Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: King/Jenkins Story-Writing Tips

Some good suggestions from Stephen King and Jerry Jenkins for wannabe story writers:

1. Have a strong beginning, with action such as “The gun fell to the floor.”

2. . . . or some little mysterious something such as “The first time she saw the shadow at the window, she regretted what she had done.”

3. Don’t spend several pages or even paragraphs describing the setting—get right to the action. You know how we are—instant-gratification seekers.

4. Don’t begin by having your hero wake up to the alarm clock.

5. Instead, start in the middle of things.

6. Then you can go back and fill us in later, if you want to.

7. Don’t say your hero looks (or happens to look) into a mirror and then describe what he sees. They say that’s just as corny and passé as having him wake up to an alarm clock.

8. Don’t say something like “’Don’t do it!’ exclaimed Fred.” “Exclaimed” isn’t necessary because, after all, you see the exclamation point there. Instead, say “’Just think about it!” said Fred. (Well, actually, they say it’s better not to use exclamation points because that’s kind of overboard. It’s better to just leave the exclaiming to the imagination of the reader.)

9. The same thing goes for questions: no need to say “Jane asked, ‘Will you go with me?’” Because the question mark shows the question. They say you should just say “Jane said, ‘Will you help me?’”

10. And . . . they say it’s best not to go with words like “she whispered, yelled, retorted, or countered” but just to use “said.” You can show whispered, etc., in the context: “her whisper was as raspy as the hinge on the back gate.”

11. You should know your characters very well, even if you don’t use all the details about them. Knowing your heroine will help you understand how she would respond in certain situations. Can we identify with her?

12. Conflict is important. Create your character and slap her up against some trouble.

13. Know her so well that you can just sit back and watch her go from situation to situation—and write it down as she does it. Jenkins and King both said their characters sometimes do things they didn’t plan for.

Once when one of his major characters died suddenly, Jenkins’s editor said, “I didn’t know you were going to kill her off.”

Jenkins said, “I didn’t mean to. She just up and died on me.”

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Monday, August 27, 2007


My friend M. said his sister died on May 23. She had suffered for a long time with cancer. He said she was devoted to God and she was not angry. I didn’t know her, although I have prayed for her.

M. said, “I don't understand why someone as devout and compassionate as she was had to die the way she did.” I don’t understand that, either. I don’t understand why God heals some people’s sicknesses and not others.

Maybe that’s one of those things we won’t be able to comprehend in this life. I’ve added that to the list of questions I want to ask Jesus one day.

In the ninth chapter of the book of John, John writes that Jesus and his disciples encountered a man who was born blind.

The disciples asked, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus said that neither of the man’s parents was to blame. “But this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” Then Jesus made some mud of dirt and spit, put it on the man’s eyes, and told him to go wash off the mud in the Pool of Siloam. He did as Jesus said, and afterward, he could see, for the first time in his life.

The man was pestered by the Pharisees about what happened, and they finally tried to get him to confess that Jesus was a sinner.

The man could not be bullied into agreeing with the Pharisees. He declared, “One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

The work of God was displayed in his life, as Jesus said—this miracle showed the power of Jesus to heal physically, as well as spiritually, as we can see in his statement of blind faith. His statement “I was blind but now I see” became a powerful metaphor for spiritual healing and restoration of the soul.

M.’s sister’s body was not healed, as the blind man was. But she must have experienced the tremendous power of Jesus to heal her spirit. Maybe she was an amazing example to someone who really needed to see that his spirit could be made whole. From what I know of her, I believe the work of God was displayed in her life. She was not blind--she could see.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Cliches

I try to convince my college writing students that they should avoid using clichés. Here are some of the most common and most distasteful:

1. dry as a bone

2. cold as a wedge (what’s a wedge?)

3. simple as pie

4. dumb as a stump

5. dead as a doorknob

6. sitting in clover

7. a no-brainer

8. pull the plug

9. throw caution to the wind

10. keep body and soul together

11. never a dull moment

12. teach an old dog new tricks

13. and . . . (please, NO!) . . . be there for somebody

Jerry B. Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series, says writers must use original language; avoid clichés like the plague!!!

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Baby Grabs Camera

Here is one of my favorite pictures of our latest granddaughter, being grabby.

Since I last posted to this blog on July 26, I have been very much waylaid.

We went vacationing with our daughter and four grandchildren. Our grandson had a coughing bug, and since we were all in very close quarters, we all caught it. We came home and the next weekend, thinking I was getting better, I went off to a literary conference.

By the time I got home, I was sick as a dog, coughing constantly. So that Monday, I went to the doctor and discovered that I had pneumonia. After five days in the hospital and two weeks of lying around, I am finally on the mend, thank the Lord!