Thursday, January 18, 2018

Steak or Pasta?

Do you ever go out to dinner with your spouse or other loved ones and try to decide which restaurant? My husband and I go through this decision-making process every time. 


Occasionally, one of us has a specific desire. “I am definitely in the mood for meat and potatoes.”
Most times, the conversation goes like this.

Him: Where do you want to go?
Me: I don’t know. Where do you want to go?
Him: I’ll go wherever you want to go.
Me: Well, steak or pasta?
Him: Whatever you want.
Me: You don’t have a preference?
Him: No. You decide.

I could switch the conversation and start with me, and the conversation would be identical! Whether we choose steak or pasta, is there a wrong decision?
Of course not.


Too often, those of us who truly want to please the Lord, end up in a similar conversation with Him. We ask Him what His will is for a particular situation. Sometimes, we get a specific answer. Other times, He seems silent. There’s a fork in the road, we don’t know which way to go, and He says…nothing.

When those times happen, I assume He’s leaving it up to me. I’ve prayed earnestly, sought His advice, and the choice remains before me. Whether I choose the left fork or the right, He’s okay with it, and it doesn’t change His overall plan for me one iota. There is no wrong decision.

As writers, we agonize over which story idea we should pursue. Sometimes, we pray and ask for direction, and God leads us definitely toward one of the ideas. Other times, we receive no guidance in response to our request.

 Let’s accept that lack of response as God saying, “Whatever you want.”

Go for the idea that appeals to you the most. God is behind you! He’ll give you inspiration. Ideas will overflow. Dialogue will come alive. Is there a wrong decision?
Of course not.



 Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.
Where Linda can be found on the web: www.lindasammaritan.com                                                              www.scriblerians.com                                                                      www.thescriblerians.wordpress.com                                                www.puttingonthenew.com                                                        www.facebook.com/lindasammaritan                                              www.twitter.com/LindaSammaritan

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Flavoring—The Difference Word Choice Can Make

Flowery prose fell out of favor long ago; it's way too sweet. And what are commonly called ten-dollar words are often inadvisable; they're way too heavy. Attempting to capture the attention of readers today with either ploy is more likely to yank them from a story before it’s hardly begun.



Spice It Up a Little—The Difference Word Choice Can Make
Ensuring word choices have enough flavor, however, makes sense. And one more round of self-editing to add more flavor to words or phrases more bland than they need to be can do the trick. 


Does Anise give her seat to an elderly woman on the bus? Maybe she can relinquish the space instead, if she'd been inclined to hold on to it at first.


Does Dunkin’s date walk across a room when she spots him waiting for her? Perhaps she glides or sashays—depending on her grace or attitude, of course.


Do the children in the church choir know the words of their song? Maybe they’ve memorized the lyrics.


Did the boss tell everyone at the office he was retiring? Or did he announce his intention?


Those alternative words and phrases still might not be the best choices, but you get the point.


Here’s an exercise for you: Open the book you’re currently reading and peruse the first few paragraphs. Do any words or phrases seem too bland or downright flat to you than necessary? If so, what words or phrases would you substitute?


This idea is not meant to criticize any author, and often the more straightforward and simple word choice is best. But sometimes a little more flavoring in the words chosen can push a book’s interest factor up a notch, right from the beginning.


Now, what word or phrase substitutions would you suggest for what I just wrote? Go ahead. Tell us. I won’t be offended!



Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries 
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with thirty years of experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a regular contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren, with foster grandchildren in their lives on a regular basis.

photo credit: www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=126442&picture=cooking-spices

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Authentic Contradictions

Michael Hauge is a Hollywood script consultant whose plot workshop several of us attended at the ACFW conference in Indy a few years ago. He's a keen observer of what animates characters in books and movies, as well as real life, and he made this comment in his Christmas e-mail greeting:
...All those people cramming the malls and clogging the freeways and jostling onto airplanes and enduring long lines so their kids can talk to Santa are doing so in order to bring a bit of happiness to others...Their actions are all driven by a desire to offer someone else a sign of their love or affection or gratitude.
As Michael notes, our holiday actions speak more ardently than our words. We tell our friends and family how much we love them, but we make it even clearer when we brave those crowds at the mall.


On the other hand, holiday stress may cause us to act contrary to our motives. While we want to do something special for those we love, we groan at the thought of elbowing through crowds to buy gifts for them. Nerves fray. Patience fails. Emotional outbursts flare.


Just before Christmas, I overheard a woman criticizing her husband with venomous sarcasm because they had waited so long in a supermarket checkout lane. She stormed out in a fit of pique, her partner following meekly behind, and they abandoned a cart full of groceries selected for their holiday feast. Her actions contradicted her motives.


"Contradiction is character," says New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik. Be mindful of such contradictions as you write. Complex persons (i.e., authentic ones) often do just the opposite of what they intend.



Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.


 

 



Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Promise, The Person, The Purpose: Hymn Titles Tell the Story



Writers through the ages have understood that titles are important to catch the eye of the readers, to give people a clue to content and a hunger to learn more. This being the Advent season, let’s look to see how well the hymn writers accomplished their task in telling the story of Jesus.
 I went through my hymnal and chose titles to cover the Nativity story. I started from the very beginning. No, not Do-Re-Mi. (Sorry, this musician couldn’t resist the pun.)

The Promise 

John 1:14 in the King James Version specifically declares Jesus is “begotten of the Father,” and God’s plan for mankind started before there was any human on earth. The 13th century melody with lyrics that date previous to that—4th century!—“Of the Father’s Love Begotten,” is a call of praise to the Trinity, glorious and eternal.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel” is an 18th century hymn reminding us of God’s promise: the Son of God will appear and save His people. Not only does the hymn plead with Christ to come, but it looks further to the future when He will come again to reign over us in peace.

The Promise is fulfilled! Celebration that Christ is born. Handel set Isaac Watts’s poem to music to proclaim the good news in Joy to the World!

The Person

With the birth of Jesus, the familiar Nativity tableau is set. Enter the shepherds. While Shepherds Watched Their Flockstells us immediately something was going to happen. The shepherds were just minding their own business doing their jobs which included working at night.
Then angels appeared. Hark the Herald Angels Sing immediately signifies the angels have an announcement. And since they don’t ordinarily appear to people this must be quite a proclamation!

They announce the identity of the newborn King, they announce His purpose, and they reveal to the shepherds where they can find Him: in “(O)Little Town of Bethlehem.”

After such an amazing event, the shepherds hurry to follow the angels’ directions, and sure enough, they find the Baby lying in a manger. What does the title, How Great Our Joy?” tell us? The shepherds worship and are filled with joy. I’ve always wondered if the entire town of Bethlehem was aware of the miracle within twenty-four hours as the shepherds spread the news.


The Purpose

While we add the presence of We Three Kings to our nativity scenes, in reality, the shepherds were long gone, angels were not visible, and Mary, Joseph, and Jesus had moved into a house by the time the magi arrived. The first line of the hymn states that these kings were from the Orient, and they came to worship this new King, which immediately lets the world know that this King did not come to save only the Jewish people. He came for every human being in the world.

Philippians 2:7-8 describes how Jesus made Himself into the likeness of a man, humbling Himself out of obedience to the Father, and sacrificing Himself for us, gutter scum that we are. In five stanzas, Thou Didst Leave Thy Throne tells the story of the above scriptures.

And finally, "O Come, All Ye Faithful." The title is a command, and it identifies those who are to obey. This is why Jesus came to earth. He invites all to join the family God. He calls upon us to encourage others in the hope of a wondrous eternity.

So I encourage all who read this today: Come. Let us adore Him.




Linda Sammaritan writes realistic fiction, mostly for kids ages ten to fourteen. She is currently working on a middle grade trilogy, World Without Sound, based on her own experiences growing up with a deaf sister.
Linda had always figured she’d teach middle-graders until school authorities presented her with a retirement wheelchair at the overripe age of eighty-five. However, God changed those plans when He gave her a growing passion for writing fiction. In May of 2016, she blew goodbye kisses to her students and dedicated her work hours to learning the craft. She still visits the school and teaches creative writing workshops.
Where Linda can be found on the web: www.lindasammaritan.com
                                                                                www.scriblerians.com
                                                                                www.thescriblerians.wordpress.com
                                                                                www.puttingonthenew.com
                                                                                www.facebook.com/lindasammaritan
                                                                                www.twitter.com/LindaSammaritan