For many of us, beauty has the strength of a Siren call, to put it in common terms. In other words beauty draws us like a lodestone, a powerful thirst, the call of the West, our true North.
This applies to the beauty of good things in the moral sense, the beauty of form in the physical sense, and the beauty of being in the spiritual sense. When one of these is present in a person, a flower, a creature it draws us. We sense by the beauty of its being that it is real. When all three capture our awareness we are a goner. In the best way.
Some things are a blessing to lose ourselves to. Beauty is one of them.
A friend of mine is releasing a book May 30th that shows us one aspect of beauty.
A purple flower swayed in the breeze within reach. I touched the smooth petal as if it might comfort me. I sensed its hearty energy within. So calm. At peace. Doing what it was made to do—use its beauty and invigorating scent to attract. It had no worries. How I envied the plant for that. I wanted what it had. The petal in my fingers stiffened and browned. I released the plant as if I’d killed it and been caught with the murder weapon in hand. –The King’s Curse, by J. F. Rogers
Do you see the context? The attraction of beauty and our ability to destroy it, even unintentionally. What is the cure for our curse? I think you may find some of the answers in my friend’s book.
I challenge the idea in the blanket statement that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Depending, again, on context, this may mean only that people have different beliefs about what constitutes the beauty of form, etc. In that context, of the beauty of form, it may be partially true in the sense of perceived beauty. Still, it is much more true that many things and people and forms are beautiful in their created selves, whether we ever see them or not and despite what we think of them.
This makes my heart sing, that beauty exists. That it exists and thrives outside of me, even despite me. Great stories show us beauties “that pierce like swords” as C. S. Lewis has said.
He says further of The Fellowship of the Ring, “Even now I have left out almost everything–the silvan leafiness, the passions, the high virtues, the remote horizons. Even if I had space I could hardly convey them. And after all the most obvious appeal of the book is perhaps also its deepest: ‘there was sorrow then too, and gathering dark, but great valor, and great deeds that were not wholly vain’. Not wholly vain–it is the cool middle point between illusion and disillusionment.” Isn’t that truth beautiful? About illusion, disillusionment, and our present fight against evil? Are we fighting?
All these beauties are worth fighting for, worth seeing and appreciating. Imaginary worlds are wide places of ideas, where the truths of the unseen can be painted in awestriking colors, such as in The King’s Curse by J F Rogers.
As I mention in Fantastic Journey,“Are we not seeking the beauty we have tasted somewhere, that strength that came to us at some time, that moment when a scent drifted past, as if it were a touch or a thought from another world? That time we were reading and a whole universe opened up, which had never existed for us before?” – pg. 10
Story impacts us by reflecting choices and results, thus helping us see the difference we can make in the world of the book, and in our own sphere.
Maybe that is another reason we love the adventure of voyaging in the fantasy realm. For the magic and mystery of discovery, where choices matter and we impact everything we touch. –Fantastic Journey pg. 74
How do you think stories reflect choices and consequences and the reality of life?
Well, some things are clear. We cheer when the bad choices of villains bring the consequences of justice to their door. Or, if there are mitigating circumstances that make us weigh justice and mercy, then our brains smoke a little, which is all to the good. Our brains are too flabby, and in need of exercise. Whether the villain gets his just deserts, or another chance with a helping of his deserts, or simply overwhelming mercy, choice always brings results.
The choice to pursue what is good and right brings fruit also, including the riches of goodness itself to ourselves and others. If good choices also brings pain at times because of the reaction of a villain, at least it is not pain brought because we chose badly. For our bad choices harm others, even if on so small a level that they simply care what happens to us.
Sometimes the reflection of story is about the choice of another on our behalf, after they see our choices. Such a story is E.G. Moore’s The Last Dragonfly. Etoiny chooses to follow in her mother’s footsteps. She chooses knowledge instead of the status quo. True knowledge, after weighing good and evil, not simply what she is told. She decides to allow the wide world in, instead of remain in comfortable insularity. Others around her make their choices. One will follow a heart of greed. Another will see the error of thinking Etoiny is a foolish child. One will love her to the end, and the last will discover what they missed. But there is hope for the future, in more opportunities, choices, and change. Though there is a point where choice may not be changed.
We cannot choose our circumstances, but we can, we must, we do always choose our reaction to our circumstances. Is it not almost always so in story, and life? The desire of our heart influences our will, our will determines our choice, and our choice always brings fruit. But thank God, He gives us the gift of mercy, and change. As it says in the movie, The Redemption of Henry Meyers, the greatest gift of God to man is change. I love that. The fact that we can change, we can do right, we can be kind when our hearts are changed. It comes down to choice.
I am thankful for mercy. I am thankful for justice. I am thankful for goodness. Today, how many times must I choose between good and evil? Stories bring us face to face with choice, result, and their impact. A glimpse into another life can rip away our excuses, and show us our own faces. It can also show us what we want to become, who we want to be like. Let’s make heroes and heroines, in both worlds. May choice change us.
One such hero that comes to mind immediately is Jonathan Renshaw’s Dawn of Wonder, The Wakening Bk 1. If you haven’t read the story of Aidan’s brave coming of age, you’re missing out. A curious, vulnerable, indefatigable hero, his tale is humorous, epic, and delves deep into choices. All at a good pace.
But what do you think gives strength to good choice, to bad choice? What chains a result to its choice? How are we bound by choice? How are we liberated by it?
As Alice Ivinya says in Crown of Glass, released yesterday, “I wonder if sometimes it is hard to know what is right and what is wrong until we’re forced to fight for it. And hard to appreciate something until we are forced to wait for it. Maybe sometimes, the darkness has to happen for us to understand the nature of light.”
In other words, often we don’t pay attention to right and wrong, or think deeply about it until forced to fight for the right, against wrong. And darkness shows light for what it is.
What choices do the heroes and heroines you read about make? How do they influence your thinking? And your choices?
Strength begins in the spiritual arena. Our Stormpoint for this month is how conflict in fiction spills into battle in the inner arena.
Inner strength draws evil, or pits us against it, as our authors’ books this month attest. C. J. Milacci’s Fugitive of Talionis has a heroine who is top of her class as a kidnapped trainee but who is just at the beginning of her inner journey that will strengthen her or break her. That’s the thing about hard circumstances. They make us more bitter and defeated, or wider of heart, stronger in both spirit and body. For each affects the other, as the inner arena touches, even directly feeds, the outer parts of us.
Paths of fantasy, under water or over wold, take us to interesting places and wondrous spaces, not to mention introducing us to fascinating people where every character is involved in the battle we all fight.
Fantastic Journey – The Soul of Speculative Fiction and Fantasy Adventure Pg. 8
Gaining the skills to survive, the will to conquer, the hope that makes us look up, the courage to fight, all drive us to become strong. And the simple yearning for justice, that evil will not always rule by force and fear, that also strengthens us.
But where are the roots of spiritual strength, and what are the results? The roots of every strength are in truth. The true truth of your circumstances. The truth of what you think. The truth of what you believe. The truth you act on. The truth of what is real, not what you wish were real.
“Call me crazy,” Nika says as we walk around some old rubble, “but I thought you were going to share a little more than that.”
I rub the back of my neck. “Remember Ava?”
“The girl who died in the river?”
“Of course I remember her. Not something easily forgotten.”
She goes quiet, and I can tell she’s replaying the scene in her mind same as I am. I can still see Ava slipping from my grasp into the clutches of the river. Her lifeless body washing up on shore hours later.
“What about her?”
“Leddington is her hometown.” I let the words sink in.
I lick my lips. “I need to tell her family what happened. Tell her sister that with her last words she wanted her to know that she loved her. You get that, right.”
She nods. “Yeah. I’ll back you up.” . . .
“I need to do it, Nika. But how can I face them when I’m the reason she’s dead?”
Nika stops and grabs my arm. “Bria. You’re not the reason Ava’s dead. She drowned because of Commander Ark, because of Colonel Valarius. Not because of you.”
“Maybe.” I shrug. “But I couldn’t save her.” I stare off into the distance.
Nika squeezes my arm that she’s still holding. “But you tried.” . . .
“I just wish I could have done more. Wish I could have held onto her. Kept her alive.”
“It’s not your fault. But I get it.” Nika ducks under a branch. “You’re not the only one with regrets. I have them too.”
I look over at her in time to see a flash of pain sweep over her face.
“But we can’t let those regrets rule our lives. God’s forgiven us both, and He has a path for us to walk in. If we allow ourselves to be hindered by everything we wish we could change or undo we’ll never really be able to walk in the freedom of God’s plan for our lives.”
I let her words sink in, not sure how to respond. Silence stretches between us, but somehow I think we both need it. As we hike the last miles of the forest, I can’t help but wonder what Nika regrets.
Fugitive of Talionis – ARC
Turning from the false and following what is true gives us strength and leads to more strength.
The impact of choice remains to be seen. Candace Kade’s Enhanced demonstrates this.
Note: The first part of this post was supposed to be live January 15th, but my website was down. So please forgive the two-parts.
It is here! Jaye L Knight’s Daican’s Heir! Or almost. It’s due to release the 17th.
For three years, the Resistance has suffered under oppression—first from Emperor Daican and now from his daughter. In her quest for vengeance, Davira has ripped Arcacia apart, and more blood is spilled every day. Newly married, all Jace and Kyrin want is to be able to live their lives in peace. In order to do that, they must help restore the rightful heir to Arcacia’s throne.
Carrying the weight of everyone’s hopes for the future, Daniel works every day to be the leader and king they have all fought so hard to see him become. With the Resistance and their allies from all across Ilyon united behind him, he prepares for a final confrontation with Davira. But to do so will require facing the full might of Arcacia’s military and Davira’s wrath.
When Jace and Kyrin become the primary targets of her ravenous hatred, Daniel finds himself in a race against time to stop his sister and avoid the bloodbath she is determined to unleash. Can he find a way to protect his loved ones and bring peace to Ilyon or will Davira succeed in bringing them all to their knees and destroying everything they hold dear?
Pre-order available now. It’s releasing February 17th!
Recently we talked about how fantasy inspires us. One thing it inspires in me is inner strength. Good courage.
Over the coming year I plan to touch on the following. What is inner strength? What is it’s impact in the spiritual arena? How does choice enter into the issue? How does beauty affect inner strength? What forges our inner strength? Villains are also strong. Can we tell good power vs the villainous? How do we sense it in others? We must also forge the steel of our metaphorical blades. Why moral relativity weakens us, and the reality of morality is essential. What a lack of inner strength results in, and what untold riches inner strength gives to us. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Right now it is time to dig deeper into what that elusive inner strength is.
At root, it is the ability to hold to truth against opposition. It is not stubborn blindness or wishful thinking. For the truth must be searched out, and tested. If we find a lie, it must be abandoned. If what we find is true, we must hold to it, no matter the odds. Inner strength is also the will to fight for what is right.
Truth must be searched out. The beauty, the mystery, and the adventure are vital to our spirits. Fantastic journeys invite us to search beyond what we see for truth, to dig deeper for courage. –Fantastic Journey pg. 313
When you dig deeper, what do you believe inner strength is?
Apprentice Level – Creative Point, progress excerpt from Falcon Heart revision.
“It is a dolphin. It will not hurt you!” Abul swam beside them, his dark arms graceful in the sea foam. “You can swim, you eel!” Kyrin yelped, and shoved Abul. He pushed down on her shoulders and dunked her. The sea beast slid by under the water; sunlight played over its back. Abruptly it turned to a speeding shadow, disappearing toward the depths. She pulled herself to Abul’s ankles and clung, dragging him under. She ran out of air, and came up. Alaina and the ships wheeled by. Abul grabbed her from behind, and they went under again, spinning. Would the dolphin come back? Kyrin broke the surface, and pulled her clinging hair from her face, laughing. She stopped short. Dolphins ringed them in a great circle, splashing in and out of the water. Leaping and crying in their creaky voices, they parted the waves around the scrambling clot of swimming slaves in a great, flashing wheel. For a moment one sea beast stood on its tail five yards from Tae, who towed Winfrey toward shore with an arm about her. Winfrey’s eyes shone. One blink and another—and the dolphins dived and were gone. Alaina looked after them with longing. Kyrin ducked her head under the heaving swell. Retreating clicks, wails, and squeaks came to her over the sea-sound. She held her breath as long as she could and came up with a great gasp. Panting beside her, Abul leaned back with a sudden whoop, water dripping from his chin. With a mock scowl she chucked a handful of seawater at him to cover the warm wet welling in her eyes. The dolphins were free and beautiful. While they wove through the water the slaves were taken out of themselves, caught up by that power, that beauty. Winfrey smiled, floating on her back, and Tae nodded at something she whispered. Did they feel the surge of sweetness, the almost-sorrow of longing, as if something here would dance in them forever? – Falcon Heart, pg. 95, 96.
Revision is coming along, as you can see! We are currently at pg. 152
It is a library find that I ended up getting because I so appreciated the clean, deep humor, original writing, and mesmerizing adventure.
If you have never read it, you are in for a treat. It’s biggest, grandest book I’ve read all year in the fantasy genre.
Here’s a sample:
Aedan turned and scurried off before being sent on his way with more than words. But before he reached the end of the aisle, the big voice rang out with paralyzing authority, “Stop!” His feet stuck fast, as if gripped by the deep carpet. He swallowed and turned around, fearing that he had damaged something. The man was holding the book. Aedan prepared to run. “You were reading this?” “Yes, sir.” The man regarded him. “This is not likely reading material for someone your age. Did you understand it? Was it instructive?” “No, not really,” Aedan admitted. He could have said more, but all he wanted was to get away. “I thought not,” the man said, returning the book to the shelf and lining the spine against its neighbors with absolute precision. “As I said, this is no place for boys. Don’t let me find you meddling here again.” Something about the injustice of the man’s conclusion bit Aedan. He had endured enough injustice for one day and drew himself up. “I didn’t understand it because it makes no sense. How could catapults have sunk Lekran ships anchored near Verma? I knew an old sailor and he used to tell us about how shallow the water is there because of the reefs. The ships would have been half a mile out. Even our big thumper catapults don’t have a range like that. I think the ships were sunk in some other way – like maybe they got blown onto the reef – and someone is trying to make it look like we pounded them. “I also can’t see how seven hundred soldiers could march twenty miles through a dense forest during the night to defend a town by morning. Even during the day, with a bright sun, it’s difficult to go fast and to keep going in the right direction through forest. I think the soldiers set off a day or two before the beacons were lit. Must have been some commander’s lucky guess. Now this historian wants to make it look more solid-like, as if our defences don’t need luck. This is supposed to be a book about facts and it seems to be loaded with fairy tales written to make us look invincible.” The big man’s face did not look like it was accustomed to showing surprise, but it was getting some practice now. “How old are you?” he asked, walking up with giant strides. “Almost thirteen.” The man studied him. “For a twelve-year old boy, you have quite a mind for detail. I’ll grant you that. Not many have uncovered the problems with this book so quickly. How did you learn of such things? Who taught you?” The unexpected interest the man was showing caused his face to seem less severe. It revealed a deep sincerity that made Aedan want to talk, to share some of the weight he carried. “I used to speak with the old soldiers a lot, and I read a lot. My mother taught me and my friend …” – Aedan couldn’t bring himself to say her name, not today – “taught us to read. We read many stories and histories. I agreed to discuss the stories with her if she discussed the battles with me. So we knew all the great battles in detail, all the great generals.” “I would like to meet this friend of yours – ” The man stopped short at the look on Aedan’s face. Aedan coughed to clear his throat and swallowed a few times. “I tried to save her, but I couldn’t.” The man waited, so Aedan continued. “They were Lekran slavers. They took her as a sacrificial substitute because she had noble blood.” He pressed his eyes shut. “When I’m grown, I am going to tear that trade to pieces and sink what doesn’t burn. Every one of those murdering priests is going to meet his filthy god. She was the kindest, gentlest person I’ve ever known. As soon as I am strong enough I’m going to bring them justice and make sure they can’t take anyone else the way they took her.” The man dropped to his haunches and looked Aedan in the eyes. “Revenge is a selfish pursuit full of empty promise – I would know,” he said. “But you speak of justice, of defending the innocent by felling their oppressor. I see that anger is still fierce in you, but I believe you’ll learn to temper it with wisdom.” He stood to his full height. “How will you reach this strength you need? Who will train you?” “I wanted to become a marshal …”
Dawn of Wonder: The Wakening Book I pg. 162 – 164, 4th Edition
I hope you can either find this book at your local library, get it used, or purchase it to support the author, who is working hard on the subsequent books.
“We are then able to answer in some manner the question, “Why have we no great men?” We have no great men chiefly because we are always looking for them. We are connoisseurs of greatness, and connoisseurs can never be great; we are fastidious, that is, we are small. . . .
“When Diogenes went about with a lantern looking for an honest man, I am afraid he had very little time to be honest himself. And when anybody goes about on his hands and knees looking for a great man to worship, he is making sure that one man at any rate shall not be great.
“Now , the error of Diogenes is evident. The error of Diogenes lay in the fact that he omitted to notice that every man is both an honest man and a dishonest man. Diogenes looked for his honest man inside every crypt and cavern; but he never thought of looking inside the thief. And there is where the Founder of Christianity found the honest man; He found him on a gibbet and promised him Paradise. Just as Christianity looked for the honest man inside the thief, democracy [a Republic] looked for the wise man inside the fool. It encouraged the fool to be wise. We can call this thing sometimes optimism, sometimes equality; the nearest name for it is encouragement. It had its exaggerations – failure to to understand original sin, notions that education would make all men good, the childlike yet pedantic philosophies of human perfectibility. But the whole was full of a faith in the infinity of human souls . . . and this we have lost amid the limitations of a pessimistic science. . . .
“It was a world that expected everything of everybody. It was a world that encouraged anybody to be anything. And in England and literature its living expression was Dickens.
“He was the voice in England of this humane intoxication and expansion, this encouraging of anybody to be anything. His best books are a carnival of liberty, and there is more of the real spirit of the French Revolution in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ than in ‘A Tale of Two Cities.’ . . .
“Whether we understand it depends upon whether we can understand that exhilaration is not a physical accident, but a mystical fact; that exhilaration can be infinite, like sorrow; that a joke can be so big that it breaks the roof of the stars. By simply going on being absurd, a thing can become godlike; there is but one step from the ridiculous to the sublime.
“Dickens was great because he was immoderately possessed with all this; if we are to understand him at all we must also be moderately possessed with it. We must understand this old limitless hilarity and human confidence, at least enough to be able to endure it when it is pushed a great deal too far. For Dickens did push it too far; he did push the hilarity to the point of incredible character-drawing; he did push the human confidence to the point of an unconvincing sentimentalism. You can trace, if you will, the revolutionary joy till it reaches the incredible Sapsea epitaph; you can trace the revolutionary hope till it reaches the repentance of Dombey. There is plenty to carp at in this man f you are inclined to carp; you may easily find him vulgar if you cannot see that he is divine; and if you cannot laugh with Dickens, undoubtedly you can laugh at him.
“I believe myself that this braver world of his will certainly return; for I believe that it is bound up with realities, like morning and the spring. . . . I put this appeal before any other observations on Dickens. First let us sympathize, if only for an instant, with the hopes of the Dickens period, with that cheerful trouble of change.”
G K Chesterton, from Charles Dickens: The Last of the Great Men, pg 11 – 12, 17
If you have not read the above book, it is well worth reading. It has astonishing correlations to our present time and stirs thought and courage.
Thank you for visiting, I hope you found it worth your while.
What is it, and why is meaning vital to us as writers? Why should we look for it where it grows in our work, clarify it, and hone it? Why should we care?
How do truth and the life-changing meaning that arises from our stories impact our characters, both in their world and our own?
I haven’t seen any writing book dig into the subject of how truth impacts our characters and creates meaning as well as Getting Into Character: Seven Secrets a Novelist Can Learn From Actors.
I’ve had hours of profitable fun looking into Brandilyn’s writing techniques because they are based on the reality of truth and lie, good and bad, wrong and right in the human heart. She shows us how to grow ‘true’ characters that reflect reality with clarity, whether we write fantasy, contemporary, memoirs or any other genre.
I have felt the impact of truth and meaning in books since I first began to read when I was quite young, but for a long time I could not pin down or express why some stories left me with a sense of hope, exhilarating beauty, and strengthening courage, while others left me with a feeling of cumulative despair, disgusted by ugliness, and fearful of life. What made the difference? How was it done? Why?
These questions have only grown clearer since my tweens. Their emerging answers are a big part of what drove me to write YA fiction. Lately I have been mulling over what I can see of these answers. They relate to prevalent thought in our age: that truth is relative to you, and meaning is what we make it.
So much destruction comes from this.
Good stories deal with truth and error, testing the validity of individual people’s ‘inner truths’ against each other and a universal framework of inherent truth apparent in everything around us, in the way the world works. Acting on the belief or premise that good and evil are interchangeable to any degree never works well in fiction, nor in real life. Calling evil ‘good’ creates a muddle where all is shifting sand and there is nowhere to stand.
The fact that this thinking defies logic, conscience, and experience quite effectively counters the idea that good and evil are the same – for the thinking head as well as the feeling heart. People who seek to rob the words, ‘good’ and ‘evil’ of meaning by saying they are interchangeable, in the end act as if there is no real meaning in the world, nothing that does not change to conveniently fit their surroundings, like a chameleon. This results in their speaking nonsense and fostering chaos, and ends in despair because it is far more of a fabricated fiction than stories.
It is an absolute fiction, if you will.
The presence of true good and true evil, clearly identified as not being the same, are necessary to create a solid story. We all realize on a gut level that some things are wrong and some right. Just as a lie, though a small lie, is nothing more or less than a lie. A small untruth cannot be true, or you deconstruct language and the reality it reflects.
Truth is vital to living in reality.
Conflict arises from the opposition between real good and real evil. It is true that good and evil are often mixed in us as well as in our characters, but one never becomes the other. The smallest bit of evil remains wrong, just as iron and clay may be mixed and set in a mold, but even the tiniest grain, though it appears part of an amalgamated whole, is yet itself. And pursuing even a grain of truth has potential to lead to great good.
And the actions of evil men, though the men themselves may have some good in them, cannot be allowed to destroy others. Evil demands conflict, and well we know it, in the interest of right, conscience, and hope of real peace. As it is in life, so it is for our stories.
Truth is not relative but absolute in relation to us, whether we believe it or not. This becomes unavoidably apparent in fiction.
Core ‘truths’ we believe are tested in our stories when our character’s actions prove them good or bad as they act from the inner values or core truths we operate from, with tangible spiritual and physical results. This is why great classics of every genre are so powerful. Meaning arises from the interplay of truth with what we believe – wrong or right – with what others believe, and what we both do about it. In the great stories we recognize the battle of our hearts and hands.
Brandilyn’s book has a lot to say about seven vital aspects of meaning, how to uncover our characters’ secrets, how to reveal these truths to our readers, and how meaning arises from it– all without getting philosophical. The ramifications of what she teaches gives us a huge potential to craft and forge and design what we once created by feel alone, when we were half blind to truth and meaning.
She digs into:
How connection at the level of truth is essential between the character and the reader. Secret # 1 – Personalizing, “discovers a character’s inner values, which give rise to unique traits and mannerisms that will become an integral part of the story.” (Pg. 12) She calls these inner values or beliefs “core truths”, which have meaning that our characters act on. (Pg. 22) This extends into traits, or attitudes, and to mannerisms that reflect a character’s reaction and grows yet further. As she says, “The beauty of this personalizing secret is that the process creates the entire character, both inside and out. Still, this is only the beginning. In the following chapters I’ll show you how the inner values and traits you’ve found through Personalizing lay the foundation for further discoveries about your character and your plot as a whole.”
Truth goes far deeper than the surface actions of a person, empowering that person and everything they do, building the meaning of the story as a whole and directing its impact. Meaning powers our story into fictional reality.
This leads us to Secret # 2 – Action Objectives. Every Action Objective is based on an inner value, or core truth. Every core truth holds meaning, which is a fascinating force that drives our entire story on every level, from the characters, to the conflict, the plot, the story’s climax, and its accumulation of meaning to the reader. Brandilyn uncovers the four D’s that touch them all: our main character’s overarching Desire, obstacles that Distance them from it, then circumstances that force the Denial of their desire, and finally, the Devastation of their desire.
As she says, “Once you’ve determined your Protagonist’s Desire, ask, ‘What happens if she doesn’t achieve it?’ In other words, what are the stakes? … often it’s not just the character’s way of life at risk, but loved ones as well. In a “high concept” story, the whole world’s existence may be at stake.” (Pg. 54)
Both failure and achievement of the Action Objective has real meaning and propels the story forward. Exploring the truth of who a character is and what they believe in the face of challenges and contradictions clarifies and deepens the meaning of our stories.
Secret # 3 – Subtexting in dialogue reveals the truth of its underlying meaning. Brandilyn’s techniques make it easier to do this while increasing tension. “Without an inner reason for existence, lines in a play [or book] will be simply words, recited by rote, lacking believable emotion. When an actor looks beneath the lines to fully understand a character’s desires and fears – the subtext of what is spoken – the words spring to life. … They express a character’s strengths, weaknesses, passions. They bare a human soul.” (Pg. 91) “In subtexting the real communication is artfully woven through description into the context of the conversation.” (Pg. 95)
In other words, bursting with buried meaning, layered meaning, and nuanced meaning, subtexting reveals truth.
In Secret # 4, Coloring Passions, often variable and seeming highly contradictory, the truth of our human emotions requires exploring the many shades of feeling that collide in our hearts.
So Brandilyn shares with us, “Stanislavsky likens a human passion to a necklace of beads. Standing back from the necklace, you might think it appears to have a yellow cast or a green or red one. But come closer, and you can see all the tiny beads that create that overall appearance. If the necklace appears yellow, many beads will be yellow, but in various shades. And a few may be green or blue or even black. In the same way, human emotions are made up of many smaller and varied feelings – sometimes even contradictory feelings – that together form the ‘cast’ or color of a certain passion. So, if you want to portray a passion to its utmost, you must focus not on the passion itself, but on its varied components.” (Pg. 120)
Exploring truth versus lie in all their degrees creates complex characters: such as the truth of twisted, dying love that can reveal itself in hate (Pg. 126), or where the contrast between Jean Valjean’s steady empowerment after his heart was changed by mercy and Javert’s pride and unenlightened conscience, are clearly seen in the height and depth of their meaning. (Pg. 135)
Truth and meaning give us the endurance and growth of Eamon despite horrific evil in Anna Thayer’s The Knight of Eldaran series, shines the light of hope throughout the lands of S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember series, instills the will to live beyond ourselves in The Wingfeather Saga, and shows how stories like these can draw our hearts to goodness in Andrew Klavan’s The Great Good Thing. But how do these authors communicate from their hearts to ours?
Secret # 5 – Inner Rhythm, deals with ‘hearing’ our characters’ rhythms, both the rhythm of their actions and the truth of their emotional motivations, and using these to weave a potent picture. Brandilyn puts it succinctly. “Once you are ‘hearing’ the Inner Rhythm, you can blend it with your character’s personalized traits and mannerisms, and with his Action Objectives for the scene, to create action that is believable and full of emotion.” (Pg. 158)
Facial expression and other body language of a character create powerful telltales that reveal truths to us, but we must hear those rhythms in our character and translate them clearly, or our reader won’t be able to feel them, though we outright tell them. It’s like watching a movie without the music, or hearing the music and the script alone without the actor in play. But when the music is there with the actor, and both translate the script, you find yourself within another heart, swept inside the story.
Some words encapsulate truth and our translation of it better than others. Secret # 6 – Restraint and Control, are pivotal to cutting away the confused, the vague, and the extraneous words that destroy, hide, or bury the truth of what our character feels, thinks, and does, and consequently – muddies or clarifies the meaning of our story. Restraint and Control also correlates the beat of the words and sentences with the dominant rhythm of the scene, whether it is the inner rhythm of emotion or the outer pace of the action.
“If a scene is weak or moves too slowly, it may be the result of superfluous or poorly chosen words – words that blur the focus of the scene and slow the pace. Through Restraint and Control a novelist learns how to use the best words to flesh out characters, create an aura, and move the scene forward.” (Pg. 175)
Words either deaden meaning or sharpen it.
But how can we explore truth we do not yet know, find meaning we have not yet experienced, in a character we feel is alien to us? Emotion Memory – Secret # 7, is a way for us to plumb the depths and heights of every character, from heroes to villains.
As Brandilyn says, “Time to get personal. To this point, we’ve focused on your character. By now you have a clear understanding of how important it is to know your character from the inside out. We’ve discovered who he is – his inner values, traits, and mannerisms. We’ve discussed his Action Objectives, his Inner Rhythm, his motivations for Subtexting, the widely varied colors of his passions. Now we’re going to talk about you. Like it or not, the truth is this: your character’s emotions begin with you. You are the well from which every passion of your character – every tremble and smile and tear and jealousy – will be drawn.” (pg. 200)
So, the truth of our character is the culmination of ‘who he is’ and ‘what she means’ to our story and the world. The act of lending our life and heart and breath to a character leads to our discovering them – and ourselves. At the least, in seven aspects of truth and meaning.
To recap, connection at the level of truth is essential between the writer, the character, and the reader. Second, every core truth holds meaning, which is a fascinating and driving force behind our entire story. Third, subtexting in dialogue reveals the truth of concealed meaning. Fourth, often variable and sometimes seeming contradictory, the truth of our human emotions requires exploring many shades of feeling that collide in our hearts.
The fifth aspect deals with ‘hearing’ our characters, the rhythm of their actions and the inner truth of their emotional motivations, then using these to weave a picture bursting with life. In the sixth aspect, restraint and control cut away the confused, vague, and extraneous words that destroy, hide, or bury the truth of what our characters feel, think, and do. Our skill in this muddies or clarifies the meaning of our story. The seventh aspect reveals how we can we explore truth we do not know yet, discover meaning we have not experienced, and bring to life a character who is alien or unfamiliar.
So why pursue good meaning in what we write?
Our story stands on solid ground – in truth revealed as our characters grow, truth woven throughout the human spirit and mind, truth given birth in action, and the meaning arising from uncovered rhythm, clarified by the right word, honed by judicious cutting – meaning stands on the reality of truth. As our villains discover, and our heroes learn, meaning built on lies, on false reality, fails when it is tried in conflict. We must dare to see truth and its meaning, dare to name it, dare to act on it. Dare to live in it.
Because it’s true.
Because we want to present others with a real picture of hope and goodness that exists to overcome evil and despair.
Because we desire to illuminate each person’s potential, explore who we are, and truly experience the world and the universe.
Because, if we are a Christian, we dare not hide him who is our hope and the hope of the world.
Because we live by faith alone, through God alone, in Christ alone.
Because no human was created to be silent.
Truth is the only solid ground under our feet. The sand of lies heaped beneath us will betray us the moment we are tested and discover we have no solid footing. Why is this important?
Because it points to truth and lie, and the meaning of both impacts far more than ourselves. Truth and meaning are vital to our existence, to the life of the world. They make up the very fabric of the universe.
So, what do you think of truth?
Where do you think meaning comes from?
Why does it matter to you?
Suggested reading: C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man, chapter 1.
My most recent clean fairytale adventure is Kenley Davidson’s Shadow and Thorn. My latest great Sci-fi is Ronie Kendig’s YA space fantasy Brand of Light. Psst. Keep this a secret, I got these from the library. My favorite haunt.
A Wise Word:
Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.*
Have a wonderful rest of the week,
Azalea Dabill Crossover – Find the Eternal, the Adventure
*Proverbs 4:23 (NAS Ryrie Study Bible)
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