What’s The Worst That Could Happen?

Does anybody still watch or remember the game show “The Weakest Link?” Anne Robinson (the original UK host) was so COLD. She was brilliant, honestly.

“You are… the weakest link. Goodbye.”

And then moves right on to the next round without so much as a “Nice try, better luck next time.”

She also guest starred in an episode of Doctor Who in the first season (new style). Hilarious! But was Anne Droid there. Ha! Get it? I love Doctor Who.

Anyways… it got me thinking about our own weakest link. And that of our characters. If our characters have one weak link, what is it? What does your character fear the most? What is the worst thing that could happen to them?

And the next logical question is… how can you make it happen?

Everyone has a weak link.

Chain(Though this one looks pretty sturdy to me).

In order to drive the story forward, we have to know our characters’ innermost personality and find what makes them tick. Do they have a fear of abandonment? Death? The death of their loved ones? Loss of money? Failure?

We see these qualities in ourselves all the time. What makes great fiction, and often the most desperate, is exploitation of a character’s most intense fears. That keeps pace, tension, plot, voice, and all the other aspects of story moving forward.

Some examples, you ask of me? Why sure!

I’ll take them from some recent examples of books I’ve read.

  1. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick – I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I’ll just say that Hugo’s biggest fear is being found out. Of having his father’s most prized possession taken away. And it happens. Which is one of the points in the story where I couldn’t put the book down. I just HAD to know what would happen next. Do we HAVE to know what Hugo had for breakfast that day? Or what his favorite color is? Unless it’s uber crucial to the story, the answer is no.
  2. Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire – While I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I’d hoped, it is pretty obvious from the get-go that Elena’s biggest fear is being torn from her family. Which happens. And that is where Elena’s mettle is tested. Where she grows and learns and understands the world in a more mature and comprehensive way.
  3. Let’s go classic. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling. (SPOILERS!) – Harry was an orphan, so his deepest desire is to find family. What is one of his deepest fears? Losing any portion of a family he gains. Whether it’s a family of friends or real family. And what does the lovely and brilliant Ms. Rowling do? Takes away a sizable chunk of Harry’s version of family. Remus, Tonks, Mad-Eye, Fred, Dumbledore, Siruis, even Snape! (Who, let’s face it, acted like a bitter old uncle to Harry). When Harry’s worst fears are realized is when we see him become more of the person he was destined to be.

So although it pains us as writers to be so cruel to our characters, sometimes that’s what needs to happen. Be brave, dear writers, and unearth your characters’ deepest seated fears. There you will find your characters as they truly are.

There you have it! I’m sure if you think about many of the books you’ve read lately, you’ll see that a good portion of the characters are put through their version of H-E-double hockey sticks and that’s where the story really takes off.

Thoughts? Do you agree? Disagree? I’ll probably write another post about character desires, but this is a crucial topic, I think.

Happy writing!

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’
‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”
― George R.R. MartinA Game of Thrones

“Fear doesn’t shut you down; it wakes you up”
― Veronica RothDivergent

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that
something else is more important than fear.”
― Ambrose Redmoon

From the Mouths of Elderly

We all know that person. Or two. Elderly people who have lived so long they no longer give two craps one way or the other what they say to you or how you feel.

As a PT, I experience a LOT of people like that. Both men and women.

Today I was out to dinner with a co-worker at The Brick Saloon, the oldest bar/tavern in Washington State, and we saw a current elderly patient.

One of the patient’s friends, upon looking at me, said, “Let me put on my sunglasses so I can see you better. You’re so white it’s blinding!”

BAHAHA!!! Seriously! Then, she proceeded to stare aghast at me when I told her I had actually garnered a bit of a tan from being out on a boat two weekends previous.

Anyone who’s seen me in person knows I’m as pasty as a new bottle of Elmer’s, but I’m still shocked when people say stuff like that.

I wasn’t offended, but it got me thinking…

How often do writers accurately portray the elderly? I think I’m fairly accurate because of my profession, but too many times I see people write elderly characters as being sweet, gentle, and passive.

Coming from someone who knows, most elderly are NOT that way. There are definitely some like that, but once people get past a certain age, their filters crumble and fade.

So when you’re writing elderly characters, think to yourself: “Would my grandma or grandpa say that? Would my great-aunt Philomena? What about that lady you always see at the drugstore or market who’s always giving the employee a hard time?

If you want to be accurate, go spend some time with the elderly. Do a nice deed and volunteer at a nursing home or a hospital. Bring cheer to someone’s life and learn a few things, as well. The elderly have so much to teach us, and a lot of it is brutal in its honesty.

Happy writing!

“‎You cannot correct an old person every time they say something offensive. You would never make it through Thanksgiving dinner!”
― Stephen Colbert

“…but oh, it would just break your heart to see some of them waiting for their visitors. They get their hair all done up on Saturday, and on Sunday morning they get themselves all dressed and ready, and after all that, nobody comes to see them. I feel so bad, but what can you do? Having children is no guarantee that you’ll get visitors . . . No, it isn’t.”
― Fannie Flagg

“Youth can not know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”
― J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

My Gilbert Is Gone

Anne and Gilbert

I was surprised I didn’t see this more on WP, but maybe I just wasn’t online when this happened.

Jonathan Crombie, probably best known for playing Gilbert Blythe in the “Anne of Green Gables” movies, died on April 15th, at age 48, from a brain hemorrhage. Did anybody else know about this? I only found out a couple days ago, even though this happened last week.

Death happens. I understand that. I write death frequently. I see it all the time in my job. While I’m always affected by death, I do have to have a bit of mental anesthesia to get through seeing and facing death so often.

But this hit me hard. If you remember from this post a year-ish ago, you’ll recall that Gilbert Blythe is my favorite literary hero ever. EVER!

The TV movies came out when I was only a year or two old, but I watched them incessantly in the 90s, and I still watch them. L.M. Montgomery, who wrote the “Anne of Green Gables” books, has been the most influential author of my life. I fell in love with her characters, as well as with the actors who portrayed them on-screen.

Jonathan Crombie will always be Gilbert Blythe to me. I feel terrible for his family and friends. He was so much more than his Gilbert character, and it makes me sad that so few people know of his talent.

RIP Jonathan Crombie.

Style Tells A Story

Costume(morgueFile)

Don’t freak out. I’m not going to talk about fashion, except that which belongs in my book.

In this case, my reference to style means the clothing of my characters. While others may disagree, I believe clothing is a crucial element in any writing, but most especially genre writing.

Would you dress an undertaker in bright pastels and clown shoes? Unless you’re writing about an undertaker with an identity crisis or some kind of comedy, the answer is no.

Clothing needs to match the essence of the story, as well as the setting, dialogue, and character background.

For example, my MC starts out incredibly poor, so, of course, she’s clothed in ratty jeans and hole-y sweaters. Even when she’s plunged into a different world of fancy clothes followed by clothes required for boot camp, she maintains the persona of one who came from poverty. Just because the clothes change, doesn’t mean the person will.

While at boot camp, the kids have to wear a uniform every day that consists of pliable leathers and cotton – formed in ways to make it easy to move, run, jump, and hide when its required. They’re even given specially crafted boots. If you’re new to my blog or don’t remember, I’m a physical therapist. Therefore, I just had to give my characters well-fitting and tailored shoes. Our feet are probably one of the most important parts of our body concerning mobility and healthy movement, but we so often neglect them with crap shoes that don’t fit, all in the name of fashion. I couldn’t do that to my poor characters.

Let’s think of other books and the style that accompanies them.

Lord of the Rings, written by my all-time favorite author, consists of clothing and style consistent with ancient tales and epic stories. If Tolkien had had his characters wearing jeans and sweatshirts, his book would have gone nowhere.

The Lunar Chronicles, including the books Cinder, Cress, and Scarlet, have a large variety of styles, but it’s consistent with the futuristic premise. There are mechanical and geometrical aspects to their clothing that fits with the time. Again, if Marissa Meyer had put her characters in jeans and a sweatshirt, we’d have known right away they didn’t fit the futuristic setting.

This seems like such a basic concept, but it’s amazing to me how many authors miss the all-important clothing concern. Just a word here or there about clothing in a book is enough to get an idea of style. I’ve read dozens of books that had me shaking my head with their lack of continuity with era, setting, and class. The way a person dresses tells us so much about their personality and life perception, but it’s so often disregarded. That should never be the case. No matter the genre.

A little imagination and a bit of research, and all this could be avoided.

And not only should it be accurate, but it can convey emotion. The colors associated with fashion tell a story. Some people wear blue to stay calm. Others wear red to feel powerful and in passionate. Black renders formality and importance. Gray is somber and bland. Green makes us think of health and wealth. Brown is earthy and casual. Each color evokes emotion and, when paired with certain items of clothing, can convey a great deal. Be astute to what you use to tell your story.

What about you? When did you consider clothing or style when writing? When you started the story? Finished?

Clothing and colors count, people! Keep it real. Literally. 🙂

Happy writing!

“As she always did on any really important day, Penelope Hayes wore red.”
― Anna GodbersenThe Luxe

“Fashion is a language that creates itself in clothes to interpret reality.”
― Karl Lagerfeld

“What I really love about them… is the fact that they contain someone’s personal history…I find myself wondering about their lives. I can never look at a garment… without thinking about the woman who owned it. How old was she? Did she work? Was she married? Was she happy?… I look at these exquisite shoes, and I imagine the woman who owned them rising out of them or kissing someone…I look at a little hat like this, I lift up the veil, and I try to imagine the face beneath it… When you buy a piece of vintage clothing you’re not just buying the fabric and thread – you’re buying a piece of someone’s past.”
― Isabel WolffA Vintage Affair

Illness Breeds… Progress?

Hey, friends.

I hope you’re all enjoying the wonderful Christmas season this year!

There has been so much going on the past few weeks for me, I feel like I’m caught up in a tornado of insanity. There’s so much to update you on, but some I can’t reveal yet.

No, I’m not getting published yet. I’m still in the midst of a massive re-write, beginning at page one, which will probably take me months to finish and edit.

I know many of you have been under the weather lately. A good portion of my patients have also been calling in sick, or I’ve been sending them home when they come to clinic with flu symptoms. My other patients certainly don’t need that.

It was only a matter of time before I fell ill, as well. Though I don’t think it’s the flu, it’s a close facsimile that kept me home today and feeling gross.

However, I have been more productive in the last two hours being sick at home with my writing than in the last few weeks combined!

Does this happen to anyone else?

Sometimes I think illness forces us to reexamine our priorities, and it also removes the barriers to creative thinking. When we’re feeling under the weather, our thoughts are inherently tuned to improving our health, or we’re wallowing in our illness, which can sometimes be the perfect environment for writing sad, emotional scenes.

This is certainly true of me today. I’m in the depths of chapter two where my MC is kidnapped by henchman of the “bad guy” and it’s flowing much easier than it has the past week.

You can read a little more about my book right here, from an entry posted this summer.

I’m thrilled that this fantastical journey my character is on continues to astonish and amaze me. The things that fly out of my fingers into the Word document make me smile, cringe, laugh, cry, and shout for joy.

I still have much to learn on my journey to publication, but, for now, I’m just happy to get a few pages written.

Happy writing!

Bay Cliff – Where Dreams Unfold

Bay Cliff Morning

This lil ol’ picture is not from the interwebs, people. This was taken on an old, crappy digital camera in 2007. The result was stunning, though. 

This is a picture of Bay Cliff Health Camp in Big Bay, Michigan. It’s in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula right on Lake Superior. This was taken at about six in the morning as I was saddened by the fact that I had to leave later that day and wanted to take this slice of beauty with me.

Bay Cliff was, and probably always will be, the best experience of my life. It’s a camp for children with special needs, and they’re there for physical, occupational, speech, and hearing therapy. They’re also there to have fun! Many of the children that attend this camp for seven weeks during the summer are the outcasts in their community and treated differently because they walk, talk, or wheel around unlike other “normal” kids. At Bay Cliff, they make friends, go swimming, camping, have cookouts, and experience things they wouldn’t have a chance to during the rest of the year. While at Bay Cliff, these kids can realize dreams they never thought possible, and Bay Cliff does everything in its power to make those dreams come true. Children have learned to walk over the course of one summer session, after having spent years in a wheelchair or walker or using crutches. It’s amazing what the dedicated staff and environment of Bay Cliff can achieve.

I worked there the summers of 2005-2007, and I’ll never be the same because of it. I was a camp counselor working with 3-5 year olds in wheelchairs, walking with crutches, who were hearing impaired, or had speech deficits. I was basically their mother for the duration of the camp season. And although it was the hardest thing in the world to do, it was also the best.

I’d post pictures of the kids I worked with, but I’m not allowed to per camp regulations. But I can post pictures of the other counselors and I being silly. 

Bay Cliff Arnold Impression

This was in 2006. I’m the one in the padded plaid shirt doing my best cowboy Arnold impression. It’s probably a “you had to be there kind of humor,” but the whole room was busting up laughing at our antics.

Bay Cliff Fun in the Wagon

I’m behind the camera on this one. We never got to ride in the wagons because we used them for the kids, so we thought we’d give it a go! This was taken after the kids had left and we were cleaning up the cabin. Just a small sample of our silliness. 

Bay Cliff Silly Pic

More silliness. These were the wonderful girls I worked with in 2007. Simply amazing women, each one of them. We were being meese in this picture. Moose? Mooses? Meese? Whatever. It’s based on a silly camp song about a moose. 🙂 I love camp songs. If given the opportunity, I’d belt out every single one I know.

And here’s another reason to love Bay Cliff:

Bay Cliff Ives Lake

This is Ives Lake, near Bay Cliff, where the staff go after the kids leave camp. Its beauty is barely glimpsed in this picture. Don’t you love it?

You can visit Bay Cliff’s website here, or like them on FB here and see the amazing kids that come to Bay Cliff and can’t help but put a smile on your face, but I’m not here just to plug this fantastic place. 

My primary objective is to describe how much experiences can impact our writing. Indeed, I think they are what impacts us most of all.

Bay Cliff is the basis of a good portion of my MG fantasy series. The MC, Ava, goes to boot camp, and a majority of the scheduling and organization of the camp is based on the experiences I had at Bay Cliff. Although Bay Cliff is far from a boot camp, it does have a rhythm that helps it flow effortlessly.

Bay Cliff is the most inspirational place I have ever experienced. I’ve been to Paris, which was awesome, but it didn’t compare with the beauty and uniqueness of what Bay Cliff offers. Which is what I hope to explore and share with others through my books. If and when I ever make a decent amount of money from my writing, I’ll donate a good portion of it to Bay Cliff. It’s a plan I’ve had in mind for many years, and I sincerely hope it comes to fruition.

What about you? What life experiences have most impacted your writing or is your inspiration for your writing? Have you ever spent time at a summer camp? Did you love it or hate it?

Happy writing! Bay Cliff in my heart forever!

 

“Part of the problem with the word ‘disabilities’ is that it immediately suggests an inability to see or hear or walk or do other things that many of us take for granted. But what of people who can’t feel? Or talk about their feelings? Or manage their feelings in constructive ways? What of people who aren’t able to form close and strong relationships? And people who cannot find fulfillment in their lives, or those who have lost hope, who live in disappointment and bitterness and find in life no joy, no love? These, it seems to me, are the real disabilities.” 
― Fred RogersThe World According to Mister Rogers: Important Things to Remember

“It has been said that life has treated me harshly; and sometimes I have complained in my heart because many pleasures of human experience have been withheld from me…if much has been denied me, much, very much, has been given me…” 
― Helen KellerThe Open Door

 

Meet My Character Blog Tour

This will be interesting!

I was nominated by the lovely Sara DeLaVergne for a blog tour with questions about the main character in my WIP. It’s a chance to get to know my MC with a few basic questions that will reveal a little about who she is.

And away we go!

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

Ava Mae Monaghan. She is completely fictional.

2. When and where is the story set?

The story begins in March of 2005, when Ava is 12 years old, in a tiny made-up town in northern Michigan called Bluffton. But she’s not there for very long once the action begins. Pretty soon she’s taken to a centuries-old castle, then an island in the North Sea that is hidden by a pearlescent mist to everyone except those who are meant to be there.

3. What should we know about him/her?

Ava is a stubborn little cuss who can talk to animals and whose midnight blue eyes turn blood red when she is enraged by something. Not just a little angry, but a serious fit of rage. And she has the capacity to hurt people with what happens when her eyes turn red, although she is, by nature, a non-violent person. There is something she doesn’t know about in her history that makes her act this way, and it’s very hard to control.

Also, she has severe retrograde amnesia from an accident that caused a brain injury. She’s had it since she was five and doesn’t remember the first years of her life. She doesn’t know she has it, though, since her dad made up false memories for her to protect her from the life that nearly killed her when she was young.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?

Ava is kidnapped by people associated with her young life and she’s finally told who and what she is. She’s part of a magical race of beings (phantoms) that act as protectors of humans and, you can probably guess, there’s something special about Ava that sets her apart from the rest of her race, which is why she was targeted as a young child and nearly killed. Her family is the closest thing the phantoms have to royalty because of certain gifts and sacrifices they make for the good of the phantom race.

The rest of the story is her setting out to prove she can live up to her mother’s talents, who was the greatest living phantom at the time of her death, which was right after Ava’s brain injury. Ava needs to prove to herself, and the rest of the phantom community (who all hate her because of what she is due to something an ancestor did 300 years ago), that she can be what they need her to be. This takes place at boot camp by the means of Ava protecting a book that keeps all of the phantoms’ secrets (written in code, of course) from the hands of the bad guys. She sacrifices herself to keep the secrets of the phantoms safe from evil clutches. 

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

Whoops! Looks like I answered this in the question above. My bad. 🙂

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is: The Phantom Apprentice: Book of the Scribes. Since I’m actively seeking representation for traditional publishing, there isn’t any more information than what you’ve read here.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

Ooooo!!! If I had my way, it’d be published tomorrow! I’ve been querying since February and had one agent request the full manuscript, but so far, I’ve received polite rejections. I’m not giving up, though, so I’m hoping to be in print no later than 2017. Yikes! I wish it could be sooner, but I’m being realistic. Especially since this is the first in a series of middle grade novels.

 

That’s about it, folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading a little about Ava. She’s been with me for over ten years, so her and I are quite close. The rest of the series is already mapped out, and I wish I could divulge, but I wouldn’t want to give too much away.

As for nominations, I’d like to hear from Caroline SibleyHerminia ChowE.H. Bates, and YOU! I’d like everyone to participate that would like the chance to chat about their characters. I always love to learn more about my bloggy friends’ stories.

So, happy writing, all!

 

“When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.” 
― Ernest HemingwayDeath in the Afternoon

“You take people, you put them on a journey, you give them peril, you find out who they really are.” 
― Joss Whedon

“I don’t know where people got the idea that characters in books are supposed to be likable. Books are not in the business of creating merely likeable characters with whom you can have some simple identification with. Books are in the business of creating great stories that make you’re brain go ahhbdgbdmerhbergurhbudgerbudbaaarr.” 
― John Green