Sunday, December 27, 2009
So I’ve had soda on my mind.
You know the feel of a cold can, slick with condensation? There’s nothing like picking up your favorite soda, feeling the coolness, and anticipating that first crisp POP! of the top. I love the way it feels when the first sip explodes over your tongue and fizzes in your mouth. Those first several tastes are perfect—in every way satisfying.
You know what isn’t satisfying? When the soda can is cool and crisp, ready for that perfect pop! and then you have to put it down before you can have the first electric taste. It sits for a while, gently fizzing, and the carbonation flattens. You take several sips and while they’re still carbonated, the fizz isn’t very strong and the soda’s gotten warm.
Disappointing, yes? [Forewarning: L.T. is going to be opinionated here.]
Well, that’s exactly how I feel when reading a story with the element of romance and the characters pop the top way before the tension’s gotten right—or the can isn’t cold. That’s exactly how it feels to me when the characters “get what they want” before the story is near the end. (No, I’m not talking about sex.)
Let me make it a bit more clear. I think the element of romance is necessary in any well crafted story, be it romance between people or between a hero and an ideal. That said, let’s pretend that I’m referring to the romance between a Hero and Heroine.
A story really falls flat for me when the Hero declares his undying love way too early. It’s kind of like someone sprayed cheez whiz all over the last 50 pages of a book. I hate it when the “struggle” between the love interests is resolved and then the Hero goes from Hawt to Naught.
What happened to that sexy guy who pushed all the wrong buttons and yet did it so right? What happened to that strong, well-formed character (not just in body) who had a definitive personality? I didn’t just spend 250 pages reading about a lion to end up with a beanie baby instead.
And the heroine? I hate it when she’s feisty, strong, and determined to get to the bottom of things only to settle for half-truths and forget all about the danger they’re currently in just because he gives her a peck and a “love ya, babe.” She’ll then spend the next 20 pages ruminating on what their kids names should be and if she can embroider “Snufflekins” on all of the hero’s pillowcases.
Likewise, I’m not a fan of the shaken soda can that doubles as an afternoon shower and makeup remover. The tension’s pretty great throughout the story and then BAM! It’s over. No resolution. I know I sound contradictory here but let’s put it this way: It’s all about the timing.
I went to a great conference last year where an author talked about the elements of romance and when to end things right. She said that you should end near the declaration but with enough space for minor wrap-up. Resolution without cheese.
In my own words, chill the can, open it up, and give me a first explosive taste. Follow it up with a few delectable sips and let me relax with a pleased, “Ahh. That hit the spot.”
And please, whatever you do, don’t put my hero in a Snuggie. (Sorry, Kristina.)
Phew! Did you survive that rant? Tell me, what are your opinions on this issue?
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
“I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet, the words repeat
Of Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.”
One of my favorite Christmas songs is I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day. It never used to be. I’ve long preferred O Holy Night and What Child is This? My father used to sing to us O Holy Night as a lullaby and so that particular song will always be dear to my heart.
So, why the bells?
“I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th’unbroken song
Of Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.”
A few years back, the church we attended had a tradition at Christmastime of letting the congregation come up to the pulpit and describe their favorite Christmas hymns. We could come up, tell our stories, and the congregation would sing a single verse to allow time for others to share theirs. It was a beautiful, interesting way to learn more about people, as well as fill ourselves with song just days before Christmas.
One year, an older gentleman shuffled up to the podium. There was an awkward pause as he rested there, shifting from one foot to the other while he looked down at his shoes. After a time, he raised his head and looked out at all of us.
He said, “This time of year is hard for me. I lost my wife last year at Christmas.” Again, he stopped and looked down. When he could speak again, he told us how that cold Christmas morning, he awoke to a home still decorated by her hand, gifts for her under the tree, and an empty chair where she would have sat.
All of these things tore open his wounded heart. On a day the rest of the world spent rejoicing, he wept alone by the lighted tree.
“And in despair, I bowed my head
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
of Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.'”
While he mourned, he heard a sound from outside. Rising over the glistening snow, too early to be out in that weather, he heard voices. Though he couldn’t see them, he could hear carolers, singing some jaunty holiday tune and shaking a small set of bells.
That small, tinny sound brought back the memory of another time in life, where he lived in a small town with a bell tower. Every Christmas, the bells called out over the city; a bone-deep ringing, celebrating the birth of Christ.
“Then pealed the bells, more loud and deep
'God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.'”
For a moment, the sound of the caroler’s bells was coupled with the cathedral bells of his memory. His mind was filled with that verse: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.”
He told us that in that moment of great despair, he felt God sent him a personal message. That bitter Christmas morning, God reminded him that it was a day of miracles—the greatest miracle the world had known—the day the Christ child was born for the sake of man.
That miraculous day was not just a promise of salvation. It was the promise of understanding—true empathy for all he might ever go through. It was a promise of forever and the truth that he would be reunited with his beloved wife.
His heart rose and swelled within his chest.
“Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.”
It was one of the few times the congregation was allowed to sing the full hymn.
While I do not doubt that many hearts were touched by that gentleman’s story, my own was changed forever. I learned something about despair that day. I learned that Christ did not just suffer for the sins of the world but the injustices of the world, also. It is a lesson I’ve carried with me through many hard times.
Whenever I feel that despair creeping upon me, whenever my life becomes so difficult that I want to declare the non-existence of peace on earth, I play this song. It doesn’t even need to be Christmas—but after I play it, I find Christmas in my heart.
I hope as you near the heart of this season—wherever you are and whatever you believe—that you have peace. I wish for you a time of reprieve from your sorrows, a calm in your storms, and a rising joy in your heart.
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime of Peace on Earth, Good will to Men.
Friday, December 18, 2009
“I am a galley slave to pen and ink.”
--Honore de Balzac
Every now and then, a tricksy little monster scurries up my spine, slithers over my neck, and curls around my ear. Hidden beneath the fall of my hair, he’s unseen—but always felt. His pointed claws knead my flesh like a cat settling into a blanket.
And then he begins to speak.
As bad as his pinecone prickled skin feels against mine, the monster’s words are worse. I know he’s a monster. I know he’s bad. But somehow…somehow I find myself believing him.
“You’re no good,” He says. “You can’t do this. Who are you to swim in the same current with people like them?” His forked tongue flicks against my earlobe, like a pointing finger, and before me are the ghosts of so many people I admire.
I’ve lopped the head off of this monster before but like the Hydra, there’s always more to replace it. At moments like this, I find myself retreating—from people, from life, from writing.
I used to think the monster was mine alone but I’ve learned that he has many cousins and they’re busy little demons. I was reading On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King and spotted one of the slippery little buggers right there on the page.
Mr. King was relating the story of getting caught at school—selling his own rendition of The Pit and the Pendulum—and meeting with the principal. She said to him, “What I don’t understand, Stevie, is why you’d write junk like this in the first place. You’re talented. Why do you want to waste your abilities?”
In this case, I think that monster found a way to transmit its voice directly. I don’t think it was alone. He goes on to say, “I was ashamed. I have spent a good many years since—too many, I think—being ashamed about what I write.”
My own monster purred. I felt like I’d been slapped.
Before I could wonder if the infestation of monsters could ever be exterminated, Mr. King said this: “I think I was forty before I realized that almost every writer of fiction and poetry who has ever published a line has been accused by someone of wasting his or her God-given talent. If you write…someone will try to make you feel lousy about it, that’s all.”
He was as good as admitting that these monsters were alive and well and infecting a great deal more writers than I thought. No, I am not saying people are monsters (although we have the capability to become them). On the whole, I believe the best of people, believe that they’re inherently good. I just happen to be intimately acquainted with my monster—like I suppose many other writers are too.
With monsters hanging off of people’s ears like Bluetooth headsets, how does anyone manage to create anything—be it a novel, music, or popsicle-stick art?
I believe in opposition. As I believe in the monster, so too do I believe in angels. I’ve had personal angels, friends and loved ones who buoy my spirits and help my find my feet. I’ve had angels at a distance, voices that carry over the chasm of time and sprinkle truths from their wings. Sometimes an angel comes through song, lyrics and notes surging back against a tide of dark and washing my doubts out to sea. And there’s the tiny angel, a whisper in my heart that tells me to believe.
Even if all these angels do is keep the monster at bay, it gives me the time to remember what I’m doing and why. What’s my Why? I’ll leave that one to Stephen King.
“Writing is magic, as much the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”
I’m filling my glass and drinking deep.
Monday, December 14, 2009
M. Gray recently tagged me for this writing meme. Thanks, Mary! I get to tag 3 other writers to participate—which is SO HARD for me to do—and the three I’ve chosen are:
1. What's the last thing you wrote? What's the first thing you wrote that you still have?
Blog posts aside, my latest project is a steampunk novel. The first thing I wrote (that I still have) was a fantasy story about a jealous wizard that trapped people in time. I laugh when I read it now. (Of course, I wrote it at 13.)
2. Write poetry?
Sometimes. Not often though.
3. Angsty poetry?
4. Favorite genre of writing?
Speculative fiction (Fantasy/Sci-fi/Steampunk)
5. Most annoying character you've ever created?
A character named Eiren Appleton. She’s a snooty, irritating thing.
6. Best Plot you've ever created?
I’m not sure. I have a few I quite like.
7. Coolest Plot twist you've ever created?
I’m currently enamored with my latest project. The ending surprised me a lot.
8. How often do you get writer's block?
More often than I’d like.
9. Write fan fiction?
No. I prefer to have complete creative control
10. Do you type or write by hand?
Type. I only write by hand when I have to.
11. Do you save everything you write?
I do. I never know when I might need it. Or want to burn it.
12. Do you ever go back to an idea after you've abandoned it?
Yes. Sometimes all you need is time and distance to see how to fix something.
13. What's your favorite thing you've ever written?
A story called Blood Oath. I’m very invested in those characters.
14. What's everyone else's favorite story that you've written?
I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask. =]
15. Ever written romance or angsty teen drama?
Not really. Although I think the element of romance is essential in any well-crafted story.
16. What's your favorite setting for your characters?
Well, I’m a big speculative fiction kind of girl so other-worldly is always a fav with me.
17. How many writing projects are you working on right now?
Three, currently. I’m trying to decide which one needs to take point though.
18. Have you ever won an award for your writing?
Yes. I placed 3rd in the First Chapters Contest for LDStorymakers in 2009 for my piece, Stone Still. I’m still shocked.
19. What are your five favorite words?
There’s no way I could limit it to 5. I love so MANY. I practically worship my dictionary.
20. What character have you created that is most like yourself?
Hands down, Lumire Dayicomé. We’ve walked a long road together.
21. Where do you get ideas for your characters?
Everywhere. Sometimes from people I see and sometimes from certain turns of phrase.
22. Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Yes. In fact, my recent project—the steampunk one—came from a dream. It’s been really fun to write and experience.
23. Do you favor happy endings?
It depends on the story. I favor authentic endings.
24. Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
Obsessed. I have to turn it off in my word processor or I’ll never make it through a paragraph.
25. Does music help you write?
Definitely. A good tune sets the mood or helps me get into a character’s head. Sometimes a good song can create a scene all on its own.
26. Quote something you've written. Whatever pops into your head.
“Galael took step after excruciating step, the film of death retreating from his eyes though the images of murder were blazoned across his brain.”
Well, that’s it. 26 fun-filled questions about my crazy writing psyche.
Do you have any questions for me?
Until next time,
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Luisa from Novembrance tagged me for a meme ages ago and I’m just barely getting around to it. So without further ado, here are my answers:
Five North American Cities in Which I’d Seriously Consider Living:
1. Long Beach
3. Somewhere in Oregon
4. Salt Lake (since I live here and all)
5. New Orleans
Five Songs to Which I know all the Words:
1. The Saltwater Room, Owl City
2. Where I Stood, Missy Higgins
3. A Sorta Fairytale, Tori Amos
4. Mr. Jones, Counting Crows
5. I Will Show You Love, Kendall Payne
Five Foods I’d Hope to have in Unlimited Quantities on a Desert Island:
3. Tikka Masala
4. Green Beans (fresh)
Five Chores I Should be doing instead of Blogging:
5. Basically everything
Five Childhood Friends I’d like to See Again:
1. Houdini (because I always wish I could.)
Now I get to name 5 people I’d like to know the answers to these same questions! I’m going to say:
Thanks, Luisa! That was fun! Stay tuned, M. Gray tagged me for a meme about writing and that will be coming up soon! Thanks guys!