Thursday, June 17, 2010

Wit, Wonder, Wisdom

When I was a little girl, there was a column in the Niagara Falls Review by Winnifred Somebody - the name will come to me. Her daily column was entitled Wit, Wonder and Wisdom. I was fascinated by it. The column was made up of bits and pieces.

If you were hoping for a themed column with a logical progression from opening statement to conclusion, you are out of luck. I have been reading about writing all week and I am about to present you with what wit, wonder and wisdom bitys and pieces I gathered.

Stokes. Her name was Winnifred Stokes. See?

First, one of the WWWs I thought about myself. Conflict drives the plot. Conflict drives the  writer crazy. If he falls in love with her and vice versa, early in the story, you have a big problem. What are you going to do about conflict now? Yet, characters won't wait on you. Sometimes, they are determined to take the lead and leave you without any conflict. Then they sneer and say, "What are you going to do now"?

  Internal Conflict

I always have trouble with internal conflict. I usually forget all about it - in my story that is.
I have been presented with a real life internal conflict just this week. There is a wannabe flower bed across the front of our house. The tulips are fantastic and thereafter, it just looks like what it is: very dead dirt struggling to grow something and even weeds aren't very interested. I painstakingly (my arthritis is killing me) got down on my knees and carefully skirting the tulip bulbs, dug out all the dead dirt (which I spread on the dead lawn). I then blended my own earth mixture of compost, peat moss and whatever stuff and additives lying around and built up the flower bed. The internal conflict: I want to plant ferns, which I love. The neighbour has announced that she hates them. BIG internal conflict. Do I plant ferns and there goes the neighbourhood? Do I plant iris, as she prefers, and  (to thine own self be true) see myself as a total wimp?
You just gotta know don't you? Well, I have decided to plant alternate ferns and iris - not because it is a compromise setting my internal conflict at ease, but because I procrastinated and half the ferns died.

 Wisdom - from somebody else (or is this wit?)

"Over the years, I have come to terms with procrastination. I know the sink needs to be cleaned and toe nails have to be clipped, so I don't beat myself up or suffer any guilt; instead, each day, I jump fully into that day's procrastination". This author is my kind of lady.

Getting started  (or Getting from the kitchen table to the computer)

In one book, there are pages of notes like the admissions of the procrastination lady, telling how writers get started. In short, bits of wisdom you may take or leave

1. They all need coffee first. No tea drinking writers I guess.
2. They get the kids to school, thereby avoiding any questions from them, such as: "Mommy, will you come to my tea party?" This, as we have seen, mommy can't do and be a writer too
3. Some have special clothes they have to wear or their muse won't recognize them I guess.
4. Like Anita and her cave, they all have a special place to write. Mine is a space in the basement with walls lined with clippings and photos, including one of our dog having a stroke.
5. One writer, like me, has been blocked for months. She determined she would write for 15 minutes every day to build up her writing muscles. Now, she puts her contacts in so she can't go back to bed, makes said bed, has a second cup of coffee, sits down and writes all day.
Diana Gabaldon offered the same advice at the Surrey conference (not the contact bit -  especially if you don't wear contacts). She said you just have to start somewhere and just do it. Make a habit of it. Write every day.

When the Muse says, "Let's take a break," (I don't have a muse, so that decision is mine alone) I play Freecell for awhile, or eat Rainbow Jello Parfait, until the non-muse gives me a load of guilt.

  Sexual Awareness or Tension

Actually, this has nothing to do with whether your husband/wife is home or not. However, romantic novels are made up of sexual awareness and/or tension, and there are rules (apparently - at least in this book) for them.
1.From the first time they meet, the hero and heroine must be aware of each other. This awarenss grows and expands until finally, it leads to the resolution.
2. The hero and heroine must be together as much as possible, and when they aren't, the absent one must be kept in the reader's mind through memories, yearning and so on and so forth.
3. When they are together, their feelings must take on a different aspect, e.g. their emotions will strengthen, shake, threaten and finally solidifying the relationship.
4. The senses of the hero and heroine are sharpened when they are together. Whether they are having a fight or about to make love, sexual tension escalates with each scene. (Rita Clay Estrada and Rita Gallagher)

Lairds and Lords

I recently read a romance in which the heroine was not beautiful and another in which the hero was so plain, she wouldn't notice him in the supermarket even if she was desperate for a hero. Spolied as I am by gorgeous lairds and ladies with swan necks, I didn't enjoy them as much as novels with the impossibly broad shoulders and square jaws. and heroines with generous busts.

Recently, I saw a picture of a real laird. No wonder writers go for swan necks and square jaws! This laird, from the ground up, was downright ugly. His legs were spindly and bowed. His kilt looked as if it was pressed by someone who absolutely loathed kilts ad lairds. His waist coat demonstrated what a beer belly really looks like. His cutaway coat shouldn't have been. His shoulders were so sloped and narrow, he could have walked through a picket fence. He wouldn't make it to the bottom of page one if he was to be the hero of a good old fashioned Scottish laird romance novel. Writers have to create their own worlds. Fortunately, Hayley has given us instructions on how to create a world sans bowlegged lairds.

I hope this bit of Wit (well not really), Wonder (does she know what she is talking about?) and Wisdom (fill in your own or borrow from a book as I did) has given you some new ideas or removed forever some not-so-good ones. Conflicts anyone?


Cheryl Brooks said...

Great words of wisdom, Connie, except for the tea-drinking thing. I write AND drink tea, proving once again that there are exceptions to every rule.

And I like iris and ferns, so I would be very happy as your neighbor!

Helena said...

Connie, you are such a witty, wonderful, wise person. I look forward to every post you write. This one is chock-full of pithy pronouncements.

... before I get carried away with too much alliteration, I should thank you for jogging my memory on a couple of things that just might scrape me off that wall I hit a few months ago. Start wearing my writing jacket again and get my laptop back up to my gable (it's been straying to the living room couch lately -- not good!)

Great post!

Karyn Good said...

Thanks for the wit, the wonder, and the wisdom, Connie. Except now I have a mental picture of the bowlegged, spindly, beer bellied laird in my mind. I much perferred the idea they all looked like Jamie or Gerard Butler :D

Anita Mae Draper said...

Love your humour, Connie. And your description of a real Laird.

Spolied as I am by gorgeous lairds and ladies with swan necks, I didn't enjoy them as much as novels with the impossibly broad shoulders and square jaws.

I can't say I agree with that statement. I feel more for the characters who aren't as good looking and think they're never going to find love. So when it does, they don't believe it's real and then that's a struggle.

None of my characters are 'beautiful'. They are average to most people but take on beautiful qualities when looked at by the fortunate ones who fall in love with them.

Great post!

DebH said...

i loved your posting today Connie. very witty with just enough wisdom thrown in.

i, like Anita, don't exactly enjoy the uber beautiful hero/heroines because i want to picture myself in their shoes and i'm far from being uber beautiful. i prefer reading about the average looking hero/heroine.

your description of a real laird presents a disturbing mental picture - perhaps a tad too realistic. that would be one case where i'd use artistic license to spruce him up a bit.

of course, i do like occasionally picturing my heroes looking like Hugh Jackman...yummy

Janet said...

Sparkling "Wit", Amazing "Wonder" and Sage "Wisdom" - well done, Connie :)

I usually have problems with the external conflict - the stuff that keeps them apart. Internal? My characters have more angst than I do - and that's saying a lot.

It's amazing how much one can get done when they don't procrastinate. 15 minutes a day can get you quite far into a first draft or revisions. It's just committing to that time - and making it a priority, Muse or no muse.

I say you plant whatever you want - it's your yard! If the neighbor grips, tell her to go ahead and garden for you (gives you more time to write and saves on the pain of your joints).

prashant said...

Great words of wisdom,
Banner Advertising Network India