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.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Wednesday Musings by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Konnie and I have talked before about how different our everyday lives are, and the major part of that difference is how many people we live with. There is a huge difference between living alone and living with a houseful of kids and pets.

When we’re writing our stories, we always need to consider when lifestyles are different between characters. I have one story where the hero lives in what is essentially a commune. He lives in an almost mansion with a lot of other families. While the heroine lives with her aunt and uncle and cousins. This makes a huge impact on how they view the world, and how they relate to each other.

In another story I have, the hero and heroine have just eloped, but they don’t have a place of their own yet, so they are in her parents’ house, and its Saturday morning. Well, that’s a busy day for the heroine, because it’s both laundry day and baking day. And well, her family is considerably larger than his, let alone that he wasn’t the one who did the laundry for his family, then add in his mother isn’t much of a baker, and he’s shocked at how much his bride usually does every Saturday morning before breakfast.

If I’d had them living his family home, that morning she’d have been out of sorts trying to figure out what to do with her vast amount of extra time.

Of course, putting characters in unfamiliar situations is actually a very good writing ploy, but I have to point out, in the story I referenced above, I did put one character into a different environment.

Though I think most writers already know that changing a characters setting is often what a story is about. The writer starts with showing what is normal, then throws the character a curve ball and the whole story is about the character learning to cope and adjust to that curve ball.

If I stopped to analyze every book I’ve ever read and liked, I’d say that’s what all books are about. Even in romance that seems to hold, because in romance the curve ball usually includes finding the new chance at love.

Happy writing everyone! :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Problem with Mindreading by Konnie Enos

I’m beginning to think in all seriousness all men think women can read minds.
On multiple occasions Bonnie complained about Tom making plans for the day and then getting upset with her because she wasn’t ready to go when he was but she hadn’t known they were going anywhere because he never said anything. I honestly thought it was a Tom thing, until yesterday.
Yesterday, pretty much all morning my dear husband was asking when I had to pick up our youngest daughter from her class. I told him, more than once, that her class got out around eleven and I’d pick her up when she texted me.
He told me after I picked her he was going to take off, first he said one thing, then changed his mind and said another, but obviously both things had to wait until after I didn’t need our one car.
Finally I got the message from our daughter. I told him she was done but I was on Facebook and also didn’t have my shoes on. (I was in the house. Why would I have them on?)
My dear husband, standing in the room, fully clothed mind you, asked me if I was just going straight there and back. As I worked on closing tabs I said yes and he shot out of the room without another word.
Then I heard the front door open and close.
Curious I went to check and happened to see him getting into the front seat of the car.
“Okay then. I guess he’s picking up our daughter.”
I went back to our room and texted her the information and continued on Facebook since I didn’t have to leave after all.
Five minutes later he came back in. “I guess you’re not getting her after all.”
The man went and got in the car. He even started it. How on earth was I supposed to know he wasn’t picking her up himself? He never said a word to me.
And with all of that, he wouldn’t go get her even though he was fully dressed and could leave right then. Me, I had to close tabs and get my shoes on plus make sure everything I needed was in my purse. I really needed to go to the bathroom but I opted not to make her wait any longer.
He honestly never said what he was doing when he went out to the car and I knew he got in and started it. What else was I supposed to think?
I didn’t think for a second he was running off on some errand he felt he needed to do. He’d been pestering me all morning about when I had to pick her up and he’d just barely asked me about it before he took off out the door.
Personally, I saw one parent dressed and ready to head out the door without delay, and assumed he knew where she was since he has taken her to class before and I was going to take a few minutes before I could head out. Seemed logical to me that since he wanted the car he’d get the task of getting her home finished as quickly as possible.
But apparently he thought I needed the car started for me.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Busy Days by Bonnie Le Hamilton

Konnie and I have talked about how our lives are different a lot, and I know I’ve told a lot of people I’m glad I’m not Konnie with all she has to do, because it always sounds like way more than I can handle. Then Monday came along. And I mean this past Monday.

I had a doctor’s appointment that morning and left my apartment around ten A.M. After my appointment with the doctor, I went to the lab, and from there I went to pick up my sister-in-law for her doctor’s appointment.

By the time she was done, it was lunchtime so I invited my sister-in-law out to lunch, afterwards, I took her home and hurried over to the store where I got my walker, because they finally had the part to fix the seat.

Next was my appointment with the physical therapist.

I returned home around five P.M.

Not as bad as the days when my sister-in-law and I spent the day running errands together, but I was still beat. And Konnie has days like this just about every day of the week. It’s a wonder she ever gets some writing done at all. I haven’t managed much of anything since I started going to physical therapy, well actually before that.

As I said last time, it’s been an awful last couple of months, and things are not getting any better.

But it got me wondering about stories that have characters doing a bunch of things in what the writer says is a single day and making me wonder if they have the timing right. Sometimes it seems like there is too much happening for it to be in a single day. Or am I the only one who feels that way?

We have to remember there are only finite hours in a day, even if we are writing fiction. And there’s only so much a person can accomplish in a day, no matter how hard they try. It takes time to drive to a different location, it takes to get something to eat, and eat it, and it takes time to do little incidentals like heed the call nature, all of which detracts from getting things done.

It also takes time for a washer or a dryer or a dishwasher to do their job. You need to consider how long it will take, which I know isn’t easy.

I myself have a scene where the heroine is cleaning the house, and planning for lunch and dinner. But in my case, I considered how long the washer, dryer, and dishwasher would take, as well as a slow cooker, and how much else a body can do while those appliances are working. And at the end of that morning, I have her husband comment on how amazed he is over how much she got done in just a few short hours.

But, not everybody is all that organized, and I could have easily thrown in a kid or two to make it interesting, or harder for her do what she did.

Anyway, do you ever feel a writer has the characters accomplishing too much in a single day? Or do you sometimes have to pare back what you have your character accomplishing?

Happy writing everyone! :)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Bad Day by Konnie Enos

Did you ever have one of those days? You know the kind where either nothing seems to go right or you just can’t seem to get enough energy to tackle the day, or its one disaster after another. Yeah, that kind of day.
Well that was yesterday for me.
It started out as a perfectly normal day around here. Bright and early, before the sun even got up. Then my oldest son complained of stomach pains whenever he moved.
Okay, so maybe he wasn’t going to school and I would be calling the doctor.
I got his brother to school, then his sister to her school, I even managed to call the doctor then my other daughter came into my bedroom with a look of sheer panic on her face trying to get her dad’s attention.
I asked, “What’s wrong?”
“Gunner’s bleeding.”
“What? Bring him here, let me see.”
She called him in and he calmly jumped up on my bed like there was nothing wrong but I easily spotted the gaping gash in his side. I’m sure I yelled, because unlike my daughter who’d been standing right next to him, I was able to get my husband’s attention from across the room.
While I quickly texted Gunner’s Mom (said daughter that I took to school), Dad found his leash and loaded him in the car. We were out the door in minutes.
Of course my daughter was still in class and didn’t get the message until class got out. Normally she’d text me to let me know she was ready to be picked up. This time she called, right as the vet came into the exam room, which set me flying across town to pick her up.
Then there was the mad scramble to figure out how we were going to cover this.
We finally got home from the vets and I had about half an hour before I had to take my son to his appointment. Mind you, I don’t normally take naps, but yesterday, at that time, it was rest or not drive my son to his appointment.
After his appointment I had about an hour before we had to pick up Gunner (after his surgery). You got it, I laid down again.
Not that I got much rest.
My husband laid in bed with me and seemed to think it was a perfect occasion to talk. All my kids (at least the ones who live with me) were home and they each had something they desperately needed to tell me, at least once each. I think one daughter came in at least three times. Then there was the fact that the few times I’d been online yesterday my sister had not been so she hadn’t seen me all day so she called to make sure I was all right.
“Yeah, can I go back to sleep?”
“Okay, maybe if you get some rest I won’t have to take another nap.”
“Don’t count on it, nobody will leave me alone.”
She finally said she was going to go take another nap.
I finally got up to go pick up Gunner, trying to beat the clock because the normal Tuesday night activity for our boys had been moved from the usual seven o’clock time up to six.
Yeah, that’s about the time we got home, but I don’t think my son, the healthy one, even noticed or cared that we didn’t take him.
Now today, I feel sick. That could explain my lethargy yesterday.
Here’s hoping today's a better day.

Smile. Make the day a brighter day.