“Fan”tastical Friday: Helen Keller

 

I’ve never really gave much notice to the term “fandom” until I looked up the meaning of the word in a dictionary:

-“the state or condition of being a fan of someone or something.”

This definition made me chuckle as it sounds like something out of a psychology textbook.  So, I looked at what Wikipedia had to say:

-“a term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans characterized by a feeling of empathy and camaraderie with others who share a common interest.”

Meaning, you can be a “fan” of not just individuals or movies or a particular kind of music; but, also of an ideal, an interest, motive, etc..  I think you get the idea.

I suppose now that I’m thinking (oh, so dangerous) I am a fan of multiple things.

For today, I will focus on one of them.

Women with great inner strength.

Helen Keller.  Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Mother Teresa. Anne Frank. Maya Angelou.

There are just too many to list here but the one who has been the greatest inspiration to me was Helen Keller.

Although I am legally blind and deaf, I still have enough of both to manage.  But Helen had none of both and she still got around!  There are days when I get frustrated at my shortcomings and limitations to the point I just want to quit and throw in the towel (and I’ve done this before which brought only misery for me),  but I have to remind myself that there are (and have been) others who persevered and thrived despite their disabilities.

Which gives me hope.

And some days, that is all I need to continue on.

 

“Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it.”

-Helen Keller

 

 

Iconic Series: Song-“The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” by Gordon Lightfoot

edmund-fitzgerald-ship-wreck

 

As a writer, I am also a lover of music and movies.  I will run an Iconic Series featuring various musicians/songs/films that I love, and which ones I deemed as being iconic of the times.  To start off I like to focus on the 1970s and one of the most iconic songs of that decade has to be “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

It’s a legendary and tragic tale, second most known of all shipwrecks behind the Titanic.  “The Edmund Fitzgerald was lost with her entire crew of 29 men on Lake Superior November 10, 1975, 17 miles north-northwest of Whitefish Point, Michigan.” (Reference taken from the Shipwreck Museum website)    Gordon Lightfoot, a Canadian singer, wrote and performed this ballad which created an even more (world-wide) interest in this iconic ship.

 

Choose Your Path (Part Two)

crossroad6

“I took the road less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”- (Robert Frost) The Road Not Taken

The above quote is the one I can relate to the most-at this point in my life.

I’m looking to others who have tread on before me as examples and for inspiration as I struggle to build confidence in myself as a writer; as a scribe who’s on a journey that could be considered spiritual in nature; as a journalist who’s risking much to share painful experiences, and bare thoughts and feelings to those willing to listen.

There will always be those who refuse to accept you for who you are, and for the things you stand for.   These same people will be the first to criticize and ridicule you as a writer, and a person.  And yeah, that hurts…a lot.

These are the times when I’d turn to the creative-minded individuals who’s gone on before me for strength and wisdom; to know that I am not alone in this battle is always a wonderful comfort, and to glean the motivation needed to keep traveling the path I’m on.

Someday, I hope to be strong and courageous enough to branch off, and blaze a new path for others to follow.

 

 

 

Friday Quote

I keep going back to this quote especially in light of everything that has been happening around the world this past year:

“The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.” -Albert Camus

Good writers are needed now more than ever!  Will you take up the call and get your work out there?

The Past and You (Poll)

Using Pain To Create More Realistic Characters

day eight

 

As writers, we tend to be more sensitive to various events in life whether in our own lives or in the lives of others; and because of this sensitivity, certain events- specifically those that involve losses- hit writers exceptionally hard.

Why is that so?

Speaking from personal experience, I consider myself an empath and tend to internalize emotions from others around me which at times would threaten to overwhelm me so what do I usually do?  I run from them.  I’ve done it so many times in the past (during the deaths of my maternal grandmother and first husband for examples).   Stifling my own emotions, not allowing them to surface, I believe affected me as a writer especially when it came to developing realistic characters. How can a character be “real” when she’s not allowed to feel?  After all, readers are drawn to these types of characters.  And why is that?

Because readers can relate to them.

So, many of my stories tend to fall short with characters coming across as “flat” or too one-dimensional.   The desire and passion to become the best writer that I can be keep growing within me to the point that it became louder than my own fears of emotions.

I forced myself to face them when my daddy died.  Internally I kept going back and forth with excuses as to why I couldn’t go to the hospital and be with my family on my dad’s final night.  I so wanted to run.  But, I didn’t. Not this time.  It was probably the most difficult thing I ever had to face, watching my daddy take those last agonizing breaths, listening to my mom and siblings weeping next to me.  I thought for sure it would overwhelm me, but it didn’t.  The emotions I felt was a deep sadness as well as gratitude.  I was so grateful that I was there for my daddy, and for my family. I thought for sure that their pain would force me to run; instead, I found myself hugging each one of them.  I even kissed my daddy’s forehead after he had passed as I said my final goodbye.

Now I can tell myself (and other writers) this:  it is okay to be afraid of your emotions, of your pain (or of others’), but don’t run from them.  They have a way of caching up to you.   It is easier to face them head-on, and acknowledge them for what they truly are.  By doing this, it would enable you to write a more fully developed characters that your readers can relate to.

 

 

“Many of us spend our whole lives running from feeling with the mistaken belief that you cannot bear the pain.  But you have already borne the pain. What you have not done is feel all you are beyond the pain.”-Saint Bartholomew

 

 

 

Another Writing Poll (In light of Robin Williams’ recent passing)

I think Robin Williams’ recent passing hit most of the people in the creative world quite hard.  On a personal level, it made me examine certain things in my own life in a more serious manner. Hence, this was one of the questions that kept coming to my mind.

 

 

Be Honest With Yourself…(Poll)

 

 

 

Your Favorite Author (Poll)

Do you remember who your favorite author was when you were young?  Did he or she inspire you to become a writer?  If so, do you find that you’re writing in the same genre as that author?

 

 

Themes and Writing

monsters

I believe every writer has a certain theme (s) that consistently shows up in his/her writing.  One of mine involves being hunted/terrorized by creatures.  When I was younger, I used to be a runner as well as a biker (no, not the Harley Davidson, but as an athletic racer), and for some reason, I became a popular target for dogs.  I’ve been chased down (and even bitten) more times than I can count.  So, in my dreams, I’d have these nightmares that would plague me where I would be hunted by these horrific monsters that resembled dogs, and just when they attack I’d wake up, many times covered in sweat.

But, my earliest memory of ever having a creature come for me occurred when I was around six years old.  I’ve captured this experience in a poem (which was also published with Piker Press) called Shadows:

As a young girl, I once had an experience
       that I believed was not a dream
As dawn broke, I looked down the hallway
       from my bedroom;
And saw a pair of shadows moving along
       the wall
It was of a man sitting in a wheel chair
       who was being pushed by a tall man with an afro
They were only shadowy figures,
       nothing more
Or, were they?
As these shadows slowly crept down the wall,
       no human forms would emerge
Being quite frightened, I flung the bedcovers over my head,
       and waited
Much to my horror, there were pairs of hands, pawing at me,
       as if they were trying to get past the covers
I was too terrified to call out to my parents,
       as I laid as still as I could
Next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and found myself
       still beneath the sheets
Slowly, I peered out from underneath, and was met
       by the full, morning sunlight
The prying hands and dark shadows were gone,
       thank goodness!
To this very day, some thirty years later, I can still remember those frightening
       moments, as if they had just occurred
Was it a dream? Or, was I visited by some
       supernatural beings?
This, I may never truly know.

Article © Carrie A. Golden. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-13

 

What about you?  What sort of theme (s) consistently shows up in your writing?

 

As a young girl, I once had an experience
that I believed was not a dream
As dawn broke, I looked down the hallway
from my bedroom;
And saw a pair of shadows moving along
the wall
It was of a man sitting in a wheel chair
who was being pushed by a tall man with an afro
They were only shadowy figures,
nothing more
Or, were they?
As these shadows slowly crept down the wall,
no human forms would emerge
Being quite frightened, I flung the bedcovers over my head,
and waited
Much to my horror, there were pairs of hands, pawing at me,
as if they were trying to get past the covers
I was too terrified to call out to my parents,
as I laid as still as I could
Next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and found myself
still beneath the sheets
Slowly, I peered out from underneath, and was met
by the full, morning sunlight
The prying hands and dark shadows were gone,
thank goodness!
To this very day, some thirty years later, I can still remember those frightening
moments, as if they had just occurred
Was it a dream? Or, was I visited by some
supernatural beings?
This, I may never truly know.

Article © Carrie A. Golden. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-13

– See more at: http://www.pikerpress.com/article.php?aID=3494#sthash.ylqRLjoJ.dpuf

 

As a young girl, I once had an experience
that I believed was not a dream
As dawn broke, I looked down the hallway
from my bedroom;
And saw a pair of shadows moving along
the wall
It was of a man sitting in a wheel chair
who was being pushed by a tall man with an afro
They were only shadowy figures,
nothing more
Or, were they?
As these shadows slowly crept down the wall,
no human forms would emerge
Being quite frightened, I flung the bedcovers over my head,
and waited
Much to my horror, there were pairs of hands, pawing at me,
as if they were trying to get past the covers
I was too terrified to call out to my parents,
as I laid as still as I could
Next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and found myself
still beneath the sheets
Slowly, I peered out from underneath, and was met
by the full, morning sunlight
The prying hands and dark shadows were gone,
thank goodness!
To this very day, some thirty years later, I can still remember those frightening
moments, as if they had just occurred
Was it a dream? Or, was I visited by some
supernatural beings?
This, I may never truly know.

Article © Carrie A. Golden. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-13

– See more at: http://www.pikerpress.com/article.php?aID=3494#sthash.ylqRLjoJ.dpuf

As a young girl, I once had an experience
that I believed was not a dream
As dawn broke, I looked down the hallway
from my bedroom;
And saw a pair of shadows moving along
the wall
It was of a man sitting in a wheel chair
who was being pushed by a tall man with an afro
They were only shadowy figures,
nothing more
Or, were they?
As these shadows slowly crept down the wall,
no human forms would emerge
Being quite frightened, I flung the bedcovers over my head,
and waited
Much to my horror, there were pairs of hands, pawing at me,
as if they were trying to get past the covers
I was too terrified to call out to my parents,
as I laid as still as I could
Next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and found myself
still beneath the sheets
Slowly, I peered out from underneath, and was met
by the full, morning sunlight
The prying hands and dark shadows were gone,
thank goodness!
To this very day, some thirty years later, I can still remember those frightening
moments, as if they had just occurred
Was it a dream? Or, was I visited by some
supernatural beings?
This, I may never truly know.

Article © Carrie A. Golden. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-13

– See more at: http://www.pikerpress.com/article.php?aID=3494#sthash.ylqRLjoJ.dpuf

As a young girl, I once had an experience
that I believed was not a dream
As dawn broke, I looked down the hallway
from my bedroom;
And saw a pair of shadows moving along
the wall
It was of a man sitting in a wheel chair
who was being pushed by a tall man with an afro
They were only shadowy figures,
nothing more
Or, were they?
As these shadows slowly crept down the wall,
no human forms would emerge
Being quite frightened, I flung the bedcovers over my head,
and waited
Much to my horror, there were pairs of hands, pawing at me,
as if they were trying to get past the covers
I was too terrified to call out to my parents,
as I laid as still as I could
Next thing I knew, I was opening my eyes and found myself
still beneath the sheets
Slowly, I peered out from underneath, and was met
by the full, morning sunlight
The prying hands and dark shadows were gone,
thank goodness!
To this very day, some thirty years later, I can still remember those frightening
moments, as if they had just occurred
Was it a dream? Or, was I visited by some
supernatural beings?
This, I may never truly know.

Article © Carrie A. Golden. All rights reserved.
Published on 2009-04-13

– See more at: http://www.pikerpress.com/article.php?aID=3494#sthash.ylqRLjoJ.dpuf

Writers and Mentors (Poll)

Time for another poll!

 

 

Have any additional thoughts or insights to add?  I love to hear them!

 

Plot vs. Characters by Craig Hart

Let’s welcome author Craig Hart this week for the on-going discussion about plot vs. characters.  What you will read below comes from his book, The Writer’s Tune-up Manual, in the section called “Thou Spelunker.”

writing

Thou Spelunker

spe・lunk・er noun \spi-y ləŋ-kər, y spē-y \ : one who makes a hobby of exploring and studying caves. (Merriam-Webster)

 

In this instance, the “cave” is your plot and the spelunker is you. The argument could be made that your readers are also spelunkers, but you have to go there first and lay down the bread crumb trail so the rest of us can find our way in and out.

Like an iceberg, the majority of a cave is out of the natural line of sight. It’s hidden from view. And yet, it is what makes an iceberg an iceberg or a cave a cave. Without this secret portion, an iceberg would be an ice cube and a cave would be a pothole. Not very interesting, are they?

Applied to your plot, this means that most of it is hidden, out of plain sight, but yet guides the story and impacts the reader. This happens in the way of motivation, backstory, and subplot. None of these should take over a story and yet without them no story is worth reading.

When I was younger I read a book by a much more experienced writer who said that plot is a verb. In other words, action was the key to plot. I get what he was saying. As it turns out, however, plot is more complicated. Stringing together action scenes will never result in a gripping tale. It doesn’t matter how many sharks are closing in on the stranded swimmer if I don’t care about the swimmer or their fate.

It might sound like this is more about character than plot. And, in a way, this is true. But as I have since learned, plot is character. Your plot will never be any better than the characters who populate it. Learning to connect the two is the key.

 

Craig Hart-writer, editor of The Rusty Nail literary magazine, publisher for Sweatshoppe Publications, and author of The Writer’s Tune-up Manual.  To learn more about Craig and his work, visit his website!craigHartBook

 

 

Next week, K. M. Weiland will be visiting with us!

 

//

Plot vs. Characters by G. J. Owens

Please welcome G. J. Owens who is here to talk more about the plot vs. characters in fiction.

grand_cinema_bobine

The question of the relative importance of engrossing plot versus engaging and lifelike characters is an age-old one, and not entirely dissimilar to the “skillful writing versus great story” debate.  Of course, neither option pitted on opposing sides of these examples can stand wholly alone without some supportive aspect of the other.  For the latter, I think it a much more rewarding pleasure to read the deft writer, whose every sentence is a joy even if the plot is lacking, than to muddle through a work of poor structure and style in order to “see what happens next” in a masterfully conceived story. For the former, and to the question at hand, I believe memorable fiction rides on the backs of its characters.

It is fully realized characters with whom the reader can establish an empathic connection that will drive a reader page after page. With the only possible exceptions being some sorts of experimental fiction, a great story can only go so far to entice the audience to make the trip if the characters are hollow and uninteresting. Only in the more streamlined fiction of cinema do characters more easily take a backseat to the overall story, but books require a greater investment, and thus greater commitment, from the audience.

Of course, the ideal scenario is for character and plot to bolster one another in equal amounts to the betterment of each. However, if one of the two must be chosen, I would certainly gravitate toward characters that feel as though they live and breathe in my mind–even if they are despicable and irredeemable–over a rich plot that is well thought out and executed. That too is a benefit of great characters; readers can come to comprehend mindsets and deeds we would not otherwise imagine and use them as a mirror for our own, which is the epitome of the human condition.

As a writer, inevitably I would just so happen to have a clever and handy analogy. I like to think of the balance of plot to character as a rat maze. We as observers can view the scientific construction of the empty maze and find appreciation for the obstacles, the twists and turns throughout, but it is a very sterile process. It is absorbed, analyzed, and then set aside. On the other hand, once that confused yet determined rodent is dropped inside, we become invested on a personal level. We root, laugh, jeer, and empathize with the living creature as it struggles to find its way, imagining how we ourselves would react if placed in the same situation. Our investment is transformed from academic to emotional, and I believe this is the most important aspect of literature. It must move the reader on a basic level, and I believe it is through the connection with the characters that these feelings are best achieved.

 

If you would like to add your own opinion or have questions for G. J. Owens, he’d love to hear them!

 

G. J. Owens has been writing in various mediums his entire life. Having dabbled in film and music, he always returns to his first love of telling stories. Check out his website for more!  G. J. Owens is the author of the horror novel, The White Door. GJOwensbookTheWhiteDoor

Be sure to return here next week to read what author Craig Hart has to say on this topic!

Plot vs. Characters by John Avery

I’m excited to have John Avery here with us this week as he presents his thoughts about our current discussion surrounding plot and characters.  book

Which is more important to a good story, characters or plot?

Aspiring writers often ask me this question and it’s tough providing a straight answer. It’s easy to say that if the characters in your story are flat, the greatest plot in the world will leave your readers flat, as well; but in order to have a good story, the characters need something interesting to do, get in trouble with, or at least talk about, which requires an interesting plot. It’s one of those ‘chicken or the egg’, catch-22 things. A good story is really a combination of good characters and a good plot. Leave one out at your peril.

But which is more important? Characters or plot?

I’ve written stories where I’ve spent months working on the career-defining plot, only to realize that, oops, I’d neglected to fully develop my characters — and that never ends well. Certainly I try to begin with a great story idea, and perhaps an outline of that idea, but like a good film director, once I start working I focus on my characters, letting them help me with the story as it moves along. They know more about themselves and where the story should go than I do, so why not enlist their help? As those of you who’ve experienced this know, when it’s working, and your characters are jumping off the page just to see what happens next, it’s thrilling, and a lot of fun, and when you manage to pull it all together at the end, you have yourself a good story. But like bad actors, characters who don’t give a crap, who couldn’t care less about themselves or their feelings, and who don’t react to who and what’s happening around them, doom your project to failure. Don’t waste months. That plot scribbled on a napkin by Stephen King at your high-school reunion won’t save you. Swallow your pride and move on.

Some of the most popular stories ever written have the simplest of plots: for example, Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”, Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”, and Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”, or the classic films, Alien, The Big Chill, and even Home Alone — simple plots with fascinating characters resulting in unforgettable stories. On the other hand, we’ve all read books and seen movies with interesting, action-packed, potentially thrilling plots that were cut off at the knees by boring, even annoying characters (my apologies to Jar Jar Binks fans). These stories are unforgettable, too, but not in a good way.

As writers we should always strive to achieve the perfect blend of characters and plot, as Larry McMurtry did in his epic, Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, Lonesome Dove; but when that’s not in the cards, I give the nod to my characters.

Have any questions, thoughts, anything you’d like to add for John?  Fire away in the comment section below!

“I’m a thriller writer who loves to write stories that force good people into terrifying situations – just to see how they react.” John Avery, Amazon International Bestselling Author of THREE DAYS TO DIE.  Official website: John Avery BooksAvery Book

//

 

G. J. Owens will be here next week so be sure to stop by!

Plot vs. Characters by Rochelle Melander

plotvscharactersdiscussionOneWe will begin the Plot vs. Characters discussion with Rochelle Melander.  Be sure to give us your thoughts and input in the comment section below. 

When I was a teenager, we used to play the game, “Would you rather?” Would you rather eat fried spiders or grasshoppers? Would you rather be blind or deaf? Would you rather jump out of a plane or off a mountain? Most of us agreed that the best answer to most of the questions was: neither. But that’s not how the game worked; We had to choose.

When asked, “What’s more important—rich characters or a tight plot?”—my answer was swift and sure: both. I adore mystery novels, and the authors I love the most give the reader a healthy dose of both plot and character: Louise Penny, Elizabeth George, P.D. James, Martha Grimes. Over the course of multiple books, the main characters become more like distant relations than fictional characters and their adventurous exploits become fantastic family stories.

But let’s say you must choose between the two. How do you decide? Ask yourself:

+What do the readers of my genre expect? Take a look at the reviews for books in your genre on Goodreads, LibraryThing, and other book review sites. What do the readers adore and despise in these books? Are they more upset when an author cheats on character or plot?

+What am I naturally good at? Some of us can easily build believable characters, others plot like master architects, and a few juggle both well. Know your strengths. Choose a genre that plays to your strengths. And then rock it!

+How can I make up for my weaknesses? Plot writers often make character work by writing series novels. That way they can create and deepen central characters over many books and have time to do what they love, build plot. Character writers sometimes borrow plots from the classics. And why not? They’ve lasted for centuries because they’re good.

+What type of marriage between plot and character works for this book? Every book project is different. We don’t have to choose to be “plot writers” or “character writers.” We can make unique choices for each book.

In the end, I’m always going to answer the question of plot vs. character with BOTH. Choosing between them is like breaking up the birds and the bees or Ken and Barbie.

Bio. Rochelle Melander is an author, speaker, and certified professional coach. She is the author of ten books, including the National Novel Writing Month guide—Write-A-Thon: Write Your Book in 26 Days (and Live to Tell About It) She is the founder of Dream Keepers, a writing workshop for at risk tweens and teens in Milwaukee. She’s currently wrestling with some very opinionated characters in a novel for kids. For more tips and a complementary download of the first two chapters of Write-A-Thon, visit her online at www.writenowcoach.com

Have anything to add to this?  We love to hear it! 

Next week John Avery will be presenting his thoughts on this discussion so be sure to return here!

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To Live Is To Create

“Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.”
George Bernard Shaw

I found this quote somewhere online, Goodreads I believe.  I really like it.  To me this means that instead of being a passive individual just living, going through the motion each day, we need to be active and pro-active.  We can’t expect opportunities to come to us.  We can’t expect dreams to just happen.  We’d be waiting and nothing will occur.  Life would become a bitter disappointment.

For artists, this means we need to be actively creating each and every day.  This is who we are.  We can’t be passive and expect ourselves to be happy or content with our lives.

What was any art but a mould in which to imprison for a moment the shining elusive element which is life itself – life hurrying past us and running away, too strong to stop, too sweet to lose.  ~Willa Cather

Art is when you hear a knocking from your soul — and you answer. ~Terri Guillemets

Write For Them

If you’re a writer and you want to have an impact on people lives…

Write letters!

There are relatives, acquaintances and strangers who need these;

Especially the elderly or shut-ins who have no other family members there for them.

They just need to know that they’re not alone or forgotten.

Letters can give them hope or a sense of comfort.

So, if you’re a writer and want to impact others

use your talent and passion for them!