Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Skywriting the Message of Love: A Psalm for the Summer

I’ve often said music is the universal language. There’s truth in that but recently, while reading Psalm 19 I realized God authored the true universal language.  Music comes from God but is composed by man. The heavens above –the sky, the sun, the moon, the clouds –are seen by every creature on earth. The heavens are the language heard by all.

“The heavens declare the glory of God.”

Every culture, every people group on the face of the earth seeks God. Seeks to know their creator. Seeks understanding of the universe. God creates in each of us a desire to know Him. And it starts in the form of “skywriting.”

Psalm 19
For the director of music. A psalm of David.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun.
    It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber,
    like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
    and makes its circuit to the other;
    nothing is deprived of its warmth.

Feel free to share your own "skywriting" messages from God. I'd love to see your pictures!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Grieving for My Character: Guest Post by Tamera Kraft

I am happy to call Tamera Kraft my friend. She is smart and caring and a wonderful writer. I recently asked her to write this post for A Novel Creation. I know you will enjoy getting to know her here. And while you're at it, don't forget to check out her books. Her newest is a novella called Resurrection of Hope. To learn more about it or to make a purchase: Click HERE.

Grieving For My Character
Purchase from the Publisher Here
By Tamera Lynn Kraft

Have you ever cried during a movie or while reading a book because one of your favorite fictional characters died? If so, imagine the grieving process for us poor authors who not only created those characters but also had to kill them off.

One character in particular still causes a lump to rise to the back of my throat three years after writing his death scene. Joe was an honorable Christian slave before the Civil War. The daughter of his master was an abolitionist who was helping slaves escape to freedom. When a wicked man attacked her, Joe stepped in the way and was killed.

I was devastated. I had no idea Joe would do something so heroic to save my heroine. I cried for a week whenever I thought about it. My husband tried to console me explaining that Joe was a fictional character. Poor man didn’t understand, nor did he understand how I could be so upset about Joe dying when I was the one who wrote the scene. I tried to explain that I had no idea Joe was going to do such a thing, let alone be killed, until I wrote the scene. He just jumped in the way of the bullet. My husband is still shaking his head about that one. He’s not an author.

I went through all the stages of grief with Joe. First I couldn’t believe he’d done that. I didn’t plan on him being killed in my plot outline. Second I became rather irate. I am in charge. I’m the writer. How dare one of my characters go off and get himself killed without my permission. During the bargaining stage, I thought if I rewrite a few scenes, maybe I could save Joe. The depression stage is where I cried for a week and ate lots of chocolate. Finally I learned to accept Joe’s death even though I never really got over it.

In my newest novella, Resurrection of Hope, I also had to deal with the death of one of my characters, but I can’t tell you who. You’ll have to read the story. Fortunately this time, it didn’t come a surprise. Since I planned this death from the beginning, I had time to emotionally prepare, but the loss of any of my characters is never easy.

There is an exception. Evil characters who cause my protagonist heartache give me a certain amount of satisfaction when I kill them off in delightful ways. Ah, the life of a writer.

So when have you grieved over a fictional character’s death?

Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures. She loves to write historical fiction set in the United States because there are so many stories in American history. There are strong elements of faith, romance, suspense and adventure in her stories. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and is a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest and has other novellas in print. She’s been married for 37 years to the love of her life, Rick, and has two married adult children and two grandchildren.

Check out Tamera's website: 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

From Namby-pamby to Devasting: Creating Scenes My Characters Can Survive

Over the past couple of months I’ve shared some of the lessons I’ve learned from James Scott Bell on structuring a story. I’m applying these pieces to my current work in progress. Today I want to explore one element I didn’t cover in the earlier posts and how I’ve modified it to meet my needs.

Scene Cards
My first experience with scene cards was in the drafting of my first novel, Breathing on Her Own. I once heard a successful author say the best way to draft a novel was to identify eight to ten scenes, create a storyboard based on those scenes and write, in essence from scene to scene. It worked for me in constructing my first draft. Of course the scenes changed as I came to know my characters and I added a few critical scenes as I traveled the path of my storyline.

Bell also uses scene cards. However, in his book, Super Structure:The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story, Bell gives the reader a glimpse of his own writing process. When an author of more than twenty-five books who is also well respected as a writing coach allows me in to peek over his shoulder to see how he writes, I pay attention. Bell creates fifty or more scenes before crafting his story. Will he use them all? Probably not but he has a large pool from which to draw creative juices while writing. The scene cards are viewed as a tool in brainstorming his story. He’ll sort them into acts and begin writing them to shape his novel.

My Attempt
I took a stab at describing fifty scenes and fell flat after about twenty-two. At first I felt like a failure. I know that a good novel is built around conflict. Conflict makes us turn the page. Conflict makes us root for the protagonist. Conflict makes us live life on the edge albeit vicariously through characters on a page. Scenes need to drive us forward in ever mounting conflict.

I took my twenty-two scene cards and sorted them by degree of conflict. Basically I sorted them into “stressful for my character,” “bad for my character,” and “devastating to my character.” I also had a few scenes that served a purpose but perhaps only hinted at conflict. I named that stack “breathing scenes.” As a reader, I need those moments to catch my breath. For the moment, I set the “breathing scenes” aside.

I looked at the remaining scenes and the types of conflict represented in each. Then I made sure I created additional scenes so each type of conflict was represented in each category of “degree of conflict.”

Let me give you an example. In my current work, I had scenes where Dottie argues with her son over his insistence of controlling her finances. Stressful? Yes. Her son has been helping to manage her finances for several years now. He does her taxes. She is ready to take charge of her own life. I asked myself how could this conflict with her son be ramped up?  How can I move his controlling nature from “stressful for my character” to the “bad” category?

I decided to have poor Dottie go through an IRS audit and discover some discrepancies. That sounds like a tough scene to me. I think she’ll sit there stunned when she realizes how much she owes the IRS. And it will take more than a financial toll. There is an emotional price to pay as well. Can she trust her son?
Hmm…I’m on a roll here so I create a scene where Dottie discovers her son is a gambler and has been shuffling funds all around to cover his mistakes. She stands to lose everything. So does he. This is “devastating.”

I’m probably too much of a Pollyanna to make all of that happen. I want Dottie and her son to have a solid relationship and he has those two sweet children…can I really make him that corrupt? Time will tell.

Lesson Learned
What I learned through the crafting of scene possibilities is that I indeed have options. If I created a story that was completely made up of those sweet namby-pamby “breathers,” I could market it as a sleep aid.

There needs to be a purpose for each scene and the scenes need to drive the story to a climax and conclusion. My characters need to accomplish something in each scene—good or bad. Because of the scene developing exercise, my story has taken a new direction. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

Have you tried using scene cards? How did that work for you?