From Beginning to End

When writing a novel, some people have trouble with how to begin.  Where should the story start?  How much action?  How much dialogue?  Should I include backstory?  Sound familiar?

If this is you, there’s help in the form of a book by Nancy Kress called Beginnings, Middles, and Ends.

I personally struggle with beginnings, so I thought I would take a look and try to learn a thing or two.

Some obvious points:  You want to make sure you have an engaging character.  You also want to make sure your story has conflict.

But if you’ve gotten that far, what could possibly be missing?

  • It’s all in the details.  And not just any details.  Very specific details.  “Details set your opening apart from the hundreds of others similar to it,” says Kress.  Here’s her example.  Don’t just say Mary loves dogs.  Show how she feeds her eighty-pound Lab all the best leftovers every night.
  • Create credible prose.  Meaning, learn how to use the English language in a way that is accurate, interesting, and easily understood.  For example, consider varied sentence structure.  Short sentences pick up the pace and add drama, while longer sentences slow things down and add tension.
  • A note on character: make sure he or she is unique enough to be picked out of a crowd.  Ask yourself, “Would nine out of ten people behave and think like this?”  The answer should be no, otherwise you haven’t conveyed your character to readers in a compelling enough way.  You need to share more and perhaps dig a little deeper into what makes your character unique.

Add these elements with others and you’ll be on your way to having a successful opening scene!  But what next?  Kress suggests toning down the level of conflict in scene two.  You can do this with backstory or flashbacks, but be careful they don’t slow the story down too much.  The key is balance.  You can certainly continue on with more action, but if you’re going to do that, the challenge is to reduce the level of conflict in relation to the opening scene.  Or you could consider introducing conflict in the form of a subplot, but again, make sure it’s not quite as intense as the opening.  It’s all about pacing.

There’s also advice for trouble with murky middles and how to wrap up the ending of your story in a satisfying way.  But we’ll save those tips for another day…  Or better yet, go check out this book!

In the meantime, get started on your story.  Will it be Once upon a time…or perhaps something more unique?  I think you know the answer! 😉

 

 

The Power of Our Heart Vibrations

Let me just dive in! Our heart is more powerful than our brain. Did you know this? 60 times greater, according to the article “How to Change Our Self-Limiting Programs” on Uplift. Powerful stuff! Both organs vibrate and generate energy as part of the electromagnetic field that makes up our body. But the heart has a far greater amplitude. And with the heart, the vibes are always positive and far-reaching. So why not just follow these good vibrations?

Our brain is running unconscious programs that we learned since birth. These vibes can get in the way of our happiness…if we let them. By thinking negative thoughts, we attract negative energy into our lives. This may manifest as a negative event or illness. We may also attract negative people into our lives. People that are simply reflecting the same energy that we put out there. The more positive people and experiences are vibrating at a higher frequency. But how do we make that same leap?

It’s simple really. Just follow your heart. More specifically: follow your heart’s vibration. The best way to do this is to find your center. Be calm. Go inside yourself. Stay in the present moment. That is where you find your divine bliss. Ultimate connection. Creativity. Universal spirit. Love.

Stop analyzing, over-thinking, worrying. Just be. That’s when you get tuned into the right frequency. The heart frequency. It can take you places, manifest your dreams, and even heal you.

Seem too simple? Not convinced? Try this experiment by molecular biologist Bruce Lipton. Take two guitars tuned the same and pluck the A string on #1. Then watch #2, which also vibrates. All because they are tuned to the same frequency. We can train our brains to do the same by thinking positive thoughts. Or go a step further and follow the stronger and truer vibration of our hearts.

So start harmonizing your thoughts.  Tune in to a different, more positive broadcast. Change your story. Attract what you want out of life. Let the vibrations of your heart create your reality. Starting NOW.

“People will leave the old story when they see a new story working. Every individual who changes their own story, is changing the vibrational environment within which we all live.” –Bruce Lipton

 

A Valen-tiny Writing Contest

In honor of Valentine’s Day, Susanna Hill is sponsoring a children’s story contest on her blog.  I love a good Valentine story, so I decided to participate.  Here is my entry, which, by the way, is only 214 words.  Part of the rules and part of the fun!  Although perhaps keeping the word count made me a little grumpy, which is another part of the rules.  One of the characters in the story must be grumpy.  Enjoy!

Really Red

Natalie had red hair. Really red, like raspberry jam. She could fold paper into all kinds of neat shapes. But she couldn’t get Alex, a boy in her class who whistled and had front teeth like a rabbit, to leave her alone. He pulled her hair. He called her names. “Hey Really Red!”

Then one day in February, their teacher announced that the class would be making paper cards for Valentine’s Day. “Don’t forget to make one for everyone,” said Miss Bloom.

At home that evening, Natalie slammed her backpack on the floor. Why did she have to make a valentine for icky Alex? She decided to fold a rabbit with two really big front teeth.

On Valentine’s Day, Alex handed her a valentine that said, “Really Red, you’re really sweet.” How could she give him the rabbit now? She hurried back to her desk, but he followed. “You didn’t give me a valentine.”

“I forgot.”

Alex began to whistle. “It’s ok.”

Natalie got an idea. She began to fold a piece of paper.

“It’s a little birdie,” said Alex, smiling.

“Whistling,” said Natalie, “just like you.”

“Thanks, Really Red! Hey, do you think you could teach me how to fold like that?”

“Sure, but only if you promise to call me Natalie.”

“Deal.”

 

 

© 2016 Angie Kidd all rights reserved

 

Notan: Harmonizing Darks and Lights

I’ve been taking some art classes this week.  While studying composition, I came across the Japanese term, “notan” which literally means “dark-light.”  It’s a fascinating design concept centered around the idea of creating harmony in a drawing through value contrast.  When darks and lights are dynamically balanced, the result is a more pleasing work of art.

More specifically, dark shapes are placed against light shapes and light shapes are placed against dark shapes.  Relationships are formed through this interaction of dark and light.  Neither white nor black dominates.  Consider a portrait drawing done in grayscale.  Notice how the effect of the drawing improves when a dark background surrounds the lit part of the face and a light background surrounds the shadowed part of the face.

According to Dorr Bothwell’s book, Notan: The Dark-Light Principle of Design, the way that positive and negative space interact has meaning.  Both shape and background have equal importance.

This design principle can be used for all types of artwork including painting, pottery, and photography.  One of the simplest and most well-known representations of the concept of notan is the yin-yang symbol, which depicts the dual nature of the world and literally means, “dark-bright.”

Imagine your life in terms of notan.  How might you see the world differently?  Notice how the stars stand out in the night sky or how your shadow stands out on the wall.  The beauty of dark and light is all around us.  As artists, we must have the courage to draw it.  And in life, we must be willing to see it.

“Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.”   — Anne Frank

 

To learn more about the Japanese concept of white space, termed “yohaku,” see my post here.