Wednesday, October 26, 2016

National Novel Writer’s Month by Bonnie Le Hamilton

National Novel Writer’s Month, or in other words Nano, is just days away meaning I’ve been trying to outline a story idea for it. Except this time, I’m not just running scenarios through my head, I’m actually writing something down. Though I admit it isn’t much of an outline, all I really have is a list of scene suggestions (unfinished) of what should happen in the story. Just a sentence or two for each scene, that’s all. More than I usually write.

Not that I really need the help, I generally don’t have a written outline, just ideas floating around in my head, and I always manage to reach the goal of 50 thousand words before the end of the month.

Nano is also another way Konnie and differ, but that difference goes back to how many people live in our homes.  

Konnie still has a houseful of people and pets to deal with and the only time she managed to write 50 thousand words in a month, her family nearly revolted. For me, when my husband was still alive, I’d barely manage to get 50 thousand words with only a little grumbling from Tom. Now, living alone, well, last year I managed well over 60 thousand words. There’s no longer someone begging me to turn the computer off, so I don’t have to stop once I reach my daily goal, or even 50 thousand, if I feel like it, I can keep going.

So anyway, as Nano fast approaches, I know there are writers like Konnie that can’t find that amount of time in a single month to write, and I even know there are writers with deadlines to finish some editing, but other than those, who’s up for the Nano this year?

Happy writing everyone! :)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Age in the Eye of the Beholder by Konnie Enos

I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think I’ve ever looked my age. Part of that is that I’ve always been small in stature, which was a blessing for both Bonnie and I growing up. We ended up behind in school but I doubt any of our classmates realized we were as much as two years older than they were. We were never the tallest kids in class and by fourth grade I was always the shortest kid.
I can distinctly remember one year our drama teacher in high school wanting to line up the whole drama club across the stage by height. He indicated tallest on one end and shortest on the other then told everyone to sort themselves out. I went to the short end then sat down and waited, with Bonnie beside me, just a tiny bit taller. There is a picture in the year book of us sitting together on the end of the stage while everyone else sorted themselves out in the yearbook.
But as we’ve gotten older I’ve realized it was more than our lack of stature but something else that made us look so young.
My youngest daughter is a good half a foot taller than I am, being the same height as her father, and people routinely mistake her for younger.
This past weekend our church held a youth conference. It was for children, in the local area we call a stake, which is a group of congregations, who were ages fourteen to eighteen years old. After the weekend was over, the president of the stake was talking to my husband and at least two of my children. One of which was my youngest daughter.
He turned to her and asked her if she was old enough to go to the youth conference and if she’d gone.
Knowing my daughter I can imagine the expression on her face as she told him. “I’m twenty.”
At some point in the conversation he turned to my husband. “Why didn’t you warn me?”
What’s even funnier is when she was younger people would mistake her, my tallest daughter, for the one in college, and ask her about it. She’s five years younger than her oldest sister and was still in middle school at the time.
When I was newly married and in fact expecting my first child, who is now twenty-five, I was talking with a lady friend who was also newly married. She had at least met my husband, so she knew both of us.
Since we were both newly married we got on the subject of having kids. She said her and her husband were going to wait at least a year. I told her we weren’t waiting, even adding that we wanted to be parents before we were thirty.
She commented something along the lines of, “You have plenty of time.”
I shook my head and told her our child was due less than three months before Jerry’s thirtieth birthday then add that I’m only six months younger than he is.
Her jaw dropped when I mentioned Jerry’s age, a man she’d only met a time or two. I wasn’t all that surprised she didn’t know how old he was. Then it dropped further when I told her how old I was, which surprised me because we’d known each other for a few years, but apparently she’d thought she was older than I was.
Too often today people are fussing and trying everything they can to look younger. Woman my age are dying their hair to hide their gray. Me? I’m over fifty. I’ve earned what little gray I’ve got and then some.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Show Don't Tell by Bonnie Le Hamilton

How do you get across to someone they need to learn how to write well before they try to finish their story?

I have no idea but that’s what I need to figure out.

A budding author asked me for help, and sent me his manuscript. In the very first sentence, I noticed problems. Starting with the fact he wrote it in first person PRESENT tense.

Now, of course there is nothing wrong writing in first person, lots of authors do. And I particularly enjoy Dick and Felix Frances, both of whom write in first person. But, well, I don’t know if it’s a rule or not, it’s just that I’ve never read any novel written in present tense, so I found that jarring, on its own, then it gets worse.

Some time ago, I had the great luck of having a professional editor volunteer to read one of my manuscripts and she informed me I was mostly telling. Now all good writers know we need to show not tell, so I was devastated, and I struggled to reword my manuscript so I’m showing not telling. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve learned that it’s a whole lot easier to start out showing than it is to fix telling.

This is the problem I’m facing. This budding author isn’t just mostly telling, he is just plain telling. 
All of what I managed to read (and believe me it was difficult to do and stay awake) was telling.

And how can anyone lose themselves in a story, if the writer’s style is boring and so clinically precise he states the exact height of every single character as they’re introduced, furthermore, he doesn’t show relationships, he states them.

If your main character walks into a room occupied by someone this person knows, don’t state their relationship — SHOW it. Have the character greet this person in whatever manner he would whether its by slugging or hugging this other person, show their relationship, do not state it!

As for the height issue, the only time I’ve seen precise height mentioned in a novel is when a character is stating it for some important reason, like a cop giving the perps description, but to state it as you introduce the character? Okay, I find that annoying, and certainly something, which would never “draw” me into the story.

Instead of stating height, show it.

Show someone who is short trying to get something out of a cupboard or, as I’ve done before, climb into a pickup truck. Of course, seeing the world and its challenges from a short person’s perspective is easy for me. :) It is harder for me to visualize the opposite end of that spectrum, i.e. remembering that tall people have to duck through doorways or under low hanging ceiling fans. I have witnessed this stuff; I should remember it when I’m writing.

And another way to show height is show how two characters interact because of their height differences. I see this mistake too often where the author indicates the heroine is on the short side and the hero is considerably taller, yet they don’t have to make any adjustments to stand facing each other and kiss. Really? I could have sworn I either had to stand a step up or we had to do a combination of him scrunching down and me standing on tiptoe.

If there is an extreme height difference, at least figure out how that would affect your characters’ interactions before you write it.

Anyway, I still need to figure out how to get all this across to someone who isn’t willing to hear the bad news about his writing.

Happy writing everyone. :)

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

On Differences by Konnie Enos

The other day my daughter’s dog jumped onto my bed and promptly threw up. Said daughter jumped into action and stripped my blanket and top sheet (all he got) off the bed and stuffed them in the washer. Good kid.
Sometime later I was walking past the washer and noticed it had stopped. I didn’t want to go to bed without a blanket and since we don’t have any spares for our bed I checked to be sure the dryer was empty then quickly emptied the washer. Then came the task of starting the dryer, but I needed to put a dryer sheet in first.
I looked for the box and easily spotted it. I looked at it for a moment. Then I walked away from the dryer and told my daughter to finish the task because there was no way I was going to be able to reach those dryer sheets where she keeps them.
As the lady of the house I as a rule set things up so I can reach the things I use most often or at least try really hard to. I have a handy stepstool in the kitchen that sees a lot of use because I can’t possibly fit everything on the bottom shelf.
The shelf in the laundry room is more like the third shelf in the kitchen. Needless to say I didn’t use it for stuff I used regularly. However, my husband and kids took over doing the bulk of the laundry several years ago and it’s no longer set up for me, the shortest member of the household. In fact my tallest daughter has organized my kitchen so I either have to use that step stool or get help pretty much every day.
Then last night as I went to enter my car I noticed that the driver’s side seat was far enough forward that I could see the full side of the front passenger seat from where I was at. My thought, no wonder the taller people I give rides to prefer to sit behind me in my car, far more leg room.
It’s a good thing that car has power seats because I sometimes use the valet parking at my doctor’s office and one of those guys has to be at least six feet. When I get in after he’s driven my car I can’t even come close to reaching the pedals, even if I stretch. I have to move the seat up. Of course, he probably has to move the seat back just to get in with cracking his knees.
All of this got me thinking about what other obstacles people come across because they are different from the normal.
I’m actually a lefty. You should see me try to use scissors or can openers.
Now imagine someone tall enough they have to duck to walk through a doorway or down the aisle of a bus.
When we write our characters for our stories do we think about how their differences effect their everyday lives? If you have a tall character, do you just say they are tall or show it? Showing them ducking as they walk down the aisle of the bus and always managing to catch tufts of their hair in the rivets in the roof of the bus is far more effective than saying they were tall.
Anyway those were my thoughts as I contemplated the fact I’m the shortest member of my household and it’s no longer set up for someone as height challenged as I am.
Smile. Make the day a brighter day.