Monday, December 23, 2013

The Most Epic Story Ever Told - by Adam Collings

Epic stories are very popular at the moment, especially amongst those of us who love fantasy and science fiction. Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, we lap it all up. It does something inside us. In these big sprawling stories the fate of entire worlds is at stake. We find ancient prophecies, unworthy heroes stepping up and do amazing things and ultimate sacrifices being made. We can’t get enough of it. Does any of this sound familiar? Ancient prophecies promising the coming of a great saviour, very ordinary parents tasked with the quest of raising God’s own son, the death of said saviour which seems to spell doom for all his plans, then the amazing revelation that it was all part of his plan – that he had to die in order to save the human race from darkness. Certainly, Christmas is the most epic story ever told. It’s almost like all these other stories are trying to emulate the one real-life epic story.

Now don’t get me wrong, as a writer I totally understand the desire to create one’s own epic story. I'm definitely not saying we shouldn't indulge in writing or reading these epics. They're brilliant fun. I believe it’s all part of the creative nature that God placed in us.

We tend to view the Christmas story through such traditional sanitised child-like eyes that we can take it all for granted and miss just how epic it all is.

This is a great time of year to re-examine it all, to really think on it, and realise just how amazing it all was. And most of all, it’s a great time to be thankful, so thankful that God was willing to put this incredible rescue plan into action out of his great love for us – the species that had rebelled against him and abandoned him.

If you’re interested in looking deeper into the gritty realities of the Christmas story, you might be interested in a little book called ‘All About Christmas’ by E.G. Lewis. I reviewed it last year.

Have a great Christmas!

(and now from epic stories to epic cuteness. Check out my little shepherd girl and my little wise man!)


Adam CollingsAdam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction and video blogger. He is actively working toward becoming a published author. He lives in Tasmania, Australia. Adam discusses books and movies on his youTube series Stories. You can find Adam on-line at collingszone.wordpress.com or his Google+ Profile

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The Struggle to Express yourself



 
O Holy Night
The words “O Holy Night” were written by Placide Cappeaude De Roquemaure in 1847 according to my Google search. Now, the author is largely forgotten and unknown but his writing lives on and has impacted people as they worship Christ at Christmas.
I think as authors, we like Placide are quite happy to remain unknown and unapplauded, many of us have hermit like tendencies any way. But we would love our writing to be useful and worthwhile. As Christian authors we would dearly love to make a positive difference regarding our own generation as we share the beauty of Christ and His salvation plan for mankind.

But for a writer it is not that easy. In all honesty it is a hard slog, there are more downs than ups. Like any other creative art form we do put ourselves out there and allow our work to be critiqued. We have a hard task, for some of us it’s just finding the time to write (that’s me) let alone dealing with marketing obstacles, etc. But we continue largely because we believe that God wants us to continue.
 In my devotional I was reading  Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest”
 I was encouraged to read for December the 15th,  the following,  “Try to state to yourself what you feel implicitly to be God’s truth, and you give God a chance to pass it on to someone else through you.” The task lies before each of us.

Let these words encourage and shape your writing for 2014 no matter your genre because who knows, one day although we are forgotten, by the grace of God our writing will live on and impact our generation and the ones to come for Christ.
So keep struggling to express Gods’ truth for perhaps it will be your words that are put to music in praise of God.
                                 REMAIN BLESSED THIS CHRISTMAS
Written by Jennifer Ann, author of Broken Pottery the life of an “African Girl” available on Amazon  Kindle at: Broken Pottery the Life of an African Girl, Kindle edition.
Jennifer also has her own blog site at: JenniferAnn/ aroma of Life
Visit her website: www.JenniferAnn.info

Monday, December 16, 2013

Something to learn from Jesus' Story Telling Style in Relation to Character Development

Having recently completed the NaNoWriMo challenge, I felt deeply grateful for the opportunity to put my hand to creating a novel from scratch, and in particular, the opportunity to work on character development. I certainly don't profess to know it all, but drawing upon my past experiences as a professional performing artist and actress I thought I'd share an exhortation with us as a writing community.

Having received feedback on my novel about how much this person was enjoying the character development, it got me thinking about characterisation in relation to story-telling and what are the essential elements that help the reader to connect with the character in the story.

It really is no different now than it was in Jesus' day.  He often spoke in parables and those parables often focused on the character of the person he was talking about, whether it was the wicked servant, the woman caught in adultery or the woman by the well.

So I think it is a great opportunity for me to remind us as writers that our characters ought to be three dimensional.  That their actions, express their thoughts, which expresses the intent of their hearts and all of this is reflective of their life - their past experiences, core beliefs and status in life.  And that the intent of their heart can move through the many wonderful dynamics of emotion before arriving at the place that we intend in terms of a resolution.

The Good Samaritan tale took two people of questionable character before arriving at the Good Samaritan's door.  Were the other two characters essentially evil?  No, they were just regular people who had perceptions that were skewed.  Were they necessary to the plot or couldn't Jesus have just skipped to the good part and told us about the Good Samaritan and his actions?

Each character, with their full personality of strengths and weaknesses, was required for us to fully understand the beauty of the Good Samaritan and his actions.  And further, the background information about why it was such an incredible act of kindness even further helps us to better understand this character in the development of the story.  So we see that all of our characters play a part in painting the bigger picture and in colouring the transformational journey and eventual resolution and we need not rush to the conclusion, but savour the journey.

I think there can be this tendency in some Christian literature that black must be really black and that white must be really white and there is little space between being lost and then being found, but I think the conversion experience can be way more subtle as characters make their way through the grey mass in between. 

I think of Francine Rivers, who I greatly admire, having read her book, Redeeming Love, and having a transformational personal experience as a result.  Francine was able to take both characters through this transformational journey as the story progressed.  She wasn't afraid to show the depths of humanity in each of the characters, to expose their negative and positive nuances, and their gradual realisations about themselves and their personal position in life, then to lead each to a resolution.  But even with Francine's book, I found the resolution a bit predictable and I couldn't help thinking, 'Yeah, yeah'.  At the time I was asking myself, how could that have better resolved?  What would have been more satisfying?  And I realised that I wanted to know more about the personal relationship Angel (the main character) was developing with God along the way.  That she went from being this lost prostitute, the reluctant wife, to suddenly getting saved and everything being wonderful.  And yes, in some ways that is a salvation experience, but there was not enough for me about the emotional depth of Angel's conversion experience and then how that was going to be played out.  Consequently, I walked away, loving the book, but with this niggle of I wish the book had ended differently, that I had been allowed to see inside Angel's heart more.

It just felt to me that because it was a Christian novel it had to be tied up in pretty packages but I feel that we ought not to be afraid to lose some of our characters along the way because that is real life.  Tragedy strikes and we cannot control the outcome, so we need not think everything has to be tied up in neat bundles, kind of like adding a sugary syrup to foul tasting medicine.

So my exhortation to this group of wonderful writers, is to take their cue from Jesus.  He was perhaps the best story teller of all time, and he did paradigm shifts to perfection.  He had central characters and supporting acts, he juxtapositioned to perfection (if there is such a word), placing light and dark side by side so that there was this immediate contrast and not being afraid to call the distinction and expose the greyness. I guess what I am trying to say is don't be afraid to express the realness of your characters, be they good or evil.  Life is messy and our books should express that messiness.  Even good people have days when they are grumpy or sad and good people die just like bad ones.  What does the scriptures say?  "The rain falls the just and the unjust"... 

Get into the depths of emotion with your characters and take the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotion as they experience the full gamut of the character's world.  Then when they finish reading, they will be satisfied and desiring more.  It is possible to write great fiction and not give people the cringe factor or feelings of disappointment when things resolve unrealistically.  And I do believe it is possible to write the Christian conversion experience into a story and it be incredibly powerful, rather than the feeling that it's addition to the story is just because it bears the title of Christian fiction.

And above all, keep writing!


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Difficult and Inspirational Tenacity by Charis Joy Jackson


“Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens.”  
JRR Tolkien
Many things have invaded my life recently like brick walls keeping the light out. I've said a lot of goodbyes, dealt with extremely crucial deadlines, been kept at work for long hours, and most recently I lost a loved one to cancer. Finding time and passion to write has been hard and honestly one of the last things on my mind. My world has gotten dark, but I don't want to be faithless so how do I keep writing?
“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” 
C.S. Lewis
I may not like “hard”, but Tolkien and Lewis shout to me across the years, telling me to keep going. Telling me to persevere.

To be tenacious.

I must hold on to even the smallest bit of hope and passion I have. I must write even when I don't feel like it. I must remember the difference between an aspiring author and a serious one is discipline. I must walk into difficulty, accepting the hard things that stand in the way and keep my eye on the prize.

Last weekend a friend and I went to our local coffee shop and settled in to write. I did everything I could to put off actually writing. I showed up late, scrolled through facebook, even took my time ordering coffee. I didn't have the inspiration or passion. It's been months since I've opened the document to even try. After a little pep talk from my friend, who told me to “just do it” I finally focused on the document in front of me and began to write. Haltingly at first, but then with more excitement. Within an hour I had 1300 words written and more coming. When I left all I could think about was getting home so I could keep writing.

Difficulties are hard, but tenacity brings hope. Even a spark beats back the darkness.

Already, just days after my success I can feel the weight of difficulty trying to quench the little hope I had this weekend. BUT I can't focus on what's hard, I must focus on the prize. I must remember how words and story gets under my skin and sets me on fire.

I must remember I love it.

I must remember how creating a new world with my God-given imagination seems like the most amazing thing ever. I will push through those walls. I can almost see my characters igniting like little lights in my mind.

I'll focus on God, the ultimate Creator and most tenacious inventor ever. What must it have been like for him when he created the world? Swirling dust together to form complex creatures that reflect His image...
Seeing that crisp, blank document may send thrills through my system and ignite my adrenaline, but now the idea of typing "The End" fills me with tenacity. And hope.

What about you? What is difficulty holding you back from?

Here's my challenge. Write. Be tenacious. Even when you don't feel like it. Even when life seems hard. Watch how God uses those times to surprise you. Let passion in, hold tight to tenacity and discipline.

They'll be your best friends. 




Charis Joy Jackson is working as a missionary with Youth With a Mission (YWAM) a non-profit organization & is part of The Initiative Production Company. She loves creating stories & is currently writing a novel, which she hopes to create into a seven part series. 

Here's to a life lived in awe & wonder. 
Welcome to the adventure.

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Power of Creativity by Jo Wanmer

Should I kill Bobby, or let him live?
Will they all get down the mountain alive?

   These are a couple of the difficult questions I faced in November. Inspired by the NANoWriMo challenge, I opened a blank Word Document on first day of the month and started hitting keys. It was a last minute decision. However, I had a story, well a vague, broad idea of a story, in my head. 

So began my creative adventure. The illegible garbage on the page on day one morphed into real writing by day two. Encouraged, I continued. This was new territory. Although Though the Bud be Bruised is written as a fiction, it reflects exactly what happened in my life. There was no space for making up a scene. It was as it was.

This project however, didn't have such restrictions. The characters could do whatever they pleased, restricted only by my bad typing. They did crazy, unexpected things. I started to feel like a mother trying to control a group of unruly children. Then one day, Bobby just appeared in my manuscript. He bypassed my head and my character sheets and jumped out of a cave, frightening my heroine.

I considered removing him by using the back space bar. Its like turning back time really. There would be no evidence he even existed. But something about him fascinated me. So he wasn't annihilated. However, he disappeared, frightened by my unwelcoming attitude, I suspect. 

When he returned he was such a nice boy. However, before long, he knew too much and so he had to go. Yes, I killed him. No, killed is too strong a word. He died of a dreadful disease. Would it have been more humane to have deleted him at the beginning? Maybe, but to my surprise his name has popped up in the final chapters! Who would have guessed? Not me!

As much as my characters say and do the unexpected, I have to take final responsibility for all their actions. This book is close to being finished. There is only a few more chapters (of the first draft) to write (unless something unexpected happens again). Soon I can begin editing and rewriting, sorting this creative hotch potch of words into the great story that I know it can be. I'm hope I can bring all the threads of the plot into sharp focus.

Yes, I am the creator. I have created characters, actions, conversations, danger and solutions. As with a painting I can add, adjust, change moods and hues. Whole scenes could disappear. Others will be highlighted. I am looking forward to this process.

Likewise God is the creator, my creator. I've thought a lot about His creativity while writing this story. God is unrestricted by time. Likewise, authors are not confined by the book's time line. When we adjust things, the characters and readers aren't aware it was ever different. We can write scenes out of order, or even move them back or forward in time. Such is the power of a writer.

Can God do that as well? The Bible talks about the potter molding the clay. Are we, or the created things around us, in a similar position to our characters? Does God have a backspace button? Or a highlighting function? Bold? Delete?

Crazy questions I know. But He does know the end from the beginning and in my limited earth bound thinking, I don't understand that either. One thing I do know. God is BIG. Taking creative responsibility for a book has enhanced my understanding of him...just a little.

Next time I or my family are in some sort of dilemma, I'll be tempted to ask Him to use the back space button! Or to consider a rewrite. But then I remember that the dreadful experiences my heroine suffered were necessary to enable the fulfillment of her family's hopes and dreams.

Hmm. It is just as well I'm not God the creator. His job is too big for me. But writing has given me a deeper understanding of the original Author working all things together for my good. I'm so thankful that my life is in the hands of a wonderful loving Creator and not in the hands of a fickle author like me.

What about your writing experiences? I'd love to hear about your creative adventures.

Jo Wanmer lives in Queensland and loves watching the work of the Creator in the sky, the trees and the ocean. Currently she is working on a novel with the working title of 'El Shaddai'. As pastors, Jo and her husband, Steve, delight in watching God working in people's lives, bring healing and restoration; rewriting their futures. Her other passion is speaking about the greatest power on earth, the unconditional love of God. Jo is available for speaking engagements.




Thursday, December 5, 2013

God's Path or Mine? by Nola Passmore


 
 
When I went to the Caleb Christian Writers conference in October, I was expecting to gain lots of valuable teaching and insights I could use in my writing.  The program was chock full of interesting seminars and workshops on everything from writing a series and publishing to social networking and social justice. I couldn’t wait to soak it all in.  However, I didn’t manage to attend even half of the sessions I’d earmarked because I was also involved in some of the other conference activities - giving a talk, chairing a session, running three book-doctor spots, and pitching a book proposal to two different publishers.  I also wasn’t feeling the best one afternoon and had to go to a friend’s room to lie down rather than attending another couple of talks.

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself because I was missing out on a lot of the things I wanted to do, but then God showed me what had actually been accomplished in those two days. 

  • My poetry talk encouraged one of the attendees to start submitting her own poetry.
  • The book-doctor sessions helped others and also built my confidence in critiquing manuscripts.
  • Pitching a book proposal gave me valuable insights into the publisher’s perspective.
  • A group prayer session led to a breakthrough in a personal issue.
  • A discussion with a new contact led to some part-time work.
  • Another delegate confirmed a writing project God had laid on my heart.
  • I caught up with many wonderful friends and made some new ones.

The conference was indeed a blessing.

This experience reminded me of Proverbs 16:9 – “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”  I didn’t receive what I was expecting from the conference in terms of input, but God gave me exactly what I needed and I was also able to help some others along the way. 

Do you have a story about God meeting you in unexpected ways in your writing journey?  I’d love to hear about it.


Nola Passmore is a freelance writer who has had more than 90 short pieces published in various magazines, journals, and anthologies (including true stories, devotions, poetry and short fiction). She has a passion for writing about what God has done in her life and encouraging others to do the same. (Some call it "nagging", but she calls it "encouragement").

Monday, December 2, 2013

Does Passion Trump Knowledge?

I have always thought that, as an author, it is wise to ‘write what you know’. However, in a world where information is literally at our fingertips, an author can write on any topic they choose. Research is simply a Google search away.
Lately I have been contemplating the value of writing from experience versus writing from research. Being a contemporary fiction writer, I have the advantage of both modern setting and imagination, so a lot of my personal experiences and feelings are easily incorporated onto the pages of my work. These advantages aside, it is still fair to say that there has been an element of my writing that has come from research. For instance, in my work there are places I have written about that I haven’t visited personally. I wonder - without that personal experience, does that make them sound less authentic to the reader?
Historical writers rely heavily on research for setting and story-line. Having to set a story in an era they haven’t lived in is a task that so many authors do well. Although, I have also read some historical novels where, although clearly well researched, the story falls flat and lacks heart.
After much contemplation on this subject, I have come to the conclusion that it is a good thing to write what you know, but it doesn't matter how much personal experience you have incorporated, or the amount of highly tuned research you have done, nothing will make up for the lack of passion in an author’s work. So, does passion trump knowledge?
This leads me to another wonderful saying: ‘write what you love’.
What do you think? Is passion for what you write more important than personal experience? When research is a necessity, will no amount of it make up for a lack of passion?

I would love to hear your thoughts. 

Rose Dee is the author of the 'Resolution' series and co-author of The Greenfield Legacy. 
Visit Rose at: