“The term “burnout” was coined in the 1970s by the American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger. He used it to describe the consequences of severe stress and high ideals in “helping” professions. Doctors and nurses, for example, who sacrifice themselves for others, would often end up being “burned out” – exhausted, listless, and unable to cope. Nowadays, the term is not only used for these helping professions, or for the dark side of self-sacrifice. It can affect anyone, from stressed-out career-driven people and celebrities to overworked employees and homemakers.”
That NIH article also has some nice rundown of symptoms:
“Exhaustion: People affected feel drained and emotionally exhausted, unable to cope, tired and down, and don’t have enough energy. Physical symptoms include things like pain and gastrointestinal (stomach or bowel) problems.
“Alienation from (work-related) activities: People who have burnout find their jobs increasingly stressful and frustrating. They may start being cynical about their working conditions and their colleagues. At the same time, they may increasingly distance themselves emotionally, and start feeling numb about their work.
“Reduced performance: Burnout mainly affects everyday tasks at work, at home or when caring for family members. People with burnout are very negative about their tasks, find it hard to concentrate, are listless and lack creativity.”
It’s a lot like depression, right? But it’s not the same. Typically, people with burnout don’t’ feel hopeless, suicidal or have low self-esteem.
So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, how do you get some down time when you’re working so hard that you’re either burnt out or in great danger of getting there?
GETTING A GRIP AND GRATIFY YOURSELF
First you want to look at the patterns of us overachievers who tend to burn out. We often were the ‘good kids’ in school who learned that in order to get praise (and not get in trouble) you had to get all your assignments done and on time. We’re all about the goals and completing those goals.
Chilling out? Resting? That doesn’t feel goal-oriented.
We think that we can delay our gratification and keep delaying it and keep delaying it so that we can get all our goals done. Delayed gratification, we all learn in our beginner psychology classes, means we will have better success in our life. They test children about this. It’s a thing. But when we’re super focused on achieving, we burn out because that delayed gratification equates to us not realizing that we are breaking down physically and mentally.
BE CHILL AND LET GO OF THAT DAMN GUILT
And it’s not just that. We want to get a lot done and to do it well. If our work isn’t awesome, we feel like we aren’t awesome. Resting, we foolishly think, keeps us from getting all our awesome things done. It keeps us from writing, running three miles, finishing the project for work, making the perfect lunch for our kids.
It’s worse than that though. We feel guilty. If we rest, we feel guilty.
We should be working, doing, creating. We should be better than this. We don’t need naps.
TAKE A NAP, DAMN IT
Here’s a secret: Alexander the Great took naps. He still got to be called ‘great.’ Ben Franklin? Took naps.
So, the first step is to realize that.
People who have changed history actually rested. That means you can, too. If you don’t, your performance starts to get kind of crappy. You don’t want that, do you, super goal-oriented one? No, of course not.
Then you have to remember that everything doesn’t have to be a goal and everything doesn’t have to be your job and responsibility.
Make a to-do list, sure. But in that make a top priority list and focus on those.
And remember, it’s okay to not be amazing all the time, to not be reliable all the time, to not do everything for everyone all the time. It’s so hard especially when you’re struggling to survive, but you have to remember it’s okay to suck sometimes. We all do. And it’s okay to nap.
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Take naps! Only get off the couch for food. No, not really. But do take a nap if you need one.
There’s an Anne Lamott quote that says, “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes—including you.”
And that’s a lovely quote and quite true in so many instances, but also sometimes? Sometimes it can feel next to impossible to unplug.
Sometimes that unplugging has to be a dramatic event where you realize that you have to rescue yourself from the habits that are controlling your life, or the people controlling your life and you have to actually take your own control of your life.
I know! I know! Terrifying.
But the first question is: how do you actually take control over your life?
Over at the greatergood, there are some potential possibilities that we’re going to share here. It’s a great article written by Anthony Rao and Paul Napper back in 2019.
“Agency begins with what you let into your mind—meaning what comes in from your environment. If you are lacking agency, it’s likely your attention is being hijacked and you need to figure out how to restore it.”
A phone next to you when you’re reading? It’s probably going to distract you, they say. But walking outside? It lets your brain recharge.
Same thing with email notifications.
Another thing they suggest is . . .
“It’s impossible not to be affected by those around us—it’s easy to “catch”their emotions, for example, and our brains tend to synch up when we associate with other people. That means you should set boundaries with difficult people, disentangle yourself from negative online interactions, and be more conscious of how you might be vulnerable to “groupthink”—pressures to behave or think in ways that are contrary to your values.”
How do you do that when that person is your kid? It’s a good question. But they suggest making sure you have a lot of interactions with people who want to help you cultivate your skills and talents, grow to your potential, and help you with your positive beliefs. Volunteering and just chatting can help.
Get up. Off the couch. Off the chair. Stretch. Walk. Dance. As often as possible.
They write: “People with high levels of agency are continually learning more and expanding their capacity to learn by adopting a more open, collaborative approach to everything in life.”
There’s a whole lot more we’ll talk about next week too, but for this week, try this:
Put your phone in another room while you work.
Go outside and walk if you can.
Get up every 40 minutes and move around for five. Set a timer.
Chat with someone positive or sign up to volunteer somewhere.
Sign up for a free class or even listen to a podcast like this. Take some time to learn something.
And think about this:
“You can’t buy, achieve or date serenity and peace of mind,” Anne Lamott says in a TedTalk about being sixty-one. “It’s an inside job, and we can’t arrange peace or lasting improvement for the people we love most in the world. They have to find their own ways, their own answers.”
DOG TIP FOR LIFE
Bark. Communicate your needs and sometimes the neighbor will bark back and you’ll feel less lonely.
If someone says they are taking my time — that’s the one thing you never can take. I have to offer it. Time is of the moment, and the moment is all I have. If that moment isn’t precious to me, then I’m not living. Nothing is more important or precious to me right now than both of us talking
Ashley also said in that same interview
I love poetry. It’s at the heart of everything I do. Poetry transforms what we call language, and uses language as the stuff to become something else. I get spun around by what happens in words. When that occurs, it inspires images that seem so original to me as an artist, even though I’m following what the poem has offered.
So, I, Carrie was a bit heartbroken by this, not just because Ashley Bryan like me goes out in public with paint on his sweater (as you see in a photo on our blog taken when he was at the book festival), but because Ashley was such a light in this world. He seemed to get it–to not just rejoice in the moment, but to also rejoice in the twists to the moments.
Although we, as a culture, typically favor the superlative, research shows that moonlight, and everything that is revealed in ordinary moments of our life, matters. Valuing the routine enriches our lives in ways we do not expect, because “how we spend our days,” the author Annie Dillard reminds us, “is how we spend our lives.”
You can hold onto the past and get bitter or sorrowful. You can project into the future and fill it with worry, but the moment you are in right now. That is your moment. You want to try to actually experience it fully, breathe it in. Be freaking alive in it, be present.
And Ashley got that. He expressed that in his love for community, for moments, for twists, for poetry, and in his art. In another interview with the Horn Book, he said to Sutton.
It is an urgency that is fundamental, and the essence is the same. It’s the urgency to discover something about ourselves in every work we make. I make no distinction between doing a block print, a collage, a watercolor, a tempera painting. To me it’s an effort to discover something of myself that I do not know and have not done. So each effort is like that of the child going out in the morning, making discoveries and having adventures.
We hope you find that too–that discovery–that fundamental essence in your moments and in your self.
When you allow yourself to lean into the moments rather than always bemoaning the lack of celebrity-endorsed superlatives, you get to enjoy those twists, those bits, those things you might not normally see. How cool is that, really?
I was lucky enough to interview the brilliant, young, amazing and talented Tony Quintana, writer of wonder.
Tony talks about how he uses his perfectionism to motivate him, how his background in theater and art helped create Dashiel’s world, and how he began his debut novel in Spanish, only to decide to translate it all by himself into English. It’s a magical story and a magical book that began when he was just fifteen!
I hope you’ll check out the podcast and Tony’s amazing book! I mean seriously, just check out the art that it’s inspired.
WHAT IT IS ABOUT
When bloodthirsty metal soldiers from the empire of Zaphyrelia infiltrate the divine barrier protecting the magically-infused oasis of Azahar, an unlikely hero is found in Dashiel Ermitage, a simple librarian’s apprentice with a longing for adventure.
But with the metallic menace finally defeated after a valiant battle, Azahar faces a greater problem: the barrier that protects the land is weakening, leaving them vulnerable to their enemy. Dashiel’s wish for excitement becomes a reality when he is recruited to join the Cobalt Phantasms, an elite order that hopes to provide relief to the Zaphyrolean people suffering under a tyrannical rule. His journey takes him through a wonderful but dangerous nineteenth-century world of flourishing machines and dwindling magic.
Dashiel’s new life, however, is threatened by a long-held secret that will put an end to his adventuring days if it ever comes to light. Will he prove to be the hero Azahar needs to overcome their enemies, or will Dashiel’s past destroy his chance to save everything he holds dear?
Because I’m a little stressed out because of the holidays and the state of the world, I’m recycling this blog from 2007. HELLO! Ancient times.
Back then, we had an awesome dog named Tala (a Great Pyr), who wrote the whole blog because my dogs are like that. So helpful. Here you go.
Hello. I am Tala. I am Carrie’s dog. This Sunday I took my humans on a little adventure.
Aw, yes… the love.
So, Sunday I convinced the fam to go get a Christmas tree because there was a monster storm coming Monday. I could feel it in my doggy bones. They get some creaky when the barometric pressure changes, you know.
So, I explained to the Emster (the little human) that I was not going to be doing much work. I was merely a supervisor. She’d have to do the heavy lifting.
Of course, she said. I’ll do anything for you, Tala. You are the most awesome-ist doggy ever.
I found the perfect tree and barked it down with my awesome doggy breath.
My work here is done.
I then convinced the humans to haul it out of the Christmas tree patch while I sniffed around for bones, dead rodents, old poo, and other yumdilicious things.
Yes, humans, you will. One little puppy-dog pout and it’s all over. No use pretending.
And then I peed on a tree. An eight-foot-tree, and Carrie (the bigger human with long hair) screamed and quickly pretended like it didn’t happen.
Is this good, Tala? Yes, little human. It is.
And look how happy she is, just thinking about picking up the tree. That’s not my car by the way. I don’t like silver. It blends in with my white fur too much and I look pasty.
It was a bit of a haul getting the tree out of there, but I made those humans march fast through motivation.
March, humans! March! Hurry! Snow is coming!!!And I might pee on another Christmas tree!
They hauled the tree a long, long way. They really did it. They hauled that tree. And everyone says humans aren’t good at anything other than brushing out hairballs, picking up little mistakes and putting them in paper towels, and giving out doggy treats while saying “Sit. Sit. SIT!” over and over again. I’ve proved those nay-sayers wrong.
And they hauled the tree out just in time, too… because the next day looked like this…
Hhmm. We’ve got lots of potential tree hauling and peeing opportunities around here.
Note: Do I not look like a Snow Dog? Yes. Yes. I do.
Unfortunately, though, the youngest human, worn out from the events of the day before, passed out while sledding.
No more, Tala. No more. I’ve given you all the dog treats I can find. And you keep hogging the sled.
Don’t you worry. I buried her some good.
I’m just that kind of dog. The helpful kind.
It’s hard not to miss that dog. It’s a good thing a lot of her spirit lives on in Gabby.
My little, creepy book baby is out in the world because who doesn’t want sad, quirky, horror with some romantic bits for the holiday season?
Sometimes, I have an author interview where the author is a bit shy about being recorded for a podcast (so understandable because I’m actually like that too), but the author is just so wonderful, that I have to interview them anyway.
That’s the case with Timothy Stone and his debut novel.
Here’s the blurb:
Emily Lau is a normal girl with a normal life. She goes to school, has a best friend, argues with her parents, and daydreams about being a hero. When her aunt shows up with a gift, Emily’s life will never be the same. Her family has a secret, and it’s everything she’s ever dreamed of.
Magic is real. Not only that, Emily is descended from a long line of warriors. Her aunt starts teaching her the family martial arts, and Emily thinks she’s going to be just like the heroes in all her favorite stories. But if heroes are real, then so are monsters. Her family has enemies, and they’re coming for Emily. She was just getting used to her new life. Will she get to keep it?
This was the first question on the list, but probably one of the last ones I answered. To be honest I don’t remember the very first book that made me cry. The first book that comes to mind is A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness/inspired by Siobhan Dowd. I remember that one destroyed me. I read it once years ago and I just read it again a couple of days ago. It left me in tears again.
When you write does it make you tired or does it make you energized?
The best answer I can give to this question is, yes. It really depends. Some days I get super energized while I write and I just want to keep going and I write a ridiculous amount. Other days it feels like I’m forcing words out. And I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. I force myself to write when I don’t feel like writing and eventually I settle into a rhythm without realizing it. Sometimes I feel tired after I do this though. When I’m energized I feel like I can keep going. When I force the words out it feels like my brain needs a break at the end of the session.
What is your best tip for avoiding writer’s block? Do you believe in writer’s block?
I’m going to be confusing with this answer. I do believe in writer’s block. And I don’t think it’s something you can avoid. I don’t think writer’s block is strictly a thing only writer’s experience. I think anyone can get a block when they’re trying to do something. And I mean creatively, in sports, anything. I think the trick is to not believe the block. This is where it gets confusing. Yes I think blocks exist, but the way to avoid it is to not believe them.
It’s like the answer to the question about writing while tired. You just keep working until you do it. There’s this anime called “Haikyu!!” that I watch. In the latest season one of the characters is asked for advice on how to do something. He responds “Just keep trying until you can!” I feel like that really resonates with writers block and any time you feel like you can’t do something. At least it does for me.
I watched someone who played college volleyball react to one of the episodes and she talked about something called a “fixed mindset.” It’s when someone feels like they are at the limit of their abilities and nothing they can do can change the situation. She goes on to say that a fixed mindset isn’t helpful for anyone. She says what you need is a “growth mindset.” This is when you view challenge and failure as an opportunity to grow and learn. That if you put the work in you can get better.
That being said, I’m terrible at following my own advice/listening to myself.
What does writing success look like to you?
I’m not answering these questions in order. This is probably the third question I answered but it was the first one I read where I felt like I knew the answer immediately. I think I’ve known the answer to this for a long time. I don’t know if I’m going to explain this very well. I’ve had this picture in my head of me in a setting. Sometimes it’s an airport, sometimes it’s a coffee shop, or a book shop. I’m just minding my business and then I see someone sitting reading my book. I don’t know why but it puts a smile on my face.
How scary is it to have your first book ready to go out into the world?
WAY SCARIER THAN I THOUGHT IT WAS GOING TO BE. I thought there was going to be this magic moment where I just knew that it was ready, but there hasn’t been one yet. I feel like I’m running around in circles with no idea what’s going on. I’m sure you can tell how nervous I am about it, Carrie. Every time I send my book to someone to read I get anxious about it. It’s like I’m giving them part of my soul and I’m just sitting here hoping they’ll like what they see.
Your soul is so beautiful, Tim. I promise.
Have you always wanted to be a writer or are you stunned that this magical thing has happened and you’ve written a book?
I have always loved stories, but it took me a bit to realize I wanted to write them. The first time I remember wanting to be something was in third grade. I wanted to play for the Lakers. I was not a good basketball player. I’m still not. Then in middle school I wanted to be a lawyer. It wasn’t until high school that I started to get into creative writing. It was just something I did for fun though, I never thought about writing a book. At least not seriously. Eventually I graduated and started college. I got a job working in athletics and decided definitively that I wanted to work in athletics. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a sports agent or an athletic director or what. I think college is really when the idea of being a writer took hold of me.
I remember being really bored in a history class about Thomas Jefferson. So, I decided to start writing something that had been in my head. Before I knew it I had a chapter done. Two days later I was in the same class and it was just as boring so I started writing again and suddenly I had two chapters. I didn’t think about it too much until my cousins found out and asked to read it. I sent it to them and they loved it. Then it hit me. Could I be a writer?
I’ve worked other jobs since college, but the whole time I was trying to find the answer to that question. And I think I have.
Your book has amazing magical elements. Did those come naturally? And have you always been interested in magic?
If I’m being honest, probably not. I like to think I’m being unique, or as unique as possible, but I love stories in pretty much every form of media. Books, comics, manga, TV, movies, anime, games, etc. I think I’ve become a sponge of everything I’ve ever seen or read.
And I have always been obsessed with magic. Not just magic though I guess. Magic, superpowers, science fiction, all of it. I would say 90% of everything I read or write has some sort of fantastical element to it.
Some of my magic elements I’ve had in mind for a long time and I finally got to use them. Others were born of convenience. I needed a way for something to happen, or a place to exist, and the easiest way to explain it was “magic.” That feels a little lazy but also genuine.
What was the best part of the writing process for this book? The worst?
The best part for me was when I suddenly got a random idea for my story that made me excited to sit down and write. I mean those moments when you’re doing nothing related to writing whatsoever, or when you’re stuck and then suddenly you get the perfect solution to the problem. Then everything just works.
Also, when I finished my first draft for the first time. It was like a weight lifted off my shoulders. I remember when I finished it, I just started laughing to myself for no reason. Then I ran around the house for a little bit and told my closest friends.
The worst part was rereading it after I finished. The first time was great, but then I read it so many times that I got tired of it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved going back and reading it to make it better. I just hit a point where I got burnt out reading my own book. I started questioning if I could read at some point.
Your book is so lovely and inventive. It’s got a great family story, a buddy story, and a huge adventure.
Without giving too much away, can you tell us who Meihua is and where you got the idea for her from?
This is probably one of the more difficult questions for me to answer because I feel like anything I say about who she is might be a spoiler.
Meihua is a guardian. She protects the people that she cares about. She’s that friend that everyone would love to have, but would be terrified to anger.
The idea for her was really random. I was talking to my friends one day about our favorite childhood movies and I mentioned The Iron Giant. I had seen a tweet at some point where someone said The Iron Giant was the best Superman movie. I tried looking it up to link it, but I couldn’t find it. I did find interviews though where Brad Bird said that the movie was based on the premise “What if a gun had a soul?”
What was the most surprising thing you discovered while writing Emily’s story?
Probably how much it changed. I recently looked back at my notes and conversations with a friend and the story is very different from what it used to be. Emily and Meihua’s origins. Everything. I’m not the most organized person with my notes so I’m not sure where it all came together and I got to the where I am today, but I am so glad that it happened. The story I have now is so much better than what it was when I started.
Also how easy it was? Don’t get me wrong it was difficult. There were days I absolutely had to force words out. But there were a lot of days where things just flowed and felt easy. I was surprised at how quickly I was able to write the story. The ideas just kind of came to mind while I was writing this book and suddenly I had a grand plan.
Can you talk a little bit about Emily and her cultural identity and family and how that’s interwoven into your narrative?
So, Emily is Asian American, like me. Specifically she’s Chinese American. When I set out to write this I didn’t plan on writing the Asian American experience. I was struggling at the time to write something that felt “true” or that I was really proud of. I finally decided to follow the “write what you know” advice and started writing an Asian American character in a setting I knew. I wrote Emily with the experiences I had growing up. She doesn’t speak Chinese because I never spoke Chinese. The food she eats is what I ate growing up. And even the family dynamic is similar to mine. The glaring difference being that I have siblings and she doesn’t.
And when I first started planning it things were very different than how they turned out now. But I remember my friend had recommended I read some wuxia novels. Wuxia I believe translates/means “martial heroes.” It’s kind of fantasy fiction about martial artists in Ancient China. Around the same time Jin Yong’s Legend of the Condor Heroes series was being translated into English. So I picked up the first book and enjoyed it and then I wanted to watch martial arts movies. I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Hero, and The Assassin. Eventually I thought “what if I mixed martial arts and magic.” That’s kind of how this story came along. It’s more a “traditional” fantasy story with some martial arts elements to it.
AND IT IS AMAZING.
Okay, If you didn’t write books, do you think you’d have to find a way to channel your creativity?
Honestly, after having written one, I’m not sure I can imagine doing anything else. I have all these stories in my head and I feel like I have to tell them. I’ve always had stories popping in and out of my head, even when I was working full time or when I was in school. Something would just come up and I would start writing it at school or when I got a free moment at work. I’d like to think I would find a way to channel my creativity but I feel like I only think in stories. Everything I want to do is story driven. If I didn’t write books I think I would like to write the story for a video game. Which I hope I get the chance to do someday.
What was the hardest scene for you to write?
There were a few. One of the most difficult for me to write was the first chapter I think. The very beginning. I knew how I wanted it to end. I knew all the big and little things that were going to happen along the way. But I didn’t know how to start it.
I guess I wasn’t sure how to finish it either. I had an ending in mind, and you saw it, but it wasn’t that fulfilling. You helped me fix that!
I think training scenes were hard for me to write too. I felt like I really had to get into the nitty gritty of it and explain things as best as I could without making it too constricting. At the same time I didn’t want to pretend to be an expert on wuxia elements because I’m not. I’ve only read a few books. Most of my knowledge comes from the little I’ve read and the movies I’ve seen. I didn’t want to do a disservice to an amazing genre of fiction with my lack of knowledge. So I put in things I wanted to have in the story without getting too technical.
There are others but I want the readers to be able to experience them first.
Do you have a website or social media so that readers can find out more?
Timothy Stone was born in Southern California to an American father and a Chinese mother. He writes fantasy and Emily Lau and the Plum Blossom Sword is his first novel. It took him a while to put pen to paper, or keystrokes really, but he got there eventually. He attended university and graduated with a degree in history from Cal State Fullerton, but part of him has always wanted to tell stories
Share this if you want and also because it would be super nice of you!
So, you’re probably looking at the blog post title up there and thinking, “What?”
Stay with me a second; I’ll explain, I swear. I’m going to boil down the basic elements of crafting a good story by using my rescue dog, Gabby.
Gabby is the sort of dog who people love or hate.
Gabby is the sort of dog that lets children climb all over her and hug her and kiss her nose.
Gabby is also the sort of dog who judges people by smell.
If you have alcohol on your breath, she will sneeze and then bark at you. If you are male and have ever had a serious time taking cocaine and you are in my house? She’ll bark incessantly at you and never stop even if your cocaine use was over a decade ago.
So, why am I mentioning this?
Gabby is a conflicted character. You want a character like Gabby in your story.
A conflicted character is a dog or person with a goal. There is a motivation for that goal and a conflict.
Gabby’s goal is to keep me safe. She is super focused on making sure nothing happens to me or her dog brother Sparty or her cat sisters, Marsie, Cloud and Koko.
Her motivation? Probably because I feed her or because she’s a Great Pyrenees, and that breed’s instinct and training is to keep her charges happy and safe. We are basically her sheep.
Marsie insists she is nobody’s sheep, but I have seen Gabby carry her around the house. She is totally a sheep.
And it might be because Gabby was abused as a puppy and spent her first year chained to a tree, always chained to a tree, never off a tree. She came to us small, terrified, malformed and malnourished. This is her backstory. All characters have backstories, the what happened before we meet them, the what happened that made them who they are when the story begins.
When Em and I picked up Gabby in Cambridge, Gabby was beyond terrified.
Every car was about to run her down. Every person was about to hit her. I sunk to her level and she pushed herself against me. Her ears were infected and full of pain. Everything about her was pain. But there was something else there. It was fear and want and need. She wanted to be loved so badly. She wanted to love back.
The entire time we were in Cambridge she didn’t bark once.
The entire car ride back and the whole first week? She never barked.
“I have a miracle dog. It is a silent Great Pyrenees,” I told everyone.
The vet laughed.
The rescue organization people laughed.
I was so wrong.
Gabby started being able to sleep with both eyes closed. Gabby’s ears got better. We got her surgery on her knee. She took walks without being afraid that trees were going to fall on her, without thinking that every car held a monster inside of it that would hurt her.
She ate, but she would never fill out.
And she barked.
She barked at everyone who reminded her of where she used to be. She barked at dogs she didn’t know. She barked and jumped and tried to be as threatening looking as possible when she is easily the dog least likely to ever bite a human and most likely to snuggle. You know when experts say dogs hate hugs? Gabby would let you hug her all day.
Actually, Gabby’s dream day would just to be constantly hugged.
So, she’s got a lot of back story there?
What’s the conflict for Gabby or for your characters?
The conflict is the struggle. The conflict is how the reader engages with the character. It’s why the reader keeps reading. It’s how empathy is built. It’s how story is built.
So every character has this trifecta of things:
As a writer, if you muck this up? You’re story will be flat.
As a dog friend/owner, if you don’t realize that your dog’s goal might conflict with a happy silence that comes with a life without barking? You’re going to have an unhappy dog.
So, Gabby’s trifecta of character is:
Wants to stop threats by barking (goal) because she wants to keep her happy home and the creatures within it safe (motivation we all understand), but everyone gets a headache when she thinks squirrels are threats and barks too much at them (conflict).
Meg’s in A Wrinkle in Time is:
Wants to get her dad back (goal) because who doesn’t want to get someone awesome back (motivation that is pretty understandable if your dad rocks), but dude, she has to travel through time and deal with this great darkness, basically like all the evil in the universe because why not (conflict).
But what makes a character conflicted?
Basically anything that stands in the way of her goal.
This can be herself (Gabby wonders if barking is her true calling and doubts herself – an internal conflict).
This can be others (The neighbors call the police because of Gabby’s barking – an external conflict).
This can be the environment (Gabby is in space and cannot bark because there is no sound. Horror! – a conflict caused by setting).
Writing Tip –
Make sure your main character has that trifecta of conflict, motivation, goal.
Write about wanting to sing when you have to be quiet.
Write about wanting to tell a secret.
Write about being a zombie who is allergic to meat.
Do Good MONday –
So, I wrote a lot about Gabby being a rescue dog. All my dogs have been. If you have the money, consider donating to a dog rescue. If you have the time and space and need and love, consider adopting. If you have the time, find a rescue near you and be a volunteer. I’ve done home visits and photos for rescues. If you don’t have any of these things, but have social media, share a rescue’s site or a post about a dog (or cat or gecko). You could be the step that helps bring a dog like Gabby to her forever home. Even the smallest things help.
Here are the rescues where I got Sparty the Dog and Gabby the Dog.
I just want to let everyone know that INCHWORMS (The Dude Series Book 2) is out and having a good time as Dude competes for a full scholarship at a prestigious Southern college and getting into a bit of trouble.
Here’s what it’s about:
A fascinating must-read suspense from New York Times bestseller Carrie Jones.
A new chance visiting a small Southern college. A potential love interest for a broken girl obsessed with psychology. A damaged group of co-eds. A drowning that’s no accident. A threat that seems to have no end.
And just like that Jessica Goodfeather aka Dude’s trip away from her claustrophobic life in Maine to try to get an amazing scholarship to her dream school has suddenly turned deadly. Again.
What would you do to make a difference?
After his best friend Norah was almost abducted, Cole Nicholaus has spent most of his childhood homeschooled, lonely and pining for Norah to move from best friend to girl friend status. When birds follow him around or he levitates the dishes, he thinks nothing of it—until a reporter appears and pushes him into making a choice: stay safe at home or help save a kidnapped kid.
Cole and Norah quickly end up trying to not just save a kid, but an entire town from a curse that has devastating roots and implications for how exactly Cole came to be the saint that he is.
Can Cole stop evil from hurting him and Norah again? And maybe even get together? Only the saints know.
From the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of the NEED series, Saint is a book about dealing with the consequences that make us who we are and being brave enough to admit who we love and what we need.
BUY NOW! 🙂 I made a smiley face there so you don’t feel like I’m too desperate.
Hearing is a two-step process. First, there is the auditory perception itself: the physics of sound waves making their way through your ear and into the auditory cortex of your brain. And then there is the meaning-making: the part where your brain takes the noise and imbues it with significance. That was a car alarm. That’s a bird. Mondegreens occur when, somewhere between the sound and the meaning, communication breaks down. You hear the same acoustic information as everyone else, but your brain doesn’t interpret it the same way. What’s less immediately clear is why, precisely, that happens.
The article goes on to say,
A common cause of mondegreens, in particular, is the oronym: word strings in which the sounds can be logically divided multiple ways. One version that Pinker describes goes like this: Eugene O’Neill won a Pullet Surprise.
Other times, the culprit is the perception of the sound itself: some letters and letter combinations sound remarkably alike, and we need further cues, whether visual or contextual, to help us out. In their absence, one sound can be mistaken for the other. For instance, in a phenomenon known as the McGurk effect, people can be made to hear one consonant when a similar one is being spoken. “There’s a bathroom on the right” standing in for “there’s a bad moon on the rise” is a succession of such similarities adding up to two equally coherent alternatives.
You’ve all read a story or heard a story that just bores you to tears, right?
You don’t want to write that story UNLESS boring people is your goal. That’s a fine goal! You get to have that if you want it. Don’t let anyone take your goal away from you.
But if that’s not your goal? Let’s talk.
To not bore your reader, at the most basic level, you have to do three things. And these three things are the basic elements. Bare bones here, okay?
Keeping your damn word.
Just like in a relationship, when you write a book for someone or tell them a story, you set up an expectation in them that there is going to be a payoff there.
There is always an expectation the reader will have.
Will they catch the murderer?
Will James get out of the giant peach? Will the rich family get out of the town?
Will Lassie save whoever Lassie needs to save?
Your book is full of these promises and questions that you the author set out for the reader and that you have to answer. If you don’t? You’re a promise breaker! And you’ve ruined your relationship with your reader.
Making your damn character interesting (This has to do with plot too, actually.).
Your character has a journey. They make choices. The bigger the story and the scarier? The bigger the choices. The character in a thrilling story has to be the hero, the brave one, the choice-maker. Those choices lead you to a thrilling and amazing finale.
Making time matter
If you have your whole life to hunt down the monster that’s killing everyone in town, there’s not as much tension there.
If the bomb is going to explode in 10,000 years? Same thing. But the pressure of a villain who is killing people, the pressure of the bomb about to explode, the pressure of a destiny that might not happen if you don’t hurry up?
That’s a big deal. It’s a trope. Who cares? Use it.
There’s some other things that make a good thriller, too.
There needs to be high stakes. Time limits. Multiple problems increases those stakes.
There needs to be an actual threat to the characters or society.
There needs to be some things that you don’t expect to happen, happen.
The characters need to be multiple dimensions, not flat little cardboard figures or game pieces. But interesting.
There needs to be some cool action going on. That might be mind games. Mind games count. Car chases do too.
Cool locations. Your reader wants to explore the world from the safety of their bed/couch/porch/subway seat. Your book lets them do that. Use details. Make those locations real.
Writing Tip of the Pod
Think about your damn audience not just yourself.
Dog Tip for Life
Make your own excitement like Gabby. Every moment can be thrilling.
The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License.