Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Crisis: Relationship tension, fighting, and resolution--INKBLOTS

I read an article my friend Greg Bailey at Crossway shared about new research on common themes of bestsellers. Marriage, love (not reduced to illicit sex), human closeness, and work topped the list of themes explored by bestselling authors. It sounds like human beings remain fascinated with the primal relationships and responsibilities God ordained in the beginning. You want to write a bestseller? Okay, start by immersing yourself in the bestseller of all time, the Bible.

Inkblots tonight, warm autumn evening, the Scriptorium warm and toasty (new heat pump belching out a steady breath of warm air as the sun sets, evening falls, and temperatures begin to drop). We had a new guest this evening, welcome, David. And regulars John, Patrick, Alisa, Sophia, Rachel, and yours truly (Dougie Mac and Bob R had better things to do, snubbed us, humph).

Alisa leads off with an award-winning story (entered in a writing contest and won; do this) she wrote seven years ago and is now dusting off and reworking, a prank gone wrong. 1970s but make more clear about hard line or cell phone, for Patrick. Begins with a call to 911 dispatcher, his brother missing, awkward to describe his brother. I like the way Alisa writes one side of the phone conversation but gives us clear impression of what was said on the other end, though we don't actually hear what is said. Brother goes hunting for his brother while law enforcement is on its way. Not at the logging camp; where had they taken his brother? David likes the way Alisa had the Led Zeppelin song grate on him. Creating tension on multiple levels. Description of room, algebra homelike lying about. Patrick pointed out that Alisa is showing not telling, so well. What are areas she wants to change and improve. There's great benefit to switching genre and projects, fiction to nonfiction, article to poetry, blog post to different topic blog post, and did I mention poetry? Alisa is writing from the point of view of a teen male, "Not deep thinkers," she tells us, with total candor and precise accuracy for the vast majority. David, a psychologist, agrees that the male brain doesn't fully develop until twenty-three. Sounds generous to me. Alisa's protagonist is years out on that score.  Alisa brings a range of writing experience to 'Blots, with several newspaper articles on her writing plate right now, and the final push on Swiftwater to book in hand.

John reads from Saving Grace, Grace is abortion-minded, her dad a cop dealing with a grim crime scene, "refuse" from an abortion clinic, murder of two children, but MDs did it and its just medical waste. She has just told her parents. Who spoke words of comfort to her distraught daughter--show us this, don't tell us. Dean said tenderly, but is he a tender guy? He sounds too nice. His throat felt as dry as death valley--kills this, or alter to avoid cliche. From what I've read about his character, this seems not how he would react, at least at first. Sorry I interrupted, seems unrealistic. I think there needs to be more rapid exchange dialogue here. What does the mom say, the day reply, or retort? Grace says a few words, parents interject. Have Dean be torn; he wants her to abort to save her scholarship, his job, their reputation as a family, everything. But then images of what he saw at crime scene. War Games, filmed in part in Steilacoom, David reminds us of a moment when they have a brawl over whether a human or a computer can push the button. Purpose of this scene was to give background to the depth of what they are about to do. Bring audience up to speed, fill in back story, in a fight. The reader is riveted, but also getting the back story needed for the rest of the yarn to work. Backstory can stall the pace or be an opportunity for intensity. Make this scene a fight, one that only gradually simmers down, but make the reader wonder if it will resolve satisfactory, but deeply want it to resolve right. Sophia comments on the dialogue, girl in this place, telling her parents that she is pregnant, or some other parent child conflict, is going to be explosive in the extreme.

Sophia reads from her point of view, from various blogs, coming together for a book of encouragement mostly for women. Challenge is bringing things together from. Going from blog voice to book voice. From Lament to Love: Finding God in Life's Darkest Places. I like the description of awkwardness at a first meeting, handshake, but not too firm, too sweaty in the palm, arms crossed, well done. This from Sophia's role as a personal trainer. Honesty coming out, and the feeling of hypocrisy. Insecurity of being chronically ill but being a physical trainer, in a role to tell others how to be well and fit, when she didn't feel well and fit herself. Good job of directing the reader to the Lord, God in holy community with himself, the Trinity, so we are called to live in community. We need one another. In the darkest places the light will shine through, the Psalms. This is very good material, maturing spiritual reflections, honesty, candor. I have found that I learn best from story, mine, yes, but the myriad of other people's stories too. Consider a story/expound pattern something like Colson does in Loving God maybe. I love your direction to the Word, Lamentations. Chapters organized around themes (as in The Prophet). Patrick asked if it will be stories, rather than abstract reflections, essays. Using conversations, dialogue. I'm a fake, stick with what you began with. Inclusio, end introduction or chapter where you began it. Are there more than one book in this material? Probably. Patrick had lots of good ideas about this piece, including being intentional in the tone, blogging tone that is more intrusive, or book tone where the author disappears more. Can you write this as a chronology? Where you are able to show the sequence of your own change.

I was just reading Isaiah 60 (I find myself parked in this section of Isaiah, the Gospel according to Isaiah. There will be no sun or moon in the New Jerusalem; Christ will be our everlasting Light. Thinking about your title, Sophia, and the direction of your manuscript. I wonder if Being Found of God in Life's Darkest... might not be more accurate?

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