Monday, August 24, 2009
Who would have thought I'd find a lesson in my re-reading of Sense and Sensibility that actually dove-tails with themes the Lord has been keeping me focused on lately? Specifically, the importance of being a Mary in a Martha world. (If you scroll down, you'll see a few posts on this theme.)
In chapter six of S&S, just after we have been introduced to Lady Middleton, whose shortcoming is that despite being elegant and well-mannered, she is devoid of intelligent conversation, Austen says,
"Lady Middleton piqued herself upon the elegance of her table and of all her domestic arrangements, and from this kind of vanity was her greatest enjoyment in any of their parties."
Austen's point here is that Lady Middleton is wholly occupied, entertained, and concerned with the appearance and quality of her table--rather than the people surrounding it.
With her usual brilliance, JA recognizes that this is vanity.
We women love to rationalize our occupation with appearances, the beauty of our house, our cooking, as simply trying to do our best. We put pride in what we provide for our family, and in the way we take pains to decorate. This is natural and even necessary--to a degree.
Go beyond that degree, however, and it borders on nothing less than vanity.
There are times when I have been so worried about the appearance of my home that I have made the rest of the family miserable! Talk about getting priorities out of order--I get them completely backwards at times.
There's a magnet I've seen that sort of sums it up. It says: People Before Things.
It's also a good way to check my priorities from time to time. I ask myself, "Am I spending my time and effort more on people or on things? (the house, the shopping, myself, my goals, even my books)? Jesus' focus was always on people, not things. And he certainly has the right to expect us to put Him first--for he is not just "people", not just a person, but very God!
How about you? What makes it most difficult for you to put Him first, or to put "people before things" in your life?
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
This is a break from the usual. I'm running a contest for writers and want to spread the word, so today's post is not a devotion. Just FYI. If you write, know a writer, or want to start writing, read on:
PROMOTION FOR WRITERS:
ENDS SEPTEMBER 15:
Anyone who sends me (via email) proof of purchase
for one of my books from Amazon or Christianbook.com
(Or B&N.com, etc.) will be entered in a drawing to win an edit/critique of their manuscript, upto 300 pages, by me.
You can send me one chapter or a whole book (up to 300 pages) if you win, and I'll
give you my expertise for writing publishable copy.
The receipt must be dated from today through September 15th to qualify.
If you purchase more than one book, you will be entered more than once.
Each purchase is an entry.
My books are "Inspirational Romance for the Jane Austen Soul,"
Before the Season Ends,
The House in Grosvenor Square,
and the upcoming release, The Country House Courtship,
all published with Harvest House Publishers.
I have attached the links to Amazon, but you may purchase the books
from any online seller and still enter the contest (with receipt).
YOU MAY ALSO ENTER by asking your friends or family
to get a book. If they are not writers, you can enter with their receipt. Just
state that you are doing so, with their permission. Or have THEM send me the
email receipt with your name and email as the entering writer.
Likewise, you can enter FOR a writer you know! If you win, you get the pleasure of giving them the gift of a free edit or critique of their manuscript.
NO ONE LOSES. IF NOTHING ELSE, YOU GET A BOOK THAT HAS GARNERED MANY, MANY WONDERFUL REVIEWS. It's a mini-getaway of a read.
You do not need to write romance to enter this contest. I can critique or edit
any manuscript with the following exceptions:
NO gore, no horror, nothing rated R for sexual content. ( I probably don't need
to say this for Christian writers, but better safe than sorry! )
SEND ALL RECEIPTS/ENTRIES TO:
Linore (@) LinoreRoseBurkard (dot) com
Thanks and GOOD PROVIDENCE!
Monday, August 10, 2009
This past weekend I had the privilege and honor to be the keynote speaker for the wonderful writers, authors and poets of FaithWriters. It was so satisfying to hear people say they had learned much, and would be implementing many of the ideas and tools I gave them. I think the best part, however, was meeting new friends, and hearing how God was at work in the lives of others. I also enjoyed the opportunity to sit in on a few workshops given by other writers, and to hear Deb Porter give an interesting talk on the trends in the publishing industry of late. It's exciting to see God using others, and calling so many talents into his service!
We've all seen so many "Hollywood" Christians who are not genuine, or hypocritical, that it was a joy to give a workshop on "Creating Characters Strong in Faith." I think I"ll just give a really brief recap of some of the points of that teaching, since I know that many of you who follow this blog are writers:
FROM MY NOTES:
1. Writing a Christian Character Begins with Writing for the Lord.
Get with God and decide what your goals are for writing. Who is your audience? What message do they need to hear? Why are you writing this book? Are you convinced God is calling you to write? Having the answers to these questions will go far in giving you assurance and focus in your writing. Don't try to write a book for the whole world--that's impossible. Narrow your focus to the target audience you must reach, and write for that audience.
2. Writing a Strong Christian Character Requires BEING a Christian Character! You may be able to create all kinds of characters in your fiction without actually walking a mile in their shoes, but you will never be able to articulate properly the nuances of a personal walk with God, unless you are involved in one. How is your relationship with Christ? My characters can have experiences with the Lord that mimic things I've actually experienced in my walk with Him. Faking it will most likely end up giving your protagonists a wooden feel, rather than the ring of authenticity needed to make readers resonate and identify with him or her.
3. Writng a Christian Character Means Writing a Real Person--Flaws and All
Don't even think that a Christian character needs to be perfect--that would be fiction, indeed.
The only perfect person was Jesus Christ. You can give them the desire to be perfect in some way--this is human. But trying to make them superior to others will only come across as pomposity or hypocrisy. Having said that, however, do try to demonstrate that most Christians are sincere in their desire to grow in Christ; to be useful and helpful in life; to share with others the enormity of the love and grace they've found in the Lord; and to make themselves vessels of His love. Hollywood loves to portray Christians as less intelligent beings, or hypocrites. Use your writing as a chance to set the record straight. Are Christians perfect? By no means. But we haven't left our brains at the door, either.
Perfect Timing!: I JUST NOW got this email from a reader. This underscores the importance of drawing your characters as real people. This is what she said: "
I just had to drop you a line to thank you for Before the Season Ends! Such a joy to read! I get increasingly frustrated with the majority of Christian fiction's tendency towards predictable storylines, one-dimensional characters and sappy prose. Imagine my surprise when I found a book that not only spoke to my "Jane Austen soul" but had an engaging plot and a heroine that was neither a blameless saint nor a fiery bombshell that took offense at the least little thing but rather an all-together likable character. Thanks for the inspiration and, please, keep them coming!" C. Webb
4. To Write a Strong Christian Character, Write a Character-Driven Story.
Writers who craft plot-driven fiction seem to have a greater challenge creating believable protagonists. Ask yourself: Is my character taking actions that I need him or her to do simply to forward the plot? Or is their action a result of who they are, of their character? Just as you have goals as a writer, and a person, give your fictional people goals of their own. In addition to driving the plot, they can behave "in character," and not drive your reader nuts by doing things that don't jive with who they are. Personally, I can't finish reading a book if the protagonist acts like a plot-device instead of like a real human being. Don't let your creations fall into that trap!
5. To Write a Strong Christian Character, Write a Strong Character!
The bottom line in character creation is giving your protagonist individuality. This can take the form of quirks, eccentricities, passions that are inordinately strong for one reason or another--anything that makes them stand out of the crowd. Yes, you want them to be "real" which means, in some sense, ordinary. But never write them as ordinary! Our first view of your main character should include the extraordinary thing about them. How are they different? Why should we want to read about them? What is their problem? Get this done quickly so our interest is piqued right away.
My only caution in this regard is that you need to avoid OVER-doing it. Don't make someone ALL good or ALL bad. People are rarely black and white. The villain who is all bad comes off like a cartoon character. Eccentricities are great, extremes are dangerous.
There are many, many ways to write good characters, just as there are nearly endless workings of human nature. If you can't seem to write a real human being, who readers will see as living and breathing, go back to your goals. Get your goals straight, both for you as a writer, and for the protagonists in your book. Then, aim for that goal. Be sure to fill the path with lots of obstacles and road-blocks--believable ones, of course--and enjoy the journey!
Strong characterization takes a great deal of energy and focus, but the end result is a work that you can be proud of, and which will glorify your Lord.
photo courtesy of Lynda Schab, FaithWriter, fellow ACFW member, and lovely friend.
Tuesday, August 04, 2009
"Only One Thing is Needed"
I still haven't left the "Mary vs. Martha" musings, and I am going over the same chapter in a devotional I read (Disciplines for Life: Steps to Spiritual Strength, by C.J.Mahaney and John Loftness)-again and again. Why? Because I still haven't "got it." I mean, deep down in my soul--The truth, that sitting at the feet of my Saviour tops all of the Martha activities I fill my hours with.
Rest assured that neither I (nor Jesus) are undermining all of the necessary tasks we must do in life-tasks that take us from listening at His feet. But if we do manage to "get it"--the listening part, that is--then nothing can take us from Him, no matter how much activity and busy-ness we undertake. We may not always be able to sit still like Mary and drink in His truths and love, but if we do it enough, and learn to hear him well, when it is time to go forth and be about our business in life, we will go forth fortified and stronger.
Isn't this the same as having a daily quiet time, you may ask?
Well, yes, and no.
Even our quiet time can be done by rote, filled with our own thoughts, and we can miss hearing His voice. Oh, have I been there, done that.
Other times we are so convinced that what we are doing is part of our calling, that we barely wait to hear further instructions.
Mahaney quotes Charles Hummel, who points out that one way to discern between the tyranny of the urgent vs. "what is needful," is in fact by careful listening.
"He impresses on our minds the assignments he wants us to undertake. THE NEED ITSELF IS NOT THE CALL...The call must come from the God who knows our limitations."
"It is not God who loads us until we crack..."
Did you get that? The need itself is not the call! If you're like me, you often mistake the two.
More next time.....
image from theframeitshop.com/Nathan_greene
Monday, August 03, 2009
What A Relief!
I love this statement:
"If the Lord is your Shepherd, that means that you belong to Him and you’re His responsibility. Whatever desperate, dire strait you may find yourself in, it is His job to care for you, so let Him be your Shepherd."
(Nancy Leigh DeMoss)
I don't know about you, but I often seem to get myself backed up into corners, where time is short, but my responsibilities are huge. I don't know whether it's because I have an ongoing, insatiable need for drama in my life that I manage to get myself into that same sort of "dire strait," (only with different circumstances) again and again. As an author, I try to divert that dramatic turn in my personality into stories in my books. But somehow I still seem to create circumstances where I have a great deal to do, or write, or organize, with little time to do it.
Oh, I had time enough--but somehow I frittered it away, with other 'worthy' endeavours, and now the thing I must do, is pressing on me.
Like a little lamb, I feel like I have wandered and got myself lost. What a relief to recall that I belong to the Good Shepherd, and that "it is his job to take care of me," and I can consciously choose to place myself into His care, and mercy, and grace.
I am consciously doing that today.
How about you?
"YOUR ROD AND YOUR STAFF, THEY COMFORT ME." psalm 23:4