Why Write?

As I mentioned in my guest blog at The Cat’s Write, I hesitated to make writing a career. I discussed how the rejections daunted me, as well as the fact that I didn’t want to write “just because” of my limitations keeping me from pursuing anything else. In truth, I had the hardest time overcoming the latter. My parents raised me to be a hard worker and someone who strived to make a difference, and going into adulthood, I wanted to live up to that. After doing my best in high school, and earning an honors diploma and over a 4.0 GPA, I didn’t want to live the life many expect of a disabled person.

Eventually, I realized my body wasn’t confining me to write; my heart was compelling me to. Still, I questioned the worth of doing it. The world can go on with or without books written by me. In the long history of literature, how could I, a small-town, handicapped girl, add anything original to it? Hasn’t every premise I could conceive already been done before? Wouldn’t I be better off using my limited abilities in a profession that—though more “average”—would benefit everyone?

Then, I remembered a true story.

A young girl had a very bad home life. Her dad, an alcoholic, left her mom, who struggled with mental health issues of her own, to raise three small children by herself. This led the family to a life of complete unrest and uncertainty, with the single mother moving them twice a year and hardly giving them any notice. The kids could barely make friends during their short stays and, on a low income, never had many possessions to pack.

To survive the turmoil, the oldest daughter locked herself in her own world of books. They were her constant companions, her friends. She may not have had another kid’s house to go visit, but her first stop in every new town was the library, where she knew a friend was always waiting for her. Sometimes, she read seven books a night, escaping a reality that could’ve broken her.

That girl became my mom.

Without books, Mom could’ve turned to a variety of vices many others do to escape bitter realities. If the authors whose stories captivated her had doubted their worth, she might’ve allowed her troubled life to define her and become a completely different person. My family may never have existed.

Hence, I found the value in going after a dream some could deem futile. In doing so, I’ve found my escape from my problems and hope to give the same to my readers. I’ll probably never know if one of them has a story like my mom’s, but that doesn’t matter. If my books and characters can contribute to getting someone through a tough day, it’s worth the effort.

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Plotting a Plot: More than just a Tongue-Twister

Unless a writer’s fortunate enough to have his/her novel turned into an audio-book, we don’t have the benefit of sound effects to alert our readers to what’s coming. There’s no twinkly music to signal the moment when a character meets his future bride, nor do drums pound as he approaches a life or death decision. The way a reader surmises a plot twist on the horizon solely depends on an author’s metaphorical brush strokes, a rather daunting task.

I recently helped review some elementary students’ stories, which made me reflect on my younger days. I don’t remember many of my works back then and could never claim to be a child prodigy. In my pondering, I identified a component in English Class that shaped my ability far more than I realized—the plot diagram.

 

plot diagram

Courtesy Slideshare.net

I took the plot diagram for granted because it never seemed that challenging to me as a reader. I didn’t have trouble identifying an initial incident, climax, and the elements in between. I’ve come to appreciate, though, that story charting enhances one’s writing skills, not just those of a reader. We think we’re simply graphing Tom Sawyer, but in reality, we’re being trained in the art of storytelling. Plot diagrams always reminded me of heart-rate monitors, and actually, they are. They chart the heart of your story.

Rising action is, of course, the biggest part of the diagram, which can be scary. It’s relatively easy to think up a vague premise with its conflict and resolution, but creating everything in between sometimes seems unfathomable, especially when writing longer pieces. You can’t solve conflicts too early, yet you don’t want to exasperate your readers with boring filler. That’s when the term “rising action” comes into play. You need to build on that plot twist that set everything into motion with material that will entice them to keep reading. Sure, not every development can be action-packed and suspenseful, but even minor progressions can add tension to the rubber band that is your story…until it finally snaps.

When crafted correctly, your plot will take readers on a thrilling roller coaster they’ll want to ride time and again. Just remember to keep the hills, turns, and loops smooth so as to avoid motion sickness. Also, wrap it up before even the biggest thrill-seeker wants to get off, for the best coasters aren’t necessarily the longest in duration. On that note, I say, “Thank you for riding on the Behind the pages blog. Enjoy the rest of your day!”

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