Monday, June 29, 2015

June 20 meeting notes

If you didn't get to go to the meeting last week (like me), then you'll be excited to know that Janice posted her notes on our very own private Facebook page. Go to the Writers on the Storm page, click on "files," and find WOTS C.O.N.F.L.I.C.T.

Don't forget--the 2015 Storming the Short Story: Dance Edition entry deadline is June 30 at midnight! Hope you get your entries in!!!

Also coming up, the Central Houston IWA Conference info is up! You still have time to register. Conference date is August 1.

Coming up in July: Anita Higman is our guest speaker, and she'll be teaching us how to create an irresistible proposal. Getting us ready for conference season! F. Scott Fitzgerald is the author of the month. If you don't know much about him, now's a good time to learn.

Hope to see everyone July 18!

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Different Kind of Conflict

conflictYou've heard authors talk about turning off their internal editor? There's a reason for that. Authors and editors think differently, and if one can't shut off the other when necessary, there is conflict.
I doubt I'm telling anyone what they don't already know, but this really is a right-brain, left-brain kind of thing.
I always get it confused, so in case you do too, here's the theory: "right brain" folks tend to be more artistic; "left brained" folks more logical. So when the right brained author has the left side of his brain pokin' its nose into his business, he gets stymied. Stilted. Stopped.
And when the left brained editor is reading the wonderful works of the writer who has pushed the limits of artistic license, he becomes mortified and indignant and threatens to yank that license away. Illegal use of imagery!
Not long ago, there was a discussion on an editor's loop about using the thumb to wipe away tears. "He wiped away her tears with his thumb." For some reason, the originator of that discussion simply couldn't picture it, said nobody'd ever wiped her tears with a thumb. I tried to picture it the way she was talking about it--a hitchhiker's digit coming at my dampened cheeks certainly did eradicate all thoughts of sweetness and romance.
But that's the way editors think. Logically. Literally. Which is how the floating body part became a bad thing.
If you picture it literally, "her hand trailed the banister all the way to the second landing" gives you an image of a disembodied hand floating up the rail. The editor in me is giggling at the image the entire time I'm striking out the line. The author in me knows darn good and well that the reader isn't going to think a hand would actually take off up the stairs without the benefit of the rest of the body. Readers are smarter than that.
But the editor says, "Illegal use of imagery!"
The author sulks and types, one jabbed, resented key at a time, "She walked up the stairs."
Can't even say "she walked dreamily up the stairs" because "dreamily" is a dadburned adverb, and you already know you're gonna get dinged for having anything on planet Earth with an -ly suffix, and hang all editors!!!
But let's go back to "He wiped away her tears with his thumb." I'd be willing to bet that a bit further up the page, the author had written something along the lines of "he cupped her face in his hands." If that's so, it makes perfect sense. Guess which finger is closest to the tears when her face is cupped in his hands. Can ya guess? Can ya? Huh?
Score one for the author.
Or the author uses punctuation to present attitude. "Wouldn't that be nice." reads a whole lot differently than "Wouldn't that be nice?" to me. The first has snark written all over it; the second sounds like my sweet Aunt Joyce in all her Southern charm.
The editor's first response is to slap a question mark on the snark.
It may be grammatically correct, but it lacks punch. Paint the bulldog's toenails pink, and he just doesn't seem the same. It's conflict, I tell ya. The editor's adherence to the rules will always conflict with the author's inherent desire to break 'em.
The flip-side of this causes conflict, too. If you're a left-brained author taking a stab at fiction, you gotta let go and let it flow, 'cause if you don't, you're gonna sound like a textbook.
This isn't just the "editor" in you getting in the way of your writing, which is problem enough. Having the editor butt in means you can't get ahead unless you fix absolutely everything that's wrong with every single paragraph, line, and word that has hit the page thus far.
No, it's also the invasion of the logical side of you--the side that looks at your line, "she settled behind the steering wheel" and whispers, "before she gets in the car, she has to open the door. No wait--before she can open the door, she has to unlock it. But then, she'd have to get her keys out of her bag. She'd probably have them in a particular pocket in her purse, so she'll have to reach into that pocket to pull them out..."
It's one thing when the editor and the author are two different people. It's another when that conflict rages within one head. Truly left-brained people need to learn how to give in to their right brains while they're writing, and keep a tight lid on the left side until the first draft is done. Truly right-brained people need to learn how to give in to their left brains while they're editing what they've written, and not a moment before.
When you figure out the mystery of how to do this, let me know, okay?
Don't forget--Janice is teaching on C.O.N.F.L.I.C.T. today, June 20th, at Lupe Tortilla's at 11:00. Hope to see you there!

Do you have your short stories ready for the contest? Get writing! We put a PayPal link on the right sidebar for your convenience, and you can find all the other particulars for the contest on the Writers on the Storm, Short Story Contest page

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Ane Mulligan: Conflicted about Conflict?

I cut my authorial teeth on writing plays for use in the church. They ran the gambit from 90-second to 5-minute sermon-starters to full length musicals. For the short sermon-starters, there was a problem and the pastor’s sermon supplied the remedy. The full-length Easter and Christmas musicals followed Jesus’ life.

My first novel was a Biblical fiction in which I strung together a bunch of scenes from Jesus’ life, interspersed with the fictional characters. There was no conflict, other than the Pharisees wanting to crucify Jesus. I figured that was enough.

Uh, no. Not for a novel. Sigh. I had a lot to learn.

I slid that first manuscript under my bed, never to see the light of day again. I turned to contemporary fiction and let my funny bone come out to play. However, I still lacked enough conflict. My crit partners (you know the ones: Attila the Holmes, Genghis Griep, and Ludwig von Frankenpen) ripped it apart.

“More conflict!” was the verdict.

But I write light-hearted Southern fiction.

“You still need conflict. Anne of Green Gables had a story question that kept it going. Would Anne be able to avoid her usual high jinks and get adopted? While not the usual conflict, it provided tension needed to carry the story forward. You need more!”

Okay, okay. I heard. I began to do deeper character interviews in which I discovered the secrets about my characters’ past. Once I found their deepest need or darkest secret, I had the basis for conflict. What was the worst thing that could happen to her/him? Do it and then go one worse.

Suspense, mystery, and adventure genres have built-in conflict by nature of the genre. They are plot driven, meaning the events cause the protagonist to make decisions.

But in character driven fiction (the character’s decision causes certain events to happen, driving the plot forward), the conflict will stem from the characters' motivation, which is based on that lie they believe about themselves.

These things, the lie and motivation, are found within the character’s backstory. That secret. That devastating childhood event colors their personality and their worldview. These are from where you draw the story conflict.

If it matters to the character, if it violates or goes in direct opposition to their motivation, it causes great conflict.

For instance, in Chapel SpringsRevival, my protagonist, Claire, wants respect. Her lie is that it’s all her fault. She lives to prove that wrong. But she’s her own worst enemy, trying so hard, she forgets to stop and think before she moves or says anything. She charges headlong into trouble, and usually ends up in a mess, further compounding her dilemma.

In Rich in Love, by Lindi Peterson, the heroine, raised on the mission field, wants nothing to do with foreign missions. She’ll serve God right here in Atlanta, thank you very much. The hero, with whom she’s fallen head over heels in love, has been called ... you guessed it—to be a foreign missionary.

Filled with conflict? Absotootinglutely!

So remember, conflict comes from within, in a character-driven novel. It comes from the characters' past, their hurts, their fears—their backstory. That backstory may never make it in the book (and probably shouldn’t), but you’ll glean so much from it, you’ll have built-in conflict.

About the Author:

President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion.

You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction websiteGoogle+Facebook, GoodreadsTwitter, and Pinterest.


Chapel Springs Survival 

coming Dec 2015

A mail-order bride, a town overrun with tourists, and illegal art ~
can Claire and Chapel Springs survive?

With the success of her Operation Marriage Revival, life is good for Claire Bennett. That is until the mayor's brother blabs a secret: Claire's nineteen-year-old son, Wes, has married a Brazilian mail order bride—one who is eight years older than him. When Claire tries to welcome her new daughter-in-law, she's ridiculed, rebuffed, and rejected. Loving this girl is like hugging a prickly cactus. When family members begin to choose sides, will Claire and her family survive her son's marriage?

Lydia Smith is happily living alone and running her spa—then the widow on the hill becomes a blushing bride. Along with her new marriage, she has a dream to expand her business by adding guest rooms. Things are going according to plan. That is, until her groom's adult son moves in—on everything. Will her dream survive her stepson?

From the first sighting of a country music star in Claire's gallery, The Painted Loon, to the visit of a Hollywood diva, Chapel Springs is inundated with stargazers, causing lifelong residents to flee the area. When her best friends, Patsy and Nathan, put their house on the market, Claire is forced to do something or lose the closest thing to a sister she’s got. With her son's future at stake and the town looking to her to solve their problems, it's Claire who needs a guardian angel.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Fun at the National Museum of Funeral History

What a fascinating place! Of course, when I tried to explain to my husband and mom where we went, they both decided our WOTS group has a streak of morbidity running through our inky veins. But seriously, where else would I get a chance to see an ornately crafted hearse or a re-cast of the Pope's ring?

1921 Rockfalls Hearse, hand-carved

re-cast of  Pope Benedict's ring--only one in existence

I didn't realize how large the museum was, but it housed several exhibits, including an impressive array of hearses and an interesting display of unusual coffins/caskets (one was covered in crushed velvet, another in coins--and one was built to accommodate a family of three. Interesting story there). But the most unusual were the ones made in South America.

Horse-drawn hearse for an infant

We started at the exhibit dedicated to the Arlington Cemetery. Our docent, Rob Parker, told us things I hadn't heard before--like did you know that even during hurricanes and other severe weather, the guard will not leave his post?

From there, we went to exhibits pertaining to funerals for Presidents Lincoln, Kennedy, and Reagan. Rob taught us the difference between a casket and a coffin and the difference between lying "in state," "in repose," and "in honor." And did you know that 105 mm canon rounds were shot for the 21-gun salute at President Ford's funeral? These kind of tidbits were priceless.

Then we did some history: Egyptian mummifying, American embalming--which became a necessity during the Civil War, when men who died during the battles were carried back to their own states--and 19th Century mourning practices.

One of the interesting things Rob told us is that the Europeans--and therefore we Americans--are the only ones in the world who mourn in black. Most nations wear white to illustrate mourning, which, he said, made him wonder what they thought of our wedding practices. 

We toured the exhibit of the Pope's funeral, also, which was simply fascinating. Well, all of it was fascinating. If you missed it, you'll just have to go sometime. Far too much to discuss in a blog post. I can't believe what all I have to leave out for the sake of brevity. You simply have to go!

The Pope and the Swiss Guard

Crystal Barnes and the Pharaoh

The attending crew in front of the Rockfalls hearse


By the way, the Storming the Short Story: Dance Edition is now open for business! Get all the information you need "here" and get to writing!