Story Genius

by RS on January 19, 2017

I’m happy to note I am pleased I’ve prolonged (procrastinated) this revision process. I believe (hope?) I have a pretty good story with conflict, tension, fully developed characters and a story that moves forward at a good clip. In other words, a page turner.

I mentioned back in September I would be attending the Writer Unboxed Unconference and I did. It was a great week with sessions with Lisa Cron, Don Maass and other writers.

Lisa’s sessions were based on her new book Story Genius, which basically tells writers that the way we’ve been approaching story is wrong. During the workshop, she explained that story is internal, not external. It’s the internal change within the character. And before we can actually start writing our story, we need to know what’s going on with our protagonist and get inside her head. Not one of those surveys with 100 questions, but an incident in her early childhood that shaped her thinking. This is what Lisa calls a misbelief. To figure out what this defining moment or misbelief is, Lisa asks us a number of questions that lead to this crucial crux in the character’s life, and that’s when we start writing. Not prewriting, but full fledged, concrete, specic answers to the questions followed by scenes that build the character’s backstory.

I’m about half way through the book and it took me a long time to figure out Corinne’s misbelief. During the exercise, I came to realize that I didn’t know my protagonist as well as I thought especially after all these years of writing. So it came as a surprise that she yearns for acceptance and respect after being told at a young age that if she follows her grandparent’s footsteps she’ll never have any friends.  The next step is to write an origin story of when that misbelief occured. I’ve written four scenes to see how Corinne grows from the age of four and to when she’s 24. The last scene ultimately shatters her confidence.

The writing exercises are tough because you’re being asked to upend the story you’ve written. If you’re married to your current version and reluctant to kill a good chunk of what you’ve written, you might be hesitant to even read the book. However, I recommend that you put aside any reservations and shoulder on. After planting your butt in the chair and completing the writing exercises, you’ll begin to see major shifts in your protagonist and a better story.

You can learn more about Story Genius  on YouTube, and if the video intrigues here’s the link to purchase it on Amazon


Rise Up

by RS on January 14, 2017

I’ve purposely kept away from writing about politics during the election cycle because I thought it was ridiculous to comment after Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump became the Democratic and Republican nominees. Given Mr. Trump’s ignorance on foreign and domestic affairs, I thought it was a fait accompli that Secretary Clinton would be the winner of a too long race. However, November 9th turned into a dark day for Democrats and those of us on the left.

I won’t break down the reasons she lost that’s been done too many times by the talking heads on TV and by columnists in newspapers, but I am puzzled by the support the President-elect received. Thanks to reality TV, we’ve given the keys to power to a snake oil salesman who has dealt the long con to his supporters.

But wait, some of you might be thinking, look how good the stock market is doing. If you read Business Insider’s  Elections and the stock market: History tells us economics matter more than politics. Could it be different this time?” you’ll get a good idea how the market reacts when either a Democrat or Republican wins. Also remember the stock market is not the economy. The stock market reacts to how the economy is performing.

Right now under President Obama’s watch, we’re currently at a 4.9 % unemployment rate (this is the number that interests me) and the stock market is at 19,762.60 (which is meaningless to me since I don’t own any stocks or mutual funds). I could get into a long discussion about the unemployment number and break it down further, but you didn’t come here for an economics lesson. Plus, it’s been a long time since I had to regurgitate what I learned in school and, admittedly, I am a terrible economist. However, if you have the inclination to learn more about the dismal science just read Paul Krugman’s blog The Conscience of a Liberal. Yes, it might raise the hackles of some conservatives but for Pete’s sake, the man won a Nobel prize in economics. He knows what he’s writing about. 

Next Friday, Mr. Trump will be inaugurated—assuming nothing occurs or maybe he’ll stick his foot so deeply down his throat that someone will have the courage to say, “He’s not mentally fit to be president.” I know, not going to happen. The next day, we’ll have the big march in Washington and in other parts of the country. We’ll see whether these will be peaceful protests or someone does something to provoke an incident.

What will I be up to? Writing. If you look at the upper right-hand of the menu, I’ve added a new category: Dear President Trump. The purpose of these public letters will be to educate anyone who chooses to read them, including the man who will occupy the Oval Office if he so desires. I hope what I write gets widely circulated, that readers begin to question the actions coming from the White House and Congress, and that all of us can rise up, unite and bring back some light and hope to this country.

In the meantime, if you want to see change, start making small ones every day. For instance, it will be unavoidable, but try to boycott all news channels and don’t watch the inauguration and the festivities that follow. Don’t buy from companies that sell licensed Trump items. Don’t make reservations at his hotels, play at his golf clubs, don’t watch The Apprentice. More importantly, take the time to learn the issues and how this country runs. Don’t wait until the next election to boot out your representatives. Get active now. 

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Opening A Door to a New Reality

by RS on November 29, 2016

This post is about the events that occurred exactly a year ago. At the time of this writing—5:11 pm—I was absorbing the fact that my partner had died by the side of the road from a massive coronary. I had neighbors coming over to make sure I was fine; I had notified the family; and I spoke with my own family and close friends. Once the shock began to settle, I caught my breath and the inevitable question came up: “Now what?”

I was fortunate to have friends and family who helped me maneuver through those early months of “now what” moments. I managed to move forward, but this year I spent most of it regaining my bearings and in deep survival mode. That comes across a bit melodramatic, but I spent much of it on the mechanics of getting through each month and not fully focusing on what mattered to me.

I also spent time reconciling the reality that I lived with a master controller and manipulator—a classic narcissist.  I lost myself in a relationship that became physically and mentally unhealthy. Once I came to realize how I was made to believe I was borderline crazy or lacked common-sense, or that I was catastrophic failure because I couldn’t meet his expectations that’s when the fury and rage consumed me. I had allowed myself to be with someone who used every one of my insecurities for his gain.

His toxicity, and his own dissatisfaction with himself, poisoned me. I sensed if we continued in this manner, I wouldn’t survive. Was I suicidal? No, but I feared the stress would ultimately kill me. Now when I sense the anger at its boiling point, I remind myself there is light and goodness surrounding me. I saw it in those first few hours after his death, I saw it earlier this month among my friends in Salem, and I see it every morning when I’m greeted with a smile.

During our time together, I questioned whether his behavior towards me had been formed by past relationships. An ex-wife whom he accused of multiple extra-marital affairs had turned him into a man who was distrustful of women, but now I suspect that any type of male friendship was seen as a threat. In his perceived reality, he was no longer “the guy” and turned himself into a victim of infidelity; making him, once again, the center of attention.

I also questioned my affection for him during this year. Was it genuine or was it forced? Now I believe it was the latter. If I convinced myself I loved him and accepted him for who he was, maybe he would reciprocate in the same manner. However, his moments of affection were purely theatrical, showing me off at a gathering, and later, behind closed doors, dismissing me.

So now, a year after the fact, I’ve made a pact with myself: after spending a year analyzing him, me, us, going through the anger, the guilt, the rage and the exhaustion that followed each emotion, I can’t change what happened in the past. It’s done. It’s over. However, what I can change is my outlook. And in doing that, I am opening that door and letting go, so that I can live my life happily ever after in my new reality, under my own terms.