Monday, August 27, 2018

Using Scene Cards to Plot a Story



Writing for publication isn’t as easy as one thinks.  Some of us are naturals at this, but nothing about my learning process has ever come easily, still I love to learn and write.
When someone suggested I write a blog, I did my homework.  It was similar to a weekly column I wrote for three years, so I thought it would force me to keep deadlines and exercise my “voice.”  It’s been mildly successful.
I wrote two children’s stories and they both placed in the top ten in a national contest, so that gave me some encouragement. I dusted off a book I wrote that a publishing house rejected ten years ago, so I spent a year fixing it and pitched it again; this time to an agent. She not only rejected it; she trashed it. It sits in my office licking its wounds. Two other books are going through their fourth or fifth rewrites. I’ve lost count.
Most of my writer friends write straight into their laptops, no notes, no outlines.  They let “their characters lead the way.” They’re called pantsers because they write by the seat of their pants. My muses are more like lazy teenagers. They get up late, nap on the sofa all day, and whine when asked to do chores. My muses need a kick in the pants.
I tried being a pantser with Book One and regret taking that advice. When I started on Book Two (I’m writing a trilogy), I realized I couldn’t build a story out of that awful mess.
I am not a pantser.  I am field dependent; I have to see the whole before I can write the parts.  In other words, I am a plotter.  I need an outline, not necessarily the kind college professors require but a personalized, 3-D, GPS version.
I’ve read several books on how to plot a novel and my favorite is Super Structure by James Scott Bell. His book is excellent, but here is one of the things I took away from his book that changed my life.
1.    Count out fifty 5X8 cards and come up with fifty possible scenes that could happen in your story.  Each card is a scene not a chapter.  It can be brief or elaborate. Push yourself to fill all fifty cards.
2.    If you exhaust all the possible scenes but still have cards to fill, push yourself to do more.  Create a scene card for each of the following:
·      Open a dictionary to a random page and select one noun.  Create a possible scene using that noun as inspiration.
·      Come up with roadblocks or possible conflicts your protagonist might encounter.
·      Come up with “what if” scenes. The more ‘what iffy,’ the better.
·      Write the scenes introducing your important characters.
·      Take two existing scene cards and create a scene that segues one into the other.
·      Choose two characters and create a scene between those two, but remember it must move the plot forward.
·      Write a scene about what one of the secondary characters has been doing while the main characters were on center stage
·      Make sure you have scene cards for all the important plot points, like The Mirror Moment, or The Pet the Dog Scene, The Q Factor Scene (you’ll have to refer to his book for these, or you might be able to google it.)
3.    After you have exhausted all possible scenes, organize them by Acts and sequence. Sometimes this shows you where you might need to add a scene.
4.    One thing I like to do is to add a Johari Window on the back of scene cards where I introduce characters. I addressed that in a different blog, but I use the Johari Window to create in-depth character studies of each of my important characters.  It helps me stay true to their motivation.
When Book Two looked like it was headed in the same wrong direction as Book One, I went back and deconstructed Book One chapter by chapter and then sat down and created my fifty scene cards.  It helped me reorder my chapters, get rid of scenes that made no sense and come up with healthier scenes that should have happened.  It showed weak and strong chapters; some had to go but several were strong enough to stay. I found discrepancies and scenes so trite they made me wince. Since Book One is part of a trilogy, it also helped me strengthen characters who would later take center stage in Books Two and Three.
I envy those who can write straight into their laptops.  That isn’t me.  I’ve learned a lot in the past eight years about writing and how my brain creates stories, so none of this time has been wasted.  One day, I might go back to the book that has been rejected twice in its lifetime and use this method to restructure it, but for now, I am letting it heal while I work on Book Two and plan out Book Three.  

Monday, August 20, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: Those Who Can’t Teach

Raquel Martina Martinez: Those Who Can’t Teach: “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches .”  (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman) Thanks, Bernard. What exactly were you saying with...

Those Who Can’t Teach


“He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.”  (George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman)
Thanks, Bernard. What exactly were you saying with that? That anyone not good enough for any other job or profession, can always turn to the profession of teaching? If one cannot function in the real world, the teaching profession is always so dire for help, it will take all and any rejects?
“Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.” (Woody Allen, Annie Hall)
Those who can’t what? Get a job anywhere else? Cannot face a job that demands long hours? Demands a persistent attitude working with a resistant client? Does not want to work under a stressful deadline?
Let’s try teaching!  They work short hours, have weekends and summers off, paid holidays.  They teach kids.  How hard can that be? Whee! 
Well, let me tell you, Bernie and Woody, teaching is a PROFESSION, one that demands more than any other job.  That 8 to 5, paid summers and holidays myth is a lie, and your cutesy, funny quote is an insult to those who teach.
A teacher has to love the act of learning so much they have to share that love of learning with others.  They know their subject matter so well, they can take it apart into its basic components and deliver it with finesse. Teachers keep a mental rolodex in their brains that almost instantly matches learning methods and materials to each student, so when a child “doesn’t get it” in one lesson, the teacher expertly tries it another way.
A teacher looks at each student as a client, a sometimes resistant, petulant, and angry client, but a client nonetheless. A teacher doesn’t have to love each student who walks into the classroom, but they have to like and care for the children who they serve.
A teacher works under a contract, one that demands certain outcomes for a set amount of pay, disregarding the long hours it takes for the teacher to deliver. They work evenings, weekends, holidays, and summers on their own nickel. These hours are not paid. Any other profession can bill for the time spent outside the time clock; teachers can’t. Any other profession can decline to serve certain clients; teachers can’t.  A recalcitrant student, an angry, demanding parent, a harsh public, the insulting myth that anyone can be a teacher – all of this makes it hard to choose the profession of teaching as a career.   
And those who can’t put up with all of these demands, can’t teach.


Friday, August 17, 2018

Raquel Martina Martinez: Leftovers

Raquel Martina Martinez: Leftovers: HoneyBunch and I come from families who do not believe in throwing away  food, ergo, The Leftover is sacred in our homes. Any little sc...

Monday, August 13, 2018

Leftovers


HoneyBunch and I come from families who do not believe in throwing away food, ergo, The Leftover is sacred in our homes.
Any little scrap of food goes into plastic containers with tight fitting lids or gets wrapped in plastic with the same reverence as an Egyptian mummy. It shows up at the next meal either in its original form or under a clever disguise.  Handfuls of leftover vegetables get thrown into stews or soups; old fries get scrambled into eggs, and though not much can be done for a leftover enchilada, smothering it with soupy beans can make it edible.
When my own kids were young, I “forced” a weekly clean-out-the-refrigerator buffet on them but gave them fair warning.  They knew when I called them to the table, they’d better hurry because it was first come, first served. The last one to the table ended up making do with The Leftover Leftover, usually something doubly unrecognizable and inedible.
HB is really big on not wasting food, but I do set limits.  In its original state, if it came out of a can, the frozen section of the grocery store or a drive-through take out, it never even makes it to the refrigerator. It is not worthy of being labeled The Leftover since I consider such food has been handled enough in its lifetime.  It goes straight into the trash can. If it is homemade from scratch, it can make it as far as a third curtain call before it goes into the trash can, but if it changes color, emits odor, or winks at me, it goes into the trash can immediately.
I am all for not wasting food, but I do have standards.
I WILL NOT give myself food poisoning and all the discomforts that entails over neon-colored ham slices, petrified pizza, or a recycled pork chop.


Monday, August 6, 2018

My Favorite Twelve Verses From Bible Study

One year ago, I was finishing a year’s study of the Holy Bible.  Month after month, we trekked our way from Old to New Testament.
I underlined one favorite verse in each chapter as I worked my way through each book, and from those verses, I chose the following twelve as my most favorite, one for each month.
Because of this study, I developed a better understanding of God’s connection and the promise he made to his people.
You probably have your own favorites but here are mine.  
# 1. The Lord is my strength and my might, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.  The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.  Exodus 15: 2-3
#2. The Lord bless you and keep you.” Numbers 6:24
#3. You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all this is in them.  To all of the them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.  Nehemiah 9:6
#4. O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wonderous deeds.  So even to old age and grey hairs, O God, do not forsake me. Psalm 71:17-18
#5. Those who love me, I will deliver; I will protect those who know my name.  When they call to me, I will answer them; I will be with them in trouble, I will rescue them and honor them.  Psalm 91: 14-15
#6. I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121: 1-2
#7. You knit me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139: 13b
#8. For a child has been born to us, a son given to us . . . and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
 #9. Now the end is upon us, I will let lose my anger upon you; I will judge you according to your ways, I will punish you for all your abominations.  Ezekiel 7:3
#10. If your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light; but if it is not healthy; your body is full of darkness. Luke 11:34
#11. I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6
#12. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. 2Timothy 1: 7