Friday, October 09, 2015

10 Ways to Feel Miserable as an Artist

Feel free to underline any that currently apply to you.

1.  Constantly compare yourself to other artists. You're guaranteed to feel miserable within 5 minutes.
2.  Talk to your family about what you do and expect them to cheer you on. Cheer you on? They don't even understand what it is you do!
3.  Base the success of your entire career on one product. Oh, right. Good idea. And if it flops, you can quit. Better to quit now, before you feel miserable.
4.  Stick with what you know. Great way to complete #3.
5.  Undervalue your expertise. What do you mean you're just a housewife? Domestic engineers have expertise in more areas than most men.
6.  Let money dictate what you do. Forget being an artist if that's your goal.
7.  Bow to societal pressures. This will make you a success at being miserable.
8.  Only do work that your family would love. Ha! My family would love an adventure novel, only I don't have an adventurous bone in my body. Guess that won't work. Does that mean I fail at being miserable? Oh dear.
9.  Do whatever the client/customer/gallery owner/patron/investor/publisher/ asks. But...but...but
10.  Set unachievable/overwhelming goals. To be accomplished by tomorrow. Ahh, procrastination, the cousin of failure. An overwhelming goal is as bad as no goals. Either will make you a whining, miserable blob of psychoses. 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Are You Conflicted About Conflict?

Conflicted about Conflict?

I cut my authorial teeth on writing plays for use in the church. They ran the gambit from 90-second to 5-minute sermon-starters to full length musicals. For the short sermon-starters, there was a problem and the pastor’s sermon supplied the remedy. The full-length Easter and Christmas musicals followed Jesus’ life.

My first novel was a Biblical fiction in which I strung together a bunch of scenes from Jesus’ life, interspersed with the fictional characters. There was no conflict, other than the Pharisees wanting to crucify Jesus. I figured that was enough.

Uh, no. Not for a novel. I had a lot to learn.

I slid that first manuscript under my bed, never to see the light of day again. I turned to contemporary fiction and let my funny bone come out to play. However, I still lacked enough conflict. My crit partners (you know the ones: Attila the Holmes, Genghis Griep, and Ludwig von Frankenpen, and Hannibal Dotta) ripped it apart.

“More conflict!” was the verdict.

But I write light-hearted Southern fiction.

“You still need conflict. Anne of Green Gables had a story question that kept it going. Would Anne be able to avoid her usual high jinx and get adopted? While not the usual conflict, it provided tension needed to carry the story forward. You need more!”

Okay, okay. I heard. I began to do deeper character interviews in which I discovered the secrets about my characters’ past. Once I found their deepest need or darkest secret, I had the basis for conflict. What was the worst thing that could happen to her/him? Do it and then go one worse.

Suspense, mystery, and adventure genres have built-in conflict by nature of the genre. They are plot driven, meaning the events cause the protagonist to make decisions.

But in character driven fiction, (the character’s decision causes certain events to happen, driving the plot forward) the conflict will stem from the characters motivation, which is based on that lie they believe about themselves.

These things, the lie and motivation, are found within the character’s backstory. That secret. That devastating childhood event colors their personality and their worldview. These are from where you draw the story conflict.

If it matters to the character, if it violates or goes in direct opposition to their motivation, it causes great conflict.

For instance, in my Chapel Springs series, my protagonist, Claire, wants respect. Her lie is that it’s all her fault. She lives to prove that wrong. But she’s her own worst enemy, trying so hard, she forgets to stop and think before she moves or says anything. She charges headlong into trouble, and usually ends up in a mess, further compounding her dilemma.

In Rich in Love, by Lindi Peterson, the heroine, raised on the mission field, wants nothing to do with foreign missions. She’ll serve God right here in Atlanta, thank you very much. The hero, with whom she’s fallen head over heels in love with, has been called ... you guessed it—to be a foreign missionary.

Filled with conflict? Absotootinglutely!

So remember, conflict comes from within, in a character-driven novel. It comes from the character’s past, their hurts, their fears—their backstory. That backstory may never make it in the book (and probably shouldn’t) but you’ll glean so much from it, you’ll have built-in conflict. 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Today is Walk to School Day

Me at age 7
When I was a kid, we all walked to school. The elementary school was at the end of my block and across the street. We had friendly crossing guards, who kept us safe, not that there was a lot of traffic then.

Walking to school was fun, not a drudgery. We met our friends, peeked at what was in each other's lunch bags, and played "step on a crack" as we made our way down the street.

Do kids still walk to school? Rarely, in my neighborhood do they, and the elementary school is a block from the entrance to our subdivision.

I think subdivisions have ruined the small town feel for many towns. I may be wrong, but subdivisions seem to have replaced neighborhoods. Neighborhoods were larger than subdivisions, encompassing several blocks of homes and even small grocery stores.

This is Brownie's but it reminds me of it
I remember we had a small grocery store in my neighborhood, Morningside Park. It was called Brownie's Market, and we shopped there a lot. I was allowed to walk there by myself after I was 6 years old. Brownie's was 3 blocks away, a straight walk. I carried my quarter allowance, and came home with a bag full of candy, a toy, and change.

Life has a lot more conveniences nowadays, but the nostalgia of simplicity like walking to school and the old neighborhood store calls to me. 

Did you walk to school? If you did, what do you remember about it? 

Tuesday, October 06, 2015


What the heck is TOTU?

I jotted down some good ideas for future blog posts. This morning, I'm working on a few, so I opened the folder and found this:

My Companion TOTU.

TOTU has plagued me for most of my adult life. I have A.D.D. and around home, TOTU makes the most of it.

I pulled it out to do a blog post, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it means. I don't know if that's my A.D.D. or Sometimerz's Disease, but now it's driving me nuts. I must have been a good idea at the time, since I jotted a note so I'd remember it. 

That really bugs me too, forgetting things. I do the typical "walk into a room and forget why" but that doesn't bug me. It's normal, especially when there are characters trying to get my attention. But to forget what my note meant? It's driving me crazy.

Anyone want to take a stab at it?