A gathering place for readers, writers, and other advocates for a more just world

Posts tagged ‘storytelling’

Main Character Blog Tour

I’d like to thank Marta Merajver-Kurlat, author of Just Toss the Ashes, for inviting me to participate in this blog tour. To read her post, click on http://www.martamerajver.com.ar/marta/index.php/blogroll

I’ve been asked to respond to the following questions about My Main Character in a Work in Progress.

1. What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?

The main character, Roman Starke is the most influential man in the world as head of The Bank of the Milky Way, the target of a paranormal alliance. He is a work of my imagination, although his nickname is JC (comparable to the famous Roman conqueror), and some of his personality traits were conspicuous in a 21st century Republican presidential candidate.

2. When and where is the story set? space elevator image

This novel delves into the future described in my first novel, Pieces of You. The world of 2040 has changed drastically since that novel’s protagonist died. Control of the wealth is in the hands of a coalition of three international banking corporations, with the Bank of the Milky Way being the dominant force .
The story moves between Roman’s offices: Dallas; Moscow; George, South Africa; and Shanghai and into the outer reaches of the space elevators operated by the coalition.

3. What should we know about him/her?

He is a charismatic, brutal, greedy world leader and a widower with two daughters. Calligula

First Impression of Him: Rather handsome still; doesn’t look his age. After five minutes with him, it is clear how self-centered he is (all discussions revert to him/his experiences & perceptions).
Life-changing Events: Father’s death of a heart attack at 48 and wife’s death at 43 (hit by a car while riding her bike).
Accomplishments: Took over father’s investment firm and, with a partner, expanded it to become one of the world’s most profitable (he is now one of the world’s top ten richest).
Weaknesses: Tendency to retract statements and revise values based on ambition rather than morality; allows himself to be manipulated by a team of advisors, although he is unaware of their demonic origins.

4. What is the main conflict? What messes up his life?

The coalition Roman heads stores much of the basic foodstuff in outer space, transported there by a space elevator. The space elevator quits functioning after less than a year in operation when the cable is severed by a rocket veering off-course and cutting into the ribbon of carbon nanotubes. To reconnect the severed nanotubes quickly is very dangerous and no one with sufficient expertise has yet been found who is willing to take the risk. It is also very expensive and the banking coalition has not yet recovered the cost of the original placement. With the space elevator out of commission, the cost and speed of bringing food from its storage warehouse in space triples.
As the world famine becomes severe enough to produce rebellion, Roman’s daughter, Callie, tries–but fails–to influence the global leadership to expand the agricultural system they’ve created. Just as revolution seems imminent, Callie announces she will be the one to repair the space elevator. She won’t listen to her father’s objections and is helped by a team of his subordinates. In the minutes before ascension, the rebel leader, Camden, rushes up to Callie and gives her a passionate kiss. He is gone before Roman’s guards can capture him, but his kiss carries a virus and before her work is finished, she falls to her death.

5. What is the personal goal of the character?

His external ambition is to bring Callie into his company, not only because she is his favorite daughter, but also because she is the only person he trusts.
His internal ambition is too be revered globally, almost like a god. His dream is to be the number one global leader, and he is well on his way.

6. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

The title is Battle of Jericho, 2040. Here’s a short excerpt:

The tip of Roman Starke’s ears got flaming red when he listened to the message from the anchor station while he pulled on his mustache. Not the usual brushing over the hairs with the pads of two fingers; instead a hard jerking that could have thinned the mustache of a less robust man. But he uttered only one word—crap. Patrice, the only other person in their South African office, jerked to attention spilling the coffee she’d been savoring. The cup bearing the bank’s nickname, Candyland Bank, hit the thick carpet with a soft thud. Wiping up the puddle was not the most pressing concern . Hearing her boss use that tone of voice and with a word that was as close as he ever got to swearing meant bad news–seriously bad news. It had to be one of two issues: trouble from his younger daughter or a lifter malfunction.
“Is it Randi again?”
“Who?” Roman seemed in another world but recovered enough to speak his elder daughter’s name into his wireless mike. As Callie’s face appeared on the wall screen, it was clear where the problem originated.
“Dad, the cars were up there twenty–“
“I don’t care if they were up there two minute ago if they aren’t there now. I’ve put millions into this project, if you will, and I won’t have it fail! Callie, I need answers. Put Torin online, please.”
“But Dad, he’s busy—“
“I’m busier. A grain shipment is due from the space station tonight. I need to know I can count on its arrival.”
The screen showed her pretty mouth inverted, each end an arrow pointing to her trembling chin. She didn’t say anything else, just turned away from the monitor.
Roman wanted to call her to come back, but he only managed a weak Cal as Torin’s features solidified.
“Mr. Starke, we’re all upset. We’re doing our best to figure out what’s goin’ on up there.” Torin wanted to add, think of her crew, but he knew that would be a futile request.
“Will the shipment be here on time?”
“I can’t promise that until I know what we’re up against. You’ll know thirty seconds after we do.”
“That will be acceptable if it’s not more than two hours and thirty seconds from now. And pray that it’s good news.”
“Yessir.” After signing off, Torin had a desperate urge to hit something, but all the equipment was too expensive to pulverize. Instead, he changed into swim trunks, settling for a quick dunk in the Pacific Ocean. When he climbed back on board, shivering and expelling water like a wet puppy, Callie was waiting at the ladder with a towel, a light beer, and a poor excuse for a smile. Still, it was enough to keep him from sounding as hysterical as the man he reported to, the one who seemed to think he had the power of a god. Well, in many ways he did.

7. When can we expect the book to be published?

My goal is for it to be available on Amazon as an e-book and a “print on demand” paperback by All Souls’ Day (November 2).

9 Things I Learned at the Festival of Faith & Writing 2012

1. (Getting Your Hustle On: The Icky, Necessary Art of Self-Promotion…) Use a hashtag (#) before a specific topic/word when tweeting includes that tweet in a list easily found in a search for that subject (e.g., #inspiring) at twitter.com.

[I had been wondering how to become part of a larger conversation and found that just asking a question didn’t bring anyone to @harmlessjoyce. Adding a hashtag before a word organizes my tweet with others who’ve used the same designation to identify their tweet topic.]

2.  (Where the Servants Dwell) A writer’s focus, according to Gary Schmidt, comes when we find and attend to that question that stirs us and leads us to write stories that say to the reader: “Why don’t you try this?”

3.  (Cultivating Curiosity) Write about what makes us most uncomfortable because whatever seems unpleasant is typically important.

4.  (What Digital Publishing Can Do for You) Self-publishing will be most successful if the author knows how to reach her/his audience. Authors who capture a sizeable audience will often grab the attention of a traditional publisher.

5. (How to Write It So They Will Come) “Bury fear in faith or bury talent in fear.” (Ann Voskamp)

6.  (Wonderfully Made: Writing Poems of Awe) The context of poetry that inspires wonder must include these three: intellectual content; physical information that appeals to the five senses; and emotional content that makes it engaging. (from a talk by Jamaal May)

7.  (The Writer as Reader) Teaching writing seems to be most effective when the focus is at the sentence level.

8.  (Role of Place in Fiction) When writing about the setting of a scene, provide one piece of detail within the panorama to build credibility—makes readers more apt to trust the narrator and believe in the author’s created world.

9.  Author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie doesn’t think of symbolism when she writes; she believes that is for readers to decide.

 

What is the difference between inspiration and persuasion?

In my opinion, it’s the difference between temporarily moving people to buy or do something, often for good, but not making it become their way of life. Inspiration is a catalyst to change lives and worlds.

I would like my students (and me!) to become adept at inspiring, even more than persuading audiences, yet how do we know when we’ve moved beyond persuading? Our textbook gives an example of a sales manager introducing the advantages and potential of a new product, and calls it both inspirational and persuasive. I disagree!  I only see it as persuasive.  So what is inspiration?

I’ve been thinking about this question ever since Kendra, one of my students, asked about the difference when I proposed an inspirational speech for this final week of class. For examples, I showed excerpts from the park scene in “Good Will Hunting”) where Robin Williams tells off young Matt Damon; and  a reading by Stacyann Chin of Marge Piercy’s The low road  in the documentary, The People Speak.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zveWE6I3M2g

Not all my students experienced the degree of inspiration I did when observing these scenes. I responded with a sense that I could do things I haven’t yet done, understand things that were previously a mystery. It wasn’t about just doing what someone else recommended or accepting someone else’s beliefs—that is what I would call being persuaded. No, I WANTED to do something that would make a difference to others and to embrace insights that would make me different. And the feeling that I wanted to do and be more hasn’t left me.

What causes us to grasp a broader view of what is desirable and possible?  My pondering has yielded only two requirements for being inspired: an emotionally charged message (conveyed through rhythmic words and if spoken, confirmed by body language) and disclosure of a bit of transcendent mystery through the openness (vulnerability) of the one sharing.  Poets, writers, and musicians sometimes do this. Their inspiring songs and stories touch us in deep places.

How can we be an inspiration to those around us? I’m not sure, but I’ll be looking for examples. What/who has inspired you? Please add your ideas and experiences to this continuing conversation.

Why I Write

I have finished my first novel and now have it in the hands of a wonderfully talented editor, Linnet Woods, who lives on a boat off the coast of Spain. This seems a good time to consider the question of why am I am finally writing my first book. Maybe my story will make readers believe they, too, have enough to say to begin (or complete) their story.

Why do I write? I couldn’t answer that question until I came to terms with why I haven’t written. Even that must be clarified: I have always written, but never even thought of writing a book until I started writing Pieces of You. I wrote in a journal as a child, but it was primarily about my parents’ horrible relationship. Then I took up journal writing again as a divorced adult, but my second husband destroyed that book. (Evidently he thought the memories of my former male friends would be erased if the pages on which they lived were eliminated.)

I wrote for work—annual reports, marketing material, curriculum, and other such works required of a bank manager, economic development director and then college instructor. I remember a former boss, the head of Battle Creek Unlimited, commanding me to write a book while in the Peace Corps.

I did not. I had nothing to say.

Yes, I had many amazing experiences while in Kazakhstan and while living a life that was never the typical fairy tale. I was always busy trying to accomplish—and to escape. And I always read novels–to escape and/or to learn, so I could accomplish more. But I didn’t find the inspiration to share what I was learning…until Kirk/Mark’s death.

In trying to answer the why question, I have concluded that, for me, writing a book is about sharing what has changed me enough to believe (or at least hope) I can answer questions others have, too.  When the model for my protagonist died unexpectedly, I had lots of questions: Where was he? Why did he have to die just when our relationship was becoming something very special?  Why weren’t prayers answered? To answer some of those questions, I had to do considerable research, soul searching, and creative thinking. As I detected answers, I began writing his story—or what I believe could be his story.

Why do I write? More specifically, why did I write my first novel at 60 something? I finally have something to say. When I faced my haunting questions, I found some incredible answers. But most of all, I wrote this one to recover pieces of him.

Needed – Stories on Acting Justly

I apologize for being absent during the last three month. I have excuses but none are sufficiently convincing to warrant sharing.

I have a resource and a  story to share today.    The first is a link to an excellent article and brief video on the need to interact with others to make changes. Here it is: http://odewire.com/184698/reach-beyond-yourself.html

The second is what happened to me last night. I ran into the grocery store (filled with an overabundance of almost everything!) and immediately saw another customer on a phone—crying. I overheard her say, “can you please send me at least $20 by Western Union because I need to get to my grandkids.” I looked in my billfold, found I had $16 and gave her $10 (which she accepted reluctantly and with a confused look on her face), then I quickly walked away. I felt very good—for about five minutes. This may be the reason we like to do charity more than justice work. That “feel good” sensation comes with very little sacrifice: I didn’t give all I had and it only took me about five seconds. And even though I didn’t want to be noticed, when I left the store the welcome man was especially gracious.

After the five minutes of being “puffed up,” I started to re-evaluate the situation. Why didn’t I give all I had, since I had heard her say what she needed and what I gave didn’t cover the need? Why didn’t I find out where she needed to go (maybe even offering to drive her)?  My answers are  similar to some of yours might be: I didn’t have much extra money…I didn’t want to interfere and embarrass her…I didn’t have time for a long drive…I didn’t know how to offer help gracefully.

The good feeling left as quickly as it came, leaving me with other feelings and questions. The situation and article made it clear to me that I need to interact with others who will help me understand how to be a person who “loves mercy and ACTS justly.”

I’d love to have you share your stories on my blog or by email!

Life on Venus? (or Perelandra, the name given it by C. S. Lewis)

New research suggests that early Venus had oceans and may have been more likely than Mars to host life.

In C. S. Lewis’ imaginative account of a visit to Venus, the Lady, a green version of Eve, is tempted by a Satanic force but does not yield. Describing a planet where eating its delectable fruit not only satisfies hunger but gives inexpressible pleasure, boundless energy, and elevated understanding, Lewis also explains the inscrutable. The battle between good and evil, a constant on the Silent Planet (Earth) is unknown (as is death) on the young planet, Perelandra/Venus.  Innocence: never having to say you’re sorry; always interacting lovingly with others, both seen and unseen, animal, god, human (or a combination thereof) makes Perelandra the paradise we lost with one bite of the apple. And Lewis gives a logical reason for God to make the fruit off limits (analogous to the Fixed Land in Perelandra–also off limits for an overnight stay). In this my favorite of  Lewis’ fiction, he seems to suggest that if we could fully comprehend the rewards of obedience, we would have no will or even word for disobedience.

I am amazed, humbled, and inspired by the way Lewis’ decodes Genesis theology through playful, yet profound storytelling that swings between enchantment and horror. In story form, it is easily embraced; from a pulpit, more often erased. If you hope to communicate difficult concepts, try embedding them in a tale. Or do what Lewis did and borrow ideas from mythology and the Bible and weave them into great science fiction.

Week in Review: Is There a Link Between Alien Invasion & Imagining our Afterlife?


Starting the week by posting a photo and suggesting the floating objects might be an alien invasion may seem unrelated to my end-of-week musings on what we may do in heaven.  Let me try to connect the dots (as I see them strewn about on my home page). After the initial photo, I reviewed C.S. Lewis’ science fiction story of surprisingly fulfilling human interaction with the diversity of life forms on the planet Malacandra (AKA Mars). The following day readers were exposed to my brief analysis of Matt Damon’s role as George in the movie, Hereafter, in which George had the dubious gift of mediating between relative strangers and their deceased relatives. One young boy who wanted more than just a brief message from his dead twin was upset that George couldn’t give him more information.

I, too, wanted to know more than what was revealed in a brief dream-state visit from a deceased loved one a few years ago, especially since I sensed busyness, something that surprised me  because of my perception of an almost monotonous existence  emptied of all that we enjoy most on earth.  So I began to create a story of what I hoped it would be like for him.

The link is the stories told.

It is in storytelling that we try to make sense of our world or envision the future; stories help us “see” the unknowable in human terms.  Consider the subjects of ancient myths, fantasies, and my beloved science fiction novels—many tell of gods as heroes or evil personified or humans thrust into utopias or netherworlds. Good storytelling allows us to almost believe these tales and sometimes even to sense a validation of folklore as if we had always known their stories were more than make-believe.

We cannot be sure about what happens in heaven, we can’t even prove its existence; nevertheless, many of us devour depictions in art or story form (and movies), and once in a while we feel compelled to make up our own…and hope for validation someday.

In the meantime, I suggest we continue reading what flows from the minds of good storytellers, expecting to catch an occasional glimpse that rings true.

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