by Elle Cyre
Many thoughts on how writing has influenced my life.
|Viewing life from a writer’s perspective.|
|The most known writing trick is the cliffhanger, a sudden action or declaration that comes at the end of a chapter to entice us to keep reading.
But not all cliffhangers are the same. Some authors use them so subtly that the reader keeps on reading without ever suspecting they are the recipient of such a cliche trick. How do they do this? In several ways. Here are some I've picked up on:
Often times, when approaching a climax, either in a romance or adventure book, there will be multiple 'main characters'. This enables the author to leave one stranded somewhere, or approaching eminent peril, while switching back to their friends viewpoint. This is a rather obvious 'cliffhanger' if the perspective switches abruptly, or right when the hero falls into the enemy hands. The key is to start the journey into the villian's lair and then switch away before the reader knows the result. This will put them in the same anxious frame of mind as to whoever the perspective switches to. They will keep reading because they really want to know what happened to the 'hero'.
This is along the same lines as a flashback, or flash-forward. Jump into the middle of the action and then pause, rewind, and retrace the steps that led up to this point. If done poorly, this can be more annoying to the reader than anything. They don't care what happened yesterday; they want to know what's happening now! Again, the key is in how well it is done. I recently read one of Louis L'Amour's books. The first scene is the main character regaining consciousness after falling out of a second-story window. All he knows is that someone tried to kill him. He can't remember who it was or why; he doesn't even remember his own name. The reader is presented a very interesting puzzle as the book unfolds and the man tries to piece together his memories.
This is probably known better as Chekov's gun. Mention something in earlier chapters that will come into play in the end. Maybe it is something small and harmless. Maybe it is something sinister, like an actual gun. Maybe it is a casual comment that doesn't seem threatening in chapter three, but by the time chapter ten comes around, the reader realizes what it meant. Just don't overdo it. Sometimes the antagonist will spew so many vile threats against the protagonist that whatever they end up doing pales in comparison. Take your reader's imagination into consideration and make sure your climax lives up to the hype.
And lastly: Suspense.
Just good ol' suspense. The reader's anticipation of impending doom is always more powerful than the actual event. It is the trick Alfred Hitchcock used in his films.
|I struggle with leadership. I am not an aggressive, assertive or take-charge sort of person. I don't like responsibility and I'm okay following people.
I've tried getting better but I don't like leadership books. Most of the ones I've read are either boring, preachy or so geared towards managing office-workers that it is hard to apply the practices toward other management jobs.
At a leadership class, we were advised to read "Leadership and Self-Deception" by the Arbringer Institute. Of course I didn't read it, because, you know, all leadership books are the same and I really wasn't interested.
Then I happened across it at a bargain book store and I thought 'what the heck? I'll give it a try.' Best decision ever! Leadership and Self-Deception is not an average, run-of-the-mill leadership book. For starters, it is written as a novel or story with fictional characters. You make the journey into leadership through the perspective of the main character who goes on to have some very thorough, in-depth and realistic conversations with the 'leadership' people who teach him the fundamentals of self-deception.
It is a very, very good book. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone everywhere, even if you're not interested in leadership. The lessons it teaches can be applied to every facet of your life, not just work. The basic concept is how you behave towards others and whether you view them as people or as objects. Regardless of your behavior towards them (such as correcting, complimenting, punishing, praising, etc.) the two ways of seeing them makes a huge impact. Their terminology for the two perspectives is either being 'in the box' or 'out of the box' toward someone. When you are 'out of the box' you are seeing people as people. When you are 'in the box' you're seeing them as objects. How do we get 'in' the box? By betraying ourselves; by not acting on a desire to help them or be useful in some way. When we decide not to help, this self-betrayal prompts us to justify our reasons for not acting. We begin to exaggerate our own importance and demean the other person, who is now just an object to us, even a threat.
It is hard to explain but the book illustrates it beautifully. There is also a sequel to it, The Anatomy of Peace, which I am currently reading. It delves deeper into the various 'boxes' that we carry around with us, the ever-present excuses that we need to justify something about ourselves. There are four different kinds, the 'I-deserve' box, the 'better-than' box, the 'need-to-be-seen-as' one and the 'not-worthy' one. Not being a dominant personality, I don't struggle with the first two; I don't feel like I'm better or more deserving than others. But I really identify with the last two.
Again, I suggest you pick up a copy and read it. It is worth your time.
|'ONEN I-ESTEL EDAIN, U-CHEBIN ESTEL ANIM.'
In the Lord of the RIngs films, Elrond and Aragorn repeat this quote. The correct translation is somewhere along the lines of 'I gave hope to the Edain, I have kept none for myself.' It refers to Aragorn's mother who, before she died, left her son in the care of Elrond. For that reason, he was known as Estel, or Hope, in his youth. But that's besides the point and the film's version is close enough.
"I give hope to men; I keep none for myself."
For some reason, this quote popped into my head when I was thinking about what it takes to be a good person. Everyone knows the Bible verse about 'laying down one's life for their friends' but that is a hard test and not everyone (or every protagonist) is going to be asked to do that. Or so you may think. However, if you really think about it, the two quotes mean the same thing.
Giving your life doesn't mean dying in the literal sense; it can mean sacrificing your hopes and dreams in place of those of the people around you. It can mean focusing on them first, giving them hope, comfort and love, while demanding nothing in return. That is true sacrifice; unselfish and generous. Think of the world around us. Everyone, everywhere, is focused on themselves, their own happiness, their own past and their own future. It's just human nature; we can't help but be inclined to be selfish. Can you imagine the difference, though, if everyone put their own wants last? If everyone sought to help each other first and foremost? If every action wasn't tainted with a selfish motivation?
True love, pure and unblemished, gives and gives with no thought of itself. It desires the happiness and welfare of the one it loves over its own.
Maybe your main character won't have the opportunity to take a bullet for the people they love, but they can prove themselves by the choices they make. It can be subtle, like declining a promotion to avoid having to move their family, or letting their girlfriend pick the movie to watch, or even as simple as listening to someone when they are having a bad day. Any act that places the need of someone else above their own is a selfless one, and if it is for someone that they don't even know or care about, it becomes heroic..
Meditate upon this; ponder the ways to incorporate it into your writing (and even in your personal life as well.) Look below the surface, plump the depths of your hero's heart, find out what really matters to them--and then give them a scene to prove it.
|A writing book first introduced me to the Meyer's-Briggs personality test. It suggested using it as a guide to character development. At the time, the whole thing was Greek to me. What was the difference between an ESTJ and a INFP? No clue.
If you're just as confused as I was, let me try to explain the system. It has 16 different personality types based on 4 categories and the letters are the abbreviations.
The first category is Extrovert or Introvert. (E or I)
You've probably heard of this category. Extroverts generally draw their energy from being around people and Introvert draw theirs from being alone. The label of either one can be stereotyped and it isn't an accurate definition of your personality. That is why it is only the first category.
The second category is Sensing or Intuition (iNtuition). (S or N)
These further categories are more subtle and hard to determine. You can be split 50-50 in some cases (as I am) and end up with an "X" in place of a letter. Every person has every piece of the puzzle inside them, too. It just depends on what is dominant. Anyway, S or N has to do with the way you see the world around you. Do you rely on your senses to tell you what is going on or your intuition? Do you react first and think later or think first and react later? S types generally are more active while N types are more sedative.
The third category is Feeling or Thinking. (F or T)
This has to do with your emotions. Do you make decisions based on how you feel or based on logic? Do you make 'gut' reactions or think things through from all angles? Generally F types are more emotional than T types. They might wear their emotions on their sleeves, so to speak, while thinkers can come across as cold or aloof.
The fourth and final category is Judging or Perceiving. (J or P)
This has to do with your outlook on life. Do you look at things from multiple points of view or do you always make up your mind quickly? It can determine how much you like things scheduled and planned. J types generally enjoy structure while P types are more flexible and can even resent organization as constrictive. It's because they see all the different options while judges decide quickly what they want and like.
Okay, so I'm obviously not an expert at this and I've probably butchered the descriptions and definitions of each category. But at least now you know what each of the letter combinations stand for. ESTJ means an extrovert, sensor, thinker, judge. An INFP is an introvert, intuitive, feeler, perceptive.
What does that mean? Well, I'll start by describing myself. I dug into each category, did a self-diagnostic and decided I identified most with the INTP. (introvert, intuitive, thinker, perceptive) also known as the absent-minded professor personality. It fit me well, I thought. Then I took two free personality tests. The first one classified me as INTJ instead of P. Oh no! (That's the evil-genius mastermind one.) Obviously I didn't feel like it fitted me so I took the second one and got INxP. Wait, what? Well, remember the 50-50 bit I mentioned earlier? So I'm definitely an Introvert that uses iNtuition and Perception, but I'm split when it comes to making decisions on the way I Think or the way I Feel; hence X. And the more I read about the INFP personality (the idealist and dreamer) I realized I had more in common with it that I first thought.
If you aren't interested in the least bit by this, that's okay. I've read that INxP types are really into this personality stuff. What I find fascinating is figuring out what makes other people act or think the way they do. Learning how they might view the world a completely different way than you can be eye-opening. For me, especially, because I start to realize how other people can get the wrong impression from the way I behave towards them.
I'd describe myself as an INTP on the outside and a INFP on the inside. I have feelings, lots and lots of feelings and hopes and dreams, but I bottle them all up and never breathe a word of them to anyone but my closest friends. Therefore, I think most people view me as a sort of machine, someone who never gets sad or happy or angry. Whatever they say to me, whether it is praise or criticism, I don't react on the outside, so they probably think I don't care. What they don't know is that I do care, probably more than I'm willing to admit to myself. I'll cry myself to sleep at night but my face is a mask to the outside world. I'll shrug it off and say I'm fine the next day but that doesn't mean I'm not hurting on the inside.
Anyway, this lack of exterior emotion, exterior sensitivity and exterior feelings probably makes me seem hard, cold and cruel to those who spend time with me. But I'm not that way; I do care. I really do! The problem with me is that I never know what to say or do for them to show my feelings. I clam up; my mind blanks; if I do say something it will probably be the worst possible thing for them to hear in that situation, some high-minded view on the reality of life, the big picture and grand scheme of things while they are crying about the here-and-now.
Maybe that's because I'm Perceptive; I see how things are interconnected and how a pattern forms, how certain behaviors will cause certain results and so that lessens my sympathy for them, like, 'I told you so' sort of thing. But that doesn't mean I don't feel for them, that I don't feel their pain and wish I could comfort them. The problem is, the perspective I use to comfort my own pain is like pouring oil on their fire.
Knowing more about other personalities has helped me interpret others behaviors. Some people are like oil and water, they just don't mix, and if you were to categorize them, they'd be opposites on the MBTI scale. But as I mentioned earlier, everyone has a bit of E, I, S, N, F, T, P and J in them. However the letters line up for you, the opposite letter is your inferior or introverted side. Even though I might be 99% introverted, that 1% is alive somewhere in me and that's what I need to tap into in order to view the world as an extrovert.
|Life is all about perspective.
I was in the middle of venting about work, a weekly or daily occurrence, when a friend of mine said 'you should write a blog about your experiences.'
Well, who wants to read about my daily struggles? I work as a manager in a fast-food restaurant, a very, very unglamorous occupation and a bit embarrassing on top of it.
But, what the heck! Here goes:
I don't think I have to describe in detail what I deal with day in and day out..If you have eaten at a popular fast-food chain, you can picture the work environment: busy, noisy, messy and sometimes a tad chaotic. There are screaming children, dropped drinks, long lines, napkins and straws scattered around, not to mention the mess in the bathrooms--and that is just in the dining area. Behind the counter is a whole different story. When the going gets rough, (short-staffed, people out sick or didn't show, equipment issues, etc.) that's usually when mistakes happen.
No doubt you have a personal experience to draw from in this category, i.e. they put onions on your sandwich when you wanted it no onion; or pickles, or cheese, or not enough onions or mayonnaise or lettuce or whatever. I've seen it all and everyone has every right to complain if something isn't what they wanted or expected.
Nine times out of ten, the issue is resolved and you move on. But sometimes you get that one customer who throws an absolute fit. Usually it is about something minor, too, like only one pickle on their sandwich. They go berserk; they cuss you up and down and everyone who works there and everyone who has ever worked there; sometimes they even throw things at you.
Okay, so this is where perspective comes in. What sort of bad day are they having? What underlining stress are they dealing with so that this silly thing makes them fly off the handle? Maybe they are going through a breakup. Maybe they spilled their coffee in the car this morning and ruined their new suit. Maybe they have just endured a three-hour car ride with three kids under the age of 5 who won't stop screaming and crying and clinging on Mom. Maybe this is the hundredth time something like this has happened, and although they stayed silent the first 99 times, this last one is too much for them today. It's the final straw that breaks the camel's back. After all, there may be a million reasons why they are upset and the one they complain about is probably the least important.
Remembering that customers are people is the foundation of the customer service industry.
Now flip the script: customer service workers are people too. We make mistakes. We try very hard not to make them and we never, ever mess something up on purpose. But do those irritated customers think of that when they unleash their pent-up frustration on us? Of course not. They act like we never get any order right. One little mistake, one tiny detail overlooked, and we are the worst people on the face of the earth.
Is that fair? Should a missing condiment merit a shower of personal abuse? How would you like it if someone called your friends a bunch of idiots or monkeys? But no matter how appropriate their reaction is to the mistake, we have to stand there and endure it, because they are right; we messed up. (Actually, the irony is 99% of the time, the manager had nothing to do with the mistake, but they're the ones who must shoulder the blame.) So we take one for the team; we apologize and listen to the million-and-one reasons why we're doing such a bad job and what a sorry excuse for a manager we are. We absorb most of it. We don't pass the blame onto anyone else or point fingers, least of all at the poor kid who might have messed up. We move on and try to do better next time.
The customer service industry is a sort of doormat of society. We bear the brunt of most people's bad moods. They don't have to make eye contact or say thank you if they don't want to; most of them are either on their way to or from work, their minds are elsewhere, and they don't even acknowledge our existence. I understand where they are coming from but no one wants to consider what we deal with every day.
I just wish people could try to see it from our perspective.
|I like to watch my story unfold in my head like a movie. Sometimes I wish what I see and imagine could translate to the page when I write. Who doesn't?
Pictures are worth a thousand words. Movies are moving pictures, so they can express a hundred pages in little less than a few minutes. However, usually something gets lost in the adaptation of a book to the big screen, whether it is a beloved character left out, a couple names changed around, an alteration of the plot or something along those lines. Producers and writers have reasons why they never film a movie word-for-word with the book (sensible reasons, I'm sure, like time and money) but who isn't frustrated by a favorite part left out or classic dialog skipped? Why do they think they can do better than the person who wrote it to begin with?
Anyway, this isn't going to be a rant about screen-writers. In fact, we can learn a lot from them and the scene directors, for movie-making can be more artistic than writing. Authors have lively imaginations and create worlds and characters from thin air; movies go one step further with the help of digital artwork and bring those unbelievable worlds to life. I always think of Avatar; I didn't like the movie but I still remember the beautiful planet with the luminescent plants and animals, like something out of a wild dream. Unfortunately, in cases like those, a movie spends all its budget on the visual sensations and the writing is painfully shallow.
Unless you are a digital artist or enjoy painting in your spare time between writing, you have to figure out how to describe such scenes and that is where the lesson comes in; picture the night scene in Avatar when they are wandering through the plants. Jake strokes a leaf and it changes color beneath his hand; he also cradles a floating sort of pollen. Without those details that bring the surroundings to life, the beautiful world would just be a background painting. Remember the old movies that used actual paintings?
Describing a field of flowers or an exotic planet is useless to your reader unless they can hear, touch, taste or smell it. Use your senses; describe the fragrance of the lily and the delicate curve of its petal, moist with dew. Give a tangible description or it will be nothing more than a vague picture in the background.
Now think of the scenes of dialog in movies. How often do two characters stand rigid, face-to-face, and have a lengthy discussion? Never; they wander around, move their arms, change positions, touch their mouth and chin, etc. Do they use the same tone of voice the entire time? Does their face change expression with their changing emotions? These are all obvious and I think the easiest to write. In fact, I think we, as writers, tend to over-do it if anything. Our characters swing back and forth on an emotional swing and shout, growl, whine and sob too much. If we watched the conversation like a movie scene, I think we would say the people were overacting.
Internal conflict is the one short-coming in translating books to movies. Unless they do a character voice-over of all the thoughts, worries and dreams that they experience in the book, they can seem wooden. I can think of a couple YA novels that were made into popular films but, having never read the books, I couldn't really connect with the main protagonist. Internal monologue is my least favorite to read but the easiest to write. It guarantees that the reader is on the same page as the protagonist and asking the same questions. However, like I said, I don't like reading it;, it's repetitious; I'm already wondering how the story will end and hope it turns out well for the main character--I don't need to be pounded over the head with all their worries, hopes and fears..
Now to get to the action scenes. Movies obviously have a huge advantage here and until they invent some way of mentally projecting a scene into reality, we have to rely on our simple words as the only way to tell the story. A good exercise is taking a favorite scene from a movie and putting in into words. Try it. How do you describe the slow-motion parts, the close-ups? How do you create the same lingering tension or suspense?
I struggled applying all the rules of writing to my action scenes and I thought they had to unfold as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, if you move rapidly, your reader will miss something, and if you move too slow, they will get frustrated. I've read some scenes that promised action and then dragged on and on; in reality, they built suspense and tension that I otherwise would not have felt if it had dropped out of the blue on me. Think of it as a flashback, or flash-forward, that some shows use; they start off by showing you the climax and then re-wind to "24 hrs earlier" or something of that sort. Some authors start off their chapters by commenting on what was to come and then take their sweet time getting there.
But what about the actual scene? Well, I'm no expert, but there is a reason that movies use slow-motion. They want to emphasize something or make sure the viewer doesn't miss it. Take that approach; slow down; describe your action scenes thoroughly. I don't mean obscure or out-of-place details, like what each person had for breakfast that morning, but don't be afraid to establish the lay-out of the room or street or wherever it takes place. Just be sure that you mix everything together; don't start with ten descriptive paragraphs before the action even starts or your reader will lose focus. Start by promising the conflict or action; then set the scene; blend the specific details of sounds, smells and textures within the actual movements of the character. For instance, if someone gets punched in the face, mention the metallic taste of blood in their mouth instead of stating the visual fact of their lip bleeding. If someone starts crying, describe the hot, burning tears streaming down their cheeks and their salty taste or the heaving, broken breaths they take that constitute sobbing.
Don't be afraid to write what you see in your head. The trouble is, sometimes all we have is a vague idea of what happens so when we write it down, that is all it is: a vague outline. However, if we focused on the details of every scene we wrote, we probably wouldn't finish anything we started, so reserve this method for the scenes of most importance. Imprint them in your reader's mind and they'll never forget it.
Writing in such a way isn't easy, by any means, but if you concentrate enough effort and focus on each detail of the scene, you can create a live-action scene rivaling the best movies.
|If you look around for writing advice, beware of what you find. Some of it isn't helpful and some of it doesn't work. Maybe I'm just too gulible and believe everything I read but when you find the same advice over and over again, you'd be an idiot not to try it, right?
Think again. Here's some common suggestions that aren't useful: (or maybe it's just I didn't know how to use them? IDK! Judge for yourself.)
#1: said is dead.
Don't use 'Bill said' or 'said Jane in an excited voice'. Replace it with a more descriptive word.
Why is that wrong? Well, technically it isn't. However, you end up with way over-descriptive conversations. Instead of two people chatting you have people whining, crying, gasping, chortling and sighing every two seconds. It ends up distracting from the topic of discussion.
Verdict? The best advice I've ever heard is eliminating 'said' altogether. Space your conversation with bits of descriptive action to identify who is speaking or what their current state of emotion is.
NO: "I'm tired," said Bill with a yawn. "I'm going to bed."
YES: Bill yawned. "I'm going to bed."
NO: "You can't do that!" Jane screamed. "I won't let you."
YES: "You can't do that!" Jane clenched her fists. "I won't let you."
#2: Shorten your sentences during action sequences.
This one might work for some people. I sucked at it; it made my action scenes bits and pieces of random verbs. (Bill jumped; he twisted around. He swung his fist. Bob dodged. He stepped aside. etc, etc, etc) It may get the point across but it doesn't present a very clear picture.
Verdict? This is a more general rule but I think it applies to action sequences as well; use a variety of sentence lengths. Your mind will tire of reading the short, jerky pieces just as fast as it wearies reading the long-winded sentences that go on and on and on and never end and just when you're think it's done they go and add-on a semi-colon to extend the thought even further. If you mix and match it is much better. Throw a few short sentences in there, even three or two word ones. Go ahead; try it. And then don't be afraid to add some long ones as long as there is a continous thought contained in them and they aren't just bad run-on sentences.
#3: eliminate words that end in 'ly'.
AKA adverbs; instead strengthen your verb so you don't have to modify it or help convey your meaning.
Actually, this one is just fine. Unless you're a wordy writer like me who struggles with descriptions and has to throw in more and more adjectives and adverbs to ensure my meaning comes across, it is a simple rule to follow. (Same with eliminating 'very'; use a stronger adjective instead.)
#4: edit the boring parts.
Get rid of all the unnecessary words, dialogue and descriptions that might bore your reader.
Okay, I don't really know if this is a rule or not but I got that advice just the same. I thought I had to edit out any sentence that didn't 'move the story along'. I ended up cutting out a lot of boring descriptions but a lot of character development as well and my story didn't have any depth.
Verdict? I know now what I should have done; instead of erasing the boring parts, I should have been fixing them. Eliminate the bland, unsubstantial descriptions; replace them with key details and textures and smells that bring your reader into the present moment. Don't cut out the sunset with its beautiful red and gold colors but add to it the feel of the evening grass as the dew begins to descend and the hum of the insects and the little pebble that Jane fingers while she watches the sun set.
It took me a long time to figure out how to write and I'm still learning as I go. It is amazing what you can do with words and once you understand how to use them, you can bring your story to life in ways you never imagined. You have absolute power in the tips of your fingers to create whatever sensation, whatever emotion, whatever feeling in your reader's mind that you want. That's my favorite part about writing.
What are some writing tips that have helped you and what are some that hurt you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
|I walked 21 miles recently; 21 miles in one day, starting at 7 am and finishing around 3:30 pm. If you factor in the rest stops and the lunch break, I'd estimate the average speed around 2.8 mph.
I didn't think I could do it. Well, obviously I did or otherwise I wouldn't have signed up for it, but I didn't realize it would be so hard. I'm not in the best shape of my life and I wore the wrong socks, so, I ended up with some nasty blisters by mile 7. I ended up walking every step of the last 14 miles but my feet were so tender, so painful, that it hurt when I stepped on a stray pebble or sharp rock. There was no respite. I could feel the liquid of the blisters between my toes. It was horrible.
But I made it. Never in my mind did I consider dropping out or taking a bus ride to the finish. I was going to complete it even if it meant my feet were bloody by the end of it. They weren't; my little toe was blistered to twice its size but that was the worst of it. Well, that and the sunburn. It was a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky and I wasn't wearing any sunscreen.
Maybe I wouldn't have finished if my friends hadn't been along. They did just fine. Neither of them ended up with any terrible blisters and they kept walking and walking and walking as if they were just on a sunny stroll. I couldn't keep up with them the last 3 miles. I just couldn't match their blistering pace (pun intended). My legs were just as sore as my feet. I had muscles hurting that I didn't even know I had.
That night was just as painful as the walk. I didn't stretch, out of pure exhaustion, so you can imagine what my body felt like after a long bus ride back to the car and the drive back to the hotel. I couldn't move. Again, my friends were ahead of me and through the entrance door while I'm staggering like a drunken woman. My knees seized up and practically every other muscle and joint in my lower body. Thankfully there was an elevator because there was no way I could have climbed several flights of stairs.
The next morning was almost just as bad. In addition to my legs and feet being sore, my back and neck were stiff from carrying the heavy backpack. And then, of course, I was terribly sunburned on my face, neck and arms and on top of that, I had started out with a sore wrist which had gotten worse and my whole arm swelled up.
Yeah...fun times. My friends were a little sore and a little sunburned but they recovered within a day. I felt like a complete wimp next to them, moaning and groaning as I tried to walk a couple feet and complaining about my aching wrist and my cheek and ear on fire with sunburn and my bandaged feet.
The one question I asked myself over and over again, during that walk, was: 'is it just me?' I didn't understand how everyone else was moving along at such a pace with apparently no difficulty. I figured they had to have sore feet too and sore legs. Why were they able to cope with the pain so much better than I was? Here I was close to tears and angry at myself for being such a wimp. They could take it; why couldn't I?
I mentioned having blisters to my friends during the walk but I didn't say how bad, because I figured they had them as well. Afterward they were full of sympathy but that didn't answer my question: 'was it just me?' I want to know! How much pain were they in and how well did they hide it? I guess it's just my pride getting the better of me. I'm ashamed that I had so much trouble and whined and complained about it afterward and basked in their sympathy while they remained silent about their own difficulties.
Although at the end of the walk I wasn't considering doing it again, I might just to do it again next year. I'll try to be in better shape, of course, and wear the right socks and some sunscreen.
|Why do we fall?
According to Alfred in Batman Begins it's "so we learn to pick ourselves up."
That's poetic and powerful--and true, in the case of childhood's first steps and during a man's quest for self-discovery and redemption. But what about in our daily lives when we fall over and over and over again into the same silly and stupid pitfalls?
You'd think we'd learn eventually to avoid them. You'd think we'd change our behaviors and habits so we stop slipping into the bad ones. Sure we make resolutions to change; every New Year's Eve, right? And how far do those go? Mine usually don't even last a week or even a day. I know who I want to be and how I want to act but I either forget about it or I'd rather not put in the effort.
Some people possess great drive and ambition. They succeed in whatever undertaking they tackle because for them it is all or nothing. They'll go to great lengths to accomplish what they want. Then there are people like me who have the same wants but zero drive or ambition. At the end of the day, literally, they don't care enough to put in the extra effort to change. They'd rather enjoy themselves and forget about the consequences--until the next day when they wake up with regrets. Their mornings are filled with good intentions and resolutions but they fade away by midday.
Maybe there aren't many people like me. Maybe I'm a class unto myself, the only occupant of the basement in the loser category. I blame my laid-back personality and absent-mindedness for a lot of my problems but in the end it is just excuses. I'm too easy on myself. What's my point in all this? Well, I've been struggling and fighting against myself for so many years now that I'm sick and tired of it. I want these pesky bad habits to just go away. Why can't I get rid of them? Why can't I make up my mind to be done with them and stop slipping into them day after day?
There has to be a reason. Well, there is, and that's me and my epic weakness, but I mean a purpose to it all. What am I learning by falling time and time again if I can't pick myself up? I guess I know now how utterly hopeless I am. Maybe I'm learning humility; maybe this is teaching me not to judge others by appearances; maybe this is helping me relate to those who face similar battles. After all, what right have I got to give advice to someone or criticize their life choices if I can't even get my own act together?
Ponder this the next time you create a character: how does their faults affect the way they treat others? Often times the upright and righteous characters are depicted as unsympathetic and harsh when it comes to the wayward souls they meet on the way; quick to judge and condemn them. And sometimes the bad ones show unexpected compassion and tenderness. That's one reason I enjoy books and movies so much: they tell us the whole story. They show us when and how the characters changed; they show us reasons for the bad choices and the results of selfishness and greed. They give us the big picture on life that we miss in the day-to-day living and give us vivid examples and illustrations of the lives that go on around us unnoticed or misunderstood.
Life is a strange journey but every single person you meet is human and capable of wanting to change, if not strong enough to accomplish it. That's why we need to help each other on the way.
|Have you ever re-read something that you've written and said 'wow, that's pretty good'?
Yeah, me neither.
Actually, I surprise myself sometimes. Sometimes. I cringe when I read my early drafts. It's funny how crazy young writers are with drama, action and violence. I've even noticed that pattern reading other authors' earlier works. I guess as you get older and more experienced in writing, your work mellows a bit and is more authentic and real.
I'm not much for planning out a book. I'm bad at making outlines; or when I do, I'm really bad at following them. (Maybe that is why I've never finished anything that I've started! ) I always have a general idea of where I want the story to go and the individual scenes and I know the end result but when my creative juices are following and my fingers are going, I never know where I will end up. Ideas pop into my head; spur-of-the-moment conversations; bad puns or lame jokes; plot twists and new characters appear that never existed before.
I enjoy that the most about writing. Whenever a crazy idea occurs I have to decide whether to run with it or ignore it. It can set me back while I figure out a backstory for a new character or a reason for the sudden plot twist, but in general it adds to the plot. If I followed my 'plan' I might actually finish the story but what fun would that be?
I have to laugh to myself when someone reads my work and goes 'oh, wow, I never saw that coming' because in reality, neither did I.