What Makes a Good Story

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

My Addiction to Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas

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.

Reasons

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, aIMG_5389nd 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.

Words to Live By

One of my favorite quotes is:

“You can be a masterpiece and a work in progress at the same time.”

I think many of us look for ourselves in the definitive moments of life. If we do that though, sometimes we miss the joy in discovering who we can become.

Life is messy. We are messy. We are art. We are a masterpiece on a limitless canvas which could always use more color and love. Our progress doesn’t need to end.

One Child at a Time

I am back. I have a new job, and a clear path forward in life. It has been a wild ride through life challenges we all face since I last posted here, and I was greeted with backed up comments from an anonymous troll, a very ugly one. Yet, I still want to show up and write because life is good if you let it be. It does not matter who you were yesterday. Today is a new one, and a good one to do something worthwhile. That is exactly what I did.

I have the privilege of working with special abilities athletes on many Saturdays at a cheer gym. My heart grows each moment I spend with them. My challenges seem so inconsequential to those faced by the athletes and their loved ones. I always feel like I walk away each Saturday learning more from them than they learn from me. And their excitement over learning a new skill could provide a new source of light for our sometimes dark world.

Imagine if we all focused on one child at a time, supporting them through challenges. We could teach them about the mistakes we made and how they could avoid them. We could show them unconditional love. We could be a person they deserve. Maybe they would then grow up to be better than we are, making the world a better, less mean place.

You can do this. I’m trying to do this. It’s making me a better person while maybe, just maybe, adding to an improved future where differences make us beautiful, and we want to help each other solve challenges. It may start with a cartwheel today on a gym floor, and with a butterfly effect, turn into more love and kindness tomorrow for all. One child at a time.

 

Finding The Other Side

Whenever I find myself in trouble or hear the woes of others, there is a unifying theme. Everyone is searching for what is on The Other Side of their current strife.

Is is health? Is it a new job? Is it love? Is it love undone? Is it wealth? Is it peace? Is it a trip? It seems for most as if The Other Side is one or two magic things that will make life seem beautiful, whole again. I am learning The Other Side is not that simple or concise.

If you imagine life as a circle you continue around, there really is no Other Side. You will always have closures, new beginnings, and in betweens. Going in circles is dizzying. Most of our world is forced into a linear progression where if we achieve #1, then we can continue on to #2. While I don’t want to go in circles, I know that I have done #1 on many occasions, and #2 never comes. Am I a failure? No, not at all. Maybe I am just not meant to have that #2. Life is not tidy enough to remain linear.

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So how do we pull ourselves out of circles or off endless, hurtful, linear paths?

I like to break down The Other Side into moments I live each day.  This past year, I did not deserve to lose my job. Today, I really don’t want to face oncoming health challenges. I’d love to see what is on The Other Side of these challenges. Also today, I looked in the mirror and realized I made the successful conversion to being a vegan. I am working steadily on my book and job search. I have volunteered and put so much good back into the world while I have

been out of work. And, most importantly, I have people who love me, get me. These things are Other Sides, too. They are not necessarily big moments or solutions to major issues. They make a difference though.

Other Sides can be the in betweens. They can be slides off of vicious cycles. They can be as simple as a glass of tea after a tough day or as complex as a cure for our disease. They can be what is in us waiting to come out or what is outside of us waiting to lift us to new heights. Appreciate them all. It’s how you keep living when life punches you