Sunday, January 4, 2009

Everything you ever dreamed or imagined

Each morning, I break the code of a cryptogram that is a quote from some profound or famous person. This morning's fits very well into both the recorded interview I had last night with Reader Views'  Irene Watson and Loving Healing Press owner, Victor Volkman on Author's Access and my workshop on writing "True Fiction." The quote is by Orison Swett Marden, who was a prolific American writer who died in 1924. He had a degree in Medicine but was best known for his books on success and motivation. Today's quote says,
There are powers inside of you which, if you could discover and use, would make of you everything you ever dreamed or imagined you could become. 
In one of the lessons in my writing workshop I talk about the "Demons of Doubt" and other mental blocks that keep us from writing freely, speaking freely, and living freely. I have often wondered just how far my dreams and imagination would have taken me, if I had always believed in them and in my own inner "powers." George Eliot told us, "it is never too late to be what you might have been."  So, I strive to overcome the doubts that occasionally raise their ugly head to temporarily block my thoughts. 

I suffered a momentary mental block twice during my interview and thought of more I would like to have said in answer to the questions after it was over. 

When Irene asked me about the differences between writing for adults and children, I told her the process is the same. For me it certainly is. I indicated that the point of view dictates whether or not it is for an adult or a child. That seems to imply that if you have a child protagonist, the book is always for children. That is obviously not true. Although most children's books have children as the main character, there are many adult books written from the point of view of a child protagonist. We certainly wouldn't call Fire Starter, by Stephen King a children's book, just because it has a child as the main character. I just read a very gripping adult thriller that was written entirely from a ten-year-old girl's viewpoint and in her voice. The book is titled Whistling in the Dark, by Leslie Kagen. 

Years ago, I started a book that I intended for children because I wanted to address the plight of homeless children. Although it began from the point of view a child, I quickly realized that this would be a book for adults. How do I determine that? Not just by the viewpoint, but by the issues involved and the age of the audience who will relate to it. When I'm unsure, I ask myself, would I want my granddaughters to read this? Would it be more meaningful to adults? My book on homelessness is not appropriate for my seven and ten-year-old granddaughters, but it is one that adults today will relate to, as unemployment is at a record low. Hmm. I must finish that book. 

When Victor asked me about where the idea of the trilogy of the twins, of which Kyleah's Tree is the first book, I couldn't remember. Twins? Separated at age four? Living lives apart, longing for the bond they had in those early days? I couldn't remember what had led me to that track, other than knowing how one of my granddaughter's enjoys stories about orphans. After ending the interview, I remembered that before the idea of orphans, came two characters from my own early childhood—a girl and a tree. It began with the character, Kyleah, who is largely based on me at that age, and the tree, (a cottonwood in real life which became a burr oak when I decided to set the story in Kansas.) The tree is an important character in the story (and my memory), and it was a big part of my inspiration in writing it. I write about an issue that real children face and develop a character who has a big problem with that issue. Kyleah's problem was a lack of self-esteem and a fixation with physical beauty, believing that only those with outward beauty can be loved. The tree in the back yard became her friend, her refuge, and the only "being" she felt safe in confiding her wish to be beautiful—and wanted. In writing Kyleah's story, I set out to discover why I felt so ugly and unloved, and why physical beauty was such a big deal. As the story progresses, and Kyleah climbs the tree—her refuge—each morning and wishes on the rising sun, a missing twin brother comes into being, as do the other characters and events of the book. 

I believe the book is important for today's children because  the "Beauty Myth" continues to be propagated as kids are bombarded with commercials, movies, TV shows, toys and games. I've seen many young girls lose a large measure of self-confidence when they begin school and are led to believe that to be popular, they must be both thin and pretty.  I hope that as kids read through all the adventure and excitement of two kids on the road, running away from a foster home, they will also become more accepting of themselves as they are. 

As I indicated in my interview, the background and development of Kyleah's character, and the issues that I gave her led to the creation of other characters and the plot of the story. This is how character driven plots are created. Presented with life-like problems, the characters show the author what they would really do.

Perhaps that is some of the "inner power" an imaginative author discovers as she writes from her heart. 

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