Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When Others Define You

I've been thinking a lot lately about how the people you know and interact with can define you. Those closest to you are like mirrors into your true personality. You can hold up your own picture to the world, but the way you treat other people -- especially the people you treat the worst -- is one of the truest reflections into your soul.

via Avatar Wiki
This can work very powerfully in fiction. One of the most striking examples I can think of is from the animated series Avatar the Last Airbender (which I watched mostly). One of the main villains of the show, Firelord Ozai, isn't actually physically revealed until season 3. But we know what he's like, because we see him in his outcast son, Zuko. Sure, the accounts of Ozai vary depending on who's talking about him. Some are trying to defeat him, and some, like Zuko, are trying to please him. But even though Zuko thinks his father is an honorable man, the burn on Zuko's face shows us who Ozai really is, irrespective of what anyone says about him.

Or take the Harry Potter series. The main antagonist, Voldemort, isn't actually seen or spoken to until the end of the first book. And yet we know what he's like even before we officially meet him. We see it, not in him, but in all the people whose lives he's ruined. We see it in the fear everyone displays towards him, not even daring to speak his name. We see it in the joy everyone shares when they think he's gone. We see what he is like every time the book mentions the scar on Harry's forehead. It's a mark of Voldemort's character.

via Fandango
Often the mark isn't physical, like in Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth thinks poorly of Mr. Darcy until she tours his house, meets his servants, and meets his sister. He seemed aloof from afar but when she finds out how he treats those closest to him she is challenged to reform her opinion. Mrs. Bennet is a silly, fickle woman, and her daughter Lydia (and her subsequent elopement) is the deepest reflection into both her character and the character of Mr. Bennet, Lydia's father.

The use of mirrors in fiction is something very subtle and very effective, and that is, of course, because it's true in life. We are all both mirrors (of other people) and the ones being mirrored.

Take a look at the person you treat worst in your life. And don't lie -- you know there is someone. Don't start thinking about someone else who is treating someone you know bad, or even someone who is treating you bad.  Who are you, personally, acting horribly towards, and what does that say about you? Are you starting to rationalize your treatment of that person - well, they deserve it? It's for their own good?

Wikimedia Commons
Your treatment of that person says something about you. Are you hateful and malicious toward them? You know what that says. Are you rude and patronizing? You know what that says. Do you continually give them the cold shoulder? In all of these examples, you know what that would say about a villain in a story. And yet often we ignore what that says about us.

The best stories are the kind we take to heart and apply to our own lives. The more I think about mirroring the more I'm inclined to work harder, both at understanding how to use this tool in my stories, and in understanding how I've been using it in my own life.

Do you have any other examples of mirror characters in fiction? Or any examples of this happening in your life?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ruth Dahlin: Why Christians Should Read Harry Potter (Or at Least Give it a Chance)

Today I start the first of my third-Wednesday-of-the-month guest posts with a post by Ruth Dahlin, whom I've known for some time. She's a really fun girl, and this is her first guest post!

via Goodreads
Hi! My name is Ruth Dahlin, and Lauren was kind enough to let me do a guest post, (applause and cheering for Lauren) which I have wanted to do for a long time.

So before we get all serious, let me tell you a little about myself,

I read a lot (all day if I could get away with it) my favorites are dragon books, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and The Constitution, and a good science book or two. I write, I make sarcastic remarks, follow politics, and take care of a lot of plants.

And did I mention my 8 brothers? 
Now, let’s all put our Sirius (Black) faces, and get down to business.
Why Christians should read Harry Potter (or at least give it a chance)

I Love Harry Potter, and logical decisions, and am always saddened by people making illogical decisions. One of my pet peeves is Christians insisting Harry Potter is an evil book.
First, let me state the reasons they would be against Harry Potter.
1. (And this is the most common one)It has magic in it - and all magic is evil! 2. It has swear words in it
3. It never mentions God

Now, let me argue with those points, and expound on No. 1. A little more 

1. It has magic in it (and all magic is evil!)
First, if magic is so evil, what do you call Jesus’ miracles? (Other than miracles)

That’s right, magic. I once read an article in a Thriving Family magazine (I've forgotten the exact issue and title, but if you know, please leave it in the comments) about how a lot of teenagers are becoming interested in magic, and using crystal balls, and Ouija Boards and how parents should be concerned. This is true, after all, Leviticus 19 verse 31 says, “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God” (Notice it says,"Don't use magic from spirits", not, "Don't read books about magic!!")

But it also implied that fictional magic books are evil, and a Clubhouse magazine (again, I've forgotten the particular issue number I apologize profusely) said in a movie review that “Most movies rely on magic for plots” and “God hates the Occult” and “movies and books are relying a lot on magic for their plots. We should be careful”

But we, as, Christians should rejoice that this is happening, because we, are Christians are saved, and Loved by God, and Jesus died on the cross for us, and we wrestle with a supernatural being on a daily basis. Pretty cool, right?
via Goodreads

After all, if we are in extraordinary events ourselves, shouldn't reading books and watching movies about supernatural things happening to supernormal people and the supernormal people succeeding make sense?
We shouldn't idolize them, of course, but don’t you agree?

Also, if the kind of magic that is in Harry Potter is ‘evil’, why isn't the magic in Narnia and Lord of the Rings isn't called ‘evil?’(I've never heard of complaints to Narnia and the only objection I've heard to Lord of the Rings is that LOTR is “scary for kids younger than 12”) 
2. It has swear words in it
Yes, but only, I've found, on average, two per book, and if it’s that problematic for parents, they can go black them out.
3. It never mentions God
Neither do classics like (yes I just did that) LOTR and Narnia.

And let me put it this way, the plot would be pretty darn boring if God just appeared every time that Harry was in trouble and solved everything (and if God was only mentioned a couple times, Christians would be saying that God didn't do enough!)
And besides, you’ll admit there have been times in your life where God has been (seemingly) kept silent and you enjoyed a book where God helped a character through his “invisible hand”
So, go enjoy (re)reading Harry Potter!

Ruth is pretty great, isn't she? Thanks for writing this guest post, Ruth!
So what do you think? Should Christians should read Harry Potter? Do you agree with Ruth's points, or have other ones that you'd like to bring up? Feel free to disagree and state your reasons why.
Would you like to write a guest post for this blog? Click here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving and Materialism

The Christmas season is nearly upon us, that merry time in which we all are supposed to decry materialism, but buy things anyway, and then feel guilty about it, but then feel smug and self-righteous for feeling guilty.

Am I right?

The seasonal blog posts attacking or defending buying stuff during the Christmas season are inevitable, but the spirit of guilt and confusion doesn't have to be.

It's actually a logical progression from Thanksgiving to Christmas shopping. Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of gratefulness, of counting your blessings. Gratefulness for your blessings should cause you to want to turn around and bless other people in the ways that you have been blessed.

Christmas gift-giving is a tradition of blessing other people as a small picture of how Christ blessed us. Sometimes these gifts are material things, and sometimes they are not. But people who rail against giving gifts have forgotten this. People who buy gifts because they love sales and love stuff have also forgotten this.

To be clear: trampling people for sales is not good. But neither is feeling guilty about buying gifts because of how the tramplers think. If you're buying gifts for the people you love, because you love them, and because you are so thankful for what you have been given (something that you remember on Thanksgiving) then you are truly entering into the spirit of Christmas. 

God gave us the greatest blessing through Christ. What blessings are we grateful for, and how will we reflect that this season? 

That's what should be running through our minds this time of year, not: I can't believe they bought that expensive TV. How materialistic! But also not: I wonder how many of those TV's I can buy. Oh dear, did I just trample someone?

This time of year, our spirit should be one of thankfulness and gratefulness for our overflowing blessings. And it should also be the kind of spirit that doesn't hold our blessings tightly in one closed fist, keeping them all for ourselves, but the kind that, like God, opens up our hands and gives just as freely to others. That is true thankfulness.

Monday, November 12, 2012

One of the Best Posts on Writing I've Ever Read

I've been following the fantastic Ellyn Gibbs' blog for a while now, and her posts are always amusing, inspiring, encouraging, and intriguing. But just recently she posted something that really struck me. It put into words some of the things that I've been learning lately. It was so simple and encouraging, and I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you all. Here is an excerpt from the beginning:
It doesn't matter if you're married, engaged, single and happy, single and hopeful, or a hermit, you have probably heard this cliche: 
Love is a verb. 
Well, maybe I'm exaggerating - a hermit might not have, but that's another debate for another time. Cliches are cliches for a reason, and though most of us have heard the phrase "love is a verb" over and over, its much easier to repeat it parrot-style than actually put it into practice. If you truly love somebody, you won't just stick around for the warm fuzzy hot-chocolate-and-mittens feelings. You'll stay with that person through annoyances, disagreements, and full-out fights. (Pay attention, Taylor Swift.) 
It turns out that this phrase also relates to writing. 

When is the last time you said, "I love writing?" Honestly, I haven't said that out loud for quite a while, because.... 
(Read more
What are you still doing here? Click over and read it. Then leave her a comment, follow her blog (you won't regret it), and maybe come back here to discuss. Isn't she fantastic? Do you agree with what she said? Any favorite posts on writing that you'd like to share?

(And in case you're wondering, that is a picture of my keyboard, and yes, the 7 key is missing.)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Breaking News: Lauren Attempts to be Funny, Fails

The Internet -  once upon a time on the internet there was a blogger who was supposed to be working on her NaNoWriMo novel. But instead she had an idea to write a post entirely in the third person (she justified this decision by pretending she was practicing for her fictional autobiography).

When asked why she was procrastinating, the blogger replied (quote) "Ummm..." (unquote).

When further questioned the blogger admitted that she was pursuing inspiration down the paths it led.

The blogger then began typing furiously on her iPad 1, utilizing the Blogger app (which, by the way, needs a preview button.)

The blogger, who was identified as Lauren Shearer, and who wishes to remain anonymous, refused further comment, declaring that this interview was "distracting" and "annoying."

Subsequently this reporter caught up with the blogger's family; unfortunately, they also declined to comment on the situation. Updates will be added as this site learns more.

Update: blogger now writing phony updates.

Update: nothing new to report.

Update: what do you guys think about writing about yourself in third person? It's very awkward, but it's necessary when writing bios. I need to write a third person bio. Although until I actually accomplish something that's kind of hard to do. Lauren is a person... who... um... does stuff.

Update: okay, okay, back to NaNoWriMo.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Less is More is Less is More is Less

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter."
- Blaise Pascal

I have a bad habit of writing too little and too much.

When writing fiction, I always write too little. I write bare-bones prose, focusing mostly on dialogue and hardly any on description. This habit came mostly from writing short stories and flash fiction, which is pretty much all I've been writing for a while now. In short stories (flash fiction especially) you can't waste a lot of words on description, unless of course that's the point of the story.

But that doesn't work so well for novels, as I've been finding out during NaNoWriMo. In order to reach my daily word count I have to write longer scenes than I usually do, otherwise my story is going to end really quickly. Now, you'd think writing more would be a bad thing - my story will be too wordy! But I've actually found out that my fear of description is totally unwarranted.

Adding more description to the story actually (surprise!) makes the story come alive. I know, obvious, right? But this is something I just haven't done in a while, mostly out of (like I said above) fear of being wordy.

However, when I write blog posts, I always write too much. Some of my shortest posts have the most comments and views (my Avengers posts being the exception.) With blog posts, I guess I just don't know where to stop, which is why I've been trying to keep my recent posts shorter than usual.

Now, of course, I don't want to fall into the trap of saying more or less than I need to say. There's a delicate balance here. And there are conventional word counts for different forms of writing that have to be taken into account. Like NaNoWriMo's 50,000 word count.

But in some areas I know I've been stunting my writing by saying less than I could, and in some ways I've been rambling by saying more than I should, and it's been fascinating to try to find balance while doing NaNoWriMo and blogging. Okay, that's it. There's my whole post in one sentence. I guess I can stop now.

Do you tend to write more or less, or do you generally say everything you need to say, regardless of word count?

Friday, November 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo is Probably Going to Kill My Wrists

I promise that NaNoWriMo won't be the only thing I post about this month. But today is my second day, and I thought I'd share a little bit about how that's going.

First of all, for those of you who are new to this word - NaNoWriMo - it stands for National Novel Writing Month. As in the month in which you write a 50,000 word novel. In 30 days. Which works out to about 1,666 words a day. Oh, and there's a website on which I have a profile. If the website takes a while to load, just know that's because it's November.

So I currently have a total of 1707 words, a little bit over the suggested average per day. I haven't started today's writing yet, but I will soon. After I finish writing this blog post. It was amazing being able to type in that total at the end of the day. 1700 words. I think I can do this. 50k words doesn't seem so unreachable anymore.

Although I also have another story that I'm working on at the same time. I'm trying to finish up H2WaMM for publication the Blotter (and if you're new to this blog that doesn't make any sense. That's why there are helpful links.) Two stories going at the same time... I can still do this, right?

I'm also attempting to write a poem every single day, as a sort of writing exercise. But that doesn't take very long. I'm not worrying too much about quality. It's more for creative stimulation.

So a novel, a short story, and a poem every day. Can I survive this November? More importantly, can my wrists survive this November? We shall see. I may have to take it easy now and then with all this typing I'm doing. But I think it will be worth it.

Heard of NaNoWriMo before? Doing NaNoWriMo this year? How did your first day go? What's your word count? Any tips for avoiding Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...