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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fiction Mirror

Fiction mirrors real life.

I learned that hard truth while writing three suspense novels that delved into deep subjects, themes that poured out of my own struggles and triumphs, my own questions and wrestling with God. A lot of me and many people I know filled those pages.

You can't hide writing a novel. And you shouldn't. Because when fiction reflects real life, real people read and not only enjoy a great story that touches them on a deep level, but they also find hope and a mirror into their own soul.

Fiction reading and writing have forced me to face big issues in my heart. That's one of the reasons I'm a lifetime fiction reader and talk passionately about how fiction is a place where wounded people can find hope, healing, and encouragement.

But I've never found that to be true with fiction how-to books or DVDs.

Until last night.

My fantastic local writing group, WORD, met last night and watched part 2 of an amazing DVD ~ The Hero’s Journey.

In it, one of the presenters, Michael Hauge, taught about the hero's inner journey. I scribbled notes furiously and hoped at some point I'd understand concepts that weren't new but weren't quite fitting into my brain very well either.

When I got home, I brainstormed with my husband about my current characters' inner journeys until his eyes glassed over. I still didn't understand, and that bugged me. A lot.

So this morning as I was praying, I started thinking about the concept of identity and essence and how all of the other terms Mr. Hauge used to describe the inner journey fit together.

It hit me that I could plug myself into the concepts and maybe understand them better.

God is so sneaky in getting me to do this. He knew I couldn't pass up the chance to understand the benign subject of writing deeper. Little did I know, I'd be totally exposed in working through a technique just like I am in the actual writing.

As I've done in my books, author letters, and on this blog, I'm going to put my real life examples out there.

Mr. Hauge talked about the concept of longing, a wound, fear, identity, and essence. I'll explain them using me.

A longing~ I long to be a kind, gentle, emotional person.

What's funny to me about that longing is in many arenas I am that person, especially in my writing and with other writers. But it's taken me a long time to get healthy enough to honestly be who I am around other people, especially my family.

A wound~ Growing up I was made fun of for any emotional display, sometimes physically punished. These were not temper tantrum displays, but everyday ones like sadness, excitement, fear, ect. So I learned never to cry in front of anyone. Anger was the only acceptable emotion.

Fear~ Emotion equaled weakness in my family of origin, so my fear as I grew up was that if I showed emotion, besides anger, I'd be rejected and unwanted again.

Here is where I'd attach my understanding of "the lie," a truth and technique I learned from counseling to apply to my own life, to my fiction, and to teach to other writers. My lie that I've lived out of a majority of the time is I'm unwanted.

Identity~ I’ve defined myself as a strong woman and used anger like a sword. This was my protection against rejection in any situation where I might have to risk exposing my wound. Anger happens anytime my lie is pushed on or in some way shown to be true. As in anytime I've felt put down, disrespected, or not liked.

Essence~ This is something that took me a while to understand through Mr. Hauge's teaching. This is basically who the character, or real person, is when all their definitions of who they are get taken away. Instead of defining myself by my family, my work, my abilities, or my characteristics like strong and angry, essence is who I really am.

As a believer, who I am is God's child. A child He made to be very emotional, passionate, and (when I'm listening to Him and believing Him) a kind, gentle, caring person.

The journey of life and of a fiction novel is for the character to be stripped of identity and have their essence revealed and accepted as they live in a new reality being who they really are.

Writers, unlike our characters, are still in process. The last page of our story~ my story~ has yet to be written.

But this insight matters. It forced me to look in Jesus' face and bow before Him, confessing my lie, my self-protections, and my fears. And taking from Him the freedom to be who He created me to be.

I'm sure God has plenty more ways to teach me truths like this. And I’m sure I’ll need them.

But for today, I'm grateful a how-to book/ DVD on writing taught me truth about myself.

Now I must go make my fictional characters suffer as I have so they can rejoice like I am today. ;-)

Fiction is a beautiful mirror. So is anything that helps us look deeply inside and see what God would have us see.

How has a fictional novel or even a fiction how-to book mirrored you and revealed something that helped you grow?

Friday, February 19, 2010

Do What You Love

Life and writing both share some basic “rules.” Do your best. Don’t give up. Treat others the way you’d like to be treated—except you can’t do this to your characters until the last chapter.

An often overlooked “rule” is one thing I try to incorporate into everything I teach because it’s a bedrock good idea if you want to enjoy life… and writing.

Do what you love and do it with passion.

Love and passion are the intangible ingredients that change something good to something filled with wow, something which draws you back for more—everything from beautiful art to beautiful food to engaging drama, warm and wonderful knit clothing, and books worthy of a second or third read.

The big question here is not why—we all know why we love wow experiences and things—it’s how. How do we figure out what we love and do it with passion.

The first step is to think about what you loved as a child. Cooking? A breathtaking sunset? Taking pictures? Making things with your hands? Telling stories that made people laugh?

Often we find something we love as children and let life and busyness steal it away.

I never dreamed about becoming an author. But I started down that path when my husband pushed me to do something he knew I loved but I’d forgotten.

I’d won a writing contest in elementary school, a story telling contest in middle school. And I spent most of my days floating from one movie-like daydream to another. But it wasn’t until someone else saw that spark and nudged me to go for it that I remembered.

So I’m nudging you. What did you love to do as a child? Rediscover it.

The next step is to enjoy it again. Love painting but feel a bit rusty on techniques? Take a beginners class at a craft store or local church. Love photography but don’t know where to start? Barnes and Noble is full of inexpensive books to get you going.

Did you love arts and crafts as a kid? What about scrapbooking, sculpture, building ships or birdhouses or sewing or knitting? Again, ask about classes at a craft store, fabric store, community college or talk to people at church. Chances are someone there loves an activity you love and can help you get started and stay motivated with it.

Then pray about how you can use that thing you love, that activity or cause you’re passionate about, to serve others.

Of course, it’s wise to be praying every step of the way. But don’t let yourself get bogged down with fear about showing your art or creations to others. Not until you’re ready.

And when you are, keep praying. There are people out there who will help you get better. Ask God to connect you to those folks. It may not be easy to hear areas for improvement, but it will help you stick with it and grow.

Another possible step in this process is taking what you love and making a career out of it. Baking, knitting, photography, writing, and art are all areas that can move from hobby to career.

Just remember to do what you love and keep that passion alive. Enjoy it. Your work will shine because of it and your heart will be even more alive. And others will be drawn to that.

It’s a beautiful cycle of joy.
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