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I have a problem in my WIP novel, which is just in the outline stage. There’s a specific illness going around and to SHOW, DON’T TELL that the illness is really bad, an important character must become sick.
But then, I have this sick character, Em. And she’s, well, sick.
She’s become a Damsel-in-Distress, who has no active part in the story. She’s a weak love interest, whose only role is to be sick and provide motivation for the main character.
It’s a good motivator. Jake, my main character, really cares for Em, and he’ll do almost anything to find a cure. From that side of things, it’s working. But Em is still just a sick—and-convenient—character.
I’ve given Em some other character problems. She’s adopted and is looking for information on her birth parents. They’ll come into the story and the intersection of these characters will give Em some rosy cheeks of health. Her subplot will be one of discovering who she really is.
But the excitement doesn’t last long enough for her. She has a crisis in her health, which is necessary to get Jake moving. Again, Em becomes a sick, convenient, unappealing and placid character. How do I provide some sort of action around a sickly character?
Angelic character and how the illness and/or death affect the main characters. In Little Women, Beth dies from scarlet fever. While her health wastes away, she is active, though, knitting and sewing clothes for neighborhood children. Her death is a major impact on Jo’s life, the main character. By giving her selfless acts to perform, it elevates Beth. She’s angelic in everything, never complaining and dying without a lot of fuss. By elevating Beth’s moral character, we understand why her life was important.
Imaginary life. In Paul Fleischman’s Mind’s Eye, a paralyzed girl leaves the real world behind in an imaginary trip across 1910 Italy. Here, Courtney comes alive in her imagination. She and her nursing home roommate, 88 year old Elva, use a 1910 Baedeker guide to catch trains, to travel and to live. It reminds me of a Star Trek episode about Captain Pike, the original captain of the Enterprise, who is injured and in a wheelchair. There’s a forbidden planet, and we find out that it’s forbidden because the inhabitants live a virtual life. On that planet, however, Pike can live a happy and full virtual life, walking and climbing wherever he wants. Like Courtney, Captain Pike chooses the illusion of life over the reality of his paralysis.
Give the sick character an amazing POV voice. John Green’s character in The Fault in Our Stars is suffering from cancer, and indeed, the whole story is about living with a death sentence in your lungs. The narration is from her POV and it’s a distinctive voice.
Entwine the emotions. In My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult poses an interesting dilemma. A younger sister is conceived for the specific purpose of donating an organ to her sickly older sister. The sisters, though, are both active to an extent and the real success here is how the emotional lives are entwined, just as their fates are interwoven.
Here are some take-aways for my own writing.
Sick, but not incoherent. A character can be physically challenged or sick, but there must be lucid moments where the character’s life and personality emerge. Em can be very sick, but the illness must ebb and flow. And develop her personality, hopes, dreams, fears, anxieties, dreams, etc. as possible.
No griping. Okay. Em feels lousy. But no one wants to read about a character who complains her way through the actual horrors of the human form when it’s sick. No explicity descriptions of throwing up, other bodily fluids, etc., at least in MY stories. Instead, the sickly person rises above those things and we see her character, not her illness.
Emotional impact. Sick or not, people are invested deeply in Em’s life. They want to be with her and they care about her thoughts, emotions, reactions, etc. Perhaps, she must be even more entwined than usual in the main character’s life.
Action when possible. When she’s feeling good, I’ll give Em as much action as possible. I’ll look for both major and minor actions. Maybe stealing a cell phone and making a forbidden phone call is enough of a physical challenge, while also moving the plot along in some way. Look for ways to add action, arguments, and conflict. Just because she’s sick, she doesn’t get away with an easy life emotionally. Otherwise, where’s the story? Story requires conflict and even sick people in your story must endure the conflict—or there’s no story.
Rescue. Well, it’s OK. Em might need to be rescued. I know, gender roles these days decree that she not be a Damsel-in-Distress; instead, she must be the conquering princess who fights the dragon herself and saves the poor, incompetent prince. But that’s a modern trope that is just as bad as the damsel-in-distress trope. The challenge will be to create a unique, living character without falling prey to either cliché.
In short, sick or not, Em must be a real character. She’s no damsel-in-distress; neither is she the modern woman who rescues the weak men in her life. Instead, she pursues her goals with the same fervor (and whatever physical strength she can muster) as the main character, Jake. It’s a plan.Add a Comment
A to Z Challenge Day 8: H . Health is today’s late post. Have not been Healthy this week and worse over Holiday weekend. The book review will go missing, while I keep wishing, to be Healthy enough to review a letter I book. (The letter L was mistakenly written in place of [...]Add a Comment
Esto debí haberlo escrito desde hace casi 2 meses, pero en fin, nunca es tarde para dar un buen consejo:
Happy Saturday, everyone!
I've been under the weather for a week or so, so I've been offline. But, I'm slowly getting back to normal. I missed blogging and chatting with Team Canterwood!
Also, the photo shoot is on Monday! Um, YAY!! Sadly, I'm not feeling well enough to go. :( :( But I've got the best team ever and we've got some amazing stuff already lined up for the covers. They're going to be FABULOUS--you'll see.
I'm about to get back to working on UNFRIENDLY COMPETITION, so I'm glad to jump back into Canterwood land. The book will be finished soon and, sniff, it'll be the last time I write from Sasha's POV. But, I'm also extremely excited. When this book is done, Kate and I will be working on our YA idea together and *that's* supersuperexciting. :)
I hope you're all having a wonderful weekend!
my parents just left town, so I thought I'd fill you in on the past few days:
As in me, not computer. I am suffering from the flu. Will find out tomorrow if it's seasonal or swine flu. But I'm feverish, achy, headachy and I have such a sore throat!
I'm going to stay off the computer until I feel better.
Talk to you soon! <3
Only two more sleeps ’til Hallowe’en, kiddies! If you youngsters need a little help drawing monsters, then Monsterman ‘Scary’ Harry Borgman can help.
Way back in 1974 Harry drew a little booklet called “How to Draw Monsters”. By then, Harry had been drawing cars, people, landscapes and just about anything else you can think of for more than three decades. Harry began his commercial art career in Detroit in 1946.
In the early 70’s not only was Harry drawing cartoon Draculas… he also drew some gorgeous realistic Dracula illustrations for a book called “Great Tales of Horror and Suspense”.
Harry’s varied career has given him a wealth of esoteric experiences. For instance, though he was never one of “Mad’s maddest artists” he was one of Sick’s sickest artists. The cartoon creeps below are a great example of his ’sick skills’.
Harry is now 81 and still going strong. In fact, he’s just celebrated the first anniversary of his blog. Drop by Harry Borgman’s Art Blog and you’ll see for yourself that this amazing illustrator can teach you how to draw monsters… and a whole lot more!
* I’ll be featuring a dozen scans from “How to Draw Monsters” on my own blog on Saturday October 31st, but you can preview them all ( and tons of other amazing Harry Borgman art) in my Harry Borgman Flickr set.
When you're home sick, there's not much to do. But it is a time for some things:
In honor of the way I feel today (which is not so great), I thought I would write about one of my very favorite wacky poems–”Sick” by Shel Silverstein. I remember this poem from my first grade teacher, Ms. Bauer, when she shared Where the Sidewalk Ends with us. As soon as I became a teacher, I had my own copies of Shel Silverstein’s books to share with my students. Children and adults are so scared of poetry, but poetry is really not that scary–especially Shel Silverstein poetry. So share it with your children, students, fellow teachers, and your favorite pets.
“Sick” is a great, funny poem with one of those twist endings. Little Peggy Ann McKay makes up several reasons why she cannot go to school today from having the mumps to a hangnail. At the end of the poem, she discovers that it is Saturday; and believe it or not, all of her illnesses just disappear. That genius Shel Silverstein does it again!
Read this poem to your students, and talk about the twist at the end. Can they think of another way the poem could end–another twist? You can also talk to them about the rhyme scheme and word choices that Silverstein made when writing this poem. Children will enjoy illustrating this poem, also.
Share your favorite Shel Silverstein poem with us! When did you first learn about this poet? Let us know in the comments below.Add a Comment
Your guess as to what this is is as good as mine.
It kinda reminds me of Michael Slack’s work… just not as awesome.
So like I said, I have another sinus infection. My doctor gave me a long list of things to try before and during my airplane travel so that the infection doesn't get worse from the pressure. I've never tried Theraflu before. Man, that's really gross stuff. Bitter. But I'm doing what I can. I also am trying a decongestant I normally see for cough-related stuff, but when I tried it this morning, wow. Not only did I not realize I'd been congested in my chest, it also helped the sinuses, and between that and all the other stuff I've got going on, I think I'll survive the week.
I'm trying to pack for my trip and deciding that once again, I have no idea how to pack light. I have a choice between three different books for the flight, plus four movies (I take my laptop whenever I travel, might as well bring a movie). I of course must bring melissawriting's lovely Wicked Lovely, which I've been working on since ALA Midwinter. I'm about 3/4 of the way through and must know how it ends! I only read it at night as I'm drifting off to sleep, because I've been both sick and busy, so it's taking me forever.
I also have metteharrison's The Princess and the Hound in ARC that I want to read, but haven't gotten to yet. She is a Utah author, so perhaps I should also take it in honor of my Utah trip. She's not going to be at LTUE (as far as I know, at least), but it's that whole connection thing. The other choice is a book called Nobody's Princess another ARC from Midwinter, that I picked up mostly for the cover--combine the title with the stance of the model on the cover and it just makes me giggle. It's about Greek gods, so I'm not so sure I'll be all that into it (just not my thing), but I might be pleasantly surprised. I was going to give it to zeliot if it didn't grab me, but sadly she won't be making it up this weekend after all. (I'll let you know what I think, though, and if it'd be up your alley, zeliot.)
I know I won't get through all 3 books, but I might just finish Wicked Lovely and start another one. The movies, well, I might just bring them all. One, you never know when you might like a quiet movie alone, and two, you never know when you might need a great girls' night movie. I just got Bride and Prejudice for myself for Christmas, so that's my latest fun thing (and it brings up good memories, too--watched it the first time at Cascadiacon with zeliot and raisinfish). My perennial favorite Frank Capra movie, You Can't Take It with You, is due for another watching (I think I've worn out My Favorite Wife, so it's out of the rotation for a while). And I just treated myself with a little babysitting money to National Treasure, which I don't care what anyone says, it's a great movie, and Goonies, which I've loved since the 5th grade at Brandy Wheeler's slumber party. The latter two I haven't opened yet, and I might just let them have their maiden voyages on this trip.
And don't even get me started on the swag I'm bringing. I have to bring an extra suitcase every time I go to LTUE, between bringing friends swag with my product points and all the bookmarks, flyers, ARCs, and samples I bring for the con people. Thankfully, that means I get to leave the contents in Utah and fly back much lighter. Well, but this time I'm taking my Star Wars minis back with me. The product room was sold out, so I said I'd bring my full set (that I won for employee appreciation week) to get a chance to finally play it with someone. So let's hope I get the chance, or that's just one more thing I'll be carting around!
I'm still waiting, at nearly midnight, for my laundry to finish. Perhaps I should have thought of doing that yesterday, seeing as how the cab will be here to pick me up at 5:50 a.m. I hate early-morning flights. I'm a late-night packer. I have such a hard time making decisions, that I end up staying up entirely too late the night before, and finally end packing about 2 a.m. I leave the full suitcases right by the door, toiletries and all, because I'm so afraid of oversleeping that I take my shower the night before so all I have to do is jump up, dress, and run out the door if necessary.
Nope, but I do have one hell of a sinus infection, which has led (in the last day or so) to the discovery of a drug allergy as well.
We'll return with our regularly scheduled blogging on Monday if not before. Until then what are your favorite rereads or the books that you pull out when you're sick because you need to get lost in the comfort of a familiar book?
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There is no easy way to face death and their are no easy answers for how to prepare. Yet, Drs. Joanne Lynn and Joan Harrold, in their book Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illness provide equal measures of practical information and gentle insight. Their book prepares readers for the decisions they will need to face, where to look for help, how to ease pain and other symptoms, what to expect with specific diseases, and how the health-care system operates. It also provides advice on how to come to terms with dying. In the passage below the authors reflect on a common mistake, forcing your loved ones to eat. Be sure to check back later today for another excerpt. (more…)
William Reardon, author of The Bedside Dysmorphologist: Classic Clinical Signs in Human Malformation Syndromes and their Diagnostic Significance, is Consultant Clinical Geneticist, at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland. Dysmorphology is the study of congenital malformations. Often a health professional will take note of low set ears or deep set eyes and wonder whether it indicates a more serious genetic disorder. In his book Reardon provides an effective guide to identifying malformations and determining their clinical significance. In the excerpt below Reardon looks at Deep-Set Eyes.
Deep-Set Eyes (more…)Add a Comment
For parents back to school season can be quite stressful. If your child consistently pleads with you to stay home from school, skips school, or has anxiety related to attending school then they may have “school refusal behavior.” Christopher A. Kearney, PhD, is Professor of Psychology and Director of the UNLV Child School Refusal and Anxiety Disorders Clinic at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. His new book, Getting Your Child to Say “Yes” To School: A Guide for Parents With School Refusal Behavior is filled with concrete strategies and step-by-step instructions to make painful morning more routine. Below are some guidelines excerpted from the book about when you should allow your child to stay home.
Parents often ask which somatic complaints should keep a child home from school. We recommend a child go to school except when there is: (more…)Add a Comment
It is not easy for anyone to become ill and be at the mercy of doctors, but what about doctors themselves? How do they react to being on the other side of stethoscope? In When Doctors Become Patients Robert Klitzman, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University, looks at what the experience is like for doctors who become sick, and what it can teach us about our current health care system and more broadly, the experience of being ill. In the excerpt below Klitzman explores how doctors go about researching their own diseases and how this research seems more disheartening once they have become part of the statistics.
‘‘We know very little,’’ Roxanne, the gastroenterologist, said, referring to the medical literature on the causes of cancer. As suggested above, once ill, many of these physicians came to reassess the role of research in individual medical decisions, and became more critical in their evaluations of research as a whole. Roxanne, for example, became more sensitive to the elusiveness of ‘‘the truth,’’ no longer thinking there was just one answer. ‘‘People base things on the literature and on one paper that’s not been duplicated. I’m skeptical. There’s a lot of literature, but also fashions—things used in the past. Now we’re into other treatment approaches. We can’t cure anything.’’ Indeed, these ill physicians appeared previously to have paid little heed to the implications of this pattern. (more…)Add a Comment
Ever have one of those off days? You don’t sleep and wake up grouchy. You’re half sick but not really sick enough to call it a sick day. You are just disgruntled and don’t know why.
On those awful days, there are still tasks you can do to be a productive writer.