Archives for posts with tag: conflict and the breakout novel

You might be sleeping. Right now.

I’m not talking about in-the-darkness sleeping. Or mid-day naps.
This is about sleeping with your eyes open.

Because we can be awake but not. Conscious, yet asleep to the vibrancy, the joy, and the exquisiteness of life.

I know, I know. This sounds woo-woo, let’s-all-hum-with-the-monks. But it’s not. It’s about that elusive thing called peace.

It’s true: We want peace, love, joy, and goodness. But we don’t want to slow down enough to think in healthy ways, to focus on truth, to take the steps to appreciate, and to embody candid, authentic, correct, reliable, and sincere thoughts. Somehow, there are too many storms within us…too little faith…too much struggle within ourselves.

Who me?

*Sigh. All of us. We all fall into inattentiveness. Sleeping while awake, the lifeboat drifting and rocking and swaying on lapping water, back and forth into the habit of not being present, the habit that takes away the most precious moments of our lives, simply because we’re not paying attention. Subdued into tranquilized numbness.

Fully awake means breathing in life in loving, caring moments, free from angst.

The question isn’t so much do we want to wake, up, it’s
will we wake up. 

And because we’re meant to live fully awake, wake-ups have a way of coming to our door and knocking. Tapping. Rapping. Banging.
I hope the wake-up alarm isn’t through tragedy.
I hope the voice of refocus doesn’t come from pain-filled catastrophe.
I hope the cold water splash of awareness doesn’t come from calamity.
(Because, unfortunately, the bad shakes us and makes us appreciate the good.)

I hope waking up comes from choosing.
Because we can choose to open the door and take a breath of fresh awakening every second. It’s that primal, that integral, that elemental. That simple. (Almost too simple.)

To be intentional.
To listen.
To consider.
To feel. And deal.
To be at peace — and make peace.
To seek to understand, to give, to love.
(I want to be fully awake, don’t you?)

It’s good for characters in a book to struggle to be awake, to sleepwalk through what’s most important in life, to have flaws that keep the hero from being fully present, fully enjoying life. The storyline is the slow-grow wake-up process of the hero from flaw to freedom, and the long, slow unfolding makes for good story.

But in real life, waking up sooner is better. 

* Thup

Exposition kills story.
In your book. And in life.
(Read to the end. It’s not too long, and
this is important…)

There are three kinds of yada-yada words with high potential to turn people off to your story — and your life:

1. Backstory. Backstory fills in the cracks of the past — it’s the words that move backward in the story.

With backstory, we describe what already happened. It’s not about the future; it’s not about the present; it’s about the former.

Characters mull over what happened, rehashing events and recounting feelings. It doesn’t have to be in excess, but often backstory floods into excess — because the character is me-focused. The author is, too — writing from a personal agenda, trying to get more info out in the text than is needed. Most often, backstory serves the writer, not the reader.

Readers want to move forward.

2. Small talk. Small talk is dialogue (inner and outer) that doesn’t go anywhere — words lacking purpose.

Small talk dialogue runs on with weak, unimportant yada-yada. The character isn’t focused, direct, and active. The writer drinking the pablum of small talk isn’t necessarily me-focused; he or she simply isn’t aware, or is inattentive, unknowing, passive, and even careless with the words (ouch).

Writers who have too much small talk in the story need two things: either they need to learn more about how to write with power (learn! grow! get what you need!) — or the writer needs have the self discipline to cut text (practice… a focus on economy). Writing small talk serves the writer, not the reader.

Readers want crisp, forward-moving text.

3. Lack of plot. Lack of plot is the absence of dynamic movement…the deficit of conflict clarity and conflict resolution — in an action plan.

With lack of plot, the reader is served words upon words upon words — all without action. Characters sit with a drink, rather than get up and move.

Writers lacking plot haven’t spent the time developing a story plan — so because the plot doesn’t exist, the writer can’t carry it out. Then there’s the issue of actually doing the plan. Once the plot is crafted, there’s only so much time permissible in the War Room. We have to step onto the battlefield. Action is critical.

Readers want a pressed-forward plot, intensifying with swift, sure movement.

Okay. Here’s the deal.

If you don’t cut backstory, eradicate the small talk, and dig into a forward-moving plot, your story dies. Readers leave.

It’s that serious.

Now. In real life. This applies.
And it’s that serious, too.

There comes a time when words fail.
Talking only goes so far.
Action is critical.

The three Story Killers are also Relationship Killers.

* Focusing on the past kills forward movement in a relationship. Going backward only goes so far. There comes a point — sooner than later — where we have to get out of me-focused recounting and craft forward-moving life story.

* Excessive small talk saps the power of forward movement in a relationship. Small talk can be (no, often is) avoidance. Small talk lacks power, dynamism, and passion for life. There comes a point where we have to get out of yada-yada conversation and dig into life with passion.

* Lack of a planned plot with specific action points — a dynamic plan for life that’s lived out — ruins a relationship. I know I’m being strong here. But it’s the ignored, the neglected, and the head-in-the-sand day-by-day plodding that takes people to the proverbial end of life, death-bed moment that says, Why didn’t I do more? Lack of a plan — and of action — is the father of regret.

So if we want our story to be a good one (whether on the page or in life), it’s time to take action.

Get out of the past. (Focus on crafting a beautiful present.)
Kill the small talk. (Use powerful words.)
Make a plan. (Take action.)

* Thup

coffeeNov3-14

Stories are messy.
(on purpose. designed that way by the author.)

Life is messy.
(not on purpose. it happens TO us. ugh.)

We can make something good of the mess*
*in the story
*in life

(I “traveled” to the UK for this series. Come join me for a sec.)
Read part 3 of my guest blog with James Prescott right here.

* Thup

coffeeOct25-14

Hey, there.

Part 2 of my series of guest posts for James Prescott in the UK is up and running.  There’s been a lot of buzz about it, so I thought you might like to go here and check it out:

“Ten Life Messes with Potential to Improve your Life.”

(Let me know what you think.)

Raising my mug to you —
* Thup

coffeeOct26-14

Hey, friends. Check out my guest blog for James Prescott in the UK…

http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/blog/10-life-messes-part-1/

See you there.
* Thup
coffeeSept17-14

At its base, art is about the complexity of life.

For example.
Sometimes, we as people are just not enough. We miss the mark of someone’s expectations. Always. At some point.
It’s the way it goes.

And when we’re not enough for someone.
They may ignore us.
They may turn on us.
(They may do both.)
Oh, people. So human. So flawed. So completely uugh sometimes.
(All of us.)

A few may extend grace. But that’s rare.
(unfortunately. so unfortunately. rare.)

Writers, in your story, your hero has to get to the place where he or she is not enough. He doesn’t meet expectations. He gives up.

In other words.
Nothing works.
Nothing matters.
(A moment of death.)

It’s the hero’s decisions at that point that make your story run its fingertip along the sand of humanity.

Story is complicated.
(So is life.)

Artists draw or paint it.
Photographers capture it.
Dancers express it.
Writers write it.

Perhaps that’s the way we, as a people, can deal.
As in understanding.
As in catharsis.
As in simply being human.
Through art. Creativity. Expression.

Humanity.

* Thup
coffeeJune21-14

Public service announcement:  Writers of fiction, this post is for you.

Warning:  Contains embedded content and conclusions for the Average Joe and Josephine’s life.

(Read on.)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mounded foam on my latte is good.
(No question about it.)
coffeeJune2-14

But are bubbles good?
coffeeJune3-14

I mean, both the latte and the black coffee came from reputable shops.
But somehow, the bubbles bug me.
I’m used to a smooth, black surface on my coffee.

Something doesn’t seem right.

Fiction writers, at the opening of your story, this is the feeling you want your reader to have.

Everything seems fine.
(There’s nothing bad happening, really.)
But something — just one little thing — is off.

It’s subtle.
But it’s there.
(trouble lurks)

Even on your first page, before all breaks loose, your hero’s Ordinary World has bubbles.

In my current story, I’m in the process of putting bubbles into the story. Story outline in hand, I’m deliberately placing (“planting”) little, bothersome pieces in earlier chapters that, if you’re really paying attention, simply don’t seem right. Later on, those plants give the reader an, oh! I get it! I knew something wasn’t right! confirmation (so he/she can pat him/herself on the back for “catching’ it).

Bubbles entice the reader, prepare the reader, and draw the reader further into the story’s web.

We should pay attention to bubbles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

But in our lives, we often don’t pay attention to the bubbles. We pass over the bubbles, brushing them off as outlier thoughts with no impact on our lives.

Brushing off bubbles can be dangerous.

If something doesn’t seem right, paying attention might be the thing to do. (Just sayin’.)

I’ve been caught in bad situations because of not paying attention to bubbles.(Haven’t you?)

Sometimes premonitions give us warning (as in this article, on the possibility of a sixth sense).

(By the way, fiction writers, you can get away with creating premonitions in some stories. But back to reality….)

Bubbles are more than premonitions. They’re our brain catching inconsistencies. We simply need to pay attention. Because there’s something in our brains going on all the time, where the parts of the brain work together to signal, to alert us to potential danger.

Some call it gut instinct kicking in (even Oprah puts in her two cents on gut instinct). But there’s something more.

Referring to his bestseller, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell states, “When you meet someone for the first time, or walk into a house you are thinking of buying, or read the first few sentences of a book, your mind takes about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions.”

Those “instant conclusions that we reach are really powerful and really important and, occasionally, really good.”

We notice the bubbles. Our brains are smart. But, then again, we can blow off the smart signals our brain is sending to us.

FBI, CIA, and Special Ops persons are trained to pay attention. They’ll be the first to tell you how much the Average Joe and Josephine miss, on a daily basis.

(By the way, I ADORE Joe Navarro’s book, What Every BODY is Saying: An ex-FBI Agent’s guide to speed reading people. Paying attention to body language is one way for us to notice bad-bubbles people. And as a writer, it’s full of practical description for us to “show, don’t tell” our characters.)

So.

While it’s cool for your main character to blow off the bubble-event or clue (it makes good story), in real life, blowing off the bubble-event or clue brings us trouble we could have avoided.

Sometimes we simply need to pay attention. Because though bubbles look harmless (and even fun), and we may brush them off as non-important, bubbles can spell danger.

If something in life seems off, we need to pay attention.
Don’t go on as if nothing’s wrong.
(Take care of yourself.)

* Thup

 

“Plan B”
Just the sound of it rings disappointment.
(“This is SO not what I wanted.”)

Your Hero will face Plan B.
(He will want Plan A, and Plan A will fall through.)

He will struggle.
He will doubt himself.
He will question his decision making.
If he made a mistake, forcing Plan B into his life, he will beat himself up a little bit.
(This is what we do in real life.)

This is all good.
(in story)

So, yeah,
when your Hero is faced with Plan B, all is not peachy-keeny.
Give him angst.
Bad dreams.
Anger.
Depression.

And, finally, resolve.
(Firm resolve, to make Plan B work.)

Because we all face Plan Bs, and it’s good to have a Hero who’s like us.

Oh. And, by the way.
When I face Plan B, pull up the bootstraps, and walk forward,
it’s nice to have friends nearby.
(Do you feel that way, too? I thought so.)

So give your Hero a friend.
To listen.
To nod.
To simply be there.
(Or to play a big role.)

Support.
Care.
Love.
(That’s what being together in the big, messy world is all about.)

* Thup
coffeeMar5-14

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try,
you can’t hide it.
The everyday camouflage isn’t working.

Like this.
coffeeMar1-14
(“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”)
<<Pay no attention to the scone beneath the lid.>>

Who are we fooling?

Writers.
In good story, your Hero’s shoving down the Capital-P Pain.
In good story, your Hero thinks he’s okay.
He thinks he has this handled.
(“No worries. It’s not that bad. I’m okay.”)

But we all know.
<<he’s not okay>>

If our Hero doesn’t take care of whatever it is,
it’s all going to come crashing down.
(As I always say, good for story, bad for real life.)

We all have things we hide,
under the big bad umbrella of Capital-P Pain.

People walk all around us, sit next to us, talk to us…
(maybe it’s even us)…
All trying to cover up Hidden Pain.

What Hidden Pain is your Hero trying to cover up?
(And what-cup-lid-circumstance is he trying to put on top,
but it isn’t big enough?)

Write that.
That’s your character motivation. That’s your character arc.
Maybe that’s even the root of your plot twist.
(Pay attention to the man behind the curtain.)

Oh. And, friend.
We all carry Capital-P Pain. Yours. Mine. Ours.
Pulling back the curtain and looking it in the eye
is a good thing.
(Don’t let it get you. You’re bigger than that.)

* Thup

This morning,
the blinds in the reflection in my cup aren’t really wavy.

Look carefully at the picture below.
(The reflection distorts reality.)
coffeeFeb19-14
Too many times, we reflect distorted thinking to others.
The reflection looks real. But it’s not.

Let me explain.

Events happen. (good and bad.) We see, hear, and feel the event.
But then we interpret the event. We give the event meaning.

The meaning may be true.

Or, because it’s filtered through a reflection of our thoughts, the “picture” in our minds might be distorted. Not real. False.

Distorted thinking messes with us.
Distorted thinking makes something that’s straight look bent.

Writers.
Your Hero has some distorted thinking, doesn’t he?

He goes through an event, interprets the event (“What meaning does this have to me?”) and comes back with an idea.

Make it a wrong idea.
(ooh.)

The best story-grabbing-can’t-put-the-book-down happens when the reader KNOWS that the idea is wrong, but the Hero DOESN’T KNOW that the idea is wrong.

Our Hero heads out and on his merry way and, all the while, we readers start waving our hands and shout, “No! Don’t do it! Don’t go that way!”

The Hero’s distorted thinking disturbs us.
(And it should.) Because when you let readers in on the distortion, it HOOKS them in. (YEAH! Exactly.)

But.
In real life.
Drop the distortions.

No one wants that kind of drama.
(Think Straight. Get to the truth.)

Don’t let distorted thinking get the best of you. Because, if you reflect the distortion into your relationships, it can destroy them.
(sobering)

(Good for story. Not good for real life.)

* Thup

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