Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Thwarting the Best Laid Plans by Konnie Enos

Recently I was reminded that the best way to make a story intriguing is to give your leading a character a goal and then throw obstacles in their way to make it difficult or even impossible for them to obtain it.
My one thought was, but it can be challenging to toss in realistic sounding obstacles without sounding cliché. Unique ones are even trickier to come up with.
Of course, when you have thoughts like that, life decides to teach you a lesson.
My week so for has been a major lesson on how life can mess with your plans in new and unique ways, or maybe some old ways, just with new twists.
Monday I had nothing planned except attending my local writer’s group meeting. Due to my daughter’s schedule I also had to take her to and from her class and we were, of course, and again, out of milk, so a trip to the store would need to be done, but both of those were necessary and par for the course.
The day was going smoothly and I was sure I needed to get ready to pick up my daughter because I would need to get her home before I could make my meeting and it was going to be a close call no matter how I did things.
Then my married daughter called.
We talked so long that the daughter I needed to pick up also called because I hadn’t responded to her text, which I didn’t notice came through while talking to her sister. By this time it was late enough I would barely have enough time to get her picked up and home and then run to my meeting IF there wasn’t any traffic.
I expected some congestion because of construction on Highway 15, but generally Highway 95 is clear once I get to the interchange. Not this time. In fact, the traffic for 95 was actually slower than for 15, which never happens. I finally get on 95 but it doesn’t really pick up and just when I think we might finally pick up speed the lane I’m in comes to a complete stand still. The other lanes are moving though.
I get out of it and eventually make it past the off ramp that is backing everything up, and on to pick up my daughter.
Driving her home we again run into heavy traffic and cars at a standstill on the highway waiting to get off at the same street that had things backed up going the other direction.
I have since learned this particular street, which normally runs three lanes in each direction, is currently under some construction and the powers that be saw no problem with restricting it to only one lane in each direction. Considering it is a main through street it is major league backed up and now that's spilling over to the nearest exit.
Anyway the entire round trip should have taken an hour. It took me that long just to get to her. By the time I got her home, any attempts to make my meeting in that traffic would have gotten me there roughly about the time it usually ends.
So instead of going to my meeting I figured I’d better make that grocery run. I had no desire to go alone especially since it involved several gallons of milk and juice.
Five of five family members were in bed and or fast asleep. After trying to cajole three of those people to go with me I finally resorted to bribing the youngest family member.
After getting the groceries put away and it not being all that late, not for me anyway, I determined I’d do something productive and work on my writing, like maybe this blog post.
I did get on my computer, but then the power went out. The first time was only for a few minutes, then it flickered a few times. Then it went out for roughly two hours. The estimated repair time meant it would be back on sometime between 11:30 and midnight.
I went to bed, though I did prepare a nice to-do list for Tuesday. I had hopes.
The day started out fine. Right up until I exited the highway on the way to my daughter’s class. Engine overheating. Again!
I got her to class, but spent three hours waiting for my husband and a tow. Then the rest of the day at home waiting for my car to be fixed. So much for my errands.
However, I learned a lesson.
When life wants to throw you a curveball, there is nothing mundane about them.
I think that’s what we need to remember when we start throwing curve balls at our characters when we are creating those intriguing stories.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day 2018 by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Two Hundred and Forty-Two years ago our Forefathers first read the Declaration of Independence to the people of what was then this brand-new country. Today everyone is busy going to parades, picnics, fairs, family gatherings. But while you’re taking part in all that fun, try to remember that such things happen in your stories too.

I know I’ve said this before, because I have read stories that have no holidays in them at all. Of course, in some the events of the story are confined to a few short weeks, they can be forgiven. But when a story covers a longer period, why aren’t there at least family special days, like a birthday or anniversary. If the character doesn’t have much family, couldn’t their friends have such days?

And of course, there are also national holidays to consider. After all, if the events you have happening occur on like the first Monday in September here in America, your character isn’t going to find a single bank that is open, possibly not even a store.

If the story you are working on happens over the summer months, why don’t you have Independence Day events in your story? Even if your character isn’t in America, if he or she is American, wouldn’t they at least celebrate on a small scale? And all sorts of things can happen during or around the events associated with this holiday.

I’m currently working on just such a story, still need to work on the scenes which happen on the fourth of July, but I do have them, because they happen. Somewhere in this story I also have to have the birthday of the hero’s stepsister because I’ve already established at the beginning of the story that her birthday was coming, as in over the summer.

Of course, my problem is, because of many different issues, its been decades since I’ve been to any events that occur between the parade and the fireworks, so I’m trying to figure out what this fictious town would have planned that would be fun for teens and younger to enjoy for most of the day. What kind of booths or games they’d have planned, where they would they be at? That sort of thing.
Then again, this is a fictitious town, so I guess I could do just about anything.

And then there is writing sci-fi or fantasy, things that happen in worlds not our own. I have a sci-fi in the works too, and I have to decide what I’m going to do about things like birthdays and anniversaries. Do they celebrate them? If so how? And what kinds of other things do they celebrate? Do they have national holidays? Do they have religious holidays? And again, if so, what are they? Do they even have celebrations of any kind? And if they don’t? Why not?

There are so many questions that can be asked, but what are the answers?

The answers always depend on the story, and what you are trying to convey about the characters, the place, etc. But I think I might enjoy coming up some holidays, celebrations, and traditions for this make-believe world of mine. I also think having such things as a part of the fabric of the world I am building will make that world more believable.

Don’t you think so?

Have a happy and safe Fourth, Happy writing everyone. And happy birthday, tomorrow, Konnie!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Of Holidays, Memories and Birthdays by Konnie Enos

Something someone said recently was one of the ways you remember things, events, is because you’re emotionally connected to them. Basically their traumatic or dramatic to you.
The specific example he gave was that anybody alive when Pearl Harbor was hit can remember exactly what they were doing when they heard the news.
I know our grandma could. She told me not only what she was doing but what she was thinking about. Or rather who she was thinking about. First was her brother-in-law who was stationed at Pearl Harbor. Needless to say she was concerned about him. (They later learned the initial blast knocked him backwards onto the dock, off the ship and to safety. He outlived Grandma.)
Second was her unborn child. She was about seven months along with her fourth child. He was born February 1, 1942. Old enough to serve a stint in Vietnam, after fathering four children. Two of which are Bonnie and I. (It should be noted he had two more children after he served in Vietnam.)
I’ve also spoken to people who could remember exactly what they were doing when they heard JFK was assassinated. There are others who have never forgotten the day Ronald Reagan was shot.
Personally one of my earliest memories, and most traumatic, is accidentally dropping a couple of potted plants right into my hands on my birthday. I still remember accidentally bumping the shelf (a not so stable bookcase) they were on and being terrified the owner would be upset if I let those plants fall without at least attempting to catch them. Both hit my hands plant down, then of course I dropped them. Not that either was very big. They weren’t. But because both were cactus plants.
Not only were both my hands full of little nettles but being my birthday, and therefore the middle of summer, I was barefoot, so at least one of my big toes got hit too.
The worst part of the day came later, when it was time to open all my birthday presents.
I could not touch a thing. Bonnie had to open each and every one of our gifts.
She picked up one up and excitedly opened it. “Oh look what I got!” Then she picked up my gift of the same size and shape, opening it. “Here’s yours.”
Rinse and repeat, three times. Our mother bought us, two little chairs, two alphabet books, two miniature china tea sets, two sewing card sets, and two jump rope and jack sets.
Each and every gift told us we were a set, two of one. Never separate, always together. Always the same. Just like our rhyming names told us we were a set. Of course the fact people around us couldn’t tell us apart already gave us that information.
The problem was even at six years old my sister and I already knew some differences.
For one thing, Bonnie didn’t find that tea set appealing. And I know I didn’t care for the jump rope or jacks. In later years I learned to use both, but at six I couldn’t. Plus neither of us liked the sewing cards which were meant to teach eye and coordination to preschoolers.
As much as we hated getting all the same gifts that year, the events of our next two birthdays solidified our resolve to rebel against identical gifts.
The next year our father’s girlfriend and her mother gave us each a baby doll. Only unlike every other time we’d been given such a gift, these dolls weren’t carbon copies. One, just like the mother, had short, curly brown hair, and the other had long blond hair, like Dad’s girlfriend. AND his girlfriend could tell us apart!
Yes, we treasured those dolls.
The next year Momma gave me a baby doll and Bonnie a teddy bear. She was finally getting the idea. However, every single other gift we got was carbon copy gifts except the badminton set we had to share. We even got tea sets, jump ropes and jack sets, again.
We threw a fit!
We did everything we could to make people see us as individuals. We still got gifts we were supposed to share, but I think that was the last year we got carbon copy gifts.
Anyway, the conversation about how you remember traumatic events, and it just being the season, it brought up one of my earliest memories, those plants landing on me.
I believe I stated our birthday is in the middle of summer. We’ve been told, our mother went into labor while at the fireworks display. So we weren’t born on the Fourth, but the stands going up let us know our birthday is coming soon.
Happy Birthday (just a bit soon) Bonnie!
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Languages and Writing by Bonnie Le Hamilton

In order to communicate, we first have to know the language being used and with the number of those in world, it isn’t always easy.

I’m reminded of an incident years ago with my husband. He was watching his World War II movie “The Dirty Dozen” and at one point he remembered that I had taken one year of French in college, so he turned to me and asked me what the staff at the hotel were saying in those final scenes. I told him I only remembered a little bit, but that I’d try, so he backed the video up just a little and I started translating, what I could of it, because some of what they said was so garbled I couldn’t pick out any words, then one lady said two very clear and distinct words. I turned to Tom and said, “I’m not translating that.”

“Why? Because you don’t know it?”

“No. Because she just took the Lord’s name in vain.”


The translation was, “My blank!” Fill in that word yourself.

Another time we were watching “Father Goose” which has three characters who speak French, two of those don’t speak any English. And of course, Tom asked me to translate; half the time I didn’t get what they said because they said it too fast. Though the funniest scene is when Leslie Caron’s character takes down a message for Cary Grant’s character in French, so of course, Grant (i.e. Father Goose) asks her to translate, which she does, but she is intentionally stalling for time, so she asks him how to say parachute in English. Makes me laugh every time.

Language is important. It helps get across ideas and information to other people. Language is the building block of writing. But what do you do when what you’re writing is in a language other than your native tongue?

I occasionally use a bit of French in my writing, not a string of words, and nothing that needs translated, just a word here or there that is actually commonly used in America. The one I use most often is fiancée, but hey, I mostly write romance. I’ve also used touché a time or two and even en masse. That’s easy; I know the words, and they are well known; I don’t have to translate them. Then again, French does exist. It is a real language.

This last week Konnie and I have been dealing with languages that don’t exist except in our sci-fi worlds. For me, my hero speaks the heroine’s native tongue quite well, but the heroine doesn’t speak his native tongue all that well, and I have both of them switching back and forth between the languages to communicate. Only, there isn’t two languages, just the names of those languages, and a few made up words.

With Konnie, there are a lot more languages, and some social rules about when you can use which one. She has characters switching what tongue they are speaking probably more than I have mine switching. And she was complaining the other day about how hard it was. I couldn’t help but point out she was one that made up the rules.

And we’ve both made up some words. After all we need the name of the language in order to tell the reader what language they are using. But I’ve made up a few words which are in my heroine’s native tongue. And I’m talking about words other than the ones I made up for devices and such in my made-up world.

I’ve another story where I confined certain words to a specific meaning. The most notable was the word join. In that novel join only refers to intimate relations (including a simple kiss) between and a male and a female. The people in my story don’t use that word to mean anything else. Which made for fun scene when my heroine, who isn’t one of that group, uses join, and she wasn’t talking about intimate relations.

It really got the hero’s heartrate going. 😊

But all this brings up the question what is the best way to deal with foreign languages in a story?

And what is the best way to deal with made up languages in a story?

Do you ever make up words? Or do you ever make up rules for the society in your story about the use of certain words, or like the Konnie did, the use of language?

Happy writing everyone! 😊

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Of Technology and Other Issues by Konnie Enos

 At the church the other day the teacher in our Sunday class was having some technical issues with the equipment she was trying to use as part of her lesson. For several minutes the lesson stalled and at least one class member left the room looking for someone who was elsewhere in the building to solve the problem.
Several of the women in the room (it was a woman’s meeting) made comments about getting one of the younger children to help.
I turned to the older woman beside me a told her that when I have issues with my technology (which isn’t often) I call my youngest son. I also admitted I obtained my first internet ready computer while I was pregnant with my older son. Both my boys have grown up with technology and at least my youngest daughter doesn’t remember much before surfing the web was a common everyday thing.
On the other hand, I think I was in high school the first time I saw a computer and that wasn’t to use it myself. The secretary at the school I was attending was using it.
My first computer class was when I was in college.
Today, I have my own laptop and use it every day.
So I sat in this class thinking more about how much things have changed over the last twenty years. The last forty. Then I did about the lesson.
Just think about the changes you’ve seen in just the last twenty years.
Internet ready and capable devices and World Wide Web being one of the biggest changes. Now the idea of not only flying cars, but self-driving cars isn’t so farfetched.
This technology can be a blessing and a distraction.
As a writer, I appreciate the fact I can now type a full page without having to use whiteout or eventually rip the paper out of the typewriter and start over. It’s also helpful that the program can, sometimes, help me properly spell words, something I often have difficulty with. And if I can’t find the word I want sometimes I can get the program to help me find a similar word that would work just as well.
It also helps me get things done, like managing the family’s finances.
The downside of technology is it’s a major distraction.
I fought even having a video game system in my house for years for this reason. (Yes, I am very anti-video games. Long story.)
People get lost surfing the web or on Facebook every day.
I spent the last couple of days doing little else but reading, though my files.
This is why my post is not only late, but sort.
I was distracted, by my writing.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Weather and Natural Disasters by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Life isn’t always sunshine and roses, and we shouldn’t have our stories be that way. The weather can sometimes wreak havoc on our lives and we should be doing the same to our characters. “A Very Special Delivery” by Linda Goodnight starts with an ice storm bringing the hero and heroine together. And I recall a story I read years ago that started out with guy driving home in a huge thunderstorm and spotting a little girl on the roadside in the glow of his headlights, leading him to finding the little girl’s mother in their wrecked car. “The Lawman’s Honor” by Linda Goodnight also starts with an accident in a thunderstorm, though in that one, it’s the heroine rescuing the hero, which I think is a nice change from the man always doing the rescuing.

I’m not talking about starting your story out with, “It was a dark and stormy night,” for one thing, that is telling. In the “The Lawman’s Honor” I know its stormy by the fact that both the hero and the heroine in their separate vehicles are keeping an eye threatening conditions outside their car, and by the fact their windshield wipers are having a hard time keeping up with the deluge. No telling needed, I can visual the storm and that winding mountain road.

Anyway, weather can, and should play a part in our stories, and not just weather, but natural disasters. I know there are stories that start with avalanches, earthquakes, tornados, and blizzards. I’m sure there might also be some that start with a hurricane or a Nor’easter.
Those stories are about the disaster, about how it affects the character’s lives, but it is possible to write a story where the storm or the disaster is just something that happened to bring two people together. I’m talking something that happened, then the story moves on past that. It is over, but the story isn’t.

Though I guess if you have an earthquake, or a volcano erupting, or an avalanche, you need more time to get past those things. (Every volcano story I’ve ever seen was all about getting away from, surviving, the devastation.) And I guess that works for action/adventure or disaster type stories, I just don’t write them.

When I write, I try to consider what time of year it is, and what the weather might be like, because for one thing, the weather would play a role in whether or not they need a coat, or an umbrella. The weather plays a role in whether or not they run from their car to the house or not. It can’t always be sunny and warm that wouldn’t be realistic.

Weather plays a role in what we do each day, it should also play a role in your stories.

In my stories, the weather helps set the time of year that it takes place. In one I have, the bees are buzzing and flowers are in bloom, in others I guess I’m not as clear on the time of year. And I’ve read some where they make me feel like the characters never even experience rain, its always sunny, and they don’t even need jackets, let alone coats.

Maybe that’s just where its set, and the time of year. I know at least a few of those are set in like California or Florida, so they are forgiven, mostly, but I do have one which starts out in California, but its during the rainy season, and involves a series of mudslides. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t happen, because I started writing that one the year there was a ton of mudslides all over the state in California.

And let’s face it, there are other natural disasters. Florida is having problems with sinkholes. Who has sinkholes in their story? 

California is known for their earthquakes. Who has earthquakes (even if its only a minor tremor) in their stories? And California isn’t the only one with earthquakes, back East they don’t occur very often but out here, they happen, a lot.

I keep telling myself I should write an earthquake scene were at least one character isn’t used to earthquakes (only knows about them from disaster movies on TV) and panics at the first tremor thinking everyone there with her is going to die.

Its easy for me to visualize, I’ve seen it. It happened to me in college. We weren’t that close to the epicenter (it was within this state, but a couple hour’s drive away), and while the house was shaking quite a bit, nothing was falling down.

Anyway, we need to consider the weather as we write our stories. Into every life a little rain must fall.

Happy writing everyone! 😊

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Graduation Milestones by Konnie Enos

One of the last times I spoke with my sister we talked about all the people we knew who were graduating from high school soon, namely my son, but she also mentioned a special event for one of her nephews (on her husband’s side of the family). We hadn’t discussed these events before this conversation but I mentioned that my daughter and her husband, who live in Oregon, were arriving that weekend (this past one) to participate in my son’s graduation. She revealed her nephew's event was the same weekend.
As we discussed these events Bonnie realized that if she had a car available to her she could have driven down and made both events.
When I spoke with my daughter she told me her best friend, who now lives in Utah would be in Las Vegas at the same time because she was coming down for her sister’s high school graduation.
From what my daughter was told, her friend’s family would be arriving for her sister’s graduation as we were leaving from our son’s at the same auditorium where apparently all the local high school graduations are usually held around here on UNLV campus.
Now going to my son’s graduation I was remembering my own ceremony and considering how much time it took. If I am remembering correctly, my graduating class was under 500 students. Way larger than the small high school I’d attended in Idaho before we moved to Tacoma, Washington area but apparently not huge.
First of all, the floor of the auditorium and two sections of chairs set up, covering the area. I think about forty rows, with about ten seats in each section of each row.  So roughly enough seating for 800 graduates!
I have no idea if any of the schools in this area needed all those seats, but my son’s school filled a lot more of them than I expected.
As they started the processional the audience stood for them to walk in. About ten minutes later I finally gave up and sat down while they were still walking in. It took them nearly twenty minutes just to walk everyone in. Then we still had to stand for the posting of the colors, pledge and singing of the national anthem. The graduates had to have been on their feet in our view for at least half an hour and that doesn’t count the time they were on their feet lining up and waiting to walk into the auditorium.
What surprised me was the number of graduates.
The largest graduating class this school has ever had, 580 students.
Then I looked at all those empty seats on the floor and I wondered what schools in this area were bigger, requiring that many more seats?
My daughter kept telling me that graduations in this area only last about an hour, per her best friend. A young lady who was raised here and has been to other graduations in the area.
I told her no way was this going to last only an hour with how long it took for them to just walk in. I was thinking it was going to be at least a couple of hours if they did the traditional valedictorian/salutatorian speeches plus addresses from various school officials and the distribution of the diplomas. Yeah, it wasn’t going to a simple one hour event.
And the program details were an entire page long, leading me to believe we’d be there for a lot longer than the time we had since we did know the next group had to be in there in just a couple of hours.
Then the programed started, and seriously some of the parts were less than a minute. Others, even the traditional speeches were short, under three minutes. Not even the principal talked for longer than that. I think the longest talk was by the school superintendent. I think she about hit the five minute mark.
And to handle handing out those nearly six hundred diplomas as quickly as possible?  
They did it double. Passing them out from both sides of the stage at the same time.
We were still leaving after the next group was already arriving so there was a huge crowd outside when we left the building but we were done a lot faster than the three hours I thought it would take when I saw all those students and that program.
All things considered, I’d say these people are well versed on getting through a lot of graduation ceremonies as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Congratulations to all our graduates!
Now we have next May’s graduation season to look forward to. My youngest son finishes high school and my youngest daughter will earn her associates degree (she is already planning on furthering her education).
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.