Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Gratitude

Norman Rockwell, Freedom from Want, 1943
Sometimes I get so immersed in my own little world that I forget how grateful I am for my friends and family. The Thanksgiving season is upon us, and now’s a good time to express my gratitude.

With my father’s failing heath, I’m grateful for the friends and family who have rallied around me with their love and support.

My son, his girlfriend, and their dogs are hosting the family Thanksgiving dinner. I’m grateful not to be cooking, cleaning, and hosting this year.

I’m grateful for my loving daughter who is always there to help whenever I need it.

I’m grateful for my friends and our weekly dinners. Without a solid social network, I might become a hermit.

And I’m grateful for my writerly friends – those who have encouraged, critiqued, published, and read my stories. It’s so easy to get discouraged when the path to the goal is long.

Happy Thanksgiving


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Subplot Dilemma

Last month, I gathered a year’s worth of scattered, hand-written pages of story ideas, partially written scenes, character development, etc., for a work in progress.

Then I roughly organized those pages and my previously typed computer documents into four sections (the four quarters of the W-plot) in a large three-ring notebook. After shuffling scenes around, I fine-tuned the chronology for each of the four quarters of the plot.

Next, I created a color-coded spreadsheet of the story scenes. At a glance, the colors identify the main plot, the subplots, and the red herrings. But I must admit, categorization of some story elements stumped me.

A subplot requires a beginning, middle, and end, just like the main plot. And, just like the main plot, a problem or conflict should drive the subplot’s action.

A secondary character has a secret. The secret’s thread has a beginning, middle, end, and is driven by a conflict. The entire thread occurs in one act.

Must a subplot weave throughout the entire story like the main plot, or can it be introduced, developed, and resolved in one act?

My color-coding dilemma: is this secret a subplot, or merely a red herring?


 

 

Monday, October 16, 2023

Making Lemonade

Sometimes “stuff” happens. And when it happened in a draft I’m writing, I made it a plot point.

I’d been fretting over the realization multiple character names began with the same initial in my cozy mystery. I try to avoid similar names to minimize reader confusion.

Renaming a character is my go-to fix for this problem. In this instance, though, the names had special significance. Real people had volunteered their names for the characters and their roles.

This morning, a solution presented itself for salvaging the current names. The main character finds a crumpled piece of paper on the ground. She smooths it out and reveals a mysterious note signed only with an initial.

The note will draw attention to characters with that initial, nuancing them as suspects. The note will be introduced prior to a frightening incident and cause the main character to doubt her co-worker’s true intentions.


Saturday, October 7, 2023

Perspective

The Pacific Air Show performed locally last weekend. Rather than driving the couple of miles to the beach, I watched from my back yard. Every time a jet screamed past overhead, I raised my tea mug in salute, and the pilot dipped his wing in acknowledgment. (From the pilot’s perspective, of course, he was circling back to the beach.)

Years ago, I wrote the same scene from two perspectives for a class assignment. Set in a farmhouse in the 1940s, a farmer’s wife loved her kitchen. The cast iron pump at the sink saved her from carrying buckets of water from the well. The freshly ironed, multi-colored chintz curtains fluttering at the window over the sink brightened her day as she worked.

A property developer tried to buy the farm. The kitchen window, framed by faded curtains, revealed an outhouse in the yard. If she sold, he told her, she’d have money to buy a house with indoor plumbing and flushing toilets. She refused, and he shook his head. He knew she didn’t have to live like that.

I write from the main character’s (MC’s) point of view, showing thoughts, feelings, and actions, but the secondary characters in my first drafts are often flat. As I develop secondary character depth, I keep the differing farmhouse kitchen perspectives in mind and add motivation and reaction to the scene’s conflict.


Friday, September 29, 2023

Fundraising Whimsi Style

Seating for the Whimsicalitea Arts 2023 fundraiser at the French Estate in Orange, California, sold out immediately. And with the event name “Murder at the Manor,” I made sure I was one of the lucky ticket holders.

From the moment we arrived, the enormous amount of planning and work put into the event was obvious. Guests were greeted and led to exquisitely set tables, offered hors d’oeuvres and aperitifs, then invited to wander through the 1892 house.

Once inside, I marveled at the architecture and antiques (and embossed wallpaper), participated in silent auctions and raffle baskets, enjoyed live music, and followed volunteer actors (audience members) from room to room as they performed scenes for the murder mystery.

A lavish, multi-course tea was served on the front lawn, and my guests and I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

I’m looking forward to “Phantom Phantasy,” the Whimsicalitea musical fundraiser in March.


Friday, September 1, 2023

Serendipitous Reading

As I cleared the leftovers from my dad’s old apartment after he moved to a smaller place, I ran across the two remaining books – a dictionary and the John Grisham novel, “Camino Winds”.

The book opened with Hurricane Leo, introduced as a sentient character. As the fictional Leo formed, fluctuated in intensity, changed directions, and created havoc with every landfall, Hurricane Idalia mirrored him in real life.

Some of the book’s characters fled Leo’s path, while others stayed and prepared their homes and businesses for the storm. In the aftermath, the protagonist realized one of Leo’s victims had actually been murdered during the hurricane, and I was hooked.

I read with fascination, especially since I’d prepared for Hurricane Hilary a week and a half earlier. As I read, I studied the techniques the author used to grip and hook the reader. I’m hoping to utilize them in my writing.


Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Jigsaw Puzzles and Writing

My hurricane / tropical storm Hilary preparation supplies included the NaNoWriMo “City of Novelists” jigsaw puzzle. My town received only the outer bands of rain, but I opened the puzzle anyway.

As I worked the jigsaw, I noticed the image developed similarly to the process of writing a story’s first draft.

First, I sorted the pieces by edge, color, and pattern, somewhat like creating unique characters.

Next, I assembled the outer edge, defining the size and shape of the puzzle. This step suggested the delineation of the story’s plot.

Then, I put the easy parts together. The distinct sections of color and pattern (such as the park, the roof of the of the National building, the Novel building’s upper brick floors, and the shaded street between them) supported the image within the puzzle frame like a skeleton. The supporting structures reminded me of a story’s key scenes, sometimes called tentpoles.

I fleshed out the gaps in the skeleton with supporting scenes: the ubiquitous yellow expanses and the striped fa├žade of the National building.

All that’s left is the tedious, solid-colored gray road. I enjoyed the puzzle until I got to the drudgery of this last step.

Just like writing.

Developing a plot, creating characters, and writing key scenes get my creative juices flowing. But by the time I get to the last steps – editing, revising, and polishing – I’m not as excited.

I may not finish the intersecting gray roads, but my publisher has given me a generous new deadline to finish the third Detective McGregor book.