Lynda Young
Sarah Sundin

Sarah Sundin

Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the joy of interviewing Lynda Young, who has turned her heart for hurting families into the You Are Not Alone series of books for families with children with cancer, with congenital heart defects, and on the autism spectrum. Since April is Autism Awareness Month, this is the perfect time for Lynda to share with us!

Lynda, please tell us about your book, Hope for Families of Children on the Autistic Spectrum.

“I feel so alone and no one understands,” say many parents of autistic children. This book provides the soft landing caregivers need dealing with doctor and dental visits, meltdowns, and family dynamics dealing with empty emotional tanks drained by stress. Each chapter provides hope from the Creator.

Lynda Young

Lynda Young

What is the primary focus of your book?

If you’ve met one child on the spectrum, you’ve met one child on the spectrum. There are so many variables. Families overwhelmed by stress need information and inspiration from those who’ve walked their journey. Read More →

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A story is a connected narration of real or imagined events. There are many types of story, including science fiction, romance, myth, fairy tale, tragedy, and adventure. The full range of storytelling is limited only by the human imagination, yet there are key principles that apply to all stories, and all stories can be classified in different categories or subgenre.

Stories have an internal logic driven by a premise acting through characters and conflict to move the plot from a beginning point of attack, through one or more crises, to a climax that resolves into a resolution. There is a wide range of variation within this approach, but the key principles apply to almost all of them. The classic story formula goes something like this: (1) The hero wants something enough to do anything to get it. (2) The hero faces a difficult adventure or problem in trying to get what he wants. (3) The hero faces serious obstacles. (4) The hero overcomes the obstacles. (5) The hero reaches his goal and gets what he wants (i.e., the princess, the money, revenge, etc).

 

Steps for Constructing Your Story

  1. Start your engines: Formulate your premise

The engine of your communication is the premise that your communication must prove in a logical, impressive way (given your genre and medium of choice) in order for your audience to be affected by your story and message in exactly the way you desired. In most cases, an impressive proof of your premise will require lots of interesting illustrations—verbal or pictorial—and plenty of technical, dramatic, or literary effects.

For another perspective: the premise is where you are going (let’s say Hollywood); the plot is how you get there (let’s say you miss your plane and decide to take a car, but the car breaks down, etc.); the people who travel with you are the characters (let’s say that each one is a friend of yours who does not get along with anyone else); and, the themes are the continuing interactions between different sets of characters (let’s say your friend Joe wants to lead your friend June to Jesus Christ).

The audience will want to know where you are going up front. In The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the audience knows right from the first act that Frodo has to take the ring to the mountain where it was originally forged and destroy it. From the beginning of Finding Nemo, the audience wants the father, Marlin, to find Nemo. How the hero achieves his goal in spite of all the obstacles the writer throws at him produces the excitement in the story.

The key element is your premise. The premise is the motivating power that drives your communication. Your premise is an active, dynamic statement of the argument that you will prove in your communication. It is the essence of your communication. The premise holds the key elements of the message within your story, in a neat and compact package. Quite simply, the premise is a sentence with an active verb, a subject, and an object that summarizes your story, and tells you where you are going—your goal. In discussing the role of a premise and elements that emerge from the premise in a dramatic play, Lajos Egri has noted:

A play [or movie] can be judged before it reaches actual production. First, the premise must be discernible from the beginning. We have a right to know in what direction the author is leading us. The characters, growing out of the premise, necessarily identify themselves with the aim of the play. They will prove the premise through conflict. The play must start with conflict, which rises steadily until it reaches the climax. The characters must be so well drawn that, whether or not the author has declared their individual backgrounds, we can make out accurate case histories for each of them.[1]

A writer has many ways to arrive at your premise. You may have an idea, or a conviction, which you will convert into premise. You may be intrigued by an obligatory scene, event, or situation and want to develop that scene, event, or situation into a premise. To convert your scene or idea into a premise: look for the drama, the meaning, the conflict and the purpose inherent in that idea/scene. State the purpose, meaning, and conflict in a simple, active sentence. This sentence becomes your premise.

Suppose your idea is to communicate that God is love. Ask yourself what your purpose is—why you want to communicate this particular message. Your answer may be that your purpose is to show your audience that God loves them, us, mankind, and/or the world. Be as specific as possible by refining your purpose in light of the answers you have found to your ascertainment questions. In this example, you would also want to ask the question, “ How does God love them, you, or us?” Your answer will depend on the way you answered your ascertainment questions, but may be that He loves us by comforting us in sorrow, by delivering us from fear, forgiving us our transgressions, or by rescuing us from drug addiction.

For our example, let’s say your purpose is to demonstrate the forgiveness inherent in God’s love. In light of your answers to the ascertainment questions, state your premise in a simple but specific sentence such as, “God’s love forgives the transgressor.”

What does that mean? What is the conflict inherent in that statement? Forgiveness must mean that a wrong was committed which has alienated the wrongdoer, perhaps because of his/her feeling of guilt, or knowledge that a just judgment is awaiting him or her. God’s love conflicts with and triumphs over that alienation by forgiving the individual from judgment and healing him/her from guilt.

Your premise gives you the direction, the basic elements, and the conclusion of your communication. In our example, the direction and the conclusion of your communication is inherent in the active verb, “ forgives.” Since you are going to demonstrate how God’s love forgives the wrongdoer, you will conclude your communication at that point where the forgiveness is a reality for the transgressor. The initiating force in your communication is God, and the object of your communication is the forgiven transgressor. The conflict is the negation of the verb/object combination, which, in terms of your premise, is the transgressor’s alienation that resists forgiveness. By resisting the direction and conclusion of your premise, the conflict forces your proof and propels your communication along.

Let’s assume that you decide, because of the audience and medium that you have chosen, to demonstrate your premise through a story. You could choose to make the wrongdoer a young woman who decides to run away from home to live the good life. After several adventures, she ends up destitute. She feels guilty for running away and for ending up destitute. You might decide because of your audience to represent the subject of your premise as the father who manifests God’s love. His love for his daughter causes him to go search for her. She sees him, but avoids him because of her guilt and fear of judgment. In the process of avoiding him, she is thrown in jail. The father finds his daughter, spends all he has to pay her fine and takes her home. When the father finds the daughter and forgives her, and she accepts his love and forgiveness, your premise is proved and the story is resolved, although you may want to top and tail your story to highlight the message of your premise.

Because of the nature of your audience, you may want to prove your premise in another genre. Whatever method you choose to prove your premise, by condensing your idea into a premise statement, you have given yourself a clear direction to follow in your communication plan.

Remember that any idea, scene, thought, or conviction may be converted into a premise that will drive your communication to a powerful conclusion.

To be continued…

Please read HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) for a complete guide to filmmaking.

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How To Succeed in Hollywood

Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables, and He would not speak anything to them without a parable, so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

I will open My mouth in parables; I will declare things kept secret from the foundation of the world.

–Matthew 13:34–35

One day more than 70 years ago, two literary giants in England stood talking about language, stories, and religion. In the middle of the conversation, the taller gentleman blurted to his slightly balding companion, “ Here’s my point: Just as a word is an invention about an object or an idea, so a story can be an invention about Truth.”

“I’ve loved stories since I was a boy,” the other man admitted. “Especially stories about heroism and sacrifice, death and resurrection. …But, when it comes to Christianity . . . well, that’s another matter. I simply don’t understand how the life and death of Someone Else (whoever he was) 2000 years ago can help me here and now.”

The first man earnestly replied, “ But don’t you see, Jack? The Christian story is the greatest story of them all. Because it’s the real story. The historical event that fulfills the tales and shows us what they mean.”

About a week later, Jack—also known as C. S. Lewis, the author of the classic books Mere Christianity and The Chronicles of Narnia (among many other works)—announced his conversion to Christianity to a friend. Lewis attributed much of his decision to his conversation with J. R. R. Tolkien.[i] Of course, Tolkien is the author of one of the greatest books of the twentieth century, The Lord of the Rings, which has been transformed into a magnificent movie trilogy by director Peter Jackson. Although Tolkien, a Roman Catholic, didn’t always see eye to eye with Lewis, who was more inclined toward Protestantism, they both understood the truth of the ultimate story.

Storytelling and Mythmaking

As Tolkien and Lewis said so long ago, stories matter deeply. They connect us to our personal history and to the history of all time and culture. Human beings are meaning seekers and meaning makers. We strive to connect ourselves to our experiences and the experiences of others. We are addicted to those “aha!” moments in our lives when we see meaning, purpose, and significance.

Stories help us do this. They bring us laughter, tears, and joy. They stimulate our minds and stir our imaginations. Stories help us escape our daily lives to visit different times, places, and people. They can arouse our compassion and empathy, spur us toward truth and love, or sometimes even incite us toward hatred or violence.

Different kinds of stories satisfy different needs. For example, a comedy evokes a different response from us than a tragedy. A hard news story on the front page affects us differently than a human interest story in the magazine section, or a celebrity profile next to the movie and television listings. While different kinds of stories satisfy different needs, many stories share common themes, settings, character types, situations, and other recurrent archetypal patterns.

Many stories focus on one individual; often a heroic figure who overcomes many trials and tribulations to defeat evil or attain a valuable goal. We identify with such heroes because we recognize that we are each on our own journey or quest. How a hero’s journey informs and illuminates our own journey is significant. We look for answers in stories.

Every story has a worldview: a way of viewing reality, truth, the universe, the human condition, and the supernatural world. Looking carefully at a story, we can examine the motifs, meanings, values, and principles it suggests. By examining a story’s worldview, we identify the cultural ideals the story presents and the emotion it evokes. We also determine the moral, philosophical, social, psychological, spiritual, and aesthetic messages the story conveys.

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Maureen Pratt PictureHello! Maureen Pratt here with another blog post about the craft of writing.

I’m typing this just before I leave to see one of the “blockbuster” movies coming out during this holiday season. Many films are timed to open during the next couple of months so that they can be eligible for award consideration, so the selection these days is varied and abundant.

Anticipating seeing “Lincoln,” (my movie of choice today), I thought I’d talk today about fiction writing and a very specific way of filtering that “movie in the mind” to better hone story telling and characterization.

The concept of translating the “movie in the mind” to a novel, novella, or shorter story is a powerful one. Movies are by their nature action-packed, and when told on the big screen, they take on an epic quality even if the story involves only two characters. Sweeping scenes, broad emotions, and long passages are the things that hook us into sitting and watching – or sitting and writing. But forever lengthy storytelling can become unwieldy and dilute the impact of a very worthy tale.

This is where the “secret weapon” of moviemakers comes in, and where we can glean some very worthwhile food for thought and action. After a scene has been shot and a movie “in the can,” comes the shirt-sleeves-rolled up work, the place where the story truly gets told: The editing room.

I’m not talking about rewriting in this context, that is, I’m not addressing the need to rework scenes, characters, plot points, or even changing the setting of a work. The editing to which I refer is more about establishing the pacing, featuring (however briefly) the small details that illustrate big points, and sculpting the work as it stands so that it can be three-dimensional, even if the words physically lie flat on the page.

Editing in this sense is carried out by watching the movie, and then coming in close on specific points that tell a bigger tale. For example, perhaps you like the initial description of your heroine. She’s petite, brunette, blue-eyed. Now, “movie-edit” and look at several possible “shots” that you can use to more precisely and uniquely describe her. Is one shoulder slightly lower than the other, perhaps indicating she’s carried a heavy load (a briefcase?) a long way for a long time? Is there even lighter hair coming in at her roots, indicating a transition from brunette to arriving middle age? Even if she appears calm at the start, does she have a characteristic fidgeting habit with her fingers indicating some tension underneath? As with picking which shots to use in a movie, in a book, pick out helpful details and use them in description, too.

Cinematic editing is also important when deciding where a scene begins and ends. We’ve all had the experience of not knowing, for example, how to close out a critical scene, with the result that the conversation or action becomes diluted from too much indecision. A masterful editor knows exactly when to “cut,” often timing down to a second. This takes practice. A useful exercise is to take a scene that you feel is too long and cut it a few times at different points. How does each cut affect the flow? Tension? Impact? Practice makes perfect!

In movie editing, many aspects of the work come into play, and the same is true for a book. For example, movie editors are conscious of where music comes in and how it builds a scene. Think about this next time you’re going over your work. What music do you hear and when; that is, what background do you have in your scene that fleshes out either the characters or the setting? Also, how is the continuity from one scene to another? Are you sure that your hero remains brown eyed throughout, or that the local bakery is just that and doesn’t transform to a bookshop halfway through the book?

As you watch movies this holiday season and beyond, notice the editing – where cuts are made, which shots are used (where the focus is placed), and how music and other background elements play in telling the story as a whole. Then see which of these tools might help you go beyond the movie in your mind and arrive at a work that is multidimensional, compelling, and true!

Blessings to you!

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

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Bigger smile - close up 4th of July 2012

Hi from Gail Gaymer Martin at www.gailmartin.com

I look forward to dropping by to share a new post with you about writing Christian fiction. I’ve been blessed for the past twelve years with an amazing career – second career actually, and I’ve learned so much on this journey.

One thing to know is that learning never ends. I read magazines and books on writing, continual improving my craft and loving every moment.

I’ve been sharing thoughts on Intimate Storytelling which means bring the main characters to life in a dynamic way that they seem real. Today I will show you how you can reveal characterization in a rather different way.

Read More →

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