Thursday, January 28, 2010

cold-induced musings on desks old and new

I'm wishing I had writing news to share, or the energy to think of something else worthwhile and writing-related to blog about today. And another box of Kleenex. I have a cold, and have expended what energy I had today on WILLA. One more first draft scene down, many, many more to go. Which reminds me, yesterday I added a WIP meter over in the sidebar, to show my progress on WILLA. Now you can all see how slow I write a first draft!

What else is happening? After 15+ years sitting at an ergonomically unsuitable particle board desk, my right shoulder is screaming uncle. Therefore I will soon be Trading Spaces. I'm excited and a little nervous. Will the new desk and side table look as well in my house as I think they will? Will I be able to arrange the pieces like the ones I have now, or will I end up facing a wall, instead of the rest of the room and the windows beyond? I'm such a creature of habit, merely facing a different direction could throw me off my writing game.

But I've been at this old desk for too long. It's worn and ugly and has done harmful things to my shoulder... but like Mma Ramotswe's tiny white van, it has supported me through a good chunk of my writing life, through cancer, recovery, and too many projects to count. Will I feel like I betrayed it by letting my husband take apart its rickety components and send them to their final particle board resting place?

Maybe for a instant!

I hope to post a photo of my new writing space once the dust has settled. That will be next month sometime. Meanwhile I will savor the anticipation and point you to a fun discussion about the qualities of a Heart-stopping Hero on historical author Laura Frantz's blog. Go chime in if you haven't already. And be sure to read the comments.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

18C Research: Where To Go When You Don't Know

Fellow writer Carla Gade has a post today, Writing What You Know Or What You Want To Know. I seem prone to writing what I want to know, at least as far as settings, character occupations, cultures and backgrounds go, which translates to: I have to do a huge amount of research for my novels. No surprise then that I've been deep in research lately, trading stacks of books with the library once or twice a week, and finding a steady stream of Amazon parcels in my mailbox. Isn't that such fun to find those bright orange envelopes among the junk and bills, or the brown boxes on the doorstep? I get a little thrill with each one that's delivered.

While deep in research it's often hard to come back to 21st century reality of places to be, dinners to cook, cars to get serviced. Part of my mind stays immersed in the settings, clothes, homes and lifeways of the 18C.

I've been exceedingly blessed in my research for Burning Sky. This is a counting of a few of those blessings I hope might be helpful to others who cross these same research trails; the research books I have in active use this week (which means they're lying open around my desk and on various pieces of living room furniture, making me wish I had one of those nifty multiple book-stands that Thomas Jefferson invented):


What Clothes Reveal, the Language of Clothing in Colonial and Federal America, by Linda Baumgarten. This book is a must have (or at least a must check-out from library) for those writing 18th century fiction set in America. It's full of photos and descriptions of period clothing, often items not usually seen, including close-up details of fabric and construction. I have the book lying open at present to pages 66-67, in which the author discusses whether men and women really were smaller "back then" than they are today. Short answer... not so much. These two pages also detail descriptions of frontier clothing from James Fenimore Cooper's writings, show a photo of George Washington in his military uniform, and a photo of the most darling deerskin moccasins decorated with silk, glass beads, metallic braid, and tin cones, from around 1780. "The moccasins show the interaction between Native American design traditions and imported materials."

Frontier Living, by Edwin Tunis. I have a growing collection of Tunis books. They're written for children, but the information and detailed drawings packed within their pages are worth whatever price you might pay for these books. My copy lies open to Pages 38-39, where there's a drawing of a grist mill I'm using for the scene in Burning Sky I'm going to start writing in about an hour. I'd never heard of a mill like this, one that uses a small waterfall to turn its wheel, which is located under the mill house, not beside it.


Living History, Drawing on the Past by Cathy Johnson. This gem of a book, by a period re-enactor/artist, has been invaluable in creating my naturalist character, Neil MacGregor. In these pages can be found drawings of the "Equipment of an Artist, Topographer, Spy, Naturalist, (or other Scientist) and including Various Writing Accoutrements and tools to Boost Vision." As well as the "more Common Accoutrements such as those of the Middling Sort might find of Use, including Pistols, Shooting Bags, Lanterns, Horn goods, Cookware and the Like." I keep this book handy at all times, so I can outfit Neil whether he's going to the edge of the cabin yard to sketch a bit, or making a long-term foray in the wilderness, or walking to the nearest village.

Adirondack Upland Flora by Michael Kudish is another handy book I keep close by, both for describing a landscape that I'm not familiar with firsthand (the Mohawk Valley and southern Adirondacks), and for Neil's benefit. He's a natural philosopher (as they called themselves in the 18C), and so he knows his plants. And he knows them in Latin. I sure don't. Thanks, Michael Kudish, for compiling them all in one place, with clear explanations of the various types of forests that grow at different elevations, and some gorgeous photos, too!

 
Forgotten Allies, The Onieda Indians and the Amercian Revolution, by Joseph T. Glatthaar and James Kirby Martin. I'm finding a lot of what I need to know about the early missionaries among the Mohawk Indians in a book largely about the Oneida nation. At this time period, just before and during the Revolutionary War (Burning Sky picks up at the end of the war, in 1784), the Oneida tribe was rife with conflicts between traditionalist who wanted nothing to do with the Europeans or the American colonists, and those who had embraced the good-works-based religion of the Anglican Church, and those who had embraced New Light Christianity (salvation based on spiritual rebirth and a relationship with Christ). This information has heavily informed the back story of two of my main characters.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Listen to the Book

For the past few weeks I've had the book Madeleine L'Engle {Herself} sitting on my bedside table (which supports my 3-tiered To Be Read pile), and each night I read a handful of entries. The book is set up a little like a writer's devotional, with a quote from L'Engle on each page, most of them a couple of paragraphs or a page in length. It being Sunday, I thought I'd share a couple of excerpts from a passage that particularly resonated with me from yesterday's reading.

Listen to the Book

Slowly, slowly, I am learning to listen to the book, in the same way I try to listen in prayer. If the book tells me to do something completely unexpected, I heed it; the book is usually right. If a book like this present one... pushes me to write it, I have no choice except to pay attention.


All I can do, as far as activism is concerned, is to write daily, read as much as possible, and keep my vocabulary alive and changing so that I will have an instrument on which to play the book if it does me the honor of coming to me and asking to be written.
"An instrument on which to play the book."

Selah.

[pg 217, Madeleine L'Engle {Herself}, Reflections on a Writing Life, compiled by Carole F. Chase]

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Amorphous Settings (and one way to give them shape)

Ever felt while trying to move your characters through a new setting that you were seeing it through a glass darkly, obscured by a soupy fog, maybe even through a black-out window?

It so happens I'd been inching my way toward a chapter in which my main character, Willa, enters a frontier village, hardly more than a hamlet really, one she knew well as a child. I've known this chapter was coming for weeks now, had taken down a few notes about the village, who might be living there, what sort of buildings it might boast, but the setting remained stubbornly amorphous. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed a scrap of paper and a pencil and started drawing a map. It came out very crude, and in laughable scale. There are looping lines for a creek and a river and the main track, little squares for cabins and trade shops. Sets of lines for garden plots.

With this crude map in hand, I lay down on the floor by my desk and walked through the village in my mind. Not only did the physical aspects of the terrain and various structures at last come clear, but the people in them; a shopkeeper and his ancient Irish mother (and most of their life story!), a blacksmith, the miller, a cooper, various farmers and no-good layabouts lounging in store/tavern. I saw where half the old village had been burned by the British and Joseph Brant during the War, places new structures now stand, which old structures survived the razing unscathed or partially burned, where the footpaths lead, where the creek can be forded, in what direction lay key outlying farmsteads... and on and on. All from a rough pencil sketch.

Finally knowing what the tiny village included helped me know in what direction to do further research, like just what sort of grist mill such a village might have, so I can add in bits of description as Willa sees it again for the first time in twelve years. Or a lifetime, which is how it feels to her.

Having trouble establishing a setting? Try a map. I've never needed one before, but in this case it worked its magic.

photo by ixycreativity/flickr

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Flashbacks

I didn't post my usual Monday post yesterday because I spent the day on a date with my husband, though I'm willing to bet our dates are a bit unusual. He had the day off work, so we spent it in the mountains with our dog and our bows, bundled against a cold wind and intermittent spit of rain, walking logging roads and shooting arrows at stray cans--and collecting them for their five cent deposit on our way out. It was my first time out since I got glasses. I'm a better shot than I'd thought I was the past few years while I was in denial about my deteriorating eyesight. I see up close just fine, but after about ten feet things start to blur now. 

But on to the topic of this post: flashbacks, the kind that happen in fiction writing. Recently I responded to a questioner on a writing loop who asked about techniques other writers used in writing flashback scenes. This is the answer I gave, listing the three main techniques I use.

1. If necessary for clarity, include a line in the narrative that indicates the POV character is about to have a flashback. Skip a line, as though beginning a new scene. Write the flashback in past tense. Skip a line. Pick up with the previous scene or move on to a new one, whichever is appropriate.

2. Do all of the above, except write the flashback scene in present tense. I've done this a few times after encountering the technique in a novel called The Bronze Horseman . I found that present tense lends immediacy to flashbacks (especially short ones), making them feel more urgent, more important to the present story.

3. Don't skip a line, but signal the transition into flashback by the use of had. You only need one or two of them. Then you can drop the usuage and write the flashback as you would any past tense scene. No need to use the word had in every sentence, the reader knows they are still in flashback. Then, when you are about to transition back into the present scene, use one or two more hads to signal that transition. Occasionally I've started a flashback like this, sliding into it with a few hads, but the transition back didn't work smoothly. In that case I ended it, skipped a line, and picked back up with the current scene.

Those are the three main techniques I use for writing flashbacks. Are any of them new to you? Have you encountered others, or used other techniques in your writing? Leave a comment. I'm always eager to learn new craft techniques, which I'm sure is true of every writer. And if I need to, I'll clarify my explanations.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

High Calling

More great devotional thoughts from Marcia Laycock, at Novel Matters blog today.

http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/2010/01/few-good-questions.html
"It is a high calling, one not to be taken lightly, one not to be used to grow our own egos but to act as the conduit for God's purposes. He has purposes for our words -- purposes that involve people we may never meet...."

Friday, January 15, 2010

How I Write a Novel

Last post I wrote a bit about my struggle to write again after chemotherapy, and how different my process was compared to how I wrote before chemo. Now that I'm on my second novel since that period, I'm noticing my writing process edging back toward the old pattern. I made the decision to write WILLA as linear as I could manage, just to see if I can do it. I'm no rule stickler and won't adhere to this plan if it starts to hinder, or squelches the joy. I still say do what works, whatever gets those words onto the screen... today.

As to my method, if you're at all interested, read on....

I can best liken my method of getting those words out to laying railroad Tracks... while the Train is coming down the line behind me. Usually not very far behind me. In the beginning, after I've mulled over story ideas and characters and started a bit of research, I begin jotting down notes (nothing so formal as to be called an outline or synopsis), about scenes or characters or plot turns I feel pretty sure need to happen in order to tell the story. I place these notes in a file in roughly story order, but it's hard to know what that should be (should character A be introduced before characters B and C? I insert the corresponding notes where I think they should go. I can change them later).

Concurrent with these rough plot notes, I start creating character files, in which I write everything about the main characters I can think of, appearance (including a photo if I can find an actor who closely resembles them), attitudes, hang-ups, strengths, back stories, and the core issue that's going to drive their story arc through the book (if I even know what it is at this point; often it's still hazy). I do this to a lesser degree for secondary characters. Even some minor ones.

For several weeks I tweak and modify all these files, while doing historical research that helps me add to the plot out line, and form a time line for the story, and also for the back story (or those events that have most impacted the characters and made them who they are by the time they show up in the novel). I call this part Laying Tracks.

At some point in the process I looked up and see a Train coming. This is the Story, and it means I better start writing it. Now. This is the first big leap of faith for me. My characters aren't yet fully formed. Some of their motivations are hazy. There are gaping holes in the plot. I haven't done the half of the research I'll need to do. But that can't be helped. While laying the Tracks I've also, subconsciously, been stoking the fires in that Train engine and like it or not it's on the move. I can see that first scene. I hear Willa's voice, I see what she sees and what's making her heart ache, and what she wants but is afraid to admit or hope for. And I see what's in her path keeping her from getting to the place she thinks she needs to be.

This is a wonderful, frightening, energizing moment. For a day or two I abandon the Tracks and write. But that only stokes that engine to make the Train go faster. Before it derails, I jump off and lay more Track. I plot out the second chapter (which my subconscious has been working on while I wrote the first few scenes), told from a different character's POV, and maybe a little of the third chapter, too. And way on down the line I see something that needs to occur, so I jot that down in the outline, which at odd moments has been growing in detail as I research, and as notions come to me.

Then I rush back and stoke the engine fires again before the Train comes to a complete halt. Chapter Two gets written. Then I go back to laying Tracks for Chapter Three, Four. I'm getting a better sense of these characters now, who they are, their backstory, what sort of people they will grow into over the course of the story. I get a few 5 x 7 cards and write down the revised Character Arcs for all my main characters, and some secondary ones. I'll keep those in a prominent place on my desk to be sure I'm staying true to those arcs, or to change them if the character shows me I had them all wrong to begin with.

If I simply can't figure out a character, I'll write a journal entry for them, in first person, and let them vent and whine about the unfairness of life, if that's what they need to do, or just spill their heart and their hopes out, knowing no one is ever going to read what they're writing (I don't count). I fully expect that by the time this Train and Track all come together at the end of the line, I'll still be discovering who these characters are, and the process will continue through the editing phase.

This is more or less How I Write a Novel, as of January 15, 2010. If it sounds exhausting and unstructured, it is. It's also exhilarating and absorbing.

Anyone else have a method remotely similar?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Whatever Works

In March of 1999 I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was working on a novel at the time, but set it aside to focus on getting well, even though an editor at a major CBA publishing house had called me on the basis of a proposal and was interested in seeing more.

Fast forward to the end of that year. My treatment had ended and I was ready to get back to writing. While I'd come through chemotherapy and radiation treatment suffering few side effects (lost my hair and had a bit of mouth pain), it wasn't until I was through it all that I encountered what would prove to be the most difficult struggle. Chemo fog.

It's a common side effect, but one I wasn't warned about, and therefore unprepared for. For many months I struggled to write again, thinking I had simply lost my discipline. Concentration was difficult. Short term memory was shot. I would spend time developing story threads in the current chapter only to read back over earlier work and find I had already done so, weeks prior. What direction the story should go was suddenly foggy. The story ground seemed to shift under my feet. After several months of spinning my wheels in the mess I was making, I gave up.

It would be five years and several false starts later before I began writing the type of novel that is my passion, sprawling epic historical fiction. I believe God healed me in April of 2004, when I embarked on the journey of writing KINDRED (with encouragement from the same editor who had been interested in my previous novel, who had by then become my friend). It truly felt like a switch had been flipped in my brain, and what for five years had been stuck on OFF, was suddenly ON. But with some differences.

I could not for the life of me write the story in a linear form. From 1991 -- 1999, my writing years before chemo (BC), I had written every story from Chapter 1 through to the end. My post-chemo brain didn't want to work that way. I could see vividly several key scenes and knew they belonged in the story, but they felt like scenes from the middle of a book, not the beginning.

Instead of worrying about it, I decided to embrace the thrill of seeing and hearing characters talking in my head again and went ahead and wrote those scenes. Then I wrote a few more. Eventually the scenes began hooking up. Bits of outline filled in the blank spots. Maybe a year into the process I knew where the story started. I showed up for work each day and the outline kept building. Scenes got written. I found The End and a sprawling 325,000 word novel was finished (which needed to be severely edited, but that's another story told in other posts!).

My goal during this process, which took a little over five years, was to do on any given day whatever it took to keep me writing, to keep myself enthusiastic about the story so that I wanted to show up again the next day, and the next. If that meant abandoning a scene half finished to write another that was speaking with a louder voice, so be it. If that meant leaving the beginning of the novel a blank for a year or longer, so be it.

It worked for me. I'm still writing. But doing whatever it took made the writing of KINDRED a longer process than I would have liked. Hoping for a shortcut with the next book, WILLA, I tried to go about some plotting beforehand. Not that I hadn't done any plotting with KINDRED. Just not nearly so much as I'd have done BC. With WILLA, I tried several different story plotting methods that authors I respect have praised. They either left me frustrated, or worked to a point and then... didn't.

Each writer is unique. Not every story plotting method is going to work for everyone. For some (like me, apparently), no method is going to work but the one you piece together over time. By all means try another writer's method for plotting a novel, or building a character, if this is something you feel you need. If it helps you corral those story people in your head and get them headed in the right direction, great. If it doesn't, don't despair, and don't entertain thoughts of failure.

I'm writing WILLA linear. It's working well so far, I think in large part because I've been writing regularly now since 2004, and it's become habit again. I'm no longer desperate to keep myself writing. It's what I get up in the mornings to do. What I think about doing when I go to sleep at night.

So what's the plotting/writing process look like for me? I'll write about it in my next post. This one's long enough and I hear some story people calling....

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Gift of Serving


This morning I intend to get to work a little earlier than is normal for me, so I'm going to keep my blog post short (but hopefully sweet). I want to share a few quotes from Madeleine L'Engle. I seem to be doing that a lot lately. These are taken from the book Madeleine L' Engle {Herself}, a compilation of the author's quotes on the writing life, her own works, and faith. These are taken from the section Serving the Gift.


No Work Is Too Small
If the work comes to the artist and says, "Here I am, serve me," then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve. The amount of the artist's talent is not what it is about. Jean Rhys said to an interviewer in the Paris Review, "Listen to me. All writing is a huge lake. There are great rivers that feed the lake, like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky. And there are mere trickles, like Jean Rhys. All that matters is feeding the lake. I don't matter. The lake matters. You must keep feeding the lake."

To feed the lake is to serve, to be a servant.... To serve should be a privilege, and it is to our shame that we tend to think of it as a burden, something to do if you're not fit for anything better or higher.

I have never served a work as it ought to be served; my little trickle adds hardly a drop of water to the lake, and yet it doesn't matter; there is no trickle too small. Over the yeas I have come to recognize that the work often knows more than I do. And with each book I start, I have hopes that I may be helped to serve it a little more fully.

Prepare for Sacrifice
A book may come to me and ask to be written, but it takes time and energy and considerable pain to give birth to even the most minor of stories. The life of the artist is as much a life of discipline as that of the physician or the missionary. It makes incredibly austere and difficult demands. Are you willing to make the sacrifice? Don't worry if you're not.... Not everyone who writes is called on to make this work a vocation; but if you feel that you are called, then I can promise you great joy as well as conflict and pain.

The Gift of Wholeness
The important thing is to recognize that our gift, no matter what the size, is indeed something given to us, for which we can take no credit, but which we may humbly serve, and, in serving, learn more wholeness, be offered wondrous newness.

Picasso says that an artist paints not to ask a question, but because he has found something, and he wants to share--he cannot help it--what he has found.

Now may the God of all grace (who delights in the telling of stories) renew our spirits and strengthen our minds and hearts to serve whatever work is calling us to give it life through words. Amen!

Friday, January 08, 2010

On The Road Again


The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can.
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And wither then? I cannot say.

~ The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien
The road to publication, from what I've observed, is composed of long-distance endurance runs, a few sprints sprinkled in, then periods of pausing to wait. And wait, and wait. For some, publication has happened, but the road goes on, with more long-distance runs, more sprints, often more waiting. At the moment I'm engaged in waiting (KINDRED) and running (WILLA), a mental image that bends this writing/road journey analogy back on itself like a pretzel, but never mind!

There are lots of other writers on this road, each running their own race. No one is in competition with anyone else. We run against ourselves. Or that's how it should be, and how I want it to be for me. Recently I had an email conversation with a writer friend, about reading novels by writers who we see as having traveled farther down that road of learning and perfecting the craft than we have. Then there are those writers who seem to have started out with more natural talent than we could ever hope to possess no matter how hard we train.

When I've encountered such novels, I've noticed a pattern of response. Part of me is thrilled to have found a writer that stirs in me a longing to have written that book, that passage, that sentence, even that phrase. And another part of me simply, basely, is envious. There usually comes a moment of thinking "why do I even bother? I'll never be this good." But that brief discouragement is quickly replaced by, "But maybe I could be...." And I'm fired up to do that much better with my own writing. To dig deeper into character, or pay more attention to craft, to throw out that tired simile and find a fresh one, one that only my character, in her time and place and circumstances, would use. To do my utmost to (in the words of Madeleine L'Engle) "serve the work."

And I think this is a perfectly natural part of the growth process, as a writer. I won't say don't compare, because I don't think that's possible. I can't help but do so with nearly every historical I read, but it's important to keep a right perspective when I do. When I compare myself to another writer and feel my own work is wanting, I try to figure out exactly what they're doing that I want to be doing and if I can, let it expand my horizon. Are they using dialogue more suited to the time period than I do? Then I need to refresh my inner ear by reading a few more letters or journals from the time period, to better capture its flavor. Is there such rising tension, chapter by chapter, that I can't stop turning the pages? Then I need to study how they pulled it off, and probably read all the Tension chapters in my writing craft books again.

I accept that this writing journey is a never-ending road. Seeing other writers way ahead of us on the journey shouldn't discourage, but inspire, and provide a point to aim for (and not with our arrows!). I want to be stretched, painful as that can be sometimes. Reading prose that sparkles and sings and fills me with joy and reminds me why it is I ever wanted to write a book in the first place is one of the best means I know of to make it happen.

If the work comes to the artist and says, "Here I am, serve me," then the job of the artist, great or small, is to serve.... And with each book I start, I have hopes that I may be helped to serve it a little more fully.  ~ Madeleine L'Engle

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Look at me

While writing Kindred I had cause to do some small research into the history and life ways of two First Nations tribes, the Cherokee of the southern Appalachians, and the Ojibwe (Chippewa) of the Great Lakes region. My new WIP, Willa, is requiring much more thorough research into the tribes that once inhabited (and still do!) the large tract of land now called New York. These are the original five nations comprising the Haudenosaunee, or the Iroquois League, the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida and Mohawk, brought together hundreds of years ago by the Great Law of Peace, and held together, until the conflicts of the Revolutionary War succeeded in tearing them apart (though today they are again a united league). 

Though my current research is focused on the Iroquois, particularly the Mohawk and Oneida, two tribes that for the most part chose opposing sides in the Revolutionary War, I've spent considerable time refreshing my knowledge of the overarching history of the First Nations tribes of North America, and the violent progression of the colonial and 19th century frontier advancement across the continent. It is not often a pleasant subject, and always I'm left with an aching heart. Yet it's a subject that has held my fascination from my earliest childhood memories.



Recently I came across a site called First People. Among much else, this site contains a wealth of historical photographs of Native Americans, most of which I'd never seen. There are hundreds of them, if not thousands.


Main page for the First People website.

The Index for Photographs of Native American People.

It's a large Index with galleries labeled A thru H. These are fascinating and heart-touching images. Those whose names are known are listed alphabetically in each gallery.

There's much more about First Nations history on this site, but the photos alone make it a treasure trove. Enjoy!
Why don't you look at me, smile at me? I am the same man. I have the same feet, legs, and hands, and the sun looks down on me a complete man. I want you to look and smile at me. ~ Geronimo

Monday, January 04, 2010

We don't need another hero... do we?

I recently wrote a chapter in WILLA in which an important secondary character is introduced, and his prior relationship to my female protagonist is explored a bit. By the time I finished the chapter, I was so enamored of this new character I was feeling unfaithful to my male protagonist! Which raised a question in my mind.

QUESTION: What does an author do when a secondary character looks to be out-heroing the hero of her current WIP?

ANSWER: If reasoning with him, promising him his own book if he behaves himself in this one, and outright pleading fail to reduce him to more manageable stature... go ahead and let him give being the hero his best shot. Don't hold him back.

Why? I think it will make for a better story in the end by forcing me to make my male protagonist's character arc that much stronger. We need to give our characters seriously intimidating obstacles to overcome to reach their goals and see their hopes and desires fulfilled, right? Otherwise we have a flat, ho-hum story.

Donald Maas (agent, teacher, author of THE FIRE IN FICTION) instructs writers to "make it worse" for our characters. A likeable secondary character who is a rival for a love interest, or a job position, or whatever it is the hero or heroine wants, is as great an obstacle as an antagonist who is actively working against the character.

Many of my favorite stories are peopled with strong secondary characters who don't quite steal the spotlight from the main ones, but come awfully close at times, causing me to wonder just who is going to win out (that's unpredictability, a good thing in a novel). They also leave me thinking of them long after the book is finished and put on the shelf. A recent example is Laura Frantz's THE FRONTIERSMAN'S DAUGHTER.

So my secondary character can be as heroic as he wants to be, and may he stretch me as a storyteller in the process.

Ever had a secondary character loom larger than your hero or heroine? How did you handle it? Did it change the story you were telling, or were you able to keep them in their proper place? Did you go on to write a book just for them?

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Hopeful Future

I love to read the Sunday devotional writings at the Novel Journey blog. Marcia Laycock's posts never fail to encourage me. They're like a little compass, pointing me straight to the Author of our Salvation, who has a plan for each of us that's working out, right this very moment.

Take a moment to read her post today, Future Tense.
"God has a plan and it's a good one. He knows what books I'll write and what He'll do with them. He knows what audience's I'll speak to and how he'll direct my words to their hearts and minds and accomplish His purposes." ~ Marcia Laycock

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11