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I’m a Published Author (and I’m Terrified!)

I have to admit that when I first saw my book on Amazon last night, I had a mixture of emotions.

I was happy that ten years of hard work (yes, writing is hard and it’s work) was finally a finished product.  I was joyful, ecstatic, and jumping up and down like a teenager meeting her favorite boy band.

And yet as I sat there, staring at my book, I felt terrified.

Because now my book is out there, ready to be judged and viewed by people I’ve never met before.  What would their reaction be?  Would they like it?  Hate it?  Think it was just okay?  And then thoughts of the future started to plague me.  What if the book doesn’t sell well?  All that hard work and money would be for nothing.  And what if it is successful?  Will I be able to keep up the demand for new books and stories that are just as good or better than what I had before?  What if I let everyone down?

It took a few minutes to put everything into perspective, and as I sat there, looking at the cover, I was reminded of why I wrote the book in the first place.

I wanted to tell a story.

It’s not about popularity.  It’s not about the pride in being an author.  It’s not about good reviews or five star ratings or a chance to find my picture in the newspaper for publishing a new series.  It’s about the chance of sharing what’s in my heart with the world, and hopefully somewhere, out there is a reader who can connect with what I have to say.

The story I published is entitled “The Ripple Affair.”  I admit the title may seem a little…not discreet…but the purpose of the story wasn’t just about telling the tale of a guy who had an affair on his fiancee.  The story’s purpose was to show how a single event or choice-like having an affair-can have a direct impact on everyone else.  Hence the title name, “The Ripple Affair”-the affair didn’t just affect the guy and girl.  It affected everyone else around them.

This was the story I wanted to tell in the book (and sequels, as it’s a series.)  Showing how events and choices connect people and lives over time was a topic that fascinated me and opened my eyes as to how everything we do-even minor things-have a consequence (positive or negative).  So in the end, yes-publishing is exciting and terrifying and a mixture of emotions to make me think I need nothing but a bucket of chocolate for comfort.  But more important than my feelings is the fact that I’m sharing a story with the world that can connect with readers.

I hope they like my story.  I hope they rate it high and review it well.  And I’m not going to lie-I really hope this thing sells well (because let’s be honest, we all have bills to pay.)  But more than all of that, I hope they connect with the characters and the journey they are about to embark on.  There’s love, drama, laughter, and pain (and probably a billion other emotions that may or may not require a bucket of chocolate for comfort.)  But behind all of that is a dream finally coming true for a writer who wanted to tell a story.

If you get a chance, check out the “Books” tab on this site for more information on my book.  It’s available on Amazon right now and a Kindle version is being developed.  Book Two of “The Ripple Affair” series is also in it’s final editing stages, so be on the lookout for an announcement on that soon!  🙂

Thank you, dear readers, for your support and encouragement over the past year.  I appreciate it so very much and hope you will continue to walk on the writer’s journey with me in the years to come!  Keep watching the site for more blog posts and book news!  🙂

How My Minor Character Didn’t Listen to Me

I love playing The Sims.

There’s just something so oddly entertaining about taking control of a character, creating a story, and then telling them what to do.  One Sim skips work to swim all day while the other practically lives at the office.  Another Sim flirts with every person that walks in the room while the other stays faithful to that one, special love.  One Sim is lucky and gets everything handed to him easily while the other Sim gets a shock just for trying to fix the kitchen sink.

But if you’ve ever played the Sims, you know that sometimes the Sim doesn’t follow your command.  Yes, that Sim will purposely skip eating dinner and will near themselves to starvation just so they can binge watch the television for ten hours straight.  No matter how many times you tell them they must eat that macaroni and cheese to live, somehow the news is more important.

I’ve found in writing that my characters must think they’re Sims.  No matter what I tell them to do-what to say, how to act, or where to go-they somehow don’t listen.  They somehow go off on their own accord, even if it’s a bad idea.

Perhaps you’ve had it happen in your story.  You’re writing a scene and the plot is unfolding perfectly.  Everything is going to plan and you can’t help but pleased at how smoothly everything is going for once!

And then it happens.  As you are writing, your character does something drastic and strays from the original plan.  The story changes and suddenly chaos erupts as everything you thought your story was going to tell is thrown out the window because the character didn’t listen.

It happened to me recently as I was writing the second book in my series.  Everything was good until I started writing a scene with a certain minor character.  As I was writing, oblivious to the world around me, an idea popped into my head, and before I could rationally think the character’s actions out, it ended up on paper.  A new scene, a new plot point, and a twist that suddenly turned the story upside down.

All because the minor character didn’t follow the original plan.

I joke, of course, that my minor character had a mind of his/her own, but how many times (as writers) have we been in this predicament?  When the story doesn’t go to plan and suddenly a new story emerges in the middle of writing.  It’s frustrating for me at times when it happens, as I’m the kind of writer who enjoys planning things, but far too often I find the story moving away from the plan and creating its own unique path.

And in this situation, it wasn’t a bad thing.  Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a plot twist was developed that gave a whole new meaning to the series.  Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a once minor character suddenly developed a major role that basically altered the future for everyone in the story.  Because my character didn’t follow the plan, a typical story soon became deeper and more involved (and in my opinion, more interesting).

When I play The Sims, allowing my Sims to take the reins of their own free will doesn’t always produce good choices (I’m still waiting on that one Sim to eat the macaroni and cheese.)  But sometimes, as writers, when we allow our story to “write itself”, so to say, the product can be good.  Maybe even great.  It’s good to stick to a plan, but I’ve found in my own writing it’s even better to be open to spontaneity as well.  Inspiration and creativity are rarely on a schedule, and when it arrives you can’t help but take advantage of it.

Even if it makes your minor character not listen to the plan.

Love Triangles (and Why They Are Driving Me Crazy)

When I first started writing, I thought I knew the difficulties ahead of time.  Editing?  Dealing with grammar and syntax is rarely a person’s cup of tea.  Fighting writer’s block?  I haven’t met a writer yet who seems happy with not knowing what to do next.  Marketing and advertising your story?  For many introverts like myself, that’s terrifying, because we’ve worked to be writers, not business people.

But after about a decade of writing and learning the ins and outs, I’ve realized it’s not editing, writer’s block, or business that makes me groan in frustration.  No, it’s actually figuring out the plot, because unlike other writers I decided to complicate things and not just write a romance about a guy and girl and keep things nice and pretty.  Instead, I decided to write a romantic love triangle where the girl doesn’t have just one guy to choose from-she has two!

I honestly didn’t think love triangles would be that complicated.  Looking at other stories, authors seemed to resolve things well on their own.  Han won over Leia because…well…Luke was her brother.  Peeta won over Katniss because Gale didn’t exactly make some decisions Katniss was fond of.  Arwen won over Aragorn as they were together in the first place (but at least Eowyn ended up with Faramir in the end, so it all worked out.)  

When it comes to my own characters, however, I find myself struggling to choose which man is the better choice for my female character.  Both men have their own strengths and weaknesses, and yet despite their weaknesses neither one of them have a fault so great as to render one of them alone and the other as getting the girl in the end.

Perhaps it’s been poor planning on my part to be having such a difficult time in choosing who-ends-up-with-who.  Perhaps I’ve been seeing too much of myself in the female character I write about, and if I were in her shoes I’d have a hard time choosing, too.  Perhaps I’m just over-thinking a simple plot point that will eventually work itself out in the long run and I should just let the story run its course.

Or perhaps this is how love can be.  Sometimes the choice is simple and “Mr. Right” or “Ms. Right” is standing right in front of us like there’s no one else to choose from.  But other times, at least in my own experiences, love can be quite complicated.  Sometimes “the one” isn’t so clearly seen and it boils down to a choice.  As I write this story and decide how other plots, characters, and events connect with each other, the simplicity of “boy meets girl” suddenly becomes much more intricate than just two people coming together because they like each other.

I find myself asking about the effects of the relationship itself: will my character grow more with Person A or Person B?  How will other characters react to this relationship-will there be support, jealousy, or indifference?  And what about the characters in the long run?  Will their relationship last, and if it does, what comes out of it?  Do they find themselves working together or fighting?  Is their relationship smooth and without conflict or are they constantly bickering because they’re so different?

Had I realized that writing a romantic relationship (and love triangle) would be so complicated, I’d almost be tempted to go back in time and warn my future self, “You’re going to go nuts about this plot line!  It’ll keep you up at night and you’ll constantly be changing your mind and questioning yourself!  Don’t go down that rabbit hole!  You’ll never get out!!!!!!”

But as frustrating as figuring out the end result has been, at the same time I’ve found myself learning that story is often a reflection of life, and as much as I’d like things to be simple and cookie-cutter-clear, they often aren’t.  Sometimes hard decisions need to be made.  Sometimes fate intervenes because what we think is best may not actually be the best in the long run.  With the love triangle, I’m finding the important question isn’t “who goes better with who”.  It’s actually “what’s the bigger picture?”  In the context of the story, it’s the end result that matters most, because a story isn’t about plot points being scattered to tell a good tale.  A story is about plots connecting in the end to show an entire picture instead of just a little piece.

Christmas in July (How Everyone Has a Story)

When I was little, my mom and I started a little family tradition called “Christmas in July”.

I was about nine years old when we did our first outing.  It (literally) was July and my mom got me up out of bed one Saturday morning to do something fun.  We would mismatch our clothes.  We would wear the silliest outfits we had.  And (of course), I had to bring my stuffed barking Christmas dog, Alex.

We got in the car, dressed in the silliest attire.  I wore a mismatched pair of pants and a shirt while my mom wore the ultimate fashion combination: blue and white flowery leggings, tennis shoes, and an ugly Christmas sweater.

We were a sight for sore eyes when we went to the local diner that morning for an early breakfast.

We walked in and were immediately seated, Mom strutting her stuff in her Christmas, flower-power attire while I went around the restaurant constantly pressing the button on Alex’s paw, making him bark out different renditions of Christmas carols.

When our waitress arrived, she was a little taken aback at first, but shock was soon replaced with apathy.  She brought our drinks, took our order with a gruff, and stormed away back to the kitchen.  I thought making my dog bark “Here Comes Santa Claus” might cheer her up, but after a few tries I realized that she didn’t think Alex was as adorable as I thought he was.  I tried to see if Alex would bark the theme song to Mr. Grinch, but apparently he didn’t know that one, so I decided to just keep that to myself every time the waitress walked by.

But as the waitress came back, eventually checking on us and bringing our food, she turned to my mom and struck up a conversation.  She began telling us a story about how terrible things had been for her.  She was working long hours and was exhausted.  She didn’t get paid much and didn’t have much to get by on.  Life was difficult and joy was a rarity.  

But after she saw our silly attire and how much we tried to make her laugh, she started to feel better.  She told my mom that seeing us brought a smile to her face and gave her that extra spark she needed to finish her shift.  She even thought my barking Christmas dog was cute, and Alex barked her an upbeat version of “Jingle Bells”.

What really got the waitress, though, was what my mom told her back.  

The waitress felt tired from working so many hours.  So did my mom, who worked full time at a high stress job.

The waitress was struggling financially to provide for her family.  So was my mom, who was raising a little girl all by herself.

The waitress was feeling hopeless.  My mom felt that way once, too, when she was going through her divorce.

And so my mom told her story.  In the end, the waitress was near tears as she and my mom shared two simple words: “I understand”.

I learned a valuable lesson that day with my mom.  Sometimes we come across people who are mean, a little irritated, or upset.  Sometimes we come across people who are kind, very joyous, and upbeat.  Sometimes we come across people who are just living their life.  But regardless of who we meet, everyone has a story.

Some, like the waitress, have a sad story.  Others have happy ones.  Still others have a mixture of good and bad.  But everyone has a story, and sometimes, when we come across the right people at the right time, we can share our stories and find hope through the common plots of life.

Too often people think that their story isn’t worth sharing, though.  It’s not “exciting enough”, “powerful enough”, or “inspirational enough”.  But what people don’t realize is that not everyone’s story is an action novel.  Not everyone’s story is a soap opera.  Not everyone’s story is a comedy.  We all have different stories with different plots and actions and characters.  

But even though we may not think our story is special, someone else might.  Our “boring tale” may be the most inspirational classic to someone who may be going through similar circumstances or searching for hope.  

No matter what, every story is important.  Every story is unique.  Every story, no matter how mundane or simple, is powerful.  All it takes is willingness to share, because there’s always an audience out in the world just waiting to hear what you have to say.

 

The Story in Life

I first started researching my family history while in college.  I was a social studies major and was fascinated by anything historical, and since I never had the chance to do the research while in grade school (my teachers gave boring homework assignments), I figured I would take the time during the weekends to learn where I came from-what countries my family originated from, what cultures my family was apart of, and (the most interesting to me at the time), which famous person from history I was related to.

Shallow, I admit, but I know I’m not the only one who would think it’d be awesome to be descended from someone cool like Abraham Lincoln (which, unfortunately, I’m not).

As I dug into my family records, I found myself being immersed into the world of stories.  Often times we think of stories as tales we read in books or fables we hear while sitting around a campfire.  But looking into my family history, I realized stories are so much more.  Stories are here, in our past, our present, and our future, taking part in the lives we live.  Our lives are our own story, with each passing day a new page that is written.

But what struck me most of all were the stories I read from my own family.  I read of my Welsh ancestor who grew up in an orphanage and made his way to America as an indentured servant to a ship captain.  I read of my German ancestor who was apparently kidnapped as a teenager and sent to America where he eventually fought in the American Revolution at the Battle of Yorktown and started his own farm.  I read of other ancestors who were pioneers and cleared trails for English settlers or who lived on the Appalachian frontier and built churches so the faithful would have a place to worship.

All of these stories were inspiring, hopeful, making me want to read more.  I felt proud to be their descendant and even prouder knowing the positive legacies they left behind still lived on hundreds of years later.

And yet there were the other stories-stories I wish I hadn’t read.  Stories of ancestor with a temper so bad that he would fly off the handle at the tip of a hat.  Another ancestor was so cruel that he ended up imprisoned where he eventually died.  Another ancestor was once a faithful preacher who had an affair on his wife and the affair was so scandalous he had to leave town.  He eventually left the country, and that’s why he came to America.

As I sat reading the genealogies of my family, I realized that even though the bad stories were few and far between, they were still there.  When I told my mom about them and how bothered I was to read them, she told me something I would never forget when she talked about the one ancestor who was a criminal.  “I bet he didn’t realize his descendant would be reading his story seven hundred years later and shaking her head in shame.”

I learned a special lesson after that.  What we do now lives on in the future as stories for our descendants.  Are our stories happy?  Are they sad?  Are they inspiring?  Are they tragic?  In short, are the stories we live today going to make future generations proud that we existed, or will they shake their heads in shame?  Certainly none of us are perfect and we’re bound to make mistakes along the way, but I want to write a good story, just like I hope others want to as well.  I want our stories to have happy endings and be the kinds of stories people want to read again and again.

We often don’t think of our lives as stories, but good or bad, they live on.  Some stories last a lifetime, others a few generations, but there are some stories that last for hundreds or even thousands of years, and once our story is written, there is no going back.  There’s no editing.  There’s no proofreading before sending it to print.  The first draft is the final copy and we can never write it again.

But it’s important to remember that even though our story is final, it’s still ongoing.  We are the authors.  We are the ones in charge of what happens next.  Though we can’t go back and change the first chapter, we can decide how the story will continue.  We can choose what the next chapter will say.

So now it’s up to you.  What will your story be?

The Adventure Begins!

It’s the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo, and I got to tell you…starting a story is tough.

Well, it’s tough when it’s midnight and you’re half asleep already, which is why (unlike many other hardcore writers) I decided to sleep in and start my writing at an hour when I was more alert.

But this time around I found myself at a loss for words when beginning my NaNoWriMo practice novel.  The words of the first chapter just didn’t “feel” like coming out today.  I found myself scratching my head as to why my computer screen remained blank.  I did the planning.  I knew who my characters were and the general plot of how the story should go.  I also had a nice ending, one I couldn’t wait to write.

So why was starting the story so difficult?

A couple of reasons popped in my head as to why this happening.  One, I’m writing in a genre that is still unfamiliar territory to me (I was going for one of those artsy-romance stories that would probably work better as an independent film instead of a book.)  Two, my “planning” consisted of a few daydreams and a character questionnaire worksheet that only concentrated on one character (who, let’s face it, will probably end up changing anyways.)  Three, it’s an extra story on top of another story I’m already writing.  The story I’d been working on before this one has been taking top priority for quite some time, so any creativity I had before camp feels like it’s just been spent.

So much for starting camp on a high note.

But with that thought, I decided to try something new.  I’m throwing out the planning.  I’m throwing out the statistics and word count averages.  This time, I’m just going to write.  Write and see what my characters do on the whim, write and see where everything ends up in the end.  I still plan on sticking to the original (planned) ending, but how my characters get there is completely unknown to me right now.

And that’s how I want it to be.  I’ll be figuring it out as I write.  In a way, it’s sort of an adventure, only this time I’m taking it with my characters instead of having them go alone.

I’m pretty excited about the prospect.  Writing on the whim, seeing what happens when the story (in a way) tells itself.  So far, the first chapter has already proven different from what I planned.  My main character was originally supposed to be charismatic and outgoing in nature.  Instead, he’s now shy and reserved.  He was also originally supposed to meet his best friend by accident.  Instead, they’re introduced by their teachers.  The story is certainly different from how I planned it, but like any other adventure, writing on the whim and letting the inspiration surprise you as you’re writing is certainly like treading into the unknown.  I don’t know where my characters are going.  I also don’t know what’s up ahead.  But like any other story, and adventure, I can’t wait to read (or in this case, write) what happens next!

 

Readying for Camp!

You know how you tell yourself, “Nope.  I’m not going to do this,” and then you go off and do it?

I’m not going to break my diet by eating that piece of cake.  You eat not just the piece, but the whole cake.

I’m not going to spend hours playing video games instead of studying.  It’s 5 AM when you realize you have a test in a few hours and all you’ve done is move up two levels and won a pretty sweet game of capture the flag.

I’m not going to do Camp NaNoWriMo while I’m busy working on my novel series.

Well, guess what I did?

After I put aside NaNoWriMo to concentrate on a novel series I was actually planning on publishing, I decided to throw in the towel and do the July camp session.  It’s not quite hard-core NaNoWriMo like what we see in November, but it’s still a month of writing, and my goal of 50,000 words in 31 days is still there, looming and filling my ever waking hour with word counts and daily averages.  

As if I didn’t get enough sleep while writing a series (ha!)

But as crazy as it sounds, I’m excited.  Yes, I know it’s going to add another busy thing to my already busy schedule.  Yes, I know reaching 50,000 words is more of a dream than a reality at this point.  Yes, I know I’ll be working on two completely different story sets at the same time and I’ll probably be confused by the time August rolls around.  But this is writing-writing-and I can’t help but get giddy when thinking I’m going to get the chance to create another story for fun.

And on top of that, I won’t be alone!  A friend of mine (who is also a fellow writer) will also be joining the craze with me.  It’s nice to be able to participate in NaNoWriMo with people, and I definitely look forward to being able to talk about word counts with someone who will know what I’m talking about!

So for all you fellow campers, good luck and have fun with Camp NaNoWriMo this July!  I’m going to try and post some camp updates during the upcoming month and I hope to have some updates on the series I’m readying to publish as well.  My sincerest apologies that this blog has been a little scarce lately (editing and re-editing takes up a lot of time), but I’m hoping to pick things up a bit with more posts in the coming months.

I’m off to pack for camp!  (I’m going to need a lot of s’mores for this!)

A Writer’s Toughest Critic

I was at the grocery store the other day running some errands, and as I was browsing through turkey bags and potato chips I decided to make a run through the book section.

Not to browse through and find something I actually wanted to read, mind you.  Since I’m readying to publish my first book, I decided to check out my book’s competition.

I know, I know.  It’s totally shallow of me.  I also ate three no-bake cookies that morning with breakfast.  I was having a very human day.

But the reasoning of checking out said books was more of a confidence check for myself, since I’m being completely honest.  I don’t expect my books (when they are published) to be anywhere near the bestseller list when they come out, because hey – let’s be realistic…I’m a relatively unknown author – but I was having a moment of self-doubt and needed reassurance.  I wanted to see if my books, my writing style, was good enough to enter the wonderful world of fiction.

I’m about to enter a market where a lot of talented people work and thrive.  I’m a little fish jumping into the ocean thinking I can swim with whales.

And since I have two betta fish at home, I can only imagine how they’d be in the ocean.  They’d be terrified (especially when they find out there’s no fish flakes in the Atlantic.)

So I went to the book section and started browsing.  I wanted to see if my writing ability could be on par with other authors.  I picked up a thriller, opened the pages, and settled on the first chapter to read.

To my surprise, the chapter was okay.  The writing style wasn’t to my personal taste and it was filled with adjectives with every other word, but I found myself thinking, “Huh.  Well I think my writing might at least be on this level.  Maybe even better.”

I put it back and picked up another book of general fiction.  When I opened and read, I found the writing style eloquent, fancy, and highly intellectual.  Whoever wrote the book was a master of grammar and voice.  It was no surprise this was on the bestseller shelf.

Yep…that author was way better than me.  My book was surely doomed.

But as I kept on browsing, picking up a few different genres like action, young adult, and romance, I found myself seeing something unique about all the writers.  The way they shaped their words wasn’t explicitly bad or good…it was just…different.  I found myself questioning the very notion of what I considered “good writing”.  I limited it to one style, highly detailed and highly perfect, and I figured that if my writing didn’t match up to what I considered “good writing” (or what I was taught “good writing” to be), then my own writing was terrible.

After reading through the various books, however, I realized my writing was just like the other authors’.  It’s not bad, it’s not good.  It’s just different…unique.

I left the book section that morning with a change of mind.  I went in worrying if my books were going to be “good enough” for people to read, but I left realizing that my books are as good as I see them to be.  No matter how unique the style is, someone, somewhere will like it (just as someone, somewhere won’t.)  As authors, none of us write the same.  We all have different voices and different styles that can reach a broad audience.  And yet that’s what makes writing so beautiful.  It’s diverse, full of different voices and styles to appeal to everyone, coming together as one broad voice known as literature.

I learned a lesson that day in the grocery store – a lesson I already knew but never really took to heart.  My toughest critic isn’t the reader, nor is it the reviewer.  It’s myself.  I’ve been the one who has been thinking my writing needed improvement.  I’ve been the one who said my work wasn’t good enough.

That isn’t to say it hasn’t needed improvement.  I’ve learned some lessons over the years that has helped my writing get better, and the constructive criticism I’ve received has been extremely beneficial.  But constructive criticism aside, I learned I needed to stop being so hard on myself.  Stop comparing, stop self-criticizing, stop worrying.  I need to be my biggest supporter, not my greatest enemy.

As creators, it’s easy to become perfectionists in our work.  It’s also easy for us to be bogged down by insecurity or fear of not being good enough.  Whether it’s in creating story or creating art, talent comes in many shapes and forms, but it isn’t talent that purely grows success.  There’s another important ingredient, something that can even overshadow talent.  It’s confidence-confidence in our work, confidence in ourselves, and confidence that we can do anything we put our mind to, as long as we work hard and believe.

The Wonderful World of Words

You find a lot of interesting things on the internet.

Funny cats.  Pictures of some actor with his shirt off.  An ad for a free trial of a weight loss program that magically lets people lose half their body weight overnight by hopping on one foot and eating ham rolls.

Okay, maybe I’ve never seen that last one, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere.

But aside from cat memes and movie gifs, the internet is also full of people giving their opinion and broadcasting it to the world.  Said posts can range from being intellectually thoughtful and stimulating to so-bad-you-can’t-help-but-cringe-or-laugh.  The internet world is inhabited by both people and trolls, and to help keep the sanity many practice “netiquette”, which includes the following examples:

  1. DON’T TYPE IN ALL CAPS (unless you want to portray yourself as angry and in need of a hug).
  2. Don’t post private information on the internet because once it’s out there, it’s out there (and some creepy person will undoubtedly steal something from you).
  3. Be nice and courteous.

Most people tend to follow these rules of netiquette.  We understand that if what a person says doesn’t go over well in real-life, chances are it won’t go over well online, either.  Words are powerful, having the ability to build a person up and bring them encouragement and confidence, or tear a person down, making them feel miserable, hopeless, and discouraged.  Many understand that the words we use are our greatest ways to influence the world.

But sometimes the words we use aren’t the only things we need to be careful of.  Sometimes how we use those words can be just as important.

Yesterday I was reading an article in which the author used satire to bring about his opinion.  It was a well-written article and had plenty of “good” words, but the way he wrote it left many readers confused.  Readers debated with themselves and others about what the author truly meant in his article.  Was he being serious?  Why did he sound so angry?  Was he really angry, or just trying to be funny?  What point was he trying to make?  I admit even I was a bit confused at the article, not discovering it was satire until after reading the last paragraph.

It got me thinking to just how important how we phrase our words can be.  Are we conveying a certain emotion or tone?  Will readers be able to understand what we meant when we said X, Y, or Z?  Do our words create confusion or understanding?  Our words may be perfectly spelled and sound great together, but if the story/article/post as a whole doesn’t come together, it might not do much good.

It sort of reminds me of a t-shirt I once saw at a store.  The shirt had two sentences atop of each other: “Let’s eat grandma!” and then “Let’s eat, grandma!” with the catchphrase “Grammar saves lives.”  As silly as the shirt was, it brought about a good point.  How we phrase our words (or in that case, where we place the comma) can make a difference in the meaning of what we’re trying to convey.  Our words may make sense grammatically, but if they’re presented in a way we don’t mean or if they’re misinterpreted by the reader, our words may do us more harm than good.

Laugh It Up! How Comedy Adds to Story

Recently it was Star Wars Day (happy belated “May the Fourth be with you”).  So what was I doing as I was supposed to be eating breakfast and getting ready for church?

I was online, searching for the Star Wars: Rebels trailer that had just been released.

I admit, as a fan of Star Wars: Clone Wars, I was sad to see the show go, but I have to admit that I’m looking forward to its replacement, Star Wars: Rebels.  As I watched the trailer while busy scarfing down chicken and rice (I’m not much of a breakfast food person), I felt ecstatic.  To me, this show looks great.  I love the art, the style, the acting, and I’m sure I’m going to love the story.

But as I read the viewer comments that followed the trailer, I was astounded at a common theme of their complaints: Rebels looked too much like a “kiddy” show because it was more light-hearted and fun (and therefore, as viewers said, it would not be very good.)

And thus began yet another internet Star Wars debate (can’t we all just get along, ha ha?)

It got me thinking, though, about how comedy effects a story.  Does comedy (especially if it’s in a more “serious” setting, such as the Imperial period during Star Wars) add or take away from the plot?  Or are the viewers right when they say the “fun” takes away from the seriousness of the story?

The debate about Rebels reminded me of another cartoon show that was on a few years ago.  Remember Nickelodeon’s Avatar: The Last Airbender?  It was a big hit for the network and had three successful seasons followed by a live-action film and a sequel show called The Legend of Korra.

I remember watching the first episode of Avatar.  There was plenty of comedy, to be sure.  Aang, the hero, was silly and goofy.  Even villain characters like Iroh had their funny moments (the man seriously loved jasmine tea.)  At first watch, I thought that it was going to be “just some other kiddy show” with silly laughs and not much plot.

After three years of watching it, however, I was proven wrong.

Avatar, though it’s considered a kid’s show, had a lot of dramatic moments.  A world war was happening.  The hero lost nearly everyone he knew from his childhood.  The villain’s father was abusive and burned him to teach his son a lesson.  Characters were hurt and imprisoned.  Emotions flew as Aang struggled with losing Appa or Katara faced her mother’s killer.

That’s some pretty serious stuff, if you ask me.

But Avatar didn’t concentrate on only the drama.  It told a serious story without it weighing you down.  It used comedy and happy, hopeful moments to make the show watchable and enjoyable.  It didn’t sugar-coat the hard times of life, but capitalized on the fact that you could still laugh while being sad or still have hope when all was thought lost.

And let’s be real-what would Avatar be like without the cabbage merchant?

Though I’m all for drama and emotion in story, I find myself needing to laugh once in awhile.  If Avatar ignored comedy, I would’ve still watched the show as I love dramas.  But as a person who really “feels” emotions, I probably would’ve felt sad while watching it.  For me, sometimes too much drama, too much emotion, too much sadness/action/fright, can become a bit overwhelming.  I don’t want to spend my entire time with a story feeling depressed (though for some stories, that may be the intent to invoke that type of mood.)  Instead, I want to laugh on occasion.  Why?

Because sometimes we need a break from the hard facts of life.  Sometimes we go through so many struggles that we need something to help us cope with our problems for a little bit and find something to enjoy.  Sometimes we just need a good laugh because we haven’t had one in awhile and laughing helps us feel so much better.

And what better thing to do than to sit with a good story and laugh it up?