Encouragement, Writers, Writing, writing tips

The Dangers of the Helicopter #Writer

golf balls with letters
WRITER-Photo by Dave Morrison, flickr.com, cc

 

I’m writing a story about a twenty-one-year-old young woman. In the midst of writing it, I think damn she’s making a lot of mistakes and I begin to edit some of the stuff out until it dawns on me the character is twenty-one.

I have this ‘thing,’ in my writing, I’ll admit it.  I try to protect my main character.

This happens in the first draft. When I re-read the chapter, I realize I’ve made worse mistakes than the character I’m writing about and I lived another day.

I’ve been soft on the main character. I haven’t pushed her. 

So I have to quit the coddling the protagonist because I’m being a helicopter writer. (Same as helicopter parent but with an imaginary child). And that never turns out well.

typewriter, pen, journal, paper
The Dangers Of The Helicopter Writer – Photo by Dustin Lee, unsplash.com cc

From my own experience, here are some of the signs of a hovering writer:

  1. Boring writing: The writer is afraid to look beyond and beneath the surface. They are afraid to dig and go deeper into the mind of the main character. What will they do with all that emotion? The story then becomes dull. Good fiction has to entertain you, arouse your curiosity and get you into the story.
  2. No character growth: If the writer doesn’t allow the character to fail, what does she learn? This is like with parenting and allowing our kids to fail which helps them to learn from their mistakes.
  3. Nothing bad happens: A reader stops reading. Facebook, Instagram, and the kitties on YouTube are more interesting.
  4. No drama: might as well turn on the television and watch a telenovela.
  5. The character is two-dimensional: She speaks, she acts but she doesn’t feel. There are no emotional wounds and consequently, we feel nothing for the character.

Back to my 21-year-old protagonist. She thinks mistakes are the end of the world. And they are, at least the end of her world as she knows it.  She thinks no one else can relate and doesn’t let anyone help her. Remember the arrogance of youth?

This is the point where a writer can push the character and ask the what if questions.

What if the character takes the situation into her own hands? Her depressed, angry, shaky hands.

But if I hover and don’t let her take the situation into her own hands how will the reader know that her struggle allows her to grow? By allowing her to do dumb stuff, like when she tries to control what’s going on, she finds that things don’t turn out like she wanted them to. Life gets worse.

This time in-between where we think our mistakes are the end of the world is the story I’m trying to tell. The space between happiness and misery.

If the character didn’t make the mistakes, what’s the point of the story? If I coddle her, how will I or the reader know how far she’ll go to get what she wants?

Will she realize that she can move past the crappiness of the mistake? Can she move forward,  poco a poco? Little by little?

A helicopter writer won’t discover this for their character if they keep hovering. The character won’t be pushed to make a hard choice or be challenged. Neither will the writer.

Worse, the writer will find they just wasted hundreds of hours writing a story that went nowhere.

Take a look at this quiz from Fiction University, about suffering from Nice Writer Syndrome. This is another form of helicopter writing.

Writing characters can be similar to parenting your children. A dose of tough love can help them develop character, uniqueness, and growth.

Bravery-Mary Tyler Moore quote
Bravery-Mary Tyler Moore quote

Be brave.

 

Encouragement, Writing

41 Fearless Ways for #Writers To Stay Motivated

writing tips to build your writing career
From yourwriterplatform.com

Have you ever had those days when you’re so unmotivated to write that you’d rather vacuum the rug? When you think of giving up on ‘building’ a writing career? Me too.

This usually happens to me when I’m faced with another revision or starting a new piece of writing or receiving another rejection slip.

Keeping on task and moving forward isn’t easy.

Well, serendipity struck and I came across a fabulous article from Your Writer Platform. After I read the tips I thought of each one as a brick in the process of writing and in the steps to a writing career. (Pun intended).

I’ve added two more tips to their fine suggestions.

Tip #40: Relax: Chill out, it’s not the end of the world. So what you take a brief break from writing.

Tip #41: Dream. Novels are made of this stuff.

Dream
Dream

I hope you enjoy the Your Writer Platform blog post. And keep writing, even if it’s in your head.

 

 

living life fully before death
Encouragement, Faith, Inspiration, life lessons

How To Live Before You Die

living life fully before death
Live Like You’re Dying

 

The last week was a blur. I attended the Association of Writing Professionals (AWP) 43rd conference at the Los Angeles Convention Center with three of my writing group sisters.

The week of ‘conferencing’ was a good one, inspiring and fun, but when I say conference I mean a 12,000 peopled flow of writers, editors, booksellers, professors, and others. 

The hours were filled with writing techniques, editors/agent panels, poets reading heart-wrenching poetry, and writers speaking eloquent words. You know how even great stuff is exhausting and truth be told this great stuff was also intimidating.

Did I measure up, should I be writing fiction, should I revise, should I be spending countless hours writing? What was I doing?

I ‘shoulded’ all over myself.

When I got home from sleeping in a different bed, meeting people, and eating out I just wanted to decompensate and breathe.

The next day, my mind and body wanted to sleep in and tune out. The suitcase, books, and an art piece I bought lay strewn at the foot of my bed.

Could I skip a Sunday service? I had so much to do before my next day departure to Denver to see my young adult kids. But I hadn’t missed a Sunday service in years unless I was really sick.

The mess would have to wait. I dressed and left for service and was grateful I attended. The message was:

Life is a gift and what you do with it matters…

Our pastor told us the average lifespan was 79 years of age or 28,835 minutes. If those minutes were on a clock, a fifty-year-old would have 18 minutes of their life left. That put life in perspective.

Was I living a life that was significant and meaningful? Is there compassion in what I do and say. Do I give gratitude, show kindness? Do I live my life in a way where others will know I’m a Christian? Do I trust and have faith when the going gets tough?

I thought of all these questions after the service and how the sermon put everything in perspective. I was striving to live the answers to these questions. Trying is good. Trying is movement. There were no more “Should’s.” I felt balanced once again.

Achieving writing success is important to me but it isn’t the end all to my life. I reminded myself that I write because I can’t think of not writing, that would kill me inside.

I remembered that I began writing to tell the stories of girls and women who faced challenges, made bad choices, but struggled to do better. The girls who felt like no one cared who they were and only focused on what they did. The unseen women who wore mask upon mask. Girls who grew up through the garbage strewn upon them.Women and girls who needed family, in whatever shape it presented itself.

So how to live before you die?

When I thought of why I write, I remembered we all have the ability to improve the quality of our life.

We can all make choices to improve our spirituality, our health, and our emotional life.

We can love ourself and others.

We can be of service to someone or something.

Living is finding something to have a passion for whether it’s family, service, or a combination of a thousand other things.

Living is making your minutes count and they count when you stop to look at a sunset, a sunrise, notice a smile, hug someone, and other countless ways.

I’ll end with a quote about life from Maya Angelou.

Life Purpose
Life Purpose

 

 

 

yellow rose bud
Encouragement, Gratitude, Inspiration

A New Garden of Hope Restores

Low water garden-photo by AlvardoFrazier
Low water garden-photo by AlvardoFrazier

One day the mulch covered the ground, dense and moist, an earthy covering for a new garden. Today, weeds sprouted everywhere. This seemed like an allegory of recent life.

Dirt under fingernails, the smell of damp earth, I pulled on shallow roots, plucked them with ease, until one pricked my fingers. Ouch. Microscopic spines lost themselves under my flesh. Time to quit, take a breather and wander the garden.

Two months later, the sculptural beauty of succulents seemed more pronounced. Orange milkweed leaned toward the lichen-spotted rock, both sharing colors.

milkweed, lichen covered rock in garden
Milkweed and Lichen-Covered Rock-AlvaradoFrazier

Feathery fronds on the Mimosa branches danced. Two lizards skittered across the pebbly patio floor, diving into a crimson mound of bougainvillea.

Tiny buds unfolded on the thin branches of the peach and tangerine trees. Green leaf flags from the birches waved a good morning.

Around the corner of the stucco wall, a baby rose bloomed sunshine among glossy leaves. A spiral of fragrance rose. Breath of beginnings.

yellow rose bud
First Rose-alvardofrazier.com

Maybe it sounds simplistic to think the beauty of a garden can rectify the unruliness of the political scene or the horrors of terrorism in the world. It doesn’t.

But as I walk in my garden today, I take in the beauty and restore myself. I think of how I can be of service to someone, promise myself to practice more random acts of kindness.

More weeds will poke through the mulch and I’ll pluck them out. The trees will leaf up, the lizards will grow bigger, more roses will bloom.

I wait in my garden of hope.