Feed the Good Dog

Look Up: I watched a segment about Neil deGrasse Tyson on 60 Minutes last night. I loved his energy and excitement for astrophysics, for his work, for life. He talked about how when he steps outside at night he still looks up and is amazed. That’s how we should see life, isn’t it? Looking up in wonder and awe of it all—like a child.

Look Down: Yet, I’d say there’s something to be said for looking down. One can’t walk around with their “head in the clouds” all the time. We people who live on the farm know we must look down when we walk or we may just step in something nasty. We must have a grip on reality, and a practical human acceptance of our own flaws… be humble.

Look Around: And we mustn’t forget to look around. We are surrounded by people who need help, need love, need support. Yes, every one of us. Even those we don’t agree with. We’re all in this together, aren’t we? And as they say, none of us are getting out alive.

Every day I see people who are working so hard to be of good use to those around them. I live in a community that buzzes like a full hive of bees, many people volunteering to make good things happen for all of us. There really is good in this world.

And, yes… there is bad, too. The news is a hard pill to swallow with senseless shootings and electoral mud-slinging, natural disasters and the constant threat of terror and global warming. If I focus my attention there, it is a heavy-weight I put on my own shoulders. I can only shrug it away if I choose to stop to look up in awe, look down in humility and look around to see what small thing I can do to be of use.

You’ve probably heard the story about there being a good dog and a bad dog fighting in all of us. The dog who wins is the one you feed the most. We can choose to feed the good dog.

So, put good thoughts out to the universe. Let being a positive influence become a habit. I hope you get an opportunity to look up and see the stars this week. Or maybe the fireflies. Or someone doing something great for others. Feed the good dog.

Shhhhh. It’s only on Amazon.

I’m going to whisper this quietly into cyberspace.

My book, Flames of Rosewood, is now live on Amazon.

Why am I whispering? Because it’s only on Amazon. Nook won’t accept my cover as it is so I’m waiting for a new cover. I haven’t formatted it for Smashwords, so it isn’t on Sony or iBook or anywhere else. And I haven’t even begun to get it ready for a print copy.

Considering all of those things, I’m not really ready to launch this book, but if you are one of the few people who read this blog, you get to know about the Amazon launch first. And, if for some reason you read it and feel inclined to leave a decent review, I’d be ever so much obliged. Reviews sell books, so if I could glean a few before my hard launch, it would be delightful.

So, you can whisper this to friends who have Kindles or Kindle aps on their computers or iPads or phones. Nook and other e-reader users must wait. Print copy folks must wait even longer. I’ll jump up and down more when it’s all ready to roll.

Until then, some of you who are interested can get a first peek.

Pity, Fear, and Catharsis

Here’s a little something for both my readers and my writing friends.

Aristotle, 2000 years ago, described this writing formula. A story must have pity, fear, and catharsis. I think it’s helpful for us to remember this formula when we write. I’d venture it can be applied to just about any writing you mean to be persuasive.

He said an author must make the audience feel pity for a character. We do that by making the character go through some misfortune. This enables the reader to emotionally connect with the character. Another word for pity would be empathy. So, for instance, a while back I wrote a blog about the importance of not publishing a book until it was ready. I called the blog post, Harness the Elephant.  My goal was to help you understand why a book I’d been working on wasn’t going to come out when I had originally thought it would. Essentially, I asked for your empathy.

Once the writer has that emotional connection between the reader and the character, the writer has some control over the reader. You then put the character into worse and worse and worse situations. Because of the emotional connection (pity or empathy), the audience will feel fear for the character. In the blog I mentioned earlier, I likened myself to having steered my elephant down the wrong path. Now, these aren’t the highest of imaginary stakes, yet, a source of tension was introduced and a problem required a solution.

When you release the character from the jeopardy of whatever problematic situation they’re in, then the audience experiences catharsis. A sigh. Whew. That’s over! So, what’s the catharsis of my Harness the Elephant blog post? I finally got my book, Flames of Roses, finished. I just got it back from the editor. Hopefully, It will be available to readers very soon. 

Universal Bones

 

In a speech accepting his Nobel Prize in the Stockholm City Hall, on December 10, 1950, William Faulkner said of that day’s writers, “…(they have) forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself, (that) alone can make good writing…” He said it was the only subject worth the sweat and agony of writing. He went on to explain that a writer must remember “…the basest of all things is to be afraid…” and the old universal truths are “…love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.” If a writer doesn’t keep these truths, then “He writes not of love but of lust, of defeats in which nobody loses anything of value, of victories without hope and, worst of all, without pity or compassion. His griefs grieve on no universal bones, leaving no scars.”

I guess this is a good example of why Faulkner won the Nobel Prize. Not only because he could write like that, but because he could think like that!

I agree and believe every story worth reading or writing is ultimately a story about love. Some kind of love. At its core, to write a great story, the bones of the story must be made of and for and about some kind of love. Love of country, love of family, love of a child, for an animal, for oneself, or for another, or the lack of love, the longing for love, and truly… it’s the absence of love that creates all of the problems in the world. Don’t forget about the love of money, the love of life, murder for love, jealousy, envy, greed, anger, fear… all are emotions that stem from or the lack of love. So, essentially, figure out the simple love story of your book and make sure THAT story is always at the core. Don’t forget to stay true to that simple idea. Achieving that love, or losing that love… almost losing that love…IS the problem your story must solve.

We need look no further than the Bible for the ultimate love story. There we see a love that sacrifices for the good of the whole. That Christ-like figure is seen in so many great stories: Jim Casey in the Grapes of Wrath, Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, John Coffee in The Green Mile, Superman, Harry Potter, John Connor in The Terminator, and this list goes on and on. You can’t have great sacrifice, without great love. And sacrifice is the ultimate show of love.