setting the stage

I’m creating a novel template for myself. I’m combing through my craft binders and books to get an organized structure for my future stories since I’ve always gone forth on a new project with barely a clue. It was tons of fun finding the story along the way. The only rule was to begin -

in medias res,( Latin: “in the midst of things”) in narrative technique, the recommended practice of beginning an epic or other fictional form by plunging into a crucial situation that is part of a related chain of events; the situation is an extension of previous events and will be developed in later action. The narrative then goes directly forward, and exposition of earlier events is supplied by flashbacks. The principle is based on the practice of Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Iliad,for example, begins dramatically with the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon during theTrojan War.

The Trojan War ended a few years ago but its lesson of a gift horse being a prelude to disaster is still current. A romance reader knows from the first pages that the hero and heroine are going to get their happily ever after, after a few disasters. What separates a good story from a mediocre one is how those disasters are staged.

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind the story is staged as beginning when it really has ended and the movie is halfway over before the audience has a clue that this whole story is “in medius res”. The movie also didn’t get funny or fascinating until it was half over when the real story was suddenly revealed as a twisting mire through time and memories.

What I learned from this movie (and all the library books and movies I’ve been randomly selecting) is – there’s really no reason for me to write anything. Every theme and story is already written. I certainly have opinions on them all but that whole angst and months of aggravation to write a new story? Not needed.

So I can approach my whole process of writing romantic fiction as a joy, a passion, and not as a paycheck or because I’m so desperately tortured by the brilliance of my muse. Instead, I can sit for hours writing stories because I love it and have the skills to do so well enough to entertain readers. I’m pretty sure the text only book will be around for a few more decades even if it is on an electronic reader. The whole ebook thing is a a Trojan Horse to some…

So while I can’t promote  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind as delightful entertainment, if you’re a writer and want to get a clue about the concept of “in medius res” this is a movie to watch, and learn.

the most memorable

Dancing with the Stars tonight was about the story the stars wanted to tell as being the most memorable in their life. The stories were all good though some were more powerful than others. Then they all danced.

The movie Footloose became a cult hit in 1984 but the theme of dancing in celebration is timeless. I hope a remake of this movie will have the same impact in 2011 because I applaud anything that inspires us to get up and dance.

What makes a story memorable is the transformation it inspires and the journey taken afterwards. No matter how tragic or joyful an event may be to become the most memorable, it is the the journey then taken after the turning point that makes a story powerful. Then, it is time to learn to dance.

While watching DWTS tonight, I found myself weighing all the turning points in my life to decide which was the most memorable. There are so many! They are all interconnected to my personal life story! One would not have mattered without others. But eventually I did settle on one specific event that put me on a path I would never have chosen to travel.

The event was in September of 2002 and I was suddenly making choices I never would have made, and embarking on a journey I would never have chosen. I swam in dark and turbulent waters but also found myself perched on the occasional tropical beach to bask in the sun. It’s always good to determine when and why we took the path less traveled. It is often tempting to stagnate at the edge of the pond.

As I listened to the stories that were most memorable for this seasons dancers I felt a connection to all of them. Each story had a before, during, and after message. We become nostalgic for the before story, the during story is full of conflict and choices. The after story is where the transition becomes the new journey. It’s scary.

And then, we learn to dance.

New Resolutions

We are not New Years resolution people in my family but it’s not because we don’t honor the tradition.  Instead we have always considered February as being a much better time of the year to assess when whole life improvements need to be made.

There’s really nothing else going on in February and it has the bonus of being the last gasp of winter while the days are getting longer.  Resolutions will benefit from being mulled over and tested prior to the first day of spring.  It feels right to begin a new cycle with the spring equinox.

Of course there’s a lot of astrology and historical traditions that support this spring time frame for initiating a new story for your life.  So our New Years resolutions in my family, if made at all, can be as powerful as  “I will wear socks tomorrow.”

Even so, I did intend to rise this morn and put my energy into story projects that matter to me and need my attention.  Instead we had an early morning chimney fire that was high drama for over an hour but only impacted our life with a really clean chimney and a prayer of thanks we have a metal roof.   There was no need to call in the fire fighters, or even turn on the hose, but the potential was there.

When the chimney fire story was over, and we were in the resting stage of that drama, the phone rang.  I’ve become sensitive to phone calls in this age of email, sound-bites, and tweets.   Phone calls can seem nice and chatty but also herald huge transitions in the story of our lives.  I’ve had a few where the phone call didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but …  and I’ve had many others where the phone call was huge.

Today’s phone call was one of those- maybe this news will matter in the future- maybe not.  But I was distracted enough so I couldn’t quite get focused on my fictional stories and projects and instead chose to help someone else with their story project.  This is always good work for a writer because it engages the reader perspective brain cells.

I’m also fighting the current crud condition of stuffy, dry, dripping, coughing – and had the high drama bathroom experience of no fresh TP rolls in the cabinet.  At times like these it’s good when there’s someone else in the house to hear you yell.

In many ways I could look at today as being a total bust before lunch.  I had more dramas in a few hours than you’ll get in a week on a soap opera.  Yet this is common for me as some days are rather wild, other days are productive.

In February our oldest daughter will be in her own home. She’ll wake on March 1st, her 30th birthday, living a dream she’s dreamed for a decade.  Her life story will begin a new phase and I’ll smile that day knowing she’s going to learn one of the greatest lessons of life.

She’s going to learn the beauty of contentment.

In story-world, this essence of contentment is what’s labeled as the HEA – happily every after.  Many consider it a fantasy.  I know its attainable.

Contentment is something that needs to be recognized and embraced with both hands.  See it.  Feel it.  Know it.

Life is a whole different story.

bring in the new

Well, my NaNoWriMo goals got sidetracked with a new job for me and finding a new home for our daughter’s family.  These events happening in the same two week span disrupted my creative flow with details, discussions, and time-clock requirements.  The potential for future sassy, domestic dramas on the page is awesome.

Not only did I survive my Black Friday weekend experience in retail, I thrived and had fun.  The energy was super high and the noise deafening but I knew the secret was good shoes.  Years ago, I bought a pair of great clog shoes just like the ones my girls wore during their jobs as servers in restaurants.   My clogs looked worn, dirty and brown, but I pulled them out of the bottom of the bin, dusted them off and polished them black.  Voila!

In my experience items of quality that are forgotten in storage but for some reason not discarded, will return to a new purpose.  These old shoes were the foundation of my new adventure in the world of retail.  This is mirrored in the new home search for our daughters family, the foundation of their home matters as much as a good roof and appliances.

So while my word count this month has fizzled mid-stream, the potentials and layers of future stories is a delight.  I also know my process well enough to foresee events on the calendar where my job will be routine, and my grandsons content in their new home.   I may have failed at the NaNoWriMo challenge this year but what is on the page has the potential of being a good book during the long winter nights ahead.


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