What’s the Problem


POSTCARDS FROM THE MUSE

 

What’s the Problem

By Nandy Ekle

You have people and these people speak. But what do they do? 

I used to feel rebellious when someone said, “What do they want. They all must want something.” I always believed that a story was simply about what the characters were doing. But then I realized there was no depth to a story where characters just walk around doing things and talking to each other. There has to be a reason for that they do and say.

This reason is your plot. 

This thing the character wants is what drives the story. And it doesn’t even have to be a conscious thing. It can be a goal they don’t realize they have, like surviving a bad storm. But there is a goal. 

One of the best examples of goal-driven plot, in my opinion, is the Harry Potter series. At first, Harry has a goal he doesn’t realize he has, but this goal continues with him all through the series. The goal becomes more apparent to him through the story, and by the end, he is so committed to this goal that he’s willing to pay the ultimate price.

Your homework is to analyze your favorite story for the deepest goals. Tell me what you discover in the comments below.

Timeless


Outtakes 208

Timeless

by Cait Collins

 

Do you ever wonder why certain books, plays and poetry are still taught in school? I have a theory. The classics were written by men and women who perfected their craft. They didn’t rest on laurels; instead they invested time in making the next work better.

Students groan when they open Julius Caesar but the story is still worth telling. The characters have the same concerns as men and women today. We have issues with government and power grabbing.

Mark Twain revealed a dark time in American history. TOM SAWYER AND HUCKLEBERRY FINN did not necessarily defend slavery. The stories revealed a truth that can bring about change. Tom and Huck are so right as boys in the late 1800’s. I’ve met a few shysters who could pull off the whitewashing of the fence with a wink and a smile.

JANE EYRE depicts the times when men ruled and women held a second class status. But it also shows the growth of a young woman beyond the customary role to become a strong and faithful lady of means.

Then there are new classics. I truly believe the Harry Potters series will stand the test of time. After all daring deeds and heroic action will always be popular. And like the previously noted volumes, the Potter books will be part of my library. As will Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series, Craig Johnson’s LONGMIRE stories, and Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Dark Hunters.

These authors and others like them found the formula for success. They developed memorable characters, had good stories and plots. They employed the basis of grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Above all, they wrote for the reader and not just for themselves.

What books are in your library? Is there a mixture of old and new? Are the covers pristine or worn? Are there some volumes that are dog-eared and faded from handling? I do hope your library is just like mine. I hope you have a mixture of everything and you read and reread your old favorites and acquire new favorites. After all, good writing never goes out of style.

 

Word Play


Outtakes 170

 

Word Play

By Cait Collins

 

Halloween is a big deal at our office. Every year there’s a costume contest and a food contest. Work teams spend time planning great costumes. One year the Harry Potter gang lost to a school of fish “swimming” in an aquarium. And if you think the costumes are wild, you should see the food entries. The entries must be edible, but a vomiting pumpkin?

But let’s get back to the costumes. My team is a correspondence team, so we are working on costumes based on plays on words. There are some clever ideas floating around: First Class Mail, Bag Lady, Pig in a Blanket, Identity Thief; Serial Killer; Fruit Loop, Book Fairy, and Formal Apology.

So here’s the challenge. Think of a play on words or a pun and write a description of the costume. This is my entry. She is beautiful. Her hair is professionally dyed and styled in an up-swept do. Wisps of blonde hair caress her face. Make-up is skillfully applied so that her complexion is flawless. A soft blush tints her cheeks. She struts down the aisle in a form-fitting evening gown of deepest black decorated with varying sizes and shapes of silver nines. She is Dressed to the Nines.

What Keeps You From Success?


What Keeps You From Success?

By Rory C. Keel

What holds you back from your writing success? Is it a rule of some kind that limits how or what you write?

Where are all the stories you thought might make a good book, short story, poem, or song? The ideas you have actually put down on paper or typed? Are they now aged, sitting hidden in a file on your computer?

“They’re not good enough. Nobody will like them,” you may say.

Well, I have good news for you. SOMEBODY wants to hear your stories.

Think about it. If someone told you a story about a little boy who did magic and had an enemy that had a name you couldn’t speak, would you have listened? Somebody did.

How about your best friend telling you about a romantic love story where they bite each other and drink each other’s blood? Somebody wanted to hear it.

These authors made millions of dollars.

You may not make millions, but you will never know until the right somebody hears your story.

Submit the story

That means you must submit it to somebody. “But what if nobody likes it?” you ask.

I’d say “What if somebody does?”

The truth is, as an author, you are not limited by some boundary that forbids you from success, but simply by the fear of the words “what if.”

BANNED


BANNED

by Sharon Stevens

While going through some boxes at the bookstore I came across an old Uncle Remus book published in 1903. Never in my life for whatever reason have I read any of these stories and I found such treasures within. Books have never been banned in our house. My parents, especially my mom let us read whatever we chose within reason. They never discriminated or guided us in our reading habits, so it is foreign to me to think that there could be a culture that would destroy any kind of creative thinking.

Getting into the book I didn’t think I would be able to muddle through only because the writing was so fragmented with the talk of the times and diction of the south. But I found once I got into the rhythm of the words, like Shakespeare, the life of the story came together. Brer’ Rabbitt, Mr. Cricket, Wiley Wolf, and Brother Fox shared through the pages parables that are centuries old.

There is a chapter in the first part where Uncle Remus is sitting at the dinner table encouraging the young master to eat per the grandmother’s order. The grandmother was concerned that the mother was only serving the child simple fair, and that he needed ham, potatoes, biscuits and gravy to grow big and strong. Uncle Remus said the grandmother had written a message of love on the dishes and the little boy exclaimed that he couldn’t see any words there. Remus replied.

….“But I weren’t callin’ out no letters; I wuz callin’ out de words what yo’ granmammy writ wid de dishes.’

Uncle Remus wanted to share that the grandmother held her grandchild close to her heart and showed so much love that she would risk the displeasure and outright anger of her son and daughter-in-law and be brave enough to enlist the help of the wise, and elderly, old plantation slave to do it.

Uncle Remus, the story, and therefore the character have been banned for years along with such tales as “Huckleberry Finn”, and “Treasure Island”. But on this the 30th anniversary of banned books includes, “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, the “Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins”, “Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry” by Mildred D. Taylor, “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton, “A Light In the Attic” by Shel Silverstein and “Bridge To Terabithia” by Katherine Paterson.

Most are challenged or censored because of demonstrating racism, insensitivity, offensive language, violence, occult and satanic themes, but these are also pulled off the library shelves because families don’t feel comfortable with the message they are sending their children. And don’t forget this also affects the school and public libraries as well as the bookstores such as Hastings or Barnes and Nobles and the publishing houses as well.

One of the books banned this year and in years past is “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee for racism and offensive language. This year the Social Justice department at WTAMU will be hosting the woman who played, “Scout” in the movie. The professors and students will be discussing discrimination and how it pertains to our area and the here and now. They are working with the Varsity Theatre here in Canyon about showing the film.

I will never second guess a parent and their wisdom in raising their own children. I am just proud that I was given the chance to read anything and everything at an early age. Hopefully my husband and I have passed that on to our children and they will pass this on as well.

As writers we never know when someone will find our words offensive, insensitive, or political. At any given moment our thoughts might be seen as anti-ethnic and anti-family no matter how color blind or family oriented it may seem. On the other hand we can’t censor our own story or characters frightened that we may offend across the board. This causes us to lose the spirit, heart and passion ingrained deep in the soul of the letters formed together to make words. Jodi Thomas and DeWanna Pace taught me in writing class to be always true to what we believe and to trust the story we are writing. And just think, even though it was written for adult market, “Fifty Shades of Grey” by E.L. James would have never seen the light of day if censors had challenged the book in the very beginning.

So on this anniversary of the week of Banned Books look through the list and cherish the Freedom we have to celebrate the joy of reading, and the Freedom to choose on our own.

I leave you with this beautiful passage from the book of Uncle Remus:

TOLD BY UNCLE REMUS

New stories of the Old Plantation

by Joel Chandler Harris 1903

“The little boy was sitting on Uncle Remus’s knee, and he turned suddenly and looked into the weather-beaten face that had harbored so many smiles. The child seemed to be searching for something in that venerable countenance, and he must have found it, for he allowed his head to fall against the old shoulder and held it there. The movement was as familiar to Uncle Remus as the walls of his cabin, for among all the children he had known well, not one had failed to lay his head where that of the little boy now rested.”

Sharon Stevens

GAN


GAN

by Sharon Stevens

“Gan-A contraction of began, or rather the original simple word.”

1890 Webster’s Dictionary

I BEGAN Tuesday morning with the news of the murder of a man in Lubbock with the involvement of a local doctor here in Amarillo. I ended the day with a news interview on Pro News 7 about Dr. Warner at Pioneer Town at the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum. In between I checked my facebook account, and clicked on the picture of my daughter, Andrea Keller and her friend and colleague Elaine Plybon, both teachers, on their way to a conference in Wichita Kansas for Podstock.

Whew! What a ride!

In words taken from the musical drama TEXAS. “Take good news where you are going, say to the waiting dead that your brothers intend good things.”

The whole day I celebrated good news. Not news of puppies, bunnies and rainbows by any means. I rejoiced in the fact that each of these stories were shared and could be shared on every level and all mediums. As a writer I can write, or share, or click to my heart’s content. Any one of us can read Shakespeare or Edgar Allen Poe, or Harry Potter. Not only that, we could read anything at any hour of the day and night. And just think of it, I only have my husband to tell me to turn out the light and go to bed.

I can sing, even though there are those who wished I wouldn’t. But I can hum and rejoice and worship to any Almighty Power that leads my soul. No one can force me, coerce me, drag me, or guilt me into believing against my beliefs. On the other hand, they can guide me and lead me and stand beside me wherever I go.

To me it is so important for each of us as writers to take a moment every once in a while to give thanks for the Freedom TO write. I believe there is no greater gift we cherish than to be able to put words to paper or into cyberspace with only the worry of rejection to guide us. How rich are we in our society that we don’t face retaliation against all we hold most dear. Not only can we write, but we can read whatever anyone else writes about such things as vampires or murder or ugliness, as well as whatever sugary sweet confection that appeals to some palates, mine included.

Each and every morning as I BEGIN my day I remember the very basic and simple privilege given to me by those who protect that freedom. Celebrating the ability to write means the world. With this good news I am given the universe, all because I write.

Sharon Stevens