Abundant Life

Audio Teaching: The Kingdom of God: Paradise Regained

by John Schoenheit
This teaching shows that Paradise, not “heaven,” is the ultimate destination for all those who ever believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. It shows that “the kingdom of God” is one of a number of synonymous phrases that refer primarily to the millennial reign of Jesus Christ, as it foreshadows the new earth, which is Paradise regained, the anti-type of Genesis 1 and 2. This teaching will significantly crystallize what is for most Christians a very vague hope of what happens after the gathering together (or “Rapture”) of the Church. It gives some of the biblical details of life in the new age to come, thereby helping you persevere in faith in this life.

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Politics

Democrats’ (Not So) Greatest Hits

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One more week, folks.

ONE. MORE. WEEK.

Get out and vote November 2nd. Tell your friends, tell your families … this country needs to get back to core values and away from this crazy administration.

Did you hear that we, the people, AMERICANS, are now considered enemies of this administration?

How is that helpful, Mr. President? How is making offensive statements making our country stronger? How is suggesting that conservatives need to sit at the back of the bus and that we, the enemies, need to be punished helping those poll numbers? (Did you see Obama’s approval rating has dropped to 37%? Ouch). Those kinds of statements are what thugs say, not what the president of the United States of America says.

Nothing like preaching to our kids about the dangers of bullying and in the very next breath talk about punishing American people who dare to criticize and/or disagree with your crazy agenda.

The hypocrisy is absolutely mind blowing.

Seriously. THIS MADNESS MUST STOP.

{this moment}

Waiting to Paint

Kevin is trimming the bathroom; I’m waiting to go in and use the roller on the rest of the walls.

We’re quite the painting team.

UPDATE: The color is supposed to look like hot cocoa. In a word? No. We’ll see what it looks like after it dries but right now? It’s not looking very promising – may have to paint it a lighter color, which means primer and more work. *sigh*

UPDATE 2: Yep. It’s official. We hate it. It looks like a pack (?) of monkeys went wild and had a poo party in our bathroom. We’re heading back to Lowe’s after we pick up the kids to pick a more khaki color. Grr.

UPDATE 3: Okay. We went back to Lowe’s and bought a wheat-colored paint. We’re applying it now and we’re laughing our fool heads off because it looks YELLOW. As in HELLO! I’M YELLOW! Let’s hope it dries darker, a lot darker.

UPDATE 4: So it’s painted … and I think we’re going to like it. We still need to see what it looks like tomorrow but initial impressions? Doable.

UPDATE 5: The wrinkles in my neck are very attractive.

Band

Greater St. Louis Marching Band Festival – 2010 Version

Because I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to hear how Jazz’s marching band performed this past weekend … (*snort*)

THEY PLACED SECOND IN THE GOLD DIVISION! (The divisions are determined by band size – Jazz’s school is pretty large, so they fall into the Gold division).

Can I get a HOLLA!

My mom was able to switch days at work and got to go with me to St. Louis on Saturday. (This like NEVER happens, so I was VERY EXCITED that she was able to go. This was her first time watching the band perform and it’s sooooo much better than watching a video).

We (me, Jazz, Dude, Kevin and my mom), all met at Wendy’s for lunch. Then I dropped Jazz off at the school so he could get on the bus, took Dude back home (because he had gone with us the last two competitions and was quite burned out on the whole concept), Kevin took off for his gig (his band was scheduled to play at a private party … he wouldn’t have accepted the gig, but the guy who sets this stuff up told him the wrong day and since he had already agreed, he wasn’t able to back out), so that left just me and my mom.

(If my mom hadn’t been able to go, I think I would have gone by myself. I really wanted to see their last performance of the year).

(Side Note: When I dropped Jazz off at the school, the bus drivers were closing up the huge doors in the cargo area, preparing to take off. Jazz was almost too late!! Talk about stressed! Jazz hurriedly gathered his stuff and later texted me: “I was almost late!” I felt really bad about that but the schedule the band director handed out for the parents said they were going to depart at 1:30, not 1:00! Jazz said there were quite a few kids that got there late, actually. Can you imagine if he had missed the bus!?! That would have been really, really bad).

I went and picked my mom up (their house is on the way), spent a few minutes admiring the new tile in their bathroom (they are redoing it and it looks really good – the tile fits my mom PERFECTLY), and then we got onto the road.

The time up there zoomed by. We hadn’t had a chance to talk to each other in months – we’ve both been so busy with our lives … which is sad, because we live in the same city! We stopped at Steak-N-Shake to grab some dinner and made it into St. Louis around 6:00 p.m. We walked into the stadium (they played at the St. Louis Rams’ Dome) as the first band in the Gold Division was playing so we had to wait until they finished playing before finding our seats.

(Side Note: They don’t allow anyone to leave or enter when a band is playing out of respect for the kids. It’s distracting and rude, quite frankly).

As I mentioned, this was the first time my mom has watched a marching band competition. I think she really enjoyed it. We commented on each band’s performance (like we knew what we were talking about HA!), and we picked our favorites (after Jazz’s band, of course).

Jazz’s band was the last to play, and the kids did really well. It was one of their best performances. I really enjoy the last performance of the year because by that time, the kids could do the routine in their sleep, they have perfected the music and their confidence shines.

I was SO proud of all of them.

The program was really sweet and fun and I know mom really enjoyed it. Again, there is NOTHING like watching it live. It takes your breath away what with the drums, the color guard (the dancing girls), the music and of course, all of the little extras the band does during the routine that is often missed in the videos.

When it came time for awards, mom and I had a pretty good idea who would likely win it. Though we wanted to say it was Jazz’s band, we thought another band’s music might have been a bit more sophisticated and it was beautifully elegant. Jazz told me that 60% of what the judges judge is the music … so, we wondered.

They started with the outstanding music, performance and visual awards and whoever wins those awards are usually a pretty good indication of who is going to win first place.

They began with fifth place and when it came time to announce the 1st and 2nd place winners, we were a nervous wreck.

Our kids placed second and the band that won first? Was the one mom and I thought would win it.

Quite honestly, they deserved it. It was a spectacular show.

We walked out exchanging notes and laughing about how nervous we had been. It was nerve wracking not knowing if they were going to place at all, so it was a huge relief when we heard their name called for second.

We navigated the crowds back to my car and worried that it would take us quite a while to actually make it back onto the highway because there was so much traffic, but we got out surprisingly fast and before we knew it, we were on our way back home.

I stopped for gas, mom bought some water and before long, we had to make a bathroom stop.

I wasn’t quite so worried about making it back into town before Jazz did because Kevin was home and he could always pick him up, but still, it would have been easier if I could do it, so though we stopped, we didn’t stop for very long not knowing how far back the kids were.

We got back into town (and I talked so much that I almost missed the exit) a little before 2:00 a.m. I dropped mom off and was on my way to the school (figuring I’d just hang out until the buses came in as opposed to getting home and then turning around to get back out) when Jazz called me.

We beat them back by about fifteen minutes.

The kids were exhausted, as per usual, and they stumbled off the buses. I located Jazz, took his uniform and his duffel bag off his hands while he secured his instrument in his locker inside the school.

I quietly congratulated him on his 2nd place win and we rode the rest of the way home in silence. (Jazz is simply too tired to do much chit-chatting).

We all slept in quite late Sunday (Jazz slept a solid ten hours) and spent the day in our PJ’s.

(Side Note: Jazz told me that on the way up to St. Louis, he ate the entire package of Twizzlers that I gave him [his favorite candy] and made himself sick so that by the time they were supposed to perform, he was swallowing bile back in an attempt not to upchuck all over himself and his band mates. Now maybe he’ll understand the whole “you’re going to make yourself sick” argument I give him whenever he wants to eat more than he should. Ahh, sweet justice šŸ™‚ )

And that concludes this marching band season. I’m a little bummed because I love this stuff so much, but Jazz is quite sick of the routine and is ready to move on to something different.

Like Jazz band.

(Hence the reason I’ve nicknamed him “Jazz” on this blog).

Thanks for indulging me.

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Workshop – Point of View

This post was originally published on Write Anything, October 21, 2008.

Welcome back to Write Anything NaNoWriMo workshop week!

“The choice of the point(s) of view from which the story is told is arguably the most important single decision that the novelist has to make, for it fundamentally affects the way readers will respond, emotionally and morally, to the fictional characters and their actions.” David Lodge

Let’s talk a little bit about point of view.

When I first became interested in writing, point of view confused me.

A lot.

First of all, I couldn’t keep them straight. I think the writing teachers I had back in school took great delight in watching our faces contort into all sorts of bewildered masks as they stood in front of the class and talked about the various points of views and when you should, or should not use them.

And if you learned NOTHING else from them, you did not, under any circumstances, combine them in the same story!

*insert horrified gasp*

That point was pounded so much into my brain I actually graduated from college with a lop-sided skull.

Now, you’re lucky if you read a story, any story and from any genre, that doesn’t have at least two different points of view in them. And in some stories, points of view change so fast that it leaves readers scratching their heads trying to figure out 1). which character they’re supposed to be following and 2). exactly whose story is it, anyway?

Even though I understand the difference between the points of view now, I still hesitate over which POV I should write my stories from, because a lot of times, picking the right point of view can make, or break, your story.

But first things first – let’s define the various points of view:

First-Person Singular POV

The most natural POV is the first-person singular, since all stories and trials originate with someone, an “I,” witnessing what happens.

The first person narrator can tell a story with herself as a central character or she can be one of the minor characters. Or she can tell somebody else’s story, barely mentioning herself except to show where the information comes from.

First-Person Multiple POV

You use several first-person narrators and alternate among them, usually beginning a new chapter with each change of narrator. This strategy offers a diversity of voices, viewpoints and ways of thinking without the arrogance of the omniscient sound.

Some pros and cons for First-Person POV:

Pro: It’s technically the least ambiguous. Readers always know who is seeing and experiencing the story. It’s subjective. You’re a bit more free with the voice – using slang, bad grammar, etc. And first person offers smooth access to a character’s thoughts. (You don’t have to worry about awkward switches in pronouns – which CAN get tedious).

Cons: We can’t take an outside look at our POV character. Sure, you could use a mirror, but that’s been overdone and is in fact, cliche – avoid that technique if at all possible. In a suspense story, it’s pretty much a given that an “I” character will survive – kill off your “I” character and the story dies with him/her. And it’s hard to create a compelling new voice for each story.

Third-Person Omniscient POV

In this POV, which is used infrequently in contemporary writing, the author knows everything about all the characters, places and events involved. The reader observes from many angles. The “camera” is conveniently set wherever the action is, akin to television coverage of a basketball game.

Third-Person Limited POV

This POV – and its variants – is the most common one used. There are at least three kinds of third-person limited POVs:

Third-person subjective POV – resembles first-person POV except it’s usually done in standard English rather than in the character’s voice.

Third-person objective POV – You don’t reveal the viewer – the way you don’t see the person holding a camcorder.

Third-person limited omniscient POV – this combines the objective and the subjective approaches.

Third-Person Multiple POV – this sounds like omniscient POV, and the difference may be subtle, but it’s best to see it as a series of third-person limted POVs minus authorial intrusions.

Objective POV (or theatrical POV) – this perspective is blurred under the third-person objective POV, but we should distinguish an objective POV, which does not focus on one person, from the limited objective POV.

Second-Person POV

The author makes believe that he is talking to someone, describing what the person addressed is doing. But the “you” is not the reader, though sometimes it’s hard to get rid of the impression that the author is addressing you directly. This POV is the least popular as it puts the readers on the defensive, most people do not like to be told how to think or what they are to do, even in stories.
(Source: Josip Novakovich, Fiction Writer’s Workshop)

There are a few more, but in essence, they are a combination of the ones listed above.

I think you get the point (of view – haha).

Here are a few POV exercises to try:

1. Take a piece of your own writing and rewrite it in
(a) a different viewpoint
(b) a different tense (changing from present to past, for example).

2. Take a passage from a favorite novel and rewrite it, changing viewpoint and tense. How does that change the story? Does it read better?

3. Relate one of the following scenes in 300 words, first from one viewpoint, and then from another:

The first day of school. A young teacher, fresh from college, faces his/her first class. (The viewpoint of the teacher, and then one of the pupils).

There has been a road crash. (Viewpoint of a by-stander, and then the crash victim).

A young woman helps an old blind man across the road. (Viewpoint of the woman, and then the man).

(Source of exercises: Nigel Watts, Writing a Novel)

It may take some time to settle on a particular POV for your story, but a POV that works for the story will make it better and more interesting to readers.

One word of caution: switching POVs often irritates readers and certainly most editors, unless you establish the pattern early in the story, writers should respect POV. Keep your readers inside one character head at a time and if you switch, make sure the switch is obvious by either starting a new chapter from another POV, or even a new paragraph – never in the same sentence.

Finding the best POV for your story is difficult and may take some experimenting. The only rule about POV is that there is no rule. If a particular technique works, use it. And if your story is not working with your current POV, rewrite it and change the POV and see what happens.

Next: Plot

Abundant Life

Teaching: Not-So-Silent Night

Every Sunday I provide videos and valuable links to the Truth or Tradition teachings. We’ve been following the Truth or Tradition teachings for many years now and they have truly blessed our family. We have found peace and happiness through our beliefs and we walk confidently for God. My hope, by passing on this information to you, is that what you find here, or on the Truth or Tradition website, will guide you to a better, more blessed and abundant life.

If you would like to read my views on religion and how we got started with the ministry, you can read this.

Let’s get started:

I was giving my two sons a bath, happily humming a tune as I scrubbed away the dirt and grime that could only be accumulated by young boys. As I neared the chorus, three-year-old Luke piped up, “Mommy, what we really need right now is some peace and quiet.” It’s a miracle that I did not fall into the bathtub after being hit between the eyes by the Mack truck of irony. THEY needed peace and quiet? My mind did a quick montage of the past few years, a phantasmagoria of all the times my head slammed down on the table as my three young children took turns whining, crying, and screaming and I anxiously watched for our neighbors’ houses to go up for sale. Even with the imprint of the table fresh on my forehead, it never occurred to me that our children desired peace as much as I did.

After having three children in the span of four years, I wasn’t expecting peace and quiet, and I sure didn’t get any by wishing for it. All of our children are highly sensitive [1], which is great when they are older, but extremely challenging during the formative years. Highly sensitive people reflect before they act, so they are often labeled as “shy” when they are merely observing. Since they feel emotions very deeply and cry easily, even from seeing someone else cry, they need to be handled very gently. This means that I have to work extra hard at keeping everyone, including myself, peaceful. Yes, that’s right; peace takes work.

Romans 14:19
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

In Galatians 5:22, “peace” is listed as a fruit of the spirit. If only this could be like the traditional fruit basket, which shows up one day as a gift in the mail, enticing us to come eat of its appetizing abundance. We can’t just look at peace as if it is an apple that we can select and devour whenever we want to enjoy it. Peace is an end result of spiritual and righteous living. It is not something that we can choose separately from the other spiritual fruit listed in Galatians. When we strive diligently to live a life that is pleasing to God, we get the complete packageā€“peace, joy, love, and so on. It’s more like that ubiquitous fruitcakeā€“the same one that has been passed around the world since the Middle Ages in the spirit of re-gifting. Any way you slice it, one piece of fruitcake will provide a variety of fruit (even if it does look left over from the 15th century). When we get our lives on the right track with God, we not only have inner peace, but a plethora of other delicious benefits.

Mealtimes are not always peaceful in our household. For one thing, there is almost always a complaint from one child about the food selection. I recently watched a film version of A Christmas Carol, and my jaw hit the floor during the scene where Mrs. Cratchit brings the Christmas dinner to the table. With the presentation of each course, the salivating family members erupted into cheers and appreciative applause. “That’s so nineteenth century,” I thought cynically. “That would never happen today.” Nevertheless, the scene boosted my self-confidence; I somehow convinced myself that I would witness the same sort of jubilant reception the next evening at the dinner table. Proving that pride really does go before the fall, I had barely rounded the corner with the meal when I heard, “I’m not eating that.” Then another tiny voice screeched, “Why do you always make something I hate?” An all-out temper tantrum ensued (from the kids, not me), and frankly, I found myself getting irked by Mrs. Cratchit, the Martha Stewart of the Dickens era. I should have rejoiced with her that her children were so thankful and peaceful at the dinner table, but instead I resented her and her fabulous figgy pudding. The fact that she is a fictional character made me feel all the more ridiculous, but at least I finally understood the following:

Proverbs 17:1
Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife.

Even though our kids create much of their own chaos, they eventually seek inner peace. After they have a meltdown, they invariably come to me for comfort. Our two year old, Nate, has daily morning temper tantrums as faithful as the sunrise. Yet afterwards, he pleads with me in his adorable toddler lisp to come ‘thnuggle on the couch.” I can tolerate the tantrums, knowing that they will culminate with precious snuggling time.

Sometimes I don’t understand, however, why my kids whine and cry and give me a headache, and then come to ME to provide peace. Could it be that we are all just like that with God? Thankfully, He doesn’t get migraines, but He does tolerate us creating our own mess, whining about it, and then asking Him for peace.

Every church epistle begins with the message of “grace and peace” from God and Jesus. Isn’t that just like a parent, having to repeat something a million times, hoping that eventually it will sink in? The Bible is full of examples of God’s desire for us to have peace. In the Old Testament, He revealed Himself to Gideon as Yahweh Shalom, “The Lord is Peace.” [2] Peace is an integral part of God’s character, and we need to plug ourselves into the source by focusing on Him and trusting Him.

Philippians 4:6 and 7
(6) Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
(7) And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The record of Paul and Silas in Acts 16 is a great example of how to have peace in the midst of chaos. After these men had been beaten, imprisoned, and chained, they still managed to keep their focus by praying and singing to God. In order to stay calm in this situation, they had to completely trust that God would deliver them. This tranquility was impressive, but could they have stayed peaceful if three young children were with them in the prison? What if the kids were whining about the bread and water, or suddenly feeling the urge to have to go the bathroom as soon as their feet were locked in the stocks? Judging by Paul’s track record (see 2 Cor. 11:23-28), I’m guessing he could have remained peaceful even during temper tantrums. Once you have the certainty of salvation through Christ, there shouldnā€™t be much that can rile you from that state of inner peace and quietness.

True peace comes from the knowledge that we have been justified through faith in Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:1
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

If we spend our lives trying to work to be saved, we miss the point of God’s grace. My love for my children does not depend on what they do or do not do. The reason my children can come to me for peace is that they are assured of my unconditional love. They know that no matter what, I will always be their mother. Since we are born of incorruptible seed, God will always be our Father, [3] and He repeatedly refers to His “unfailing love” in the Bible. When we understand and accept God’s grace and live our lives accordingly in holiness and thankfulness, we stand confidently on the firm foundation.

Not only did Jesus make true peace available through his sacrifice, but “he himself is our peace.” [4] The world can only supply anxiety, fear, and pain, but Jesus left us a very precious gift:

John 14:27
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 16:33
ā€œI have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.ā€

Jesus confirmed that we will have trouble, but he made it available to have peace in him, even during chaotic times. On the night Jesus was born, the angels proclaimed, “ā€¦peace to men on whom his favor rests.” [5] It was hardly quiet that night, with the heavenly host singing and the townspeople celebrating the birth of a firstborn son. Chaos does not necessarily mean lack of peace, as evidenced during a recent Christmas dinner, when our Nate decided to throw a tantrum. As he was screaming and crying and flopping around like a pancake on a griddle, I started to sing a Christmas carol, “Silent night, holy night, all is calmā€¦” Dave and I started to laugh, and as my heart swelled with love for my husband and children, I learned that even in the midst of turmoil, you can have inner peace and strength. We have been called to a life of peace and thankfulness, even on a not-so-silent night.

Colossians 3:15
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

You can read the original article here.

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If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about God’s wonderful message, please visit the Truth or Tradition website. You can also keep track of the ministry through their Facebook page, their YouTube Channel, or follow them on Twitter.

Thanks for reading.

(Comments have been turned off. The information is here to inform and bless you. God granted you the gift of free will – take it or leave it).

More from Write From Karen

Book Corner

Books for Sale, Shop Now!

So, I went to the library book sale today. I tried not to buy too many books, but as you can see, I failed.

I also tried to pick out books I thought people might be interested in. If you’re interested in any of the books listed below, just click on the link and it will take you directly to the specific page in my book store.

Don’t see what you’re looking for? Check out Karen’s Book Korner for more selections.

I’m going to go back for one more trip tomorrow. Stay tuned …

I totally deserve ice cream now. Who’s coming with?

Abundant Life

Audio Teaching: The Bible And Civil Law

by John Schoenheit

Shows how God intended government to function in protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens while fairly punishing criminals in accordance with the seriousness of their crimes. It sets forth how and why there were no jails as we know them necessary in a godly society and how He provided for both restitution for victims and rehabilitation of criminals.

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Transcription | Related Topic

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Day-By-Day

Elephants are Cute, Book Sales Skyrocket, Separation of Church and State is in the First Amendment?

This …

… is the top of our media center (which is a fancy label to say “entertainment center”).

I’m somewhat obsessed with this mantle clock. I have no idea why. Maybe because Kevin and I both Googled the crap out of trying to find a clock that wasn’t too tall for this space and wouldn’t cost us an arm and a leg.

(Have you shopped for clocks lately? Have your smelling salts handy).

Also?

I love my elephants.

They’re actually book ends. But I love them. I think they’re adorable. I think I might have bought them from Pier One and … now that I think about it, I think Kevin actually bought these elephants. Because he’s the one who usually thinks outside the box.

Me? I’m lucky if I dare to open the lid far enough for a peek. That’s how unimaginative I am when it comes to house decor.

But, I’m liking our media center, I think it turned out nicely.

(Feel free to look a little more closely at the left and right sides, if you want).

I feel like I’ve walked into a showroom, only the stuff on display is MY stuff and it feels personal and …

… I have an unhealthy attachment to my media center. Just humor me, okay? šŸ˜‰

******

I found out today that my mom was able to switch with someone at work and is now free to drive up to St. Louis with me on Saturday.

YAY!

My mom hasn’t had a chance to watch Jazz’s band perform so she is in for a real treat. I’m also looking forward to her watching a few other bands, which are equally awesome and quite spectacular.

It’s amazing how much talent these kids have – and I’m not just talking about Jazz’s band, but all of the other bands in these competitions, too.

It’s really quite mind blowing.

Also? I haven’t had a chance to spend any time with my mom for, geez, this past year really, so I’m looking forward to having a little girl time with her.

(Kevin has a gig so won’t be going. And I think Dude has had it up to his eyeballs with marching competitions).

******

Books sales are phenomenal. We have sold 30 books in the past seven days.

Yes. I said THIRTY.

It really blows my mind, actually. These textbooks, that my dad so very graciously let us take off his hands, have been selling like hotcakes. One day, I mailed EIGHT.

The post office people are starting to recognize me. (And the lady who usually helps me is actually pretty cranky with other people, but she’s nice to me. Probably because I have everything ready to go and make her job easier. It amazes me the number of people who show up at the post office ill prepared. As in, their item isn’t even packaged).

But it’s getting old. I’m tempted to put my account into vacation mode just to take a break … but I won’t.

There is money to be made (and I need to get rid of these books. They’re taking over the garage).

[I didn’t even finish typing this entry and we sold another one. That’s 31 32 books in seven days. I’m tired just typing that].

******

Speaking of books …

The Fall library book sale is this week. I want to go. I shouldn’t go.

We’re going tomorrow.

Kevin and I are planning on making a trip over there tomorrow after lunch. I think I’ll focus on trying to find nonfiction books as those seem to be selling better than my fiction ones.

Kevin doesn’t know about this plan, by the way. I’ll have to take out the trusty charm, dust her off and see if I can’t blind him with my sweet smile.

*cough*

******

NaNoWriMo starts in ten days.

I’m trying not to panic about that little fact, but …

… I’m a bit panicked by that little fact.

I have done nothing.

Let me repeat that ..

N.O.T.H.I.N.G

I have a germ of an idea … and by that I mean,

“Oh, this idea might make an interesting story”

and that’s it. That’s as far as I’ve gotten. I have no idea where that idea might go – right now, it’s dangling on the end of a string surrounded by nothingness.

It’s quite sad, actually.

But never fear, I will come up with a tentative outline (and I say outline in the loosest sense of the word because I’m what you might call a “pantser” sort of writer – I write by the seat of my pants) before midnight, October 31st.

(Okay fine, it won’t even be then, it’ll be WHILE I’m writing utter nonsense).

Last year I wrote a series of short stories and vowed I would never do that again (I’m sort of notorious for saying “I’ll never do THAT again and then a few years later, I do it again), this year, I’m thinking of writing two novellas and somehow connecting them in some way.

I sort of have a fascination for stories that are written to go together but could easily be read separately and still be understood. I’d like to try that again, only on a larger scale this time.

I think Kevin and I will also drop by Staples tomorrow so I can pick out a fun binder to put my project in.

Kevin will not be expecting this stop, either.

I’m sort of sneaky like that.

******

Did you KNOW that Michelle Obama wore the SAME SWEATER only she TURNED IT AROUND AND WORE IT DIFFERENT!!!

*GASP*

I know.

Can you believe that was on the front page of Yahoo today??

AND …

Did you know that “The separation of church and state” is NOT in the constitution? That the amendment that everyone (and by everyone, I mean liberals) refers to actually says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The phrase -‘separation of church and state’ – originated from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a persecuted Baptist minority group in 1802 entitled “A Wall of Separation.”

And this little constitutional lesson stems from this little tidbit in the news today and from the fact that a prominent blogger brought this issue up in a very snotty way on Twitter today and snickered about how smart Christine O’Donnell was in that she didn’t know anything about our constitution.

*pause for dramatic effect here*

Spin is such a nasty little tool, isn’t it?

******

And that’s all the brain power I can muster at this late hour (it’s 11:34 p.m.).

Good night.

Sleep tight.

Don’t let the bed bugs bite.

Ugh. That saying has such realistic ring to it nowadays, doesn’t it?

NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo Workshop – Character

This post was originally published on Write Anything, October 20, 2008.

Welcome back to Write Anything NaNoWriMo workshop week!

Did you miss the idea/synopsis workshop? What about the setting workshop, or Paul’s setting workshop? No worries. We’ll wait for you to catch up before we proceed …

Ready?

Excellent. Today, let’s talk about developing characters.

For me personally, this is one of my favorite aspects of writing. I heart characters. Though ironically, I don’t spend a lot of time developing them. I tend to just throw in a vague caricature, a stick person with hair and eyes really, into the story and see what sort of personality develops through interaction.

Though fun, I wouldn’t recommend adopting this haphazard method of creating your characters as they tend to emerge more like (pretty) cardboard cutouts as opposed to something tangible and believable. Readers tend to not care about characters that look, and act, like paper dolls.

Me, Tammi, Dale and Andrea all participated in the 2007 Blog-a-thon together and Tammi posted quite a few character sketches in her posts. (Look in our July 2007 archives, category Blog-a-thon 2007, for more character sketches). Not only did she post them, she posted them “on the fly.” She’s quite an expert at developing interesting characteristics quickly and efficiently. So Tammi, if you have any tips for our readers on filling out character sketches, please share them with us!

I love this opening line in Josip Novakovich’s Fiction Writer’s Workshop about character: “Most people read fiction not so much for plot as for company. If a character matters so much to the reader, it matters even more to the writer.”

Characters become readers’ friends, they become aspects of ourselves. A great character will stay with us for a long time – mainly because we can relate to their struggle in some way.

But where do you find fictional characters?

The ideal method is “You can completely make them up, using psychology textbooks, astrology charts, mythology, the Bible or, simply your imagination,” says Novakovich.

Another method is the autobiographical method where you project your own experiences into the fictional character, though this is not necessarily one you should use most.

Biographical method is when you use people you have observed (or researched) as the starting points for your fictional character. Novakovich says, “using the biographical method, writers often compose their characters from the traits of several people … this is the fusion approach: you fuse character traits the way you fuse atoms.”

Another way to compose characters is the mixed method. In essence, you take a mixture of the approach approaches and make a potpourri of characteristics that blend nicely and are pleasing to the reader.

Karen Wiesner, First Draft in 30 Days, has some great advice about making character sketches:

When you flesh out character sketches for your story, write down everything that comes to you, no matter how trivial. Remember to give all your main characters (including the villains) internal and external conflicts.

Wiesner also recommends cutting pictures of interesting people out of magazines and keeping a notebook to help you visualize your characters. I personally used this method last NaNoWriMo and found it INVALUABLE; seeing pictures of my characters helped me stay true to my character’s personalities, goals and conflicts.

“If you can picture your characters clearly (says Wiesner), actually see them, chances are you’ll write about them in a more intimate, comfortable way – as if you know them well.”

To help you get a better feel for the type of information that belongs in a character sketch, consider the following sections when making your character sketches:

  • Physical Description – age, race, eye and hair color (and style), height/weight, skin tone, physical flaws, disabilities, mannerisms, etc.
  • Personality Traits – happy, somber, bookish, strengths, weaknesses, vices, hobbies, kind of entertainment and food, colors, etc.
  • Background – “Background is very important to defining a character and making her three-dimensional,” says Wiesner. “[It] can include information on the character’s parents, siblings, relatives, friends, old lovers, pets, life-shaping events and their long-term effects, etc. Did this character have a good home life during her childhood … what kind of schooling did she have? Was she popular, unpopular, in-between?”
  • Internal Conflicts – emotional turmoil.
  • External Conflicts – outside or situational conflict that’s preventing your character from accomplishing her tasks.
  • Occupation / Education – “A character is defined by what he does (or doesn’t) do for a living.” (Weisner)

From Victoria Lynn Schmidt’s 45 Master Characters:

Now that your hero stands drawn before you, she needs to have her personality colored in.

What does your character care about? If your character was stranded on a desert island, what are the three things he would want to have? Each character has a different set of values that dictates what these things are.

What does she fear? What would give her nightmares? Ask yourself what happened to this character at a young age to create this fear … then sprinkle this information to the reader along the way.

What motivates her?

  • Survival?
  • Safety and Security?
  • Love and Belonging?
  • Esteem and Self-Respect?
  • The Need to Know and Understand?
  • The Aesthetic? (Need for balance, a sense of order, to being connected to something greater than ourselves).
  • Self-Actualization? (to communicate who we are, to express ourselves).

How do other characters view her? How do your character’s clothes and desires fit in? What do other characters say about him behind his back?

Schmidt goes on to list, and explain, 45 master characters from mythic models- these are great springboards for developing full, rich characters. Here are a few examples:

Aphrodite: the seductive muse and the femme fatale.

Hera: the matriarch and the scorned woman

Ares: the protector and the gladiator

Poseidon: the artist and the abuser

Remember, readers want to identify with the characters they are reading. “It is what they do that makes them interesting,” says Nigel Watts, Writing a Novel. “A fascinating character is made fascinating, not because of who he is, but because of what he does. Looking into this matter further, we see that the interest in the character’s actions is not so much in the action alone, but in the anticipation of action: now what are they going to do?”

Identifying with characters happens two ways:

Empathy – recognizing something of yourself in the character

and

Sympathy – liking what you see … identifying the nice bits of yourself with the nice bits of others.

And lastly, writers need to care about the characters they create.

If you want to move people, you have to move yourself first. You must care about your characters in order for your readers to care about them. That means you should sympathize with them as well as empathize. You must have some sort of affection for your characters, particularly central characters, otherwise your disapproval will infect the story and your readers will be repulsed by them. Make your protagonists bad, by all means, fallible, two-faced and self-centered, but don’t despise them. (Watts)

Here are some exercises to help you get to know your characters better from What Would Your Character Do? by Eric and Ann Maisel.

** Family Picnic: Your character spends several hours at a family picnic attended by parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts/uncles and other extended family members. Does she enjoy the event or spend it hiding in the bathroom?

** Poolside Encounter: Your character is on vacation and while sunning herself by the pool, has an encounter with a stranger who asks a too-intimate question. How does she respond?

** Stranger in Town: Your character finds himself a stranger in a seemingly sinister town. Does he keep moving or try to investigate?

** Poker Night: Your character finds himself in his first high-stakes poker game. How does he play at the beginning? When he’s winning? When he’s losing?

** Stalked: Your character is being stalked. What hidden aspects of your character’s personality does this bring to the surface?

A little extra work goes a long way toward developing well-rounded, and interesting characters. Have fun!

Next: Point of View