Solving the Character Arc

I love to deconstruct story (fiction and film) to figure out how to deliberately incorporate the important elements that make a story “work.” Here’s a straightforward method to create a powerful character arc. Despite popular opinion that the character arc is a mysterious alchemy of emotions, careful writing, and hope, it can be done by simply inserting a few key plot points at the right places in your story.

These points will sound formulaic. They are like cartoon lines of a picture that, if you use them with some subtlety, will blossom in your narrative. See what you think.

Here are the elements: read more…

One Tough Coyote

This story is from an email I received. I would tend to doubt it… except the pictures speak for themselves.

Meet the wiliest of all coyotes: Hit by a car at 75mph, embedded in the fender, rode for 600 miles – and SURVIVED!

When a brother and sister struck a coyote at 75mph they assumed they had killed the animal and drove on. They didn’t realize this was the toughest creature ever to survive a hit-and-run. Eight hours, two fuel stops, and 600 miles later they found the wild animal embedded in their front fender – and very much alive.

“We knew it was bad”: Katie, who was in the car when it hit the coyote, bends down to take a look at the fur poking through the fender.

read more…

I Want to Be a Writer!

The story goes that back in the day Winston Churchill gave this commencement speech. In its entirety:

NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER GIVE UP. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER GIVE UP.

 

This is apocryphal, by the way, but it’s still expresses a true sentiment.

At social gatherings people can be interested to hear I’ve published books. They sometimes say something like,  “I have the greatest idea for a book! When I have a little time I’m going to write it and once  it’s published everyone will be talking about it and it’ll make a great movie too.”

Honestly, I don’t get this confidence… people know that you’re not going to play a Beethoven  sonata on your third piano lesson, or paint a masterpiece after a few months of art lessons. So,  why do they expect to just sit down at a keyboard for six months if they’ve never done it before and bang out a  bestseller that will make a million dollars? Stories of lightning-bolt authors notwithstanding, it doesn’t usually happen that way. read more…

Tempus Fugit

Old friends, old friends sat on their parkbench like bookends
A newspaper blowin’ through the grass
Falls on the round toes of the high shoes of the old friends

Old friends, winter companions, the old men
Lost in their overcoats, waiting for the sun
The sounds of the city sifting through trees
Settles like dust on the shoulders of the old friends

Can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly
How terribly strange to be seventy

Old friends, memory brushes the same years, silently sharing the same fears

–Simon and Garkunkel

They used to live in-town, but now live 15 minutes away from us in the upscale retirement home that takes great pride in caring for its residents. I can’t help thinking of one without the other – like the salt-and-pepper shakers they go together, and have been married close to 60 years. It was hard for them to move from the house they built together, and they have crammed as much as they could take of a house worth’s of furniture into a three-room apartment. While it’s not exactly crowded, the proportions seem small as I walk between the table chairs two steps into the living space with the tired couch, the stained armchair, and the straight-backed rocking chair. The furniture is meticulously arranged, if dated – she has always liked things “just so.” Their most precious trinkets are relegated to one low shelf. Just beyond the sliding glass door is a concrete patio six feet on a side before a common lawn. She, who used to grow jungles from tiny shoots, now fusses over the pitiful planter basket of flowers outside that doesn’t look as if it will survive the next month. She drops cracker crumbs onto the patio to coax the squirrel living in the nearby tree to come visit. This squirrel is fat.
read more…

Words Mean Things

In the Christian World yesterday it was Resurrection Sunday, where Christians celebrate Jesus’ being raised from the dead after execution on the cross a few days before. Why is this important? Basically Christians believe that we humans will never be able to meet God’s standard of absolute perfection — every one of us, at some point in our lives, has stolen something, or told a lie, or used God’s name in vain. Just once is enough to disqualify from perfection which by definition has no flaws at all. Since God also loves every individual person and wants to bring every single person home to Him in heaven (but the standard for heaven is absolute perfection) He sent His Son Jesus (fully God and fully man) to endure God’s separation so that, if we accept that Jesus paid our penalty FOR us then we are legally forgiven and reconciled to God. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is proof that the price has been paid for us in full. Hence the celebration.

In the Sunday service yesterday we received a bulletin of the church program. As I studied it, I realized there was something bothersome in the verse on the front. Can you see it? Take a look for a few moments at the verse (transcribed from the bulletin) before you read down.

 

AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW… EVERY TONGUE SHOULD CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER.

— Philipians 2:10-11

read more…

Homemade No-Churn Ice Cream You Can Make in Five Minutes (And You Can Make this Low-Carb/Sugar Free if You Want!)

Last week my kids were looking for a) entertainment, and b) something good to eat. Normally I don’t have it, but  coincidentally from another recipe I had a carton of heavy cream in the refrigerator, so I suggested we make ice  cream.

It was fun! In five minutes they measured ingredients into the blender, and half an hour after that they had a  yummy treat. The good thing about this recipe is you can multiply quantities as you want. This is best eaten soon  after you make it though to avoid its icing up, so don’t make too much. read more…

Lester Dent’s “Master Fiction Formula”

Lester Dent is famous in some writing circles for his output: about 175 novels in 16 years. He was born in 1904 and  started work in the 20s as a telegraph operator — until a friend of his published a story in a pulp magazine and  earned an enormous sum. “I can do that!” he said, and wrote his first novel on the graveyard shift of his job.

Dell Publishing was so impressed that they offered him a good monthly stipend — during the Depression, mind — to  write exclusively for their magazine, for which he learned tricks to turn out stories quickly. His “Master Fiction Formula” coming up in a moment! read more…

Puppy Time

Call us crazy, but our family adopted a recovered racing greyhound at the  end of October.

We went to a recovery center and had a choice of two dogs: a sleek brindle  named Perseus, and a gentle black-and-white named Reuben. We decided that  Reuben’s cuddly demeanor was more suited to us than Perseus’ frenetic  devil-may-care attitude, so a few hundred dollars later (for dog,  accoutrements, and deworming medicine) we took Reuben for a 3 hour ride back  home. Our son sat in the back and got drooled on.

Reuben was three years old and six weeks off the track. Since he’d been  known by the names “Lodwick,” “Jake,” and “Reuben,” (and perhaps others)  within the past year, we figured we could change his name one more time  without a problem. Since October Zorro has learned the home routine and has  a sweet situation: breakfast and naps on a big cushion in the morning,  chasing squirrels before a noon snack, more leisurely walks in the afternoon,  and a nice dinner and bedtime. He especially likes bully sticks for an  afternoon chew.

You can learn a lot about people from animals. read more…

Welcome to My New Blog!

Hello World! I’m happy to say this is my first blog entry and I’m hoping you might enjoy the ride with me.

I plan for this blog to be a little bit of many things I’m interested in:
Writing, Cooking, Family, Religion, and General Things I Notice in the World. I hope my thoughts might spark a bit of intrigue and diversion for you as well.

Lots to think about. I’ve just spent the evening figuring out WordPress and how to start a new blog so I’m going to sign off now… but will be seeing you real soon!