NaNo 2017 Recap and Life Update

Some days, I dream I’ll be able to become the kind of blogger that takes just fifteen minutes or so to slap a post together and get it posted. I often enjoy that type of blog, because I often feel like I get to know the author better that way somehow—but I haven’t tended to be a good blogger over the last while. Sigh.

HOWEVER, now that NaNoWriMo is officially eight days over, I feel like my brain is starting to return! Hurray!

NaNo was so fun to do this year. After I won in 2013, I really wasn’t sure if I’d ever be able to participate again, because I anticipated life getting busier (maybe I was planning on getting married at sixteen; who knows? I can’t remember!). Anyway, even though I did no prep whatsoever for NaNo this year (a BIG no-no in my book!), I was thrilled to be able to participate.

Beach Outing

And even better, I somehow finished. Don’t ask me how that happened; but it did, and I’m thankful!

Since winning NaNo, I’ve focused on a bunch of different things, but the most exciting has been working on the website redesign. Due to several Black Friday sales shared by a blogger I follow, I was able to both purchase the themes I needed to start the redesign, as well as buy website hosting! That was thoroughly exciting, after waiting several months for enough funds to become available.

And, of course, it’s always thrilling to be playing with code and website colors, fonts, and designs again. That’s one part of blogging that I thoroughly enjoy, so it makes my little heart happy to be able to work on it again.

NaNo 2017 Winner Badge

However, life isn’t all fun and games—today, for example, I need to get some book reviews uploaded to the LRD website. I stopped uploading through the month of November, partly due to the lack of available reviews, and partly due to my (ahem) writing at the time. Near the beginning of the month, I decided getting into creative writing would trump working on reviews for the time being. But now that we are into December, it’s high time to tackle that project again.

Then, when that’s done, maybe I can start working on the complex problem with category presentation on the redesign, or perhaps get started on a sewing project I’ve been gazing longingly at for the past week or so.

And maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to dream up a way to get blog posts written and posted easier. Because I do love blogging; I just tend to get to feeling a little stifled at times by the things I “must” do before I can get a post up.

What have you been working on lately?

Little Things and NaNo Update

Early this morning, I remembered that today marked a year exactly since the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that disrupted our lives and the lives of thousands of people here in New Zealand. Wow. Amazing how many changes can be made in a year, and how two minutes at midnight has created challenges for people to this day. One main road still hasn’t been opened yet as a result (although the current hope is that they will be able to open it within a month).

So much in such a little time.

Little Things and NaNo Update

I was listening to a podcast earlier today as I cleaned a few windows in my bedroom that have been bugging me for weeks. Michael Hyatt, a well-known leader in the business world, was talking, and he said something about how our words and actions can influence people either positively or negatively, depending on how we use them. He went on to say that our attitudes and perceptions of life can, in some cases anyway, be huge determining factors in how others relate to us—or even if we end up keeping our jobs or not! Again, another case where little things can influence huge changes, either good or bad.

Lots to ponder there.

The main project for me these last two weeks has been writing. Since I signed up for NaNoWriMo, I’ve been writing at least a little each day. It’s been so, so fun. And while I know that we shouldn’t just do life for the fun aspect, I do think it’s okay in the creative sphere to really challenge yourself to turn up each day and get something done. The challenge is good, but it’s also fun to do.

Last week, I finished the first children’s story I was writing, and began a second that I’ve been pondering off and on for a little while. I’m almost to the end of the second now, and I’m not sure where I’ll be going from here, as I’ll still need nearly 23,000 words of something to write in the next fifteen days in order to win NaNo.

One thing that I have found fascinating over the course of this challenge is the fact that my creativity levels can be depleted. Some days are better, some are worse, but overall I’ve witnessed a general slide in the creativity to a not-so-full state. That’s fine, as I know I’ll be able to tank up over the next few months again, but it has been an interesting trend to follow.

I also have been amusing myself greatly by how much I forget to include one particular character in my more recent story. It’s a dragon, who is supposed to be a little bit on the arrogant slash snarky side, but he keeps forgetting to act his character or I forget he’s even there…this is when I’m looking forward to doing some editing so I can put him back in later. 🙂

In all, NaNo has gone a lot better than I expected so far, I’ve loved (almost) every minute—except for the few times when I realize I’m writing an extremely boring scene!—and I’m looking forward to the final sixteen-or-so days.

Now, I’d better go see if I can figure out another story to write, or else make some good progress on planning out the story I’ve been wanting to write for years!

What projects have you been working on lately? Have you ever listened to podcasts by business leaders? What is one useful tip you have picked up or been given recently?

November’s NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge

Last Wednesday, I did something crazy that I’m hoping I won’t end up regretting (I don’t think I will): I signed up for NaNoWriMo this month. (NaNo, as in National Novel Writing Month, or the crazy challenge writers take to write 50,000 words in 30 days.) I’ve participated other years—and even managed to get to 50k in 2013!—but since then, I’ve gained a lot of other responsibilities, so this is proving to be an even bigger challenge than it was back then.

But it’s been so, so fun as well. It’s thrilling to watch a story develop under your fingertips; to “live” in another place and try to put all five senses that you’re discovering there in word form so that someone else can experience it as well.

November's NaNoWriMo and a Thankfulness Challenge 01

Pre-food near-starvation mode

As an aside: One thing I’ve discovered about myself (to my surprise!) is that I tend to write a lot more clearly than I speak. That’s become a continual annoyance to me, because words flow so well through my fingertips, but not necessarily through my lips. But that’s okay. It’s always good to have at least one thing to hone in life, right?

Back in 2013, and again in 2014 and 2015, I believe, I participated in another month-long challenge in November: GiveThanks x7. It was hosted by a girl’s magazine, The King’s Blooming Rose, with the goal being to write down seven things I’m grateful for every day of the month of November. It proved to be a lovely time of creating a habit of thankfulness, a frame of mind I’d love to be in constantly.

This year, although the magazine isn’t hosting the challenge, they do encourage us to do it ourselves. So I thought I’d share my “thankful” lists from the last three days.

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Post-food relaxation mode (at this point, I’m thinking there are probably some interesting and useful parallels between sheep and humans, as the Bible often points out).

November 1:

  1. Haunt Fox by Jim Kjielgaard—a fascinating nature book!
  2. Peacocks—they’re so pretty!
  3. Beautiful mornings
  4. November
  5. A new dresser for my little sister
  6. NaNoWriMo
  7. Work away from home!

November 2:

  1. Summery days
  2. Motel-quality sheets (what luxury!)
  3. Stories to write
  4. Roses
  5. Bible memory verses
  6. Pitcher plants—fascinating things, especially when wasps get stuck in them!
  7. Dear friends who are willing to help when it’s difficult to get something done ourselves (oh, that I might be a friend like that to other people!)

November 3:

  1. The quails I heard early this morning
  2. Brothers that I can delight with stories
  3. My happy little sister
  4. God’s faithfulness
  5. The color of fresh spring green
  6. Taking walks with my little sister
  7. Her delight in nature

Have you ever written fictional stories and/or participated in a writing challenge? What are some things you are thankful for today?

In Which I…Embark on Being a Writer Again

Eleven days ago, I started a journey I’ve been pondering for quite a few months now, but hadn’t figured out how to do until then. But once I did figure it out—at least, the first step—I jumped in. And I haven’t looked back. Until today.

If you had known me back in 2012, you would have found me a girl who was just discovering the beauties of creative writing. Just testing the waters, starting to feel the potential, excited that my dreams, thoughts, and ideas could be expressed in such an exciting way. I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo, or NaNo for short) that year, and my first task was researching what this “novel” thing mentioned in the website’s name was. The next year, I read every writing blog I could find, and grew by leaps and bounds in my knowledge. I loved it.

In 2013, I went into NaNo with a much better idea of what this whole thing was about, eager to tell the story I’d been trying to write for a year and a half at that point. I lost myself in the story, reveling in the descriptions and characters that seemed to leap from my head to the page. For those first three weeks of November, I lived the rest of my life as an automaton, completely caught up in my story. Then I won NaNo, finished the book, and suddenly realized…what do I do next?

Writing Again

Over the course of the next few months, into early 2014, I edited the novel, and dreamed about the new ideas I had as a result of all the creative writing I’d been doing.

Then I stopped. I had a new story idea that I loved, but I couldn’t figure out how to make it work—so from early 2014 until now, mid-2017, I barely ever picked up the creative pen, so to speak. Last November, I briefly tried again for NaNoWriMo, but almost immediately got stymied because I couldn’t figure out where the story was going.

This month, I’ve started again.

I decided to be simple, but intentional about writing. I’ve really missed using my imagination in the story realm, and the longer I let it go the more I miss it, so I’ve decided to simply write 100 words per day—so that if nothing else, I can practice the craft at least a little every day. You know, the old “practice makes perfect—or at least makes you better at it”.

I asked a dear friend if she’d be willing to be my accountability partner for this goal, and (thank you, Rachel!) she agreed. So now she’s getting an exorbitant amount of emails from me now, but it’s keeping me on track. I’m thankful—and loving to be back “in the saddle” again!

(By the way—you should totally check out her blog. I love it, and she tends to do an excellent job of stepping on my toes, too, in that excellent way she has. She’s shared some very good articles lately.)

Do you enjoy creative writing? What have you written recently?

New Book and Interview with Author Sarah Holman!

Hi, everyone! And welcome back after the long silence! I’m learning—slowly—that I’m not that great of a consistent blogger, but when I’m in the mood for it I enjoy it. That makes it slightly difficult for me, since I enjoy a regular routine, but such is life.

Anyway, I have something exciting to share with you today! Well, this evening, rather…it’s past 11 pm now. I’m having my last hot drink for the day, and hope to have this post finished by the time I’m done. That’s not very likely, but I can try!

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The last couple days I’ve had the privilege of pre-reading author Sarah Holman’s latest book Courage and Corruption! This book is the third in the series, a medieval fantasy that has good stories and Christian themes woven throughout. Looks like I haven’t reviewed any of the books in this series for the website yet—that will have to change. These books are worthwhile reading, especially for younger readers.

Oh, and before I go further I do want to let you know by way of disclaimer that I read an Advanced Reader Copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Also, some links in this post are affiliate links. Purchases made through those links do not cost you any extra, but the small sum I receive from them helps keep this site running. So thank you! And now, onto…

My Review of Courage and Corruption:

About CC.jpg
Christopher cannot understand how his father believes he can learn to be a man by being sent off with the women, girls, and younger children to a castle away from the battle scene. With strife between him and his sister as well—neither wanting to take the blame for careless mistakes made out of a lack of responsibility—his life is miserable. Will he ever be able to find true happiness? And what will happen to Taelis, their beautiful country that is about to be split by a civil war as the people try to decide who will next be king?

Courage and Corruption by Sarah Holman.jpg

In all, I enjoyed this book for the most part. There were a few things I didn’t appreciate so much about it, as I felt some elements might not be realistic (even in a fantasy setting).

I also didn’t totally agree with the theology. This book seems to be stressing accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, which I agree with—Jesus does need to be both Lord and Savior of our lives—but in my personal devotions in Acts right now (and from other scriptures I remember as well), we should actually repent rather than just accept. There’s a big difference, which I won’t go into now, but Acts 2:38 and 1 John 1:9 have some bearing on this. This view is mentioned two different times. This may be an oversight on the author’s part, I don’t know. But I do think it’s worth mentioning.

Despite that, the storyline was good as it taught the need to prove your responsibility in little things before you can be trusted in big things. I’m sure many young readers would find that a worthwhile message to hear. The story itself is also exciting. Lots to do with kings and princes and knight’s children. Recommended for ages 11-14, especially.

Note: There is a battle in the latter part of chapter 27 and again the very first part of chapter 28. It mentions people being wounded and some blood, but not in any detail.

Interview with Sarah Holman:

(I actually interviewed Sarah several months ago, but never got it published. I decided this was a great opportunity to share her insights with you!)

Esther: Thank you for joining us today, Sarah! Could you give us a quick background of who you are and what you do? And just for fun, what’s one thing you do with your family these days that will make memories you’ll cherish years down the road?

Sarah: I was born in Dallas but moved to the Austin area when I was three. I grew up with two book addicts for parents and a love for stories in every form: oral, book, movie, and so on. At age eleven, I was frustrated because I couldn’t find the kind of books I wanted to read, so I decided to write them. When I was seventeen, God laid it on my heart that I should pursue becoming a full-time author. I published my first book in 2012 and continue to write the kind of books I always wanted to read.

I love this question. I think my favorite memories will be of the evenings where we all sat together, just talking. It can be on a serious topic or a being silly. However, just being together makes it worth remembering.

Esther: I love our family’s times of just talking, too! For us, it usually happens around the supper table—and the topics can be all over the place from building trailers to something someone said at church several weeks ago!

I also think it’s neat that you’re writing the books you’d like to read. It can be difficult at times to write for ourselves, as opposed to what we perceive the world at large would like to read. What do you enjoy most about your job as a writer?

Sarah: Ah yes! Don’t you love how scattered family conversations can be?

What I most enjoy? Sitting behind my computer and letting the words of a new story flow through me. There is something amazing about see a fresh story starting to take shape that is always exciting for me.

Esther: That is fun! I love all the adventures and…um…adversities that I can throw at my characters from time to time. Or the ones they spring on me!

But moving on…I’ve always enjoyed the Christian elements in your stories (and I’ve read a good number of them). Do you have a story that was particularly hard to write as far as the faith aspect is concerned? Which book has challenged you the most in your personal journey?

Sarah: Wow! You know how to give a tough question. Just about every book has a message that was close to my heart. The hardest one to write was Kate’s Innocence. It took a long time to develop the story enough that a faith theme emerged. See, I don’t often start with a super clear idea of what it is going to be because I want it to come out naturally.

As for the most challenging personally that is a good story: 2015 was a really hard year for me. There were some awesome parts to it, but overall it left me drained and dealing with a lot of emotions. I took off of almost everything in January of this year and spent it writing. Out of that month, two books in the Tales of Taelis came and both of them reflect my struggles and what God taught me. Courage and Corruption and Dreams and Devotion will be coming out later this year and both of them reflect the struggles within my own heart.

Esther: That seems like a wise way to share faith in books. The one time I tried it, it ended up feeling stilted, but I may have to try again. After all, forcing things like that on fictitious characters could be as bad as on real people! It’s interesting that 2015 was difficult for you—in many ways, that was a hard year for me too. Now you’ve given me even more reason to look forward to the next Taelis books—I really enjoyed the first two!

Relating to the last question…I think we’d agree there are many challenges confronting Christians these days. (Lies propagated through the media and music, moral issues, etc.) Have you specifically addressed any of these challenges in any of your books–intentionally or no?

Sarah: Another good but tough question. Most of the time when we say we need to talk about issues, we have a laundry list of the ills of society. In my own way, I am addressing the issues, but at a heart level. Christians fall for the lies of this world because they are not spending enough time focusing on the truth. If we spend all our time focusing on the evil around us, often we will fall for the lies. If we spend our time on God and His truth, the evil won’t be as appealing.

While I probably will deal with some of the tough issues head on in some upcoming books, for right now I’m doing exactly what I’m called to. I am writing books that deal with the tough issues of the heart like God’s plans for your life (The Destiny of One), the importance of telling the truth (A Different Kind of Courage), where is God when life is hard (Adventures and Adversities), and the power of forgiveness (Brothers and Betrayal) to name a few.

Esther: I love that thought about focusing on truth! So true! I believe you are wise to address those issues first—as the Bible says, “the heart is the wellspring of life”. It’s a pretty important task!

Okay, I think that was the last “hard” question I had for you. In wrapping up, I wanted to ask about your personal writing process a little: You’ve just released Kate’s Capitol, and have several more books in the works right now.  Do you have any particular methods for keeping yourself inspired and motivated—even when doing things like editing, which can be a bit difficult?

Sarah: My biggest key to getting things done is just to keep at it even when I don’t feel like it. I make deadlines and work to keep them (although I haven’t been successful all the time) and even give myself rewards for completing things. My method for keeping inspired? To have several projects going at once. I don’t like editing, so I normally have a project that I am writing at the same time. This keeps me motivated to do the editing so that I can get to the writing.

The main thing that keeps me motivated, is that I know what I know I am doing what God has called me too. There is a huge amount of satisfaction that comes when you are in the middle of God’s plan for you.

Esther: Knowing you’re in the center of God’s plan—a wonderful feeling, I agree! That’s great! Do you have any words of advice for younger or newbie Christian writers? And just for fun, which book out of the ones that you’ve written is your favorite?

Sarah: I have three pieces of advice for new writers. First and most importantly is to make sure that everything you write aligns with your faith. Secondly, don’t write what you think other people want to read, read the kind of books you like. Third, read all the time and of many genres.

My favorite book? Can I say all of them? No? Okay, if I had to pick a favorite out of all of them it would either be A Different Kind of Courage because I love that time in history or The Destiny of a Galaxy because there is so much of my own emotions in that book.

Esther: I love A Different Kind of Courage, too—it’s really good! Thanks for sharing with us today, Sarah! Where can people find you and your books? Any closing thoughts?

Sarah: The easiest place to find my books is Amazon. But you can also find them on audiobooks on Audible and iTunes and paperbacks on Createspace.

In closing, I would just like to say that whatever God has called you to do, do it to His glory. Don’t look to the world or anyone else for your standards our validation, look to the One who made you.

About the Author:

111 Author - closer.JPGSarah Holman is a not so typical mid-twenties girl: A homeschool graduate, sister to six awesome siblings, and author of many published books and short stories. If there is anything adventuresome about her life, it is because she serves a God with a destiny bigger than anything she could have imagined.

You can find her at her website: www.thedestinyofone.com

Follow the Tour:

November 15
Faith Blum
Lakeside Publication
Claire Banschbach

November 16
Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Father

November 17
Learning Resource Directory
Into the Bookcase

November 19
Gods Peculiar Treasure
A Pinch of Faith

And that’s it for this girl tonight. My tea has run dry now, anyway. Have a great weekend, everyone, and stay tuned—I have a post written to tell about the recent earthquake we had and aftermath, and hope to share that in another day or two. Just as soon as I can remember to sit down to upload pictures—providing our internet stays on, of course. It’s been acting up a little since the earthquakes.

Good vs. Great (and Why I Don’t Like War Room)

I read great books all the time. Sometimes, it almost feels repetitive to say “this is such a great book!” because I’ve said it literally a hundred-plus times before. But the truth is—there are lots of great books out there. Yes, there are a lot of “good” ones, too. Ones that aren’t really great, but are still good and still teachable.

Often, I ponder the difference between these books. What makes one book just good and another really great? Do I judge a book as great simply because it had an adventure-filled storyline, or is it something deeper?

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Case in point: Just recently, my family and I got to watch War Room for the first time. If you’ve followed Christian news at all for the last year or so, I’m sure you’ve heard of this new movie from the Kendrick brothers. Having watched and appreciated the four previous movies, I figured this would be another great one as well. Well…I came away feeling less than impressed. The overall theme of the movie? Yes, that’s great. But the movie itself? Good, at best. Now, that isn’t the opinion of everyone in my family—praise God for different people with different strengths who can appreciate things I can’t so much!—but for me, I was disappointed to some extent.

As far as the encouragement to pray, I can go along with that 100%. I also appreciated the (whats-it-called?) cinematography—that was also well done. However, I felt like some of the things added to the movie were only there for the excitement factor (such as the jump-rope competition; yes, it was part of the story throughout, but it felt contrived). Many of the scenes felt like telling, not showing (characters just sat and yakked…which isn’t all bad AND there is some good stuff shared there, but it still was “telling”). And overall, I felt like the winning was contrived—whether it was the tension at home (wrapped up way too soon), or the bad guy being let off with a way too easy fine (considering the circumstances, he should have gotten a lot more punishment than he did), it wasn’t all that satisfying. Yes, it was good. Yes, I did mostly enjoy it in the end. But I’ve found a few bones to pick about it.

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Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Knowing that I tend to write some pretty lame fiction, I really don’t want to pass judgment on other people’s books. Maybe I’m cut out to be more of a reader than a writer, although I’m sure I’ll always secretly wish that I could be a writer too. Writing is just so fun! At the same time, though, I wonder why one book that should be great is just good. Average. Why somehow it’s failed to hit the higher point on the judgment meter, even though I know the author is a dedicated Christian who has the ability to craft amazing stories.

In rereading my review of 21 Days of Grace tonight (review will be up in about a week), I think I may have discovered a partial answer to that: The characters weren’t needy. By that I mean they didn’t desperately need an out, whatever it is. They weren’t flawed.

Is it possible that in writing Christian fiction we’re so steeped in our ideal of what Christianity should look like that we miss the fact that underneath we’re all sinners? That we’re all flawed, in some way or another? And as a result of this ideal we create people—saved or unsaved—in our stories that ultimately end up “perfect” (which, of course, isn’t possible or plausible in real life)?

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Of course, there’s got to be a balance here. We can’t glory in sin in order for characters to be flawed. And we can’t have them so flawed that it makes it unbelievable that they can ever be a true Christian. But perhaps we need to step outside of our idea of perfectionism just a little bit in order to grasp the beauty of what Christ has done for us. Perhaps once in a while we need to distance ourselves from what we know and believe is right and consider another point of view, in order to see the truth more clearly.

I’m sure there are more pieces to this puzzle that I haven’t figured out yet. There’s got to be. But maybe this is one key to work with, one reason that makes some books that should be great just good, and makes some books truly amazing.

What do you think? What are some differences that you can see between a “good” and a “great” book? Do you think we could be so blinded by our worldview that we can’t create engaging, useful stories?

On Why We Like a Good Villain

Every story needs a good villain. At least, that’s the recommendation I’ve seen everywhere I look when I’m trying to find solid writing advice. However, I’ve often wondered why this is something that’s so accepted as a needed element in a story. Surely you can have a good story without a villain?

Good-Villain

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/raincarnation40 | License: CC0 1.0

Recently, I received a link to a free video series on editing. Shawn Coyne taught the series, and had a great overview of genre conventions (what people expect when they see a certain genre applied to a book), organizing tips, and much more. One convention he mentioned was the “hero at the mercy of the villain” scene. Then it clicked.

Several years ago, while writing a novel, I realized my ending felt flat. I couldn’t think of a way to fix it, until one evening I had a horrible idea for working climax in such a way that the main character was eventually caught by the man she was running from, and sent to her death . . . .

When Shawn mentioned the “hero at the mercy of the villain” scene, I almost shouted! No wonder it felt right—I had given my villain the perfect way to show his true evilness, and that made the story work! (Admittedly, there’s some fixing up that I need to do to make that scene shine, but at least that part is figured out!)

Then tonight, I was listening to a song by Josh Wilson about God judging Satan, and I suddenly had an illumination on why the “hero/heroine with archenemy who is eventually beaten” story is so popular—indeed, in some context or another that’s the backbone of almost every story! If it’s not external, it will be an internal villain, and either way you (normally) have an excellent story.

So why is this story type so popular? I propose that it’s an inbuilt thing—we all know (to some extent) of the great battle God has fought against the devil—the epitome of sin—ever since not long after the beginning of time. That is the greatest adventure story of all time. Since it is, we are naturally drawn to enjoy and want to write stories along those lines. No wonder there are so many emotional aspects to love about the scenes where hero trumps villain!

Question: How did your villain finally lose in your latest story?

Do You Have Characters Acting Out of Character?

Recently, I watched a ‘40s film of Pride and Prejudice. Near the middle of the movie, Elizabeth was visiting Mr. and Mrs. Collins. Earlier in the film, hints had been made as to what Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s personality was like, but it wasn’t until now that I actually got to meet her. Her personality was just as bad as it had been portrayed earlier—proud, arrogant, haughty—everything you wouldn’t want to find in a new acquaintance.

Lady Catherine and Elisabeth

by C.E. Brock [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Later in the film, she is shown as coming to see Elizabeth, trying to force her to promise never to marry Mr. Darcy. Of course, by this time Elizabeth loves Darcy, even though there will probably never be a way to have that love reciprocated. In the end Elizabeth refuses, and Lady Catherine leaves in an apparent huff.

The next scene made me raise my eyebrows. The movie portrayed her going out to see Mr. Darcy, who apparently put Lady Catherine up to it to find out if Elizabeth really loved him or not. Lady Catherine gives him the affirmation he wants and he goes in to propose to Elizabeth, while she drives off in apparent good humor, well satisfied with finally bringing the two together in the end.

On the surface, this may be the perfect ending to the story—but how the two got together in the end really bugged me.

The problem was that Lady Catherine was acting out of character. Majorly.

The problem originated in the fact that Lady Catherine is shown in previous scenes to have had strong family ties. She wanted Darcy to marry her daughter, not this Elizabeth who had very low social ties. She was shown as willing to go to all ends to achieve her means. So she wouldn’t have wanted to help Darcy in any way.

For the movie, it worked alright—the story was able to resolve much more quickly than in the book. But as far as portraying real characters, it fell short.

In real life, Lady Catherine de Bourgh does question Elizabeth—and tell Mr. Darcy of the results, in an attempt to keep him from courting her. Her words had the opposite effect of what she desired, though.

I want to be sure my characters don’t act out of character. I do find it difficult to spot it in my own writing, but in one place of a recent novel, my editor picked up on one instance—that I’m currently trying to correct.

Have you ever noticed similar deficiencies in characters? When was the last time you caught characters acting out of character?

Creating Beautiful Descriptions Using Coffee Table Books

I was recently flipping through a coffee table book about tigers, studying the different pictures. Interspersed throughout the book were pictures of native people, their ways of life, their religious beliefs, and their surroundings. Not many—the book was mainly about tigers, how they live, and how they’re endangered (I didn’t appreciate most of that last theme, but that’s beside the point). But there were a good number of “other” pictures.

Creating Beautiful Descriptions Using Coffee Table Books

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Sponchia | License: CC0 1.0

Then it hit me: This would be a fantastic way to research the country a story is set in! This particular book had India, Thailand, and possibly other Southeast Asia countries as well.

Some of the pictures covered major crops, normal clothing styles, shamans (witch doctors), Buddhist temples, landscapes, the resident’s problems with native animals, and much more.

I have a hard time visualizing my characters, their setting, and the landscape around them. I know not all writers are like me, and I’m glad of that. But for those of us that struggle this way, perhaps this is a way to overcome it—visually.

Next time I’m attempting to describe a country, I’m going to find one of these picture books for adults and indulge in some beautiful descriptions.

Do you struggle with creating good descriptions? Have you ever used coffee table books this way before?

Your Three-Year-Old Can Write, part 2: Examples

We’ve established the fact that teaching writing to your children from an early age is important. Today, I’d like to give you a few examples of what my young brothers write about, and how your youngsters can write too.

Your Three-Year-Old Can Write, part 2: Examples

Photo courtesy of Pixabay/Efraimstochter | License: CC0 1.0

Tip #1: Ask Them to Tell You About a Recent Experience

Sometimes, a story can spring from a simple life experience. In the following story, my brother was telling what he saw when we went to visit a local zoo called Willowbank.

We going to Willowbank and we go into the office. We see eels at Willowbank. I see ducks. I feed ducks bread. They ate it all gone. The monkey was going up to the branch and up to another one branch, one, two branches. That long branch! There were chickens in the chicken pen. —J, two and a half years old

Tip #2: Write Down Their Imagined Stories

Sometimes, my brother will come through with a story to tell to whoever will listen to him. This was a product of one of those occasions—when Mom was able to write it down. Obviously, she did not edit—she just wrote it as he told her. Right now, it may not make a whole lot of sense—but it will definitely be fun to read in years to come!

A man was taking a walk with his dog and he was walking on the road with his dog and he was going to motels and he was going into motels watching motel clean the living room up with the vacuum and vacuum his garden up and taking a walk with his dog and the daddy dog died and humongous bushes and there was a lion in the bushes. —N, three years old

Just for fun, here’s another example:

I was walking through the woods one day. A bear jumped out of the forest, and I speared it. I had flint and steel in my pocket, and I started a fire. I had forked sticks up on top so I could dry the meat and the skin. I made metal forked sticks out of flat sticks of steel. And I had that bear for my tea. It tasted like cow meat.

I went out diving one day, and speared a shark. I had a string so I could tie it onto the tail. I pulled it to shore. Then I speared a seal. I chucked it into the sea, and the other sharks ate it. I washed my hands, and I went back to the forest.

Another bear jumped out at me. I was dragging the whale still. I speared the bear, and I put it in my small freezer. It wasn’t very small. I chopped off feet. I was close to a sea. I chucked them in the sea, and the sharks ate them. —J, four and a half years old

Tip #3: Let Them Tell About Their Daily Life!

In this next example, my brother reiterated his daily life. Obviously, this was how he said it then–fun to compare with how he talks now.

… Sheep is going in paddocks when I chase them. I chase your cow, Mom. I chase Mom’s cows when they go in cow’s water. I go home. I am sweating over the place. I go in the house. Daddy is coming home after lunch. When I come I eat glue. … I can taste really good. I not taste it. I go to the pen and wait for the boys to get done getting the cows. When they come they go running. They go running lot of times. They scream. —J, two and a half years old

Tip #4: Ask Them What They’d Like to Write About

In the following example, my brother asked to watch a video about lions. Mom found one on Youtube for him, and he based this piece on that.

I want to write about lions. They jump. And they jump onto the rocks. They eat animals. They save baby lions. They play with little lions. They sleep a lot and baby lions sleep a lot. They eat giraffes and zebras. And kill animals. —N, three years old

Tip #5: Encourage the Different Forms of Writing They May Choose

This poem was not an assignment at all—my brother just decided to make his story into a poem of sorts. Definitely something you want to encourage if you see your child wants to do something like this!

Pick up trash.
Pick up trash.
Pick up trash.
On the beach.
Rolling, rolling sea.
With the picked-up trash go on the rolling, rolling sea.
With the hat on the rolling, rolling sea.
Pick up trash.
Pick up trash.
Pick up trash on the rocks.
—J, three and a half years old

Tip #6: When They’re Ready, Give Them Assignments

The following was an assignment that came from our science course. After several years of writing, he was ready to do something a bit more intensive than just retelling his life or telling a story. For this particular assignment, he had to pick a bird, do a bit of research about it (with some help, of course), and then write a few sentences about the bird.

Bald eagles go high up in trees to have a nest. They migrate from north to south in North America. Their favorite food is fish. They are big. They are a meter long. They are two meters wide, from one tip of the wing to the other one. They live in North America, close to the sea. They aren’t actually bald. They are black and white. Their beaks are yellow. —J, five and a half years old

One of the beauties of starting early is that you get to watch them slowly get better at turning their thoughts into coherent words, sentences, and eventually, paragraphs. While it may be hard to start your youngsters writing at an early age—especially if you have a baby or toddler to watch at the same time!—don’t despair. If you can do it, wonderful! If not, they’ll learn later. Either way, you’re doing great—have fun!