Meditation on Writing

Every morning, after I’ve been for my walk, I sit with a cup of tea and read my meditation for that day from a book I bought over 20 years ago – 365 Daily Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao .  The one I read today seems very apt for those of us who love the process of writing, so I’d like to share it with you.

WRITER

She withdrew into herself,
First writing just for one,
Then touching thousands.
She incarnated ghosts, hurt and joy
Into paper-and-ink stories of wonder.

One author said, “I can get rid of anything by writing about it,” meaning that the process of exernalizaton could liberate the pain in his soul. That realization produced a delicious dichotomy: to free himself, or to hold on to both joys and tortures by remaining silent about them.

Writers write because they must: They need to express something from deep within themselves. They hear voices that others do not. They listen urgently, and they must communicate what they hear.

The Mirror Moment – James Scott Bell

My first introduction to the importance of the midpoint of a story was in a workshop given by Michael HaugeHe described it as The Point of No Return, both in the external plot and the internal development of the character.  Internally, it’s the moment when the character realises he’s closer – fractionally – to the person s/he will be at the end of the story than s/he was at the beginning. Externally, it’s the moment when the story has to go forward in a particular direction. There’s no going back.

For example, in the movie Dante’s Peak, the midpoint combines both these moments in a very clever scene. In the external plot, we’re told that the sign the volcano will definitely blow is when sulphur gets into the water system. In the internal plot, since his girlfriend was killed several years ago, the Pierce Brosnan character has been unable – or unwilling – to become involved in another relationship. At the exact midpoint of the movie, Pierce Brosnan returns from a date with the Linda Hamilton character. It’s his first date since his girlfriend died, showing that he’s finally willing to take a second chance on love. They’re about to share a kiss when her young son comes downstairs and asks for a glass of water. When they turn on the tap, the water is tainted by sulphur.  We now know the volcano must blow.

Open Pride and Prejudice about half-way through and you’ll find the scene where Darcy proposes to Elizabeth in the most pompous fashion. Of course she turns him down and tells him exactly why she’s rejecting him, particularly for his treatment of Mr. Wickham. The next day, having taken her comments to heart, Darcy returns and gives Elizabeth a letter, acknowledging his pride and putting her right on Wickham.  Reflecting on the letter and her own prejudice in the next chapter, she admits, ‘Till this moment, I never knew myself.’  (In fact, when I opened my copy of P&P from my university days, I discovered I had underlined those lines and written – moral climax of book.)

James Scott Bell calls this Midpoint in the internal story The Mirror Moment. The moment (not a scene) when: The character is forced to look at himself. As if in a mirror, only it’s a reflection of who he is at that moment in time. Who am I? What have I become? What do I have to do to regain my humanity? Sometimes, it’s the character looking at the odds. How can I possibly win? It looks like I’m going to die—physically or spiritually. Now what am I supposed to do?

Sometimes, James Scott Bell says, it can be a moment when he actually looks in a mirror and sees – really sees – himself.

This mirror moment can also been illustrated in movies – sometimes literally. I’ve just been watching a great 3 part series on movie music called Sound of Cinema: The Music That Made The Movies.  In it, composer David Arnold talks about the challenge of writing the music for the reboot of the James Bond movies starring Daniel Craig. He describes the first in the series, Casino Royale, as an ‘origin’ tale of how Bond becomes the spy we know and love.  Because of that, he decided he couldn’t use the famous John Barry theme in full until the final scene, but would use snippets throughout to show Bond’s development into the character we have come to know.

And one of these scenes was when Bond, in his first tailored tux, looks at himself in the mirror. I mentioned this to some of my writing friends and wondered if there was any chance the scene happened in the middle of the film. My friend, screenwriter Carol Mulholland, pulled the script off the internet. Taking into consideration scenes that were never shown, the mirror scene happens… at the midpoint of the script.

So, there you have it.  In a book or in a movie, the mirror moment can, literally, be the moment when the character sees himself as who he is – or is becoming – in a mirror.

 

Spring

 

I’m in the process of moving house. Unpacking one of my boxes today, I came upon a journal I kept waaay back when I was 20 years of age. Inside was a poem called ‘Spring’. Given today’s glorious Calgary weather and the excitement of a new home, it seemed fitting to share it with you here.

 

 

SPRING – by Diana Cranstoun

The dawn
Of the world
Is beginning

A time
To start afresh
To forget
The failure
And sadness
Of yesterday

A time
When life
Promises
Hope

The trees blossom
The flowers bloom
And the sun
Yawns its greeting
To the world.

USING THEME TO BRAINSTORM YOUR STORY

Many thanks to those of you who attended my workshop ‘Using Theme To Brainstorm Your Story’ at this year’s When Words Collide Conference in Calgary. Several people asked for a copy of my Powerpoint presentation. I am unable to provide that, but here are the main points of my workshop.

DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEME AND PREMISE
THEME is what your story is ‘ABOUT’.  It’s the emotional heart of your story. It’s the human emotion of your story which creates an emotional resonance within your reader. The theme of your story can be told in one word.
For example:
Love/Betrayal/Trust/Respect/Change/Survival.

PREMISE is the What If? of your story.  It’s your plot.  It’s what your story is ‘about’.  For example:
This is a story about a businessman who hires a hooker for a week.  (Pretty Woman.)
This is a story about a lawyer who cannot tell a lie for 24 hours. (Liar, Liar.)

JENNIFER KENNING QUOTE
The theme is the coded message that you consciously plan and the audience subconsciously decodes.  The theme should resonate through all of the characters and subplots and be interwoven into the premise and plot. The theme should be present in some form in each scene

Why does your script need a theme?  Because you’ve created this killer premise, but unless there is some emotional logic for the audience (reader) to connect to that premise, the audience (reader) will leave the theatre – (or close your book) – apathetic to what they have just seen or read.

EXAMPLES OF THEMES
Sometimes a good way to illustrate a theme in your story is to contrast it with the opposite. For example:
Betrayal/Loyalty
Poverty/Wealth
Truth/Lies
Resilience/Defeat
Pride/Humility
Sacrifice/Selfishness
Survival/Death
Tradition/Change

SINGLE WORD TITLES
Authors sometimes state their theme in their choice of a single word book title.  Ian McEwan’s Atonement.  Jane Austen’s Persuasion.

ROCKY 
I hate sports films with a passion – especially boxing ones – but I love Rocky and will watch it over and over again. Perhaps it’s because the underlying emotion of respect permeates every single scene in the movie, whether through dialogue, setting or action. Take one of the first scenes in the film – Rocky goes to his locker to find his key no longer works. His belongings have been relegated to the hooks on the wall, commonly known as Skid Row. What a display of lack of respect for Rocky, that is.  Imagine how he feels? His self-respect must be shattered. Apollo Creed also fails to show Rocky respect in a way that will come back to bite him. He thinks little of Rocky’s boxing skills – even waving off one of his trainer’s concerns when his trainer sees Rocky’s preparation for the match – therefore does not train for the fight. By the end of the match, Creed’s attitude has changed.  ‘Ain’t gonna be no rematch’.

Very often you will find that the same recurring theme crops up in your stories because it will be something that is important in your life or your value system.

Back in 1975, Sylvester Stallone was an aspiring actor with dreams of making it big. But he had a lot going against him including a slight paralysis of his mouth which left him mumbling.

Inspired by a boxing match between Mohammed Ali and Chuck Wemper, Stallone wrote the script of Rocky in 3 days. Producers were interested in the script – but not in him. Stallone refused to sell the script unless he played the title character. The film went on to be nominated for 10 Academy Award.  It won two, including Best Film.

In an interview about the Rocky films, Stallone said, ‘Until a man – and this means a woman too – has been through a real baptism of fire, when you are scared, when you are hanging on, when someone’s hurting you – then you are going to see what you are really made of and then you are going to get the only kind of respect in the world that matters and that is self respect. That’s pretty much what my journey has been. This has been about getting Rocky self-respect… and maybe a bit of that will rub off on me.’

THEME BRAINSTORMING TOOL

So how can you use theme as a brainstorming tool? Easy. Grab a piece of paper and draw a cross in the middle.  At the top, write PHYSICAL, and the bottom, EMOTIONAL. On the right hand side of the page, write your THEME, and on the left hand side, write the OPPOSITE of your theme.

Theme scan

 

CASE STUDY – TITANIC

James Cameron said that Titanic was about MAKING EVERY DAY COUNT. I hate to argue with such a successful director, but I’m not sure you can can make every day count unless you have the FREEDOM to do so. So for me, I would say the theme of Titanic is freedom, and it is illustrated by depicting FREEDOM and it’s opposite (ENSLAVEMENT) in dialogue, setting, action scenes etc.

So how can you use the above diagram to brainstorm your story?

In the case of Titanic, take a piece of paper, as above, and write PHYSICAL at the top and EMOTIONAL at the bottom.  On the RHS of the page write (what I believe is) the theme – FREEDOM.  On the LHS of the page, write ENSLAVEMENT.

titani theme cropped

Then you can brainstorm ideas which you think represent Freedom and Enslavement in physical and emotional forms.

I realise the typeface on the above document taken from my Powerpoint – is too small to read (I’m the very opposite of a geek when it comes to tech stuff), but this gives you an idea of what your page should look like. Below I have listed examples from the individual quarters.  (These only a very selected few from my memory of the film.  If you watch it, you will find many – many – more.)

TOP RIGHT HAND SIDE. PHYSICAL EXAMPLES OF FREEDOM:
Rose poses naked for Jack.
Rose cuts Jack’s chains with an axe as the ship sinks.
Molly refuses to be confined by a social convention that insists she wait for a porter to carry her bags, instead deciding to carry them herself. (This is an example of the theme being carried throughout the story via sub-plots and secondary characters.)
Jack’s hair streams in the wind
3rd class is stark but full of life and energy.
Rose dances in steerage.
Rose spits into the wind.
Rose smokes a cigarette in 3rd class.
Rose makes love with Jack.
Iconic scene of Jack and Rose on prow of ship.
On the Carpathia rescue ship – Rose refuses to allow Cal to save her and return her to her old life.
Rose attempts suicide – preferring the release of death to living the life proscribed for her.

BOTTOM RIGHT HAND SIDE – EMOTIONAL EXAMPLES OF FREEDOM
Make each day count.
‘I don’t want your money.’
Rose’s love of impressionist painters who paint what they feel rather than exact depictions of their subject.
‘I remember how the sunlight felt – like I hadn’t felt sun in years.’
Rose says to Cal, ‘I’d rather be Jack’s whore than your wife.’
Rose finally has the freedom to tell her story to her granddaughter and the ship’s crew.

TOP LEFT HAND SIDE – PHYSICAL EXAMPLES OF ENSLAVEMENT
Rose ties her mother into a corset.
Cal puts his hand on Rose’s shoulder and tells her he will be her ‘first and forever’. Rose’s expression is bleak.
Cal beats Rose. She cannot fight back and the maid’s subservient position prevents her from intervening to rescue Rose.
Jack is handcuffed to the ship’s piping.
Rose smokes a cigarette and Cal stubs it out
1st class dogs are taken down to the 3rd class deck to piss and poop – a clear visual of the rigid class structure and people’s roles within the class structure.
People cannot move freely from one deck to another – they are held back behind metal doors.
1st class is exquisite, but there are rules to be followed.
Cal has a safe in his cabin.
Rose places Jack’s photo and the jewel in Cal’s safe and writes, Darling, now you can keep us both locked in your safe.

BOTTOM LEFT HAND SIDE – EMOTIONAL EXAMPLES OF ENSLAVEMENT
Rose: ‘It was the ship of dreams to everyone else. To me it was a slave ship, taking me back to America in chains.
Rose: ‘It was their whole world and I was trapped in it, like an insect in amber.
Everyone believed the ship was ‘unsinkable’ therefore Ismay, Smith and Andrews made fatal decisions. Had they not been ‘trapped’ in their thinking, the ship might have been saved.
Rose on the necklace Cal gave her – ‘After all these years I still feel it closing around my throat like a dog collar.’
Rose: ‘Why can’t I be like you, Jack. Just head out for the horizon when I feel like it.’
The sailors manning the lifeboats are so trapped in the British class system, that they allow themselves to be intimidated by the rich into lowering the lifeboats without filling them, even though there are not enough lifeboats for everyone aboard.

These are only a few examples, but hopefully it gives you an idea how using theme can help you brainstorm your own story.

IT’S A BRAW, BRICHT, MOONLICHT NICHT, THE NICHT.

scottishblogIf I’m being totally honest, there are probably places in Scotland where they really do talk like that.  In fact, many years ago, when visiting Aberdeen, (150 miles from Glasgow where I lived) I struggled to figure out the nationality of the people sitting at the table next to me in the restaurant. Were they Dutch? Scandinavian?  Turns out they were Aberdonians, but with their Doric accents, I could understand very little of what they said.  (Eg Fit like?  –  How are you?)

Writing accents in a novel is tricky. Too much can turn readers off by pulling them out of the story as they try and work out what you’re trying to say. Too little can have a diluting effect as your story could be set anywhere.

As a Scot who’s lived in Canada for many – many – years, here are some common contemporary phrases I notice when I go back to Scotland on holiday. If you’re writing a modern day novel set in Scotland, you might find some of them useful to add a little colour to your setting.

WORDS:
Wee – Scots use this a lot.  Wee monster.  Wait a wee minute.  Wee boy.  It’s a wee way up the road.
Wean – (sound like wane)  A small child.
Rubbish – Garbage/trash.
Hiya! – Hi!  Hello!
Outwith – eg Outwith my control. – Outside (out of) my control.
On your tod – On your own.
Suss out  – Figure out
Uh-huh – yes
Aye – yes
Wheeching along – moving very fast.  eg wheeching along the road
Scooshie cream – Canned whipping cream.
Dead – Very.  eg dead nice
Toilet – Washroom
Bahookie – Butt
Cooker – Stove
Hoover – vacuum.  (I’m going to hoover the carpet)
Messages – groceries.  (I’m going for the messages. I’m just going for the shopping/groceries)
Kirk – church
Chum you – Accompany you.  eg How about I chum you along the road?
Go down the town – Go downtown.

OBSERVATIONS:
irnbrulolliesIrn Bru is Scotland’s soft-drink equivalent to whisky. In fact, I think I’m right in saying that Scotland is the only country in the world where its own homemade soft drink outsells the other ‘big two’ soft drink companies. The adverts claim it’s ‘made from girders’, and I have it on good authority that it’s great for treating a hangover. As you can see, you can also buy Irn Bru in ice lolly/popsicle form. (Check out this classic Irn Bru Commercial and see how many Scottish landmarks you can identify.)

Alcohol is sold in all supermarkets and village stores. The only time it’s not available is on a Sunday morning until 12.30pm – when you should be in church.

Children are usually allowed in lounge bars and pubs – with their parents – until 8pm.

Midgies (Scottish mosquitoes) arrive in May and go right through the summer until August. They are a tiny, but major, irritation and can spoil a holiday if you’re not prepared. To avoid them, stick to the beach, make the most of a windy day, or make sure you’re wearing repellant.

The longest running police drama in the UK was ‘Taggart’, set in Glasgow.

Glasgow Kiss/Glasgow Coma Scale. One leads to the other. A Glasgow Kiss is a vicious headbutt. The Glasgow Coma Scale is the scale used in hospitals worldwide to assess consciousness (or lack of it!) following a head injury.

There’s a (friendly!) rivalry between Scotland’s two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Depending on where you’re from, you might say that the best thing about Glasgow is the road to Edinburgh, or…  You can have more fun at a Glasgow funeral than you can at an Edinburgh wedding.

Back in the 18th/19th centuries, Glasgow was a major centre for the international slave/sugar/tobacco trade and was known as the ‘Second City’ of The Empire.

The three major Scottish Banks (Royal Bank of Scotland, Bank of Scotland and Clydesdale Bank) all issue their own banknotes.

The Screen Machine is a truck that brings a mobile cinema to the Scottish Isles and remote Highlands so locals can catch up on the latest films.

The Virgin’s Promise/Notes

Many thanks to all of you who turned out to my workshop on Kim Hudson’s book The Virgin’s Promise at the Alberta Romance Writers’ Association yesterday. Because of the snowstorm, a few people who had planned to attend were unable to because of the weather.  So here’s the collection of three blogs I previously wrote on the subject.  I hope you find them useful.  And please go out and buy Kim Hudson’s book.  You won’t regret it!!

INTRODUCTION:

For those of us who’ve been around the writing block for any length of time and read books on the craft, it’s very exciting when you discover a book that takes a completely fresh approach and makes you look at ‘story’ in a whole new way.

imagesWhich is exactly what Kim Hudson does in her book The Virgin’s Promise. Deciding that the twelve steps of The Hero’s Journey didn’t quite work for her, she spent five years researching and watching movies before completing The Virgin’s Promise.

There are three main sections to her book: The difference between Myths and Fairytales; The Twelve Archetypes; The Thirteen Stages of the Virgin’s Journey.

In essence, myths are about self-sacrifice while fairy tales are about self-fulfillment. Myths follow the 12 steps of The Hero’s Journey while fairytales follow the 13 steps of the Virgin’s Journey. But don’t start thinking that one is purely male and the other female. Rocky, that iconic movie of the 70s, follows the virgin’s path, rather than that of the hero.

FAIRYTALES: (The Virgin’s Journey)
Centered on self-worth and self-hood.
They answer the protagonist’s questions: Who do I know myself to be? What do I want to do in the world, separate from what everyone else wants of me?
They can be casual, every day events that take place in the domestic realm.
They are a journey towards psychological independence.
It is a PULL towards a joy that drives the character’s transformation.
They are a journey to SELF-FULLFILMENT

MYTHS: (The Hero’s Journey)
Centre around obligation.
They answer the hero’s question: Could I survive in the greater world or am I to forever cling to the nurturing world of my mother for fear or death.
They are a journey of physical independence.
The hero usually leaves his community or ‘kingdom’
The hero is transformed by a need to conquer fear
They are tales of SELF-SACRIFICE.

THE VIRGIN: (The Virgin’s Journey/fairytale)
Knows her dream.
She brings her dream to life while surrounded by the influences of her ‘Kingdom’.
The obstacle for the virgin is her community.
The virgin is about BEING.
The supporting characters in the virgin’s story are out of balance and grow with her.
The virgin has friends.

THE HERO: (The Hero’s Journey/myth)
Faces mortal danger by leaving his ‘village’ and proving he can exist in the larger world.
The obstacle for the hero is the evil threatening his village/kingdom.
The Hero is about DOING.
The hero has allies and their goal is of mutual interest.

Please click on this LINK to her website. (If it says the link has been taken down, click on the X and – abracadabra – the site will appear!!)

ARCHETYPES

Read different books on archetypes and they might list six, fourteen, twenty-four, or even thirty-nine possible archetypes.

What I love about Kim Hudson’s take on archetypes in her book The Virgin’s Promise, is that she boils it down to twelve (six male, six female) to represent the beginning, middle and end of human life. Each stage of life archetype has its shadow side.

The shadow side may be where the character begins his journey before he transforms. (eg Scrooge the Miser transforms into a Mentor. The Hero initially ‘Refuses the Call’.) The Shadow side is where the character will end up if he/she doesn’t transform. The shadow side can also be portrayed by another character in the story as a warning of what is at stake emotionally if the character fails to transform. Think Marty’s father in Back to the Future at the beginning and then end of the film. He transforms. Biff doesn’t.

THE VIRGIN’S PROMISE / FAIRYTALE THE HERO’S JOURNEY / MYTH
VIRGIN – WHORE
MOTHER /GODDESS – FEMME FATALE
CRONE – HAG
HERO – COWARD
LOVER / KING – TYRANT
MENTOR – MISER

THE VIRGIN’S PROMISE/ FAIRYTALE

VIRGIN: (Not necessarily female. Think Rocky.)
Hers is a journey of self-fulfilment.
Knows what she wants.
Brings her dream to life while surrounded by the influences of her ‘kingdom’.
She is about ‘being’.
Her obstacle is her community.
The Virgin has Friends.

WHORE: (Shadow side)
She is caught in a life that services the needs, values, power and directions of others to her own detriment and neglect.
She sells her soul to conform to the expectations of others.

MOTHER/GODDESS
Enters into a relationship. (Man/woman/parent/child/community.) That union leads to her wholeness.
Knows her power and uses her talents to nurture and inspire.

FEMME FATALE: (Shadow side)
To maintain an imbalance of power, the Femme Fatale will use emotional manipulation. (Think Cersei in Game of Thrones.)
This leads to emasculation, dehumanization and mistrust.

CRONE:
The crone releases her power to leave a positive impact on another.
She often puts the protagonist in a difficult situation where they are challenged to grow and transform.

HAG: (Shadow side)
Diverts the Lover/King from his true destiny into a hopeless union with her. She robs the next generation of its future and spreads dooms.
She cripples people with fear and interferes with their lives. (Think Glenn Close in Dangerous Liasons.)

THE HERO’S JOURNEY/MYTH

HERO: (not necessarily male. Think Katniss in The Hunger Games.)
Faces mortal danger by leaving his ‘village’ and proving he can live in a larger world.
His is a journey of self-sacrifice.
He is about ‘doing’.
The obstacle for the hero is evil – usually an evil that threatens his ‘village’.
Hero has allies whose goal is of mutual interest. (Think of the scarecrow, tin man and cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz.)

COWARD:
He is so fearful of death that his life occupies a small space.
He fails to explore the world beyond his own village.
He has no confidence he can survive on his own.
Avoids anything that could lead to death or hardship.
(Think a bully or Judas.)

LOVER/KING:
Asserts his will over others (even against their will) to bring integrity, justice and security to the community.
He is challenged to surrender his heart to the feminine.
By allowing love to become central to life (not necessarily a woman – can be a child or friend) he gains a form of immortality. (Think Mr Tom in Goodnight Mr Tom.)

TYRANT:
Seeks to use power for personal gain and is unfeeling towards the feminine. (Not necessarily female.)
He asserts his will physically.

MENTOR:
Can be a philanthropist.
Transfers gifts of wisdom and knowledge to worthy recipients. (Think Obi Wan Kenobi)

MISER: (Shadow side)
Hoards his wealth – real or metaphorical – for himself.
Ignores the effect of his neglect on others. (Think Scrooge.)

THE THIRTEEN STEPS OF THE VIRGIN’S PROMISE:

In this third and final blog installment – The Thirteen Steps of the Virgin’s Promise – taken from Kim Hudson’s book The Virgin’s Promise, I can only offer you a hint – a flavour – of her concepts and ideas.

The thirteen steps Hudson describes are fascinating, all the more so because she compares them with the twelve steps of The Hero’s Journey. And if you read her book (which I highly recommend!) she takes several movies, which follow the Hero’s Journey and others which follow the Virgin’s, and points out each step.

Plus, you know she’s on to something important when Christopher Vogler himself (The Writer’s Journey) says in the forward: This book repeatedly pounds me how much I didn’t know… Many of the terms she uses are compatible with those of the Hero’s Journey and simply emphasize a different shade of meaning in some common signposts. But other elements of her grammar of storytelling are unique, recognizing turning points that don’t have equivalents in the Hero’s Journey language, that are uniquely feminine, or at least reflective of a more inward and emotionally based approach to drama and life.

 THE THIRTEEN STEPS

By Kim Hudson

 ACT ONE:

1) DEPENDENT WORLD: This is often the domestic realm. The people around the virgin are dependent on her or vice-versa. There remains a force within her kingdom – and within her – that keeps her attached to this world.
Material Survival
Social Convention
Protection
Need for Love.

2) PRICE OF CONFORMITY: This is about the suppression of the true self. Even if the virgin knows what she wants, she might not see a way of getting it because she may be:
Sleeping through life.
Living with restrictive boundaries
Living a life of servitude.
Facing psychological danger.

3) OPPORTUNITY TO SHINE: Something happens here that allows the Virgin to reveal her talent, dream or true nature. It can be:
Directed by fate.
Actively pursued.
A wish fulfilled.
A response to someone in need.
The result of a push from the crone.

4) DRESSES THE PART: This can be a fun moment for the audience or reader, but it is NOT a frivolous moment.
She becomes beautiful.
Receives a physical object she begins to use.
Participates in a fashion show and knows her potential.
Undresses (not necessarily physically) to reveal her full potential.

ACT TWO:

5) SECRET WORLD: Once the virgin has had a taste of living her dream and made it a tangible reality, she creates a Secret World in which to experiment and practice in her journey to realize that dream.
Creates her world: This can be a physical place or a state of mind.
Fear of Discovery: What if she’s found out?

6) NO LONGER FITS HER WORLD: She starts to see her dream as a possible reality but it becomes clear she can’t keep juggling the two worlds forever. At this point she may become:
Reckless.
Attract attention.
Declare her task too hard.

7) CAUGHT SHINING: Her two worlds collide and the consequences she feared come to pass.
She grows too big.
Circumstances change.
She is recognized by the dependent world while she’s in her secret world.
Betrayed.

8) GIVES UP WHAT KEPT HER STUCK: This is a MAJOR turning point. As Hudson says so beautifully: ‘Just as a butterfly sheds a drop of blood as it emerges from it cocoon and experiences a period of vulnerability, the virgin must sacrifice some of her past to move into her future.”   

In her Price of Conformity, she had an experience that developed into a complex, burying her pain and creating a belief or pattern of behaviour that keeps her from taking action and claiming her life. 

In this major turning point, she brings that belief or behavior to a conscious level and challenges it. She has lost her dream life and must take the steps necessary to make it reality. This begins with letting something go or of allowing it to die. The usual reasons to remain in the dependent world are:
Fear of Being Hurt.
Fear of Loss of Love.

ACT THREE:

9) KINGDOM IN CHAOS:
The world becomes uncomfortable.
The Kingdom uses its power to bring the virgin back into line.

10) WANDERS IN THE WILDERNESS: It was easy to follow her dream when the dependent world still existed as a fallback position, but it’s a different matter following the dream no matter what the consequences. She finds herself faced with:
Test of Conviction.
Moment of Doubt.

11) CHOOSES HER LIGHT: She trusts herself and pursues her dream whatever happens.
Last stage of transformation.
Introduces her true form to the kingdom.

12) RE-ORDERING/RESCUE: This is when her shadow side is truly banished.
She – and others – see her value.
Reconnects with her kingdom.
The false rescue. (In a false rescue, the Hero will fight for the virgin but only to prove he is brave or to assert his will over another.)
The Test: When the hero fails to value her true nature, the virgin must reject him.
Multiple rescues. There can be multiple rescues, each one testing the virgin.

(In writing a compelling romance, the rescue provides the CRUCIAL obstacle to love. The hero fails to value the virgin in her authentic form due to his:
Immaturity – Ever After
Fear of Commitment – Pretty Woman
Fear of Embarrassment – About a Boy)

13) THE KINGDOM IS BRIGHTER: The virgin has challenged the kingdom and thrown it into chaos. They have accepted her back and made adjustments to accommodate her AUTHENTIC nature or dream and realize the Kingdom is better off for having gone through this experience as it needed change.
Evil has been uncovered and removed.
New life has been injected into the kingdom.
Unconditional love binds the kingdom.

So there you have it – The Virgin’s Promise in thirteen steps. But as I said above, this is just a taste of Kim Hudson’s book. Please check it out, examine the films she talks about and you will see the important differences between the journey of the Hero and that of the Virgin. You won’t be disappointed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In My Father’s Footsteps

1936 copy

My mum and dad in 1936.

I’m a bit of a Luddite, but IF I’ve managed the technology correctly, my book In My Father’s Footsteps will be free on Amazon on December 26th and 27th 2014.

Several years ago, I traced Dad’s footsteps from the village in France, where he was stationed in 1939/40 as a young private in the British Army, to the bloody beaches of Dunkirk. It was one of the most important journeys of my life.

My Dad was born on December 25th, 1914, the first Christmas of the First World War. He would have turned 100 years old this Christmas Day. Sadly he died when I was only twenty-four, so I have now spent more of my life without him than I have with him. He was a lovely man and I still miss him.

If you are interested in reading the book, please click here.

Merry Christmas. Wishing you and your families health and happiness in 2015.

 

 

Creating an Outline – Linda Shaikh

linda image 2

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

I recently had the great pleasure of attending Calgary artist Linda Shaikh’s exhibition, ‘Finding Voice’.

It was a stunning display. With a mixture of paintings consisting of bold, brash strokes, followed by others which whisper ethereal colours fading into beyond, she draws the eye into the heart of her work.

But as you step closer to examine the images more thoroughly, you discover all is not as it seems.

What you are actually viewing in her paintings are her research, brainstorming, outlines and even chapter synopses for her PhD thesis. Linda is currently exploring ways to give the disadvantaged in our society a voice. As a visual artist, she has found a unique way of transferring words and ideas into art, which she then transforms back into words and fully realized concepts.

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

Take these three images. The first illustrates her initial thoughts and ideas for her thesis. The second, her first outline. In the bottom left hand corner of the third, she’s written down some of the basic concepts of the various philosophers she studied, with questions regarding those ideas radiating outwards.

As I made my way around the exhibition, I thought about the different ways that we, as writers, brainstorm and outline our work: traditional index cards; the use of Powerpoint slides to keep notes and images; visual story boards containing pictures of our main characters and the places they live; long rolls of wall paper which can be rolled out on the floor or stuck on the wall so you can see every scene in one place.

And how many of us create special playlists of music for each project to get us into the mood and settle us in our stories? How many of us go for walks to let our minds wander free and the ideas to flow. I have one writer friend who has discovered she crochets an afghan with each book she writes, the colours subconsciously reflecting scenes, images or emotions in her book.

linda image 3

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

Looking at all these beautiful paintings and their words, it got me wondering if this could be a method some of us might adopt to brainstorm and outline our stories. “Hmmm,” I can hear you say, “but I’m no painter. I couldn’t do that.” And I totally buy that. Something Linda and I discussed at the exhibition was that when asked to draw a bird, most adults will draw a simple double ‘v’ shape, whereas when we were young we painted multicoloured feathers and beaks. We weren’t afraid to take risks.

So here’s an idea. If you’re having trouble with your story or are at the brain storming stage, how about buying a cheap roll of paper and some paints (finger/poster or acrylic – it doesn’t matter), then roll the paper out on the floor or hang it on the wall and start to have some fun.

Look at these two examples of Linda’s chapter outlines. The first shows the details of that particular section. The second shows how the mass of ideas (and colours) develop, the colours taking on a simpler, lighter, calmer feel as the outline develops and reaches its conclusion.

linda image 4

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

linda1

Artwork: Linda Shaikh

To get you started, what about looking at your roll of paper in three-act-structure form? As writers we know that ¾ of the way through the story there needs to be a black moment, so paint in a wide black streak either with a brush, or with your hands. (Very often something tactile releases an idea in your brain.) Half way through is the Point of No Return where you character is not quite who they will be at the end, but something happens here to make them more of who they will be rather than who they were. Maybe you introduce the hint of a new colour here that will grow stronger as you continue towards the end of the story, while colours you used in the beginning start to fade.

In a romance novel, the midpoint is usually a kiss or sex scene, so what about a bold scarlet or gold stripe here?

lindaimage 5

Artwork: Linda Shaikh. Extract from Image #1

What if you have a child in your story? How about including their hand print throughout to remind you of their role?

Once you have the bold strokes of colour of your basic outline and turning points, maybe then is the time to go back and add the detail, whether it is more delicate shadings, writing on the paper, or a collage of notes or images you’ve collected through the brainstorming phase. Once that’s done, you will then start to see the chapters appear.

And when you’re finished, don’t end with a neat line. Let the paper continue to flow and curl as Linda does because, while your story might end, your characters’ lives will continue.

Research

My main area of historical interest is World War Two. I’m fascinated by it – perhaps because there were still air raid shelters around to play in when I was growing up in Glasgow. And I can still clearly remember my Dad pulling on his old army overalls and beret before climbing underneath Mum’s car when it needed fixed.

So when I heard about a two-day symposium on The Great War being offered at the Military Museum here in Calgary, I hummed and hawed before deciding to sign up. It’s not ‘my’ time period.

But I’m glad I did.

Here’s what I learned.

1) Two days and 25 papers later, I probably know more about Alberta in WWI than most of my native-born Albertan/Canadian friends.

2) As a writer, ANYTHING you learn is invaluable. Everything can be adapted to add depth, texture and veracity to your writing.

3) More importantly, if you write anything inaccurate in your novel, someone somewhere will pick up on it. And when they do, it will pull them out of the story. From then on they will question everything else you say. Pull a reader out of your story and you’ve lost them.

No matter what you’re writing about, please – please – make sure your facts are sound.

 

My Top Ten Scottish Films

Perhaps not technically a travel blog but, sticking with this week’s Scottish theme, lots of lovely Scottish scenery!

I’d love to hear your top ten favourite Scottish films.  Here, in no particular order – except for the first two – are mine.

1) LOCAL HERO

2) DEAR FRANKIE

3) WHISKY GALORE

4) THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE

5) TUNES OF GLORY

6) SMALL FACES

7) I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING

8) TRAINSPOTTING

9) GREGORY’S GIRL

10) THE WINTER GUEST