Thursday, October 29, 2009

Act II - The Case for Humor

Yes, it looks like they are all here.

I have assembled all the necessary ingredients to make a delectable dish I have in mind. Let me double check the recipe once more:
  • Characters - yes they are ready to swirl around in the mix
  • Setting - yes, I have an especially chilly one I will be using
  • Plot - yes, this will be necessary to plump up my dish
  • Conflict - yes, I have a dose or two to spice things up
  • Romance - of course I will need a sweetener
Oops! What does this say in small print?

  • Humor (optional)
What should I do now? Add it or do without?

Perhaps some research will help me decide.

Browsing, browsing. . . nothing in "Plot and Structure" by a Chef Bell. Ok, keep going.

Skimming, skimming. . . Chef Maas "Breakout" masterpiece might offer some advice. . . no luck.

Thumbing, thumbing. . . "Writing the Christian Romance" should have some answers, but alas, Chef Martin offers no chapters on the topic.

Hmmmmm. . . I have heard some good things about this ingredient. Several internet sources tout the many healthy benefits of including humor in the mix:

"Laughter has a powerful effect on your health and well-being. A good laugh relieves tension and stress, elevates mood, enhances creativity and problem-solving ability, and provides a quick energy boost. But even more importantly, laughter brings people together. Mutual laughter and play are an essential component of strong, healthy relationships. By making a conscious effort to incorporate more humor and play into your daily interactions, you can improve the quality of your love relationships."*

Benefits of Laughter and Humor

Physical Health Benefits:
Boosts immunity
Lowers stress hormones
Decreases pain
Relaxes your muscles
Prevents heart disease

Mental Health Benefits:
Adds joy and zest to life
Eases anxiety and fear
Relieves stress
Improves mood
Enhances resilience

Social Benefits:
Strengthens relationships
Attracts others to us
Enhances teamwork
Helps defuse conflict
Promotes group bonding **

Wow! If humor can bring on all these reactions, I don't think it is optional any more. It is a necessity. I would love it if everyone that will be sampling my dish would come away with all of these powerful benefits. But how much should I add? and where? and how?

Here's where I need your help. I am just starting to feel my way around this brand new kitchen of novel writing. If you all could just make a quick trip to the store, your store of knowledge that is, and bring home some advice I would appreciate it.

Questions: Are you incorporating humor in your WIP? If so, how are you doing it? Do you have any books in mind that would address this topic.? How much inclusion of humor before your MS crosses over to romantic comedy genre?


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Act 1- Delivery

Slowly the lights were dimmed.

The gold curtains were pulled taut, much like the nerves of the actors waiting on the other side.

The music began slowly as whispering voices quieted all around. Shhhhhhh. . .

The thumping, thunder of drumbeats crescendos through the auditorium as the eager audience began to smile. Recognition spread quickly. "Hey! We know this song."

And then it happened. The first giggles escaped and dissolved into the darkened room. Actors ears strained to hear the sound as they exchanged silent smiles. Suddenly, energy on both sides of the curtain rocketed to the rafters.

Success! The tone had been set!

The curtain was jerkily pulled apart and after a a quick scan of the stage, the magic was heard again. Not so hesitantly now, laughter pealed across the room in succession as each one read the quirky sign," Fantasy Iron Chef 2009 - Julia Child vs. Paula Deen". What????

A bit of explanation in order? The annual variety show at my sister's church had always been a great fundraiser and worthy cause. My sister and her best friend jokingly teased about taking part for once. "We can't sing, dance or play an instrument, but we can cook" they surmised. But how do you bring that into a variety show? That's when my husband and I were asked to compile a script for the two reluctant actors.

My husband is the funny one, while I reside on the more serious side of life. But after 30 years together his comedic side is beginning to rub off on me. Together we combine the best of our respective worlds and write some pretty funny stuff. This time we chose a parody of the very popular Iron Chef television show. Since poor Julia Child is deceased, thus the title "Fantasy Iron Chef 2009". The script, only 4 pages, was a hit. But while we supplied mere words, the novice actors and their supportive church family supplied the energy.

To me there is no bigger "high", than hearing an audience laugh at something you have written for that purpose! To hear them cackle when they are supposed to, is sheer joy. When an audience catches the jokes that you have created for them, it is like Christmas morning!

It is like giving birth to a much anticipated child. Our scripts, short stories and novels are our children in progress. When their arrival date looms, we worry, fret, and anticipate. Will this child be appreciated and accepted? Will this child be loved by others? My questions today:

Have you ever written a script or skit? Have you ever given your WIP "baby" to another just to watch their reaction and judge their acceptance? Have you waited in anticipation as a reader or critique partner read your words out loud? Was it a helpful, joyful or disappointing experience?

Coming Friday: Act II- The Case for Humor

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My 5 Words!

Many thanks to Katie G., this week for giving me 5 random words to use in this post. This was perfect timing as this week has had me running in all directions and left my brain in the "empty" position. So here it goes!

Halloween: I love the holiday and always have. As we were growing up, my mom always made the holiday exciting and fun for my sisters and me. Much angst went into the costume decisions and crazy makeup. I especially loved this huge orange skeleton candle my mom has purchased. Every year it was the centerpiece of our decorations on the bar, until the Texas summer heat took its' toll in storage. The poor skeleton looked as if it had been socked in the jaw. I loved carrying on the traditions with my own kids. I was actually shocked at the accusation, about 10 years ago, that those who celebrated Halloween were actually worshipping the devil. What???? At least in my family, nothing was farther from the truth. I figured, and still do, that God knows my heart and the hearts of my children when it comes to our big intent on this holiday. . . . . candy!!!

Lady bugs: My younger sister is a very creative person and decorated my niece's room in ladybug pattern. It was adorable. Colorful, happy bugs resided on the walls and on the bedspread. Why is it that lady bugs are one of the few bugs that don't repulse us. What other bug would we willingly decorate our children's rooms in? Crickets? Grasshoppers? UGH! The second thing that comes to mind on this topic is gardening. We have a small vegetable garden in our backyard, about 10 x 25 feet. I love to be out there and spy a lady bug. It makes me smile, because I know how beneficial they are in gardens.

Vanilla: I am a candle person and vanilla is one of my all time favorite scents. You can't go wrong with it and most people like it. I am also a big fan of Bath and Body works scents, especially the Vanilla Noir. When it comes to ice cream I will take vanilla every time. I even prefer white cake over chocolate cake. I guess you could say I am a plain "ole vanilla" gal.

Scars: I have a lot of little scars that show on my arms and legs. A very active, outdoorsy childhood has left its' mark on me. This one on my wrist was from a 2 inch long splinter that found me as I chased my sister around a telephone pole. But the good news is that I caught her.
The long one on my knee is from the time I scaled the 5 foot fence to escape the two dogs chasing my down the alley. The bad news is that I had provoked them. The square one on my shin is from a bicycle wreck I had two years ago. My son and I were racing down the street and our tires collided and so did we. The good news, I am the only one with a scar from that incident. These are just a few of the scars that show, like everyone else, we all carry the scars that don't show.

Rainbows: Rainbows have taken a bad rap lately with their tie in to the gay community. But when I get to see a real rainbow arched across the sky, it is breathtaking. We don't ever get tired of seeing these miracles in the sky. Driving along the road, you can see dozens of cars pulled off to the side. Is it a wreck up ahead? No, but everyone is out of there car. Oh yes, they are all looking at a gorgeous rainbow that has just appeared. It has to be savored, no quick glance out the window will suffice. And thanks to my Christian upbringing, never once have I looked up at that beautiful colorful bridge and forgotten God's promise in Genesis. What a lovely reminder of His love.

This finishes my five words and I hope you get to know me better. I'd love to see your comments or ideas. If you want, I would love to send five words to you . It makes an easy post idea, so just let me know.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Encouraging Words

"Wow! This is too cool!"
That was my excited proclamation after stumbling upon this blogging network of believers.
"Not only are they believers," I excitedly told my husband, "but they are writers in all stages of publication. These people are just like me."
Although I say "stumbled" upon it, I know without a doubt I was led here. What a great, tremendous, joyous journey it has been in only one month.

I am totally in awe of the wonderful supportive nature of the new "blogging family." It seems as if there is a true see-saw effect out there. On any one day if a fellow, sister-writer is having doubts or discouragement, several others are there to offer advice and comfort. One day later that sister is offering her support to another. I have been the recipient of those kind, encouraging words and it has made a difference. A few weeks ago, my post dealt with the issue of purpose in our romance writing, but several of your comments helped me look at it in such a different light. As I was making this turn-around in attitude, God spoke to me more about the issue in our Sunday sermon.

Our new preacher is none other than Sherrinda's ( A Writer Wannabe) wonderful husband, John K. The verse was from Hebrew 3:12-13:

See to it that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.
But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

As a body of believers we are called to encourage each other. As John K. stated it, we have a role to play in softening our hearts and others' hearts before Satan and sin get a good grip and take control.

So this week, that is how I see our writing. We are to continue in our writing what we are doing in our blogging network. Since there is so much power in God's Word, He gives us power in our words. Words we can use to uplift, advise, counsel, and encourage. Words we can use to change lives.

When our words get in alignment with His, we can do more good than we can ever imagine. My wish for you this week is that through your words may God's awesome power be released!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Grills and Pools

The rain was over and my husband was itching to get outdoors and grill something. . . . anything. It is a feeling that comes over him every so often and the sooner the better as far as I am concerned. He is an excellent "grill master" and I am an appreciative beneficiary.

The sun was beaming, the charcoals were heating, the steaks were marinating and life was good. We heard the neighbors, two doors down come out into their backyard and proceed to their swimming pool. Our fences are tall enough for visual privacy but not so much on noise control.Teenagers were playfully giggling and challenging each other to splash contests. Squeals from younger children as they were unexpectedly pushed into the pool brought a smile to our faces. My husband looked over at me and said, " They are having such a blast. Gosh, wouldn't it be great to have a pool like that? " I agreed and we began to discuss all the pros and cons of a pool as he slipped the steaks on the grill. Off to the side, the roasted corn, still sheathed in its' shuck, began to absorb the wonderful smokey flavor wafting over from the steak.

Within minutes, the splashing from the pool quieted down and we could hear voices. Although muffled at first, one voice rose clearly above the rest, "Oh man, that smells soooooo good. I am so hungry I wish we were grilling something right now!" Several voices chimed in an a lot of "Mmmmm"s could be heard. My husband and I looked at each other and stifled a laugh, not wanting them to know we had overheard their conversation. How funny that each of us was wanting what the other had.

The incident reminds me of the lyrics to an old Cheryl Crow song,"Soak up the Sun". She advises that one of the keys to true happiness:

"It's not having what you want. It's wanting what you've got."

How about you?Any minor jealousies or envious thoughts getting in the way of your perfect, sunny afternoon? Or are you taking inventory of what you have already been blessed with?