Archive | September 2014

The Parent/Adult and Child roles and how they serve in our writing.

In fiction, creating conflict is key in producing a great story, one that readers will find difficult, if not impossible, to put down. Described as a crash between at least two sides, or a struggle for power, property or something else, conflict reaps drama.  Without drama there is no interest.  My goal and the goal of most writers is to ultimately change the world or an aspect of it in some way.  By connecting with readers one by one to change how they feel or think – for  the better- which dominoes outward, spreading across society faster than a cold virus during the dead of winter, we reach that goal.  And yes, we write to entertain and perhaps ultimately make some money, but that comes later.

Aristotle said that ” the idea is to create emotion and then catharsis, thus making our audience better citizens”.  By creating inner conflict that the readers relate to or sympathize with, we attain that.

In James Scott Bell’s book ” Conflict and Suspense”, he discusses this idea of Parent / Adult and Child roles as tools to help us create conflict in our dialogue.  “We tend to occupy three primary roles in life and relationships: Parent, Adult and Child (PAC).   THE PARENT is the seat of authority, the one who can “lay down the law”.  He  (or she- a’hem ) has the raw strength, from position or otherwise, to rule and then enforce his rulings.” ( Or at least in my case, to try our best!)

He continues with “THE ADULT is the objective one, the one who sees things rationally and is therefore the best one to analyze a situation. Finally, there is the CHILD.  Not rational, and not without any real power.  So what” he asks ” does the child do? Reacts emotionally. Throws tantrums to try to get his way.  Even an adult can do this”.

What Mr. Bell is so eloquently trying to say is that the writer must figure out which role each of his characters is going to play in each scene.  How are they actually acting versus how they see themselves as acting.  How will they act in order to accomplish their goals ?  He explains that writers must work that into the dialogue so that each character is assertive in that role.  But he reminds us that we must keep it tight and natural while moving our story forward.

In life, don’t we all take on each of these roles at different times, jumping from one role to another depending on the situation. Sometimes remaining in one role for a longer duration?  How many times have we gotten ourselves tangled up emotionally because of someone else taking on the child role, throwing a tantrum ( arguing irrationally, withdrawing from us, not communicating ,withholding something or a piece of themselves, etc) or even worse, because we have taken on that role of a child ourselves.

Drama comes from conflict and we have all created it or reacted to it in some way at some point capitulating us into a tragedy or  new strength or possibly both.  Personally, I have always believed strongly in  the saying “What does not kill us will make us stronger”.  This applies to our characters as well.  Conflict may lead our character to her  death, whether physical, psychological or professional, or it may make her stronger if she is victorious in her struggle , but at the very least by the end of the story the conflict will leave the reader feeling affected. And we can only hope it will be for the better, spreading quickly.

Yearning: What is it that your lead character does not have, but yearns for?

A yearning is a desire for something that you do not have and until you acquire  it your life feels incomplete.  In James Scott Bell’s book “Conflict and Suspense”, he talks about how important it is to make your lead character come to the book with a yearning that predates the story. “The Lead brings this to the tale from her past.  What this does is enable you to hit the ground running when you start your novel.  The character already has trouble inside her, in the form of yearning unfulfilled’.

Creating a yearning allows for character actions that are unpredictable which engages the reader’s interest from the start and through out the rest of the story.  Bell continues to explain that ” Some people say that what you wanted to be when you were twelve is where your true yearning lies’.  That is the truth for me.  I have always wanted to be a writer (and teacher) since I was old enough to read and write.  Through out all the different endeavors I have engaged in that yearning has stayed with me like a shadow pressed to my side, loyal and faithful, forever unfaltering.  Yet life (family, the need to pay my bills, and other responsibilities ) always seemed to get in the way.

This yearning inside your character should become a source of inner conflict.  Bell says ” Don’t ignore this soil for conflict.  It’s your chance to pay amateur psychologist with your lead character and make him all  the richer because of it’.  Touching our reader’s emotions with our stories must come from our understanding of what drives a person to do the things she does or does not do and yearning is usually mixed up in that motivation somewhere.  Creating conflict by developing obstacles that prevents the lead character from obtaining the object of  her yearning is one of the many ways to keep the reader hooked enough to say ” I couldn’t put it down’.  And to hear that statement -to me as to any writer-  is  truly a yearning fulfilled!

Removing yourself from your life to finish a book or do whatever you NEED to do for YOURSELF…

Imagine that!  You are a mother.  You are a wife or ex-wife or partner!  You are an employer, employee, boss or entrepreneur.  You are a daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, neighbor, step mother, god mother, friend of a best friend’s daughter… Whatever you are you are some wonderful person who has or had dreams to be somebody special one day.  Now, you are thinking those dreams are forgotten and locked away like old childhood toys in the attic never again to see the light of day and you are just .. well.. simply one of the above with a job to do, house to run and kids to raise.  BUT stop!  To be one of the above is amazing.  To be even one of those, and I will bet you are more than one, means you ARE amazing and have done something amazing with your life!

In Mridu Khullar Relph’s Writer Magazine August 2014 article ” The Finishing Touch”, she talks about “removing herself from her life and going to a B&B or Inn to finish her book.  “The peace and quiet combined with stepping out of my real life and into the lives of my characters not only makes the writing quicker, but lends a propulsive quality to my books,” she says.  When I first read this I felt envious and even angry.  Who gets to do that?  What mother or any of above can just slip away and escape into the artistic world of writing or any other artistic world for that matter.  What husband will allow it, let alone boss, partner, child (and I have grown sons who would never allow it.. and yes they are still my children who want to feel comforted and safe knowing their mother is there for them!)?  Lets face it, Ms. Relph, its just not that easy…

YET, she does have a point.  Okay, maybe we can not all go off to a B&B or Inn somewhere by ourselves, but couldn’t we at least squeeze in an hour or two or even a few minutes from our busy week to ourselves as a sort of escape.  To dabble in our passion, day dreams or fantasies for just a few minutes… or more.  What would be so terrible for those of us who have dreams to take just a little time off for ourselves so that we could ignite the fires of our passions, to paint, play music or write.   So that all of the admirers of art or music or photography and all of our readers of good fiction and non fiction will have the opportunity to explore, find and enjoy ART in its most natural form…

If we can not remove ourselves from our lives (I know you are thinking ‘fat chance since we do have bills to pay and kids to feed’… I know… I know..) and escape into the land of artistic creation, regardless of religion or politics, to explore and expose human behavior and thinking, then we are nothing more than the mindless followers of satan and all that is bad in the world created centuries ago who waste the gifts we have been given rather than embrace them.

So, go ahead and remove yourself from your life.. explore… ask, ….. find out.. and be… Enrich and teach.. spread the word through words or whatever artistic ability you have.  But no matter what, never give in to the silence that suppresses you.  After all, you made it this far so you must be someone special.  Now hold onto your seats as we fire up this outdated square box contraption that imprisons us and eject ourselves outside the walls that confine us and on toward the world of freedom, possibilities and opportunities.

This entry was posted on September 7, 2014. 1 Comment

To be a good writer of fiction, one should be a student of human behavior…

A good story should reflect human nature as it is: flawed, corrupt, tormented, hateful, judgmental…. heroic, generous, compassionate, caring, curious, courageous, and so much more.  “Human beings are subtle, complex and unpredictable” Fred White explains in his July/ August 2014 Writer’s Digest article. “and one of the challenges of art is to capture that subtlety, complexity and unpredictability while still adhering to story design.  To be a good writer of fiction, one should be a student of human behavior, to be ever curious about what makes people do what they do, or fail to do what they long to do.”

Human Beings ARE complex and within that complexity lay frustration, contradiction and fear.  The process of writing good fiction, and of reading good fiction, draws this complexity out like good medicine drawing out infection.  It enables our readers to vicariously experience life through the various different psyches of people, who although may be different from one another share enough of these complex characteristics or dilemmas to be able to identify with them.  By observing and studying human psychology or behavior, we provide our readers with the opportunity to undergo a cathartic therapy just as we fictionalized our own before they ever met us at the first chapter.  Our readers become our characters or at the very least feel empathy, seeking their own redemption or answers, because we writers took something universal and found a creative and entertaining way to make it personal.  And for the reader, that is good fiction at its best.

This entry was posted on September 2, 2014. 1 Comment

To be a good writer of fiction, one should be a student of human behavior…

A good story should reflect human nature as it is: flawed, corrupt, tormented, hateful, judgmental…. heroic, generous, compassionate, caring, curious, courageous, and so much more.  “Human beings are subtle, complex and unpredictable” Fred White explains in his July/ August 2014 Writer’s Digest article. “and one of the challenges of art is to capture that subtlety, complexity and unpredictability while still adhering to story design.  To be a good writer of fiction, one should be a student of human behavior, to be ever curious about what makes people do what they do, or fail to do what they long to do.”

Human Beings ARE complex and within that complexity lay frustration, contradiction and fear.  The process of writing good fiction, and of reading good fiction, draws this complexity out like good medicine drawing out infection.  It enables our readers to vicariously experience life through the various different psyches of people, who although may be different from one another share enough of these complex characteristics or dilemmas to be able to identify with them.  By observing and studying human psychology or behavior, we provide our readers with the opportunity to undergo a cathartic therapy just as we fictionalized our own before they ever met us at the first chapter.  Our readers become our characters or at the very least feel empathy, seeking their own redemption or answers, because we writers took something universal and found a creative and entertaining way to make it personal.  And for the reader, that is good fiction at its best.