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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Heart for Inspirational Romance (Part One)

Reading for Craft
Quality inspirational romance requires the same credentials as all romance novels: real characters, strong plots, relentless conflict, scenic settings, and love’s heartbeat at the center.

These characteristics are expected regardless of sub-genre or topic, which also mirror other romance sub-genres. Contrary to some misconceptions, there are almost no forbidden topics in inspirational romance. Life deals out harsh realities regardless of background or culture. Broken relationships, strained finances, violence, disease, and lost dreams walk side-by-side with new beginnings, birth, celebrations, and fresh opportunity. The main difference in this genre is the “lifescape” lens that filters choices.

In addition, there are three extra attributes to inspirational romance that draw and maintain loyal readers: fellowship, insight, and hope.

Fellowship. When any reader picks up their favorite genre they expect a certain return for their time. A cozy mystery reader does not expect a grisly, psychological thriller. Inspirational readers turn to long-standing authors such as Janet Oke, Francine Rivers, or Lauraine Snelling because they expect to spend an afternoon or evening with a trusted friend who will deliver the particular uplift or challenge they need. It’s the one-on-one version of going to the local café to offload some emotional shake-up with friends. When you leave the café or the book, you feel soul-stronger, ready to take up whatever your next step might be. It’s a fellowship that binds readers and authors because it’s built on trust. They know from experience these friends will deliver. Then they’ll look for other writers who write in a similar vein as their main friend, thus expanding the circle.

What kind of fellowship do you want your character to offer your readers?

Writing Prompt

Begin brainstorming your character’s heart.

1.     What is her go-to choice of movie, book, music, or food when she needs comfort or courage?

2.     Whom has she trusted the most with her heart’s desires, past or present, alive or deceased? Why?

3.     Where is she most discouraged right now? What would give her hope?

Share: One answer from question number one.

                                        Read deep, marcy

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Reading For Craft

Journals, Diaries, and Letters (Courage)

“This is the moment when faith is called for. Faith in the creative spirit within me, which is part of what I’ve been given by God; faith in the process; faith in my intelligence and my imagination. …….. I suit up and show up. I sit down at the computer and I do the work, moving it forward a sentence a t a time, which is ultimately the only way there is to write a book.” Elizabeth George, Journal of a Novel, July 6, 1998.

Third: Courage

Reading a collection of letters gathered over a period of time gives an extremely personal inside view of why the writer continues to keep on going through many trials and their how they live out their worldview perspective. Which in turn can give readers, or characters, some insight as to how to apply or reject a viewpoint by seeing the long-term influence emotionally and psychologically.

Even when some of the letters are written with the intent to be read for public consumption, there is still a key purpose or concern being offered. The apostle Paul knew his letters would be circulated amongst many churches. People who write letters to the editor or an organization consistently have a message they want heard. Elizabeth George wrote her letters about her novels to herself.

C.S. Lewis wrote many letters for publication and literary intent, but he also wrote to a woman he never met and never expected his letters to be made public. His Letters to an American Woman included discussions and encouragement and personal sharing.

Family letters become even more personal, either from one to another emptying their hearts or in reverse protecting their loved ones from knowing what they are going through—each poignant from a different angle.

Need your own brand of courage to face a personal or vocational issue? Look for letters and let another’s journey walk alongside you or your character.

Share: Do you have a special blog (modern day version of letters sometimes) you go to for inspiration? What does it offer you that you keep reading?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Reading For Craft

Journals, Diaries, and Letters (Expertise)

Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck is described as “one of those rare books that are all things to all readers. Actually the record of a brief collecting expedition in the lonely Gulf of California, it will be science to the scientist, philosophy to the philosopher, and to the average man an adventure in living and thinking.”

Second: Expertise

Recently I read a short story western set in the early 1900’s. One character took ill and the other took over the daily diary log for a week, as requested by their employer, and almost went mad with the boredom. As a reader I was on the borderline of skimming any more diary entries myself when the author returned to the main diary person who realized that the reason they were so far behind schedule was due to the enormous amount of time needed daily to keep their nomad livestock alive and healthy. The diary details were short, meticulous and repetitive. Like the record keeping of the Sea of Cortez log there was an authenticity to the lifestyle and the work that made the fictional story read like a memoir.

Hopefully as writers we will not cut as close to the edge of boring readers, but to understand and use accurately details of a job or location or project, diaries and letters and journals written by hands-on participants will give us the verity of expertise. We can see through their eyes and recognize what aspects are important and which are not.

They will also bridge the gap between instructional information, such as reading a recipe, and the emotional response of a working process, such as the texture and smell and satisfactions of kneading dough into bread, or shaping pottery on wheel, or hearing an engine hum after changing plugs and draining oil.

Share: What diaries have you read that made you feel as if you were present?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Reading For Craft

Journals, Diaries, and Letters (Perspective)

“…When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.” Henri Nouwen, The Genesee Diary
All writers are well aware of the treasure that can be found during research with journals and diaries and letters, especially for memoir and historical genres. But this area of reading offers gems that can impact all our work. Regardless of our particular field, reading journals, diaries, and letters can give us perspective, expertise and courage. We’ll dig a little deeper into applications over the next few blogs.

First: Perspective.

Henri Nouwen is a writer that often challenges me in his books causing me to wrestle with my beliefs and choices, solitude and service. Yet it is in his personal diaries that I am more ready to listen without argument or questions. Why? Because in some ways reading his diary or letters is a form of eavesdropping that is restorative. He shares his heart. And builds a bridge of communication. His feelings are true to him and cannot be dismissed because I don't happen to understand them.

Not only am I neither a man, nor a monk, nor have experienced hardly any lifestyle close to Nouwen’s, but I still have this opportunity to understand him by these very personal writings. And then when I need to write a scene that may involve a person close to one of Nouwen’s experiences I will have some honest thoughts to guide me.

How as a non-linear processor can I possibly write through the viewpoint of a character that cannot conceive of anything other than step-by-step deduction? Or someone in a social or economic strata completely foreign to me, without inserting possible pre-conceived and possibly false attitudes.

Reading private thoughts gives a clearer perspective heart to heart that helps bypass arguments and stereotypes. It works for the characters we love and the ones we’d rather never meet. But by grounding them from real live personalities we can write them with more honesty and help our characters grapple with real life situations. With compassion.

Share: Whose journal have you read that gave you insight? 

Read deep, marcy

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