Counting Down the Clock

Tick-tock goes the clock.

We are surrounded by time in all its various forms, a gentle reminder that we're on a life-clock...and hopefully we'll get many days while we hang out on this third rock from the sun. 

Oh, so many clocks...they surround us on appliances, technology, phones, Darth Vader alarm clocks, and old-fashioned wall clocks (my son learned to tell time via Roman Numerals at the ripe age of 4...he has a thing for clocks and schedules). Time is everywhere.

Oh, so many clocks...they surround us on appliances, technology, phones, Darth Vader alarm clocks, and old-fashioned wall clocks (my son learned to tell time via Roman Numerals at the ripe age of 4...he has a thing for clocks and schedules). Time is everywhere.

Another 365 days have now come to a close as we usher in a new year. Another 31 million seconds (or 525,000 minutes or 8,760 hours) have come...and gone. So what did we do with all of that precious time? Some minutes or hours were lost into an abyss of nothingness. And that's okay. Some were spent on heartache or struggles. That's also okay. Some were invested into careers/parenting. Also good. Some were spent on joyous occasions, travels, or special moments. And that rocks.

What's amazing about each brand new year is that we choose how to spend our time (more or less...). Time is a gift. Time is not infinite.

With the end of the year, we may have our regrets...our wishlist that didn't get completed, goals that seemed to be swept aside by life's unexpected events. All the could's, should's, would's. Yeah, they're there, too. It's okay to have some regrets, so long as we don't dwell on them, right?

We were all given the same 31 million seconds this year. So what did I do besides breathe, eat, and sleep?

My Adventurous Endeavors and Memorable Moments of 2017:

  1. Joined Twitter -- lookout, world!

  2. Countless hugs and love-you's from my children and husband...along with their own special milestones this year.

  3. Published my first book, A Hundred Kisses, (this secretly should be #1)!! [insert happy dance].

  4. Visited Lake Placid and Door County, Wisconsin for writing assignments.

  5. Left a fruitful, demanding job to follow my full-time writing dream (A little more about that).

  6. Ventured through Nova Scotia with my husband.

  7. Celebrated my website's 1-year-anniversary.

  8. Connected with other writers via social media and friends.

  9. Finished my second book in the "Hundred" trilogy (currently my writer buddy is reading the first draft), while I outline the third book...btw, this latest manuscript is my 6th manuscript completed...3 are hidden in a drawer somewhere as a learning experience. Yes, 6th!

  10. Conquered my fear of heights in a fun tree-canopy-ropes course with my family (who am I kidding? I'm still scared.).

  11. Enjoyed so many cherished moments with friends and family.

  12. Appreciated the support and patience of a few close friends while dealing with my own struggles.

My Speed Bumps (Let's call them "Moments to Reflect and Grow") of 2017:

  1. Left a fruitful, demanding job to follow my full-time writing dream (A little more about that) -- yes, it's the same as #5 on my memorable moments, too. A milestone life moment can be both gratifying and terrifying.

  2. Saw the resurgence of a life-long battle with anxiety/depression this fall (and I'm busy digging myself out -- there is light at the end of the tunnel!).

  3. 43 rejections on my newest work (Women's Fiction - a genre jump for this romance author and the 5th novel I've written). 55 if you count the dozen "no responses" I'm waiting on.

  4. The throes of parenthood ('nuff said?).

  5. Losing a few friendships.

Admittedly, I was surprised, given the dark waters I waded through this fall, that I had trouble compiling that speed bump list. No deaths or serious illnesses or huge events plagued our household this year. I am grateful because certainly the bumps list was far longer during other years in my lifelong journey.  

I've spent this year learning, crafting, venturing, taking great leaps of faith, growing...and treasuring the seconds, minutes, and hours. I'm sure I will make a goal/resolution list next week, as I am a goal-driven person. I will check off things as they happen, and there will definitely be some goals not achieved. To be honest, I don't even know what all my goals were for this year! Some lists are fluid and shape shift. Some goals remain on that list for a very long time (it took me 19 years, on and off, to get my first novel published). Some may never reach fruition. And that's all okay.

Life is a journey. Highs and lows. Memorable moments and speed bumps. As you say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018 I encourage you to also compile your lists and you may be surprised that the good outweighed the bad if you dig deep enough.

Cheers, and have a safe and happy New Year! I'd also like to thank all my readers, followers, and support team (= friends and family and critique partners = cheerleaders!). You are blessings in my personal and professional life. Thank you!

Jean

quote.jpg

Setting goals for yourself and your characters!

 

Goals. Resolutions. Projects. Aspirations.

Sometimes those words excite us. Sometimes they bewilder us. Sometimes they terrify us.

Relax…I’m not going to ask you to set another New Year’s Resolution. We’ve all learned about goal setting at some point in our life, either professionally or personally. Recently, a chat topic on The Wild Rose Press chat forum got me thinking about my yearly writing goals and also about my characters.

First off – writer goals. Well, we all have hopes for 2017. Perhaps it’s to finish that first manuscript, or to get our book out there into an agent or publisher’s hands. Or maybe we’re working on book promotion. Or to write two more books for an eager editor. Goals require carving out time for what’s important to us. Many of us follow the “SMART” principal: making our goals specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound. We want to be able to reach these goals, so sticking to the SMART rule of thumb is key to keeping ourselves motivated, accountable, and fulfilled. I know my goal list is lofty for 2017, so I sat down and looked at it to realistically contemplate what would be achievable this year. What are your goals? I suggest taking a few minutes to write them down by following the rule of “SMART”, and post them somewhere, checking in daily.

Now on to my second part of goal-making…our characters! One of my favorite  topics is goal, motivation, and conflict…the magical “GMC” that is the backbone to all fiction works. I’ve read many books on writing over the years (and I just got two more) and I will say Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict has seen the most wear and tear, earmarks, and re-reads. Just like I can recite the lines of The Princess Bride back to anyone, I can reiterate what Ms. Dixon lays out in this book on the building blocks of fiction.

Here’s a simple overview of these three essential elements…

Every character (who) has a what (goal), a why (motivation), and why not (conflicts).

So for each character, big or small, in your story, you can write this expressive phrase:

            A character has a [goal] because they want [motivation] but this happens [conflict].

And never fear dear analytical chart makers! Oh yes, there is a chart method to create your internal and external GMCs for your characters. In her book, Dixon outlines several examples, using movies (as many of us can relate to movies, because just like books, movie characters have GMC!), such as The Wizard of Oz and Casablanca and even Star Wars.

So let’s go through another example from my favorite, The Princess Bride (using the William Goldman’s movie as the example)…

            As you wish…

A goal is urgent, and results in consequences if the character fails. A character has external and internal goals. Not all goals are achieved, and some may change.

Buttercup’s external goal is to be with Westley, her true love.

Motivation drives your characters and should be strong, focused, and guides all of your character’s actions and choices. Internal motivation creates emotion within the character. Characters can have varied internal motivations….guilt, family, redemption, protecting another, etc.

Why does Buttercup want to be with Westley? Well, because she loves Westley.

Why can’t she be with Westley?

Because she thinks he’s dead.  And several more reasons: Prince Humperdinck is forcing her to marry him. She is kidnapped. The Fire Swamp. Westley is captured and she barters for his life.

Therein lay our conflicts. And there are quite a few conflicts in The Princess Bride. Conflict is an obstacle standing in the way of the goal, but must be faced by the character. Conflicts test our character and strengthen our stories. Nobody wants to read an easy fix. We want to see the characters struggle and overcome! And as you can see, there are many conflicts in this story. Internal conflict is emotional conflict. Furthermore, Buttercup may outwardly appear a docile, simple farm girl. But she’s got gumption. She is stubborn and is not a passive bystander. She needs to make choices, which are ultimately driven by her motivation and goal.

Dig a little deeper and we can see her internal GMC.

What does Buttercup want? True love of course.

Why? Well, that’s a bit trickier. Don’t we all? Buttercup lives a simple life on her farm and rides her horse throughout the countryside. I would gamble that she wants to live the life of true love: on her farm, with her horse, and with her dear Westley. Happy ever after and all that jazz.

Why can’t she have this dream? Well, we already know that Humperdinck wants her as his wife (for his own political ploys) and that she thinks Westley is dead. But then she learns Westley is alive. Enter more conflict and see her motivation drive her. Also note that internal motivation can change or stay the same. Certainly, she wanted her happy ending with Westley but the prince threatens to kill him so she agrees to marry the prince so that Westley may live. She wavers between choosing life and choosing death. Conflict abounds.

So let’s break down her GMC chart according Dixon’s methods:

Buttercup (beautiful farm girl)

Okay, so working that GMC chart was a bit harder than I expected and there is some overlapping areas in her GMC, but you see where I am going here. Some character GMCs are more straightforward and easier to analyze. Take Inigo Montoya – that man’s motivation never wavers. He wants revenge for his father’s death and his goal is to kill the Count. His conflicts include having to kidnap Buttercup for some money, helping Westley save Buttercup, and of course getting to the Count to fulfill his goal.

I am sticking with my Buttercup example, because, well, death cannot stop true love…all it can do is delay it for a little while. And I am a true romantic at heart.

So on that note, get out there and create your goals as a writer. And don’t forget about your characters! Heck, I am sure you could even make a GMC for yourself as a writer…hmm, a daydreaming mom wants to publish her work (novels, short stories, children’s books, and magazine articles) because she has loved writing since she was a girl and wants to be successful, but life throws her some curveballs (busy children and schedules, agent rejection, illnesses, the need for sleep…). Will she achieve her goal? Stay tuned.