Monday, September 24, 2018
Raquel Martina Martinez: Five Things I Hate About Badly Written Books: For years I taught literature to secondary students. Most were reluctant readers so I would teach the elements of a novel or the short s...
For years I taught literature to secondary students. Most were reluctant readers so I would teach the elements of a novel or the short story by comparing them to popular TV shows or movies. A sit-com is a three-act play compacted into thirty minutes, so there is a premise, a situation to be solved, and the ending or resolution. A movie is its longer cousin, so we’d discuss a popular movie and separated it into its three acts. Once we did that, we turned our focus on the short story or novel we were reading in class.
We all agreed a good story is a well-written story.
Nothing irks me more than to spend my hard-earned money or waste my precious time on a book that fails to keep its promise to the consumer. If it’s a mystery, I expect to be surprised. If it’s a romance, I expect to see it develop. If it’s an adventure, I expect to raft the rapids. But please do not promise me a date and then take me for a boring ride around the neighborhood.
I hate books that are badly written, badly plotted, or copy other books badly. I hate triteness and cliché. I often wonder how they got published and what Golden Goose they promised the people who gave those books high reviews?
I hate books that ride on the waves created by others and offer nothing new to the genre. Instead of one more dystopian novel where a wholesome, spunky seventeen-year-old saves the world, I’m waiting for the one where a septuagenarian is chosen as the lithest in her yoga class and shows the world courage has no best-if-used-by date.
I hate books whose authors refused to take a creative writing course on editing or on how Show Not Tell manifests itself on paper. A published book should not read like a C-minus, end-of-the-year, high school Creative Writing project.
Lastly, I hate books whose storytelling is so poor no one cares about the character once we are done with the book. One never forgets a well-developed character. Did Rhett Butler ever find a woman who loved him like he deserved? Did Hagrid stay on at Hogwarts? Did Skeeter live to old age? What would they be doing now?
Monday, September 17, 2018
Several years ago, the mother of a newborn was suddenly overcome by the responsibility of raising a child, and she asked me how to go about it.
First off, I told her she was a good person and she would be a good mother, but a good compass is to think forward and decide what kind of grownup she wanted her baby to be one day.
If she wanted her child to be a kind adult, then train the child to be kind. If she wanted her child to be intelligent, then teach the child to read and learn and be curious. If she wanted her child to be polite, then teach the child manners.
All of these traits have to be taught through example as well.
If she wanted her child to believe in God, then she had to go and take the child to church. She had to show and live a Godly life. If she wanted her child not to use vulgar language or watch objectionable shows, then the mother could not prohibit the child and then use that language and watch those shows herself.
It’s the same with eating broccoli or learning to like the ends of a loaf of bread, exercising and learning how to say the Pledge of Allegiance. Respect goes both ways; what is respectful for the parent is respectful for the child. A parent cannot say one thing and then do the opposite.
I did warn her that each child is born with their own personality, and there might be contradictory natures, especially when the child hits the stinky teenaged years, but if the parent starts with the first diaper change, she might have a fighting chance of leading the child in the right direction. Never forget, you are the parent and the child expects you to parent.
I asked her if this was helpful, and she nodded, a smile on her face. She asked me how I got to be so wise. I tried to teach my three to be truthful, so I had to be truthful to this young mom – trial and error. Mostly trial and a little error.
Monday, September 10, 2018
There are moments in your life when you realize you’ve been walking around with your eyes half closed, seeing and feeling only what you want to admit to yourself.
Several years ago, I was sitting on my bed, watching a special on spousal physical and sexual abuse, feeling self-righteous that even though I had survived a terrible marriage, it wasn’t abusive.
Our divorce was taking twice as long to finalize than it should, but it gave me time to heal from the marriage and for the sadness to abate.
As the show went to commercial, they announced the second half of the special would focus on emotional abuse, the one where the blows to the victim target the inside and not the skin.
I considered turning the TV off; after all, it didn’t apply to me, but in my laziness, I didn’t get up in time. As I reached for the remote, it was like I had been sideswiped by an oncoming auto. It was like someone had turned the camera and was filming me. With my finger on the off button, I realized they were talking about me.
I had survived a marriage rife with emotional abuse: the façade where the spouse charms the world and is the total opposite person at home with his wife, the need to subjugate a ‘strong’ woman and find her emotional weaknesses to whittle away at her self-esteem until she doubts her self-worth without him, the devious ways of confusing her reality and gaslighting her until she believes all their marital problems are her fault and his infidelities are his due.
The list went on and on, and I started to bawl. This was me.
I escaped my hell only because he no longer needed me. He had found someone else to “love.” Knowing it would only be a matter of time before she realized what he was truly like and send him packing, I prepared myself for the inevitable. He would try me again; after all, I had believed his lies for twenty-nine years.
She did. He tried me again, but by then, my eyes were wide open. I realized I wasn’t the bad person; he was, and he was not coming near me, ever again.
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
There are times when you don’t have anything to say. There’s this blank page in your brain that refuses to light up with words.
This week was one of those days.
I lost a cousin last week. His family kept his illness to themselves until they could no longer hide it. It was time to tell the family that his days were few and we should prepare ourselves for his departure.
He was one of those kind people who always asked if he could help, always offered a smile or a joke, always stood in the background opening doors and allowing others to take center stage.
We depended on his unpretentiousness to make us feel important. When compared to him, we are nothing more than pompous, self-important fools. Without him, we have no audience, no revelry, no wind to our sails.
He blended into the background and we took him for granted. It took his death to make us realize how much we needed him cheering us on from backstage. He accomplished more in his short life than a dozen of us together will accomplish in ours.
He lived life to the fullest, loving his wife and family with a full heart. He touched so many lives with his unassuming ways.
And he never once feared death; he died with courage, preferring the Lord pick him and not his wife and children.
It is true that the meek shall inherit the earth for meekness does not mean being afraid to live life or to stand up to bullies. Meekness means humility, modesty, freedom from pride, gentleness, and assurance that one’s value does not have to be shouted from mountaintops but by making others realize theirs.
Raquel Martina Martinez: 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 c...