I have recently increased my reading time in support of better writing. I wanted to digest what I loved about the stories I was reading so I could find inspiration to create a story worth reading to others. Here is my shortlist of what makes a story special to me.
- Characters that become clear to me through their actions and reactions. By reading how a character responds to situations or others, I can peel back their layers from the safe space of being curled up with a good book. I also like learning how the story changes characters for better or worse. Give me the reasons to love or despise the characters through how they behave. Make their actions speak louder with words.
- Enough detail about the setting of a story or specific scenes in the story to get me in the space where the characters live. Even brilliantly crafted characters can fall flat when their setting isn’t specific enough to matter. I want to learn enough about the main setting and individual scene settings to understand how they impact the character or others. For example, whether my character dumps a significant other over the phone from the safety of their place or in a coffee shop face to face might matter in how I view them. Scene setting is an Achilles heel for me in my writing. I now go back when I finish each chapter to see where I can add detail.
- Stories where every scene moves us forward (or backward if needed) to something relevant. I like to dive deep and understand characters and their space, but if each word, page, or chapter is not moving me along the story arc or taking me back to places and times of significance, I get bored and skip to where I think the pace picks up again.
Some books I am currently enjoying are Little Fires Everywhere and One Day in December. I would love to hear what stories you are enjoying!
I am addicted to the Hallmark Channel’s annual Countdown to Christmas movie marathon. It has been 9 hours since I last watched the first installment of the 10th Anniversary year movie series. As a writer, I decided I am not ashamed for loving the holiday themed stories, even though I know they will end exactly how I predict they will during the first minute of watching.
To celebrate the 10th year of holiday movie confections, I will post reviews of each movie I watch. I hope I cause you a smile and warm Grinchy hearts. And, I do not care that Halloween has not occurred yet. I can still enjoy that and Thanksgiving while getting my Christmas on early.
NOTE: I WOULD SAY THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS, BUT WE SHOULD ALL KNOW THE BASICS OF HOW HALLMARK HOLIDAY MOVIES END.
Hallmark Countdown to Christmas Movie #1 Review: Christmas Wishes & Mistletoe Kisses
In this single mom hired to decorate a rich man’s family estate flick, the flames of holiday love could toast nuts. Little Max, the son, steals the screen with his cuteness. And hello Donna Mills from Knots Landing! Girl, what face cream are you working?!? Looks like you are going to be Max’s Glammy after telling your son to get the girl. 👍🏻 I give this a 10/10 because they kiss, and it snows on them.
What are your reasons for getting up in the morning with a smile on your face? What are your reasons for not giving up during the toughest times? What are your reasons for being you? Only you get to answer these questions, and that is a powerful thing.
I have three beautiful children. I have the love of a lifetime. I have family and friends, a close circle these days, and I can trust them to be there. I have a fulfilling career. And, I have a passion for writing, running, music, and veganism. I also have four, yes 4, wonderful dogs and two wooded acres in a community where I fit. All of this makes me smile each day, even on darker days.
I have not always appreciated my reasons to the extent I do now. There were times when things did not go as planned, and times when I made poor choices. I chose to find my way back, and I chose to leave behind what was not good. In this process of learn & burn, I found “the me” I was always meant to be. My reasons inspired me.
Here I am, uniquely me, following my passions. Before me is endless possibility and my reasons. Behind me is the regret and sadness I am not meant to carry forward. I write inspired. I wake happy. I stay healthy. Thank you, reasons. I love you.
I have many characters in my life. Some are as real as me, breathing and living out loud before me. Others are characters I get to create as a writer. They live in my head and my heart, visiting me in my dreams or during waking hours if only for the mind’s eye. Real or created, I receive joy from these characters. They all have a structure that is interesting to observe, learn from, and love. You must be willing to let your guard down and let them in.
Recently at work, I took the DiSC personality assessment. We did this as part of a retreat for the entire company. I am always resistant to being assigned a number, a color, a letter, or other designations with these tools, afraid I will be painted as something I’m not…or as something I am and would prefer not to be. That did not happen with this assessment though. Even though I was assigned a letter, two in fact (Si), I found myself in an open environment with caring people who simply wanted to understand each better as “characters” in a live-action play called Career. We let each other in! Technology increasingly widens our doorway, too.
How lucky are we to live in a time where the world has become smaller through technological advances, and we get exposed to more characters daily? We are also more mobile for work and pleasure, meeting characters at greater distances and then staying connected via social media. This post is not about the drawbacks of a smaller, more connected world. I’m an optimist. I’ll take the best of it and try to avoid participation in the worst (e.g. trolling). Maybe some version of these new characters will make it into what I write, lovingly and as a testament to their unique attributes. We are all characters, in the end, leaving behind a story. I’m making mine, real or imagined, good ones.
Sometimes you do things to make life simpler. For me, cutting my hair is one of those. If we were all the same, life would be boring. If we all had the same notion of beauty, nothing new would be created. Be you passionately. Don’t prescribe to standards. Set them.
Two weeks ago, after a two year absence from fiction writing, I decided it was time to try again. My head and heart are clear after a renovation of my body. I know how to make things work realistically in my busy life. Most importantly, I’ve carried a new story around for that long in my head, and it was time to let it out.
I will write on weekend mornings to work around my running, work, and people schedules. I have no expectations for what this book will become. I simply want to enjoy the process. There is a wisdom that comes with age. I did not believe it until I found myself at more advanced ages. I am smarter without the arrogance of youth. I hope this will come out in what I write.
Writing is about creating, and creating is fun. Somewhere along the way I forgot this. I’ve missed it. I’m happy to return. This time away has been a reminder not to forget why you do things in the first place: love.
I said I would never do it. I was a walker, a hiker. I liked an upbeat yet measured pace. I liked to make frequent stops and assess conditions around me. I am an asthmatic and allergic to Michigan. I couldn’t do it even if I wanted to do it. I would never run.
Life has a funny way of changing your mind. One, job loss. Two, declining health. Three, sadness. I liked wine too much, and I liked myself too little. I had a brief run-in with the C word. I woke up one morning and decided the only option I had was to run. I quit drinking, 100%, cold turkey. I went vegan. I bought my first running shoes, and I started to run.
I plan to share more of my journey to health, inside and out, here. I ran my first two 5Ks over the last several weeks, and I completed my second in 28 minutes. I have a simple outlook. It is never too late to be a new you.