Friday, May 30, 2014

Out of the Garden - Part 16

By Guest Author Wendy Paine Miller
(catch up on the story here)

"I'm weak. Time has worn me down." Losing Don has chiseled the life from me.

Excuses flitted inside my brain like a fly bumping against a porch light. Reasons why the task would prove too difficult. Insurmountable obstacles. Years had stripped away my keen resourcefulness. My memory had faded like century-old ink.

Portals? How? Where? Without a thread of an idea how I might create one, my shoulders drooped and I sank lower on my bed. The Her poked at my leg from where she'd hidden beneath my bedcovers, twisting her facial features to communicate how urgent matters were.

Had I mumbled my fears aloud? Given the Her reason to doubt me? I cupped my hands to my face, then let them collapse against my cheeks, pushing fortitude back into me.

Callan tapped the door open just enough for me to see his frame, to see iPod earbuds dangling around his collarbone like a necklace. "You don't have to make honeycakes," he said. "I just miss your cooking." When my grandson stepped into the bedroom the floorboards groaned beneath his feet. "Why are you hiding out in here?"

"You all should leave now. I'm thinking."

"A dangerous thing to do alone for too long." Callan peered out the bedroom window and smiled upon seeing the gladiolas from the garden.

Of course! That's it! My cheeks tightened into a smile. That was where the best portals could be found. I'll try there first.


My head quaked, a familiar ache brimming in my chest. Callan's green eyes glimmered similarly to how Don's used to. I glanced down, ensuring the Her had well concealed herself beneath my rose-colored comforter. "Yes, Callan?"

"What is that?" He pointed to the lump. The Princess Her.


A mischievous grin swept across Callan's face. "That glowing thing?" He stabbed his finger in the direction of the raised bedding.

At once the Her emitted a piercing shrill. Her gossamer hair had gotten coiled around a button affixed to my pillowcase. I wiggled the button, to no avail. The Princess shook and yanked, but nothing worked to free her. The Her's strident wails continued.

Callan's eyes dilated. He cocked his head, brows scrunched. "What's that noise?"

Did he see the Her? Hear the Her? Could my ally have been the one I least expected?

Wendy Paine Miller is a long-time friend of Novel Matters. She is the author of The Disappearing Key and her latest release, The Flower Girls.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Creative Reading

This morning I walked with a friend who had recently reminisced with two brothers - one older and one younger - about a small lakeside amusement park they visited when they were young.

The older brother remembered a large barrel of snakes on display.

The younger one remembered the bathroom doors labled "inboard" and "outboard," and the shop-keeper's crass suggestion that he look in his pants to determine which to take.

Two vivid, but different memories, and my friend didn't remember the park at all.

Your mother, your teacher, and Dr. Seuss all told the truth: "There is no one alive who is Youer than You." You have spent your life seeing places no one else saw, and reading books no one else read.

I recently read The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. It was a heart-rendingly beautiful story about a broken man in a broken marriage who walked his way back to his past, to himself, and to the woman he loved. The novel got high ratings from most readers - but not from all. One wrote that the story was "tedious," and the word, "insipid" came up in another review. How could a story I found so riveting, be tedious to anyone?

Some of the complaints centered on the subject matter of crushing family loss, and I understood that. A dear friend once told me she could not and would never finish reading my book because the subject matter hit too raw a nerve. Books will do that, and I am inclined to protect some readers even from my own stories.

But where the detractors found The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry "too sad," I found it reassuring and uplifting, because I am interested in what comes after the sadness.

The words on the page form half a conversation, but we each provide the other half, and a different half each time.

What conversations have you had with books you have loved - or hated? And how have they differed from those of other readers?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Guest Post by James Scott Bell

Our guest today is James Scott Bell, author of  heart-whamming thrillers such as Final Witness, Don't Leave Me, and One More Lie. Jim is also the author of several books on the craft of writing: Plot & Structure, Conflict & Suspense, and The Art of War for Writers, among others. You can find them all on the For Writers page of his website. I recommend them all. And he is a regular contributor to The Kill Zone, a blog that offers insider perspectives from today's hottest thriller and mystery writers.

Jim has graciously allowed us to reprint a post he wrote for The Kill Zone, titled "An Editor's List of Novel Shortcomings."  I found it very informative and trust you will too.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

One of the great bon-mots of popular cultural history occurred during the 1974 Academy Awards ceremony. David Niven was at the podium when a "streaker" (an inexplicable fad at the time was someone getting completely naked and running through a public forum) jogged across the stage.

The unflappable Niven calmly waited for the laughter to die down, and then remarked in his impeccable English accent, "Isn't it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings."

Thankfully, the streaking fad is kaput. But there are other places where shortcomings are wont to appear.

Some time ago veteran editor Alan Rinzler posted on Writer Unboxed about "issues" writers today are facing. While the post itself was solid, I was more intrigued by one of his comments. Rinzler was asked a question in the combox by none other than super agent Donald Maass. Don wanted to know what the #1 shortcoming Rinzler, as a developmental editor, saw in manuscripts. Rinzler's answer was:

I see disorganized stories of excessive complexity… intrusive narrative voices that come between the reader and the story by inserting ongoing commentary, explanation, and interpretation…a failure to research and do the homework necessary to come up with something truly original and not reinvent the wheel… two-dimensional stereotype characterization…dialogue that all sounds like the same person.

I like this list. Let's take a look at each item:

1. Disorganized stories of excessive complexity

I once picked up a bit of screenwriting wisdom that applies here. The best movies (and novels) consist of simple plots about complex characters. That is, while the plot may contain mystery and twists (and should), it is, at its core, a basic story with understandable motives. The real meat and originality comes from putting truly complex characters into those stories. The secret to originality can be found in the limitless interior landscape of human beings.

2. Intrusive narrative voices

Learning how to handle exposition, especially when to leave it out entirely, is one of the most important and early craft challenges. So get to it. Revision & Self-Editing for Publication has a whole section on this, but here's one tip: place exposition seamlessly into confrontational dialogue. Instead of: Frank never wanted to have a baby. Not until he was a success as a writer. But Marilyn thought his quest was foolish. After all, it had been five years since he left his job at AIG. Marilyn dearly wanted him to try to get his job back.

"You never wanted a baby, Frank."
"Shut up about that."
"All because of your stupid writing obsession!"
"I'm not obsessed!"
"Oh really? What do you call five years of typing and no money to show for it?"
"Well, practice time is over. Tomorrow you're going to beg AIG to take you back."

3. A failure to research  . . . to come up with something truly original

Rinzler is talking about the concept stage here, which is foundational. Hard work on fresh concepts will pay off. And remember, freshness isn't just a matter of something "unfamiliar." All plot situations have been done. It's how you dress them up and freshen them that makes the difference. Remember Die Hard? After it became a hit, we had Die Hard on a ship (Under Siege) and on a mountain (Cliffhanger) and so on. Take a standard rom-com about a writer struggling with writer's block and set it in Elizabethan England and you get Shakespeare in Love. Heck, take an old dystopian cult plot like Deathrace 2000 and put it among kids and bingo, you've got The Hunger Games. 

4. Two-dimensional characters Con

We all know that flat characters are a drag on an otherwise nice plot idea. Such a waste! As Lajos Egri put it in his classic, Creative Writing: “Living, vibrating human beings are still the secret and magic formula of great and enduring writing.”

My favorite book on characterization is Dynamic Characters by my former colleague at Writer's Digest, Nancy Kress.

5. Dialogue that all sounds like the same person

Ah! One of my sweet spots. In my workshops I always say the fastest way to improve a manuscript is via dialogue. It's also the fastest way to get an agent or editor to reject you, or readers to give you a yawn. When they see good, crisp dialogue, differentiated via character, it pops. It gives them confidence they're dealing with someone who knows the craft.

The place to start, then, is by making sure every character in your cast is unique. I use a "voice journal" for each, a free-form document of the character just yakking at me, until I truly "hear" them in a singular fashion.

So there you have it. Five vital areas where shortcomings might be a problem. The streaking guy at the Oscars couldn't do anything about his own vital area, but you as a writer can.
Our thanks to Jim for allowing us to reprint this article. I know it will help sharpen my writing. I hope it will yours as well. Which point do you find the most helpful?

Friday, May 23, 2014

Out of the Garden - Part 15

By guest author Sara Davison (catch up on the story here)

Whether or not there was a budding Fae among them, I needed to get rid of my family. Margaret considered my weekly trip to the podiatrist about as much excitement as my temperamental blood pressure could handle. She was unlikely to encourage me on my quest to find a portal to another world. 

And Peta, she could see far too much of the unseen for my liking. She always had. An icy breeze shivered across my bare arms and I pushed to my aching feet with a groan. Sweeping aside the white lace curtains, I stared at the tightly closed window. 

I spun around and studied the princess. I hadn’t noticed until that moment how pale her skin was, how sunken her eyes. Not a breeze, then. It was coming for her. Had maybe crossed over already. I scooped up the shoebox and dumped the green shoes onto the bed.

The small blue cushion I pressed between my knees to keep my hips from aching at night was soft and fit perfectly into the box. “Here, Your Highness. Lie down. You need to rest.”

I lowered my hand to the bed and she lifted her chin and stepped gracefully onto my palm. Even from an arm’s length away, I heard the slight rattle in her chest as she drew in a breath. 

I laid her down gently and watched, my stomach tightening, as she curled onto her side. Her wounded wing drooped across her back like a shriveled leaf that could be wrenched from the tree at the slightest autumn wind. 

I had hoped to make honeycakes for Callan before everyone left, but there was no time. One way or another, I had to get rid of every last houseguest and make sure they really were gone.
Then our journey could begin.   

Sara Davison lives in central Ontario with her husband Michael and three children. Her favourite activities are drinking coffee - a running theme throughout her suspense novels - and making stuff up.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Today’s a banner day. It’s the last day of school at my school, and the summer stretches out before me like a patient etherized on a table. No, wait, like the winter of our discontent become glorious summer.

Can you tell I teach literature? 

But this is legal hooky for us teachers. We get to read what we want to read, not four-pages-past-where-our-students will be discussing.

Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

I have things I want to read. First of all, I need an audiobook with the cliffhanger-nature of the television series 24 and the intrigue of fine-chocolate literature. Anybody got any suggestions?

And I’ve filled my Kindle like a hoarder with books I couldn’t read until now. Top of my list is Ariel Lawhon’s The Wife, the Maid, and the Mistress.

I just finished co-writing a new book (to be published by Credo Publishing this summer) and have other books to work on.

But for now, it’s reading-hooky.

What will you be reading?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Monday at the Movies: Stephen King and Ray Bradbury

One of my favorite classes in university had me reading nothing but short stories. More than the longer novels I'd read for my English literature course work, the short stories reigned at evoking emotional responses.

I experienced true terror while reading "Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?" by Joyce Carol Oates. My heart rate rose and my palms got sweaty. "Patriotism" by Yukio Mishima drew me in with beautiful, transcendent language and then horrified me with a graphic depiction of seppuku. I was completely caught unaware by Ambrose Bierce in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Franz Kafka. Stephen Crane. Flannery O'Connor.

I think I have my reading list for the summer! And I think it's time to try my hand at short stories again.

Here are two contemporary short story writers talking about their craft. Yep, it's a double feature on Monday at the Movies.

Pop the popcorn!

I love this personal look into Ray Bradbury's life. Besides, his legs are whiter than mine!

Anyone inspired to write a short story or two or forty-two?

Friday, May 16, 2014

Out of the Garden - Part 14

by Sara Harrison
(Catch up on the story here)

I had to get Princess Orlagh home -- not just to Donegal, but across the border from the mortal world, into Faerie. Her Highness -- Yes, The Her was her proper from of address -- thought that part would be easier there. I wondered. Many portals had closed and were closing, I suspected, as the world modernized. And Orlagh had been stumbling around in the mortal world a long time; I had been marred to Don more than 40 years.

Transport in the mortal world would be extremely challenging. The aversion of the Fae to cold iron made travel either by car or plane next to impossible. The Her could not endure being encased in steel that way. Food would also be a problem as long as we were on this side of the border. Honey might work well enough as long as it was raw and unpasteurized -- I thanked the stars that the jar in my pantry was from the local farmers' market -- but it was not a real substitute for the true fairy food that could be found on the other side.

The best solution was to find or create a portal to Faerie as close to here as possible, then finish the journey to the King and Queen's court on the other side. But how could I succeed where my princess had failed? My magics were as arthritic as my feet. Peta surely had her own agenda. My family would never believe me. Search for a portal here, then journey to the court? Or attempt to get to Donegal, then hope that one of the old crossings we remembered was still open when we got there? I needed an ally.

The doorknob rattled again. "Grandma," Callan called again. "You promised me you'd always have honeycakes for me when I came to visit." My eyes widened. I had made that promise when he was eight years old. And indeed, I had always made little glazed shortbreads when he came to visit. Callan and Don could polish off an entire pan together in one sitting. But I hadn't baked this morning. "You promised. And now Mom won't even let me have dessert at home."

I remembered Peta's words. "You and I are the only living Faes in the family ... so far."

Sara Harrison is a lifelong lover of fantasy and fairy stories and delighted to be participating in “Out of the Garden.”  A mother of four, she writes, in the words of Anne Shirley, “living epistles.”  Her WIP is a Roman Republic inspired fantasy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Story is Dreaming With Eyes Open

Have you ever awoken dream-tossed; rattled by the visceral content of your mind left to roam wide and free in the night?

Mornings like that used to frighten me until I realized human beings ought to be startled by how far out the fences of freedom are set. They are a long way out, so far in fact, it takes more than a lifetime to reach them. Understanding that settled some things for me; cut some fetters from my wrists. Waking dream-tossed, amazed or horrified by the stark presentation of my deepest humanity, is, I now see, the entire purpose of story.

When I wake from a naked encounter with my dreams, I have actually woken from a hidden part of my own story: The bits I can't manage to focus on while awake will mosaic together the missing pieces of me as I dream. When I wake, I have lived through chaos and upheaval without leaving the comfort and safety of my bed.

Then, books.

Story stands us up in the eye of alteration and disruption without overturning our waking lives but managing, mentally and emotionally at least, rearrange the furniture.

Life after encountering great story (be it one we read or one we write) cannot remain identical to what it had been before. The shock of story stains us bright colours, throws open the window and transforms us into prisms that toss stories onto the walls almost against our will.

The more books, the more colours.

Repeated, intentional encounters with story have the accumulative effect of growing us as people, but not to the end we might have thought. I once believed story could help me find completeness, fullness as a human being.

Now I wonder if there is such a thing as completeness, capacity of fullness, an end point to be reached while there is still dirt beneath our feet, a story trail to follow, and another night of dreaming ahead.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Stories We Tell Ourselves When We Sleep

Novels matter because...

"Telling stories is how we think." 
(I've said that.)


"Stories teach us empathy." 
(I've said that too.)


"Stories help us feel again."
(I've heard that.)


"To relieve stress."
(Are you kidding? Did you know MRI images have shown that the brain stresses much the same when it watches a story as it would if the events in the story were really happening? So if you want to use fiction to relieve stress, maybe you should pick a really boring story.)


Whatever you tell yourself. Fill in the blank.

But why bother? I know I'm not the only one who feels the need to justify the hours I spend reading novels. Or writing them. But why?

Maybe "Just because" is the only answer we have to the question of why fiction matters. Jonathan Gottschall says, "We are, as a species, addicted to story. Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories."

All along, you thought your mind was relieving stress by processing subconsciousStories  anxieties, when in reality it was just playing with its toes, weaving characters into situations to see what would happen next.

I'll bet you've got a couple of dreams in mind already, times when you've awakened thinking, what a ride that was!

Care to tell us?

I'll start:

Some years ago, I dreamt that I was in a huge castle court, with tall white marble walls, and white marble pillars holding up a white ceiling somewhere high above. The court was filled with people formally dressed as you would expect in a castle. God was in an office off the hall, fat with a beard, clearly troubled about something, his desk piled with papers. And Satan was a strange little man, running around telling everyone "You'd be perfect" at this thing, and "perfect" at that. 
Then suddenly, God ran out of his office, and squatted down to rifle through a basket of papers on the floor. 
And he said, "Genesis! Where is my Genesis!" 

Here's another:

A couple years ago I dreamt I was walking through a seaside village where everything was painted black and white. (White doesn't figure into all my dreams, but it did in this one, too.) 
A white van roared up the street, and skidded to a stop beside a man walking on the sidewalk. A bunch of men piled out of the van and assaulted the fellow, forcing him into the van. 
The van sped away, only to stop at a white travel trailer down the road. The men forced their victim out of the van and into the trailer. At the last moment, I caught a glimpse of his face and realized: he was Jesus! 
Something clearly had to be done. I ran to the trailer and opened the door. The bad guys were all clustered around the table to my right, too busy hatching evil plans to notice me. Jesus sat on the bed at the other end of the trailer, hands tied, head sagging, face covered by his long hair.  
I sat next to him to untie his hands. "Jesus," I whispered. "We have to get you out of here."  
At which point he lifted his head to reveal a radiant, loving smile, as if to say, "Really? I need to be rescued by you?"

It's strange to realize how many of my dreams are CBA material. Even stranger to know that any reader who makes a study of dream interpretation now knows more about me than I might knowingly disclose.

But I dove in. Now how about you? What stories have your minds woven while you slept?

I'd love to read what you have to say.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Literacy and Motherhood

Since Mother's Day is this weekend, we're taking a break from "Out of the Garden" for a tribute to mothers and literacy.

Reading is a relatively new skill set for humans. But mothers have always been the language teachers. Is that why we talk so much? And now reading...

I confess, I had no intentions of creating geniuses by reading copiously to our two sons. I liked the closeness of their warm little bodies and playing word games with the texts. Later, when I went through teacher training, I discovered those "games" were literacy activities. And let me be perfectly honest, I loved the stories--the illustrations, the absolute humanity of picture books. They are the best of who we are. When Matt came along, it soon became apparent that I would know everything there was to know about dinosaurs. He's a factoid kind of person, loves nonfiction. He's now an entomologist, still using his taxonomy skills developed by reading about dinosaurs all those years ago. Geoff designs smart phones. I'm sure reading "Saggy Baggy Elephant" several times a day has something to do with that. I'm anxious to hear them read to their own children. (I'm already buying books, but please don't tell. No pressure!)


My kids are still kids, 13 and 11, and the memories of reading with them are still being made. Both my children love to read and I like to think my husband and I had something to do with instilling that love into them. Both of us read to the children when they were babies, too young to understand.
Recently, we were editing the contents of our home and spent the better part of an afternoon going through the books my children had out grown and wished to give away. All three of us gravitated to the books we knew we'd keep forever. Two stood out: a preschool book about a firefighter that included a little firefighter that you could pry out of the book and play with. That was a favourite because every few sentences that firefighter was pried out of his nook and sent flying across the room, screaming the whole way. Peels of laughter. The second was a sweet rewrite of the song Hush Little Baby, a mother bunny sang about nature and love to her baby bunny. Precious, but I didn't sing it that way. Instead, I would sing the line, then make crazy voices/sound effects/noises in stark contrast to the gentle nature of the book. Sang that book to them every night for years. They read to me, now. Share passages, summarize complex novels, predict plot, even point out errors. That afternoon, going through the old books, the three of us found ourselves pressed together, laughing, singing, remembering.
My daughter put her head on my shoulder and said, "Reading is fun."

My mother was an avid reader, but she also worked many hours a week, working nights, so there was very little time for her to read to my sisters and me. But I do remember teachers from my early elementary school years reading to the class, holding us spellbound with stories of spinster women who traveled to space, and animals who talked, and on and on. I loved checking books out of the school library. Then when I got older and began taking literature classes in high school, my love of reading intensified. I can't remember a time when I didn't love to read. When my children came along I read to them, and took them to the library where they could check out books to their hearts' desire. During the summer in '81 or '82, when I was off from my job at the school I worked at, and when they were off for summer vacation, I read The Chronicles of Narnia to them. We were all enthralled. I am a voracious reader, and am proud to say my children are too. Some of my grandchildren are, and I hold out hope for the rest. I recently visited my baby sister in another state. One of the questions she asked me was how many books I read in a year. My answer is that I read upwards of 60 books a year. I wish I had time to read more. She said she is fortunate if she reads 3 fictional books a year. She works a lot of hours and has a busy life outside of work. But, oh my, I can't imagine a world in which I didn't make time for reading, even if it was just on my lunch hour. Bonnie's daughter is so right: READING IS FUN!

One day when I was four or five, a package came to my house and inside was my first Dr. Seuss book. My mother had enrolled me in a book club, which was the only way to get his books at that time.  One came every month or so, and she patiently read Put Me in the Zoo, Go Dog Go, and One Fish Two Fish until we could recite them by heart.  If she was ever sorry to see a package in the mail, she never let on. Soon after, I got my first library card.  I particularly remember reading the books of Elizabeth George Speare.  Later, as a preschool teacher, I collected picture books and wrote lesson plans celebrating them.  What a joy it is to introduce children to stories!  My own children progressed through Dr. Seuss to newer classics and into more challenging books.  My (grown) son credits me with introducing them to the Lord of the Rings by reading aloud from the Hobbit, but I've read the books so many times that I frankly don't remember.  My kids are suggesting titles for me now, and broadening my horizons. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Arc of Neurosis and Why We Love It

How insightful Patti’s post was on Monday, when she spoke of the mysteries of desire. I saw immediate application to my own WIPs.

She made the point that the author must know what the protagonist’s desires are—even if the protag doesn’t know them yet. In other words, the author probably won’t be successful in creating a compelling story arc if the author doesn’t know what the protag can’t live without.

Of course the character’s recognition of the goal may emerge as out of a mist instead of being a gold ring just out of reach. But I was reminded of how the struggle often is the character against herself, and not against outward obstacles.

The apostle James astutely observed that a “a double-minded person is unstable in all his ways.” Such instability is rich fodder for a writer—we love to describe unstable people! 

But the original Greek is even more insightful. The word translated “doubleminded” isn’t just about indecision. It’s dipsuche—two-souled. And the person who has two souls warring against each other—why, that’s any writer’s dream.

Which novels have you read that effectively described such double-souled people? Were they ever able to integrate those two souls?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Fiction in the Garden

First, champagne glasses up! We have passed 400,000 page views at Novel Matters. Thanks to all for your support and friendship.

On to the matter at hand. I applaud all of the authors of our serial story, "Out of the Garden." Such inventive minds! The characters are fully realized and the potential for conflict with Peta is very real. And there have been lots of fun surprises. You are talented writers!!! (Sorry for shouting.) Not bad at all for thirteen different writers, who never discussed the story.

There was an important element missing--no one's fault but an excellent chance to learn--we'll be talking about today.

Bonnie introduced me to John Truby's book, The Anatomy of Story, a few years ago. I've studied it like a sacred document and mentioned it here many times. I know, here I go again.

He does an amazing job of dissecting what makes a story work. He deserves a careful listen. I've tested his ideas against the best and the worst of the books I've written in the last few years, and he's so right.

In the "story world," Truby describes a dramatic code, which is a template we all have embedded in our brains that expects a person/character to change over time. Our characters don't change in a vacuum. "Change is fueled by desire."

We aren't necessarily talking sex here, but keep reading anyway.

The DESIRE is what the character wants in the story, not in her lifetime, just within the context of the story, a goal. At the beginning of our story, it seems that Maeve's desire is to move on from grief to life, a laudable goal but not easily measured for success.

And so, while our story has become rich with interesting characters and revelations, not much has happened. Maeve isn't moving toward her desire, and desire is the driving force of a story. We hadn't decided what that was for Maeve, and we probably would have stumbled upon her desire eventually, as pantsers do in their multiple drafts.

And so, we could have continued on, but if we didn't know her desire, how would we have known when she achieved it and resolved the story for the reader's satisfaction?

We average over 1,000 readers each week for the story! They're expecting action toward desire (even though they may not exactly know that beyond their subconscious) and a satisfying resolution.

That doesn't mean Maeve must accomplish her goal. She may decide that her goal was misguided, switch goals, and pursue the new goal. That's fine. She may discover that what she pursued was always withing reach too.

Here's something else about desire, according to Truby: "Desire is intimately connected to NEED. In most stories, when the hero accomplishes his goal, he also fulfills his need."

Let's say, then, that Maeve's need is to move from grief to life. She still requires a desire that can be accomplished within the scope of the story that will help her fulfill her need.

Just to clarify: NEED has to do with overcoming a weakness within the character. Maeve can't get her feet under her to live without Don. DESIRE is a goal outside the character. And that's what gives the story legs. The hero is overcoming obstacles, trying and failing, and pushing hard to achieve his desire.

I gave Maeve a desire in last Friday's installment here: Return Princess Orlagh to Donegal. I also threw in that Peta was not only an obstacle to her achieving this desire, but she could destroy the whole fairy culture. The stakes are definitely raised.

The story now has its legs, its desire. We would have come up with something, but we feared we'd be writing this lovely little story beyond anyone's attention span. Writers definitely don't want to run into that problem.

While the desire is declared, there are still many questions to answer. How will Peta try to stop Maeve and the princess? Will Maeve get the princess back to Donegal through magic or United Airlines? Will TSA be a problem? Who else, already in the story, will provide resistance to Maeve's desire? And how will we know that Maeve has had her need met and achieved her desire? And what about some of these memories I didn't explain, like her grandmother?

The only thing tougher than writing a strong beginning to a story is writing a strong ending that satisfies the reader. We're well on our way of doing just that.

Any questions?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Out of the Garden - Part Thirteen

 By Patti Hill
(Catch up on the story here.)    

"Have we need of introductions?" the Princess said.

      Remembering is tricky, especially after not one, but two lifetimes. "I think . . ."

     “You’re remembering now, aren’t you?”

     I remembered all right—an early mist morning, and a giddy flight to the campsite of a lone human. Princess Orlagh led the way. We ladies in waiting followed nervous, but one does not argue with the next queen of the fae. Besides, I was curious about the humans I had glimpsed over the years, the large ones who lumbered across the sacred mounds. This one had pitched a tent and cooked his meals over a large fire, far from the nearest village.

    I sat on the bed, careful not to tumble the princess off her feet. “We got too close, we did. The net was covered in butterfly scales that tangled our wings. 'Twas terrible.” Our eyes met. “The jar, its terrifying smoothness, unlike anything we’d ever encountered. How could I forget such a thing?”

     The lumbering mortal was Don, out collecting butterfly specimens among the heather.

     Princess Orlagh stepped forward. “Maeve, you’ve lived your destiny.”

    Falling in love with Don had changed everything. It had certainly changed me. I learned his language and lived in his nectar-rich garden with Princess Orlagh and Peta. The princess eventually grew restless and left to find her way home. Peta and I stayed. We spent our evenings sharing stories of the fae with Don—the successions of queens, battles against our enemies, and, of course, love stories. 

     First, we lost our wings. It was no longer safe for us to live outside. Don brought us into the house, where Peta and I lived in an unnatural world and invented new lives for ourselves. And then we grew. Our dresses pinched and laces popped. Don provided dolls’ clothes, which only fit for a day or two before we needed something larger.

   It was his kindness that grew my love, and, probably, my body. I learned later that Peta’s growth mirrored mine for the very same reason. But Don chose me.

     “What now?” I asked.

     “I need to go back. That’s why I’ve come. I can’t make it on my own. I’ve tried. The winds of the large ocean are too powerful, and I’ve failed at finding a portal in this land. And now, with a wounded wing…” She spoke in the ancient tongue.

     “Back to Donegal?” I answered in the same language, surprising myself.

     “The throne sings to me, Maeve.”

     My whole family sat outside my bedroom window, probably thinking I needed testing for Alzheimer’s and knowing absolutely nothing of my fae past. “My family, what will I tell them?”

     “I suppose you’ll tell them to get out of the house, that you’re taking a holiday.” She was impatient with my mortals, and thought of me only as what I had once been. To her, my family was the fae.  
     She made it sound so easy, so royal. “What about Peta? She knows you’re here.”

     “Peta has broken the sacred code. She no longer belongs to us. She will try to follow, but the survival of the fae depends on keeping her in the land of the mortals.”

     Princess Orlagh could have commanded me to take her back to Donegal, but she’d never been that kind of princess. And she knew nothing of the TSA and arthritic feet. “I will get you back to Donegal.”

Patti is the author of six published novels, all of which have a touch of whimsy--Like a Watered Garden, Always Green, In Every Flower, The Queen of Sleepy Eye, Seeing Things, and Goodness and Mercy. She is one of the six original founders of Novel Matters. After writing stories, she loves to teach. And eat Mexican food. 

Many thanks to my editor, Bonnie!