Mark 9:14-29. Remember the man who’s son was demon possessed and the disciples couldn’t heal him? Before I move on, let me point out–sometimes we look to other people to get us out of messes, to solve our problems, or heal our hurts. People will always disappoint us. They can’t help it. They’re flawed. Even those we look to as “spiritual giants” in our life.
Month: March 2011
Frivolous Friday: Visceral Villains
Heeeeeere’s Johnny! (Jack Torrance, The Shining)
Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. (Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part II)
I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti. (Hannibal Lector, The Silence of the Lambs.)
I’ll bet you didn’t even need my help with naming the movies or the villains that made these quotes famous, well infamous.
Villains /antagonists, whatever you want to call them have to exist to make a story work. Someone (or something but for the sake of this blog, it’s someone) has to stand in the way of what a protagonist/hero wants to get to. Peanut butter to the jelly. Oatmeal to the cream pie. Chocolate to the milk. You get it and I might be hungry.
Villains aren’t hard for me write. I revel in them. I know, I’m a Christian and evil is bad–but it is real. And if I’m going to try and convince a reader of that, plus show God triumph then I need to dive into the villain. Here’s a few things that I’ve found work well when creating a believable bad guy.
1. Make your villain normal or even above average.
Not all villains look like the picture above. In fact, the more “normal” (relative term) you make them, the better the story. Does Ian Somerholder look like an evil bad guy? Not so much, but boy does he play a bad guy–well vamp–in Vampire Diaries. (Don’t judge me!)
2. Distort your villain’s mind in order to motivate them into becoming your protagonist’s obstacle.
Ian Somerholder’s character, Damon, does twisted things out of his love for Elena. Half the time, you’re asking yourself why he would do something off the wall. That’s not love. That’s just making more trouble. Well yeah, but look who’s mind it is!
An average bear who’s jilted smashes a wall with his fist or drinks himself stupid. He doesn’t make it his quest to kill everyone the jilter loves. But a distorted mind will. Now we have a story. The jilter has to fight for the ones she loves and stop the villain.
Besides, distorted minds are interesting. Look at the True Crime market. Everyone wants to know, “Why do they do that?”
3. Don’t always save the villain.
Literally. As Christians, we want to redeem everyone! However, realistically and tragically, not everyone accepts salvation. If you write a story about a serial killer and you redeem him, I’ll give you a heinous review! 😉 Can they be? Anything is possible, but not likely.
Let’s take a revengeful man who tries to manipulate his high school sweetheart and ex-fiance into marrying him– again. He has a underlying agenda. What is his motive for this revenge? Abandonment, hatred for her family after he found out a secret–which most people would just be mad about and bitter–but if we distort his thinking and use Mr. Hotty as an obstacle to what the heroine wants, we’ve got an intriguing and mysterious story with layers of complexity and fun twists.
Circumstances ie backstory + distorted thinking= motivation to do heinous things normal people wouldn’t. But now you have a story.Is he redeemable? Absolutely. Will we redeem him? Nope. We’ll resolve the heroine’s conflict and leave him bitter, without peace, and alone. There’s a biblical lesson to learn, it stays real, and we can end happily ever after for our heroine. Reader satisfaction guaranteed.
4. Amp up your villain’s complexity by giving him/her at least one good trait. (this does not apply to sociopaths or psychopaths–they fake good qualites but don’t really have any)
The ex-fiance wasn’t the revengeful snake before he found out the secret (circumstances ie backstory). He still has some tender qualities that pop out from time to time that relate to the woman he’s seeking revenge on. It’s an internal tug-of-war.
He hates her and then remembers when he first met her or kissed her. He softens, rethinks what he’s doing…then remembers why he’s doing it which is the secret he discovered about her family that has a direct tie into his abandonment. Distorted thinking, “she deserves to pay and have a happy life snatched from her too”gives him new motivation to make her life miserable without her realizing what he’s up to.
It also makes the reader play internal tug-of-war. She’ll hate him, then feel sorry for him when she doesn’t really want to–if you flesh him out and write it well. Which is every writer’s goal.
*note* We don’t always want the reader to have mixed feelings for a villain, but in this case we do. It depends on the story you’re writing.
If you’re a writer, how do you create a great villain and do you enjoy it?
Readers, what makes a good villain to you and do you have a memorable one from a book you read or a movie you watched?
Have a great weekend! On Monday, you’ll meet author, Susie Brown.
Oh yeah, I’m a finalist at Clash of the Titles for most emotional scene! I’m being interviewed over there, so come by and say hi!
In the Word Wednesday: D.O.U.B.T
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’” Mark 9:23
If you tell me you never have doubts, I seriously doubt I’ll believe you. Not just doubt…seriously doubt. Why do people say that? “Seriously doubt.” As if your doubting isn’t serious. I’m jokingly doubting. I’m half-serious about my doubts. I don’t know, I digress because this has nothing to do with what I’m talking about today.
I mean I am talking about doubt, no doubt, but not the “seriously” part. Speaking of parts, I’m going to have to do this in 2 parts or it will become a blong, not a blog.
Okay, I hear you…I’m getting on with it!
Here’s an acrostic for doubt.
What is it, why do we do it and how can we overcome it?
1. Dim View of God
Let’s look at a man who’s view of God was surrounded in shadows. His name was, Naaman. You can read about him in 2 Kings 5:1-19. He was a powerful commander. He had many victories under his belt, including the one that conquered Israel, well he assumed he was responsible for it. In reality, God gave him that victory. God used enemies to discipline His children when they went astray, to humble them and bring them to repentance. At this time, He used Syria to discipline Israel’s rebellion.
Here’s the thing about Naaman. He had leprosy.
Now watch God work His wonders. Naaman, upon conquering the Israelites, took a young Israelite girl as a slave for his household. A young girl who knew the LORD–knew of His greatness and she told her master that God could heal him.
Naaman goes to see Elisha, the prophet–who tells him to dip in the Jordan. The Jordan!? That dirty water? A man as great as Namaan? Surely, there was another way and also, who did this prophet think he was that he couldn’t even come out to greet him in person! Of all the…
Naaman expected something greater. What he got was, “Go wash in the Jordan.”
God will use the seemingly foolish to heal. To bring wisdom. To save.
1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
Had Namaan had a better view of God, he would have immediately been obedient. He would have been ecstatic to jump in a dirty river.
How’s your view of God?
Psalm 19:8 says, “…the commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes.”
Psalm 119:18, “open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in Your law.”
You have to read the word for your eyes to be opened. Study it, meditate on it. It brings life to your bones and a brilliant view of who God is. To get a better view of God, spend time with Him! It clears any blurriness. No doubt about it.
2. Obstacles Stand in the Way
There are tons of obstacles. Top 3 (my opinion) 1. Your past 2. Your identity 3. Circumstances (out of your control and/or due to consequences of sin)
Gideon. You can read about him in Judges 6. Gideon had every excuse in the book not to deliver Israel from the hands of the Midianites. He was from a small tribe and he wasn’t brave. For crying out loud, when the Angel of the Lord (pre-incarnate Jesus) came to him he was hiding in a wine press threshing wheat. Yet He called Gideon, “mighty man of valor.” (Jesus sees us much differently than we see ourselves!)
He had serious doubts…oops, there’s that serious again. But the Angel of the Lord had no doubt. Not in who He was or what He could do. In the end, just like Naaman, Gideon obeyed. Victory came. Go ahead, doubt yourself. Truth is you can’t do what He asks of you. But He can do it through you. Don’t doubt Him!
Obstacles will always be there. God will move you through them, over them, and sometimes even around them. Numbers 21:4. The Israelites couldn’t go through Edom to get where they were going. They had to go around it. It took a little longer, but sometimes what you’re after takes time. It can be discouraging, but remember…God is in control. Always.
Remember these 3 things when you feel overwhelmed by obstacles:
1. Your identity rests in Christ Jesus. You’re not condemned.
John 8:10-11; Romans 8:1
2. Let your mistakes become ministering tools for others, don’t let your past hold you back. 2 Corinthians 5:17
3. No matter what circumtances you’re in, God loves you. He has a plan.
Romans 8:35-39; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:28
Next Wednesday, we’ll finish D.O.U.B.T
How do you handle doubt? Do you have a favorite scripture or Bible story that helps you overcome it when it creeps up on you or hits you like a Mack truck?
Must Meet Monday: Michelle Massaro
I’ve decided to add a new feature to my Mondays. Why? One, because I can. Two, because I know so many incredible people and have met tons of amazing writers on-line and I want you to meet them too.
Mondays have now become Must Read or Meet Monday. Today, I’m excited to introduce Michelle Massaro.
I was bouncing around some ideas for a book title and wondered if what I was looking for had been used. When I googled it, it led me to a youtube. I watched the book trailer and then found Michelle’s blog. I saw she was a member of the CWG (Christian Writers Guild) and facebooked her. By the way my current WIP is not Beauty for Ashes. It’s Eye of the Beholder.
We started chatting online and became friends. We had the chance to meet in person at the CWG Writing for the Soul Conference in Denver. How cool is that? I know!
Everyone, meet my friend Michelle.
Tell everyone a little about yourself!
What do you love in a good book?
My WIP is a Contemporary Women’s Fiction called Beauty for Ashes:
What advice do you have to give others who want to write fiction.
My advice if you want to write, first of all, is start! But also, take time to learn the basic skills before you begin a full-length novel. Read blogs like this one, find articles on the writing craft, meet other writers. Get familiar with terms like POV, pacing, voice, and hooks. It’s much harder to apply skills to a manuscript after the fact. Trust me on this.
Here’s how you can connect with Michelle!
Watch the trailer: here
Find me on facebook twitter (@mochashello), and my blog Adventures in Writing Drop by any time and say “hello”.
Feel free to answer the question or leave a comment! Have a great Monday, friends!
A Moment with Myles: MARS NEEDS MOMS
Must Read Monday: Stein on Writing
“The novelist is like a conductor of an orchestra, his back to the audience, his face invisible, summoning the experience of music for the people he cannot see.”
Today’s book is recommended for writers or anyone who is interested in learning the craft of writing.
Yes, it is a learned craft. Talent is necessary, but it isn’t enough. I’d like to think I have talent, and like most inspirational writers, I feel writing is a call on my life. I still need to learn and I’m glad I picked this book up at the CWG conference.
Sol Stein is a genius. You can read about him here. I found something to highlight on every page. I found some things that I do well and some things I need to work on to make my writing tighter and more suspenseful.
Here’s a little bit about the book, taken from his website. I encourage you to read many books on the craft if you are writing. We can never stop learning or growing, and in the end it benefits our readers–who we’re writing for! They deserve our best!
“Whether you are an accomplished professional, a novelist, story writer, or a writer of nonfiction, you will find a wealth of immediately useful guidance not available anywhere else. As Sol Stein explains, “This is a not a book of theory. It is a book of usable solutions; how to fix writing that is flawed, how to improve writing that is good, how to create interesting writing in the first place.”
You will find one of the great unspoken secrets of craftsmanship in Chapter 5, called “Markers: The Key to Swift Characterization.” In Chapter 7, Stein reveals for the first time in print the system for creating instant conflict developed in the Playwrights Group of the Actors Studio, of which he was a founder. In “Secrets of Good Dialogue,” Stein gives you usable techniques that not only make verbal exchanges exciting but that move the story forward immediately. You won’t have to struggle with flashbacks or background material after you’ve read Chapter 14, which shows you how to bring background into the foreground.
Writers of both fiction and nonfiction will relish the amphetamines for speeding up pace, and the many ways to liposuction flab, as well as how to tap originality and recognize what successful titles have in common. Nonfiction writers will find a passport to the new revolution in journalism and a guide to using the techniques of fiction to enhance nonfiction. You’ll discover literary values that enhance writing, providing depth and resonance. In Chapters 32 and 33 you will learn why revising by starting at page one can be a serious mistake, and how to revise without growing cold on your manuscript.”
What books have you read and recommend about the craft of writing?
There is a Method to My Madness: But Not Really
…there really isn’t one.
1. Inspiration Hits
Generally, it smacks me in the face during my early morning time with the Lord. I’ll see a face, hear a voice and a scene of some sort pops in my head. For example: When I wrote the Precious Gems Saga, I was reading Isaiah 54. “And I will make your pinnacles of rubies (Pigeon’s Blood was born) your gates of crystal (Crystal Gates) and your foundations of sapphire (Sapphire Foundation).” Each female character paralleled that particular jewel. I studied the stones and as I did, the characters developed.
After I wrote those three books, I knew it wasn’t finished. The characters weren’t ready to say goodbye just yet and new stories formed–with their children. The Wayward Children Trilogy, was born.
Plotting happens while I’m on the treadmill walking. Not when I run because I have to consciously remind myself to breathe. But when I’m walking, characters tell me who they are, what they’ve been through, what they want and how they think they should get it. I don’t alway agree with them, but what do I know? I see these things happen in live scenes. Like watching a movie in my head. The kind of music I’m listening to at the time sets the pace of the scenes I see.
I don’t always write the scenes down because I remember them, but sometimes when they say something very smart-alec or profound, that I can’t come up with on my own, I jump off the treamill and scribble it on a post-it. Or if I’m cleaning, I stop (great excuse to put the Pledge down) and find my post-its.
I rarely get the beginning scene right off-the-bat. The middle and ending happen first. Once I have the basic structure and know who my characters are (because they tell me), I research anything necessary– which is always– and then I write.
3. Writing happens
|Why yes, that is
my pink snuggie! Convenient
for writers who get cold!
I write all day on Tuesdays and Thursdays because I’m home and my kids are at school. On MWF, I get to come home at noon and write till I get the kids. I don’t usually write on weekends unless everyone goes to bed and I can’t sleep. Then I may work until 1 or 2 in the morning, especially if I’m nearing the end.
* The winner for Gray Matter, is Terri Tiffany! Congrats!
It’s Not a Fairy Tale
I love the idea of choice. I chose my husband. No one forced me to marry him. When I read about arranged marriages or women handed over as prizes, something inside me stirs like cold lumpy soup that didn’t turn out right. (not borscht, but that’s gross too)
Find a passage that’s hard. Dry. Uninteresting. Then ask questions. Especially you writers! Ask why? How? Then do the research and find out! God loves a treasure hunter. He’ll help the words come to life on the page. Let’s bring life to a seemingly lifeless and unimportant passage. By the way, nothing is in the Bible by chance. Just like in your own novels, make every word count. Set the background. Use the words to pace the story along. Make the words lyrical. The reader should hum along to the tune you’ve written. Take a lesson from the Bible!
Our story picks up in Joshua 15: 16-19 & Judges 1:12-15. It doesn’t take a huge portion of words to bring out a story. Less is more.
Backstory: The children of Israel are still fighting for their land. Much of it has been conquered, but not all of it. Joshua has died. There is no direct leader at this point. (See how I didn’t vomit a ton of backstory at the beginning.)
Caleb (you remember Caleb…he took his mountain in another blog post) says, “Whoever attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give my daughter Achsah as his wife.”
Now let’s stop there. The lumpy soup is back. Geez, Caleb, couldn’t you offer up a few ounces of silver? Your daughter? Really? Really, Caleb?
Get out your spoon and get ready to stir the cold lumpy mess because it’s about to warm up into something delicious!
Looks are deceiving. Was Caleb really offering up his daughter as a thoughtless prize or was he looking for a noble man who could honor and protect her after he was gone? The father says, “Who will go up? Who will fight for this woman? Death is a possibility. Exhaustion a certainty.”
Achsah in Hebrew means “anklet, or ankle bracelet.” Names are a big deal in the Bible. When I think of an anklet, I see a dainty jewel. Precious. Who will fight for his dainty precious jewel? He won’t be around forever. Remember, Caleb was a man of God. One of two spies willing to fight. One of two that entered into the Promised Land.
In verse 13, Othniel- the son of Kenaz (Caleb’s younger brother and we’re not going there, but those were the times, my friend…those were the times) took it. Othniel, also of the tribe of Judah. His name meaning…lion of God.
Let’s think about him a minute. He obviously has been around long enough that he knows Achsah. Maybe he’s seen her sitting among the young women. He’s been waiting for the right opportunity to make her his bride.
Her delicateness interests him–enough he’s willing to take Kirjath Sepher, which means city of letters. We’re talking about a royal Canaanite city. Educated. A place located in the mountains. (now mountains of Judah west of Hebron)
|A face like flint|
Her clothing is woven with gold.
She shall be brought to the King in robes of many colors;
The virgins, her companions who follow her, shall be brought to You.
With gladness and rejoicing they shall be brought;
They shall enter the King’s palace.”
Psalm 45: 13-15
Must Read Monday: Gray Matter (I’m giving away a copy!)
“The role of prayer in health care is itself a gray matter.”
Dr. David Levy tells his story through the pen of Joel Kilpatrick.
Dr. Levy didn’t start out knowing he wanted to be a neurosurgeon. He started out as a mechanic. He was good at fixing machines, and what machine is as beautiful and complex as the human brain?
He excelled through his classes, the typical overachiever, and was glorified by peers and colleagues. But something changed in Dr. Levy. That “something” was a Someone. God.
So…what if he brought prayer into health care? He grappled with the idea. What if he was rejected? Belittled? Humiliated? Yet he took the chance and started what he knew God wanted him to do–asking patients if he could pray with them before surgeries.
This book describes not only his procedures, which are explained easily for gals like me to understand and are incredibly fascinating, but it details the outcomes physically and spiritually.
Some physical symptoms experienced by patients had no medical cure –but the spiritual cure was forgiveness. Bitterness, hate, and resentment, doesn’t just effect the mind but the heart. These emotions can cause physical ailments and debilitating symptoms. Some of Dr. Levy’s stories are his experiences helping patients find Jesus and experience forgiveness as well as helping lead them to forgive others. It was beautiful!
Don’t expect every single procedure to be miraculous in this book–not all were– and I like that. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything, but what God did in the lives of the patients, families, and Dr. Levy are remarkable. No, not everyone verbally showed that they’d been moved by God, but that’s real life. We don’t always know how we touch others through simple prayers or our behaviors that reflect Christ.
If you question how effective prayer is, read this book. If you’re interested in amazing, complex neurosurgery, read this book, or if you simply need uplifted, encouraged, and hope–read this book. Thanks, Tyndale for giving me this book complimentary for review purposes!
Close Quarters + People = CONFLICT
“Get out of my way!”
“I was here first!”
“Don’t you snitch on me. I didn’t do anything!”
“That toothpaste smell is gagging me!”
Our mornings usually begin quiet and peaceful. Until my children have to share the bathroom. Bailey is primping and flat ironing her hair and Myles just needs to “water his hair” and brush his teeth.
Two minutes together. Tops.
I’m usually in the kitchen, feeling good after my morning with the Lord. I’m at peace. Quiet inside. Full of love…
“If I hear you screaming one more time, I’m going to come in there and give you a reason a to scream!”
Ever wonder how that happens? I can just see my flesh inside–crawling, gearing up to be let loose. Itching. Come on, I just need one tiny prick…where are those kids when I need them!?
They’re in separate rooms. That’s where.
Close quarters bring conflict. Bank on it. You fight most with the people you live with, or maybe work very closely with. It’s why you can go to church on Sunday and practically lick the syrup off folks’ faces. It’s easy to be sweet to people you see once a week.
Conflict is key in writing stories. It’s what keeps readers turning pages. Do you read? Would you agree? If there is no conflict there is no story.
In real life, I don’t want any drama. But in a book, where I’m not the target or stuck listening to whining and droning…I want drama! Lots of it!
There are many ways to inject conflict into a story. The most obvious would be external conflict.
Miss thang here, well, she’s got herself in some kind of physical predictament that seems hopeless. Someone or something has literally put her up against a wall.
I see this picture and I think, “How did she get in this situation?” ie…backstory (that doesn’t need vomited onto the page) “How is she going to get out? After all, her best friend can’t save her…she’s strapped right up there with her.
Add some dialogue:
“I can’t believe you got me into this, Baby.”
“Me? Me? Duckie, you’re the one who said we should follow the bread crumbs.”
Duckie quacked and tried to point her wing, but the duct tape pulled at her feathers she’d just had trimmed and tipped, “I always say that! It’s like you always asking for a cookie! I tune it out! Now figure out a way to get us down!”
This bring us to Internal conflict. What’s going on inside of her? This is where writers get to be therapists. “How does that make you feel?” Then we get to be patients. “Well…stuck?” Internal conflict is as important to a story as the external conflict.
I happen to love odd conflict. Inner and external. For example, this cartoon. This man is afraid of butterflies. I’m certainly not making fun of the fear of butterflies or phobias that people have. I have a few of my own.
I’m terrified of driving in heavy traffic. I don’t drive for a living, but take that fear and put it inside a truck driver. Now that’s good stuff! You may be asking, “Why would a guy become a truck driver if he’s scared to drive?”
Maybe it’s not a he. Maybe it’s a she and she is a single mom about to lose her children. What choice does she have? This may be the only thing she can do to make the money she needs to keep them. External conflict and internal.
And of course, I have to have a little humor and duh, romance! She’s going to need an instructor, so she can obtain her CDL (a special license). This man has to ride along with her. He might even be a little chauvinist–but it’s probably a facade (his wife had an affair while he was on the road; he’s bitter).
Can you see her trying to use both foot pedals and shift that big ole’ rig with a burly (hot) guy glaring at her–ticked off because he’s stuck with some female who wants to drive a truck. She’ll kill them before she ever gets out of the parking lot!
We just amped up the conflict, ladies and gents!
FYI, I just thought this up while writing; none of my stories are about a single mom becoming a truck driver. However…
In suspenseful stories (which all stories should have some suspense), a sneaky fox can add conflict. I like to call this Devious Mind conflict.
Someone who seems innocent, but secretly thwarts the plans of the hero/heroine in the story–or both. Maybe the reader knows this up front. If it’s a mystery, probably not until much later in the story. I write about serial killers in my Hornet’s Nest Series. I keep my killers a mystery–until the last “act.” and even then it’s about the end of the story.
I love characters that are crazy like a fox…or is that hungry like the wolf??? Oh well…either-both. Whatever, it works.
One of my all time favorites, is the love conflict. Man loves woman, woman loves man. But they can’t be together. It’s the glue of a great romance novel. Who wants to read a book where a couple fall in love in chapter one, get married in chapter two and live a ho-hum decent life the rest of the book? If you do, sorry. But I do not!
Rejection in a relationship fuels me to keep reading. Nothing tugs my heartstrings like a woman or a man rejecting the other when I know they really love each other. But it takes, what to keep them apart? Conflict. Internal. External.
Mix it up with odd conflict, sneaky conflict or, just stick them in a bathroom together for about two minutes. I know first hand that works.
Either way, you can’t erase conflict from a novel. You don’t have one if you do. And you can’t erase it from your real life.
Thankfully, there is conflict resolution. His name is…God. That’s why I love writing Inspirational Fiction. I can show the world how God can be the conflict resolution in any situation. I get the pleasure of extending hope to readers who might identify with some of my characters–even single mom truckdrivers.
Does every situation end beautifully in real life? No. In fiction? Most times.
But, real life and fiction do have something in common when it comes to conflict resolution. The availability for God to resolve inner conflict is always there. The same hope you read about in fiction, is very real in the story we call real life.
You can’t change some of your circumstances. You don’t always ask for conflict, but God is always ready to bring peace to your inner conflict first. He cares more about the condition of your spiritual life, than your physical.
So…talk to me. Tell me what kinds of conflict you enjoy reading about? What keeps you turning pages?
Have a great weekend. Join me on for Must Read Monday! I’m sharing about a book you can get for free! If you don’t have a kindle, I’M GIVING AWAY A BOOK! TELL YOUR FRIENDS!