I can’t get this line out of my head:
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around.
Not only is it adorable to hear little girls everywhere singing their hearts out about fractals, but I thought it might be a great concept to describe the character arc of a Christian fiction progatonist through a fractal.
Factoring in this thought was something I’d just read in Krista McGee’s Anomaly, which is one of the better books I’ve read lately. In it, the main character is a musician, and she plays out her emotions and thoughts in her songs. If it works for a song, why wouldn’t it work for a mathematical pattern?
This idea isn’t completely original. I’ve tried several different methods to organize plot, including Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. I really like his method, although sometimes it’s a little too linear for me. So today, as I was trying to reorganize the plot of Cocooned, the second book in my trilogy, I did a web search and found the picture at the top of my post. I imagined my four characters, each moving on their own fractal path, with the protagonist and antagonist facing off at the end of the story, just like the two bigger fractals in the picture seem to be facing off. I can see my whole plot in that picture.
I tried to imagine the white and blue spaces as safe moments for the character, that build as the color intensifies. They walk through these situations, in and out of the paths of other characters, spiraling into the climax of their own. There would be some things to draw them away from their main, spiraling path. I loved the symmetry of it, and the pacing/timing seems perfect for the twists and turns I’d like to place in the story. It fit so perfeclty. How cool is that?
If I ever end up publishing Cocooned, I’ll share it someday 🙂
Anyone else have any cool fractal pics?
Sometimes it scares me how impatient we’ve all become, and how few people seem to take time anymore to stop and smell the roses. But the things we do take time for…always Facebook, right?
According to this NBC News article from 2013, smartphone users check their Facebook pages an average of fourteen times every day. That’s the average. The article goes on to mention that 79% of users check their phones in the first fifteen minutes of their day.
Think about how different the world might be if those same people checked their Bibles first thing or opened their Bibles fourteen times every day.
I think there are a lot of Christians out there who live busy lives and take comfort in being able to post a Bible verse or a religious-themed meme. We do so with good intentions–it’s an easy way to “share Christ” with everyone who follows us in their news feed. But what are we really sharing? It’s Cracker Jack Christianity. Dig through the sticky muck on our newsfeed and pull out a cheap imitation for the real thing. But at least people are reading Bible verses, right? Well, yeah. Right.
And this is a big however…
According to several studies, there are a lot of Christians out there not reading their Bibles very often anymore. Take this article from the Huffington Post, for example (April 2013). They cite a survey from the American Bible Society claiming that only one in five Americans read their Bibles on a regular basis. It said that fifty-seven percent only read their Bibles three or four times per year, and that the same percentage of young people ages 18-28 read their Bibles three times or less per year.
What this means is for many, the only access they have to Scripture is whatever random verse they see on someone’s Facebook wall. They might base their faith entirely on that, thinking they’re okay when they’re not. And like Psalm 119:105 says, the Bible is a light to our path–without it, we’re just walking blindly in the dark.
This is what prompted me to write Cavernous. It’s a what-if book, considering the idea that our obsession with social media might lead to the next big political revolution. First, a presidential assassination, and then a planned effort that leads to the secession of several states. And a group of extremists who recruit through their Facebook page lead several states into secession to form their own country.
Is that so far fetched? How many blog posts have we shared without looking to see what the writers really stand for? How many memes have we passed on without looking at the names of the original poster? I for one have seen Christians post pictures from users or groups with inappopriate names on multiple occasions and they probably didn’t even notice.
What if–we like the pages, we sign on via the comfort of our own homes, and then suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of a great divide?
Suppose a new political leader came along who didn’t agree with three verses in I Corinthians–so he has them removed and reprinted. And he didn’t like part of Romans, and he couldn’t leave in the verses that address his favorite sin… and suddenly we have a Bible that doesn’t reflect God’s true plan of salvation. And we might not realize it because WE HAVEN’T READ OUR BIBLES LATELY!
It would never happen, right?
But think about it, thoughout history, political leaders have had influence on printing the Bible. The King James version, for example, was commissioned by King James IV and the church of England. And these days, anyone can self publish whatever drivel they feel like.
In Cavernous, one of the themes is to not only read Scripture, but to write it on our hearts. The main character, Callie, is able to stand up to the political leaders because of her Biblical knowledge. I’m not sure I could do that myself, which is why this is a message for me as much as anyone else. These days, it’s so easy to read the Bible. There are even phone apps that will read it out loud to you. None of us have an excuse to rely on statuses and memes to give us our daily Biblical nourishment.
Rant over 🙂 Back to writing!
Confession. I have not yet read The Fault in Our Stars. I’m sure it’s a lovely book. Everyone I know is talking about it. And I haven’t read it for the same reason that I’ve never made it all the way through A Walk to Remember, and The Notebook. My chest constricts just thinking about it. Tears well up in my eyes and I start wandering the room for chocolate. I’m not a fan of sappy.
I know, I know. So many good books I’ve missed out on because I don’t like to face that raw emotion.
Then there’s my temper. I teach teenagers. I’m paid not to lose my temper. And with that, I’ve learned to let things roll off my shoulders. It takes a lot to make me mad these days, which makes it really hard to write a dramatic scene in a novel.
Yet, I’m working on a scene where I need to vamp it up. And I’m stuck. I guess I’m going to have to grab some tissues and force myself to read a few of those sappy books.
Joe Bunting, founder of The Write Practice, wrote this article on writing about raw emotion. His first thought was to draw inspiration from music. That, I can do. I can actually listen to songs that evoke that sort of emotion as I write. I’ve never been a playlist writer, but I know that writers are. Bunting suggests using repetition and restraint to convey the emotion. I like the thoughts, but I felt like the article could have given a few more examples. So I Googled on.
Nevermind that when I searched (when should a character let emotion go) and found Elsa, or (when should a character break down) and found Twilight.
But finally, I came across this little gem: Character Rants and Breakdowns–Let ’em Rip by Beth Hill. I realized how much of the problem is me–holding back my own emotions, so I hold back the emotions of my characters. Writing and reading is an escape. Catharsis is acceptable on the written page, and it will lead readers to compassion for my characters.
This reminds me of Romans 12:15, one of my favorite verses on compassion.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
It’s exactly what readers want to do. Now, to push my sleeves up and make them feel that scene.
First, a quick shout out to my readers. I appreciate each and every one of you and thank you for playing a small role in my quest to be published. Cavernous is still going strong.
I wish I could remember who told me this. It might have been my good friend Kimberly Grenfell, a.k.a. Devon Winterson.
It’s the small details that make the story.
Lately, I’m finding that more and more to be true. But a lot of times, we miss out on the small details because the big picture in a story is so exciting/overwhelming/larger than life.
The above picture is a favorite from years ago, one of my first documentations of my daughter’s uncanny ability to destroy a room within a matter of minutes. If you examine closely, you can see that her destruction follows a specific path from my kitchen through my living room to the front hall. It might be easy to retrace that path and come up with the story of all the things she’d done along the way.
If memory serves me right, I was folding the laundry right beside her and came out to this mess. It took about ten minutes, tops. I walked out, gaped, snapped the picture, and shook my head at the chaos.
My in-laws joke with us sometimes. They say, “Y’all blame everything on little Dana.” And it’s true–if there’s a mess in my house, she’s the first one I’m going to turn to. But just for kicks, I zoomed into the picture to see if I could figure out what she was thinking when she made the mess.
I saw: My son Matt’s shoes, his little cardboard/aluminum foil “creation,” paper plates, the foam letters he loved to play with–maybe, just maybe she wasn’t the only culprit. The details tell a completely different story than first glance. And I think that’s true in novel writing, too. I always start a chapter with brainstorming and freewriting, which generally leads me to a skeleton scene that consists mostly of dialogue. What I’ve learned is that the fill-in details I choose to add can completely change the tone or intensity of a scene. They can make a likeable character suddenly heinous or a villain seem tolerable.
I’ve been focusing on ways I can make my writing more believable and character emotions more compelling. In my quest, I stumbled on this blog post from Author Magazine from the Pacific Northwest Writer’s Association: Believable Fiction.
I love this quote:
Our lives are not led in the physical—that is, we are not pinballs bouncing from event to event. We are not a collection of limbs and organs generating a series of thoughts, but rather a series of thoughts compelling a collection of limbs and organs. What readers always seek in fiction is what it feels like to be alive, not what it looks like to be alive, because the feeling is in the end the only reality we ever know, because the feeling reality, which exists within the invisible self, is all we have that is ours and ours alone.
I wonder if my brainstorming might be more effective as a series of thoughts compelling our characters rather than characters generating thoughts. In other words, the thoughts come first, including a decision about the emotions I want to convey. Then, the actions to show that emotion–slamming things for anger, dropping things for shock. Next, the objects from the setting–the papers that are shoved off a desk, the priceless artifact that’s dropped. Finally, the character attached, who is the kind of character that would behave in such a way. Hmm… Guess I’ll experiment and let you know.