Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Remember to Whom We Give Thanks

In the midst of preparations let us, like our forefathers, remember the One to whom thanks are due not only on Thanksgiving but each day and every hour. The following is Washington’s proclamation for a day of Thanksgiving to our Maker.

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me "to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;-- for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;-- for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;-- and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;-- to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

Friday, November 16, 2012

Make Your Story Seem Real

We have covered some of the basics of character development, so let’s look at writing your story. The cardinal rule is Show Don’t Tell. It is easiest to explain with an example. The following scene is from a work in progress, the sequel to my novel Kokoweef. Physics assistant professor Dr. Nightingale Nox, a Savant, was mugged. The main character, Skip Jackson, scared off the attacker and took Night to the hospital. The following is the scene as it would appear if it was told.

After Skip gave a report to the policeman, he left Bethany and Sarah in the waiting room, and intercepted the ER doctor. The doctor told Skip that Night was in no danger, his wound had been stitched, and he would be released as soon as his guardian arrived. Night, however, was convinced he was dying, and Skip could not convince him otherwise.

Now I will show the scene.

Skip finished reciting his account of the assault to a policeman, left Bethany and Sarah sitting on the waiting room chairs, and hurried to intercept the ER doctor. “How’s Night doing, doctor?”
The man consulted his clipboard. “Are you Mr. Nox’s guardian?”
“No, I’m Skip Jackson. I rescued Night from the attacker. I called his guardian, and he should be here shortly.”
“Mr. Nox is in no danger. I stitched his wound. He appears a bit . . . disoriented. But that should pass quickly. I’ll release him to his guardian as soon as he gets here.”
Tension melted from Skip’s jaw muscles. He smiled. “Night’s always disoriented. He’s a high-functioning autistic Savant. He can tell you more than you’d like to know about string theory, Tesla, and space aliens, but everyday stuff.” He cleared his throat.
“I see. You can go in.” The doctor scribbled something on the chart and moved on to another cubical.
Skip ducked around the curtain surrounding Night’s gurney. “Hey, bro. How you feeling?’
“My head hurts. I’m going to die.”
“Not going to happen. Ask the doctor for something to stop the pain.”
“There was blood. Lot’s and lot’s of blood. You saw the blood. I’m going to die.”
Skip sighed. When the guy got an idea in his head, it was hard to shake it. “No, you’re not going to die. When your guardian gets here, you’re going home.”
“People don’t tell people when they’re going to die. I think they should tell people when they’re going to die. Don’t you think people should tell people when they’re going to die? Gramma said if I was good, I’d go to heaven. But, I’ve been so bad. I won’t go to heaven.” His face puckered. “I don’t want to die.”
Why can’t people stop scaring their kids with fairy tales about angels and devils, heaven and hell? “Night, stop it. You are not going to die. You’re going home.”
“When Gramma was dying, she said she was going home. But she never came, and I never saw her again.”
“If there is a heaven, I’m sure you’re going there. But, not for a long, long, long time.”
“But you would say that if the doctor told you I was dying.”
“He didn’t tell me you were dying. He said he was going to release you soon.”
Night’s face blanched. “Grampa said he was going to release old Smokey. Then he shot him.”
“You are not a horse.”
The professor began moaning soulful moans. “He took him behind the barn and shot him.”
“Night, you’re giving me a headache.”

There are instances in which telling is appropriate. Mainly it is used for summary or scene setting. But too much showing slows the action and takes the reader out of the story. As seen above, though showing the story takes more words it is richer and allows the reader to feel he is an inside observer.—Quinn

Monday, November 12, 2012

Giving Your Character a Personality

On October 10 and October 29, we talked about building your character’s background and giving him a unique voice. Now he needs a psychological make-up.

Knowledge of the character’s composite personality indicates how he will behave in different situations within the story. The writer should know the environments in which the character will feel comfortable and what circumstances are easy or a struggle for him. With this in mind, it is the writer’s job to reveal the character’s depth of personality as the story unfolds. By contrasting his inner life and his public life and giving him traits that contrast and collide with one another, an interesting, multi-faceted person emerges.

Jung identified two primary personality types, the Extrovert (E) and the Introvert (I). These designations have to do with the world in which one lives. The extrovert’s life is directed outward. He is out-going, assertive, energetic. His interests are in, and he receives gratification from, the outer world. He gets bored when alone. The introvert is reserved, quiet, shy. His interests lie in reflection and the inner self. He enjoys time alone and likes solitary activities.

There are also subcategories. Sensing (S) and Intuitive (N) describe how one gathers information. One who is sensing relies on the concrete and the practical. The intuitive person thinks of abstract possibilities, trusting intuition without facts. Thinking (T) and Feeling (F) have to do with decision making. The thinker is rational, logical, impartial, and fair in accordance with predefined rules. The feeler decides things case by case and is subjective based on his value system. Judging (J) and Perceiving (P) have to do with how we live. The judging person is neat, orderly, settled. The perceiving person is flexible, open-ended, and spontaneous.

Each individual personality consists of one of sixteen possible combinations of the secondary traits coupled with either introversion or extroversion. In various circumstances, one of the traits will be dominant, more proficient, and more conscious. It is supported by a second function then to a lesser degree a third. The fourth one is opposite to the dominant resulting in repression and unconscious behavior. Though uncomfortable with the fourth function, an individual can develop that trait.

In my novel Echoes, there is a character called Misty McKenna. When informed that her grandparents and her sister are ill, she immediately takes a leave of absence from her teaching position in another state and returns home to help her widowed mother cope. She takes over the household duties, the nurturing of her youngest brother, and is a fierce defender of the family. Analysis reveals that her personality type matches with the ISFJ combination, the Nurturer. People in this category are kind, quiet, conscientious, dependable, stable, practical, observant of others, perceptive of other’s feelings. They value security and tradition and are interested in serving others. They’re exactly like Misty.

I decided to analyze myself. I thought I matched best with the INTJ combination. People with this personality are independent, original, analytical, determined, turn theories into plans of action, value knowledge, competence, and structure. They are long-range thinkers and have high standards of performance for themselves and others (ask my long-suffering family.) They are natural leaders but will follow trusted people. This combination is called the Scientist. Interesting. My background is in chemistry.—Quinn