Going to the Dogs Again


So, now that I got those annoying automated links (to posts completely unrelated to the subject 😮 ) taken from the comment box, I feel it’s safe to use my dog metaphor again. And yes, I am switching back to the promotion topic. Sorry if it’s unsettling to be jumping from one subject to the other. Honestly, this is not usually the way my mind works. I’m usually the blogger who, for example, perseveres and writes a 35-part discussion on theme. But as it turns out, right now I have nothing new to add to the discussion about disappointment with God and I do have a comment or two to bring up about promotion.

If you recall, I used the barking dogs in my neighborhood as examples for how easy it is to tune out repetitive, albeit it insistent, clamor. Dogs yap, yip, and yammer, and I ignore, ignore, ignore. Until a bunch of them all join in together.

Even a united chorus might not move me to action, however. If I hear the bunch near the backyard all barking their usual refrain and I also hear the cheery voices of the school children calling to one another, I know the dogs are reacting to a routine stimulus. I need not investigate. There is nothing out of place or different or worrisome. If anything, I might get up and shut my window, should the barking go on too long.

But there comes a time … in the middle of the night, for example, or when all else is quiet or when the tone of the dogs is different or when there is no apparent reason, that I pay attention to the group uproar. I might get up and turn on the porch light, look out the window, even venture out with a flashlight (probably not!)

I suspect the analogy is clear. One thing that can separate an author’s voice promoting his book from all the other ads, announcements, notices, commercials, infomercials, promotions, endorsements, blurbs, write-ups, posters, leaflets, pamphlets, flyers, fact sheets, circulars, bulletins, brochures, signs, reviews, blog posts, and press releases readers are bombarded with is a united group speaking out about the book.

But notice, if the reason for their speaking out is predictable—alas, like a blog tour—the stir those many voices cause might still be ignored or even dismissed. The united front must come organically, as a result of a real reason, not a manufactured one.

I don’t know if that’s actually possible apart from some sort of media stir which an author doesn’t control. And of course, no media stir happens without a cause. So what will cause a media stir?

I’ll save that question for another time. Let me close with this. A blog tour that mimics organic discussion will be the most useful. Organic discussion, as I’m using the term, is a blogger writing about a book because that’s the topic he/she wishes to discuss. Bloggers participating in a tour should write about whatever they want to discuss during a tour, in order to mimic that kind of organic discussion.

Agree? Disagree? Other thoughts on creating a united front?

Published in: on April 30, 2008 at 11:46 am  Comments (5)  
Tags: , ,

God—the God of the Bible—Is Not Disappointing


The dogs are quiet today, so I want to put the topic I introduced yesterday—how to generate promotion in an overly promoted culture—on hold while I write about something that came up recently. It’s the issue of being disappointed with God.

Rightly or wrongly, as I wrote back in March, I’ve traced the current fad of expressing anger toward God from Philip Yancy’s book Disappointment with God. (If you’re interested, you can read that post and others on the topic here, here, and here.) The subject has come up again.

In one instance, a good blogging friend has written an “if only” post. If only God would … In a second instance, my pastor mentioned Yancy’s book in the context of his sermon, saying it was one of the finest books he’s read. A third instance was from a radio sermon in which the pastor placed the equivalent of disappointment with God squarely on the shoulders of people creating a god in the image of their wishful thinking, and it is with this erroneous god they are disappointed.

All these thoughts were stirring through my head, and I decided I needed to re-read Yancy’s book. After all, I respect my pastor, and I thought his sermon, entitled “Jesus Is Enough,” from Colossians 2, was far from a message giving us permission to vent on God.

Maybe I was missing something. As I recall, I never did finish Yancy’s book, so possibly I missed something critical, like his final destination!

Today I read about his encounter with Richard, a young friend, new in the faith. He’d written a book on Job and wanted Yancy’s input. But as time passed and the book was about to release, Richard poured out the truth to Yancy—he no longer believed the things he’d written. He no longer believed in God.

Some time later, Yancy ran into Richard again, and they spent some time together. The young author admitted that his loss of faith wasn’t exactly as he’d portrayed it—a slow slide resulting from a series of unanswered prayers about health, job, relationships, and so on.

Rather, when he first heard about the claims of Christ, he wanted some kind of assurance that God was real and could be trusted. He heard about a faith healer holding services within driving distance, and he went. There he saw people of all stripes with all kinds of illnesses praying and claiming healing. One man particularly impressed him, a physician with cancer, who had been confined to a wheelchair for several months. He walked across the stage, claiming complete healing. Here at last was the tangible evidence Richard needed. God was real and did amazing, powerful things. Now he could believe.

Several weeks after the healing service, Richard decided to contact the doctor, to tell him how much his testimony meant to him. When he called and asked for him by name, the woman who answered hesitated, asked why, then upon learning the reason for the call, said simply, the doctor was dead.

The “tangible evidence” Richard thought he had found was yanked away from him.

Here’s why I bring up this story. Yancy wrote his book in part because this young man’s experience made him realize that people had three questions about God they weren’t asking out loud. One was, Is God unfair? The other two are, Is God silent? and Is God hidden?

But I’m thinking, was Richard even a Christian? He reminded me of that magician in the New Testament who followed the apostles around and wanted their same power. Not God, or so it would seem. The power, the signs. The same stuff people asked Jesus for. “Prove you are God.” As if healing people, feeding thousands from a few loaves, raising the dead, wasn’t enough.

Sometimes I think none of it is enough because we want God to be what we imagine Him to be, not who He actually is.

Where was Richard’s confession and repentance of his sin? His falling at the foot of the cross, his willingness to die to self, his coming to God through Jesus as The Way, the Only Way? I suggest, his unanswered prayers which made him feel so betrayed, were prayed to a God he did not know, with whom he had no relationship. He said as much. For a time he was at a Christian college and would hear people talking about a personal relationship with God, and about His giving them direction, and he said he even talked like that on occasion though he never actually experienced that kind of connection with God.

Interestingly, Yancy points out that the people of Israel had exactly what people supposedly want from God—they had tangible evidence of His presence in the cloud by day and fire by night. They even heard His voice and asked not to again because it was too frightening. They had His precise day-to-day direction—and disobeyed anyway. And He laid out a competely fair contract with them—do this and I’ll bless you in these ways; disobey and I’ll send you these consequences.

Just so! Whatever disappointing feelings people experience in connection with God are more a reflection of our state than they are of Him. After all, our hearts are deceitful and wicked, and we are consequently susceptible to the lies Satan would have us believe, especially about God. And just as he did with Eve, the old liar dresses it up to make us look perfectly innocent: Surely, it couldn’t be wrong for you to want to be equal with God! Surely God didn’t really, actually, literally mean you would die. Surely, you deserve something so beautiful, so tasty.

What’s changed in the enemy’s approach? Not much. Which is why God gave us His Written, God-breathed Word as testimony of His Word made flesh, and gave us His Spirit to guide us into Truth.

Published in: on April 29, 2008 at 11:33 am  Comments (7)  
Tags: , ,

The Barking Dog Syndrom


Before I get started, I’d like to point out two new blogs posted by Christian writers. These are not new writers, mind you. Both are experienced and talented, albeit unpublished. The first is Rich Bullock, my long-time carpool buddy to the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference. The other is Sally Apokedak, 2007 Genesis winner and good friend and writing partner. This is Sally’s second blog, the first one being All about Children’s Books. This busy woman also publishes a writing for children column for BellaOnline.

– – –

Now we’re going to the dogs. 😀 Not in the cliched use of the phrase (at least I hope not!) I actually want to think about dogs—yapping dogs and deep-throated barking dogs—and promotion.

I live in a neighborhood in which twelve out of every sixteen houses have a dog (to spare you doing the math, that’s 75%. I could have said three fourths, too, but just wanted to be different. But it’s probably important to note that this is a pure guess on my part, but I think a pretty accurate one.) From my apartment where I work day in and day out, I am privy to the sounds of many of these dogs.

Repeated sounds. The bored yapping of the little white dog across the street. The incessant yip, yip of the dog on the corner whenever someone walks by the house, the chorus of barking from the four dogs whose yard borders a neighboring school whenever the children come out to play … or the maintenance man walks across the field … or a yard supervisor … well, you get the idea. The point is, dogs bark more often than not in my neighborhood.

And a good percentage of the time, I tune them out just as I do the sounds of traffic from the boulevard a block away or from the freeway a few blocks further on.

When I notice the barking is when it has been quiet and starts up suddenly, insistently, when it is louder than usual, and when the tone changes or when the dogs in the front and in the back all join in. In short, when the barking is out of the ordinary.

What does any of this have to do with promotion? I think consumers often feel like those wanting them to buy are yapping at them. A sort of bored, repetitive, refrain “Buy this, you need it, it’s the best one you’ll every find, and you can have it for the bargain price of …” Quite frankly, we’ve learned to tune a lot of it out, or turn it off. We can mute TV commercials or fast forward past them. We can have our names put on the do-not-call registry, and we can drop junk mail in the trash can on our way to the living room. We can delete spam or have it blocked for us. We can even block pop-up windows.

And still, ads pepper the sides of our roads and the sidebars of our blogs. So we’ve become adept at ignoring them, scrolling past them, clicking over to the next blog that isn’t running a promotion.

And yet, what do writers do when they have a book coming out? After all, how can people buy if they do not know a product exists, in this case, our baby we’ve worked for years to see in print. We promote, of course. But how can our promotion be something different from the yapping-dog promotion all around us?

That, I think, needs to be the writer’s job. Separation from the myriad of voices clamoring for consumer attention. Maybe we can explore some ideas this week.

Published in: on April 28, 2008 at 11:29 am  Comments (5)  
Tags: , ,

CFBA – Winter Haven by Athol Dickson


I’m going to borrow Mark Goodyear‘s favorite method of participating in a blog tour—the first page critique. (Remember, imitation is the highest form of flattery. 😉 )

The Christian Fiction Blog Alliance is featuring Winter Haven by Christy-Award-winning author Athol Dickson.

First, the page itself:

The Gulf of Maine lay easily beneath the mail boat’s keel, passing gentle swells below the vessel like a mother’s soothing stroke upon a baby’s back. This was misery to me. The slow rise up, the slow sink down, the laborious roll to one side at the crest of every swell, the inevitable correction back the other way as the boat slipped toward the trough beyond—all of it had worked upon my stomach without mercy.

I groaned. “How much longer?”

“Ain’t far now, hon,” replied the big woman at the wheel.

We had been at this all morning, doing only eight knots because of the impossibly dense fog that contained us—me and the woman and one other passenger, a man in a vaguely martial khaki vest that seemed to contradict his baby face and the look of perpetual astonishment behind his thick eyeglass lenses. The man chattered on and on, a bottomless source of useless knowledge, unaffected by the little vessel’s endless rolling. He spoke to the woman about ancient boatbuilding techniques, the rules of cribbage, internal combustion engines, and of course the weather. He said the fog was thicker and more widespread than usual because of a strange temperature pattern in the area, with daily highs a full ten degrees above normal while the seatwater remained as cold as ever.

Thoughts on the opening sentence: The Gulf of Maine lay easily beneath the mail boat’s keel, passing gentle swells below the vessel like a mother’s soothing stroke upon a baby’s back. Did it grab me? Not in the usual way. There was no big mystery or problem or anomaly or question. But the image was vivid, interesting, unique.

And that line was followed by one of jarring contradiction: This was misery to me. Contradiction in its length as well as in in its content. What was gentle, soothing like a mother’s stroke was a misery. I’m hooked.

More so in the simple lines of dialogue soon to come, when I learn that the pilot of the vessel is a “big woman.” I’d have expected a gruff or gnarled old man—you know, standard small-boat-captain fare. Instead, Dickson surprises me.

He also gives excellent “description through motion” which brings the scene to life: The slow rise up, the slow sink down, the laborious roll to one side at the crest of every swell, the inevitable correction back the other way as the boat slipped toward the trough beyond—all of it had worked upon my stomach without mercy. By the time I finished reading that line, I was conscious of a little queasiness myself and had to remember that I wasn’t really seasick for I would have taken Dramamine beforehand. 😀 I especially appreciated the cadence of the sentence, so clearly illustrating the very movement it described. Masterful.

The final long paragraph was given mostly to the description of the talkative passenger. Again, whether intentional or not, the choice of a long paragraph here is fitting. The passenger prattles on about this and that, even as the paragraph grows in length (continuing on for a sentence or two on the next page).

I like the specifics Dickson offers about the passenger—his vaguely martial khaki vest, his baby face, his look of perpetual astonishment behind his thick lenses. The man comes to life with the description, but more so his personality takes shape as the reader learns what he chooses to talk about.

My one problem with the first page is this. I thought the point of view character was a man. She is not. As I look back, I can see clues to her gender. The opening simile, for example, is more appropriate for a woman than for a man. The pilot calling her “hon” was another clue, but in seeing that the pilot was a woman, I had no trouble thinking she would call a younger man hon.”

In major crit(tique) mode, I would also add, I’d expect a woman to pay a little closer attention to another woman, especially one who was doing a job so often associated with a man. Later we have a little description of the pilot, but on the second page, in the first paragraph, she is still simply “the woman,” with no further elaboration. Not surprising from a man’s point of view, I think. Chances are, a man wouldn’t notice unless he was attracted to her. But a woman in all likelihood would have had some thought about the other woman on board that boat.

Still, it is a minor, minor point, and one I didn’t think of until later (when I found out she was a woman and started looking back at the beginning). Without a doubt, this first page hooked me and propelled me on to read the first two chapters, though I had intended to look only at the opening.

Let me close with this. Not only does the first page give me a vivid scene, introduce me to a character I feel some sympathy for, and put me in an intriguing place, the language of the story promises to be harmonious with the whole. It undergirds the story, highlights and illustrates and delights. For an example of the latter, you really need to read the rest of the paragraph that continues on page two:

He said the damp warm air moving slowly over the frigid sea caused the mist to rise. He said this was called “advection fog,” although I considered it affliction fog since he simply would not stop talking.

Yep, here’s an opening with promise!

Published in: on April 25, 2008 at 11:53 am  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , ,

Thinking Out Loud – Theology in Fiction


Another blog tour ended. As much fun as I have during a blog tour, I admit it takes time to visit and read what others are saying about a book we’ve all read. Since I didn’t read the CSFF April selection, I didn’t feel as left out as I thought I might. But as I visited other blogs, I became curious.

Opinions on this particular feature were quite varied. Nearly all agreed the writing was excellent, but the main point of criticism, for those who had a problem with the book, was … theology.

And what was it that David C. Downing and R. W. Schlosser said in “Smuggled Theology” was the divide between C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien? Theology.

Of course, in the case of the classic writers, the ramifications seem greater, but what I’m beginning to understand is why so many Christian writers and publishers seem fine with producing pabulum. As soon as a writer dives into a controversial topic or takes an inventive tack, especially with anything reflecting on Scripture, he/she essentially invites criticism. So why not write a book with the lowest common denominator, one that will appeal to the greatest number of buyers/readers?

I’m of two minds on this subject. I think there is heretical theology—stuff that people believe that is false and shows God to be other than who He is. I also think there are differing opinions, differing interpretations of Scripture, that do not affect the core tenets of the faith.

So on one hand, I think it is important to adhere to truth, but on the other hand, I think readers/critics need to lighten up and not be so judgmental. “Theological accuracy,” if that’s what we demand of Christian writers, is a tricky thing.

If we read a story written by a non-Christian, there is no theological burden. We do not expect a non-Christian to write from a Christian worldview. But other Christians, we seem to think for some reason, ought to write from MY view of Christianity.

I see nothing wrong with identifying a theological bias, then enjoying the story, in much the same way I would identify the humanist bias or the new age bias or the evolutionist bias of a non-Christian writer.

But there are some things that I hold sacrosanct. One is Scripture. Consequently Biblical fiction or fiction dealing with the Bible, in my view, has a much higher requirement of accuracy, and less creative latitude. It is historical fiction, for one thing, so the research should be impeccable.

However, Scripture is also the inspired word of God, so I question the wisdom of writing stories that would bring into doubt the inspiration or accuracy or truthfulness of the Bible or events in the Bible. I was horrified, for example, when I read one fan thanking an author for enlightening him about the events of the Bible, when in fact the novel was entirely fanciful.

Still, I am an advocate of Christians writing deeper, more meaningfully. Isn’t there, then, a risk that their “deeper” will cross my line and tread upon the sacrosanct? What if a person claims the name of Christ, but the theology of their story declares man’s goodness? Or God’s unwillingness to act as Judge? Or a believer’s sure and eventual health and wealth?

So is it better if we just leave the theology out and content ourselves with happy little stories of people finding Jesus?

Published in: on April 24, 2008 at 12:34 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: ,

Lewis and Tolkien on Fantasy – an Analysis


I just read an interesting article, “Smuggled Theology” by David C. Downing and R. W. Schlosser, discussing the differences in C.S. Lewis’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s views of fantasy, or as they would say, faerie stories. The most intriguing premise of the article is that their basic difference stems from their difference in theology.

Tolkien embraced the concept that the writer, and especially the fantasy writer, participated in sub-creation, the very essence of what it means to be made in the image of God. Lewis had a slightly different view on the subject:

C. S. Lewis apparently subscribed to Tolkien’s theory of sub-creation and he recommended “On Fairy-Stories” to those who asked him about his own views on fantasy. (Glover 30, 37) Yet Lewis never took the idea of sub-creation as much to heart as Tolkien did, and Lewis’s own essay on the subject, “Sometimes Fairy Stories May Say Best What’s to be Said,” strikes a rather different note.

This brief but illuminating essay begins by distinguishing two sides of the writer: the Author and the Man. (Lewis used the male gender to denote the general case, as was the usual practice in his time; I follow that convention in this paragraph summarizing his essay.) The Author simply writes to release a creative impulse. He begins with an idea or a compelling image “longing for a form” for some coherent expression. Soon, however, the Man enters into the writing process with his own values and purposes, his desire to shape the writing toward some significant end. The Author may write only to please–himself or his readers–but the Man is concerned to please and instruct, to communicate something of who he is and how he views his world. Lewis illustrates the process by explaining that his own fairy stories, The Chronicles of Narnia, originated as a series of mental images that began connecting themselves into story-lines. But then, as the narratives began to take shape, Lewis saw that they could be used to imaginatively express the central truths of Christianity in a fresh way.

This dual emphasis on the Author and the Man involved in the creation of fantasy may seem only a slight variation on Tolkien’s views, but it explains in large part the markedly different character of the two men’s work–as well as the fact that Tolkien was never “able to enter into full sympathy” (his own words) with Lewis’s fantasy stories. (Carpenter 227) Though Tolkien certainly expressed his values implicitly in The Lord of the Rings, he affirmed the Author’s act of sub-creation as an end in itself. Lewis, however, agreed that a writer can’t even begin without the Author’s urge to create, but felt he shouldn’t begin without the Man’s desire to communicate his deepest sense of himself and his world.

It seems to me that these two differing views are still at the heart of the question: What constitutes Christian fiction?

For an example of actual Christian fantasy, consider reading the CSFF Blog Tour’s April feature, The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergren. Read about the book and author from these fine bloggers:

Brandon Barr/ Justin Boyer/ Jackie Castle/ Karri Compton/ CSFF Blog Tour/ Gene Curtis/ D. G. D. Davidson/ Jeff Draper/ April Erwin/ Karina Fabian/ Beth Goddard / Marcus Goodyear/ Todd Michael Greene/ Michael Heald/ Christopher Hopper/ Joleen Howell/ Jason Joyner/ Kait/ Carol Keen/ Mike Lynch/ Terri Main/ Margaret/ Melissa Meeks/ Pamela Morrisson/ John W. Otte/ Rachelle/ Steve Rice/ Ashley Rutherford/ Chawna Schroeder/ Rachelle Sperling/ Stuart Stockton – welcome back, Stuart! 😉 / Steve Trower/ Speculative Faith/ Robert Treskillard/ Laura Williams/ Timothy Wise

*bold type indicates bloggers who have already posted about the book.

Justifying Fantasy


I didn’t realize that fantasy writers in the general market also came up against critics, but apparently so. Even with all it’s huge popularity, or maybe because of it, writers are still asking the question, What makes fantasy so appealing? In essence, why does it sell? And sell and sell and sell? Why do millions rush out to buy Harry Potter, many in the dead of night, waiting for hours in line? Why do youth raised on computer games and MTV read a 600+ novel?

One author, Mark Chadbourn, gives his thoughts in the article “The Fantastic Appeal of Fantasy,” published in the UK newspaper, the Telegraph:

I don’t write fantasy fiction simply to provide a trap-door from reality. For me, the genre is as much about the world around us as EastEnders [a British TV program].

But instead of coming slap-bang up against it, fantasy charts the unconscious hopes and aspirations of our modern society through symbolism and allegory in story-forms as old as humanity.

It’s about turning off the mobile phone and the computer and remembering who we are in the deepest, darkest parts of ourselves.

Ah, yes, the darkest parts of ourselves. But if we stop there?

This is why I think it is so important that Christians write fantasy—so that the whole truth comes out, not just the part about our dark selves.

Want to read such a fantasy, of the supernatural suspense variety? Try CSFF’s April feature, The Begotten by Lisa T. Bergren.

If in doubt, check out what the tour participants are saying about the book:
Brandon Barr/ Justin Boyer/ Jackie Castle/ Karri Compton/ CSFF Blog Tour/ Gene Curtis/ D. G. D. Davidson/ Jeff Draper/ April Erwin/ Karina Fabian/ Beth Goddard / Marcus Goodyear/ Todd Michael Greene/ Michael Heald/ Christopher Hopper/ Joleen Howell/ Jason Joyner/ Kait/ Carol Keen/ Mike Lynch/ Terri Main/ Margaret/ Melissa Meeks/ Pamela Morrisson/ John W. Otte/ Rachelle/ Steve Rice/ Ashley Rutherford/ Chawna Schroeder/ Rachelle Sperling/ Stuart Stockton – welcome back, Stuart! 😉 / Steve Trower/ Speculative Faith/ Robert Treskillard/ Laura Williams/ Timothy Wise

*bold type indicates bloggers who have already posted about the book.

The Tour Is On


It’s that time again—the CSFF Blog Tour for April begins today featuring Lisa T. Bergren’s The Begotten. Thing is, I opted myself out this month.

Though I haven’t missed a tour since we started in June 2006, I’m not pulling the Vacation card because I do still plan to blog this week, and I’ll post the participant links. I’m also not pulling the Too Busy card, though I did have Manuscripts to read for the Mount Hermon mentoring group and now Books to read for a contest I’m judging.

The truth is, I didn’t read the book largely because it is a supernatural suspense. I already mentioned, I’m really a member of the Big Honkin’ Chicken Club when it comes to regular suspense. Well, add in the supernatural component, and my standing in the club rises!

I hate to come clean on this because, as I posted over at Speculative Faith today, I’m not usually tied to genre. And yet, there are some I prefer NOT to read.

So, for a fair appraisal of the CSFF April feature, you’re better off visiting the other tour participants:

Brandon Barr/ Justin Boyer/ Jackie Castle/ Karri Compton/ CSFF Blog Tour/ Gene Curtis/ D. G. D. Davidson/ Jeff Draper/ April Erwin/ Karina Fabian/ Beth Goddard / Marcus Goodyear/ Todd Michael Greene/ Michael Heald/ Christopher Hopper/ Joleen Howell/ Jason Joyner/ Kait/ Carol Keen/ Mike Lynch/ Terri Main/ Margaret/ Melissa Meeks/ Pamela Morrisson/ John W. Otte/ Rachelle/ Steve Rice/ Ashley Rutherford/ Chawna Schroeder/ Rachelle Sperling/ Stuart Stockton/ Steve Trower/ Speculative Faith/ Robert Treskillard/ Laura Williams/ Timothy Wise

Published in: on April 21, 2008 at 12:48 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , , ,

Scene and Narrative, Part 5


I nearly forgot to tell you: Nicole Petrino-Salter invited me to do a guest blog at her site, concerning the difficulty of writing my first book. I joked with her that writing it wasn’t hard, it was the fifty revisions that followed that proved difficult—but I wasn’t really kidding. Anyway, I’ve recounted the beginning of my writing experience over at Hope of Glory.

– – –

Examples. Author and CSFF Blog Tour member Robert Treskillard suggested I give examples of scene and narrative to show the difference.

I’m tempted to give you the examples from Monica Wood’s book Description. One reason I like that book so much is because she does exactly what Robert is asking. She explains, then illustrates. And not from some published works where it would be hard to compare. She writes segments, then rewries them, and often rewrites them again.

OK, I talked myself into it. Her examples are much better than anything from my writing.

Without further fanfare, Monica Wood:

Narrative (“telling): Ms. Kendall was Middleton School’s most popular teacher. She was always bringing in maps and atlases to brighten her classroom and motivate her fourth graders. The children adored her and ran to her aid every time they had a chance. Mrs. Brimley, the other fourth-grade teacher, watched this daily homage with a mixture of resentment and awe.

Then, after some brief comment:

Scene (“showing”): Ms. Kendall paused at her classroom door and shifted her full-color maps of the NATO nations from one arm to the other Spotting her, a small group of fourth graders dropped the books they were hauling and rushed to her aid, yipping like puppies, each clamoring to be the one to turn the knob.

“Children! Children!” Ms. Kendall trilled, her musical laughter echoing down the dingy corridor. “One at a time, now. You can’t all help at once.”

Mrs. Brimley, marooned at the far end of the hall amidst a splatter of upended math books, thinned her lips and sighed over the echo of stampeding feet.

Following this, Wood dissects the styles:

Most of us have been trained to think of narrative (telling) as “bad description” and scene (showing) as “good description.” Certainly a case can be made that in the above examples, the scene is better than the narrative passage, but that’s only because both passages are rendered in such extremes. The narrative passage is dull and expository—it doesn’t vividly describe the Kendall-Brimley conflict. The verbs aren’t particularly strong (was; motivate; ran; watched). and the picture being painted doesn’t engage he senses. There is no sound or movement; again, we’re watching characters on a screen. The scene, on the other hand, contains noise and movement and dialogue and marvelous verbs like “marooned” and “yipping.”

Next comes a rewrite of the narrtive that is just effective as the scene:

Narrative, second draft: Mrs. Brimley envied Ms. Kendall’s youth: her silky arms, her just-washed hair, her easy way with the thirty-five fourth graders they divided between them. The children preferred Ms. Kendall, every last one of them, and who could blame hem? She had the voice of an angel; her laughter was a salve. I love her, Mrs. Brimley whispered dozens of times a day. And I hate her.

Wood doesn’t stop there. After additional comments, such as “Narrative does not have to be merely informational. This passage contains imagistic language (‘silky arms’ and laughter like a ‘salve’) and a haunting bit of sound with the whispered ‘I love her … I hate her.’ The internal monologue … brings your readers deep inside Mrs. Brimley’s experience,” Wood gives a final example:

Combination narrative and scene: Mrs. Brimley’s 4A’s, each with an armload of math books they were helping to transfer from the library to Room 3, spotted Ms. Kendall at the other end of the corridor. She was stalled at her classroom door, shifting her own bundle—full-color maps of the NATO nations—from one arm to the other. Dropping their books like so many bombs, the 4A’s rushed to her aid, yipping like puppies, each clamoring to be the one to turn the knob.

“Children! Children! Ms. Kendall trilled, her musical laughter echoing down the dingy corridor. “One at a time, now. You can’t all help at once.”

Mrs. Brimley, suddenly marooned amidst a splatter of upended books, thinned her lips and sighed over the echo of stampeding feet. She envied Ms. Kendall’s youth: her silky arms, her just-washed hair, her easy way with the children. Who could blame them for adoring her? She had the voice of an angel; her laughter was a salve. Mrs. Brimley sighed, bending to retrieve the books. I hate her, she whispered, tucking back a ripped page. And I love her.

Wood goes on to discuss how to tell well, how to show well, and when to use which.

I think I need to reread this section, maybe the entire book.

Published in: on April 18, 2008 at 10:29 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , ,

Spring Reading Thing, 2008


Late, late, late to the party. But what a fun party it is! I’ve participated in Callapidder Days’ reading events twice before, and they give me permission to read. Understand, I do a lot of reading as part of the blog tours I’m involved with. And I do a little reading (not as much as I should) to help me improve as a writer. But sometimes … sometimes I like to read, just because.

But alas, the Spring Reading Thing is already well underway, having started back on March 20. At the time I was busy with All Things Mount Hermon, and didn’t think a thing about reading. Regardless, I plan to forge ahead, and will even add books to my list that I read during the first month of the Thing.

The only thing I’m missing out on by starting late is eligibility for a $10 Amazon gift certificate drawing. A perfect gift for a reading Thing, by the way.

Did I mention that there are also book give-aways involved? Yep. Check out the offerings. Most are for women since Callapidder Days might be considered something of a Mommy Blog. Good deal. If Mommys want to join in and read, I’m all for it. Still, I think it only fair to warn the good number of male visitors who stop by A Christian Worldview of Fiction, some of these book give-aways are definitely not for you! 😮

On to my list:

Amber Morn, Brandilyn Collins (Zondervan, 2008)
Assassin’s Apprentice, Robin Hobb (Bantam Books, 1995)
Ryann Watters and the King’s Sword, Eric Reinhold (Strang, 2008)
Symphony of Secrets, Sharon Hinck (Bethany, 2008)
Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (Farrar, Straus, Giroux; 2004)
Any Bitter Thing, Monica Wood (Chronicle Books, 2005)
Beyond the Reflection’s Edge, Bryan Davis (Zondervan, 2008)
DragonLight, Donita Paul (WaterBrook, 2008)
Five books I am reading as a judge for a contest, hereafter to be referred to as contest book 1, contest book 2, contest book 3, contest book 4, and contest book 5. 😉

– – –

Well, aren’t those books published in oh-eight the cool ones! 😀

Published in: on April 17, 2008 at 12:52 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: ,
%d bloggers like this: