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Backstory

So to finish the Mister story, Husband called the doctor right away and the doctor told us to go get x-rays. The x-rays showed that Mister did, indeed, swallow a penny. And it was already in his stomach. That was a big relief for us since a Google search told us they can sometimes get lodged sideways on the way down. We were told to sift through his poop until we found the penny, and sent home.

The next day, 29 hours from when it went in, the penny came out without issue. I joke that it took Mister as long to birth the penny as it took for me to birth him.

After I told Mister the penny was out, he yelled “I’m free!” I didn’t know if he meant he was free because he had $0.00 in him now, or because he was free of the worry, but it was pretty funny either way.

As funny as this story is, it is probably something in Mister’s backstory that I won’t often reveal. Sure, I may tell it to a girlfriend later in his life to try to embarrass him. But, otherwise, that story is just going to quietly become a part of what makes Mister, Mister.

Just like our characters have stories that make them, them.

And all of those stories don’t need to be told either.

Discovering those stories can be almost as much work, and as much fun, as writing the story.

On expert advice, I started digging deeper into the past of my own character. She’s an eight year old tomboy, named Mabel, who loves baseball. This same expert asked why she loved baseball so much and who was her favorite player. I knew she wouldn’t have just any favorite player. It had to be a woman. And not just any woman. She had to be as good as the boys.

Well, after not too much searching, I found her. Jackie Mitchell.

 

The daughter of a doctor, Jackie seemed to be born to play ball. Her father introduced her to the game at a young age and Dazzy Vance, her next door neighbor taught her how to pitch. Vance went on to pitch in the majors while Jackie played in a women’s league. That is, until she became the second woman in history to sign a minor league deal.

Jackie-Mitchell-shaking-hands-with-babe-ruth

Jackie was on the Class AA Junior Lookouts Roster when the new York Yankees came in to town to play an exhibition game. She took the mound against the greats: Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. And she struck them out. Perfect hero for a tomboy.

 

And I admit that I’m tempted to squeeze Jackie into the story. She has a great story all her own. But I know that if I’m going to use it, the timing has to be perfectly right, or it will feel forced. And if I don’t use it, then it will just be part of what makes Mabel, Mabel.

 

Related Links:

http://www.cowansauctions.com/itemImages/d5378.jpg- an article researching whether the strike outs of Ruth and Gehrig are a myth

http://blogs.babycenter.com/mom_stories/09192013-the-sad-story-behind-i-love-you-forever/- The story behind the children’s book Love You Forever

http://blog.pshares.org/index.php/what-you-can-learn-about-writing-from-childrens-books/- what you can learn about writing from children’s books (including that no one wants backstory in place of plot)

 
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Posted by on January 17, 2014 in Character

 

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I Won’t Tell You

“I won’t tell you, Mom,” my 3 year-old, Mister, said as I walked into his room.

“I won’t tell you what happened.” He paced around the room, holding his chest and groaning.

“Bud,” I knelt down in front of him, “I need you to tell me what happened, especially if it is something not good, so I can help you.”

He covered his eyes with his hands and whispered, “I put a penny in my mouth and it went down my throat in to my esophagus.”

I felt my eyes get as big as quarters. “It did? Do you feel okay or does it hurt you?”

“It hurts me, Mom.” He held his chest.

“Bud, I’m so glad you told me,” I said, and started to call the doctor.

Mister didn’t want to tell me what happened to him just like we don’t want to tell everything about our characters to the reader. What is in your character’s(s’) back story that you are keeping secret from your reader?

penny

 
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Posted by on January 13, 2014 in Character

 

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Brains on Paper

Experiencing emotional situations and narrating them at the same time, isn’t exactly a super power, but it does come in handy for writing. There are a few things that I do that are a little, well, odd in the context of real life that also work really well for writing.

For example, I picture most people I meet, and even some I just see in passing, as picture book characters. A man with long, curly hair and sunglasses became the saxophone player for an audience of cats. A smiling older gentleman in the post office became a neighbor who teaches a young boy about imagination. A librarian who helped with a stuck door was…a librarian (funny how some people just fit, isn’t it?). A little weird, maybe, but there might be some picture book ideas just walking around out there. I’ll never know if I don’t look around.

I also steal physical traits, body language or ways of speaking from real people to later use for my characters. A teen girl walking with her hands in her sleeves and shoulders slightly slumped I’ll give to a character with self-esteem issues. And I’ll take a little one’s tendency to always walk on tiptoe and give it to a picture book character who is filled with wonder and curiosity.

I even revise my own speech. I’ll say something and immediately think of a better way to word it. It’s like living with the curse of a delayed comeback all of the time. Odd? Yes. Good for writing? Definitely.

All of these things mean that even when I’m not sitting down and writing, my brain is thinking about writing. It’s almost like having a sixth sense: a writing sense. And all of the above examples help to keep mine active.

I’m not sure if all writers do the things that I do, but I do know that writers’ brains work just a little bit differently. They have to. After all, most of our effort revolves around trying to put our brains on paper.

Related Links:

Sara Jane Townsend’s reflections on a writer’s brain: http://dianedooley.wordpress.com/2011/11/25/a-writers-brain-guest-post-from-sara-jayne-townsend/

Blog post by Caleb Pirtle III about where two novelists get their stories: http://venturegalleries.com/featured-vg-blog/where-does-the-mind-of-a-writer-go-for-a-story/

Daily routines of famous writers: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/11/20/daily-routines-writers/

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2013 in Character

 

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Super Power

Well, since I’m here to write this blog post, I obviously didn’t get whooped (though maybe I should have since I missed Friday’s post…sorry!). But I did get really embarrassed. Fortunately, I have a writing gift, kind of like a super power, that helps me through these types of situations.

I don’t know how it works. Or if it has always happened or started when I began writing, but I experience situations in two ways. Here is an example:

As soon as the word “whooped” spilled out of Mister’s mouth, there was one voice in my head saying, “This is awful. Please don’t let that lady kill me. Hurry up train! Where are you? What am I going to do with this kid?”

But there was also another voice saying, “Ah this is good stuff. You need to write embarrassed. Is your heart beating fast? Good. What about sweaty palms? Not this time? Are your cheeks on fire? Super. Why can’t you stand still? Aren’t you going to look at the lady?”

Because I’m a writer, sometimes I can experience the emotions I’m feeling and live in the moment, while still somehow taking mental notes on ways I can use that emotion in my work. And the part of me that can do that thrives on difficult situations. So that same voice that was seemingly taking notes on what my body was doing when I was feeling embarrassed was probably also rooting for me to get whooped. After all, I may need a fight scene some day.

This post will also lead to a question since I missed Friday’s post (sorry again! I was baking four dozen hydrangea-iced cupcakes…but look how neat they are!).2013-09-16_13-42-45_8

Anyway, on to the question(s):

What writing gift do you have? Does it have a downside? If so, what is it?

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2013 in Details, Other Stuff

 

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Tiniest Thing

I don’t have very much luck. I get a lot of red lights, especially when I’m late. I don’t win raffles or drawings. The only time I played the lottery, I was off my one number. I’m never chosen for “look under your seat to see if you’re the winner” kind of things. I don’t even win scratch-off tickets.  

But even when I don’t have luck, I’m still very lucky. How can that be? Well, I have the usual: a caring husband, a healthy child, a nice house in a safe neighborhood, an involved family, goals and dreams I’m passionate about, and so, so much more.

But sometimes, like I did with Mister at the train station, I forget to see those things. 

Salsanpeeps shared a comment along the same lines:

I think watching my wife and son walk on the beach. Prior to that, it was watching them walk together pulling a wagon with his stuffed bear in it.

Sometimes, like salsanpeeps did, it takes stepping back from your situation to find the reasons you are lucky. I find that writers are good at this, probably because finding the things that make you feel lucky is a lot like finding story ideas. It means noticing the little things. 

The other day, Mister was fussing at nap time. “Can’t you carry me up the stairs, Mom?” he asked.

“I can’t,” I said, “Mom hurts too much today.” (I’ve been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, see this post for more)

“What hurts?” he asked.

“My hands, my shoulders, and my knees,” I told him.

Slowly and gently, which is difficult for a kid who doesn’t do anything slowly or gently, he kissed each one of my “boo boos.” Those kisses showed me that, even with a chronic illness, I’m lucky to having a loving and understanding family to help me through it. 

And that gave me an idea. There are lots of other kids with family members with chronic illnesses like mine. So far I’ve only seen one book for them (When Pete’s Dad Got Sick).

If I keep this up every day for weeks at a time, I might only come up with one or two or five usable story ideas, but those ideas, and the perspective I gain in finding them, are so worth it.

Think about what makes you lucky, even if it is the tiniest thing, because that thing might just be your next story idea.

Related Links:

Blog post (with some beautiful photos) about a mom who started noticing things after she had kids. http://www.kellehampton.com/2012/09/observance-and-writing.html

Tips for finding those all-important details and story ideas: http://www.youngupstarts.com/2012/03/02/eight-ways-to-retrain-your-brain-to-notice-the-little-things/

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2013 in Inspiration and Ideas

 

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Can’t Believe

Mister is so excited he drops the quarter I asked him to hold. I stomp on it before it rolls off the train platform and check to see if the train is coming for the gazillionth time before I bend down to pick up the quarter. No train in sight. We’re going to be late.

“Now when the train comes,” I prep Mister, “we’re going to put our money in quickly and find a seat. Then we’ll ride the train to meet Daddy.”

“Okay,” he says. “But, Mum, what does this do?” He asks, pointing to the route map and touching each stop like it’s a button.

Then it hits me. I am so focused on our end destination, that I’m forgetting how exciting just the trip is for Mister. He’s only ridden this light rail train one other time in his life. With new patience, I explain the map, the rails and the wires, the poles and lines on the platform, and the most exciting part of the station: the port-o-potty.

When we step on the train, I let Mister put the money in even if it takes a little longer and we’re already late. I let him choose our seat even when he isn’t quick to decide. When he finally settles in, the only thing he can say is, “I just can’t believe we’re here.”

“I know, buddy. We’re so lucky,” I say, but I’m the really lucky one.

What moment made you feel really lucky lately? Why?

 
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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Details

 

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Check-Up

“I have my doctor kit, Mom Bear,” Mister says. He flips the bag and the tools clunk to the floor.

“I can’t really play doctor now,” I say. “I’m cooking dinner.”

“No, Mom, you don’t have to cook,” he insists.

As much as I wish it were true, nobody wants to see either of us when we’re hungry. “I do have to cook, Bud Bear,” I say. “If you want to eat, I have to cook. How about you give me a check-up while I cook?”

“Okay!” Mister says excitedly. He sticks the stethoscope earpieces in his ears. “First, I will check your heart.”

Before I can put down my food turner and kneel, Mister has the stethoscope’s chest piece on my butt.

“Sounds good,” he says, un-phased.

I’m cracking up.

 

If my heart had moved to my butt, it would explain the extra volume it has gained lately, but, that just isn’t the case. Mister’s check-up did get me thinking, though. So much that it led to this week’s prompt:

If your heart was somewhere other than your chest, where would it be? Where are the hearts of your characters?

 

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Character

 

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