What’s So Wrong With Allegory?

May I ask what in the heck is so wrong with allegory? I feel like it’s a bad word nowadays in the publishing world. Oh, no! There’s an allegory! Keep away!

I’ve known for some time that there’s a certain prejudice against allegory. Apparently, writers are not allowed to teach any morals or lessons when writing. They’re only supposed to write to tell a story.

While I agree that storytelling, alone, should be the basis for writing, I have absolutely no problem with allegory. I think that hidden meanings and subtexts and morals should be explored. Not trodden on like it was a piece of trash.

Am I too upset about this? Probably. But I’ll warn you right now, my writing is allegorical. It almost always has a hidden meaning or is metaphorical or teaches a lesson.

Part of what got me on this rant is watching this documentary about J.R.R. Tolkien. For those of you who’ve followed me for a while, you’ll know he’s one of my favorite authors, not just for the stories he wrote, but in how influential he’s been for me as a writer.

So when one of his sons and a couple professors began talking about how Tolkien intended no allegory in his writings, and then proceeded to speak as if allegory was a terrible thing, I got a little het up.

Tolkien speaks of allegory as if the author is trying to force his opinions down your throat. Really? I didn’t know allegory could be so… violent. Are writers, if they use allegory, attempting to dominate you by their own opinions? Aren’t people able enough to make their own choices (whether or not they agree with the author’s intentions)?

I think every book has allegory of some kind. Intentional or not. Even in my own writings, I see allegory where I never intended it to be.

I understand Tolkien’s opinion about allegory, but I can’t say I agree with his rather pessimistic view on it.

What do you think? Am I wrong? Are you pro- or anti-allegory? Do enjoy reading or writing allegory, or do you avoid it like the plague? I’m hoping for a good debate on this one.

Happy writing!

“I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history – true or feigned– with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers. I think that many confuse applicability with allegory, but the one resides in the freedom of the reader, and the other in the purposed domination of the author.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Fellowship of the Ring

“The two things that came out clearly were the sense of reality in the background and the mythical value: the essence of myth being that it should have no taint of allegory to the maker and yet should suggestincipient allegories to the reader.
[C.S. Lewis writes to J.R.R. Tolkien on December 7, 1929]”
― C.S. Lewis
“No story can be devised by the wit of man which cannot be interpreted allegorically by the wit of some other man.”
― C.S. LewisOn Stories: And Other Essays on Literature

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The Science of Injury Part 3 – Walking Muscles

Hoo-boy! I’ve SO neglected this little informational series of mine. I think the last post in this series was about…um… well I can’t remember how long ago. Maybe even six months? Shame on me.

Just to refresh your memories, this Science of Injury series gives you an idea of what a character would look like, how they would feel, and if they could even survive a particular injury. I’m asked quite a bit about the plausibility of injuries since I’m a physical therapist, and I’m always happy to share my knowledge. So here we go!

Walking Sign(morgueFile free photos)

Walking is pretty essential, wouldn’t you say? Unless you create a character that can’t walk, doesn’t need to walk, or can somehow fly everywhere through magical powers, walking will be an important part to your story. You may not realize it, but there are many injuries you can sustain that will affect your gait.

That list could be quite lengthy, so today I’m going to focus on the prime muscles required to walk. If any of these are slashed, bruised, torn, or otherwise bashed about, walking will not only be excruciatingly painful, it may be impossible.

Here’s the list, in no particular order.

1. Calf muscles – the calf muscles are crucial when it comes to pushing off during walking. It’s what propels us forward to take the next step. Severing the calf muscle will make it impossible to walk, unless your character hops around on one leg. Bruising or injuring it will make his walk very painful and he will limp for at least a few days, up to a couple weeks, until it heals. Even then, if it’s not properly treated, the muscle could be too tight and possibly build up calcium deposits that will erode the healthy muscle tissue. Not pretty.

2. Quadricep muscles – these guys are the huge front-of-the-thigh muscles that every body builder in the world works on to bulk up so you can see the defined edges of the four muscles that make up this massively powerful beast. Taking out the quad muscle will make it nearly impossible to walk. Though I’ve treated patients who tore it so bad on the job, they shouldn’t have been able to walk, but they did. The quads are important for stability and to keep our legs stable and straight when we stand and walk. Weak quads will make our knees buckle and, without a brace and/or crutches, a character would crumple to the ground. Again, a bruised muscle wouldn’t do this, but walking would be painful.

3. Hamstrings – these powerful dudes are on the back of our thighs. It’s probably important to also mention the butt muscles (gluteals or gluts) because they work in conjunction with the hamstrings. If these are injured, walking will still be possible, but very painful and you won’t get far fast. There is absolutely no way you’ll be able to run. Our hamstrings and calves are the most important running muscles, so taking away either of them would lead to an inability to run. So, if a bad guy in your book just took out your MC’s hammies, there’s no way your MC would be able to run or walk away from the baddie. They wouldn’t be able to get away fast enough.

4. Back muscles – there are long muscles in our backs that begin at the base of our skull and attach to our hip bones. These are called the erector spinae muscles. There are three muscles in each group alongside each side of the spine. They are crucial for posture, especially standing upright or walking/running. If one of these muscles is attacked, walking will become painful, and your character would actually start to weave all over the place because he wouldn’t be able to stand/walk upright. He’d be hunched over and in terrible pain. If both sides of this muscle group on both sides of the spine are taken out, your character won’t be able to stand or sit or even kneel upright. They’d be down on all fours or crumple to the ground.

Many of you are probably thinking–what about the abs?

Yes, it’s true, our abdominals are important for many things, and yes, they’re needed during gait, but think about all the overweight and obese people you see. Or women just after they’ve given birth. In both cases, the abs are stretched out, weak, and not very active. But the people are still able to walk. I’m not saying they’re not important, and certainly, if someone injures your abs, walking upright will be uncomfortable, but the other four muscle groups mentioned above affect gait so much more.

There we are! Hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about the muscles needed during walking. So, if you decide to injure your character, make sure you research the injury to make sure it’s plausible, and if they’re able to get away from the attacker.

As always, if you have ANY questions, or would like a certain topic addressed in this series, don’t hesitate to comment.

Happy writing!
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
― Martin Luther King Jr.

“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”
― Marcus AureliusMeditations

“No man or woman alive, magical or not, has ever escaped some form of injury, whether physical, mental, or emotional. To hurt is as human as to breathe.”
― J.K. RowlingThe Tales of Beedle the Bard

25 Things Creative People Do Differently

25 Things Creative People Do Differently

You need to go and read this list. Seriously.

How true is this list? For me, it’s hit-or-miss, but I know many other creative people for whom this list is spot-on. (The numbers are based on the list).

The items that are true about me:

2. I don’t have a normal job. Being a physical therapist seems fairly bland to most people, but I do travel PT, which means I get to go anywhere in the country my little heart desires. That is definitely not ‘normal.’ Traveling allows me to explore places I’d never have a chance to with a ‘normal’ job.

3. I see inspiration in everything. This is SO true! I’ve had so many random creative thoughts while driving along the road, or when someone at the coffee shop talks a bit too loud, or just be seeing an interesting turn-of-phrase on a billboard or bumper sticker. And nature?? Oh, yeah, baby! Nature inspires me more than anything.

4. I never stop questioning. Yep. I always have a question in my head and I love to learn, and asking questions is one of the best ways to learn.

6. I am a very independent person. Um… I think this is accurately portrayed in the fact that I travel alone for my job. Yep. Independence and I are close buddies.

8. I use my pain to fuel my passion. Yes. My best writing is almost always when I’m depressed, furious, excited, or shocked. I never limit myself at these times and write anything that comes to mind. It’s almost always my most inspired bits of writing.

9. I practice self-development. Since I’m a lifelong learner at heart, and a gigantic nerd, this is insanely true. I love change and finding out new things about myself. For instance, I just learned how much I dislike baths. I’ve never been a bath-taker, much preferring the shower. I don’t like the idea of soaking in my own dirt, but recently I took a bath that I thought would be glorious because  the tub had jets. But it just ended up being uncomfortable and boring. My brain doesn’t do well with stagnation, so lying around in a tub drove me nuts. I feel the same about laying out at beaches. BORING!

10. I daydream. Far too much, I’m sure. Even when I’m treating patients, my mind will wander. Some of my treatments are incredibly boring or just so easy that I let my mind float around in space and dream up new books and characters and dialogue. I can’t seem to help it. Nor do I want to.

11. I enjoy spending time alone. That is for true! I lived alone for seven years, and now I travel the country alone. While I do appreciate having people to talk to, I treasure my alone time almost more than anything else. I’m such an introvert, if I don’t have alone time, I go nuts.

12. I’m not afraid of being different. I’ve been different my whole life, swimming against the tide of the ‘popular way’ and going my own way. Life is so much more interesting that way.

14. I often act before I think. I can’t count the number of times I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth because I didn’t stop to think first. Or, I simply didn’t know the connotations or implications of my words because I’m a bit of an innocent. Even after working in Detroit. I know I’ve accidentally offended a good many people by my impulsive speech. Oops.

15. I do things most people aren’t willing to do. Probably. I remember in school, some of my classmates would be afraid to ask the teacher questions (this was middle school), so they’d have me do it, instead. What did I care if it was a dumb question? Also, traveling all over by myself isn’t probably that high on most peoples’ list of fun things to do.

16. I have a “yes” mentality. I wish this wasn’t true about me, but it is. I really wish I had more of a “no” mentality sometimes, or at least a balance between the two, but I have a tendency to say “yes” to far too many things, especially if it will help someone else out.

17. I have a strong work ethic. Seeing as how I average 50-60 hour work weeks and would work between 2 and 4 jobs at a time, I’d say this is true.

19. I get bored with the same old routine. YES!!! Gah! I think I’m one of the rare people who actually enjoys change. Most people fight it, but I embrace it. Which is probably why I can’t stay in any one job for more than a few years. Traveling negates that now, thankfully, but I have such a low BS tolerance for poor behavior, laziness, disrespect, and futility in my jobs/bosses/management, that I can’t stay if I feel like I’m not making a difference. What’s the point?

20. I move around a lot. Again, already answered above.

21. I am a highly emotional, intuitive person. I’ve never been much of a crier, but I do feel things deeply and can easily dip into despair when something in my life or my friends’ lives go wrong.

22. I have a hard time falling asleep. It takes me at least 30 minutes to fall asleep. I have to try my best to quiet my mind enough to drift off, though it rarely works. I survive on much less sleep than you’d think.

The items I’m on the fence about:

1. I work when the work comes to me. This is both true and false. While I do believe the best work comes when inspired, sometimes inspiration is so rare, if I did nothing in between those periods, I’d never get anything done. Often, when I sit down to write as if sitting down to work, I become inspired and I get more done.

5. I’m not afraid to fail. WRONG-O!!! Failure is one of my biggest fears. I abhor it. In grad school, I had to sit alone and do deep breathing exercises to calm myself before a practical because I’d be so afraid I’d fail.

7.I’m a risk-taker. Not in the conventional sense, no. My biggest risk-taking venture is traveling for my job. Otherwise, I’m not. I won’t skydive, or bungee jump, or even downhill ski. I’m all about safety in that way.

13. I only want friends who uplift and inspire me. While I do wish this, I seem to draw in friends that are conflicted and depressing and who drain my energy. I don’t know why, but I have a fair amount of these people in my life.

18. I am a complex person. I don’t think this is true. I think I’m pretty simple.

23. I take care of myself. Actually… I’m not always the best at this. I *mostly* eat healthy, but my exercise is inconsistent at best. While I do pray frequently (they say meditate here), I have a tendency to work too much, exercise too little, and indulge my sweet tooth too often.

24. Life means nothing to me if I don’t follow my heart. I agree with this in principal, however, I’ve had to make many an ‘adult’ decision that my heart did not like, but that was the best logical option all around. Sometimes being an adult really stinks.

25. I live life on the edge. Um…no. I like change and I love to travel, but I wouldn’t exactly call that the edge, would you?

What about you? Do these items apply to your creative self? Would you add anything to this list?

Happy writing!

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
― Albert Einstein

“Around here, however, we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
― Walt Disney Company
“The chief enemy of creativity is good sense.”
― Pablo Picasso

Breaking the Rule of Three

Three is a big deal. The number, that is. Have you ever noticed? Especially in literary undertakings.

The Rule of Three is actually a writing principle, did you know that? Not just for characters, but also in phrases. E.G. “Go, Team, Go!” It’s also a memorization rule. Research shows people tend to remember things better if they come in groups of three. It’s also true in syntax, or sentence structure.

The Rule of Three is well documented. Let’s take a peek at some famous examples of the power of three in literature, recent and long past.

1. Harry Potter. Obvious for today’s society. Three main characters. Harry, Ron, and Hermione. It just works. And there are numerous secondary character threesomes.

2. The Hunger Games. Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. At times, Gale flickers out and other people replace him to complete the triad, but it’s still valid.

3. Twilight (blech). I despise Twilight, but it still follows the Rule of Three. Bella, Edward, and Jacob.

4. A Christmas Carol. Scrooge is visited by three spirits. Just enough. Not too many, not too few.

5. The Three Little Pigs. It’s all in the name.

6. Macbeth. There are three witches. They meet three times. They say things in three. (See what I did there? The Rule of Three in repetitive sentences).

7. The Three Musketeers. I know, I know. Technically, there are four, but the for the purposes of this list, it reinforces my point.

Well, what happens if you break that rule? Are you banned to the literary rubbish bin for all eternity? Are you black-listed from agents and publishers?

I sure hope not. Because I’ve done it.

I’m breaking the Rule of Three.

You heard me. In my MG fantasy books, there is one main character and three other secondary main characters, if that makes sense. Which means, for me, it’s the Rule of Four.

Although there is something inherently pleasing about the number three, it just isn’t always possible. Believe me, I tried to find ways around the four characters, but there wasn’t one. I’d have to completely gut the book to make it work. And honestly, I like the group of four characters. They’re all so different and bring unique traits to the story that it’d be like cutting off one of my limbs. Of which I have FOUR! Ha!

What do you all think of the Rule of Three? Is it a hard and fast rule for you? Can you think of any other examples? Do you follow the Rule of Three, or are you a rebel, like me?

Happy writing!

“There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” W. Somerset Maugham

Write the Book You Want to Read

IMAGEN_5Source: morgueFile

For the longest time, I never knew what that phrase meant. “Write the book you want to read.”

I mean, I understood it at face value, but I always scoffed at it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love all the books I’m working on, for different reasons. But there are so many books out there I love to read, what’s the point of writing for the sake of simply enjoying my own ideas?

This past week, as I was reading a few different MG and YA books, a thought walloped me upside the head.

I always thought the above quote was referencing plot. Write the type of plot you’d want to read. But I realized, why can’t it mean style? POV? Syntax? Voice?

It can!

Lately I’ve been frustrated with MG books. That’s what my current focus is in my own writing, so I’ve been reading a lot of MG books. In my life, I know I’ve read hundreds of MG books, but maybe because I’m writing more, I see so many things I’m unsure of in other peoples’ writing.

There seems to be an onslaught of writing for kids that tries too hard to be fancy. To use words and sentence lengths and paragraph lengths that seem more suited to adult fiction. My good friend at BumblesBooks said that so many writers now are trying to write MG books with the idea that they will also appeal to adults. And she’s right! What? Middle grade is for KIDS! Hello! Adults may enjoy them, but kids are the prime audience. Why would we write hoping against hope adults will also love our books?

Anywho… I kept rolling my eyes at all these super complex phrases that made me want to tear my hair out. It’s just not the genre for them.

There’s nothing wrong with expecting kids to learn as they read, or to encourage them to expand their horizons with artistic turns of phrase, but I also feel much of that is extraneous to a story. I don’t want to underestimate the potential of a MG reader to comprehend the written word, and I don’t think I do, but the current trend of voice in MG fiction is just not my cup of tea.

I realized that writing a book I’d want to read, for me, is not as much about plot as it is about style and voice. After trudging through those books by other authors, I returned to my own book and was amazed to find I much preferred my own style of writing. Simple, straight-forward, but also requiring curiosity and intuition to understand all the aspects and nuances of the plot.

I adore the classics and high literary books, but that’s just not how I write, and I love that! I’ll never write the next Great American Novel (which I think is a ridiculous phrase), and I’m not trying to.

Embrace your style and your voice, writers! They’re the most unique parts of your writing. There are only so many plot-types in the world, but your voice is your own.

Write the book you want to read, in the style you want to read, with the voice you have that is utterly unique.

Happy writing!

“Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.” — C.W. Ceram

“Those who write clearly have readers; those who write obscurely have commentators.” — Albert Camus

“As it is my design to make those that can scarcely read understand, I shall therefore avoid every literary ornament and put it in language as plain as the alphabet.” — American revolutionary Thomas Paine

The Great North

IMG_1721

Ahhhhh… Up North.

For those outside of Michigan, it may be a strange circumstance, but going “up north” is something that happens all summer long, and often into the fall.

People from downstate buy or rent cabins on lakes, in the woods, and travel there for a weekend getaway.

I’m not sure how common this is in other states, but in Michigan, nearly everyone goes “up north” for the weekend. Or know somebody who does.

Well, I am currently up north. The first location of my traveling PT job is in the northern part of the lower peninsula in Michigan. Tons of snow, lots of deadly icicles, pictured above at the cabin I’m staying at, and a veritable wonderland of outdoor activities.

Since starting this new job a couple weeks ago, I’ve written more in my gargantuan re-write than I have in the past five months. I knew that would happen. Surrounded by nature and natural beauty never ceases to inspire me.

It also helps that I don’t have internet in the cabin I’m staying in. (My choice).

Although the internet has many uses, it is mighty distracting for someone who procrastinates with her writing because she’s often overwhelmed by the enormity of it.

I apologize if I don’t answer people as quickly as I used to, or am noticeable absent from the blogosphere for days at a time. I can’t get on with my work laptop, so the only time I can use the inter webs is when I haul myself to a coffee shop or the library.

And, God bless ’em, but the libraries in small towns close at 5 or 6 o’clock most days. Well, for us working stiffs, that doesn’t do much.

How has everyone else been? Have you made any headway on your writing lately?

Something I’ve learned in the past few weeks… turn off Mr. Negative!

Writing is such a personal process, like all the other arts, and it is all too easy to have your own personal storm of negativity constantly brewing storm clouds over your head.

I know it’s hard, I struggle with this on a daily basis. But push that storm away from your atmosphere and close your eyes. Write whatever comes to mind.

Ignore the “that stinks” or “are you sure?” or “nobody will like this” comments that filter through your mind.

Open yourselves up to the immense creativity we’re all capable of. Don’t go with the common route that’s been established by so many other authors.

Search for new avenues and let your mind wander into places you wouldn’t expect.

And have fun!

Happy writing, friends!

“The battle you are going through is not fueled by the words or actions of others; it is fueled by the mind that gives it importance.”
― Shannon L. Alder

“Try giving up all the thoughts that make you feel bad, or even just some of them, and see how doing that changes your life. You don’t need negative thoughts. All they have ever given you was a false self that suffers. They are all lies.”
― Gina LakeWhat about Now?: Reminders for Being in the Moment

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!