These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.
This is an excerpt from a recent fictional blog post, in which I tried to utilize this lesson.
How's the depiction of the homeless character? Is it typical, or an unusual twist?
Today as I was returning from a lunch break, a homeless man waited at a stoplight. I always try to give money, as if I could buy my way out of remorse. I had nothing in my wallet, but I’d just been to the grocery store so I called over the tired-looking man. Matted hair clung to his face, and his skin was dark from grime.
“I have some bread, a baguette,” I said. “Would you like it?”
“Not sure what I’d do with bread,” he said slowly.
“You could eat it,” I said, raising an eyebrow.
“I ain’t got no teeth. Lost ‘em in the Vietnam war.”
I hadn’t noticed, because of all the hair, and because I kept most of my attention on the stoplight, which seemed to be broken. I glanced at my passenger seat. There sat my afternoon treat, a craving I’d been fighting all morning: a slice of dark red velvet cake, resting in its own plastic container.
“I have cake," I said cheerfully. "Would you like it?” He nodded, and I handed it over, swiftly. No sense in a lengthy goodbye.
The man gently accepted the cake and said, “They dang nearly killed me in that Vietnam war.”
“I’ll bet they did,” I said, and I drove off.
I hope it is okay to do the assignment in increments...have my hands full at the moment, but want to glean all I can from the classes...
"effect" & "affect"
Will try and work on this assignment some more today...thank you for your faithfulness to challenge us...God Bless
We walk by faith, not by sight.
Well, this is as good a time as any to post the answers. These were intentionally tricky, so don't worry if you got them wrong. Nanci--good job!
1. It always has an effect on Susan’s mood when she hears “Purple People Eater” on the radio. This is probably the most common use of 'effect'--a result, consequence, or change.
2. The psychiatric patient’s symptoms included a flattened affect. This definition of 'affect' would be most used by mental health professionals and educators. It means 'mood, personality'.
3. Babies are not generally affected by normal household noises. This is the most common use of 'affect', and probably the most common error. Here, it means 'changed, influenced'.
4. If you want to effect change in your community, you should vote in local elections. This one is the tricky one--here, you use 'effect' as a VERB, meaning 'to bring about'. It's not often used, especially in informal writing, but I wanted people to be aware of it. 90% of the time, you'll be on the write track if you use 'effect' as a noun and 'affect' as a verb.
Jan, I don't know if you are going to cover this, or if you did, but I think the idea of a story being "contrived" comes under the topic of "Predictability" or "in the box."
I think writing with a "Christian" group adds to our tendency to contrive our plots / dialogue / resolutions.
We want to "make" the story end happily, answer all the prayers, and ensure heaven for everyone.
The letter arrives right on time... the long lost father shows up... a medical miracle at JUST the right moment....
I have been guilty of it, but I try to veer away from what I consider "sappy" or "smarmy" dialogue or plots.
I want my stories to be REAL... and REAL people fail and VOICE their doubt and emotions in HUMAN WAYS... prayers aren't always answered with icing on the cake...
Life does not always turn out swell and hunky-dory.
Those stories do NOT leave me satisfied... In fact, I feel it's somewhat of a "sellout" and a "letdown" to go with the expectations of the readership. I am far more satisfied with a story that describes horrific tragedy... the MC responds in a genuinely HUMAN manner.... but continues THROUGH the horrific event.... but NOT always in a PRESCRIBED PREDICTABLE ACCEPTABLE way.
(I would even go so far as to say it is not an accurate representation of Christianity to always have warm and fuzzy endings. It is unfair to CONTRIVE our stories to demonstrate what we believe to be universally acceptable.)
"What remains of a story after it is finished? Another story..." Eli Wiesel
I agree with Anja. In a recent challenge, themed 'Manuscript,' I wrote, "The Manuscript of a Life," This fiction was strongly based on the true life of my aunt. Most of the story was true: her struggles, her three bouts with cancer. However, I wrote the story before her most recent surgery, and I gave it a very graceful, if not happy ending. In my story, I had my aunt wake up, blind in one eye, but having the growth removed and ready for the fight ahead. I realize now, my ending was 'contrived.'
My aunt had her surgery yesterday. When they opened her up, the cancer was too far spread, so the doctors did nothing. The doctors have assigned her a very short life-span.
The truth is we (my aunt, her young daughter, me and others) are all going to have to cling to our God-given grace to hold on to it. We are all going to have to fight to choose to trust God and his will. The truth is, life is hard, and faith takes work, and committment, and our brains are very small, and our version of 'a happy ending' can't compare to the story God has prepared for us.
Since I like Christian romance, I thought I'd add my two-cents worth on some cliches I've noticed:
Girl is pure and perfect (as mentioned), guy has a rough background and feels undeserving of girl.
Now, I'm totally not against purity. In fact, I'm a huge advocate for it. But I think many times in romances, the poor guys get picked on too much. Why can't the guy be the pure one for a change?
As far as all the characters being good-looking and whether or not someone would read about "ugly" characters, that's a hard call. I kind of like it when the character thinks they're plain and unappealing, while their eventual mate thinks they're beautiful. (Or handsome -- it goes for the girls and the guys. ) That may be cliche too, but it seems realistic to me.
It might be neat to have a story where one of the characters is handicaped or something -- just to show that true love is not dependent on perfect looks or abilities. . . which no one has really.
I hope I'm not too late.
How about a sports genre for Juvenile readers? The predictable pattern usually follows: Underdogs continually lose...a coach gets 'stuck' with the unwanted position...the coach and players become motivated to win...they persevere and learn needed skills...in the end they succeed by winning the Championship against all odds. What if they grow leaps and bounds, learning valuable lessons about never giving up and team unity, but still lose the championship game in the end?
A sports genre, typical character type might be described: Young, tall, male, athletic, handsome, popular, leader
Fiddling with the main character: Older, Grandma who loves to sew, takes on a dare from her 'geeky' Grandson to train and enter a mini triathalon with him.
Thanks, Jan, for your input!
Dawn, sorry it took me a while to respond to you--I'm on vacation and not really conveniently near a computer.
Your unpredictable ideas were great--I hope you continue to give unique twists to sports stories!
Nice to hear from you here. Catch you next lesson, I hope!
Hi Jan. Just now getting around to reading this lesson. Didn't get any of the homework done, except the "effect/affect" questions. Jotted them down, intending to type them into reply, but have now read your answers. I missed 2 of the 4. Ugh. No need to type it now.
However, hope to remember them.
Predictability is probably my biggest hurdle in writing. This lesson gave me lots to think about.
Thanks, hope your vacation was/is great!
A child of the King!
This should be easy for me since I taught grammar for several years. This SHOULD be easy...not.
I want to answer this part of the homework first before I scroll down to see what others have written. I'll go back now and respond to the rest of the lesson.
In the twilight of my years, may His Light shine more brightly.
THRILLED TO BE A 500 MEMBER!
Predictability: I'm not for sure this is what you're looking for but I'll give it a try anyway.
Sibling rivalry...fist-a-cuffs, arguments, me-first mentality...then you discover they're still in the womb.
Sibling rivalry...normal childhood spatterings but between a puppy and goosling (latter being adopted by the momma dog and she doesn't know she's anything but a dog).
(I must be on "sibling rivalry" because my two granddaughters are acting more like sisters today than cousins/friends. Yikes.)
Some of my favorite stories (whether novels, short-stories, poems, etc.) are the ones which make me gasp, "I didn't see that coming." I can become quickly bored with stories that are predictable. Which is strange since I do like historical novels and biographies and the outcome of those are very predictable. Strange, indeed. Is that a contradiction?
In the twilight of my years, may His Light shine more brightly.
THRILLED TO BE A 500 MEMBER!
AS USUAL I'm on the runway flying backwards...
Personally, I would not have survived if not for many of those what is being termed "predictable," - sappy happy endings. I had served as a missionary for decades until I finally could not experience any more further tragedy, hardship or suffering - nor open the pages of my Bible. God sent comfort and His Word in the form of the Christian Fiction Novel. It was hours at the library and checking out and reading hundreds of books that provided my escape. I don't think I exaggerate to say it probably saved my life. I am glad that many of those have found their way onto bookstore and library shelves.
When I read, the VERY last thing I need is further heartache, disappointment, despair, anguish. That would be like injesting poison. Perhaps there is a reason these type of reads are called "predictable." or another word for "common." When I read, I seek to be entertained, comforted, encouraged in the Word of God and transported, albeit briefly, into another life which unlike mine for the time, is experiencing the happily ever afters. Perhaps "happy and sappy" is predictable and not award worthy. May those type of authors never stop writing!
Be strong and very courageous Joshua 1:7
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