Fundamentals

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A notebook for fiction writers and aspiring novelists. One editor’s perspective.

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The Pillars of Success:
. . . .The Fundamentals of
. . . . . . . .a Successful Novel

An athlete must be fast and agile. A scientist curious and logical. A watch-maker nimble fingered and methodical. A comedian funny. So what exactly are those attributes that a writer must possess to become a published author? Is there a single, foolproof, absolute secret to a newbie writer’s impending success? If so, nobody’s told me. However, a few fundamental qualities, either designed by nature (an innate instinct) or nurture (the process of learning) are probably well worth knowing before you embark on your journey.

These quasi-laws of Literary Physics—the so-called pillars of success—can serve as cues as to who may be more likely to publish a novel. If lacking one or more of these qualities, are you doomed to never finish or sell a novel? Should you stop writing? Not if you love doing so. Best-sellers have been occasionally written by steadfast, tenacious, pillar-lite souls, despite the odds. And, by all means, give it your best shot. You have my blessing to prove the odds-makers wrong.

Those Pesky Pillars.

Ah, but I digress. Pillars. Depending upon who you ask, three or four such pillars exist. A fifth may provide the proverbial ace up your sleeve and the sixth is a bona fied soul crusher. The problem is, not everyone agrees as to what these pillars actually might be. If you Google the pillars of successful writing, you’ll get an eyeful. I’ve found (in a snappy 0.0874 seconds) the following assumptions:

Ethos, Pathos, Logos. Aristotle, the old Greek dude, coined the original foundations of persuasive communication. Ethos, meaning credibility and acceptance (the readers) of your fictional reality. Pathos, meaning emotion. Drama. Tension. Make it larger than life (if only subliminally), and keep it coming. Logos, meaning logic. Logical characters. Logical story arcs. Because illogical writing makes for weak, unimpressive and occasionally stupid novels.

Variations on this theme are: Aspiration. Inspiration. Perspiration. (Clever! And, yes, all necessary elements.)

Theory, Practice and Consumption. (Theory meaning learning the craft. Practice meaning practice. Constantly. Consumption meaning knowledge. Read novels. Read non-fiction. Read how-to primers. Immerse yourself in all things literary.)

Know your audience. (What’s your genre?) Have a purpose. (Your novel’s message). Adjusting style. (Your writer’s voice). Repeating the Process. (Practice. Write often.)

Concept. (A writer’s idea, premise and plot.) Conflict. (Drama. Always.) Characters. (A fully developed protagonist, fully developed antagonist, fully developed extras.) Theme. (The reason you’re telling the story. There’s always a reason, even if we ourselves are unaware when we begin.)

Curiosity. Creativity. Productivity. (All self-evident.)

Plot. Character. Setting. (Ah, this one sounds familiar…although more likely story-based components, rather than a success-based adage, imho. But no less important.)

Emotion. Logic. Credibility.

Mindset. Environment. Tools.

…and the list goes on. Our pillar-theories may vary (we theoretical pillarists), but our intentions are both admirable and identical: The ultimate success of the writer. So, with that in mind, I’ve included my own blend of literary pillarizing. Although I am suggesting a slight twist. I’ve even drawn a Venn Diagram to explain (…a picture being worth a thousand words, after all).
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A Moderately Helpful (or else utterly confusing) Vennish Diagram.

So let’s dissect this pillary thing, shall we?

The Internal Factors.

• Talent (An innate, inborn capability to concoct and produce a well-written novel). Talent is that inherent ability to tell an interesting story in a unique voice. And then to impress agents and/or publishers with a sterling query. Like chess masters, divas, athletes and multi-platinum singers, you’re either born with a certain talent or you’re not. Me, for instance. I love music. Learned to play guitar—badly. Practiced daily for years, but never broke out of that meh! stage. The mathematics of music confounded me. (Change keys from G to B-flat? Whaaaa?) I also have a singing voice like a frog in a rainstorm. So no, no amount of dedication was ever going to help. We all can’t be everything we want to be. Just sayin’. Then again, everything we might become is certainly worth a shot. This attribute is inborn; out of your control or your ability to learn.

• Craft (Technique. Absorbing information. Trial-and-error. Attempting to establish an authorial voice.). Craftsmanship is your ability to learn and develop the rules and mechanics of writing. It means perusing ‘how to’ books on grammar, plotting, narration and dramatic pacing. It means perhaps taking classes or joining a writer’s workshop (which I highly recommend). Or finding employment in a writing-based job—copy writing, advertising, journalism. Or reading manuscripts. Teaching English or Literature. Me? I was a newspaper film critic for several years with a strict 750-word ceiling. Man, that job taught me more about self-editing, about whittling down excess verbiage and getting to the point, and greatly honed my writing abilities. Sometimes it means starting a novel or two, if only to fully develop the necessary knowledge to write a novel that sells. Write until you find your own personal, authorial voice, and then write some more. Realize that it’s okay, perhaps even essential, to blunder, to learn from your mistakes, and then keep writing. This attribute can be taught and learned.

• Skill (Competence, Expertise, Finesse, Finding your voice). Skill is your ability to realize your potential (an infusion of self-confidence), and then utilize that expertise to its fullest extent. Skill is what results from learning your craft up, down, and sideways, inside and out. Skill is basically Craft 2.0! This attribute can be taught and learned, but ultimately it’s a personal choice to educate yourself until you’re all but assured of eventual success.

• Patience (Determination, Perseverance, Practice). There’s no other way to finish a novel than to begin. By writing a single line, an infectious opening paragraph, a fully developed first page, you’re making a psychological pact with yourself—that you and your brain are in this for the long run. You’re here for the whole enchilada. Writing a novel is like raising a kid: Less sleep, fewer weekends down at the disco, lots of self-doubt and even a little self-pity. (A little is okay. You’re a struggling artisan after all.) You may be constantly apologizing to friends and family for your prolonged absence. You’re committing yourself because you know you’re competent and talented, even though nobody (yet) may recognize those talents. You’re aware that thousands of other novice writers exist with similar dreams—and if they have a shot, so do you. So you take the leap. Write a page, then another, then another…because that’s the only way home. This sort of inner drive can’t be taught or learned—and may take years of practice and dedication.

* The Sweet Spot. (That tiny white diamond in the middle of the diagram.) If one has the talent, craft, skill and patience to finish a manuscript and begin to pitch the book, the chances of finding an agent or publisher are typically far better than those writers who find themselves lacking in one or more arenas. (If you do find yourself lacking, doesn’t mean that you can’t learn and grow and, in time, prosper.) Which only leaves a single potential speedbump standing between you and Stephen Kingdom—and that’s luck. But read on….

The External Factors.

• Connections (It’s who you know and who knows you). This one may feel a bit disingenuous—but the simple fact is, nepotism and associatism exist and, by all means, if you got it, use it. Is your uncle an editor at Macmillan? That one’s a slam dunk! If you know somebody who knows somebody who works at Simon & Schuster (even in the mail room), or if your great aunt used to date a literary agent in Tuscon—yes! Follow the bread trail. You never know.

P.S.: If you have no connections, and you’re one of those charming extroverts, capable of perfecting your own bow tie, of making a marvelous (shaken, not stirred) Martini, who’s proficient at making friends and connections wherever you go (and if so, good for you) then go for it! As they say in Hollywood, schmooze ’til you lose!

• Luck (Rolling the cosmic dice). This one’s the looming nightmare, the nasty, giggling gremlin who pervades every writer’s hopes and dreams of a book sale. Luck is fickle, unorthodox and totally unpredictable. If your exquisitely written manuscript lands on an agent’s desk who’s hungover or is having marital problems, you may be inexplicably overlooked. A publisher’s assistant who’s going on vacation tomorrow? Same results. Your e-mail query ends up in a junk mail folder. Maybe your insanely well-written novel reminds an assistant editor of a less adept novel that crossed her desk last month, which was nevertheless accepted and that fortunate writer has just signed a contract for a juicy royalty and certain fame. Or maybe you’ve somehow overlooked a typo on page one. (I’ve done that!) It’s sufficient to turn potential good luck to unfortunate, rotten luck.

Speaking of rotten luck, I’ve known a few fiction writers who’ve lost manuscripts in hard-drive crashes, and (of course) the backup’s been corrupted and…well, shit does happen. Aware of Coronal Mass Ejections? Y’know, those giant plasmatic, magnetic fields occasionally spit from the Sun? A lightweight solar flare will cause a pretty aurora. A direct hit from a heavyweight magnetic distortion can potentially fry power grids. Electronic files can (theoretically, at least) be damaged or erased by such an incident. So here’s a new rule. Maybe one of the most important. Rule #98: Make a hard copy (paper) back-up of your manuscript every now and then, even if you’re still working in draft mode. (See Finagle’s Law. But brace yourself.)

Here’s a fitting, random comment about blind, stupid luck. Years ago, producers greenlit a film about John Lennon’s life (John and Yoko: A Love Story). The gifted actor chosen to portray Lennon was named Mark Lindsay Chapman. Lennon’s killer was named Mark David Chapman. Yoko Ono so freaked out at the eerily unlikely coincidence that another actor was ultimately recruited to replace him. True story. Bad luck. It exists.

The Hierarchy of Competence

Whether writing a novel or attempting to learn (and master) any of life’s million or so teachable lessons, there’s a savvy little social model that may explain the ‘Pillar Approach’ in somewhat different terms. American Filmmaker Noel Burch’s The Hierarchy of Competence dictates:
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  • Unconscious Incompetence: Meaning that I’m unaware of a particular skill, or of any necessity to even utilize that skill. (Johnny doesn’t know the difference between a noun and a verb, nor does he care. But, hey, he’s just read a good book and the author’s raking in some pretty big bucks. Johnny rationalizes that anyone can write a novel and make a fortune. It’s not that difficult, right?)
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  • Conscious Incompetence: I’m becoming aware of a need for a particular skill, and the rationale for learning the appropriate lessons, but nahhh, I can probably get along by faking it. (After scribbling out 5 atrocious pages, Johnny’s confused and angry to realize that he knows very little about writing a novel. And yet, he persists.) By the way, the persistent part? That’s every writer’s make or break moment—the decision to practice and learn and, hopefully, to go the distance, is crucial.
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  • Conscious Competence: I’ve learned a thing or two about a particular craft and, hey, maybe I’m not half bad. But I’m aware there’s lots more info to absorb. (Johnny understands a thing or two about plotting and basic fundamentals of fiction writing by now. He’s read Strunk & White. He’s read Bird By Bird. He deconstructs novels that he’s read and likes—trying to figure out what ‘makes them tick.’ He’s even signed up for a creative writing class. Sure, he believes he’s pretty good at writing, but he knows he could be better. Time to read a few more ‘how to’ books and then it’s back to the keyboard. Or sharpen that pencil.)
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  • Unconscious Competence: After a few years—yup, years—of practice, of trial-and-error, of finishing a dozen short stories that receive good feedback, I’m becoming a skilled writer, in total control (and harmony) with my talent and craft. (Johnny sits down in front of a computer and new worlds unfold before his eyes. He realizes that the act of writing—drafting, composing, editing—is no longer drudgery and anguish, but has recently become a labor of love. Sure, occasional moments of self-doubt, of lethargy and uncertainty may linger, and yet with utmost confidence, Johnny begins his novel. He’s certain he will finish. His thoughts afire, his fingers dance over the keyboard, working in nearly effortless tandem. (Because, yes, those moments do exist.)

Bottom line: Don’t let anyone—not me, certainly not this post—dissuade you from trying. From persisting. Write your freakin’ ass off, until you succeed or something better comes along. So if I can leave you with anything, it’s this:

“To infinity…and beyond!”
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . — Buzz Lightyear
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Obstacles

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A notebook for fiction writers and aspiring novelists. One editor’s perspective.

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A Few Common Obstacles.

I’ve been hanging out in Reddit.com/r/writing for a few years now, lurking and occasionally offering comments and suggestions (as u/writer-dude) to new, struggling and/or curious writers. What I’ve discovered are many of the same concerns and issues that I’ve confronted while editing clients’ manuscripts. Typically, I can help direct foundering, confused and stuck writers by presenting modest solutions to these five most prevalent obstacles. And so, in order of increasing concern:

5. Developing a unique style and/or POV. Unsure? LOOK HERE.

4. How to write effective (or scintillating) dialogue. Don’t know? LOOK HERE

3. Overcoming Inhibitions. The fear of failure is real. So is the fear of success. A fear of ridicule. The fear of isolation (AKA ‘sufficient writing time’). The fear of upsetting friends or family. A fear of not writing the perfect novel…. the list of emotional and mental obstacles is quite lengthy. Is this you? LOOK HERE.

2. Overcoming one’s own ineptitude. Don’t have a clue how to write a novel, but starting out anyway? Afraid you’ll never have what it takes to start or finish? REFER AGAIN TO WHERE TO START. (Because the best way to learn is to actually begin writing.) However, comprehending the fundamentals of being an author (LOOK HERE), as well as digesting Filmmaker Noel Burch’s The Hierarchy of Competence, can be an essential guideline.

1. Getting Stuck. The most prevalent obstacle (by far) is a novice writer beginning a novel (or story) but very quickly becoming mired in the enormity of such a venture. Many newbies have a vague idea or a partial concept in mind and begin to write in earnest—sometimes 3 pages, sometimes 30—but then what? Once the inciting incident (usually a novel’s opening) plays out, how does one proceed to create an entire, enticing, integral book-length manuscript?

Maybe you sincerely yearn to write a novel. Let’s say that you have a nifty premise about a giant meteor hurling toward Earth. So you create a nice scenario—your trusty young protagonist who’s perhaps an amateur astronomer and who discovers that pinprick of light hurling toward our planet (the inciting incident in Deep Impact, BTW). Great start! Good impending drama…

But a whole world is suddenly in your hands. So many options. So many tentacles. Will the meteor strike? Will it miss? Will we send astronauts into space with nukes? Or launch a rag-tag team of unlikely geologists to save the world (a la Armageddon)? How does once successfully stitch together a coherent, dramatic, conclusive tale? When you find yourself stymied or cornered or fresh out of new ideas, and you’re still midway through Chapter 1, sometimes writing those next 300-400 pages can feel insurmountable.

Q. So, how to proceed?

A. Outline.

See? I told you we’d be back to this one. And while I continue to realize the concept might feel like a giant snoozefest to some writers, outlining is possibly the greatest assurance you have if hoping to finish an unwieldy or foundering novel. Outlining feels hardly creative. Hardly inspirational. More like a math quiz than following the authorial dream. You’re putting your fun-loving, creative Right Brain aside and, fore the moment, relying on your organizational, rational Left Brain to take over. Bummer, right? Well, not necessarily. (And refer again to Where To Start Part 2 for previous outlining info.)

Outlining your plot is far more a creative endeavor than you might think. Pondering possible pathways or solutions to problems issues that pop up mid- or late-book can open amazing new ideas: new characters and/or character traits, new sub-plots, added drama—that the writer had not previously conceived. Outlining can also reveal potential wrong turns or dead-ends in your story line. And ’tis better to delete a few pages of quick notes than 50 pages of text.

Speaking of quick notes, some writers will agonize over a very precise, quitee plump outline—a.most a step-by-step synopsis. If that’s your style, by all means, go for it. Whatever best points your brain in the right direction. However, do realize that an outline is simply a guideline—FYEO. You need not add color or drama or emotion. Nobody but you will see it. You’re simply jotting down enough info to spark your creative juices. Here’s a for-instance.

An Example.

Let’s say you’re writing an adventure novel about a down-on-his-luck loner named Paul, who eventually discovers a gold mine…and then must defend his fortune from various marauders and modern-day pirates. You’ve already written a good 30-50 pages with relative ease and, in a funk, your hapless protagonist is at the end of his rope. Paul’s wife and dog have dumped him for some rich guy living in Greenwich Village. His bank account has fallen to single digits and the mortgage is past due. With nothing left to lose, Paul puts all his belongings in a brown paper bag, jumps into his old, rusting Studebaker and, and…and then what? Maybe that’s as far as you’ve thought ahead. But once Paul’s on the highway, Paul’s options (and yours) become muddled and confused. So you sit and think, sit and think until—wisely!—you begin to jot out a few possible ‘quick-sketch’ scenarios that might occur on the poor guy’s Westward sojourn. Any number of them might look like this:

Midway through the Mojave desert, Paul’s car breaks down on a desolate 2-lane highway.

• He waves down a delapidated VW van, but the two stoners inside rob him of his last few dollars. Nah, too predicable.

• After an hour waiting for any sign of life, an old relic of a school bus sputters into view. Paul waves desperately at the approaching vehicle.

• The driver, an old, toothless guy named Benny, affably waves him aboard. Bennie appears slightly drunk, but Paul sees no other options.

• Cackling insanely, Benny begins to tell Paul a story about an abandoned mine a few miles ahead, at the end of some obscure dirt road. He shows Paul a crumpled, 100 year old treasure map and tells him he’s on his way to search for a chest of gold.

Benny pulls a 300-year-old gold-piece from his pocket as evidence of the fortune. Nope. This would be telegraphing their success. Let readers wonder if Benny’s really crazy, and the gold’s simply a hallucination.

• With nothing to lose, and intrigued by the old guy’s story, Paul tells Benny he’ll help look for the treasure.

…etc., etc.

So your outline is really just a series of quick reminders of how you might want to finish your story, scene by scene…with the opportunity to eliminate any possible wrong turns. (I actually jot additional notes to myself, and in RED, reminding my brain why certain scenes might not work and why. Saves myself from second-guessing my rationale, a week or month from now.)

I allow myself to break my own rules myself. For instance, let’s say I’m visualizing old Benny telling Paul about this rumored gold mine. As the scene’s playing out in my mind, the dialogue between the maniacal Benny and the wary Paul comes to mind. Absolutely go with it. Creativity seldom arrives in chronological order.

“There’s more’n a hun’erd million rumored to be at the bottom of that dagblasted ol’ mine,” Benny said with a solemn nod.

“Rumored?” Paul asked, casting the old man a sidelong glance.

“Well, nobody’s ever seen it, I reckon. But I’ve heard plenty o’ stories to know it’s there. An’ I’ve come to claim it as my own.”

“You have a map,” Paul said.

“Well, yeah, sorta. I kinda drawed it up myself, based on all them rumors I’ve been hearing. Based on absolute facts, mind you.”

“Rumored facts?”

“The best kind,” Benny admitted with a cackle…

Sure, there may be times when snippets of my outline become part of my first draft, or even part of the finished manuscript, if the thoughts are coherent enough. So if you find yourself leaving ‘outline mode’ and actually writing a profound scene or bit of dialogue, go for it. Sometimes creativity sparks where and you when least expect it.

When outlining, there’s no need to write every word in chronological order. (Some writers insist upon this sort of organized logic, and if that’s how your mind works, it’s perfect okay!) However, my brain isn’t the brightest bulb in the chandelier, so my outline—like my subsequent early drafts—may gradually coalesce in bits and pieces, and sometimes in an outlandishly random order. I usually conceive my final chapter long before I’m too far into my story, so I’ll write it out as soon as the ideas come. The nice thing about having a solid ending outlined or drafted, one tends to make fewer wrong turns…knowing exactly how, why and where the plot and characters need to be to reach that final page.

Also, note that outlining need not be a complete, beginning-to-end procedure. Often times I’ll outline a few scenes or chapters ahead, then write my draft until I catch up—and then repeat the procedure again. Basically, the art and science of outlining is: Whatever works best for you.

Okay, so end of the Outlining sermon. Either you’ll give it a try, or you won’t. (As always, s’up to you!) But mark my words, Missy… you’ll be back. On their hands and knees, they always come back.

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Scene-Setting

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A notebook for fiction writers and aspiring novelists. One editor’s perspective.

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Scene-Setting: The often overlooked
powerhouse in every writer’s arsenal.

You’ve heard this before from me, and now you shall hear it again: Rule #5: Continually scene-set, character-build or move the plot forward. In novel writing, nothing else matters.

Need a refresher? Look Here.

For fledgling and action-oriented novelists, scene-setting is often the most overlooked of these three essential fictive components. Yet proper scene-setting is imperative. One cannot simply rely on plot momentum and character development alone. (At least, not when writing a novel.*) But many novelists have trouble adequately grounding readers, largely because scene-setting can be radically misunderstood. Do realize that proper scene-setting is a far more complex concept than simply pointing out a big red barn or a hazy afternoon.

Since ‘scene-setting’ is typically considered an all-inclusive term incorporating all five senses, and optionally including how and when, grounding a reader can refer to a multitude of possible sensory enhancements necessary to fully develop a scene. Scene-setting can (and should) provide powerful imagery—colors, motions, sounds, fragrances, emotions or reactions to stimuli—that add more than a vague or occasional embellishment to your plot and characters, or to their environs.

For instance, consider:

Johnny Rocco was led through the prison yard by his guards toward freedom.

VS.

Johnny Rocco lumbered through the prison yard, his wrists and ankles shackled, with twenty pounds of tempered steel chain wrapped around his waist for good measure. The six guards surrounding Rocco had been hand-picked by the warden, each man heavily armed, and each secretly hoping that he might make some stupid move, a twitch or a smirk, resulting in a particularly bloody demise before the man made it past the yawning front gates to freedom.

I have absolutely no problem with minimalism, and yet if Johnny Rocco’s walk toward freedom is the first line of a new scene or chapter, I do have issues with the opening’s lack of emotional depth and visual stimulation. The latter of these two examples feels far more expressive, and better grounds the reader immediately in this new scene.

Very often when we sit down to begin a new scene or chapter, our brains are already overflowing with stimulating visual momentum; our thoughts crowded with profound, dramatic intent. We may visualize quick, fragmented glimpses of a basic setting as we write, but we’re here to tell a story, damn it, and tell our story we will! So we hustle off…

But wait a sec. Exactly where are we again? We may intuit every step that our characters take, but readers need sufficient sensory information (note I didn’t simply say visual information) to accompany our journey. Do remember that readers cannot see into our mind’s eye! They need sensory reminders, every step of the way.

So how important is scene-setting? It’s crucial enough to be considered a new rule. Rule#17: Every scene we write, before we begin (or before we continue) to propel our plot forward, we must establish a viable setting for our characters, and a firm grounding for our readers.

Another example:

Jane awoke in a haze, lying on a bare cot in a small, unfamiliar gray room. She found herself unable to remember how she’d gotten here—nor much of anything of the last 48 hours, her recent memories vague, her thoughts fragmented. Attempting to move her arms, Jane discovered that her wrists were bound to the cot with thick leather ties.

Shaking her head, she felt a sharp stab of pain. A concussion, perhaps. Had she been knocked unconscious? Jane couldn’t remember. For a long moment she remained still, quiet, warily inspecting her surroundings. A single, wooden door stood across the room. Closed and presumably locked. To her left, Jane observed a solitary window. Worn, muslin curtains swayed in a light breeze, the widow open, revealing a faint hint of rosemary and sage. Lifting her head, she glimpsed little more than a cloudless blue sky outside, and the hazy peak of a single, treeless mountain far in the distance.

A sudden noise behind the door snagged her attention… (and here comes the plot.)

But before any action begins in earnest, our stage is now set. Perhaps not fully set—but sufficient information has been given readers to ground them in the moment. We can further fill in blanks or add nuance in later scenes or a subsequent chapter. Yet because we mention a door, a window, a distant mountain; most readers will intuit that these items are (or will likely become) necessary elements in our story in some significant—or perhaps insignificant but insightful—way.

So, in our haste, if we write:

Jane awoke in a small room, tied to a cot. She couldn’t remember her name. Suddenly a noise outside the door startled her….

…we’re cheating our readers with by withholding ambiance that can greatly enhance the experience that we’re providing. It’s like serving dinner guests bread and butter on paper plates when we’ve promised them Filet Mignon on fine china. Maybe they won’t go away hungry, but they certainly won’t go away happy. Without sufficient scene-setting techniques, our writing can feel dry and emotionally vacant, lacking any sense of style and color and flavor. Realize that all sense of dramatic nuance, of stylistic intent, is easily lost behind a too swiftly moving plot.

Here’s a suggestion: Each time you begin a new scene or chapter, think of yourself as a Broadway set director (a.k.a.; set designer), confronting a bare and empty stage. Your first step? Visualize what’s necessary for the performers. What physical elements will the actors need to fully tell their story, both in terms of location and stage props? The next step? Ask yourself what conditions have changed since the last act? A new local? A new time? New characters? Mood swings? Because all these changes should be sufficiently revealed before (or very soon after) any forward plot momentum continues. What elements do readers require to believe the reality you’re presenting?

For instance, if this particular act in your stage play takes place in a large living room, the director (also you, BTW, but wearing a different hat) may have characters entering from stage left and stage right simultaneously. Meaning that you, wearing your set designer’s hat, will need to implement two doorways in the set. If you—writing the scene on a page—reveal only to readers one doorway when first describing the room, you’ll confuse readers. Your later self may balk—and you’ll find yourself begrudgingly adding or deleting numerous pages to make the scene work properly.

Understand, that many of us (me, included) often skip a great deal of scene-setting (and character development as well) until a second or third draft. So when working on a first draft—then, yes!—by all means focus solely on the plot. For the moment, the color commentary can wait.

Meaning it’s okay for our story to remain temporarily incomplete, because the process of writing is fluid, and still very much in motion. At this stage, the writer has room to maneuver. My own first drafts are filled with gaping holes and unfinished thoughts, even random notes to myself—and God help anyone who tries to decipher my intent if they come upon the incomplete manuscript. I make notations in red (I draft everything on-screen, not paper) and rely on red ink to mark my unfinished thoughts. Thus, my first drafts commonly look something like:

Jane awoke [in a fog? Or is she coherent? Naked? If so, why?], lying on a in a small [describe] room. She found himself unable to remember how she’d gotten here [why? Concussion? Amnesia? Drugs?] She observes her surroundings and… yadda, yadda.

Because sometimes it’s far easier to return and fully embellish a scene once the skeletal frame of the story is already in place.

Okay, so how much detail is too much? Scene-setting is, of course, a matter of personal preference—but also a question of our ability in gauging how much or how little grounding is necessary to properly immerse a reader in any given scene. As novelists, we can spend paragraphs or even pages attempting to properly scene-set in great detail—although I advise writers not filling pages to such an extent that one loses sight of maintaining plot momentum. In the above example, Jane’s waking confusion—plot momentum—is still our primary focus. So a writer must constantly compromise, juggling plot momentum, character development and sufficient (if temporarily incomplete) scene-setting.

One noteworthy caution: When scene-setting, beware of the dreaded red herring. Jane may notice, for instance, a set of sterling salt and pepper shakers on a table beneath the window. If such items are glimpsed in passing, fine. But if Jane dwells for any reason or spends any perceptible time noting their presence—take heed. Because unless that table and those shakers are somehow necessary to the story, I’d suggest brevity. Take too long to establish a minor character, a clue or a prop that will have no relevant bearing later in your story, (such unintended misdirection being the aforementioned red herring) and some readers may be miffed. Sure, it’s okay to tease readers with deliberately misleading clues—Detective Plum believes Mrs. Peacock to be the killer, for instance, only to have Mrs. Peacock die in the next scene—is perfectly okay in a murder mystery. Such intended misdirection is simply a dramatic invention that furthers the plot. But don’t dwell on the unnecessary.

Sense Descriptors

Let’s look at those variables available to create a fully developed scene or chapter. Your options include one or more of the numerous sense descriptors available to more fully inform readers:

• Sight (Visual cues)
This one’s a gimme. A slam-dunk. Either the writer observes (omniscient narration) or a character observes (POV) the various, necessary visuals that ground the reader in a particular reality. The vast majority of novels are primarily visual descriptions. For instance: A castle on the hillside. Belinda’s skin glistening in the moonlight. The zombie’s fiery red eyes. A flock of geese heading south overhead. John arguing with Mary.

Even dialogue, while not directly a visual cue, is typically written as an observable exchange, as experienced between two or more people. So even though we may hear John arguing with Mary, we also see them arguing. The exasperated expressions, the flowing tears, the pouty lips, all combine for a definitive visualization. An adept writer will weave together both visual and auditory cues for the reader to best grasp the situation.

Most adept writers will find ways to weave snippets of scene-setting with  character development and/or plot momentum. For instance:

Riding behind Sir Reginald’s ambling horse, Lady Rockbottom noticed the distant ruins of a castle high atop a granite cliff, towering above the chilly evening’s encroaching fog. Exactly the type of place where the dastardly Sir Evilson would lay in wait for them. The castle, its old walls glowing a ghastly reddish orange beneath the setting sun, appeared little more than a devilish apparition. She feared the elderly Reginald would not stand a chance of defeating the younger, more powerful knight.

• Sound
As a species, we’re inherently drawn to ambient sounds—whether the strains of a finely-played violin or the gentle, distant crash of an ocean surf. We’re also instantly wary of the sound of thunder, of an explosion, or some hapless animal howling in the dead of night. Of two men cursing and arguing loudly in a shadowed alley. Even background chatter—people mumbling, an occasional burst of laughter, glasses clinking—can signify a cocktail party, a single sentence that offers readers a clear perception of location, without having to intricately describe a room filled with inconsequential characters.

Or perhaps little Wanda June is lost in the woods as as soft rain falls. But how the scene might change if she hears a crash of approaching thunder? Or Maurice awakens to the creak of a floorboard long after midnight. Even more subtle ambient sounds—crickets chirping at sunset, the wind rustling autumn leaves—can provide subtle emotional cues to your readers. So don’t lose the occasional opportunity to use sound as a viable grounding tool.

• Touch.
Have you ever written a scene where a character wakes suddenly in the night—the surrounding darkness pitch black and foreboding? So, yes, touch matters. However, for the most part, touch relates to important sensual clues that can better define a condition or observation. For instance; the metal floor felt ice cold beneath James’ bare feet, or Mary awoke to the prickle of countless fat, hairy spiders scrambling over her bare flesh. Sure, Mary can simply observe the spiders—but how much more dramatic if you allow readers to feel the tickle of their hairy little paws as well.

And yes, spiders have paws.

• Smell.
While not as common as the above descriptors, the ability to reveal scents and fragrances (both exquisite and putrefying) can leave an indelible impact to readers as well. So the next time you’re confronted with a plucky resistance leader chased into the underground sewer system by the evil prince’s guards—take a chance to share the full experience with your readers. Or as my old granny used to say, “When you’re covered in shit, you can’t smell the wine.” I suppose the more common, less offensive adage (as taught in Advertising 101) would be: Sell the sizzle, not the steak. In fiction, the same rules apply.

• Taste.
A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. So are these ‘lesser’ sense descriptors. Again, Taste—like Smell and Touch—can cut through 1000 words of carefully worded narration in a single sentence. To famished little Wanda June, the sliver of chocolate cake tasted like heaven. Simple enough. Profound enough. There’s not a reader in the world who won’t feel the girl’s joy.

• How and Why.
Occasionally there may come a time when specific mechanics of a story scene must be revealed to readers, for clarity’s sake. In Stephen King’s novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, prisoner Andy Dufresne escapes by crawling through Shawshank’s lengthy sewer system to freedom. A long and particularly gross escape (in both book and film), his friend Red narrates Andy’s escape for the reader. Rather than simply stating that Andy escaped through the sewer, Red’s colorfully grotesque commentary gives readers a delightfully gruesome moment to consider Andy’s trek through a hundred yards of putrid prison poop. Readers get a little sensual ride (visual and olfactory) along with the How of Andy’s getaway. And that’s how it’s done!

Here’s another example. Let’s return to Jane for a moment, from where we left off.

Lifting her head, she glimpsed little more than a cloudless blue sky outside, and the hazy peak of a single, treeless mountain far in the distance.
. . . . A sudden noise behind the door snagged her attention. A moment later the door swung open and a man appeared, small and haggard, his head shaven. The man wore a black cloak and smelled faintly of formaldehyde.
…..“Ah, Miss Cooper, I see that you are finally awake.” The bald man offered Jane a shriveled little smile. “I have an important question, my dear. Are you listening closely? How did you learn of Dr. Desparado’s whereabouts? Answer that single question and you will be free to leave. However, if you choose to remain silent—ahh, but I can only assure you that you’ll live long enough to regret your decision.”

The bald man’s entrance—even if his character appears in this one and only scene—is to provide the Why of Jane’s presence in this room, in this scene. Reading on, readers will likely discover the How in a page or two. (A little Rohypnol spritzed in her morning coffee, perhaps?) At the moment, the bald man’s question is sufficient for the scene (and plot) to move forward. Thus, via dialogue, you’re revealing a snippet of information that readers should find grounding enough to infer Jane’s troubles. She stumbled, intentionally or not, upon a snippet of information that was, for whatever reason, private.

Fail to reveal this information to readers—Jane’s presence here and the reason behind it—and you’ll find yourself with what we editors refer to, in hushed, shaky whispers, as: a big fat plothole.

• Time (and time’s passing).
When we write, we write in a strictly linear fashion. That happened then. This is happening now. What’s gonna happen in the future? (It’s that pesky time/space continuum thing.) One doesn’t usually pause to contemplate the profundity of such potential directional challenges (unless, of course, one’s writing in the Time Traveling arena). Flashbacks and flash-forwards are linear extracts—that is, scenes or chapters pulled out of an orderly timeline, and yet then told in a similar, precise order. Then, now, later. If a writer gets it wrong—for instance, doesn’t fully reveal to readers that a character’s ‘back in the then’ or ‘gone to the later’, those readers may become hopelessly lost. And, no, many won’t forgive you. So allow for the proper segue, which can be as simple as a few establishing words:

Several years ago, as I recall, when your Uncle Teddy was in the army…

Or,

Two minutes later, when Stephani warily opened the golden orb’s glowing hatch, nothing of her world appeared remotely the same. The old, asphalt road had been transformed into a carpet of tall grass. The little sapling that she had planted in the yard last month had morphed into an enormous, gnarled Oak. Her mother’s house, the tidy home she’d known all her life, had disappeared, replaced by a tall, spindly structure that glistening of polished metals and hummed gently under a blazing ocher sun…

Keeping readers aware of time’s passing—whether a few moments, a few hours or even a few centuries—can be instrumental in properly grounding readers in a story. And time changes can be tricky. For instance, if your last scene or chapter ended at high noon and this scene/chapter begins after sundown—and all other variables being identical—be sure to inform readers of the shift ASAP. If I’ve left the previous scene under the midday sun and suddenly I’m reading about the twinkling stars or glowing streetlights 3 or 4 pages into a new scene, and without any previous indication of the time change…well, consider that taboo. The solution is to simply keep the reader advised, as quickly and succinctly as possible.

Jane awoke from a deep sleep with a start. Her wrists remained tightly bound. She stared at the ceiling for a long moment, trying to recall the bald man’s words. Had he been an apparition? His appearance merely a dream? For the hundredth time she tried furtively to remember her name. Beyond the room’s little window, she could see the horizon beginning to darken. Night would be upon her soon, meaning she’d spent an entire day locked in this miserable little place...

• Moods/feelings/emotions.
Can moods and emotions help set a scene? Absolutely. Typically, we need not make any special effort to establish a character’s mood. (“Hello, I’m John, your new neighbor! I’m usually a cranky, cantankerous sort!”) Astute writing will usually reveal your character’s mood. But a terse gaze, a taut smile, a little hand-wringing or the drop of a tear can reveal much about the tenor of the scene. Thus, if a character is secretly angry or relieved or nervous—those snippets of info can help readers understand the scene’s ultimate intention.

Without properly establishing mood settings for your characters (when and if appropriate), you may as well be writing a telephone directory. The three examples below should aptly illustrate the simplicity (and necessity) of this rationale:

“Don’t do it, Madeline!” Rene said, laughing hysterically.
“Don’t do it, Madeline!” Rene cried out in alarm.
Don’t do it, Madeline,” Rene whispered, a furious whisper in the dead of night.

Important information. Revealed discreetly.
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In a nutshell: When beginning to write or plot a new scene or chapter, stop to evaluate what’s different. What’s changed? How does this scene vary from the last scene? If three days have passed between the last scene and this one, and you don’t tell readers—that’s a blunder. If a new character has entered the room, and the writer fails to reveal his presence, and your character beings conversing with this unseen dude three pages in—that’s a blunder. If your evil faerie godmother’s been dressed in black robes for several chapters—and in this scene you’ve draped her in red velvet, but forget to tell us for several pages—that’s a blunder. Why? Because you’ve cheated readers into believing in various specifics (the time of day, who’s in the scene, even a wardrobe change) that are presently untrue. For readers, those omissions can be quite off-putting. Or outright confusing. So, when confronting a new scene, make a checklist, mental or otherwise, of what might be new, different or worth mentioning. And then mention it.
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*Can’t seem to get the hang of scene-setting after many attempts at failures at writing a novel? Is detailed world-building not your forte? Perhaps consider writing a screenplay. Seriously. Script writing is basically dialogue (really great dialogue, mind you) accompanied by the barest bones—a suggestion, really—of visual composition. Even plotting is written with a bare-bones simplicity. The trick is, of course, that a screenwriter must accurately describe the necessary components as quickly, and accessibly—think ‘basics’—as possible.

However, unlike a completed novel, a screenplay is merely the first step in a multi-leveled project where you (the screenwriter) have little-to-no say in the project once the script is complete. Subsequent writers, script doctors, producers and the director may tear your original script to shreds before the camera’s begin to roll. The finished product (a.k.a. a major motion picture) may look little or nothing like your original idea. On the other hand, successful screenwriters are paid increasingly and delightfully robust fees for their efforts and can afford to grin and bear it, whilst driving their Bentley’s to Beverly Hills Savings & Loan, their pockets laden with golden faerie dust. But I digress. Suffice it to say, screenwriting can be a viable option.

For instance:

EXT. (exterior) . . . FARMHOUSE — DAY
Old ANGIE (68) is sitting on a rocking chair on the front porch. Her house is decrepit, the paint peeling. Plastic covers one broken window. Young farmhand HANK is standing in the dirt driveway. Overhead, storm clouds are threatening.

ANGIE.
You get that back field plowed yet, boy?

HANK
(peering past the sagging old barn, toward the empty fields)
No, ma’am. Water pump gave out again. I gotta run into town,
get some new parts.

ANGIE
Storm’s comin’. That ol’ tractor’s gonna rust, if’n a downpour comes.

HANK
(Frustrated)
Not a dang thing in the world I can do about the rain, Miss Angie.

ANGIE
Well, for one, y’all can stop wastin’ time by jawin’ with me an’ git a move on.

Basically, your scene-setting needs are as simple as expressing: A farmhouse. Empty fields. A brewing storm. A bit of anger. It’s up to the director or set director to work out the minutia. As a script writer, you’re working on dialogue and character development, with the merest hint of location setting.
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If I can suggest only one book to curious, wannabe script writers, it’s William Goldman’s (Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride) Adventures in the Screen Trade. The book is as much a homage to Hollywood as it is a glimpse into what it might take to write a successful script. It’s a light, breezy and fun read…and yet contains a great deal of valuable info and advice.
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Balancing Humanity

FINDING BALANCE

Excerpted from Raindrops of Love For a Thirsty World
by Eileen Workman

BELOVED, I invite you to notice the large number of men who are embracing their feminine qualities at this time. Notice too, how many women are embracing their masculine qualities. What good news this is! Know that this internal re-balancing of human energy will enable you to trust and work more intimately and cooperatively with all others, even as your species draws upon the vast and potent powers of creation. The divine masculine power of creation, when channeled through the divine feminine energy of love, produces a strong enough foundation to support, affirm, and perpetually advance the whole of the living reality.

Know that everything you have experienced prior to this moment, including any feelings of division or mistrust that arose between your masculine and feminine aspects, has unfolded perfectly and was necessary for your own inner growth. However, the time has arrived for you to focus on calling forth much more of the loving power of the divine feminine, so that your divine masculine powers of creation can finally mature. In this way you will become fully integrated, self-actualized, and free to create—from a stance of love—all that your passions, skills, and capacities are inspiring you to deliver into the world.

— Eileen Workman
Author of Raindrops of Love For a Thirsty World
and Sacred Economics (The Currency of Life)

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Loving Anna

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SHORT FICTION
by Eileen Workman

• • •

Author’s bio follows the story

• • •

SCHOOL MUST BE OVER. I hear the front door slam mid-afternoon, followed by the stomp of footsteps as Anna seeks me out. Unfortunately, the odor of melting spray starch leaves me all too easy to find.
. . . . .”I hate my nose,” Anna declares, having followed it straight to my ironing board in the den. Sullen, silent, she waits.
. . . . .My hand pauses high in the air and my lungs grow tight. How like my daughter to opt for war before homework. The silence between us lengthens while I hang up a shirt to postpone the inevitable. Stiff fingers struggle to fasten the collar button. Meanwhile, Anna hovers at the edge of my personal space, a tempest in jeans and a faded Billabong T-shirt. I hear the muffled tapping of her toes on the carpet, sense her folded arms, and feel the heat from her gaze scorching my shoulders. All five feet seven inches of this Amazon girl-child are now daring me to respond. Thin and fierce, Anna is primed for combat.
. . . . . I’m not yet ready to engage her.
. . . . . My Anna has only begun to bud. As yet, her gawkiness hides her classic beauty. Gumby limbs divert the attention of the less experienced boys, but grown men see Anna more clearly. I watch them watch her walk at times, feeling proud, amazed, and more than a little afraid for this child who will soon be a woman. Anna has my eyes, except hers blaze with an intensity mine long ago learned to hide from the outer world. Her hair—another genetic donation from me—spills across her shoulders; soft and thick, it gleams like polished wood. Last week she hated her hair as much as she hates her nose today. She begged me to allow her to dye it purple and shave it above her ears. I am still learning to ride out these sudden shifts in Anna’s emotions; to sidestep the whirlpools she constantly swirls in my path.
. . . . .Today it seems clear that Anna feels a need to unload some emotional energy onto someone—anyone, most likely. I just happen to be her favored, and handiest, target whenever this impulse begins to arise. I know this logically; sense I ‘should’ be able to ride out her moods with internal equanimity. Yet knowing and feeling are very different things.
. . . . .”I want a nose job,” she announces, voice tight and hammer hard.
. . . . .I manage to fasten the button at last. A smile tugs at the corners of my lips. Life with Anna has taught me to savor successes, no matter how small. I set aside the neatly hung shirt and consider this fresh Anna problem, silently examining and discarding my various options. Finally, I settle on what I believe is the safest ground upon which to rest.
. . . . .”What matters isn’t your nose,” I offer, “it’s how you feel about yourself on the inside.” Not condescending, but not committing to rhinoplasty either. Let her mull that a bit. With luck I’ve offered her nothing firm to attack.
. . . . .I wait, watching closely as she absorbs my words, then the skin on her forehead starts twitching. My heart sinks. Her expression tells me that—somewhere inside my vague non-answer—Anna has spotted a weakness.
. . . . .”That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard. Here Mom…just look at it.” She scrunches her face and thrusts it aggressively into my own, as if to blind me with the proximity of the all-offending organ. I struggle to uncross my eyes and stare at the straight fine lines of her nose—which looks perfect to me, except for the criss-cross of wrinkles now etched in its Romanesque bridge. It’s the type of nose no respectable surgeon would touch.
. . . . .In truth, Anna’s is the nose I tried to purchase for myself a few years earlier, but after three thousand dollars and two weeks of pain, success eludes me still. Internal scar tissue pulls my nose rather far to the right of center, but I’ve chosen not to endure more pain to correct this brand-new problem. Anna knows this; I made the mistake of confessing my envy last year, in those more peaceful days before she learned to turn my words into weapons against me. The mere memory of those days brings grief, and I feel my back become stiff with reactive anger. So then; let the battle begin.
. . . . .”Fine,” I say, sounding sharper than I had intended. “You can save your money and get it fixed once you can afford to pay for it. It’s your face, after all.” I realize I’ve tossed her a clip of fresh ammunition, but it’s too late now to withdraw. I close my eyes and steady myself for the fury I know she’ll unleash.
. . . . .”You’re so unfair,” she hollers back at me, manufacturing wounded tears. “When Jason asked for a car last year, you bought him a brand-new Mustang. A nose job’s less than half the price of a car, but you don’t care if I’m happy.”
. . . . .I step back warily, letting Anna occupy the high ground she’s claimed for her own. No point in reminding her that Jason needed a car to commute to college, or that the Mustang was our high school graduation gift to our eldest son. Anna doesn’t see shades of gray these days. Only black, and white—and apparently, Mustang red.
. . . . .The tears come so easily to her. I, who seem to have lost my power to weep, marvel at the way she holds them, just so, inside her lids, not allowing them to spill. Their falling would break the spell of rage, and Anna is nowhere near ready to release me. I can feel her creeping toward me, ever so intently, along a murderous tightrope that spans my internal chasms of guilt and pity, yet she doesn’t stumble. Her sense of balance leaves me breathless, makes me ache for her in some deep and primal place.
. . . . .”That’s not true,” I say, still fighting to recover my calm. I am, after all, the adult in this new passion play. I should be able to maintain some self-control. “I care about your happiness a great deal.” Hesitation; then I hear myself add…”Although sometimes I don’t know why I bother.”
. . . . .Damn. I’ve done it now. Pushed her even closer to her own internal abyss.
. . . . .Tears spill then, as fury breaks loose like a fire in Anna’s eyes. “I hate you!” she screams at me, stabbing my heart with her words. “You’ll never understand me at all.”
. . . . .She speaks the truth, I realize, but there’s a limit to what a mother should have to endure. I’m sliding past mine very swiftly.
. . . . .”Go to your room!” I order, feeling myself becoming, in that moment, the sternly unyielding woman she loves to detest. “And don’t come out until you’ve figured out how to be civil.” That last part gets wasted. Anna’s door clips the end of my sentence like a gunshot.
. . . . .I finish my ironing, but my movements are mechanical and my thoughts flit to other things. How, I wonder, did my daughter and I reach this point? I recall fondly her chubby infant fingers pulling hungrily at my breasts. I see the squealing toddler who ran to me in urgent need of a hug after every tumble. I can still remember the pinafore-dressed, plucky first grader who hesitated in the doorway of room seven and gave me a shaky thumbs-up before heading inside. When had all those sundresses and sandals given way to ripped jeans and Doc Martins? When did her hands—the very ones that used to cling to me with such neediness and trust—start choosing her own hips instead? It occurs to me then that it must have been about the same time that my hands began balling in fury instead of reaching out to soothe and summon.
. . . . .I feel trapped inside my own painful thoughts as I unplug the iron. I fold up my board and re-cap the spray starch can. The cupboard where these things belong stands invitingly near Anna’s bedroom; after stowing them, I can’t resist the urge to knock on her door. Though she barges into my private space at the most inopportune times (seeking razors, shampoo, and lately even a tampon) I don’t dare invade her space in that same way. Anna demands her privacy, considers it a badge of adulthood; to grant her the illusion costs me nothing.
. . . . .”What do you want?” The quiver in her voice informs me that her tides have already shifted. I do know my daughter well enough to realize that her highly compressed, adolescent world has been shaken in some profound way—by something that likely has nothing to do with me. Her anger with me she will hold for hours, perhaps even days or weeks. It is only with great reluctance that she lets it go. This current, bleak mood is therefore not of my doing.
. . . . .”May I come in?” I ask.
. . . . .She meets me with lengthy silence. Then I hear a terse, “I guess so.”
. . . . .I enter to see her crying again, only this time the tears look real. They gloss her cheeks and paint dark, wet stripes down her tee shirt. Liquid anguish. I stand there in stillness and watch her weep, feeling powerless in the face of so much emotion.
. . . . .”What is it?” I ask her gently. I fear she’ll tell me; yet feel strangely panicked she won’t. “What’s really going on here, sweetheart?”
. . . . .Anna flings her slender body, face-down, across the full length her bed. Through uncontrolled sobs, she eventually whimpers, “Heather told all of our friends that they shouldn’t like me anymore.”
. . . . .I stare at her, not comprehending this as a crisis. “And…?”
. . . . .”And since everyone likes Heather the best, they just do whatever she says. She’s the most popular girl in our class, mom.”
. . . . .Anna shares this fact as if she’s been given a death sentence. And I realize that, yes—to her—perhaps that feels so.
. . . . .The dark ravine carved out by our twenty-three years of distance yaws wider between us. Did I ever feel such utter desolation? Ancient memories dart like bats through the hidden rooms of my thoughts. I remember the terrible trauma of two-faced friends; the inconstancy of groping boys; the endless insecurities triggered by body, and feelings, and acne, and life in general…
. . . . .In that instant, I want—I actually ache—to reach for Anna. But it is a risk that carries a price tag. Fear of yet another rejection weights my limbs like winter ice. It holds me back from melting into my daughter. Yet her pain feels so real, it’s as if another person has usurped the space between us her room. I take a deep, deciding breath and push beyond it to sit down beside her on her bed. Then I stretch out my arms.
. . . . .”Come here,” I say gently, not believing for an instant she will. “Let me hold you, my love. I’m right here.”
. . . . .With a tiny cry, she dives for my arms and then folds herself, pelican-like, until she nestles against me. I pull her face to my chest with tenderness and slowly stroke her hair, planting gentle, butterfly kisses along the entire crest of her scalp. Strange to realize she no longer fits me as snugly as she once did, but her scent remains the same. I would know my own daughter anywhere just by that scent.
. . . . .Time unravels. The chasm between us dissolves of its own accord. With sudden insight, I realize in that moment my that daughter isn’t ready to become a woman quite just yet. She needs me still, if only for these small moments. A wavering smile tilts the corners of my mouth once again as I relax and allow myself this victory.
. . . . .In this moment, at least, I succeeded in loving Anna.
. . . . .


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Eileen Workman spent sixteen years working in the financial service industry, as Vice President of Investments with Smith Barney. The author of Sacred Economics: The Currency of Life (2011) and Raindrops of Love For A Thirsty World (2017) she is currently working on Cultivating Grace, a book about using love to guide one’s actions through the world. She lives in N. California with her husband, novelist Dave Workman.

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