Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

found at:

Boo! Scared you! 
Happy Halloween!

Okay, that squirrel really is about as much scary as I can handle. As I mentioned in MaryAnn's excellent post yesterday about supernatural movies - I can't do horror. At all.

So, for today's spooky post, let me present to you my top three favorite non-scary (and very family friendly) Halloween movies:

# 3 
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
(Disney Edition)

Alright, I'll admit, this one did scare me as a kid. But as an adult, I can see the charm. And, better yet, it looks like you can watch the whole thing on YouTube!*
(*brief perusal of titles only, so ymmv)

 It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Well, of course this is in the top three! One thing I miss about only having Netflix and not real TV, is that there's not the anticipation I had as a kid of waiting for these classics to come on the network channels. You had one, maybe two chances to watch, and then, poof, they were gone, so you made the most of it.

Arsenic and Old Lace

Okay, all you Prosers have to have seen this, right? The best Cary Grant movie ever?

For you deprived few, here's a little background on the clip:

Confirmed (and vocal) bachelor, Mortimer Brewster, has just gotten married to the girl next door. While she's picking up a few things at her house for the honeymoon, Mortimer goes back to visit his dear, sweet Aunts who raised him. Also living in the house is Teddy, who is more than a little off his rocker (he thinks he's Teddy Roosevelt and is always going to Panama (in the cellar) to dig more locks for the canal). 

The visit takes a decidedly macabre turn when Mortimer finds a body in the window seat and comes to realize that maybe it isn't just Teddy who should be donning a straight jacket.

Add in an excellent 'Boris Carloff' performance by Raymond Massey as Mortimer's terrifyingly reprobate brother, Jonathan, and this is a real winner.

Alright, Prosers, so what are some of your favorite Halloween movies (scary or not)?


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ghost Stories-or Ghost Movies to be more specific

Before I had kids, I used to spend Halloween eating pizza and watching a good horror flick while passing out candy to the five or six Trick or Treaters that stopped by.  Now I’m out Trick or Treating with my kids.  Which of course is so much fun, but I do miss my pre-kid Halloweens a little. 

Ghost stories have always been my favorite of the horror genre.  I enjoy more eeriness and mystery to shock and gore, and a good creepy ghost story can scare me a little more than a vampire or werewolf mostly because, I hate to admit it, but part of me believes that ghosts might exist.  Embarrassing confession aside, ghost stories have always been my favorite Halloween picks.  So I thought I'd share some of my favorites with you.

I haven’t watched very many horror movies since I had kids (partly because I have to wait until the kids are in bed to watch anything scary and partly because for some reason my mommy brain has a hard time with the horror elements, especially when they involve children which surprisingly so many do), so this list is going to be a little dated.

Anyway, in no particular order, here are my favorite ghost movies.

Sixth Sense (1999)-I love a good, big twist, and a while back I wrote this post on how perfectly this twist is pulled off.   This is one of my all-time favorite movies.  The story is amazing and while it isn’t really scary, there are some truly creepy moments, but it is the characters that make this film so compelling.  

Every character int he movie is in so much pain.  Malcolm feels like he failed a former patient and needs to help someone to redeem himself.     Cole can see ghosts which not only terrifies him but makes him different than everyone else, and he is afraid that if other people know, they will see him as a freak.   It is the great characterization that makes this movie.

The Others (2001)-This movie also has a great twist ending.  This movie centers around two mysteries of who are the intruders and what the mother did to the children that caused the rift between her and her daughter.  Both of these mysteries are really compelling and kept me riveted throughout the movie even though it had a slower pace.  Although like with Sixth Sense, this movie isn’t really scary, there are some very creepy moments, and the house itself and the darkness they must live in because of the children’s condition add to the eeriness of the movie.  But once again it is the characterization that really makes this movie.  

The mother is very conflicted, highly devoted to her children, there is no doubt that she loves them, but their condition has trapped her and isolated her.  There is great pain there, and this all leads to a really compelling and heart breaking story that I thought was amazing.  This story would have never worked without the complex characterization of the Mother and her children.

Poltergeist (1982)-This movie really freaked me out when I first saw it.  I still remember it.  I was about eight or nine at a slumber party, and I remember being so terrified once it was over that I couldn’t sleep.  All my friends had fallen asleep, and I just kept staring at the dark stairs, and I swear I saw the scene where the white spirits descend the stairs.  Maybe not, but I always had a way too active imagination.  

But I think this was the first movie that every really scared me.  I know it is a little old now, but I think it holds up pretty well as a scary story.  There were a lot of freaky moments:  like the clown attack and the vortex in the closet and the little girl talking to the static on the TV.  I thought overall it was a good story although the house disappearing may have been a little over the top.  Still I think it is a classic.   

The Ring (2002)-This movie was pretty freaky, and I was in college when I first watched it.  It had a creepy concept and lots of eerie imagery.  But ultimately it was the mystery of what happened to the girl that kept me watching, and it did have a nice twist in the ending that wasn’t as big as The Sixth Sense or The Others, but still I liked it.

The Shining (1980)-Just the premise of this movie was freaky enough.  The idea of spending a winter trapped in a huge, empty hotel in the middle of the wilderness is creepy all on its own.  But there were some really disturbing elements in the movie like the little boy saying “redrum” in that creepy voice and the ghost twin girls in the hallway.  And the father, who are supposed to protect their families, turning on the mother and the little boy in a murderous rampage truly made this story horrifying. 

So there you have my top picks.  Did I miss any good ones?  Let me know, I’m in the mood for a good ghost story.

Happy Halloween,


Monday, October 29, 2012

My Life has Been a Tapestry...

Twelve years before I was born, Carol King wrote and published the album Tapestry. My mom was fifteen at the time. Long before she met my dad, or went to college, or became the woman I knew as mom, she sat alone in her room, playing this record, and singing softly along. As a teenager, songs like, You've got a Friend, and Home Again, helped her to feel like she wasn't alone. Songs like Beautiful, and Natural Woman, helped her feel beautiful in a world designed to make her feel ugly.

I know this, because when I was a teenager, I found my mom's well used vinyl record, and played it on her record player that I had long before brought into my room. I felt that same connection, and I felt those same feelings. That record became mine, not because I had a connection to it, but because we both did, and my mom wanted to share it with me.  Also, because I stole it and wouldn't give it back.

 I used to stand alone in my room, and sing...less softly... along with Carol King's amazingly soulful voice. Her words and melodies wrote their way into my heart and made me who I am. This song, Beautiful, became my motto when I was fifteen.

You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face
And show the world all the love in your heart

Then people gonna treat you better
You're gonna find, yes, you will
That you're beautiful as you feel.

Now, I think there's a lot I could talk about, about who I am, or what, and why, I write that comes directly from Carol King Tapestry. I could talk about how I want to write stories that write their way into young girl's hearts. I could talk about how beautiful lyrics like, "Sometimes I wonder if I'm ever gonna make it home again. It's so far and out of sight. I really need someone to talk to, and nobody else
Knows how to comfort me tonight ." or "Tonight with words unspoken, You say that I'm the only one. But will my heart be broken, When the night meets the morning sun." write themselves into my own writing.  

But instead, I just want to write about how much I love being the same as my mom. 

My mom gave me everything about me that defines who I am. My blue eyes, my curly hair, my unhealthy obsession with chocolate... Got it from my mom.

There's one more thing that I got from my mom. See, while she was fifteen, and rocking out to Tapestry, my mom was writing poems. When I was fifteen, rocking out to Tapestry, and daydreaming about growing up to become a famous actress, my mom was coming up with stories,  writing in journals, and dreaming of one day holding a book in her hands that had her name on it.

I'm a writer because of my mom. Here's the link to some of my mom's wordsI hope I don't steal this dream from her, the way I stole her records, because if there's one person I want to see published more than myself, it's my mom.

My mom is the first person I call when I have good writer's news. When I get published, she'll be the first to know. She's the only person in my family who really gets it, who one hundred-percent understands how important this is to me. And it's fun, because I get to be the one she calls when she submits a story. We've talked about going to conferences together, and I hope one day, we do more than just talk. Writing is something we share.

It's one of the ways that we're the same.

I got Tapestry out this last week. As I stood in my basement, and sang softly to Way Over Yonder, my little girl came down and found me. She sang along, danced, and span in little fairy circles.

And I smiled.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Guest Blogger Stefan Milicevic: Writing Nonnative Speaker Characters

Hi guys, hope your week is going well.  I have pneumonia.  Yay!  (Okay, not yay, but I'm trying to be upbeat about it.)  And since sitting vertically makes me weak and dizzy, I've asked former guest blogger Stefan Milicevic back to fill in for me this week.  I hope you all enjoy his excellent post.  And don't forget, people, 4 more days till NaNo! Better get back to bed so I can actually participate this year.

So, apparently there’s been a little change to the Proser’s schedule and I’ve been asked to jump in for Trisha. But fret not, faithful Proser reader/lurker! I shall use this opportunity to develop my stand-up routine, a dream I have had ever since I entertained the kids in grade school with unsavory fart jokes.
Have you heard the one about Stephen King, the agent and the unpublished author?
*Dodges a cyber tomato*
Whoa! Tough crowd, eh? All right, you heckling ingrates, we will stare at each other until you learn to appreciate me.

Fine, let’s talk about writing.

Okay, so you want to add a little variety to your novel and write a nonnative speaker? More power to you, my scribbly friend! After all spice is the variety of life, but if you’re anything like me sometimes you don’t know when to lay off the Tabasco sauce and you end up squinting your eyes and telling the other people at the table that you’re NOT crying.
You might say “Stefan, you extraordinarily ordinary person, why should I listen to you?”
Well it just so happens that English is my third language and I am fluent in four and I need to point this out because of self-esteem issues.
Even professional authors keep flubbing the foreign characters and the problem is so pervasive that it makes me want to throw the book against the wall or put it in the freezer. Which I don’t do, because I do most of my reading on my Kindle and I had to pull a few strings to get a hold of one, and storing your paperbacks in the freezer makes all the pretty women think you’re a freak. And then, they post lengthy diatribes on their blogs, making you look like an antisocial monster, whereas you just want to be loved and...
Buuuuut, I digress.
 Well, the thing is, most authors use clichés to portray nonnative speakers, and that’s just lazy writing. So, you decided to add a nonnative speaker into your story? One of those quirky funky foreign types who whisk away all the ladies in the romance novels, but who in the real world cry themselves to sleep clutching their plushies with a disturbing fervor (can’t be just me, right?).
Most authors I’ve encountered make the sad mistake of using quasi-linguistic shortcuts to make up for the fact that they don’t speak the language. I’ve never been a proponent of “write what you know”, because I’ve never been on far away planets arm-wrestling robo-velociraptors with lasers shooting out of their eyes. Making stuff up is fine. Note I said “making up stuff”, which doesn’t translate to “you don’t have to do research.” With that being said let’s look at the worst offenders and bludgeon them out of fiction. Keep those bicycle chains and baseball bats ready boys and girls.
Oh, and a small disclaimer, before we start to dissect particular techniques. I won’t be mentioning any authors by name. It would be unfair to single anyone out and everyone makes mistakes. And maybe some authors have hired goons, and I maybe I appreciate having unmolested goolies. Also all examples are made up.
Dropping foreign words
“ Ah, you must be John, oui?” said Pierre.
People don’t talk like that. Inserting random foreign words to add flavor to dialogue is like mixing caviar with custard - you might feel all posh, but people who know good custard from bad are going to look at you as if you’re out of your mind (as well they should).
The above example is especially egregious. “Yes” and “No” are those words EVERYONE knows. So, there’s no reason whatsoever for Pierre to say “oui”. The only conceivable instances when someone would say a word in their native language (to say, an English speaker) are:
1.       It is a complex word, describing a concept (as opposed to a tangible object) and can’t point at it.
2.       The character doesn’t know the word in English.

3.       The character wants to curse, but doesn’t want his friends to know.

Not even the second instance warrants the use of a foreign word unless the character’s collocutor is bilingual. People will try to explain a concept to you by using the words they know or by employing embarrassing pantomime shenanigans, like me when I was seven years old and had to go the bathroom in the middle of our performance of Hansel and Gretel.
I am not saying that people shouldn’t use foreign words in their dialog, but for me it all revolves around context. If language is a part of the plot, or your main character mistakes one word for another (or let’s say has been deliberately taught wrong), then that makes for an interesting feature. If you want to emphasize how exotic a character is, then make them use fancy-pants words in their own language to belittle the hero.
Make the foreign language matter , make it show character.
Otherwise you’re just pointing it out in a ham-fisted manner - hey look, this person is EXOTIC!  Okay, let’s put it like this.
                I walk into a bakery or a pie shop and see a lot of scrumptious delicacies. While contemplating with which delish pastry I will stuff my face with first a pie comes flying into my face and the man at the counter says: “See? We are a pie shop? Figured that out yet? Oh, gee, there’s a lot of pie on your face, buddy. Get it? PIE!”
                “Yes,” I’d reply before I’d pounce on him and knock his teeth out.
                That one foreign word that pops out of nowhere? It’s like a pie to the face.
                I swear that analogy made sense in my head.
                Get the grammar right
                This pet peeve of mine takes two forms:
1.       The dunce nonnative speaker

2.       The  Tetris nonnative speaker
The dunce nonnative speaker is a sad, sad creature. He can’t even speak his own language! So many times I’ve seen writers make these nonsensical errors - especially when Japanese language is involved.
                For example: -san, -sama and other suffixes can’t stand by themselves, and yet I’ve seen it done two times, by two different novelists. That’s a five minute Wikipedia search mind you. I know where the problem lies though: they treat the suffixes of -san or -sama like the English Mr. or Mrs. It doesn’t work that way.
                The Tetris nonnative speaker on the other hand? He’s one cool customer. He just doesn’t give a flying eff. He drops parts of speech like a birthday clown drops free candy. Much like in a game of Tetris the words that he drops are completely random, without any rhyme or reason to it. I can picture the Tetris nonnative speaker avatar standing atop of a tall building, his ragged badass cape fluttering in the wind while he contemplates which parts of speech he is going to ignore in his next sentence.
                “Maybe  I won’t use articles! Who needs those! No, wait, I will replace the male and female pronouns! Oh, the chaos I will sow!” *cue cheap villain guffaw*
                  All right, here’s the thing. Language has structure. Language has idioms. Language has... well rules.
                Dropping random parts of speech isn’t going to make the characters more authentic. Learn which parts of speech the foreign language you want to use is lacking.
                Let’s take my first language for instance. Serbian. Okay. Serbian doesn’t have determiners. At least not in the traditional sense. There’s no “the” and “a”. So unless you learn the rules by heart or get so used to the English language you’re going to have a tough time as a Serb speaking English.
                “Girl want me deliver box.”
                Note that I dropped the “The” before girl and “a” before box (among other parts of speech). That’s something I could imagine someone without a firm grasp on English say. You probably guessed the trick, by now, so I better stop tripping around the colorful handkerchiefs that spill out of my sleeves.
                Many nonnative speakers translate sentences from their native language and the results can be awkward.
                And that’s where the real nitty-gritty fun starts with foreign languages and mistranslations!
                Idioms or adages are a great way to have fun with this. Many sayings or phrases have equivalents in languages other than English. You can look those up and play around with them. Another example (and one I pilfered from a friend of mine who actually made that mistake), in German people say:
                Wie mein Vater immer zu sagen pflegte.
                Mein Vater pflegte immer zu sagen.
                Which can be translated as “As my father always used to say.”
                Now, my friend who was learning how to speak English said:
                “As my father nourished to say.”
                Pflegen means to nourish. He translated what he’d say in German. Does it sound awkward? Sure. But let’s examine that sentence a little closer. Go ahead - read it a few times. Fix some tea and bust out those After Eight mints, let’s be all fancy here. That’s right we’re putting on our fancy literary hats.
                That sentence has a nice poetic weight to it, doesn’t it?
                Much better than writing something like “As mein Vater always used to say,” or some such contrived sentence.
                Here’s another example, this time in Serbian:
                There’s a saying that runs:
                “Navući nekoga na tanak led.
                Which means to make someone tread on thin ice. Sounds familiar? Treading on thin ice means being in danger. Well, in Serbian it means trying to fool someone as in:
                “The pharmaceutical companies are making Stefan tread on thin ice because his anti-depressants are too damn expensive.”
                Imagine all the misunderstandings that could ensue from that! Plot twists! Climaxes! Character development! Alien abductions!
                And in the end my anti-depressants are STILL too expensive, but you might have a better story.
                Research grammar and language. See what you can do with linguistic quirks. The fact of the matter is while people use the same grammar and boast varying levels of vocabulary prowess, we all have our unique quirks when we speak.
                And YOU can make that work for yourself.
                Why? Because you are smart, sexy and self-sufficient. And you do your homework. But the aforementioned qualities help too.
                Eschew transcription
                Transcribing an accent is really tough. I’ve seen it done well, but those instances are rare. Transcribing speech requires a firm understanding of IPA and regional accents and it is easier to describe an accent than painstakingly spell it out.
                Do I endorse laziness? No. I mean, I do sometimes, when I am too lazy to cook and feel like pizza, but me being slovenly is not the issue here.
                Reedin’ traenscraybd tekst iz a paeyn in thee baht.
                “Reading transcribed text is a pain in the butt,” said, Stefan in a velvet voice that oozed sex-appeal in a vain attempt to divert attention from the fact that he had spilled Brandy on his pants.
                Point proven? If you really want to transcribe an accent then practice. Practice a lot.
                So, in the end...
                It might sound like I am ragging on people for having funny foreigners in their books, but I am really not. I just want fully fleshed out characters, which feel like real people. I love writing fiction, and when you love something, it deserves to be done right.
                I’d really like to get into how to do characters who speak Japanese, but this post is too long as it is (but, hey if there’s a demand for it? Maybe one day).
                There’s one last piece of advice I’d like to dole out.
                In this age of the Internet (it’s a fad, I am telling you) and globalization, and a lot of people speak English reasonably well. So you can do without those little quirks. But if you want to have them anyway, make them matter and do some research. Maybe it will inspire you to learn a new language. You’ll be richer in the end. Let’s not forget the fact that you can casually bring it up during fancy dinner parties!
                “Hey, do you know that Japanese has a different sentence structure than English?”
If my experience is any indication, they’ll probably just turn around and leave.
                So, that’s it. In a nutshell. Hope you found it informative.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Ghost of Christmas Past

Last year, I wrote a letter to myself on Christmas Eve, giving myself some advice about how to minimize the side effects of this crazy time of year, since I knew I'd have blocked it all out of my mind by now. Whether you find yourself about to embark on an adventure of the novel writing sort, or whether you are hitting the holiday season with some trepidation, I hope you enjoy this letter from Christmas past.

(Yes, I'm cheating. This is a reposting of the letter I wrote last year. But the advice is good, so read it again)

December 24, 2011
Dear Melanie, 

When you open this, it will be October 31, 2012. Halloween. A little early to be thinking about Christmas, I suppose, but if I know you, and I know I do, you're starting to think about it--maybe even to dread it a little. You know what's coming--the exhaustion, the aches and pains, even the's all part of the Nanowrimo/Christmas deluxe package, right? 

I don't think so. This year can be different. You can give yourself something special for Christmas this year, but you need to start TODAY. Are you with me? Here's the plan. 
October 31, 2012: This is the make it or break it day, right here. Somehow you always manage to push it out of your mind, but you have a serious sugar addiction, and if you aren't tough today, you'll spend the rest of the year with your blood sugar soaring like a kite. So, as a gift to yourself for Christmas this year, make Halloween a sugar free day. DO NOT buy candy until moments before the Trick or Treaters arrive, and let someone else pass it out. Or give out pencils. 

November 1, 2012: Nanowrimo, Day 1!!!! I smile just to think about it. You've been training for this for months, and I know you've got a lot to say. Give yourself an early Christmas present: DO NOT buy candy when it's marked down 75% and tell yourself you'll save it for Christmas. You won't. Besides, if you're not in the store, you'll have more time to write.  

Throughout the month of November: 
Exercise. I'm serious. I know what you've got to give up in order to find time to write a novel in November. Trust me. I've been there, done that. But exercise. In the morning. It doesn't have to be a ton. In fact, I'd say that 10 minutes 6 days a week ought to cover it. 3 days of strength training, 3 days of running a mile or doing Zumba or jumping rope. Just break a sweat. You try for any more than this, and you'll probably decide to skip it altogether. 

When you're in a writer's haze, you won't even notice whether it's carrots you're chomping on or Laffy Taffy. For some reason you never remember this until the last week of November. Instead of stocking up on bargain priced candy, stock up on healthy foods. Whatever's easy to grab--that's what you'll eat.
And a month of eating green salad with chicken and walnuts for lunch never hurt anyone. If you get sick of it, Italian Peasant Stew is always a pleasant alternative, though I recommend leaving out the Italian Peasants. They are awfully expensive this time of year, and you'll hardly miss them. 
Moderation has never been your strong suit. It may look like one candy bar to you, but it's really two months of swirling in a vortex of bad health choices until you are spit out onto the rocky shores of exhaustion. You're not a spring chicken anymore, you know, and those days of trekking back where you belong are getting tougher. 

November 26, 2012: Cyber Monday. No matter how far behind on your novel you think you are, stop what you're doing and order Christmas presents. You'll be glad you did. Remember how long the World Soccer Shop and Deseret Book take to fill your orders? 
December 1, 2012: Time for another early Christmas present. Finish that book. Even if the last half of the book is encapsulated in two pages, get to the words "The End" and leave it alone. You've got the rest of the winter to edit and tinker and add to your book. That's why you write a novel in November in the first place. But December is for family, and trying to add novel writing into the mix is a well-known recipe for transforming yourself into Scrooge! Everybody needs an occasional vacation from writing, and December is yours. Let the guilt go.  
Merry Christmas, my future self! If all went the way it was supposed to, your back didn't go out on you the day before Thanksgiving, your Christmas preparations didn't exhaust  you, you didn't gain lots of weight between Halloween and now, and you spent more time enjoying the things that really matter.
January 1, 2013: Go on, open up that novel and start editing. You know you want to. 
With love,  

(All photos from

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrating grammar snobbery

I know how it is.  You dashed off a Facebook post about something that really irritated you. Then you come back a few hours later to find that some jerk has corrected your grammar or spelling. “It was a typo,” you want to scream, but they can’t hear you over their smug self-satisfaction.

Well, I have something to admit. My name is Sabrina, and I’m a grammar snob. I correct ‘who’ to ‘whom’ among other irritating things.

It’s a sad thing to admit. No one likes a self-righteous grammar snob, or  a spelling snob, or a fact snob. But the way I see it, we grammar snobs must take it upon ourselves to integrate with the rest of society.

As for Facebook, or Twitter? Leave social media alone.  People barely bother to proof read their resumes, let alone their tweets.  If we grammar snobs wish to get our message across, stalking Facebook is not the way to do it.

It’s a cold, lonely Internet out there. But take heart! Weird Al is on our side:


Also, I’ve found a fun new resource for all my fellow grammar snobs: the online version of the Common Errors in English Usage book. .Because as long as we’re snobby, we’d better be sure we’re right. I, for one, have trouble with ‘that’ and ‘which.’

What's even more interesting, in my opinion, are the non-errors. I'm especially happy to learn I can end a sentence with a preposition if I want to.


So go forth, armed with this new knowledge, unashamed of your grammar prowess!

And while you’re at it, might as well add to your overall knowledge skills. I’m a big fan of the Wikipedia List of Common Misconceptions.

Note: my dinner guests stayed later than I expected, and I'm dead tired and have no time to proofread. So here's hoping I didn't make TOO many grammar errors. But isn't that just how it works?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: The War of Art

Every once in a while, a book shows up just when you need it most. Maybe at some other time in your life, its impact would be just so-so. But in that moment, it really speaks to your soul. Right now, The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield is that kind of book.

My husband has both a voracious appetite for books and a wide range of interests (Just how did I luck out and get him? I don't know, but I thank my lucky stars every day). Not too long ago, he plunked down the War of Art in front of me and said, "You should read this." Now, I'm not nearly as much of a non-fiction reader as he is (especially self-improvement books - all I usually take away is a big dose of guilt), but I remembered Sheena's excellent post about The Art of War and acquiesced.

The War of Art (subtitle: Break Through Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles) turns out to be a fascinating book. The premise is best summed up in the prologue:

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.
~ Stephen Pressfield, The War of Art

Everyone has something inside that they dream of doing, whether it's art, singing, running, or for us here at the Prosers, writing. In Pressfield's vocabulary, Resistance is the thing that keeps us from writing the words we want, from sticking to (or even starting) that diet or exercise plan, from accomplishing all those good intentions that sit warm and cozy in the back of our mind and never get done. We might think it's external things that hold us back, but most of the Resistance is really found within ourselves.

Mr. Pressfield is a Marine turned writer of military fiction. As you can imagine from his background and the title of his book, he sees the struggle with Resistance as a true battle, and the imagery is prevalent throughout. 

The book is divided into roughly three sections.
  1. Resistance: Defining the Enemy
  2. Combating Resistance: Turning Pro
  3. Beyond Resistance: The Higher Realm
In many ways, the first section is set up like a series of proverbs - short pieces, less than a page long, that help define each aspect of Resistance and how it affects our ability to do the work. The second section discusses the mindset needed to overcome Resistance - an idea that I find quite compelling. The last section covers the things that keep you going.

I've found myself going slowly over the book and contemplating how it relates, not only to writing, but to other things I've always 'wished' I could do, but never seem to accomplish. I will also admit here, that in savoring it, I'm giving this review prematurely - I haven't finished the book yet, so I hope there aren't any surprises at the end!

If you find yourself at war with your dreams, if you find yourself struggling to get up and work toward your goal, this book may give you some insight and encouragement to keep moving forward. This one will definitely go in my reread pile.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Picture from stock xchange
In gearing up for NaNoWriMo fellow proser Trisha blogged last week about plotting.   It's a brilliant post about how to determine when to deviate from that all so sacred outline.  Check it out if you haven't read it yet.

Anyway, her post got me thinking about plotting.  I've been wanting to write a post about plot for a while now since it is a crucial element in story-telling, but the problem is that I don't really know how I plot.

I come up with a story idea, and I think about different directions the story could go.  Most of the time, the ideas get stashed away and are pulled out every once and a while until a solid story starts forming and becomes really interesting, then I think about it more and more until I have a vague idea of where I want the story to go. Only when I have a crude outline of the major plot points in my head can I start writing.

But I've only just begun plotting.

I've heard that there are two different types of plotting. A panster or discovery writer who comes up with an idea and just starts writing with little or no idea of where the story is going, and an outliner who drafts a meticulous outline of the whole story before the writing begins. I’m sure that there are some writers who fit these extremes, but my guess is that most fall somewhere in the middle.

I'm a half-outliner, half-panster. I know where I'm starting and where I want to go, and maybe even a few stops on the way, but I have no idea what roads I'm going to take, and I'm pretty flexible. I may discover a better destination along the way. But I can't just get into the car and start driving. I have to have some idea of where I'm going before I can even write one sentence.

It is figuring out which road to take on my journey that most of my plotting takes place.  And things change and develop many times in ways I couldn’t predict before I started, but I always keep my eyes on the ending, and the story moving forward.  So plotting a story is a journey for me, and while it isn’t easy, I do enjoy the ride.

I’m not sure if how I plot is helpful, but I have learned a few things through my plotting that I’d like to share.

1.  Plot, characters, and setting are all intricately connected.  

Like I said above, I start out with a story idea.  Then I develop the plot and character and setting all at the same time.  I start with a scenario and then think about what kind of world would this happen in and what of person would do this, and I start world-building and characterization which feeds into plot which affects the world-building and characterization, and eventually, they are all so intertwined that I have no idea what came first.    For me, developing the story this way ensures that characters, setting, and plot all integrated  and, hopefully, all fit perfectly into the story I want to tell.

2.  Small plot points are key.  

In my experience, the large plot points are the easy part, not that it's all that easy, but deciding that I want my character to get from point A to point B is much easier than actually getting her there.  Those small plot points are what I struggle the most with, but in the end, that journey the characters go on is much more important than destination.  But figuring out those small plot points, those pathways, are what I struggle with most in writing.  The only I get through them is spending a lot of time thinking real hard, going for a run helps too.

3.   Listen to the characters. 

I don’t know how long it will take for me to learn this.  I’ve ran into this problem a few times, when my characters want to go one direction and I want them to go another.  I fight them every time because I have a plan and they are ruining it, but I’ve learned (slowly) to listen to them.  Whenever I fought them, I’ve had to go back and rewrite huge sections of the story.  So listening to the characters is vital.

4.  Keep up the tension.  

Most of the problems I've had with my plotting was lack of tension or falling tension.  The conflict and tension need to keep rising to keep the story going.  There can be breaks and moments to regroup, but even then there needs to be forward momentum, but mostly, the tension needs to keep rising towards the climax.

5.  Plotting is like a puzzle.    

I actually love plotting even though it is hard for me.  It's like a puzzle, that you shouldn't be afraid to play around with and try new angles.  But once you get over some huge hurdles things just start falling into place, and that feels like magic when everything just starts to click together and just feels right.  It's awesome.

So those are my plotting tips.  What are some of yours?