Do You Like Your Characters?

I know, its been awhile.

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I’ve been dealing with some personal stuff and have been writing as well, which has taken me away from updating regularly. But now I’m baaack!!!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking over a conversation that I had with a friend a couple months ago. A little background: I was with several close friends at a local steak house and the majority of the group got up to go to the salad bar, leaving my friend and I alone. She asked how my writing was going and talked of her cousin who is also a writer. A retired professor, he has written two series, has an agent, and is on the hunt for a publisher. It was helpful to hear her talk of him. To know that there are others out there in the same boat as I am. She went onto say that he had learned that if a publisher is interested, it’s good to have not one, not two, but three novel ideas in mind. (That piece of information got the wheels turning about my latest WIP which was inspired by a family story)

“What do you write?” She asked, offering me her full attention.

“Historical Women’s Fiction, primarily.” I blushed under her scrutiny.

“And do you like your characters?”

I think I was gaping at her. “Yes,” I mumbled.

“That’s good, you should like your characters.” She replied.

We continued on, talking of the struggle it is to get published. But her question stayed with me. And it has stayed with me for three months now.

Do you like your characters?

I should. I love my WIP’s, so it only makes sense that I should love my characters. They are my creations. I spend more time with these figments of my imagination than I do the rest of the world. More than that, I think we should love our characters. For all of their vices and virtues, we must love them. Because if we don’t love our own characters, how will anyone (be it an agent, an editor, or a reader) love them?

So, do you like/love your characters?

 

 

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Old and New

Slowly but surely, my new major WIP is coming. It is a project that will require much attention and…I want to do it right. WIP 2018 was inspired by a family story…so it is special. ::sighs:: What am I saying? Every WIP is special; they’re like our children, aren’t they? We create them, we nurture them, love them, and then we send them out into the world. Whenever we receive criticism, we shouldn’t take it personally but we always do. They’re my babies.

While I’m taking my time with WIP 2018, I am looking over an old WIP. Tweaking it here and there. Isn’t it funny how much you can evolve as an author or an artist within a few years? At the same time, I like the way the WIP was conceived and written, because when I wrote it, there were no pressures and no judgments. Now that I’ve had more of my pieces published, I feel as though someone is looking over my shoulder.

It shouldn’t be that way. For any WIP, the conception of it and that first draft belongs solely to the author. You write with your heart first, and then, later on you can revise. Hopefully I can remember that as I work on this new story.

Polish Dolls

Long time, no see. Just a fun entry for today. Over the holidays and my birthday, I received three new Polish folk dolls. I began collecting them nearly six years ago when I found the first one at a local antique shop. Since I have written a novel set in Poland during and after WWII, these little dolls have become an inspiration for me.

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The one on the left is from the 1950s and the one on the right is from the 1980s.

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And this little sweetheart is from 1939 and was from the World’s Fair. Her original tag says that her name is Sophie, which is perfect because I have a character in my novel named Sophie. Darling, isn’t she?

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Here is my collection. They are in various stages of wear and condition, but to me they’re beautiful and a testament of history.

 

What do you like to collect and does your collection have any connection to a WIP? Why do you collect what you collect?

January 1st

 

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For me December 31st is the most depressing day of the year. On the last day of the year, I am reminded of all of my shortcomings and failures. I look at others and become envious of their happiness and successes. If its been a particularly bad year (2017 has been a bad one) I am eager for it to be over.

Then when I wake up on January 1st, I always feel better. It’s the beginning of a New Year, I am offered a fresh start, a chance to do things right. I am refreshed and renewed and ready to tackle a new WIP.

So, Happy New Year to everyone! As L. M. Montgomery’s Anne Shirley said, “Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it.”

Merry Christmas!!!

I wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas, and to post a story that I found on the internet a long, long time ago. Its uncertain if its true. Either way, I hope you enjoy it.

~*~

The Gold and Ivory Tablecloth
by Howard C. Schade

At Christmas time men and women everywhere gather in their churches to wonder anew at the greatest miracle the world has ever known. But the story I like best to recall was not a miracle — not exactly.
It happened to a pastor who was very young. His church was very old. Once, long ago, it had flourished. Famous men had preached from its pulpit, prayed before its altar. Rich and poor alike had worshipped there and built it beautifully. Now the good days had passed from the section of town where it stood. But the pastor and his young wife believed in their run-down church. They felt that with paint, hammer, and faith they could get it in shape. Together they went to work.

But late in December a severe storm whipped through the river valley, and the worst blow fell on the little church — a huge chunk of rain-soaked plaster fell out of the inside wall just behind the altar. Sorrowfully the pastor and his wife swept away the mess, but they couldn’t hide the ragged hole.

The pastor looked at it and had to remind himself quickly, “Thy will be done!” But his wife wept, “Christmas is only two days away!”

That afternoon the dispirited couple attended the auction held for the benefit of a youth group. The auctioneer opened a box and shook out of its folds a handsome gold and ivory lace tablecloth. It was a magnificent item, nearly 15 feet long. but it, too, dated from a long vanished era. Who, today, had any use for such a thing? There were a few halfhearted bids. Then the pastor was seized with what he thought was a great idea.

He bid it in for $6.50.

He carried the cloth back to the church and tacked it up on the wall behind the altar. It completely hid the hole! And the extraordinary beauty of its shimmering handwork cast a fine, holiday glow over the chancel. It was a great triumph. Happily he went back to preparing his Christmas sermon.

Just before noon on the day of Christmas Eve, as the pastor was opening the church, he noticed a woman standing in the cold at the bus stop. “The bus won’t be here for 40 minutes!” he called, and invited her into the church to get warm.

She told him that she had come from the city that morning to be interviewed for a job as governess to the children of one of the wealthy families in town but she had been turned down. A war refugee, her English was imperfect.

The woman sat down in a pew and chafed her hands and rested. After a while she dropped her head and prayed. She looked up as the pastor began to adjust the great gold and ivory cloth across the hole. She rose suddenly and walked up the steps of the chancel. She looked at the tablecloth. The pastor smiled and started to tell her about the storm damage, but she didn’t seem to listen. She took up a fold of the cloth and rubbed it between her fingers.

“It is mine!” she said. “It is my banquet cloth!” She lifted up a corner and showed the surprised pastor that there were initials monogrammed on it. “My husband had the cloth made especially for me in Brussels! There could not be another like it.”

For the next few minutes the woman and the pastor talked excitedly together. She explained that she was Viennese; that she and her husband had opposed the Nazis and decided to leave the country. They were advised to go separately. Her husband put her on a train for Switzerland. They planned that he would join her as soon as he could arrange to ship their household goods across the border. She never saw him again. Later she heard that he had died in a concentration camp.

“I have always felt that it was my fault — to leave without him,” she said. “Perhaps these years of wandering have been my punishment!” The pastor tried to comfort her and urged her to take the cloth with her. She refused. Then she went away.

As the church began to fill on Christmas Eve, it was clear that the cloth was going to be a great success. It had been skillfully designed to look its best by candlelight.

After the service, the pastor stood at the doorway. Many people told him that the church looked beautiful. One gentle-faced middle-aged man — he was the local clock-and-watch repairman — looked rather puzzled.

“It is strange,” he said in his soft accent. “Many years ago my wife – God rest her — and I owned such a cloth. In our home in Vienna, my wife put it on the table” — and here he smiled — “only when the bishop came to dinner.”

The pastor suddenly became very excited. He told the jeweler about the woman who had been in church earlier that day. The startled jeweler clutched the pastor’s arm. “Can it be? Does she live?”

Together the two got in touch with the family who had interviewed her. Then, in the pastor’s car they started for the city. And as Christmas Day was born, this man and his wife, who had been separated through so many saddened Yule tides, were reunited.

To all who hear this story, the joyful purpose of the storm that had knocked a hole in the wall of the church was now quite clear. Of course, people said it was a miracle, but I think you will agree it was the season for it!

True love seems to find a way.

Happy Hanukkah!

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As an amateur (major emphasis on the word amateur) historian, I’ve seen the above photograph several, several times. You can kind of guess the story behind it: Its the 1930’s, Hitler is in power and across the street a Nazi flag is unfurled, a sight not uncommon in those days. The photographer is Jewish and has set their menorah in the window. The message is clear: the darkness cannot conquer the light, good will always overcome evil, and God will never leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5).

To learn the full story behind this photograph, click here.

Have a Happy Hanukkah!

Fanfiction

Love it or hate it, fanfiction has been around for generations and its here to stay. Alas, I am guilty of having written fanfiction and though some authors (Anne Rice, G. R. R. Martin) hate it when others take an idea of theirs and put their own spin on it, I think it can be a positive. Sometimes fans of a tv show, movie, or of a book series can fill in the gaps or take an idea and turn it on its head. Stories evolve over time

Take the legend of King Arthur. Many historians believe such a man existed, although he was not what he is today. Over centuries of telling and retelling the story, additions were made until the point that the original tale was not recognizable. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte – now revered as authors of classic English Literature – dabbled for years in what we now consider fanfiction. They drew inspiration from the gothic tales of the Victorian Era, Sir Walter Scott, the Lake Poets, and created their own fantasy worlds. It can be argued that characters from their juvenilia later appeared in “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.”

Jane Austen, though, might have been the one who is most guilty of “borrowing” from other authors and putting her own spin on it. Paralells have been drawn between her “Pride and Prejudice” and Frances Burney’s “Evelina.” A poor girl, a wealthy suitor, obnoxious relatives, a charming rake, social satire… The title itself “Pride and Prejudice,” came from another of France Burney’s novels (“Cecelia”). When Rev. Austen tried to submit “First Impressions” (P&P’s earlier title), he compared it to Burney’s “Evelina.” The name Willoughby (a character originally from Evelina) shows up in “Sense and Sensibility” and is also a blackguard. “Mansfield Park” Austen’s most serious and moral novel, is the tale of a young girl taken from obscurity and placed with wealthy relatives and must find her way in the world. Sound familiar? The story of Dido Belle Lindsay has recently resurfaced and there is some evidence that Austen borrowed from Dido’s story to create the world of Fanny Price. “Northanger Abbey” might be the best example of Austen dabbling in fanfiction – it is a direct parody on the popular gothic romances of the day.

Obviously, I am making a case for fanfiction. It has its place and I consider it a legitimate form of art. What are your thoughts?