog posts, comments, and social media and e-mails, writing workshop presentations, fiction works in progress, and of course, my memoir about attending college as a mother of five.

I fret over each word, which is a real problem for me. In any one of those writing endeavors, I can run short on “what comes next.” The family can intrude in my space. And my personal realm as a writer can come crashing down without warning. Since this can happen at any time, I try to write as much as possible whenever I can.

The key for me is to ignore the internet, pray the family don’t find me, and not look out the window, not until I’ve finished at least some of the writing I have scheduled for the day.

Uh oh! My eyes just glanced out the window. The sunshine is kissing the flowers. You’ll have to excuse me. My lilacs are in full bloom. The Lily of the Valley needs plucking. Birds and bunnies call attention to themselves in blossoming apple and cherry trees and on sharp green lawns. Suddenly, my senses need filling. I’ll get back to my writing creations after a cleansing of my mind on a walk in springtime.  

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This post was written for the Insecure Writer’s SupportGroup. We post on the first Wednesday of every month.  To join us, or learn more about the group, click HERE.