Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day Writing Prompt - Be Inspired by Poetry

The writing prompt is a little different this Monday. I hope you won't mind my alluding to Memorial Day and posting the poem below as a reminder of those who have lost their lives in battle. If you would like more information on the history of Memorial Day and the subsequent selling of silk poppies, which was inspired by the poem below, please see an article, which I previously posted on the Novel PASTimes blog.

John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields surrounded by war and suffering in France. In 1915, after a young friend of McCrae’s died, he performed the funeral in the absence of a chaplain. Prompted by this death, McCrae poured out his emotional response to what he’d been experiencing as a physician during WWI, by penning these words.

In Flanders Fields
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD 
Canadian Army

In Flanders fields the poppies blow   
Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Writers can easily be inspired by such heartfelt, beautiful poetry. Today’s writing prompt is multiple choice: 

1) Write a poem about what Memorial Day means to you. 2) Use In Flanders Fields as a prompt to write a scene involving war. Or 3) Write a “thank you” note to those who have given their lives or served in the military.  

Use one or more of the above ideas and be inspired to gratefulness! And great writing!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

May Saturday Spiritual Uplift - Ants in the Pantry!

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. (Eph. 6:13-18, NLT)

Something moved. I saw it from the corner of my eye. For a moment I excused it as a shadow, but I had a hunch it was more than that. After I had pulled a couple of napkins from their basket in the pantry I stopped and lifted it—and screamed. Jointed black dots on a hodgepodge of legs scrambled from the disturbance and the light—ants. I soon discovered they were actually foraging the honey, which had dripped onto the shelf in a couple of spots. One of those sticky places I had inadvertently overlooked.
I pulled everything off that shelf and the next. Soon my countertops were covered with bags and boxes from rice to cereal, canned goods, crackers and more. What a mess! I peeled fairly new paper off the shelves. I wiped down anything remotely sticky, tossed out anything that hadn’t been sealed properly and was sweet. I bagged up the remains and waited.

We had squashed as many ants as we could catch, but still, some hid in the crevices. I had scrubbed the shelves clean, and each evening a few less ants returned. After a few days of enduring messy counter tops, I was able to place clean shelf paper and rearrange the cupboards, returning the contents. Every evening I was on ant patrol. Each day I found less of them and eventually I sprinkled cayenne pepper on the shelves to keep them away, which seemed to help.

Me. Against. The ants. Though I have a bigger brain and more brawn, the ants had been a formidable foe, an irritation to overcome in their relentless pursuit of honey. Even the Lord told us in Proverbs 6:6: Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.
 Learn from their ways and become wise!

We have a greater foe in the spiritual realm, an invisible foe: A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. (Eph. 6:10-12, NLT)

Yet God is so much greater than the devil and his army. We have an infinite resource in in the Holy Spirit. He battles on our behalf in ways we can’t even fathom. Invisible ways. Sometimes, when our prayers our answered, the veil is peeled back and we see the victory that Jesus has won. Perhaps someone we’ve been praying for many years comes back to the faith or newly finds it, loved ones are freed from the grip of deceit or addiction, marriages are restored; we ourselves, have our eyes opened anew to truth. Perhaps the Lord gives us supernatural grace to endure something in a way we didn’t think possible. Whatever it may be, we have a glimpse of victories in a holy, invisible realm. How much more haven't we seen of the Lord Jesus, commander-in-chief of His own army, winning on our behalf?

Don’t give up hope or quit the battle. The Lord’s power is so much greater than
the accuser of the brethren, infinitely more so than my power over the ants,
for which I am very thankful.

Lord, please help us to put on Your armor each day, to remember that Your power is beyond all others and to know that You are always with us, fighting our battles. Help us to rest in You. In Jesus’s name, amen.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Weekly Writing Prompt

Having ridden on a ferry back and forth to Mackinac Island, as well as cruised under the bridge, this past weekend, I have been blessed to feel the lake breeze on my face (and sting my ears). The waters of Lakes Huron and Michigan sparkled like aqua-blue tinted gems in the May sunshine. Greening buds were springing to life on the island and both sides of the straits. The air was scented with a promise of a late spring, but not every day on the water is so perfect.

Writing Prompt: You’re in a small motorboat fishing, when fog quickly rolls in. Before you know it, a ferry is heading for you and they don’t seem to be aware you’re in their path. You . . .

What will you do next?

Disclaimer: Of course the photo above has been doctored to suit our purposes and I’m sure this is unlikely to happen in the Straits of Mackinac. Enjoy being creative with the scenario anyway!

Check out my friend, author Karla Akin's, blog today! It’s her birthday and she’s giving away her book! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KARLA!

And tomorrow is my son, Matthew's, birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MATTHEW!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I’m an Aunt! Well, Sort of . . .

Dad said he and Mom were grandparents—duck grandparents, that is. For the second year in a row, a mama duck came to make a little nest and lay her eggs in a small bush in front of the house. Of course, at first I watched the duck from the sidelight, thinking of how delicious she might be, but then this whole family thing came up. If Mom and Dad are grandparents then I guess the duck is like my foster sister or something and it’s probably not appropriate to eat family members.

Soon after, I thought perhaps I would make a great protector if she left the nest to find something to eat, but I never had the chance to prove myself outside. Because of this, I just practiced looking ferocious through the sidelight or the screen door if the inside door was open.

Early last week, my fluffy, fuzzy nieces and nephews hatched from the shelter of their little eggs. I’m not sure how many there were, because while they were dancing around celebrating their birthday, the mama duck was lifting her wings and trying to herd them underneath where she could keep them safe. Like I was saying, if I’d had a chance, I would’ve liked to get out there to help. Oh well. Mom did snap a picture of a couple of the ducklings peeking out from under their mama. 

During the night she must have taken her little family, waddling after her to the nearby pond, so they could begin their life in the big world. I couldn’t get over how yummy, er, I mean, cute they were. Hopefully the ducklings will be safe from all the other predators wherever they are. All we found left in the nest was one eggshell. The mystery is how the other shells disappeared. 

That is the tale of how I became a foster aunt, for a short time anyways. “Aunt Lily,” I like the sound of that! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Taking Time for a Teapot

I enjoy shopping for antiques and collectibles. It’s fun to find a vintage or retro treasure or two . . .
maybe more. The photo below is of a hand painted Lefton teapot in the Magnolia pattern. It’s vintage at best. I usually like roses on china, but something about the delicate look of the hand painted flowers called to me. I suppose it rather reminds me of the Desert Rose pattern of my good dishes.

The teapot was acquired on a recent trip to Lakeville, Minnesota, visiting a place called Hot Sam’s. This antique store, housed in a two-story log cabin, contains an eclectic mix of items. The long driveway is flanked by unique metal sculptures and cast-offs, such as classic cars and junkers, statues, etc.

Searching through the stacks of teacups and saucers I wondered what kinds of homes the china pieces had come from, a middle class home? Or an upper class estate? Or were they treasured pieces in a poor family, handed down by a beloved grandmother? While they probably didn’t come from any place like Downton Abbey, I still thought each plate, cup, creamer, teapot has a story.

This week’s writing prompt: She placed the Magnolia teapot on the table, while she waited for her guests. As they arrived . . .

Ideas: You can write about 1) the ensuing tea party, 2) show a conversation with the teapot in use or 3) write about what the teapot means to the hostess. How has she acquired it?

Come back Wednesday for a new installment of "Wednesday Whimsy" with Lilybits, the tail-less wonder and see what she has to say this week.

{PD} image from the Graphics Fairy

Monday, May 5, 2014

May Monday Motivation - Character "Analysis"

Sometimes creating deeper characters requires the writer to practically become an amateur psychologist
when they study the different kinds of people there are in the world. While we often seek to understand those we love for the sake of relationship, we need to examine our characters in their environment for authenticity. Where can you find some tools?

A task-oriented leader.
A Greek physician and philosopher in the Roman Empire, Galen, used the four humors, or bodily fluids, to categorize temperaments, or personalities. To simplify greatly, the four were: choleric – tightly wound, type A and task-oriented; melancholy – introverted, deep thinker, focused; sanguine – playful, extroverted and enjoys being with people, giving energy to those around them; phlegmatic – laid back, slower to make decisions, steadfast and patient. Again, this is greatly simplified. Gary Smalley refers to the choleric as a “lion”, the sanguine as an “otter”, the melancholy as a “beaver” and the phlegmatic as a “golden retriever”.
Fun loving and friendly!
Steadfast and loyal friend.
While this is based on an older system, which developed over time, newer ways of discovering personality strengths and weaknesses, such as the Meyers-Briggs assessments, score four basic categories. However these are combined to make sixteen different types, depending on the scores in each category. This method is more exacting and can perhaps tell you more about a person.  They are based on these groups: 1) Extroversion or Introversion (E or I), 2) Sensing or Intuition (S or N), 3) Thinking or Feeling (T or F), 4) Judging or Perceiving (J or P).  Description summaries of all sixteen personality types can be found on the Meyer and Brigg Foundation website.
Focused worker.

If you have trouble bringing depth to your characters, you may find that understanding these different types may help you better decide how your character may think or act in a given situation. How will your characters relate to one another? Some more character-driven writers will perhaps have a natural intuition for this, but hard-core plotters may find help with analyzing characters by personality types, thus adding another layer to characterization.

For example, your social butterfly heroine, Gigi, is out shopping for an outfit. She’s wearing a fuchsia sweater with leopard print leggings and high-heeled boots. She wants to get the attention of your hero at an upcoming dinner party. Will she likely: a) Find a neutral colored business suit then go for coffee with a friend to discuss the merits of such a purchase? b) Find an outlandishly expensive, short red taffeta dress embellished with sequins, buy it impulsively and call her best friend on the way home to tell her about it? c) Put a smart, conservative black dress on lay away and tell her cat, Mr. Piddles, about it when she comes home, before she writes in her diary? d) None of the above.

Okay, if you chose b, this is what I had in mind for the quintessential fun loving otter, who in this case is perhaps a bit artsy and flighty. Her loud every day outfit, her desire to get the guy’s attention and “why not be the talk of the party while she’s at it?” attitude hopefully bring this out. And of course, she must call her best friend immediately. The other two choices are, well, probably too tame and unlikely for Gigi. You want to keep things consistent and authentic. Think what is my character like and what would she choose or do in each situation? This helps build the layers of an authentic, three dimensional character, a person your reader will want to know better.

If you’re in a pinch to match a hero and heroine you may find the book 45 Master Characters, Revised Edition: Mythic Models for Creating Original Characters helpful.  This book does a lot of groundwork for you by revealing basic male and female character archetypes. With learning more about the kinds of characters who have become classics throughout the ages, you can have a foundation for building your protagonist, antagonist and even supporting roles.

The Writer’s Journey, which I discussed in another post, is also helpful for building authentic characters and understanding the journey you want to set out for them in your story. How will your characters be influenced and affected by the world around them?

Just remember, if you’re going to be an amateur, armchair psychologist, please keep your practice to the people in your head!

Writing Prompt: I love Victorian or Edwardian settings! Take a few minutes, using this photograph of a parlor in a lighthouse to write about the people who may have sat upon this sofa together. Have fun!