Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear Diary

The 12 Days of Christmas
Book Giveaway Contest~

Today's Giveaway:

Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon


Ten Lords a-Leaping

From November 23 to December 21 we are hosting "The 12 Days of Christmas" book giveaway contest. You're right, there are more than 12 days between November 23 and December 21 ... but there are exactly 12 posting days on Novel Matters.
Here's how to play. Find the last name of any author in the day's clue (ten lords a-leaping) (letters can be used in any order). Email us at with the author's last name and a title of a novel by that author --- OR --- email us the title of a novel that contains one or more words from the clue.
To be entered in the drawing, email us your answer. One winner will be drawn from the qualifying entries every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from now until December 21. Have fun!

Do you remember your diary? Mine was red with gold designs and had a lock with a hasp and a tiny key with a satin ribbon. Its pages held my secret desires, like my infatuation with Bobby Sherman, Mickey Dolenz, and "Bill" from school who was a shy boy with a pretty girlfriend and no eyes for me. Recording the ups and downs of adolescence in my diary was a valuable coping tool which helped me to deal with changing schools and being a seventh grade nobody. As an adult, I turned to using a journal which didn't have dated pages and didn't leave me feeling guilty if there were big gaps in time between entries, but was still there for the upheavals in life. It turns out that it's also a valuable tool for writers.

Journaling can provide scenes and details for a story.
The stories we write often spring from our own experiences, so it follows that we could mine our journals for ideas. While writing Raising Rain, I found an entry from the time that our son left for boot camp which became a scene. It was from my encounter with a young Marine in his dress blues at Starbucks who reassured me that my son would 'do fine.' Yes, I blubbered just like Bebe (my protagonist) that my Heavenly Father loved me so much that our paths would cross when I needed it most. By writing that nugget in my journal, I was able to give a glimpse into Bebe's spiritual life. Journal entries can also provide details that lend authenticity to the story and offer answers to an editor whose job it is to verify the facts.

Journaling can provide motivation and insight for a character.
Even though the story varies from your journal entry, it can still be used to give readers a look into the inner struggles of your characters. Sometimes, just reading over your entries during a certain period of life can help you write about your characters' feelings. I have never lost a child to terminal illness, as did Marty in Tuesday Night at the Blue Moon, but I have experienced the fear and mourning involved in a breast cancer diagnosis. In one of my journal entries from that time I wrote that I felt I was 'alone in a dark hallway and all the doors were closed to me.' When I wrote about Marty's loss, I revisited that dark place to try to connect with her. It was hard, but it also reminded me that God was with me in that hallway all along, a truth which Marty needs to realize also.

This is not to say that I've been particularly diligent in keeping up with my journaling. When I skim my black Moleskine, I see months and sometimes years between entries, but they are always written at times of intense emotions - and full of the stuff that drives story. If you really want to know your character, write her journal entries for significant events such as watching her parents drive away after moving her into her new college dorm, sleeping in her old bedroom on the night before her wedding, the day she gives birth, or the day she discovers a lump. You may discover more about her and her motivations than what appears on the surface.

What did you write in your first diary? Do you journal? Besides being therapeutic, how does it help you breathe life into your characters? We'd love to hear!


Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Journaling helps me remember details. Often I forget all the little things that happen during my day, but when I read past entries, I see it all in focus. The little things are what makes it come back alive for me. I've then turned around and used those little details in my stories.

Kathleen Popa said...

I've journaled off and on (more off at the moment) all my life. I often find that things become clear to me while I am writing. Funny how that works.

Anonymous said...

My brother stole my diary and took it to school when I was in the 7th grade. I was quite entranced with the Diary of Anne Frank at the time, who began her daily entries by writing, "Dear Kitty."

I used a synonym for kitty. You have no idea what kind of trouble that caused me.

I guess I don't journal anymore. I just frantically write things all over any flat somewhat white detachable surface.

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Especially when time is an issue, I think we tend to discount the importance of journaling everyday activities and we focus on the highs and lows. But when I did research on my first 'practice' book which took place during the Gold Rush era, I found a goldmine of information in a 49er journal (kept in a special section of the library) that described life en route to California through the Isthmus of Panama, and other journals that chronicled crossing by wagon on the Overland Trail. It must have seemed humdrum and uneventful to the author, but it was fascinating to me. Who knows what future generations will find interesting in our everyday lives?

Debbie Fuller Thomas said...

Kristen - I agree about the details. I recently read some random journal entries of my children's comments when they were preschoolers. Hilarious! I was transported back to those days again.

Anonymous said...

Latayne, a few years ago I had the incredible experience of visiting the place where Anne Frank and her family hid during the war, and I purchased a beautiful book about Anne Frank from the bookstore downstairs from their hiding place. On that same day, Rick, Mindy and I went to Haarlam and visited the home of Cory Ten Boom and stood in "the Hiding Place." It was an amazing experience. I bought a tiny dutch clock at the clockshop her family had owned, and it sits on the nightstand by my bed.

Carla Gade said...

I journal sporadically. Recording my emotions and important events in my life have given me a lot to draw from while writing. It is not that I couldn't just remember them, but there is something about writing them down that makes all the difference. It's also good to go back and read and contemplate how I've grown, or be grateful for the changes in my life. Gives me a good sense of character growth!

Latayne C Scott said...

Jealousy is a sin, and thin kew very much dear Sharon for inciting it in me.

I know I should journal. It's a virtue. I just can't.

Diane Marie Shaw said...

I have journaled for years, most of the entries are during times of intense struggle. I hadn't thought of using my journals in the way you described but I can see where it would be a huge help in bringing out depth in my characters.
Thanks for this insight. :)