No Whining Wednesday – no reflection in boiling water

I think I’ve been away from this blog the longest since starting these past few months! I miss you guys! Which is why I am taking time out to chitchat with you this morning (evening for some of us). The air in Georgia is cool but I am not complaining about the cold for the first time since ever. There’s a bite to the air that’s refreshing and the warm coffee I am drinking is hugging my insides. There is a gloomy cast over the city as I am writing this and it sets the perfect tone. If you are new to No Whining Wednesday, be sure to visit the original post here to learn more about this segment. I haven’t done an NWW post in a while so we are far overdo.


The No Whining Wednesday Badge

I read a quote earlier this week that stayed with me. The quote said:

I encourage you to try this for yourself. It will be fun and drive the point home. Set water to a boil. Once it’s boiling good, try to see your reflection in the water. Can you see anything or is the steam too much? Let the water cool and then try again. The cooler the water, the easier it will be to see your reflection. Even after the water settles, it is difficult to see yourself if the water is still too hot.

When you are hot, popping off and steaming, you can’t think logically. You can only think emotionally. You can only think with what you are feeling at the moment. This isn’t always bad (not all stress is bad…some stress is good because it gets you excited, motivated, and charged) but too much and it blurs your vision. Only after you’ve cooled off can you see the situation clearly enough to make a sound decision.

I came upon a Facebook memory the other day that fits this well. In the post, I said the following:



And I’ll leave it here. You got this.

p.s. The Gutenberg WordPress editor is not so bad! Perhaps a bit unnecessary since the classic is easier to use but not so bad. I used it for this post and I’ll do a short tutorial soon.

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A Lifetime

“Lifetime relationships are a bit more difficult to let go of. When a parent, child, or spouse is involved, the wounds are very deep. When the end of a lifetime relationship comes, you may feel that you would be better off dead. The pain seems to grow, the memories linger, a part of your life is dying. You relive every painful moment in an attempt to understand. Your job is not to understand. Your job is to accept. Lifetime relationships  teach you lifetime lessons; those things you must  build upon in order to have a solid emotional foundation. They are the most difficult lessons to learn, the most painful to accept; yet these are the things you need in order to grow. When you are facing a separation of the end of a lifetime relationship, the key is to find the lesson; love the person anyway; move on and put what you have learned to use in all other relationships. A new life begins when a part of life ends.”- Jasheem Wilson

Editing For Emotion

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As I enter another revision stage for Book #3 in The Stella Trilogy, and I prepare for that final edit, I found this article extremely helpful. While we hear a lot about action and keeping the story moving, it is true that you don’t hear much about editing for emotion. I know many people do not click third party links, but I discovered this article written by Laura Drake that hit the nail on the head. To the authors credit, I will only post an excerpt of the article. Please visit Laura’s website for its entirety.

The Most Important Edit No One Talks About By Laura Drake

“Everyone knows about ground level edits – copy/line/stylistic edits that look at sentence structure and grammar – they’re small, but important.

We all know those two edits are critical.

But there’s another edit that is very seldom talked about, that could take your manuscript from good to sold.

I call it the 5,000 foot edit. It’s the edit for EMOTION. I don’t care if you’re writing a romance or a legal or espionage thriller; if you don’t have a solid bedrock of emotion in your book, you’re not going to have readers. It’s what they come for! Think of your favorite author. Why is he your favorite? I’ll bet right up there with plot, is the emotion. If we don’t have emotion, the reader won’t care about your character. And that’s a story-killer.

Have I convinced you? Okay, let’s move on to how to do this thing.

In a book, regardless of genre, the character has to grow, right? So you need to follow the character’s arc, and be sure it happens in a timely, logical fashion. It’s okay if the character grows in fits and starts, or even if they progress, then back up a few steps. As long as their character arc doesn’t look like this:

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A problem I’ve seen (and had) is that the character seems bipolar, going from laughing to angry to loving in three paragraphs. For emotion to be satisfying, it has to be deep. Take those three paragraphs, and dig deeper. It doesn’t mean you have to turn three paragraphs into three pages – sometimes a visceral hit and a one sentence reminder of the emotion will do:

This is from my RITA winner, The Sweet Spot:

The red flowers had some brown edges, and looked a bit bug-eaten. She’d planned to stop at Wal-Mart and pick up a bouquet on the way to the cemetery, but . . . Her stomach settled a bit. “These are Benje’s flowers. He’s not going to care about a few bugs.” She headed for the tool shed, to find her clippers.

I added a sentence of dialog that added emotion – a reminder to the reader of an emotional memory: working in the garden with her child (the child she’s going to visit in the cemetery). See?

No matter what genre you’re writing, not all scenes are action. If they are, you’re going to wear out your reader in no time. It’ll be a fast read, but also, unsatisfying, because in action, you can only show flashes of emotion – like paint splattered on a canvas, rather that brush-stroked on. You need what Dwight Swain, in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer (a ‘must have’ on your craft shelf, IMHO) calls a ‘sequel scene’.

A quiet scene, where the POV character can reflect on what just happened, and compare the results to his world-view. These are the scenes that move him along his growth arc. You can only do that by getting deep into the emotion – because that character’s flaws in his world-view usually come from damage in his childhood: abuse, neglect, or even over-indulgence (poor little rich kid). And that’s emotional. Be sure you’re plumbing all that good stuff.” – Laura Drake

Finish Reading

Discouragement

Close-up of an English Bulldog Puppy, 2 months old, in a wicker basket, isolated on white I am not a robot for one. I have feelings and every now and again I do get discouraged. For me personally, these moments arrive during times I find it hard to measure my improvement or lack thereof. Especially when I know I have done all that I could do to ensure the proper outcome. It is always a good thing, in general,  to notice every little bit of advancement in our lives. To be able to recognize every step in the right direction, but  sometimes it’s just hard to see where that is exactly. “Did I take a step forward or backward?”  Despite the rising of the sun, every waking moment is not complete with rainbows and lollypops. As a result, you begin to feel that your work is not of value, that it is hopeless and brought forth in vain because despite talk of inspiration and encouragement, everyday ain’t beautiful. Sometimes I ask myself, “Why did I do that? Why do I do this? It doesn’t really matter anyway. No one listens and no one cares.”

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While we have all had (and have) our moments, discouragement can lead to different things. On the one hand, it can lead to a path of giving up, giving in to something of far lesser value, or not trying hard enough. But on a more positive note, it can help keep us humble in areas where we need to get over ourselves. It can help us to see what mistakes we’ve made and what flaws exist. Here’s a fun quote to help you to push back that first impulse to quit, push down that initial fear, push through feelings of helplessness and push ahead. It is then that you are less likely to find someone (or something) to blame, and to instead find a way through.

“Never say that you can’t do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can’t be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds” – Mike Norton

Emotional Hair

“Can you remove your hood in the store ma’am?”

That was the last I heard of the store clerk after removing the hood. I’d stepped once more into a sea of misplaced smiles, the check-out line occupied by a mixture of awe and wonder, of marvel and disgust alike. And it all started six years ago.

January 3, 2009

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My husband and I were in Norman Oklahoma for a documentary production to which we were preparing to premier that summer. Meanwhile, I’d become fed up with the perm and decided I was no longer going to be engaged in such a one sided relationship. I was tired of complaining about what to do with it and tired of it not growing much in return. What did this hair think it was anyway? I was supposed to spend money on perms and braids while it just sat there. Nope. I was not having it. And so while at my sister’s house, letting her husband and mine occupy the office while we did girl things, I decided right then and there to let her twist my hair.

It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I had no idea how deeply I would fall for this new thing in my life, or how much emotion something as seemingly unimportant as hair, would garner.

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It was easy in the beginning. Like any other relationship the “newlywed” phase was going smoothly. While I mostly kept it covered with head wraps to which I had also fell for, my selfie game was tight. This was before Facebook though and I wasn’t really into MySpace, so most of these pictures were not published online. That was ok though because this was just the beginning. I couldn’t be sharing this new love of my life with everyone. It was like I had met myself for the first time. I felt alive, strong, and free.

Eventually, I could not keep my hair under wraps for too long. I loved the head wraps but they had become hot and uncomfortable. My hair was growing faster than it had in my life and was attempting to crawl down my back. In addition, I started to enjoy the look of myself without the head wrap even more. My hair was no longer just a combination of DNA strands emerging from the follicles of my scalp, but it was part of everything I did. I had to take into account the way my hair looked when I got dressed, and when I added accessories. “Does this hair go with these shoes? Hmmm”. Now, I was ready to hit the streets.

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No, not like that (get your minds out the gutter). I mean I was ready to take on the world. That is when I noticed it. This hair took on more attention than I did. It stopped people in the streets. Stopped them mid-sentence. It even momentarily stopped women from shopping (now that’s serious!) How could they risk going on without asking me how I got my hair like that? Men too marveled, “See I want my hair that thick”, they would say. It was really something and opened the door to deeper questions of identity. I often get questions concerning where I’m from. They think I’m going to reply:

Nigeria”.

Instead I say, “I’m originally from Chicago”.

“Oh”, they say and continue to stare. I smile because I get it. They are confused because I don’t look like an American. I like that.

Trouble in Paradise

Not all of the attention brought on by this hair is good. There are a lot of people who look at me like I disgust them. In truth it is because they’re curious about me. It is not just my hair that is different and they can sense it. This brings me to the beginning of this post.

“Can you remove your hood in the store ma’am?”

It was the last thing I heard before my feet was crossing the threshold out of Family Dollar. The few customers present bathed me in eyeballs and the employees spoke in whispers among themselves. After ringing me up the man didn’t bother to inform me on the final cost of my products. It was as if he thought I could read his mind. Good thing I can count. I peered over the computer screen and paid what was due. With that I walked out of the store. No one ever said a word.

First you get people all excited, then curious, angry, surprised, and even fearful. Look at you turning heads and opening minds, you emotional hair you!

Emotional Response

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Everyone is made up of emotions. I have them. You have them. We all have them. We are human, and as such we feel. In a sense we are always reacting based on our emotions. Whether we research information or gather enough facts to deem us intelligent, for the most part majority of us will still respond emotionally. If we’re angry we will project an action accordingly. If we are sad our environment will be soaked up with gloom. If we are excited our blog post may just burst forth in a joyous frenzy and perhaps we’ll make a mistake or two. Our excitement may move us too fast or in another direction. Whatever the case may be, chances are your next move will be less based on the facts and more so based on emotion. The problem with this is that reacting emotionally can do away with logic. It takes the simple and makes it far more complicated. It blurs the vision and steers into the direction of flesh and bone and feel and touch rather than common sense. Open doors become blocked by people shouting and pointing fingers. They curse and stomp and accuse and it ignites a fire under you. You curse and stomp and accuse them back, pointing your fingers in their faces because after all, mama ain’t raise no fool, no fear, no punks grew up in her house. Yet all the while the door is open, hanging tirelessly upon its hinges for you to walk through it. Suddenly there is no door, there is no opportunity, just you and emotion yelling and screaming at a mere image of your very self. The next time you feel yourself responding emotionally to a situation stop and count the facts. Try to understand that reason is first invisible until we are ready to accept it for what it is. I guarantee that you will eventually see the door.