Sunday, November 17, 2013

Check the Foundation

"...But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”
Luke 6:49


Today a friend who is from the Philippines was asked about family members who may have been hit by the typhoon recently. She gladly exclaimed that no family members were hurt by the storm.

She did go on to tell us that when Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos were leaders of the Philippines, they built many high rise hotels and buildings on a foundation of sand. They did this for outward appearances only. They wanted the world to think that Manila was an important tourist destination open for business to those traveling around the world.

Now that the worst typhoon on record hit the islands, the truth is out: the buildings are dangerous because they have a weak foundation.


This story reminded me of another story told at a writers conference recently by author, Ellen Hopkins.

As Ellen began to tell her story, she used the remodeling of her home as a metaphor for what she and her family had been through over the years.

She was a successful writer of children's non-fiction. She traveled all over the country and met interesting people while doing research for her books. She wrote and sold many books and reaped the rewards of her efforts. As a result, she was able to remodel the home she shared with her husband and children. Life was good.

And that's when the contractor informed her that the house they lived in had no foundation. 

You can imagine her shock! Immediately, the workers began remodeling from the bottom up.

Ellen Hopkins related to us how she thought her life had a solid foundation, too. She thought her life could withstand any storm that came. And that's when everything hit...

One weekend, her fifteen year old daughter went on a camping trip with friends and on this trip she met The Monster. An older boy on the trip introduced Ellen's daughter to crystal meth. The Monster revealed that her family had no foundation and would need to be remodeled from the bottom up.

As a way of dealing with the tragic events that would unfold, Ellen Hopkins wrote the book, Crank. It went on to be a hugely successful novel...the novel she had always dreamed of writing...and led to many sequels.

Now she is rich beyond her wildest dreams, but her family is forever shaken, her daughter remains in prison, but Ellen has learned a powerful lesson: always build on a solid foundation.

"...he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built."
Luke 6:48

How's the Foundation?

Her story and the story of the Philippines got me thinking this morning. I realized I needed to check my foundation. Was my life built on sand trying to appeal to people with outer appearances only? Or was my life built on the solid foundation of rock?

You see, I may not have the fame and fortune that Ellen Hopkins has as an author, but I do have a solid foundation in Jesus Christ, the Cornerstone that aligns everything in my life. This Rock cannot be shaken even by the most powerful storms.

I may not have that beautiful mountain view Ellen Hopkins has when she looks out her living room window, but I have a mansion in glory awaiting me and when Christ returns, I shall see Him descending from the clouds. I'd rather have that view than any other!

I don't know if Ellen Hopkins has Christ as her foundation today, but I do know that Christ is the only solid Rock that we should build our lives upon.

That's where my comfort and security come matter what the storm. My foundation will hold.

You turn: On what is your life built upon? Christ warned His children not to be like those who built on sand. How's your foundation?


My books and many other Christian books
are available through my publisher, OakTara. 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Inciting Incident

The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, 
but what we are unable to say.
  ~Anaïs Nin

Inciting Incident

I love talking about inciting incident with my writing students, because you can see the thought process happening right before your eyes once the term is explained. 

So what is meant by "inciting incident" in writing?

To me, that's the most creative part about writing: the one BIG thing that happens to your protagonist that will change their life forever. 

Think about the plane crash in Castaway. Or the space debris hitting Sandra Bullock in Gravity. Or how about in books when Ishmael decides to go "shipping" aboard a whaler in Moby Dick. Or when the father dies in Sense and Sensibility

But not all inciting incidents are tragedies...

In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, the inciting incident is when he receives an invitation to Hogwarts and discovers he's a wizard. That's a wonderful thing! 

In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, it is when Lucy enters the wardrobe. In The Lord of the Rings, we see that when Frodo volunteers to take The Ring to Mount Doom, his life will never be the same again. Finally, in my book, The Dragon Forest, the inciting incident happens when Prince Peter enters the Dragon Forest...

What about your story?

Stop and think about the inciting incident in your own story. Is it a major incident that will indeed change your protagonist's life forever or just for the time being?

I had one student say that he doesn't want to have an inciting incident in his story. He just wants his character to lead a nice quiet life. Who wants to read a story like that? No one leads a nice quiet life...that's what makes it life.

So, I told him about a man who also wanted to live a nice quiet life. He worked hard and endured a world war so he had earned the right to that quiet life. He was about to retire form the Army when Pearl Harbor was attacked. As a result, this man was now thrust into yet another world war and that nice quiet life would have to wait many years because after serving in that war, he went on to be President of the United States long before he retired to a nice quiet life. As my student contemplated what was General Eisenhower's life, he realized that a good story requires an inciting incident, otherwise it isn't much of a story. 

Without WWII, Dwight Eisenhower would have disappeared into history unknown to the world. Perhaps, looking back, he would've preferred that.


That's how the inciting incident should affect your story. It should interrupt the usual and ordinary life of your character. 

Go back and read your inciting incident. It should occur somewhere near the end of Act I of your story. Some stories begin with it, but most end Act I with the inciting incident leaving the reader/viewer wanting more. 

Does your character encounter a life changing event like winning the lottery or falling through a portal into another universe? If the incident isn't that big or doesn't have that much of an impact on your character, you need to revisit it. 

Life happens. It should happen to your character. Look at your own life. You have probably encountered many inciting incidents in your own life:

  • marriage
  • birth of children
  • death of a loved one
  • new job
  • being fired
  • moving across country
  • serving in war
  • loss of a child
  • loss of a parent
  • divorce
  • remarriage
  • new home

...and on, and on, and on. Some incidents were wonderful! Some, not so much. Such is life.

And So it Goes...

After looking back over your own life, you can see how that one inciting incident moved you forward and changed things forever. That's how it has to be for your protagonist. If it isn't that major, that powerful, that REAL...then your readers will yawn and put down your story.

Make it real for your readers!

Your turn: what's the best inciting incident you've read in a book or saw in a movie? What made it so powerful to you?


Monday, November 4, 2013

Book Release Event

After three years of writing and revising and more revising...the day had come.
My second book, The Dragon Forest II: Son of the Oath was released in late September, 2013!!

So, it was time to celebrate with family and friends.

Book Signing/Reading Event

This past Saturday I hosted my book release event at the Foothills Branch Library in Glendale, AZ.

It was such a gorgeous day out and we had many friends and family stop by.

The books were set up and we were ready to go!

I spoke about the inspiration for my Dragon Forest trilogy...

...and then read a chapter from the book. I am so nervous reading for adults! I'm not used to it.

One happy author right there! Relieved that people actually showed up!

Time for cake!  My friend, Catherine, made me a dragon cake.

My wonderfully supportive husband slicing my dragon cake. It was yummy!!

So grateful for the Foothills Public Library. They are very supportive of new local authors.

Celebrating with good friends!

At the end, we relaxed at dinner with family. I had a chilled glass of wine. That did the trick!

It takes so much time to complete a book. It requires patience and dedication to edit the book down. Most of all, it takes faith in God to wait for that book to come out!

I am grateful to ALL who make it possible: my husband for helping and supporting me, my AWESOME editors for sharing their talents, knowledge, and skills, my publisher for believing in a new author and seeing potential in my stories, and my friends for listening to all my whining and complaining!

I am eternally grateful to the Lord for bestowing on me this little gift of seeing my books in the hands of readers. No bigger thrill than that!

Thank you all who took the time out of a busy day to share in my joy!