Enveloped in the Story

Ever since I finished up college, I’ve been engrossed in writing, revising, editing, critiquing, and reading. Like nearly all day.

I’ve barely had time to stop in here and write anything.

I’m enjoying the world of my characters. 

I’ve got three stories which I’m working on. I alternate from one to the other. It’s very satisfying. 

For a couple of months, I’d been working on my novel, Passage of Promise. The last half of the story is still waiting to run through the critique online group. It’ll be the end of January before submitting it is done.

But several days ago, I flipped over to my WIP, What She Didn’t Know, and reread, revised, and added a few scenes. 

Then I returned to my novella, Mourning Dove. I’ve been working on this for the past few days and am loving it. Using the feedback from the critters when I ran the story through around last spring, I’ve been strengthening those chapters.

I asked my husband questions on police procedures and medical issues a couple of days back, which opened up new ideas, new scenes to implement into this amazing story. I’ve only received positive feedback on this piece because of its wonderful message, decent plot, and likable characters. 

Here are the two blurbs I’ve been working on with my novel and novella.

Passage of Promise:

Marina waited all her life for someone like him. But failure is Marina’s middle name. Sent by her family to the Greek island of Santorini to fetch her great grandmother’s wonder-working icon for her sick nephew, Marina finds it has been stolen. She meets and falls in love with attractive Joel, a history teacher and art collector. He helps her to search for the icon. As time sprints by in the week-long search, perpetual pressure and ridicule from her mother leaves Marina on the brink of defeat. When she finds out who took the icon, the realization nearly sends her spiraling out of control. Personal, devastating failure hits her hard, and she’s left hollow. With icon in hand and lost love stinging her heart, Marina returns home to face battles with her mother and her nephew’s waning health. Clinging to a last shred of hope, will it be enough for Marina to overcome her failures and find love and healing?

Mourning Dove:

Gabby lost her husband, Andrew, in a car accident six months ago.  In the midst of struggling to emerge from her grief, she discovers Andrew’s cousin, Jordan, is homeless. With strong determination, Gabby strives to help Jordan in any way she can.  While sifting through clothes in her closet, Gabby discovers notes by Andrew and Jordan discussing a special gift for her a month before Andrew’s death. Can Jordan be the key to unlocking Andrew’s gift to her?  But amid this good will stands a belligerent homeless man hunting down Jordan for a past wrong. Although frightened by this vagabond seen creeping around her property, Gabby swallows her fear and focuses on aiding Jordan, giving her a new purpose in her life. But will Gabby take that new purpose too far?

I’ll probably publish Mourning Dove first, as I am still not totally satisfied with Passage of Promise

I’ll send it to a couple publishers and see if either accepts it. If not, I’ll go another route.

Tell me what you think. Your thoughts and opinions are important to me. You’re potentially my future readers. God willing! 

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Words – “Appeared,” “Seemed,” and “Looked” – How to Apply/Not Apply Them in Fiction Writing

words have power

I’m still plowing through the book by Janice Hardy called Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It), and this is my second blog post on the subject of show, don’t tell. My previous post on this consisted of information on a few red flag tell words.

This post is centered on three words: Appeared, Seemed, and Looked. And knowing how to use them properly.

We writers use appeared in a few ways.  If you’re using it to describe something or someone showing up or materializing in front of the character, this is fine and is not one of the descriptions being analyzed by Hardy.  It’s when you are using it in the same manner as you would for Seemed that is under the microscope.  Appeared “is a judgment word that suggests the assumption could be incorrect” (Hardy).

Here’s an example Hardy uses:

  • Bob appeared strong, with broad shoulders and biceps the size of canned hams (Hardy).

So, what is point-of-view character saying here? Using the word appeared implies the point-of-view character is making an assumption. But a man with “broad shoulders and biceps the size of canned hams” does describe one who is strong. This means it’s unlikely to be an assumption. Therefore, we writers wouldn’t want to use appeared in that instance (Hardy).

Here’s another example of appeared. See what you think of this one:

  • He appeared to be the charter pilot, with a jaunty cap and leather bomber jacket (Hardy).

This tells the reader the point-of-view character isn’t sure if the person is truly a charter pilot but is assuming so because of his clothing. But a person who is not a pilot could dress in a bomber jacket and jaunty cap. The point-of-view character thinks the person might be a pilot (Hardy). Therefore, in this case, because of the uncertainty, the use of appeared works.

This works nearly the same with the word Seemed. Here’s an example from the book:

  • Bob seemed happy, laughing and joking with all the kids (Hardy).

What makes the point-of-view character say “seemed”? If Bob is “laughing and joking,” then why would the point-of-view character question if Bob is happy? It’s not accurate and misleads the reader. It also makes you question the point-of-view character’s reasoning for saying this (Hardy).

Here’s another sentence Hardy uses as a comparison:

  • Bob seemed happy, but his smile never waved.

Here the point-of-view character questions Bob’s happiness because he/she notices his smile “never waved,” which implies it’s not a real smile, but a feigned one. Therefore, using “seemed” in that sentence works (Hardy).

Lastly, let’s study the word Looked. There are two ways in which to use this word. One is to describe how a character appears. The second way is what the character does (Hardy).

Here’s the first example:

  • Jane looked scared hiding behind the car, hands gripping the shotgun (Hardy).

So, in this sentence, the description by the point-of-view character could be either making an assumption, or how he/she sees Jane. Hardy asks, “Does this sentence mean the woman hiding behind the car looks scared when she’s really not, or is there a scared woman?” (Hardy) It’s not clear.

Here’s another sentence Hardy uses as a comparison:

  • Jane cowered behind the car, hands gripping the shotgun (Hardy).

This sentence clarifies the confusion. Using the word “cowered,” it shows Jane is scared. No need to assume Jane may be scared by using “looked” (Hardy).

Here’s the last example:

  • He looked like the kind of guy who would sell out his own mother for a cold beer (Hardy).

It is clear the point-of-view character is stating his/her opinion. This is evident in the point-of-view character’s voice. It shows opinion rather than detached description (Hardy).

What Hardy has helped me to understand as a revert writer in the past four years is that word usage is crucial in producing our works of fiction. And these clearly-understood examples have helped me so much.

Some of my readers who are experienced writers probably recognized and were able to find the problems easily, but for newer writers, I’m hoping this is helpful to you.

 

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Works cited
Hardy, Janice. Understanding Show, Don’t Tell (And Really Getting It). Fiction University Press, 2016.

 

The Core Element of Self-Sacrifice in Relationships

couple in sunset

The core element in relationships, especially in marriage, is the aspect of self-sacrifice.  In Eastern Orthodoxy, marriage is a type martyrdom, which is why crowns are placed on the bride and groom’s heads during the sacrament of marriage. They are crowns of martyrdom, which means giving selflessly to the other, which is the epitome of true love.

Self-sacrifice is also present in other relationships such as parents to their children, siblings to each other, and in close friendships.  The principle of self-sacrifice in marriage and family is greatly expressed through the two main female characters in the short stories, “The Thirteenth Night” and “Punishment.”

Although “The Thirteenth Night” and “Punishment” take place in different countries, they share the common thread of discontentment in marriage and how the core of selflessness may be lacking in their marriages and familial relationships. The two female protagonists in “The Thirteenth Night” and “Punishment” challenge their marriages that ultimately leads to self-sacrifice through apathy for one and self-sacrifice through tragedy for the other, deeply impacting their relationships.

In “The Thirteenth Night,” the protagonist, Oseki, weighs her desires against the greater good of her family and community, which is demonstrated through her conversations with her parents and her childhood friend.

The story opens with Oseki standing near her parents’ house, disheartened by the task before her–to ask their permission to divorce Isamu, her husband.  She then hears her father’s loud voice talking of all that he is thankful for that has to do with Oseki’s marriage.

She grapples with conflicting thoughts regarding the dire circumstances for her son, Tarō, if she were to leave her husband, and the financial well being of her parents and brother.  For a moment, she thinks, “But if she had her way and went through with the divorce, it would be the end of everything” (Ichiyō 2.7), which are pertaining to her thoughts above:  her relationship with her son and the loss of a job for her brother.

Oseki convinces herself at that moment that the permanent separation from her son and the loss of her brother’s job security are worth discarding for her freedom, and chooses her own desires to end the marriage rather than sacrificing her own wants for the sake of her marriage, son, and family.

Having a close bond with her parents, Oseki feels comfortable enough to share her miseries with her surprised parents.  In her descriptions of Isamu, he is seen as a man of importance, but with that, he displays arrogance and condescending behavior toward Oseki.  She points out, “You know, for the first six months or so after we were married, he was always at my side, doing everything he could for me. But as soon as Tarō was born—it’s frightening how much a man can change!” (Ichiyō 2.8).

Because “The Thirteenth Night” was written in the early 1900s and takes place in Japan in Japanese culture, there were no marriage or family counselors to talk to them about the changes that happen between a husband and wife after the birth of their first child.

We don’t know the details of their backstory, other than their relationship changed after their son was born, and it somehow led to Isamu’s negative changes and infidelities, although infidelities committed by husbands were not unusual in that time period or culture for married couples.  Clearly, there was a break in their relationship that had lost the element of self-sacrifice as well as mutual respect in their marriage.

Oseki’s parents show the customary love and support toward her. However, her father tells her, “Even if he is fussy and a little difficult sometimes, it’s still a wife’s duty to humor her husband” (Ichiyō 2.9). He also reminds her of the consequences of leaving her husband–never being able to see Tarō again.

In the mutual respect between Oseki and her parents, Oseki honors her father in a show of obedience, selflessness, and love, by ultimately making the decision to stay with her husband.

Oseki stays true to the core element of relationships–self-sacrifice.  She reaffirms this after she leaves her parents’ house and takes a rickshaw back home. She discovers the man driving the rickshaw is a childhood friend, Roku, who had once loved her and she him.  He shares all of his struggles in his present life since Oseki’s marriage.  She shares in his pains by saying, “You’re not the only one to suffer in this sad world…” (Ichiyō 2.10).

Once they have finished their conversation, they both go on with their own lives, showing self-sacrifice for the greater good instead of their own desires, keeping their relationships intact.

The difficult decision between the sacrifice of self and the family in “The Thirteenth Night” is explored in the short story, “Punishment,” through the protagonist, Chandara’s decision between life and death; in reconciling her marriage or dying for a crime she didn’t commit.

In dealing with combative relationships with her sister-in-law, Radha, and husband, Chidam, there is very little family support or show of the core element of self-sacrifice in Chandara’s family and marriage.  The story begins with the brothers Dukhiram and Chidam working in the fields with the sound of the daily squabbles between Chandara and Radha being heard throughout the village.

When the brothers get home, Dukhiram has a heated argument with his wife, Radha, and ends up killing her. He crumples to the floor in tears, scared and shocked by what he’d done and what would happen to him.

This terrible incident leads to the brothers consulting with a well-respected citizen of stature in the village. Chidam fears the fate of his brother and decides to say his wife killed Radha instead of his brother. Dukhiram accepts Chidam’s story out of fear and does not question blaming his crime on his sister-in-law.

It is understandable that Chidam would be alarmed and very concerned about his brother because their relationship is very close–they share a house and work together–but in Dukhiram’s cowardness, he does not show self-sacrifice and admit to the authorities that he killed Radha.

The marital relationship of Chidam and Chandara is cluttered with pride, pigheadedness, and jealousy.  Chidam cares more for his brother than his wife as demonstrated when he says to Ramlochan Chakrabarti, an important and outstanding member of the village, “If I lose my wife, I can get another, but if my brother is hanged, how can I replace him?” (Tagore 3.3).

It is true that Chidam only has his one brother, and it is understandable that he would want to save his brother from the damning consequences of his crime, but sacrificing his wife isn’t commendable.  This shows a lack of respect by Chidam for Chandara, and that he views Chandara as less important and inferior to his brother, which was the norm in Indian society at the time.

In his fears for his brother’s circumstances, Chidam adds insult to injury by informing his wife of his plan, for which Chandara is taken aback.  To lessen the blow, he tells her, “Don’t worry—if you do what I tell you, you’ll be quite safe” (Tagore 3.4), but he is not very confident later when he tells her he will get her out of the murder charge soon.  Angry and hurt, Chandara accepts the blame. The actions of Chidam show a deficit in self-sacrificial love to his spouse in their marriage.

In front of the village authorities, headstrong and hurt, Chandara confesses to the crime and later sticks to her confession in court even after Chidam and Dukhiram break down and tell the truth when they are in court.  In prison, Chandara shows her contempt for her husband in not accepting his request to visit her in jail.  She shows pride and desire for revenge against Chidam for hurting her that ultimately leads to her self-sacrifice to be free from her relationship with him by the authorities executing her for the crime (Tagore 3.5).

Both of the marriages in “Punishment” end in death through senseless acts.  The core element of self-sacrifice is twisted in the marital relationship between Chandara and Chidam, whereas she does sacrifice her life for Chidam’s brother, but she does not do it for selfless or honorable reasons.

The two main female characters in “The Thirteenth Night” and “Punishment” struggle with self-sacrifice in their marital relationships by defying their husbands, impacting their families and communities, one temporarily, the other permanently.

In the Japanese culture, “The Thirteenth Night” shows the tradition of collectivism where one makes the sacrifice for the greater good of the whole in the family and community, whereas.

The Indian story, “Punishment,” shows self-sacrifice in giving up one’s life through anger, retaliation, and to be free from the restrictive bonds of marriage and norms.

In the present day, self-sacrifice is still the most endearing and important element in marriage, family, and other relationships.

 

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Works Cited
Ichiyō, Higuchi.  “The Thirteenth Night.” Trans. Robert Lyons Danly. Modern World Literature. Asheville NC: Soomo Publishing, 2016. Web.
Tagore, Rabindranath.  “Punishment.”  Trans. William Radice.  Modern World
Literature.  Asheville NC:  Soomo Publishing, 2016.  Web.