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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: fear, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. San Diego Comic-Con Hoteloween was scarier than usual this year


As I write this, the hotel situation for this year’s San Diego Comic-Con remains in flux. Open hotel registration—which is in effect a lottery based on hand and browser speed—took place yesterday morning, and it was a tense, tense 10 minutes with confirmation emails yet to go out.

Hours of training, both physical and mental, memorizing maps and testing internet speed were all for nought for a bunch of folks—the Beat included—because the website suffered some kind of hitch. Tony Kim has a sad account, backed up by many on Twitter. As the world collectively hit the refresh button at high noon EDT, 9 am PDT, the hotel selection form froze up and then sent you to the “Congrats, wait for your email” screen. That’s what happened here. I got the first screen, clicked on some hotels hit return, got kicked out and then sat there in confusion and dread and then went back in. The second time it worked but by then four minutes had passed, four precious, precious minutes, and downtown hotels are usually gone long before that to people with better autofill speeds.

Several people have heard from Travel Planners, the company that has been running Hotel Hell for many years, that a follow-up email would be sent to those who had submitted faulty forms and they would have a chance to pick their six hotels and resubmit. But would the first time stamp be honored? A few tweets of relevance:

I didn’t get any Travel Planners email so I guess my second form went through alright…but too late. No one seems to have gotten any “confirmation” emails from Travel Planners yet, either. But the fine folks there are doubtless working hard to make sure that people are taken care of.

And now the waiting begins. But I’m not going to just sit here and wait. I’m making a bold offer. If anyone has a spare room at the Omni, either Hilton, the Marriott Marina or the Hyatt, I’m willing to trade this mechanical pencil for it.
That’s right, for an extra hotel room you have no need of, you will receive this beautiful mechanical pencil, size B. The pencil is a few years old, but has not been used much, and has a secure grip for a firm, confident line. The pencil does not come with leads, but I’m sure you can find those at any stationary store.

This is a good deal, please give it some serious consideration.

Good luck to everyone caught up in this trying time. And as is now traditional for speaking of Hoteloween, “May the odds be ever in your favor.”

PS: I know that the hashtag used among Hall H waiters is #hotelpocalypse, but I’ sticking with #hoteloween because you never know what you’re going to get and I was here first.

3 Comments on San Diego Comic-Con Hoteloween was scarier than usual this year, last added: 3/27/2015
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2. Vulnerability: The Key to Compelling Romantic Relationships

loveThe connection between two characters is one of the most magnetic forces in storytelling, especially in romance novels.

Whether they welcome the relationship, fight it, or fall somewhere in between, emotional friction creates an energy that leaves readers anxious to see what will happen next.

Building a compelling romance is not easy, and to make the pairing realistic, a writer must know each character down to their bones, including any past hurts experienced at the hands of others. Pain is a necessary component of any fictional romance. Pain? I know, it sounds crazy. Here’s why.

1) Romance isn’t simple.

You can’t throw two people together and expect pheromones and sex drive do all the work. Readers have expectations that a rocky road lies ahead, because obstacles, suffering and hardship are what makes a romance so satisfying. Characters willing to walk through fire to be together convinces readers they belong with one another. Love is powerful, and there is great beauty in the struggle to obtain what the heart wants most.

2) Healthy relationships (especially romantic ones) require vulnerability.

To really dig into this, we need to first look at vulnerability in real life. It’s usually cast in a negative light, used in the context that if we don’t avoid it, bad things will happen. If we don’t lock our doors, we’re vulnerable to thieves. If we don’t protect our personal information, people may steal it. Negative experiences teach us to be wary of appearing vulnerable, so we take care in who we trust and what we share. We dress a certain way, act a certain way, hide our hurts and pretend we are strong.  Characters, to be realistic, should think and act the same way.

But there is another powerful side of vulnerability: acceptance.

When a person accepts themselves, faults and all, they are able to show their true self to others rather than hide it. This openness, this sharing of one’s innermost feelings and beliefs, is the foundation of all meaningful relationships. Being genuine and honest allows a person to connect with another on a deep level. In romances, characters who are willing to be vulnerable and put their true feelings out there open the gateway to love and intimacy. Without vulnerability, a romantic relationship reads false.

So where does the pain come in?

Being vulnerable is not easy, especially for characters who have been hurt by those they once loved. A character’s past is often a quagmire of painful events making it difficult to let down one’s guard and trust.

For example, if our protagonist was manipulated by an abusive ex-husband, her painful experience with him becomes a wound she can’t forget. She will harden herself, maybe push people away, using emotional armor to keep from being hurt. But this also blocks any new trusting relationships from forming, something she may deeply want. Even when she finds a man to love, it is a difficult process to strip oneself of that armor and be vulnerable enough to forge a strong relationship, risking hurt once more. The character’s desire for the relationship must outweigh her fear of being hurt.

As writers, the need for vulnerability creates a giant obstacle. Why? Because it is our business to create characters who are broken, jaded or struggling in some way. Yet somehow we must show them it’s okay to trust. We must find a way to give them the strength they need to let go of their fears of being hurt and open themselves up to another. The question is, how do we do that?

1) Hone in on the desire for “something more.”

A common need we all have as people (and therefore all characters should have it as well) is the desire for growth and fulfillment. Fears hold a character back and leave them feeling unfulfilled, affecting their happiness. They must realize this, and yearn for something to change. This is the first step.

For example, if your character is having a hard time with trust and openness, have her look within and see the dissatisfaction she feels at not having close relationships, or people to hang out with, trade gossip or confide in. This realization will lead her to probe for what she truly wants (genuine friendship and connection) and create the desire within her to obtain it.

2) Create positive experiences for vulnerability.

There are many times when opening up and being genuine pays off. It feels good to tell someone a secret fear only to find out they understand because they fear it too. Or asking for help and then getting it. Even when we share a problem, we feel the weight of it lift because it’s no longer ours alone. Experiencing love, intimacy, trust, and friendship are all positive experiences that can build a person up, encouraging them to be more open and vulnerable with others.

3) Showing how the past has affected your character but having them see how negativity is holding them back so they can take an important step forward.

In the example above of the woman seeking friendship and connection, it will take time to learn how to trust and feel comfortable sharing details about herself, but if the desire for change is strong enough, it can be achieved.

The path to vulnerability is often the meat of a romance, so it’s important to get a good grasp on it as it plays into the obstacles, hardship and struggles that must be overcome to end with a deep, loving connection.

Image: PublicDomainPictures @ Pixabay


The post Vulnerability: The Key to Compelling Romantic Relationships appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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3. Meet Davina Bell, author of The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade

Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books, Davina Bell. My pleasure! What’s your background in books? I was the type of kid who read all night by the hallway light that peeked through the cracks of my bedroom door and wrote endless stories on old computer paper – the type with the holes in the side […]

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4. Hidden Emotions: How To Tell Readers What Characters Don’t Want To Show

pensiveOne of the struggles that comes with writing is when a character feels  vulnerable  and so tries to hide their emotions as a result.  Fear of emotional pain, a lack of trust in others, instinct, or protecting one’s reputation are all reasons he or she might repress what’s going on inside them. After all, people do this in real life, and so it makes sense that our characters will too.  Protecting oneself from feeling exposed is as normal as it gets.

But where does that leave writers who STILL have to show these hidden emotions to the reader (and possibly other characters in the scene)?

The answer is a “TELL”– a subtle, bodily response or micro gesture that a character has little or no control over.

No matter how hard we try, our bodies are emotional mirrors, and can give our true feelings away.  We can force hands to unknot, fake nonchalance, smile when we don’t mean it and lie as needed. However, to the trained eye, TELLS will leak through: a rushed voice. An off-pitch laugh. Hands that fiddle and smooth.  Self-soothing touches to comfort.  Sweating.

For a story to have emotional range, our characters will naturally hide what they feel at some point, and when they do, the writer must be ready. Readers will be primed for an emotional response by the scene’s build up, and will be on the lookout for a character’s body language cues and tells.

Here is a list of possible TELLS that will convey to readers that more is going on with your Protagonist than it seems:

  • A voice that breaks, drops or raises in pitch; a change in speech patterns
  • Micro hesitations (delayed speech, throat clearing, slow reaction time) showing a lack of commitment
  • A forced smile, laugh or verbally agreeing/disagreeing in a way that does not seem genuine
  • Cancelling gestures (smiling but stepping back; saying No but reaching out, etc.)
  • Hands that fiddle with items, clothing and jewellery
  • Stiff posture and movements; remaining TOO still and composed
  • Rushing (the flight instinct kicking in) or making excuses to leave or avoid a situation
  • A lack of eye contact; purposefully ignoring someone or something
  • Closed body posture (body shielding, arms crossing chest, using the hair to hide the face, etc.)
  • Sweating or trembling, a tautness in the muscles or jaw line
  • Smaller gestures of the emotion ‘leaking out’ (see The Emotion Thesaurus for ideas that match each emotion)
  • Growing inanimate and contributing less to conversation
  • Verbal responses that seem to have double meanings; sarcasm
  • Attempting to intimidate others into dropping a subject
    Overreacting  to something said or done in jest
  • Increasing one’s personal space ( withdrawing from a group, sitting alone, etc.)
  • Tightness around the eyes or mouth (belying the strain of keeping emotion under wraps)
  • Hiding one’s hands in some way

Sometimes a writer can let the character’s true thoughts leak out and this can help  show the reader what’s really being felt. But this only works if the character happens to be the Point Of View Character. The rest of the time, it comes down to micro body language and body tells that are hard, if not impossible, to control.

Have you used any of these tells to show the reader or other characters in the scene that something is wrong? What tells do you notice most in real life as you read the body language of those around you? (These real life interactions can be gold mines for fresh body language cues to apply to your characters!)

TIP: For more inspiration on body language that will convey specific emotions, flip through The Emotion Thesaurus.

TIP 2.0: Becca has a great post on Hidden Emotions as well, and how “Acting Normal” might be the go-to expressive that gets hidden emotions across to the reader, while potentially leaving other characters in the dark.

Original posting
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The post Hidden Emotions: How To Tell Readers What Characters Don’t Want To Show appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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5. Hide and Go Seek — and other Things that Make me Scream

I am not a scaredy cat. I love to hike and wade in mountain streams.  I love to go to places I’ve never been and see things I’ve never seen. I like to watch documentaries on foods from other countries and want to visit those countries one day. I like to make new recipes! I’ll…

4 Comments on Hide and Go Seek — and other Things that Make me Scream, last added: 8/2/2014
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6. Anxiety in non-human primates

Anxiety disorders adversely affect millions of people and account for substantial morbidity in the United States. Anxiety disrupts an individual’s ability to effectively engage and interact in social and non-social situations. The onset of anxiety disorders may begin at an early age or occur in response to life events. Thus, the effects of anxiety are broad ranging, affecting both family and work dynamics, and may limit an individual’s quality of life.

While there has been a great deal of research focused on anxious behavior and anxiety disorders in the past few decades, there is still much we do not know. In order to better understand anxiety disorders, and to develop novel options for those who are nonresponsive to current treatments, scientists need to investigate the biobehavioral mechanisms that underlie the expression of anxiety related behavior. Research with humans subjects is one strategy used to gain insight on how to effectively treat anxiety disorders. However, there are inherent difficulties with such studies, including complex life histories and differences in access to resources (such as health care), as well as ethical issues. Common physiology between humans and other animals allow for the development of animal models that allow scientists to examine the neurobiological underpinnings of anxiety disorders. The non-human primate (NHP) has been used in the study of anxiety due to the physiological, behavioral and neural commonalities we share.

One type of anxiety assessment in non-human primates relies on direct behavioral observations, either in the animal’s ‘home environment’ or in a situation in which the animal is mildly challenged to induce an anxious state. In these procedures, observers typically look for the presence of behaviors indicative of anxiety, including fear and displacement behaviors (normal behaviors that may occur at seemingly inappropriate times). For example, in certain stressful situations, macaques may pick at their hair, a behavior similar to hair twirling in humans. Importantly anxiolytic drugs that reduce the occurrence of these behaviors in humans have been shown to reduce these behaviors in non-human primates, suggesting a common biological mechanism.

One commonly used procedure to assess anxiety in non-human primates is the “Human Intruder Test” (HIT). This procedure was designed to evaluate an animal’s response to the “uncertainty” of the presence of an unfamiliar human. The species appropriate response when presented with this mild challenge is to remain still and vigilant; however, there is a range of responses, with some animals showing little response and others excessive freezing behavior. Variations of this procedure have used similar stimuli, including unfamiliar conspecifics and predatory threats (e.g., stuffed predator) to measure anxiety-related responses. Animals that exhibit heightened anxiety responses in the Human Intruder Test also show alterations in the same neurobiological systems affected in humans with anxiety disorders.

Barbary macaque. CC0 via Pixabay.
Barbary macaque. CC0 via Pixabay.

Another class of anxiety tests in non-human primates relies on measuring physiological response following the presentation of an unexpected auditory or motor stimulus. For example, anxious people are more likely than others to react to a brief, unexpected sound with an exaggerated heart rate. Researchers have adopted similar methodology to assess startle response for nonhuman primates using a wide range of stimuli and physiological parameters.

Other research has focused on the cognitive processes involved in the regulation of anxiety responses. These tests of “cognitive bias” are based on the idea that an individual’s tendency to attend to potentially noxious stimuli tell us something about how the individual processes or weighs the experience. Therefore, an individual’s “anxious” state can be by assessed from his or her judgment about or attention to stimuli with different potentials to evoke anxiety. Cognitive bias procedures have been adapted and successfully employed in humans and other animals with similar response strategies across species, making these tests valuable comparative tools in our understanding of anxious behavior behavior.

Our review presents non-human primate models used by scientists in an effort to understand the biobehavioral mechanisms that mediate anxiety. The cross-species approach of modeling human psychopathology aims to discover targets for treatment toward the goal of reducing human suffering caused by anxiety disorders. Additionally, the knowledge gained from our investigation of anxiety-like behavior inform captive care of non-human primates. The studies reviewed have refined our understanding of factors that may result in anxiety-like behavior and provide information on how to manage them. Modeling psychopathology in non-human primates is necessary and critical to our understanding and treatment of these disorders in humans and nonhuman primates.

The post Anxiety in non-human primates appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Personality Traits: Building a Balanced Character

Thesaurus PairIf writing the Positive Trait & Negative Trait Thesaurus books have taught me anything, it is that compelling characters are neither good nor bad, perfect or fundamentally flawed.

Instead, they are all of these things. Each has a set of good, admirable qualities, even while displaying frustrating or off-putting flaws. They have strengths and weaknesses in different areas, making them both skilled and inept at the same time. But that’s the point, isn’t it? The best characters are realistic and believable because they are just like real people. Like you or I. They have a balance of positive and negatives that give them a wholly unique viewpoint, attitude, belief system and personality.

Some writers want to create characters that ONLY have the best qualities, ones that prove they are good human beings that readers will admire and root for. They find it easy to create a blend of traits like loyalty, helpfulness, intelligence and determination, forming a true hero that can handle anything. But when it comes to choosing flaws, they pull their punches, worried that if they add a trait like selfishness, perfectionism, or impulsiveness, readers will view them as unlikeable.

Other writers EMBRACE the flawed character. They pile up flaws, forged by a hard past filled with emotional wounds that refuse to heal. They add layers of negative traits like suspicious, mistrustful and erratic, all carefully planned around an elaborate backstory that supports the necessity of emotional armor (flaws) that make them who they are.

But when it comes to admirable traits, they struggle. What positive traits would logically survive such a painful past? If say, the character was a victim of horrible abuse and to cope, they became a mistrustful, anti social liar, how can they also be friendly or kind? How can they logically be generous or carefree while harboring such deep flaws?

These are not simple questions to answer. Character creation, when done well, is not an easy process. Too many flaws (or even choosing the wrong type of flaw), and a character becomes unlikeable. Too many positive attributes, and they come across as altruistic, unrealistic or even (yawn) boring. So how can we achieve balance?

balanceUnderstand Who and What Shaped Your Character

Just like every one of us, your character has a past. And while yes, backstory turmoil and pain should be exploited to create conflict and tension in the present, there is always good mixed with bad. In real life, the good experiences (and people) are what keep us going no matter how bad it gets. So think about your character’s positive experiences and past influences along with negative ones as you dig around in their backstory. Understand what the character learned from both past trials and successes, and how each lesson will help to shape his personality.

Uncover Your Character’s Moral Center

Every character has a set of moral beliefs, even the villain. Think deeply about the moral code your character lives by, and what lines he will not cross. (HINT: the “why” of moral choices will be embedded in his backstory, and who/what helped shaped his view of the world.) Morals are the pulsing heart of motivation and action, so determine your character’s sense of right and wrong. (Read more about determining your characters morality HERE.)

Prod His Wound to See What Hurts

Nothing modifies behavior like pain, so understanding what deep emotional wounds your character carries is key to knowing what he also yearns for more than anything (Acceptance? Love? Safety? Freedom?) This wound and the fear that it can happen again is what causes deep flaws to form. They act as “false protection” to keep the hurt from reoccurring, and usually hold people at a distance. Here’s a helpful list of Common Wound Themes.

For example, a character who experienced rejection might close himself off from potential lovers because of his fear of being rejected again. How would flaws “help” him by pushing women away? Is he arrogant? Promiscuous? Uncommunicative? Dishonest?

And what attribute, if nourished, might grow strong enough to vanquish these flaws that hold him back from connection? Respectfulness? Honor? Loyalty? Empathy? Finding a major flaw’s opposite is the pathway to balance & resolving Character Arc through personal growth.

Give All Characters The Chance for Redemption

Some characters are intentionally unbalanced. If you have a character who leans one way more than the other (such as a villain or anti hero) by story necessity, then make sure you also build in something that suggests no matter how flawed or terrible, there is a chance they can change or be redeemed.

Every negative has a positive, and no matter how dark or skewed a character’s view is, or what he feels he’s better without, there will always be a flicker of light that can help him find his way back to becoming whole and complete. Show this to readers, be it a motive that is pure, a relationship with someone that is on some level healthy and good, or a positive quality that is admirable.

Balancing your character’s positive and negative sides means some deep brainstorming! If it helps, here are some more ideas on how to plan a character before you start writing.

How do you create balanced characters?

Image: Bykst @ Pixabay

The post Personality Traits: Building a Balanced Character appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS™.

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8. Author v. Them: When to Revise for Critiquers

PB&J: Picture Books and All That Jazz: A Highlights Foundation Workshop

Join Leslie Helakoski and Darcy Pattison in Honesdale PA for a spring workshop, April 23-26, 2015. Full info here.
  • "This conference was great! A perfect mix of learning and practicing our craft."Peggy Campbell-Rush, 2014 attendee, Washington, NJ
  • "Darcy and Leslie were extremely accessible for advice, critique and casual conversation."Perri Hogan, 2014 attendee, Syracuse,NY

I am scared to work on my WIP story right now.
Because someone I respect read the story and said that it’s working well, but I think I need to make one change–a pretty big one–to make it even stronger. But Critiquer said it was great, as is. If I mess with it, will it – well, mess it up? Or will messing with it make it stronger like I suspect?

The Role of Critiques: Clearing up Confusion

This leaves me with a major question about the role of critiques. Basically, I get critiques to check how well I’m communicating. I don’t get critiques to see if my writing is any good (see this post on the good/bad question)

Good feedback includes a reader pointing out where they are confuse or where they lost interest.

Confusion, in early drafts, is often because my vision for the story isn’t solidified, which results in inconsistent portrayal of a character, or contradictory information.

“On page 11, you said Martha was mad, but when she meets Horace in page 15, she runs up and hugs him. Which is it? Mad or glad to see him?

Often, I want to say, “Both.”
But that doesn’t work, does it? If she is livid on page 11, she’d better show that fury on page 15. Else, why have her so mad on page 11?

Another inconsistency that escapes me in early drafts is points of fact or logic. In my WIP, the villain will use a drone to deliver something remotely. My idea about drones was that they are sort of airplane shaped, but the reviewer quickly sent me to YouTube to discover that they are more helicopter-like, but instead of one big blade on top, they have multiple rotating blades on top. Or at least, one current popular model looks like that. I could, of course, invent my own drone design for this story, but why? That would take valuable time away from the creation of characters and plot. My story isn’t ABOUT drones, so it’s not worth the effort. Instead, I’ll look at videos of several different models and synthesize something more factual than the current description.

The Role of Critiques: Reader Reaction

Again, I don’t care if you call my story good or bad. But I do want to know where a typical reader loses interest. WHERE is the key question. Not WHY? As the author, I should be able to pinpoint the why. I just need to know WHERE. When you tell me where you lose interest, I’ll look and go through a mental list of things that could be happening: the prose is awful, nothing is happening, the characters are boring, etc.

I can revise to keep your attention by using better prose, pumping up the action, writing more active character descriptions, putting more at risk in the main character’s life and so on.

The Trap of Critiques

The biggest problem for me today, though, is the trap of critiques; or perhaps to sat it differently, the problem is that someone said my story is Good. Good is the enemy of Best, goes the old proverb. But it’s good. Someone–a reader I respect–said it’s good. Do I trust that, or do I listen to the itch in my storyteller’s sense that I need to tweak this one spot, which will improve pacing later, and create BETTER?

I’m scared of messing it up badly. Of course, I can keep a copy of BEFORE; but the revision will take a lot of small changes and it will be hard to get back to the original. Will I take a chance or not? And if I make these changes, but then realize that it didn’t turn out for the best, will I be willing to do the work to undo everything? Commit or not? Today, I’m scared to work.

It’s a typical day for an author.

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9. In today's HuffPo: writing toward fear, as I wrote toward One Thing Stolen

I have made reference to the challenges that beset me (self-afflicted, surely) as I set out to write One Thing Stolen. Today, in Huffington Post, I'm write of the fears I was writing toward during the process.

The piece begins like this, below, and carries forward here.

There is a girl who only just recently knew who she was, what she wanted, the dimensions of now. A girl who has a retro-minded best friend and a reputation for ingenious ideas about night snow, urban gardens, and the songs that rise up from Philadelphia streets. She has a mother and a brother, both loved. She has a father obsessed with the Florentine flood of November 1966--that unforeseen spill of the Arno River, that mud that clawed through homes and stores and across the face of Cimabue's "Crucifix," among so many other treasures. This girl has moved with her family to Florence. This girl is losing herself.

It's hard to say, precisely, when she began to peel away. When an obsession with nests and nest building became her terrible secret. When thieving erupted as a necessary part of her existence. When words began to clot and clog and answers became elusive.

It's hard to say when all this started. It's impossible to know how it will end.

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10. The Inner Huhne

I drew this whilst listening to the news about Chris Huhne on the radio.
ZenBrush and ArtStudio on iPad. Click to enlarge.

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11. The Future is Scary

FRHSLast weekend was my alma mater’s high school graduation. A thrilling, momentous (and gorgeous) day! It made me think back to my own graduation and the fact that what scared me at 18 scares me still: moving forward into the unknown. In fact, if I could go back and give myself advice it would probably be this: The future is scary. It never stops being scary. Get used to it. And don’t be scared.

Don’t get me wrong, I was excited to leave high school, to venture out of state to college, to make new friends and take classes towards two majors I was passionate about (screenwriting! creative writing! so much writing!). But I was also terrified. My high school was a cocoon of all that was familiar and comfortable and good. Not that every day was bliss. There were fights and tears and stress. But what I realized on graduation night was that I wasn’t ready to leave. I’m never ready to leave: not school, not a party, not vacation. I’m not ready to leave for work in the morning, and I’m not ready to leave work in the afternoon. And I’m NEVER ready to go to bed at night, no matter how tired I feel.

I spent much of the summer before college doing what I loved: reading–and finally there was no required reading. Free to read what I wanted, I think I read nothing but Orson Scott Card. I’m not going to get political here because this was during an innocent time before the internet gobbled me whole, so these books were merely the words on the page and what I brought to them.

I remember it so clearly. I was sitting on the deck at my parents’ house, feeling sorry for myself because in a few months time I would be far away from the beautiful rolling hills, when I came to one specific passage.

Alvin grimaced at him.  ‘Taleswapper, I’m not ready to leave home yet.’
‘Maybe folks have to leave home before they’re ready, or they never get ready at all.”

I stopped and read it again. Because although I had not named it out loud, that was me. I was Alvin. And Taleswapper’s words were exactly what I needed to hear: it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to not feel ready. Because if you wait to feel ready, then you’ll be waiting forever. Sometimes you have to jump out of the plane and trust that your parachute will open.*

*(Please note, I have never been sky diving, but I know someone who has, so that’s almost the same thing, right?)

It’s funny to think back to that day, because it it planted a seed which has motivated me many times since. Not always, of course. Sometimes I still chicken out. But sometimes when anxiety refuses to release its stranglehold: a new relationship, a new job, a new adventure–I find myself thinking back to those wise words, and I realize that I will be okay, because I’m always okay.

And if Orson Scott Card is not your bent, a good friend of mine recently gave me a new mantra, one that she repeats to her daughter whenever she is scared worried. “You are BRAVE. You are STRONG. You are WONDERFUL. And YOU will be fine.” What better words could you ever need?

There are so many things I could have missed out on, if I gave into fear:

Duffy College Performing Hole-in-the-Rock, Bay of Islands, New Zealand Whangarei, New Zealand Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary Kata Tjuta, Northern Territory, Australia Katherine's Gorge, Australia Jelly Fish, Sydney Aquarium Manta Ray, Sydney Aquarium Heights Ring of Brodgar, Orkney Loch Ness, Scotland Rally to Restore Sanity, Washington, DC

So do you embrace the future at full tilt? Or are you worry-wart* like me?

*(Officially diagnosed by my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Burton. Thanks for that.)

What gets you through the scary times?

Tagged: Being Brave, Fear, Future, Graduation, Growing Up, Leaving Home, Orson Scott Card, Reading, Teens, writing

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12. Looking For Reasons Not To Quit

Hi there. Long time no see. It’s me, not you. I’ve been slack.

But tonight I’m putting a hold on the smoothies I promised to make for D and myself, in order to write this post. So listen up. Because it’s important. And because smoothies are on the line!

Lately I’ve been feeling down in the dumps, and it’s not just because of my recent terrible haircut. It’s also because of a project I’ve been working on, which is not going quite where I want it to. It’s gotten so that the last few days I’ve been trying to think of a reason not to quit. Because somehow I got to this point where quitting doesn’t even feel like quitting. It just feels like not continuing, which doesn’t really sound as bad. Does that make sense? It does to me.

But I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this project. You always hear stories where people were so close to quitting when they finally met with success, so I thought, maybe that’s where I am. Maybe I should hang in there a bit longer. But what’s the point? I need a reason. A really rock-solid reason not to quit–something that will actually force me to keep going. Because this is kind of new for me. I don’t quit. Never. Not really. I’m not even bragging because honestly, sometimes it’s a curse. If I get it in my head to do something, then I JUST. WON’T. LET. IT. GO. So ordinarily what keeps me from giving up is that I can’t admit defeat. But this time that isn’t enough.

Because I kind of want to quit. I’ve turned it into something other than defeat. I’ve turned it into the realistic, responsible thing to do. It would save me a lot of grief (read: feeling depressed at my lack of success and guilty for doing anything besides working on my project). It would be easier.

So, while I was washing dishes tonight, the answer kind of came to me in the form of this blog post. (It seems like I always get half-decent ideas while I’m washing dishes. You might think that’s a good enough reason to wash dishes more often, but I’m still not sold.) Anyway, I was trying to think of one good reason not to quit and I realized it was actually pretty simple: If I quit, then I’ll definitely be in the exact same place that I am right now. Forever. My project can’t possibly succeed. And the disappoint that I feel right now will never go away–why would it? But if I don’t quit–if I keep on trying–then there remain two possibilities ahead of me: One is that I might never succeed. I might remain exactly where I am right now. Forever. With one exception: at least I would know I didn’t give up. But the other possibility is that I will eventually succeed. Until I eliminate that possibility, it’s still out there. It could still happen.

If I quit, then all I do is eliminate hope. I control the future by closing off all possibilities except the one I don’t want.

And hope is enough to keep me going. I wouldn’t condemn anyone to disappointment–I want all your dreams to come true. So why would I do any less for myself?

One of my college professors paraphrased Thomas Edison, and I’ll never forget it. At the time, I thought he made it up. I thought he was a genius. So I will always think of R.L. before poor T.E. when I hear the words, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

I guess what I’m saying is, don’t give up. I won’t if you don’t.

What keeps you going on your low days?

Tagged: Being Brave, Failure, Fear, Future, Hope, Persistence, Thomas Edison

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13. Books to get ready for Back-to-School

Back-to-school is here! Summer is coming to a close and classrooms are prepping to welcome new students to take the long journey through the next grade. The first day of school can be scary for many children, especially as they enter a new school, or are beginning school for the first time. So, in honor of the first day of school we have compiled a list of Sylvan Dell books that are great reads to prepare for that first day.

Giraffe_187The Giraffe Who Was Afraid of Heights – Imagine if the one thing that keeps you safe is what you fear the most. This enchanting story tells of a giraffe who suffers from the fear of heights. His parents worry about his safety and send him to the village doctor for treatment. Along the way he befriends a monkey who is afraid of climbing trees and a hippo that is afraid of water. A life-threatening event causes the three friends to face and overcome each of their fears.

HomeCaveHome in the Cave – Baby Bat loves his cave home and never wants to leave it. While practicing flapping his wings one night, he falls, and Pluribus Packrat rescues him. They then explore the deepest, darkest corners of the cave where they meet amazing animals—animals that don’t need eyes to see or colors to hide from enemies. Baby Bat learns how important bats are to the cave habitat and how other cave-living critters rely on them for their food. Will Baby Bat finally venture out of the cave to help the other animals?

Henry Impatient Heron_COVER 2Henry the Impatient Heron – Henry the Heron couldn’t stand still! He was always moving, and it drove everyone crazy! His brother and sister yelled at him for stepping on their heads, and Mom and Dad could barely get food into his little baby mouth. But herons have to stand still to catch their food, so how would Henry ever be able to eat on his own? In Henry, the Impatient Heron, Donna Love takes readers along with Henry as he learns a valuable lesson from the King of Camouflage! Hilarious and lighthearted illustrations by Christina Wald complement the important lesson in the text. It is a meaningful lesson for both herons and kids alike, which teaches the importance of just being still!

Moon_187How the Moon Regained Her Shape – This fascinating story influenced by Native American folktales explains why the moon changes shape and helps children deal with bullies. After the sun insults and bullies her, the moon feels so badly hurt that she shrinks and leaves the sky. The moon turns to a comet and her many friends on earth to comfort her. Her friends include rabbits and Native Americans. Then she regains her full shape, happiness, and self-esteem. The moon also returns to her orbit.

And for the younger siblings just beginning counting and ABC’s

SafariCOVER [Converted]ABC Safari - Let’s search for adventure above in the sky. We’ll scout through the mountains and hills, and then try exploring the forests, the meadows and plains, across the dry desert and through jungle rains. We’ll trek through a swamp, a puddle, a pond, in lakes and the river, the ocean beyond. But, what are we looking for? Who will we see? Find animals on this Safari with me! Once you’ve discovered all the animals, turn to the “For Creative Minds” educational section for sorting cards and animal fun facts.

Count Down to Fall_COVER_3Count Down to Fall - The summer days get a little colder; the leaves turn from green to orange and red. Fall must be on the way, and while you unpack sweaters and scarves, the animals frolic outside in the crisp autumn air beneath a wide blue sky. In Fran Hawk’s Count Down to Fall, watch the falling leaves tumble all around. The vibrant and detailed illustrations of Sherry Neidigh capture the majesty of the maple, the oak, the linden, and more. Critters play in the time of changing seasons, and remind us that the changes of the earth affect us all-animals and humans alike!

We hope that you have a wonderful first day of school!

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Like a tsunami, fear can wash away our life… unless we rise up I believe fear can come in many forms… and sometimes it comes in the forms of “bad thoughts” or nightmares. We don’t always know we are afraid of something until it invades our thoughts. How many times have we wanted to do […]

6 Comments on SOME THOUGHTS ON FEAR, last added: 9/21/2013
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15. I Don’t Want an Honest Critique

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No, don’t tell me what’s wrong with this novel. I don’t want to hear it. Minor problems? OK, I’ll fix those. But major structural, plot or character problems? Don’t tell me.

Cynthia Ozynick says, “Writing is essentially an act of courage.” When I get an honest critique, my courage fails me.

    I fear the revision needed: I won’t ever be able to “get it right.” Obviously, I thought that I had communicated my intentions well in the first draft, or I would have changed it before you read it. But you say that you don’t understand, or that I’m inconsistent, or that I’m unfocused. How could that be? I see it so clearly. And if my vision of my story is so skewed, then how will I ever get it right?
  • I fear that you’re right and I’m wrong. But how can I be sure? This is my story and it comes from my psychological leanings, my background, my research. How can you tell me what is right for my story? If the story doesn’t communicate what I want, then, yes, I need to revise. I repeat: Obviously, I thought it did communicate what I wanted, or I would have revised it before you saw it. Do you just have a different vision of the story because of your psychological leanings, your background? Are you trying to envision what I intended, or are you envisioning what you would have written? Where does your ego slam up against my ego? And where does your objective appraisal need to push my ego back into line with what it really wants to do anyway? Perspective is hard to achieve.
  • I fear that all my hard work, all the months spent thinking and rewriting, will be wasted.
    As a novelist, time haunts me. To write a novel isn’t the work of a week or a month. It takes many months, a year, a year and a half. More. It’s a long, long process. Your revision notes mean that the time is extended, and that without any guarantee of being finished even then. Meanwhile, that means that I’m a year older, that it’s a year in which I couldn’t write anything new (even if I could find the courage to begin again).
  • I fear your honesty; I need your approval (or someone’s approval; if not yours, then whose?). Will it crush me emotionally if you don’t “like” my story? I gloss over the approval part of critiques and agonize over the “needs work” assessment. Is there a way for you to only show approval, yet open my eyes, so that I recognize what needs work? I’d rather recognize it for myself than have it pointed out.
  • I fear that my standards are too lax. I want to be finished, I want to have this story out there. I want to have written, but in the throes of writing, I want the end of the process long before the story is really finished. Submission comes too early and then I get rejections. Then, it’s harder than ever to revise. But waiting is excruciating. Typical advice: Put the manuscript in a drawer for three months and then pull it out and read it with a fresh eye. What? Waste three more months? Never. It’s done and ready to send out. (Ok, maybe it isn’t, but I can’t stand looking at it one more time and in three months, my editor could read it and buy it. OK, maybe they won’t buy it until I revise, but three months? Isn’t there any other way?)
  • Critiques, especially honest and on-target critiques, are fearful things. I know that I need them; but they are painful, emotionally draining, and confidence shaking.

    But I need them. OK, can you give me a minute? Let me find my mask of courage. There. I have it on. Now bring on your best critique!

    More reading:

    Other thoughts on critique of an artist and humility.
    Art and Fear: One of my favorite books on the psychology of making art. It deals with fears about our unworthiness, fears of critiques, fears of displaying our art and much more.

    Top 10 Ways to Stop the Sting of Critiques

    Here are my slightly tongue-in-cheek Top 10 Ways to take the Sting out of Critiques!

    Take the Sting Out of Critques!

    Take the Sting Out of Critques!

    1. Avoidance: Have someone else read the critique for you and only highlight the good comments. Read only the highlighted comments.
    2. Revenge: Give the creep back an ever harsher critique than you just got.
    3. Denial: Write out the reasons why the critiquer is totally off base. Ignore all suggestions.
    4. Excitement: Fake excitement about the critique and tell everyone you know exactly what’s wrong with the story and how you plan to fix it.
    5. Suspicion: Read each comment with the suspicion that the critiquer is trying to get your manuscript out of the running, so their own manuscript will do well. Therefore, you can safely ignore any comments you want to.
    6. Surprise: Allow each comment to be a revelation at how far off base this critiquer is.
    7. Pride: Take pride in your ability to “take it” from the tough ones.
    8. Loneliness: Understand that you and you alone are in the situation of receiving harsh critiques; such things have never been written about any manuscript and will never be written again.
    9. Forgiveness: Realize that the critiquer has sinned by so harshly criticizing your story and at some point they will have to come and ask for forgiveness; be ready to give it gracefully.
    10. Hope: Find hope in the good things the critiquer noticed, and Hope in the process of revision.

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    16. Understanding Character Wounds: A List Of Common Themes

    Characters are the heart of a novel, and within that heart is the Hero’s Inner Journey. The protagonist’s path is much like yours or mine–one that will (hopefully) bring him closer to lifelong happiness and fulfillment.

    In real life, people strive to become something more, to be something better. But the wounds of the past never quite leave us. Old hurts, betrayals, and injustices stay in our memory. Worry that a bad experience could happen again causes us to hesitate, and sometimes readjust what we want, and what we’re willing to risk. In other words, fear gets in the way.

    Wounds Change Everything

    woundJust like you or I, a hero has wounds, a trunk full of scars he lugs with him wherever he goes. And like us, his determination to not repeat a painful emotional experience carries the high cost of lessening his feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment.

    Because wounds influence a protagonist’s behavior so deeply (to the point he will do almost anything to avoid feeling such pain again), it’s important to have a good grasp on what emotional trauma from his past is now shaping his present. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

     photo credit: allspice1 via photopin cc

    Every Wound Contains a Lie

    Emotional wounds are more than just painful memories. Inside each wound is a seed of doubt. Is this somehow my fault? Am I to blame? This doubt blossoms, eroding one’s self-worth.

    When something bad happens, it’s human nature to try and rationalize it, make sense of it. We often blame ourselves, believing if we had chosen differently, done something else, there would be a better outcome. Most times there’s no logic to attributing a personal failure to what happened (especially when events were out of our control), but we do it anyway. Because of this internalization, a lie is born. We believe we are somehow deserving of this pain, or we become disillusioned in some way.

    Let’s say a character discovers her husband plans to leave her for another woman (wound). Under all the anger and rage and heartache she would look within, to what she did wrong. The lie she might believe could be: He cheated because I am not worth loving. This lie burrows deep into her self-esteem and self-worth. Moving forward, she may avoid relationships because she believes this lie of being unworthy. Or, she may choose men who are likely to be unfaithful, because deep down she thinks these men are the only ones she deserves.

    Wounds Cause Flaws To Form

    1NTWhen a character is wounded, he straps on emotional armor to keep his feelings safe. Flaws develop, working under the ‘guise’ of protecting him from being hurt. For example, a female character who was mugged and sexually assaulted (wound) might develop flaws like mistrust, paranoia, and evasiveness to protect herself from being targeted again.

    On the outside, these flaws “appear” to help her be safe, but they limit her instead, preventing her from building healthy relationships, hampering her spontaneity and placing a filter of distrust on all she sees. This in turn steals her her freedom, and puts a choke hold on self-growth and true happiness. (For more on flaws & their role in Character Arc, please reference The Negative Trait Thesaurus.)

    Dig Into The Character’s Backstory

    A character’s past will be a minefield of negative experiences, but at some point, there should be an event you as the author can define as “the wound.” Small, painful events change a person bit by bit, but to focus all this hurt and pain into a single backstory moment can really help you better understand who and what damaged your character, and why, as a result, they question their self-worth. This also guides you to the false belief they must see for the lie it is in order to become healthy and whole, strengthening them so they can achieve their goal.

    To help you pinpoint what your character’s wound might be, here are some common “themes” that could be the root of this psychological damage.

    7 Common Wound Themes:

    A Physical Wound. A defect, scar or condition causes real life complication, doubt, low self-esteem and can make it difficult to feel like one fits in. Handicaps are real and can alter a character’s path, limiting them and hurting their confidence.

    An Injustice. Being a victim of crime, witnessing a traumatic social injustice or living in a time period or reality that is unbalanced or full of corruption will all leave a mark.

    Failure or Mistakes. People are naturally hard on themselves when things don’t happen as expected.  The guilt associated with a failure or mistake (even if it is only a perceived failure) can paralyse a person, and send them on an alternative life path.

    Misplaced Trust/Betrayal. Trusting or relying on someone and feeling let down in some way can cause deep hurt. This could be a parent/child dynamic, a friendship that goes sideways or even a deep betrayal of a loved one (infidelity, etc.)

    Isolation. If the character felt left out or isolated in the past, it has lasting effects. Isolation might be relationship-related (a mother who favored a sibling over the protagonist), power imbalance (educational or social “status” barriers) or even simple economics (living in poverty, etc.) that restricted opportunity, achievement and fulfillment.

    Neglect/Abandonment/Rejection. Some relationships are cardinal when it comes to care giving: a parent and child. Siblings. Partners in a marriage. And to a lesser degree, a citizen and his government, parishioner and his minister, or a doctor and his patient. When the person in the care giving role neglects or rejects the other party, this can cause deep feelings of abandonment to form.

    Disillusionment. Believing one thing to be true and then discovering it is a lie can shake a character to their core. This might be a world views or political beliefs (discovering leaders that one has supported have been negligent or corrupt), a revelation in religious or spiritual beliefs, or uncovering immoral behavior. It could also be something closer and more intimate like a role model who was not who they pretended to be, or personal (like finding out one is adopted, for example.)

    Do you know your character’s wound, and if so, does it fall under one of these  themes?

    PSSST! At 5:00PM Eastern you can find me at IndieRecon discussing 6 Smart Ways Authors Can Collaborate When Marketing.

    The post Understanding Character Wounds: A List Of Common Themes appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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    17. Barking Mad

    Two dogs bark at the moon.
    Left: Adobe Ideas on iPad
    Right: Sketches/Artset/Snapseed on iPad
    Click to enlarge.

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    18. Deciding To Worry About That Tomorrow

    Two posts about fear and worry in the past few weeks? Yeah, you bet. Because I’ve been skiing for the past few weeks, and that always reactivates all the fear cells in my body and makes me think about my safety in ways I don’t normally have to in my everyday life.

    I like the ground. I like dirt. I love to run and hike and backpack–all at my own bodily speed.

    But when you’re at the mercy of gravity and two slick planks speeding over slippery snow, that’s not normal. Even Olympic downhill racers will tell you so.

    The problem is, I love it. Love leaving my southwest desert town where it’s already in the mid-80s (sorry, east-coasters) and going to the mountains where it’s still winter. Love being out in the snowy wilderness with husband and dogs, cross-country skiing for hours at a time while our year-old black Labrador, Moose, rolls in every snowbank he can find and the older Lab, Bear, trots along beside us hoping he won’t have to run too much because really, this is fun and all, but isn’t it time for a nap?

    So to reconcile those two things, I’ve had to adopt the Worry About That Tomorrow schedule.

    It’s something I read about years ago, and thought was ridiculous–until I tried it.

    The idea is to schedule your worry. Decide, “Okay, at 3:00 PM every Thursday, I’m going to sit down for an hour and really cut loose. Remind myself of everything I’ve been afraid of all week–maybe even keep a list of worries for just that reason–and then sit down and go through each of them and really feel the fear. No shame, no holds barred. Steep in it. Go.”

    Sure, some weeks by the time Thursday afternoon came around I was already over the anxiety I’d felt about something on Monday. But there were also times when I really looked forward to giving myself permission to flip out if I wanted to. It feels good to be your own best friend and say, “Okay, let’s hear it. Tell me everything.”

    Once I got used to putting off fear until a specific day of the week, I learned to extend it for weeks at a time. And eventually to months. Here’s what I’m talking about:

    It was the beginning of summer. Sweltering hot (see March temperature above and add 30 degrees to it). I was reading Outside Magazine and came across an article about outdoor summer adventures in Iceland.

    Ice-land. YESSSSS.

    Luckily, I have the kind of husband who, when I send him an e-mail asking, “Want to go to Iceland in a few weeks?” writes back succinctly, “Sure.”

    So I started planning and reserving, and put together an awesome adventure trip. One that included staying on an Icelandic horse farm for a week, then kayaking in the North Atlantic, then backpacking on this very remote, rugged, isolated spot of land.

    And to do all that, we’d have to (1) ride on big horses, (2) ride in small boats, and (3) ride in small planes. All of which have a history of activating my fear cells.

    But I really wanted to do it. Really wanted the adventure, all those experiences, and especially really wanted to get the heck out of the hell temperatures we were experiencing.

    So I just scheduled my fears. Picked a date on the calendar that was a few days after our trip was over, and made myself the solemn promise that I would completely freak out then about all of the dangers I had to face.

    And I’m telling you, it worked.

    Every time my heart started to beat a little faster during the trip, I’d remind myself, “Not now. Later.” And because I was so used to keeping my promise about fully feeling the fear at scheduled times, I knew that promise was real. So I immediately settled down.

    We did crazy things for those two and a half weeks. Scary, dangerous things that I didn’t even know we’d be doing when I planned the trip. And I was completely serene about all of them.

    And ever since then, because of that, I know I can flip the switch on and off. That was a really important experiment for me. And it’s a skill I’ve taught friends and family, and a lot of them have had similar successes.  It’s doable, people, I promise you. You can put your fears under your own control. I urge you to try the experiment for yourself.

    I’ve also learned to apply it to my writing life. I always have dual reactions when a new book of mine comes out. On the one hand, I’m all, Look! I made this for you! I hope you all read it and love it!” But there’s an equally strong part of me that says, “No! Don’t read that! It’s full of my feelings and opinions! It’s too personal! Look away!”

    It reminds me of a friend of mine whose little 3-year-old boy stood with her in the checkout lane at a grocery store, and had his hands down the front of his pants. The customer behind him kept looking at him and smiling, and finally the little boy blurted out, “Stop looking at me!”

    Sorry, little dude, but if you’re going to stand in public with your hands down your pants, people are going to look.

    That’s right, launching a new book is like standing around with your hands down your pants. You heard it here first.

    I definitely had that reaction to my new book THE GOOD LIE coming out last month. I’d been sitting on it for a while, but then when that Woody Allen-Dylan Farrow controversy broke in January of this year, I knew I had some of my own feelings and opinions about the topic that I wanted to share. So I released the book, but definitely felt both “Read it!” and “Don’t read it!” at the same time.

    So as with all of my books, I’ve had to pick a date in the future–four months seems about right–when I’m allowed to worry about it. On June 5 I will sit down and have a whole long session about it. But until then, nope, sorry, it’s all just perfectly fine.

    Which makes this seem like a good spot to include this button you can push to enter to win a free signed copy of the book later next month. Go ahead. I’m not afraid. How can I be? It’s not even close to June 5 yet.

    But I’m telling you, on that day, whew. Look out.

    Good luck with your own experiments. Feel free to report back. :)

    Goodreads Book Giveaway

    The Good Lie by Robin Brande

    The Good Lie

    by Robin Brande

    Giveaway ends April 25, 2014.

    See the giveaway details
    at Goodreads.

    Enter to win


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    19. What is that? Fear?

    We have entered some semblance of a routine around here. It isn’t like the old one, that routine is over for a while. Kylie and her mother being home allowed me to go for a nice six mile run. The weather is beautiful and it has been way too long since I’ve been out on the greenway. Of course, that led to some thinking (dangerous for me).

    This might sound ridiculous, but we have all avoided public places since the diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong, everyone in our lives has been incredibly supportive. We all just find it tough to be in crowds. Her three sisters have had to go to school, so they have dealt with this quicker than I have. I have been working, but I work in a very small office so I don’t have to deal with crowds.

    Yesterday, our dancer daughter had her ballet recital. My Lovely Wife and I split up and took in separate performances so one of us could stay with Kylie. While the dancers were beautiful, I found myself very sad when Kylie’s class was onstage. I couldn’t help thinking that she should be up there and I couldn’t take my eyes off of all of the perfect legs moving across the stage. Hers will be perfect again, it is just going to take time. I came in late and left quickly after it ended to avoid seeing too many people. What is that? Is that fear?

    When did I start fearing? I’ve done some work in some of the worst slums in the world where fear should have been a legitimate reaction, but I felt a supernatural calm. What is this fear? Fear of people who care and show concern… What is that?

    I am not an emotionally deep man, but I refuse to live in fear. That’s what I told myself as I ran today. Now, I have to decide what I am going to do about it. Am I going to be the leader hear, or keep using the three that have faced the crowds at school as shields because I am afraid?

    When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?  Psalm 56:3-4
    I’m going to church now. Big step? Not really, bu that’s what I am going to do. I am going alone because my older girls aren’t ready. I totally get that. But maybe I can deflect some of the questions today and next week they will want to go. I don’t know if that will work. Psychology isn’t my strong suit. But I won’t fear.

    10 Comments on What is that? Fear?, last added: 5/4/2014
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    20. “It’s Only Scary Because It’s New”

    I just did something that was not objectively scary at all. No rational person would think so.

    Yet for me it was slightly terrifying. I’ve been putting it off for years because I knew it would scare me.

    But I’m not into being limited by my fears, so today I did the thing.

    And the whole time, I repeated a line in my head that I heard last weekend in a movie called The Internship, written by and starring Vince Vaughn. It was a sweet and funny film and I ended up watching it twice over two days. Obviously I recommend it.

    The plot of the movie revolves around Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson entering a summer internship program at Google. When they first arrive on campus, they’re a little lost, and Vince suggests they ask for directions from the person in this car going by. Only there’s no one in the car. It’s self-driving.

    For a brief moment, both men stand there in shock. But then Vince turns to Owen, slaps him on the back, and says, “It’s only scary because it’s new.”

    And isn’t that true? About so many of the things we’re afraid of? Until we’ve done it once and can see what it’s about, we put it off and fear it and avoid it. At least I do.

    Or at least I did. I’m actively working to let go of that habit.

    So thanks, Vince. I needed that. I needed it over and over this morning on a loop inside my head.

    Maybe some of you out there could use it, too. Because maybe this is the summer you do whatever that thing is for you.

    Be brave! It’s the most fun way to be!

    And remember, you can always decide to do the thing now and schedule your fear for sometime later when it’s more convenient.

    Come on, gang. Let’s do this.

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    21. Story Midpoint & Mirror Moment: Using Heroes’ Emotions To Transform Them

    I recently read a Huff Post psychology piece on Turning Negative Emotions Into Your Greatest Advantage and immediately saw how this could also apply to our characters. Feel free to follow the link and read, but if you’re short on time, the rundown is this: negative emotions are not all bad. In fact, they are necessary to the human experience, and can spark a shift that leads to self growth.

    And after reading James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between and attending a full day workshop with him a few weeks ago, I can also see how this idea of using negative emotions to fuel a positive changes fits oh-so-nicely with Jim’s concept of “the Mirror Moment.”

    But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s look at what a mirror moment is.

    mirror 2Mirror Moment: a moment in midpoint scene of a novel or screenplay when the character is forced to look within and reflect on who he is and who he must become in order to achieve his goal. If he decides to continue on as he always has, he will surely fail (tragedy).

    If the story is not a tragedy, the hero realizes he must either a) become stronger to overcome the odds or b) transform, shedding his biggest flaws and become more open-minded to new ideas and beliefs. One way or the other, he must better himself in some way to step onto the path which will lead to success.

    Jim actually describes the Mirror Moment so much better than I can HERE, but do your writing a BIG FAVOR and also snag a copy of this book. (It’s a short read and will absolutely help you strengthen the character’s arc in your story!)

    To see how the two tie together, let’s explore what leads to this essential “mirror moment.” Your hero is taking stock of his situation, realizing he has two choices: stubbornly continue on unchanged and hope for the best, or move forward differently, becoming something more.

    The big question: what is the catalyst? What causes him to take stock of the situation? What causes his self-reflection?

    The answer is not surprising: EMOTION. Something the character FEELS causes him to stop, look within, and make a choice.

    Let’s assume this isn’t a tragedy. If this moment had a math formula, it would look something like this:

    Emotion + look within = change

    So what type of emotions are the best fit to encourage this necessary shift toward change? And are they positive emotions, or negative ones? Let’s experiment!

    Common positive emotions, taken right from The Emotion Thesaurus:

    Happiness + look within

    Happiness is contentment, a feeling of extreme well being. If one feels good about themselves and where they are at, it doesn’t encourage a strong desire for change, does it?

    Gratitude + a look within

    mirrorGratitude is thankfulness, an appreciation for others and what one has. Because again, gratitude creates contentment, feeling “full” and thankful, it doesn’t make the best catalyst for change. However, if you were to pair it with something like relief (such as being given a second chance), then  gratitude over being spared something negative could lead to resolving to change.

    Excitement + a look within

    Excitement is the feeling of being energized to the point one feels compelled to act. On the outside, this looks like a good candidate for change, but it depends on the type of excitement. Is the “high” a character feels something that distracts them from self reflection (such as being caught up in the experience of a rock concert) or does it inspire (such as the thrill of meeting one’s sports hero in person)? If one’s excitement propels one to want to become something better, then change can be achieved.

    Satisfaction + a look within

    Satisfaction is a feeling of contentment in a nutshell. It is feeling whole and complete. As such, looking within while satisfied likely won’t lead to a desire to change anything–in fact it might do just the opposite: encourage the character to remain the same.

    Common negative emotions, again right from The Emotion Thesaurus:

    Fear + a look within

    Fear is the expectation of threat or danger. Feeling afraid is very uncomfortable, something almost all people wish to avoid. Some even try to make deals with the powers that be, so deep is their desperation: if I win this hand, I’ll give up gambling, I swear. So, combining this emotion with some self reflection could definitely create the desire to change.

    Frustration + a look within

    mirror 3Feeling stymied or hemmed in is something all people are familiar with and few can tolerate for long. By its very nature, frustration sends the brain on a search for change: how can I fix this? How can I become better/more skilled/adapt? How can I succeed?

    Characters who are frustrated are eager to look within for answers.

    Embarrassment + a look within

    Embarrassment is another emotion that is very adept at making characters uncomfortable. Self-conscious discomfort is something all usually avoid because it triggers vulnerability. When one feels embarrassed, it is easy to look within and feel the desire to make a change so this experience is not repeated.

    Shame + a look within

    Disgrace isn’t pretty. When a person knows they have done something improper or dishonorable, it hurts. Shame creates the desire to rewind the clock so one can make a different choice or decision that does not lead to this same situation. It allows the character to focus on their shortcomings without rose-colored glasses, and fast tracks a deep need for change.

    *  ~  *  ~  *

    These are only a sampling of emotions, but the exercise above suggests it might be easier to bring about this mirror moment through negative emotions. But, does this mean all positive emotions don’t lead to change while all negative ones do? Not at all!

    Love + a look within could create a desire to become more worthy in the eyes of loved ones. And emotions such as Denial or Contempt, while negative, both resist the idea of change. Denial + a look within, simply because one is not yet in a place where they can see truth. Contempt + a look within, because one is focused on the faults of others, not on one’s own possible shortcomings. Overall however, negative emotions seem to be the ones best suited to lead to that mirror moment and epiphany that one must change or become stronger and more skilled in order to succeed.

    1ETSo there you have it–when you’re working on this critical moment in your story when your character realizes change is needed, think carefully about which emotion might best lead to this necessary internal reflection and change.

    (And of course, we profile 75 emotions in The Emotion Thesaurus: a Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, so that’s just one more way for you to use it!)


    photo credit 1: Dhinal Chheda via photopin cc
    photo credit 2: nowhere Zen New Jersey via photopin cc
    photo credit 3: stephcarter via photopin cc

    The post Story Midpoint & Mirror Moment: Using Heroes’ Emotions To Transform Them appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS.

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    22. Deep Blu-C

    Today's letter is "C".
    Ukiyo-e & ArtStudio on iPad. Click to enlarge.

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    23. Hammer Stammer

    Two more pages from the forthcoming Memoir.
    paper53 on iPad. Click to enlarge.

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    24. A Wing and a Prayer

    Another in the Four Letter Words series.
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    25. Wednesday Writing Workout - MoNsTrOuS Fears!

    Howdy, Campers!

    Be sure to check out the Second Annual March Madness Poetry Tournament (details below!)...and welcome to today's

    As I mentioned in last week's post, my teacher Barbara Bottner asks writing students to write about our greatest fears as if they were monsters.

    So, I asked myself...if my fear of writing mediocre poems and stories were a monster, what would it be like?

    It's a blob. A beige blob.  With blood-shot eyes. It's as big as a refrigerator and hunches on the rug blocking the window. It smells. Like a wet giraffe. It has tuna stuck between its yellowing teeth and a runny nose, and it's dropping Snickers wrappers on my clean carpet. And it JUST KNOCKED OVER MY EDGAR ALLEN POE DOLL which was carefully balanced on top of my stuffed dog!

    And since Monkey* and I are both afraid of writing something stupid, I'm bringing back a (revised) poem from a post about second-rate writing:

    by April Halprin Wayland

    You smell of ink and blood and death
    and plastics that are burning.

    My hands both shake, my headache’s back
    and now my stomach’s churning.

    I will not let you in today.
    GO HOME!

    (Hooray! I’m learning!)

    poem © 2013 April Halprin Wayland. All rights reserved.

    Now it's your turn.

    1) What are you afraid of?  Make a list of at least five things that scare you. Are you afraid of snakes? Of flying? If you’re a writer (of COURSE you're a writer!), are you afraid of rejection?

    2) Circle the one that scares you the most…or the one that you can’t wait to write about.

    3) Make this fear into a creature.  Try to include as many of the five senses as possible--how does it sound?  How does it smell?  Maybe your fear of heights is a moldy grey vulture who hides in caves, makes snarky noises, and wears high tops…or maybe your fear of the dark is a neon green monster with sticky skin and garlicky breath that whispers evil things in your ear.

    4) Write a story or a poem about this creature. You might want to speak to it or yell at it. Dialogue is fun to read aloud. Wouldn’t it be neat to YELL at your fear?  Or maybe YOU'RE the creature!

    5) Share your writing with someone you want to scare.

    ha ha

    *In case you haven't met yet, this is Monkey, who will occasionally be writing blog posts for me:

    Oh!  I did mention Ed DeCaria's marvelous Second Annual March Madness Poetry Tournament, didn't I?
    Ed revealed the 64 "authletes" on Academy Awards night and I'm among them--yay!  As Mary Lee says, "I'm looking forward to the fun (and the stress)!"

    9 Comments on Wednesday Writing Workout - MoNsTrOuS Fears!, last added: 3/2/2013
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