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, May 14, 2019

Make Your Characters Vulnerable #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

I’m 100 pages into my memoir about attending college as a mother of five and at the point where I’ve won a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and am about to begin. I’m scared to death!

Were you ever too eager to please someone or a group of someones? A boss? A hopeful romantic interest or co-worker or editor?

Like in many stories or movies, this is where the protagonist usually messes up. At least in her first few attempts at acquiring the desired goal of pleasing those in charge. This can happen for a variety reasons; i.e., not thinking before you speak, doing inappropriate actions, or not consciously listening to those around you.

At this stage in my college memoir, I felt the need to prove to those at Penn that I could be an Ivy Leaguer. I wanted them to see that they did not make a mistake in granting me the Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship. I needed to make a good first impression at Penn, and of course it backfired on me.
Transfer students had a summer reading project, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and I needed to interpret a connection to one of the topics in the book. A lively discussion had ensued that hot August afternoon in a packed College Hall. While all of the other incoming students connected to topics through academia; sociology, psychology, and business practices to name a few, I connected to teaching preschoolers through the use of the Sesame Street television show. This topic in the book talks about how small lessons can make big improvements in the education of children.

Yes. I heard everyone else speak. In fact I was almost the last student to speak. I was afraid to speak because my connection was from life experience, not academic study. I thought possibly these academics hadn’t had the experience with Sesame Street I had raising my five children. I thought they might appreciate my insight because it was so different from all the intellectuals in the room. So while everyone else received comments or questions or further discussion into their topics from the panel of Penn administrators, my topic crashed into the floor like a lead balloon. No discussion. You could hear the air conditioning unit cycle on again.

Just like characters in stories, our protagonists need to make mistakes, need to feel defeat, anxiety, or humiliation in order to be real to the readers. Readers want to connect to our characters, especially our protagonists.

So while our stories are unique, what our characters do is unique, there needs to be some base feeling or action that our readers can connect to. Embarrassment is a good one. So is fear of the unknown or hurt from someone we love or trust. Characters need to be vulnerable at one time or another in our stories to be real, no matter what genre we are writing in.

So how do you make your characters seem vulnerable to the reader or other characters in the story you are telling?

Please feel free to offer any insight regarding Victoria’s summer reading project scenario. It would be truly appreciated.  

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Insecure Writers Want to Know: What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

            For me, it was simple. I was a communications and English major at college. This particular community college didn’t have a journalism degree at the time. Once I became editor of the college newspaper, I discovered how powerful my words were in covering the news on the college campus. While the monthly newspaper had come out sporadically before I took over, maybe once a semester, I made sure it came out every month. And I organized it into sections and put substance in it. I discovered I liked sniffing out news stories for the paper. I became an advocate for the student body, finally finding my college voice at the community college level, investigating life on campus from why the administration closed the pool to why some buildings became a lake each time it rained.

Anything that affected the student body and college campus found its way into the student-run college newspaper. Where the administration had been all excited about the new look and content of the student paper, department heads and vice presidents soon started to glare at me and hold their tongues until I made them understand that I was going to report on an incident whether they spoke to me or not. I permitted the administration equal space within the article to inform the student body what was being done about certain situations.  

But how did I know administration was upset with my coverage of events at college? Once a semester, all leaders of student organizations met with the president of the college and the provost and vice presidents. We students introduced ourselves and reported to the president what our organizations were doing around campus. We also brought up any concerns students may have. I had no problem with this, as I was doing it already in the newspaper. The president zeroed in on me and relentlessly drilled me as to why I kept harping on any problems the college was having. If it wasn’t for the provost reminding the president that I was only doing my job, he was a college reporter in his time too, I thought the president was going to kick me out of college. I really got under her skin.

 But the important issues in life need to be brought up, need to be discussed if we’re ever going to make things better in this world. That’s why we need honest and moral writers to bring the issues into conversation to help those in charge see the importance of addressing the issues.

I can’t wait to see how you learned that language had power. Thanks for visiting! Please follow Adventures in Writing if you haven’t already and connect with me online. Leave your blog link in your 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.