REASONS—or, in writing terms, MOTIVATION

You might have noticed my posts having a bit of a theme lately.

The fighting. The opinions. The I-am-right-and-you-are-wrong of how we interact with one another, especially when we are safely ensconced behind our keyboards, has been constantly on my mind.

I’m so tired of fighting. I’m so tired of witnessing the fighting. It hurts to scroll through social media and see that someone I love has posted something that mocks and degrades an opinion or decision or belief that is part of me. I don’t mind if people disagree with me. Not at all. I want those around me to be awake and form their own opinions and make their own choices based on their experience, what they know, what they value. Of course you won’t make all the same decisions as I do. That’s because we’ve lived different lives, and I am doing my best to respect the lives that people have lived and to try to understand them. Which of course goes back to the idea of letting people tell their story.

But what about when you’re confused by decisions that people make and there’s no opportunity to ask them to clarify? How can we reconcile someone holding an opinion when everything we’ve seen and experienced tells us that it’s the wrong decision? Are they just idiots? Maybe they’re just stubborn and mean and blind and wrong.

Maybe. But even if one or more of those things are true, there are also reasons.

In writing, whenever your character does something, it needs to be done with intent. There needs to be an underlying reason or motivation for their actions. This is one of those things that will drive readers crazy when authors get it wrong, because if an author is just sticking a character in a situation and making them do the thing for reasons of plot without giving them the proper motivation, it feels off. It jars the reader from the story as they wonder what the hey is going on with the character. There’s no reason for that character to make that decision. Everything we know about Sally so far has led us to believe that she wouldn’t just quietly agree to hand over the enchanted book. Sally has been protecting it for more than half the book, and she’s just giving it up without a fight? No, we need motive. So then if we know that Sally has a little brother who will die if she doesn’t do what Mr. Villain says, then we can get on board. She has her reasons, and while we might think that saving one life isn’t worth an entire nation dying, we can at least see that for her, it is worth it.

Unfortunately, we can’t read the inner dialogue of those around us, so we’re left to wonder about their motivation, and often be confounded by what could convince them to make that decision, to support that cause, to be on the anti side of this debate and the pro side of that issue.

May I suggest that the answer to all of those question is REASONS.

She’s anti-gun because she experienced a mass shooting. He’s pro-life because he and his wife can’t have a baby of their own. She chose not to vaccinate because a vaccine paralyzed her nephew.

At the same time:

He’s pro-gun because an intruder nearly killed his mother. She’s pro-choice because there was no way for her baby to survive and if they hadn’t ended the pregnancy, she wouldn’t have survived either. He chose to vaccinate because his family member suffered through that disease.

They all have their reasons, and we can disagree with them all we want, but we can’t pretend that everyone else is wrong and only our experiences and choices are valid.

Now, of course there are outliers. People with ill intent, people who just want to argue, people who just want to hate. But even those people got that way somehow. Did they choose it? Some of them might have. Or were they taught it and just don’t know how to break down what they’ve spent years learning? Unlearning cultural norms and society rules is HARD.

This, by the way, is the way to write good villains. Villains are much more powerful when their motives make sense. If you create a villain who is a terrible person because they like being a terrible person…okay. That’s a nice cardboard cut-out, but readers want all characters to be three-dimensional.

Maybe that’s a good way to think of people as well. In this world where we stare at a screen and see the two-dimensional or even one-dimensional representation of people, we have to keep in mind that what we see isn’t all of them. We are all made up of multiple dimension, countless layers, myriad experiences, failures, pains, and triumphs. We are made up of the bullies that whispered in our ears, the parents that cheered us on, the love that broke our heart, the hard choices foisted upon us. It’s all there in a tangled mess that few people are going to look close enough to see, much less comprehend.

So I hope we can all move forward with grace. That we can all offer mercy, extend a hand of understanding and the gift of forgiveness. And just as important, I hope that we can accept those things from others.

Let Them Tell Their Story

Several years ago, I made a big change in my life. I left behind a certain belief—a certain truth that I had subscribed to—and I picked up a new truth.

I’ve heard the phrase “speaking your truth” more and more lately, and I’m starting to better understand what it means and why it’s important.

We all have a story, and when our story is interrupted by something unexpected—something that changes one of our core beliefs—it usually takes a lot of time to process. That’s probably why it’s often used in storytelling.

For example: Continue reading

The Greatness of Vulnerability

One of my favorite book scenes of all times is in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. At the end when Harry is talking to Dumbledore in his office, discussing the prophecy.

“Neither can live while the other survives.”

Dumbledore explains that the details given in the prophecy applied to Harry, but they also applied to Neville. It’s the moment when Harry finally understands what being the Chosen One will eventually mean. Continue reading

Pick a Hill and Die There

I posted this on my personal FB wall, and I’ve been thinking about it even more and wanted to expand on it.

“Does anyone feel like social media has made it so that for every discussion we have, or for every story that is told, we are expected to pick a hill on one extreme of the situation or the other and commit to dying on it?

Truth is important, but for nearly all situations that I am not directly involved in, it’s going to be impossible to know what the truth is, and in all likelihood, it’s not going to be on one extreme hill or the other. Truth is going to be somewhere down in that densely forested valley where actions, intentions, motivations, memory, political agenda, moral compasses, and emotion all mix together in tangled confusion.

This culture of pithy memes, brutal clap backs and epic mic drop moments has lead us to buy into the myth that deep and complicated issues can be summed up by a click bait headline or a political cartoon. Continue reading

An Author’s Guide to Self-Publishing

I’ve been doing this for a while now, and my editor thought it would be nice if I were to write down a little something about the adventures of self-publishing and what I’ve learned from it. I’ve had several first-time indie authors ask me how to go about it, but you’ll probably be surprised that it’s not as daunting as you might think. The self-publishing platforms are really good at guiding you through a step-by-step process. Continue reading

I Write In Scrivener

I use a program called Scrivener to write my books.

Why? Why not Microsoft Word? Or Pages? Or Googledocs?

Well, I considered doing a bunch of screenshots and explanations, but then realized it would be a whole lot easier to just show you. So I made this:

This is just an intro on how to get started. Scrivener is also great for compiling your book into whatever format you need (epub, mobi, PDF) but there are a lot of ins and outs for compiling that I didn’t want to get into for this movie. Maybe another time. If I get brave…