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Monday, February 18, 2008


Last week was hard—so many emotions going on that I did what I do best—closed my eyes and took each day one at a time. Do you ever have times like that?

The week’s plan started simple enough. Polish my Genesis entries and send them off. Spend an unhurried day on Valentine’s cooking a nice dinner for my hubby. Then, on Friday, straightening the house for company over the weekend.

I sent off the first Genesis entry as planned, and immediately began to think of ways to derail my careful work. What if the judges didn’t get it? How could I have strengthened the opening hook? Why did I ever think I could be a writer?

On Tuesday, a beloved worship leader in our church passed away unexpectedly. Just last year, John retired from full-time ministry to start a landscape business that he could enjoy until his real retirement years kicked in. Not yet sixty years old, his death leaves a gaping hole in thousands of people’s lives that he has touched over the years. His “going home” celebration on Friday included tributes from many whose lives he shaped and a tender, yet joyful worship service led by three of his four children. It’s hard to explain the deep despair in the midst of complete yielding to God’s omnipotence. Our own feeble attempts fall so short in explaining that which only God knows. John Kilgore was a faithful servant on earth and now worships at the throne of Almighty God. Like many others, John’s new life made me homesick for heaven.

Sandwiched between the shock of John’s death and his service, we had Valentine’s Day—a celebration of the 38th Anniversary of my first date with Max. It was a day marked for perfection. Max brought the chocolate and the wine. I grilled the steaks. Together we watched “Hello, Dolly,” the movie we saw on that memorable day so long ago. Splendid—as my four-year-old twin grandsons love to say!

I rushed to clean up the house for the weekend onslaught of kids and grandkids, but in reality, it was a spit and shine kind of job. Now, after a whirlwind couple of days, I’m tired. Reflective. Plural emotions have ripped through my arteries the last seven days. Yet, somewhere in all of it, a nugget has emerged. As a writer, don’t I want to give my characters a wide range of emotions? Joy. Despair. Uncertainties. The simple blessing of cuddling a four-month-old granddaughter. How can I make my characters’ lives multi-layered? Give them unexpected twists and chasms to cross as they march toward their goals?

Funny, but God gave me a blueprint last week. I think I should pay better attention. How about you? How do you layer your stories? From real life or off the top of your head? For me, it’s a matter of the heart. And for that, I’m thankful.


Erica Vetsch said...

I sent a Genesis entry off yesterday and had the same reaction! What could I have done better? What was I thinking? What if no one likes it? I think I'll cut my hair!

Layering characters for me always comes from discovering their motivations. She's afraid of water? Why? He collects wheat-pennies? Why? It's the motivations that lead me to who the people are and more importantly, why they are that way.

Erica Vetsch said...

And like a complete dolt, I hit send before I was ready.

I'm so sorry for your loss. I am praying for you.

Andee said...

Chocolate, steak and an old movie equals romance. I haven't seen Hello Dolly is two decades.