Writers, Are You New to Twitter? Ten Things I Wish I’d Known from the Beginning
In the last couple of years, I’ve been playing around with Twitter and Klout, trying to shift my online presence into something more marketable. In a lot of ways, I love it, connecting with people who I’d never meet otherwise, who share common interests. I bought a couple of books over the summer that I wouldn’t have read otherwise, and have been able to tell the authors in person how much I liked them.
Still, putting yourself out there for the world to see, especially when you’re trying to glorify God in the process, can be a terrifying venture. Like many, I had friends using it and created my account after a quick skim of the fine print. Here are some things I’ve learned since that I wish I’d have known.
- Sometimes the “people” who follow you are bots. Actually, I knew that going in because I’ve encountered them on this blog as well, but on Twitter, it’s harder to tell the difference sometimes. Web robots. Little software programs that do stuff on automation. So, if you try to interact with them, you won’t get very far. And there’s a good chance they’re promoting spam.
- It may not be in your best interest to follow celebrities. On the one hand, it might be fun to offer your support to your favorite actor or writer. I love Maggie Stiefvater’s tweets, for example. She’s very personable and human, and it makes me want to read every book she writes for the rest of her career. Another author, who I won’t name, was such an obnoxious jerk that I’ve completely sworn off his books. Disillusioned 😦
- Not everyone you follow will follow you back. It’s not personal. We all use Twitter for different reasons. I’m hoping to connect with authors. If you’re not an author or interested in reading my books, I might not want to connect through this venue, because that’s the purposed goal of my account.
- Don’t blindly follow people just because they follow you. It’s really okay if you don’t. Several times, I’ve caught tweets with book quotes that made me blush because I followed someone back that seemed “safe.” Investigate who they are before clicking to follow.
- You cannot edit tweets, but you can delete them. So watch really carefully for typos. Also, you can’t post the same tweet twice in a row. I didn’t want to–accidentally clicked again and it wouldn’t let me. So that’s a good thing, I guess.
- Use relevant hashtags (one or two) and short links. Sites like Bitly let you post the long link and convert it for free.
- You shouldn’t just jump in and follow 2000 people because you can. Be selective. Twitter has a limit on followers–it’s a ratio between the number of followers and people you follow after that, to prevent abuse. From that point, you’ll have to go back through your list and find people to unfollow so you can add the ones you really care about. Which is annoying. Really annoying.
- Make use of lists, especially for people who aren’t likely to follow you back. Take the big publishing companies, for example, and literary agents. Add them to a list, and then if they do follow you, follow them back. You can still keep easy track of their tweets without adding to your count.
- Tweet at peak user times. When I first started, I sent out tweets at 6:00 am. EST. No one ever favorited, commented, or retweeted. Duh…they were still asleep.
- It’s more interesting to follow the people who change up the content of their tweets. Don’t just post links to your blog ten times a day. And don’t use it as a place to complain about everything that goes wrong in your life. Add clever videos, links, and quotes every so often. In other words, make it about more than just you.
Hope that helps. Happy tweeting!
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If Gatsby Can Do It
In a lot of ways, writing a novel reminds me of The Little Engine That Could. The author must plug along, muddle through the tough parts, and then once it’s polished, keep propelling it forward through marketing. It takes a lot of effort. No wonder a lot of books flop.
I’m sitting on a nearly finished, highly polished “first of the trilogy.” It’s easy to worry that this sliver of my creative mind will be a flop. So many questions of doubt–if someone gives me a chance on the first book, do I have what it takes to write the second and third? Or, if I do, what if I put all that time and energy in and the first book flops, and no one ever reads the second and third? As with my last post, I know where that doubt arises, and it’s a temptation I must overcome, but nonetheless, I find myself searching for encouragement, that publishing can be a real possibility.
Yes, I know I could always self-pub, but traditional publishing is on my bucket list.
Of course, I’ve not actively queried or made a huge effort to promote at this point, so it’s really just a fear of the unknown.
I love NPR’s Fresh Air, and stumbled upon this little gem from September 8, 2014, a 38-minute interview with Maureen Corrigan regarding her book, So We Read On: How the Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures.
Here’s a quote from the NPR article describing the reception of the book in its time:
The literary readers — people like Gertrude Stein, Edmund Wilson, Gilbert Seldes, who was a critic and reviewer of the time who really got Gatsby — they loved it. …
The popular reviewers read it as a crime novel and thought for the most part that it was maybe just OK. There’s a famous headline for a review of The Great Gatsby that came out in theNew York World, and the headline reads, “Fitzgerald’s Latest A Dud.”
Fitzgerald died having no idea of Gatsby’s future success. Another quote, from Corrigan’s book:
What happened to me, a former high-school apostate (idiot), is exactly what happened throughout America, broadly speaking, in the 1940s and ’50s; like me, those midcentury critics and readers gave Gatsby a second chance and were knocked out.
According to the article, what happened was World War II. Publishers printed thousands of copies of books and sent them to soldiers overseas, hoping to give them something to distract them from the fear of war. And as we all know, Gatsby exploded into a powerhouse story.
What’s interesting to me is how well that worked as an unintentional marketing strategy. It makes me wonder what strategies I might take with my books in the future to promote and propel them.
Since I write YA, what if I purchased several copies of my own book to donate to school or church libraries? Maybe I could drop some copies off in the hospital waiting room or send them to local doctor’s offices?
Friends of mine have suggested promotional bookmarks, and offer tips about distributing them. It would be easy and cheap to print tons of them and send them out to high school English teachers.
I think, in these days of self-promotion, success comes down to how hard you want to work for it. Even for traditionally published authors.
This interesting article addresses self-promotion, from The New York Times Sunday Book Review, by Tony Perrottet. He goes through the history and points out that even back in the day, many of the greats had to engage in self-promotion to sell books.
So, perhaps I’ve written a flop. Maybe you have, too. But that old proverb comes to mind:
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
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Tags: author, doubt, fear, flop, gatsby, publishing, self-promotion, self-publishing, try again, write, writer, writing, young adult
Do We Own Our Creative Genius?
For years, I’ve been teaching young children in Bible class to memorize Psalm 139:14:
I praise you, because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
I want them to write it on their hearts and never forget the words. There are no self-made men. There is no self-driven success. We are all made in His image, given the talents that He wishes us to have. As James 1:17 says,
Every good and perfect gift is from above.
Why, then, is it so hard to consider our creative genius as a gift from God? Why do we beat ourselves up over the lack of it, and doubt our ability to produce work of the quality it should be? A new friend challenged me on this today, on my fear that I can’t write anything “publish-worthy.” He said if it’s “God-worthy,” then it’s ready to be used. So true, and yet sometimes so hard to believe.
I know why I doubt, why we all doubt. Get behind me, Satan. I worry about the things of men instead of the things of God.
I recently watched a TED talk from Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who spoke on this very thing. She talked of the tormented creative geniuses over the past five hundred years who believed their genius came from an internal source, and raised the question as to why creative greatness could not be a glimpse of God.
He is, after all, the great Creator–would it not please Him that we create our own beauty as well? He gives us the inspiration and tools, and we make beautiful music or art, though I think the Bible is clear that he wants us to use these gifts to honor Him. As it says in 1 Peter 4:7-11, we must do everything to the glory of God. If we do, then perhaps we will allow others to see Him through us.
Gilbert makes the point that perhaps our genius is something we hold onto for a short time, and then it moves on to someone else. She’s speaking metaphorically, of course, but how presumptuous of us to expect that we should be permitted to use our God-given talent to propel ourselves further and further into success over the course of our entire life.
So, my prayer today is to keep my focus on His message, that perhaps through the words on my page, someone might see Him more clearly.
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Tags: author, christian, creativity, doubt, genius, God, write, writer, writing, YA
Disney Channel Invaded My Writing (and I’m not sure it’s a bad thing)
I suppose almost nine must be the new preteen. What happened to my little angel, who wore us out with shows like Yo Gabba Gabba! and the Backyardigans? Two years ago, we were hanging out on the balcony of a hotel in Pigeon Forge, and my sweet boy was holding my hand for dear life. Now, he makes sure there’s at least a foot of distance between us when we’re walking together.
And now, he wants to watch Disney, 24/7. Dog with a Blog, Girl Meets World, Austin and Ally, and A.N.T. Farm. Overacting aside, these shows have several parts that I don’t like–the kids speak disrespectfully to the parents, the principals and teachers are depicted as idiots, and sometimes the characters are downright mean to each other. True, there’s a good message at the end of the show, but the kids want to mimic the over-the-top silly stuff.
We try to be diligent about policing their TV and internet usage, but sometimes my husband and I get as caught up in these shows as the kids do. And then, we look at each other and wonder how we get sucked in.
It’s those little quirks, those memorable, outrageous moments that are something like a train wreck. They dump paint on each other, throw drinks in each other’s faces, fall out of chairs, and suddenly we’ve tuned in to fifteen minutes of the show. But what really catches our attention are the entrances of characters into the scene.
Since we’ve been watching more Disney, it’s changed the way I write scenes in my story. I’ve started thinking more about introducing characters and those “seriously?” moments in my own writing, and researching iconic movie entrances. Turns out, they’re in some of my favorite classics as well as some modern icons.
Take Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for example. When she stepped out of that cab, I was sold. She could have stood there and took bites out of that danish the rest of the movie, and I would have still loved it.
Who could forget Willy Wonka’s big entrance–both Gene Wilder’s and Johnny Depp’s depictions? Peter Gibbons in Office Space? Sandra Bullock’s emergence as Gracie Lou Freebush?
I loved Rachel Leigh Cook’s descent down the stairs in She’s All That, and Leelee Sobieski’s prom entrance in Never Been Kissed.
How many times in our writing do we just have characters walk into a room? She went to the kitchen, he stepped into the classroom–entrances can make all the difference.
It seems like such a simple concept, to make the character the focal point of the scene, but a lot of times we get so caught up in the progression of the plot or setting description that we forget to do it. We give them simple actions, like smiling, grinning, smirking, etc. and forget the power of a sashay, strut, or glide.
Perhaps Carly Simon says it best…although today’s critters would take issue with the “was” 🙂
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Tags: author, character, christian fiction, entrances, fiction, write, writer, writing, young adult
Don’t Like What Your Kids Are Reading? Join the Clean Shelf Movement.
Working in a school, I always hear complaints from teens that their parents don’t want them reading certain books. And, more often than not, I find them reading said books.
I know there’s a lot of controversy over to ban or not to ban, and I have no intent of getting into that here. But what I do want to discuss is the power of our influence over what our children choose.
I stopped by a big chain bookstore today for a few minutes after a doctor’s appointment, and spent some serious study of the Christian fiction titles, disturbed to find NONE of the teen books I read this summer were there. I asked the guy for help finding Revolutionary, the third in an awesome YA Christian series, Anomaly, and it wasn’t in stock on the shelves. In fact, they don’t even have a shelf dedicated to Christian teen books. The guy said if they’d carried the book, it would be located with the rest of the teen fiction.
Well, I was floored. For one thing, how am I as a YA Christian fiction writer supposed to market myself in a big chain bookstore if they don’t even have a stand-out place for my books?
But for another thing, how are you as a parent going to direct your teens to stories that will move them in the same ways that secular books do if they can’t even find them?
I’m ready to start a revolution. Let’s call it the Clean Shelf Movement and beg big chain bookstores, high school and middle school libraries, public libraries, etc. to offer a shelf in their facility dedicate to “Inspirational Teen Fiction.” Perhaps, even another shelf beside it, “Inspirational Teen Nonfiction, where they can find spiritual self help books that relate to them. Don’t like what’s out there to offer them? Be the solution. Write one yourself. I’ll help you learn how. The thing is, our teens are really struggling to find inspiration in today’s world. I know this because I see it painted on their faces every single day in my classroom. They’re hungry for this, and they don’t have an avenue.
Research YA Christian authors. Some of my favorites are Jenny B. Jones, Krista McGee, Shannon Dittemore, Melody Carlson, and TONS of indie authors that you’ve never heard of, like my friend Angela Castillo, who’s written two great speculative books for middle grades. You’ll find hundreds of books to choose from in many different genres, from Ted Dekker’s Chosen, to the ever-popular Chronicles of Narnia.
I can hear the skeptics now. Some of what they read might contradict the doctrine taught at my church. Okay, I’ll concede that Christian fiction novels are written by authors of many different faiths, but one thing to note is that the guidelines they have to follow do not permit pushing doctrine in the extreme. You might come across a practice here or there that you disagree with, but you will not find books trying to turn your kid into one faith if they belong to another. I know because I’ve read most of them.
Second, if you don’t 100% buy in that it’s you’re responsibility to teach your children what must comprise their faith, and give them the tools to dismiss false doctrine in fiction as fallacy, you’re in danger of losing their soul anyway. They need to learn to hold observations up to Biblical standards and search whether these things are so.
And third, most importantly, you’d better believe they are getting a doctrine contrary to what you want them to receive in some of the mainstream teen fiction they’re currently reading. Check out this list, available on Amazon for free. They could have some of these on their phones and you’d never even know it.
Though I’m not yet published, it’s my understanding that the guidelines of the Christian Bookseller’s Association, which most inspirational publishers follow, do not permit gratuitous acts of sex or coarse language. They do not allow writers to proselytize their distinct faiths or write “preachy” stories. You won’t find things like condoning boyfriends sneaking into bedrooms to stay overnight while the parents are blissfully unaware. So, you can bank on your teen getting a clean book that won’t fill their minds with sinful behaviors that they emulate.
So, how about it, people? Write a letter to your local bookstores,public libraries, and school libraries. Research Young Adult Christian Fiction authors and include their names, book titles, and ISBN’s. Better yet, purchase some of these books, read them, and donate them. I bet you won’t find a lot of the titles there. Ask them to join in the Clean Shelf Movement, and create a space to market Inspirational Teen Fiction in a visible location, and keep titles stocked. Then support them. Go write, buy, check out, and read.
We’ve got this, people. We’re not powerless. We can have better choices if we ask for them.
Small edit: Here’s a list of Christian Fiction authors, provided on Jill Williamson’s website.
A Novel is a Highway, Always Under Construction
This picture is one of my favorite stretches of road, a little country drive that winds its way along train tracks and a river. Peaceful, relaxing, and a great distraction from day-to-day drama–until it rains hard and the road washes away. The right side of the road is continually needing to be rebuilt and resurfaced.
It’s a good metaphor for life and a great one for editing fiction. I’ve been sitting on a “finished” novel for about two months now, in the revising process, and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to step back and quit editing. It seems like with every read I find a part of the story that’s bumpy, or there’s a plot hole, or a big section that’s completely washed out from something I rewrote in another place.
Which begs a question–how do you know when it’s polished enough? And how do you get there?
I’m not the only person who’s ever asked that question–in fact, a Google search hits up several bloggers offering their own bit of advice. Author Carolyn Jess Cooke likens it to that scene in Forest Gump where he takes the football and runs with it. She talks about finishing when it pleases overall.
In the writing forums I’ve participated in, this question comes up a lot, and the answer is usually the same. You don’t ever truly finish editing. At some point, you have to just let go and go for it. Right now, I run my chapters through Editminion, which gives me a good overview of weak writing, prepositions and such. Then I exchange critiques with partners, and they usually pick out the big plot issues. I do a little revision and send the chapter on to my freelance editor. I make most of the changes she suggests, and do a final read using the following techniques.
1. Create a Wordle of each chapter. Wordles are AMAZING! The only negative is they’re a public document. The way a Wordle works is to analyze each word in an excerpt of text and size the words in accordance to frequency. For example, here’s a screenshot of my Wordle for the first chapter in my WIP. You can tell it’s a Christian Fiction because of the size of the word church, for example. Part of the scene happens in the church. But some other words that stood out to me–phone, eyes, shoulder, face–how many of those could be overused?
2. Search for commonly overused words with Microsoft Word’s Find feature. This article has a great list. My bad habits are back, going, reach, look, saw, eyes, etc. Lots of repetitive words.
3. Search for “ly” with the Find feature. Most of the time, these can be cut. I’ve never found an adverb I can’t write around, although I do sometimes use them in my writing. I aim for about one per every 1000 words, which comes to about two or three per chapter (YA).
4. Read through to find places to add sensory details. Can readers smell your setting? If there’s food, have you described it in a way to make their mouths water?
5. Do a line-by-line read-through for show/don’t tell. Can readers pick up the emotion in each scene? Did I just say anger washed across a character’s face, or did I describe what that looked like?
But I still don’t feel “finished.” Novel, under construction. Somebody’s going to have to take this thing away from me 🙂
What are your strategies? How do you know when you’re finished editing?
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Tags: author, book, christian fiction, editing, fiction, novel, overused words, sensory details, story, when is it finished, wordle, writing tips, YA, young adult
Lessons from the Classroom for YA Writers
I wish I had started out as a writer first, then a teacher. I think my first few years would have been much better. Writers tend to notice things about people that others don’t.
That said, I’m thankful for the time I’ve spent trying to sell curriculum to resistant young people every day, because I think it makes me a much better writer. Here are five things I’ve learned:
1. Teens respond better to active, engaging material than passive.
In the classroom, this translates to hands-on activities and interactive models, such as the potato gun above–one of my all-time favorite projects from some of my favorite students*. In writing, this means drawing them into the action and letting them experience it as the character. They don’t want to just stand by and let you tell them a story. They want to think, feel, taste, smell, touch, fear, rejoice, and be.
2. Teens thrive on relationships.
They want to have them, hear about them, talk about them, dissect them–it’s a challenge sometimes as a teacher to get them to stop thinking about relationships long enough to teach them something. You might think I’m only talking about romantic relationships, but it’s more than that. They thrive on building strong relationships with the adults in their lives, even the elderly. They are interested in watching how two teachers interact with each other, or how a mother interacts with her baby.
That’s why I feel like it’s important to consider the relationship dynamic between ALL characters, not just the main ones, and adding in a few details to show appropriate behaviors between people. Maybe someone holds the door open and someone else thanks them. Perhaps an older couple is walking by in front of them, holding hands. Sadly, a lot of kids do not have good role models to imitate. In Christian fiction, especially, we need to keep that in mind.
3. Teens are smarter about life than we think.
I’ve critiqued a lot of aspiring YA writers, and one of my pet peeves is how they sometimes try to explain every little thing. It’s like they think teen readers won’t know the meaning of words or understand the history behind an event. Believe it or not, teens are usually pretty up-to-date on current events and fairly knowlegeable about history. After all, they get three years to study it in high school. I’ve had some great intellectual discussions with students about surprising topics over the years.
They also have experienced more than we might believe–pain, loss, joy. In fact, many of them could teach us a few things about coping.
We have to be careful to not make characters too naive. In a recent discussion with a group of young readers, we talked about the Princess Diaries and how frustrated they were with Anne Hathaway’s character being inept at so many things. While most of them liked the movie, they didn’t find her character relatable. Their average/awkward is a lot different from the way Princess Mia was painted.
If we’re not careful, we could write characters that might come across as an insult to today’s savvy teen readers.
4. Teens have short attention spans.
It’s been my experience that teens lose focus after about 10-15 minutes. In my classroom, I have to find creative ways to throw in hooks every so often to pull them back in. And honestly, I think that’s true for a lot of adults, too. I’ve seen a lot of students take books back to the library before finishing them. Instead of being a story they couldn’t put down, it was something easily dismissed. At the very least, a writer should put a hook at the end of every chapter. You’re not going to keep them turning pages with a bunch of info dumps, either. They’ll just flip through and skip pages to look for the next action scene.
5. Teens are brutally honest.
One thing I love about working with high school students is that you never have to worry about what they’re thinking. If they love an assignment, they’ll tell you. If they hate it, you’ll know. So, hard as it may be to handle their blunt feedback, if you’re going to write YA, you might consider having a couple of teens read your story before submitting, and REALLY listen to their advice.
*Photo used with permission.
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Tags: author, authors, book, chapter hooks, character, characters, christian, christian fiction, classroom, honesty, naive characters, relationships, story, teacher, teenagers, write, writer, writing, YA, young adult
Through Devastation, Joy
The Bernie Madoff story has always fascinated me. How could one man orchestrate something that ruined the lives of so many? How could he sleep at night, knowing all of his gain was because of their loss?
Recently, I read this article from the Wall Street Journal, telling how some of the victims have done over the last five years: on.wsj.com/1gWvNJN
I think about all those people who were in retirement, thinking they were set for the rest of their lives and suddenly losing everything. Some have adjusted to a simpler life, but others have been destroyed trying to rebuild their financial lives from ground zero. I can’t imagine that kind of loss. Someday I want to write a fiction story about a character who goes through something similar.
Instances of loss are all around us. Homes burn to the ground or are demolished by tornadoes. Children, mothers and fathers are lost to freak accidents. Loving spouses bury their longtime mates. We sometimes bury ourselves in our sorrows, taking comfort in the fact that Christ understands them and sympathizes with our pain.
And yet the Bible is so clear that God wants us to be a people full of joy, not of devastation.
Someone once told me you can’t worry and be joyful at the same time. I know Matthew 6 tells us we aren’t supposed to worry, but financial stability is always on my mind. Even as a tenured teacher, I worry a lot about keeping my job as the tides in educational leadership continue to change. And I worry about costly illnesses. These days, with the changes in our health insurance policies, it seems like any of us could be just a few rough medical bills away from financial ruin.
But then, I remember Habakkuk 3:17-18.
Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls— Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
How many times (a day) do I forget that my purpose is His purpose, and that my life is a vapor? I was not put on this Earth to maintain financial stability, but rather to spread His good news to as many people as I can. Good news–joyful news. We have a Savior. He is risen! We can have eternal life through Him!
The temptation to mope through life and bemoan our circumstance is an ever-present thorn in today’s society. We have to be like Paul in Philippians 3:7–counting all things loss for Christ, and remember Mark 8:36, that if we gain the world, yet lose our soul, it’s all in vain.
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Tags: author, book, christian, christian fiction, devastation, fig tree, financial stability, Habakkuk, joy, loss, story, worry, write, writer, writing, YA
When Your Goodness is the Enemy
Today in my professional development training, my principal ended with this quote from Jim Collins:
Good is the enemy of great.
In his book Good to Great, Collins asserts that we don’t have many great schools, newspapers, government agencies, churches… because we have so many good ones. It’s about complacency, or not holding ourselves to even higher standards. We’re content to let good be good enough.
We might make the same argument for books. I know of many self-published authors who put themselves on a deadline to finish their novels. They’ve written good books with minor errors that don’t sell, then had to rewrite and republish later to fix the embarrassing mistakes.
Our conversation today was regarding PGES, a new method for evaluating teachers, which has drawn both praise and criticism from many. Personally, I like it, although It’s never easy to take a look in the mirror and realize we have room to grow. Sometimes, with the constant criticism from many angles, it’s easy for a teacher to start feeling as though no one thinks they’re good enough. I think that’s true for writers, too. But at the same time, sometimes we get so much praise that we start to think ourselves better than we actually are.
Actually, someone else gave us a charge to pursue greatness long before Jim Collins walked the earth.
The Bible clearly teaches that we must use our gifts and talents to God’s glory. No question, to strive to be Christlike is a strive to perfection, and an acknowledgement that we are all far from perfect. Writing Christian fiction is a ministry, is it not? So then, would publishing mediocrity be to the glory of God? We have to humble ourselves, keep going back to the drawing board, revising until we’ve given our best.
Romans 12:3 comes to mind–such a simple verse, and yet so hard to follow.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.
We should always accept that there’s room for improvement.
It amazes me when I critique someone’s first draft and they want to argue against common sense, industry-standard editing advice. They believe, mistakenly, that their work doesn’t need to be improved, often presenting it more for the pat on the back than the honest critique. Gone are the days of dotting every “i” and crossing every “t.”
We can carry things too far and drive ourselves into perfectionism, but sometimes I think we all need to take a little more pride in our work. Myself included.
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Tags: author, book, christian fiction, good, goodness, great, greatness, humility, mediocrity, perfectionism, story, write, writer, writing, young adult
Knockoff Barbie Characters-A Lack of Contrition?
No doubt about it, some Barbie dolls are better made than others. A few years ago, my best friend passed away, a beautifully creative physics teacher who embraced project based learning and teaching with toys. Tammy left behind a huge tub of dolls, which I brought home, scrubbed down, bought new clothes, and presented them to my daughter for play.
Dana loved them. We’ve been struggling to keep them picked up out of her floor ever since. But she favored certain ones over others, and the rest stayed in the bottom of the tub.
One day, Dana was playing in her room, frustrated because she could’t get one of the dolls to sit in a chair. She threw it against the wall, screaming, “I hate it! The knees don’t bend.”
Of course, I should have known this would happen. Anyone knows the “good” dolls have certain characteristics–their heads stay on better, their elbows straighten, and they can bend their knees.
After we had a short talk about keeping our tempers in check and not throwing things, I showed Dana how to prop the doll against the wall in the kitchen, made a little chefs hat from a paper towel, and all was right with her Barbie world.
Certain themes in Christian fiction are must haves. And while this could easily be a post about modesty, false beauty, or body image, these straight-kneed Barbies have a character flaw that I see in Christian fiction characters all the time–their knees won’t bow.
Now I know, we all write our stories with different goals in mind, but I’ve read books where the character’s change of heart feels rushed and almost calloused. It’s as if writers focus so much on delivering an intense romantic moment that they skim over what I feel is the most important moment in the story. Thoughts happen. Forgiveness is requested, forgiveness is given. Characters move on. End of story.
The Bible is clear on God’s view of contrition, as shown in many verses, including Isaiah 57:15:
For thus says the High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
Contrition is humility inspired by guilt. In Bible times, this might have meant rent clothing, sackcloth and ashes, Physical responses to the aching heart mourning their sin. Deeper than tears and a downward look.
Good writers need to use actions to show emotion in the first place; contrition is no different. It’s one of the reasons I so loved Dani Pettrey’s Submerged, because the guilt and contrition is present in her main character throughout the story. My heart ached for her the whole time.
For me, it’s simple–I want to read books that move me to make changes in my own heart. Everyone wants to fall in love, and a lot of people write books about that. Successfully. But those books don’t necessarily make me reflect on my own life and the way I treat other people. They don’t make me ask myself when I last made such a heartfelt apology.
I want to write characters whose knees bend–both in prayer and humility. How about you?
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Tags: author, Barbie, bending knees, characters, christian, christian fiction, contrition, doll-like, fiction, forgiveness, guilt, humility, right heart, sorrowful, story, write, writer, writing, young adult
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