Friday, February 26, 2010

The Sauntering Society

                                                               By Trina Boice

I remember the first time I learned of Henry David Thoreau and read his famous "Walden." I had just graduated from college and was recovering from a car accident, stuck in bed with hours upon hours to read. I was intrigued with his quest to discover the greater meaning of life and I admired his commitment to simplify his life by living off the land in quiet contemplation. He built a tiny 1 room "house" where he LIVED for 1 year, 1 month, 1 week, and 1 day. If I weren't so addicted to ice cream and movies I would do the same.

I tried to imagine myself next to him on his adventure and wondered if I'd even be able to withstand the solitude. I wondered if I would be creative enough to keep myself entertained and inspired or if my brain would start to hurt after the first day of attempting prolonged deep thought.

Some consider Thoreau to have been a hermit, although he sauntered into town and visited with friends every few days. Now that my days are filled with never-ending tasks and sounds, I envy Thoreau's stillness. Oh, to have time to sit and think in perfect silence! Unexpectedly this past autumn, I found myself in beautiful Concord, sauntering around Waldon! A business trip took me to Boson, only a stone's throw from Thoreau's beloved pond. It was almost dusk, but my husband and I were determined to saunter.

Markers indicate the location where Thoreau's "home" stood, overlooking the pond he made immortal with his words. For a brief moment in time, life was simple. We walked and walked, taking in every breath of crisp, Fall air.

Ducks swam by. The wind kissed our chilled cheeks. The fallen leaves crunched under our feet. It was perfect.

According to my family's pedigree chart, Ralph Waldo Emmerson and I are related. Until I visited Concord, I never realized that the Waldon property was actually owned by Ralph Waldo Emmerson's father. I suddenly felt an even greater connection to this place. Ralph and Henry were not only contemporaries, but good friends who shared a love for this very spot on earth. Oh, to be a fly on the wall of Thoreau's home when Emmerson came to visit him! Both inspiring writers found comfort and wisdom in nature and stillness...a reminder to me to turn off the TV and free my mind on a long walk outside.

Thoreau says it best..."So we saunter toward the Holy Land; till one day the sun shall shine more brightly than ever he has done, shall perchance shine into our minds and hearts, and light up our whole lives with a great awakening light, so warm and serene and golden as on a bank-side in autumn."

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Character of Your Protagonist

We discussed the “push” last Wednesday and that what is relevant to your protagonist pushes your story down the path you want to go. Now let’s talk about your protagonist.

This goes beyond what your protagonist looks like, his favorite food, or where he lives. This is about the character of your protagonist. Just who is your protagonist? Do you know him/her inside and out? If not, it is imperative that you do.

Have you ever read a book and the protagonist does something that doesn’t make sense? Sometimes in a weak attempt to write fully fleshed-out characters, some writers will have the protagonist do something totally uncharacteristic, thinking this makes him/her three dimensional. Some writers defend what they’ve done by saying they didn’t want their protagonist to be stereotypical. These are flawed arguments. What is the problem? There’s been a disjoint in logic. A path has not be built to show:
  • how the protagonist’s mind works
  • how the protagonist feels
  • why the protagonist acts
  • and what the protagonist says.
If you know all of these traits about your protagonist and can smoothly write them in your novel, you will have a fully-fleshed out character and you'll know exactly how your protagonist will react in any given circumstance. AND you will have built the path making your protagonist think, feel, act and say things that are relevant to him/her.The relevant push is key to achieving this.

For instance, if your character is tenderhearted, you will know that when she sees an injured dog at the side of the road, she’s going to stop. The injured dog is relevant to her and is the push that calls her to action. So, what if your character is self-absorbed? That character wouldn’t stop for the dog. The animal isn’t relevant. Easy, right? Well, not so fast. What if your tenderhearted character didn't stop? That would become confusing for your readers. If your tenderhearted character sees the dog, but does nothing. Logic is broken. Doubt will creep into your reader’s mind.  

However, if you build a path as to why your tenderhearted character sees the hurt dog but doesn't stop, such as she’s driving her injured child to the hospital and it breaks her heart not to help the animal in need, but her child comes first, well then you’re on track again. Build a path keeping in mind how your protagonist thinks, feels, acts, and what he/she will say and your writing will shine.Show the workings of your character’s mind by the actions he/she takes, by the inner thoughts rolling around in his/her mind and by the words he/she says.

So here's a question to mull over...can a tenderhearted character also be self-absorbed? And if so, how do you write this character?

Writing tip: If your protagonist’s actions are confusing clarify! If clarification is impossible, leave out the action.

Writing challenge: Always try to show your protagonist’s true self by an action he/she has to take in chapter one. The key word here is “show.” Don’t tell us the main character is loved by every one show us.

Book Review: Women of Virtue by Jodi Marie Robinson

Recently, the Young Women of the Church added a new value to the seven they’ve had since my days in the program—virtue. I had the privilege of attending the general conference session devoted to the young women this last April, along with my daughter. We were both very inspired by the presentation. I was touched at the way our leaders are so inspired and know what we need, when we need it. What trait could we possibly need more at this time than virtue?

As we drove home, I talked to my daughter about virtue. I wanted her to understand every aspect of it. We talked about sexual purity. We talked about keeping our thoughts clean and attuned to the Spirit. We talked about the way our clothing, our hair styles, and the music we listen to detract or add to the Spirit in our lives. My daughter shared her feeling that she wants to live a life of virtue so she can have the Spirit in her life always, and I recommitted myself to the same goal.

Only a short time later, I received a copy of “Women of Virtue” in the mail. This was a welcome addition to my “to-read” list, as it covers the topic that had been on my mind so much over the previous week.

The author, Jodi Marie Robinson, starts out with the premise that “true beauty is felt more than it is seen.” I hadn’t really thought about it—beauty and virtue going together? But that is exactly the message of the book. It is our virtue that makes us beautiful, and it’s the only kind of beauty that counts.

As we go through the book, we read countless quotes from our modern day prophets who affirm the role of women in today’s world and their earnest desire that we not succumb to society’s idea of what makes a beautiful woman. They plead with us to remain strong, yet spiritually sensitive. They urge us to influence others with our righteous examples. They remind us that the fates of our families lie in our hands, and that we can be the determining factor as to whether our children go into the world prepared or not. Virtuous women are truly beautiful, and this book is a powerful reminder of that.

If you are looking for a Mother’s Day, birthday, or just-because gift for that woman in your life who may or may not know how beautiful she really is, grab a copy of “Women of Virtue.” You’ll make her day.

(This book was published in 2009 by Cedar Fort.)

Thursday, February 4, 2010


There is an instinct that writers develop after gaining some writing experience for how the rhythm of their sentences flow. Have you ever read a manuscript that seemed choppy...or worse, so long winded that the whole thing felt like one never-ending pile of mush? I have. And they were my own manuscripts.

At first I had no idea how to fix the problem, but after I got a little practice under my belt I realized that the length of my sentences had to be varied. They couldn't all be short or long, and they couldn't all have the same rhythm when they were read aloud. Like music, the language had to be interesting, broken apart by differing speeds,rhythms, and pauses.

Try reading your manuscript out loud to yourself. Does it sound short and choppy? Are all the sentences the same length? Try to vary the length of the sentences in each paragraph until they sound like they flow well when read aloud. Sometimes of course you may purposefully shorten or lengthen a few sentences in a row in order to create tension or another type of mood.

In any case, paying attention to the flow of your language will make your writing much more professional and enjoyable to read. After awhile, you will start to vary your sentence lengths automatically without even having to think about it.

Kersten Campbell
"Confessions of a Completely Insane Mother"

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Show Your Love for the Storymakers Contest

February is the month of LOVE, which makes it the perfect time for us to share our love with our wonderful conference attendees, and the perfect time for you to show your love for the 2010 LDStorymakers Writers Conference, April 23rd & 24th at the Provo Marriott. So, we'd like to announce the first ever Show Your Love for the Storymakers Contest!


Everyone loves winning things, right? And you, lucky blog reader, can win something very cool with this contest.

Sorry, not an iPad.

It's something better (or something that we actually *can* give away, at least). Two--yes, two--lucky winners of the Show Your Love for the Storymakers Contest will receive a reserved seat at the 7th Annual LDStorymakers Writers Conference for Friday night dinner and entertainment at a special table with:

Shaun Barrowes
Musician for Friday night entertainment, and top 48 contestant on American Idol season 7.

James Dashner
Author of The Maze Runner and The 13th Reality Series.

Jessica Day George
Author of Dragon Slippers; Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow; Dragon Flight; Princess of the Midnight Ball; and Dragon Spear.

Krista Marino
Editor for Young Adult and Middle Grade books for Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books. Recent books she's edited include The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel Series by Michael Scott, Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

David Wolverton/Farland
Author of several books, including the Runelords series, and writing instructor of authors like Stephenie Meyer, Brandon Sanderson, and Brandon Mull.

To enter, all you have to do is help us spread the word. There are several ways to get your name in the Awesome Bowl of Opportunity (or the bowl I will draw the winner's name from). All you have to do is:

  • Blog about the LDStorymakers Writers Conference & link to the conference info. site at (worth 5 entries)
  • Blog about the Show Your Love for the Storymakers Contest and link back to this post. (worth 5 entries)
  • Mention the conference and/or the contest on Twitter. Either post the link to your tweet in the comments or use the hashtag #storymaker10. (1 entry per mention/day, up to 5 per week)
  • Post a Conference Attendee badge on your blog or website. (1 entry) Here is what the badge looks like:

And here is the code to use (just copy and paste):

<a href=""><img src="" alt="LDStorymakers" /></a>

Tell us in the comments which things you've done, so that we can give you the right number of entries. Don't forget to include links (for blogs, tweets, and where you post the conference badge) and make sure that we know your real name. The winners will be announced on this blog Tuesday, March 2nd and will also be notified by email.

RULES: The contest closes 11:59 p.m. MST on Feb. 28th. You must be a registered attendee of the 2010 LDStorymakers Writers Conference to win. Attendees and presenters are eligible. You can find out details about the conference here, including a tentative class/workshop schedule. You can register here.