A Teacher Learns

The author is unknown, but a teacher intern I observed last night gave me 12 comments titled “I Didn’t Know”. They resonated with me since I was a classroom teacher for more than twenty-five years. I’ll post four at a time.

I didn’t know that years of school and a college degree would be of little consolation when facing a room full of bright little eyes on the first day of school. I thought I was ready…

I didn’t know that five minutes can seem like five hours when there is idle time and an eight hour school day far too short for a well-planned day of teaching…

I didn’t know that teaching children was only a fraction of my job. No one tells you about the conferences and phone calls, faculty meetings and committees, paperwork and paperwork…

I didn’t know that it took so long to cut out letters, draw and color pictures, laminate-all for those bulletin boards that were always “just there”…

As the writer continues, the love comes through. Next time have a box of tissues handy.

The Character's Mysterious Future

In WRITING EMOTIONAL IMPACT, Karl Iglesias tells writers to tap into the reader’s curiosity, anticipation and uncertainty with surprises and a strong dilemma. To create a mysterious future, show surprises  in the character’s reactions, behaviors, dialogue, or whatever is unpredictable but consistent with the attitudes and desires of the character. Another reason to make a character complex is that more surprises are possible yet, logical according to what the reader already knows about the personality.

A dilemma is considered strong when the character has to decide between “two excruciating choices”. Iglesias gives SOPHIE’S CHOICE as an example. She had to choose which of her children to save and which to kill. Writers often call an impossible dilemma a “Sophie’s choice”. He says the reader “waits at the edge of his seat for the character to make that difficult choice”.

Hada in HADA’S FOG has a dilemma, not as dramatic as Sophie’s, but one that affects her last years of life. She craves the peace and community at her home on the East Coast but due to chaotic family demands on the West Coast, she must decide between New Jersey or California. At seventy years old, she knows whatever she chooses will be where she will live out the rest of her life. Her soul’s desire or her loyalty to family, which will she choose?

How to Make the Character's Present Mysterious

Karl Iglesias in his book, WRITING EMOTIONAL IMPACT, describes how to create reader curiosity in the present. He suggests showing the character’s unusual behavior and reactions, such as overreacting or avoiding a subject. The aim is to have the reader wonder why and to wonder what he/she is hiding.

Another idea is to have other characters react mysteriously to the main character. Make the reader think they know something that the reader doesn’t. Both techniques help to keep those pages turning.

In HADA’S FOG, fifteen-year-old Lilli is a master at acting mysteriously around Hada and Lev. By her facial expressions, dialogue implications, and body language, it’s obvious she has secrets. The reader can guess it involves Samuel, but she doesn’t reveal any specifics.

The mysterious future will be next.

Writing Emotional Mystery

Karl Iglesias in his WRITING FOR EMOTIONAL IMPACT presents mystery in the emotional sense, not as a genre. Mystery connects the reader with the character. Mystery elicits the reader’s curiosity and anticipation. Iglesias explains writing mystery about the character’s past, present, and future.

He differentiates the mysterious past from backstory by “how much is actually revealed to the reader”. The writer keeps hidden information that the reader wants to know. In Casablanca,  hints of Rick Blaine’s past suffering show him dodging and evading questions about it when asked. We don’t discover it until the Paris flashback.

Past abilities or the mysterious origin of the abilities are filtered out like clues. Iglesias gives the example of Jason Bourne in  The Bourne Identity, where the reader is curious about Jason’s abilities “not remembering the past as a secret agent”.

The character’s secrets add mystery. The secrets could be dangerous, harmful, or embarrassing and the character will do anything to keep them hidden. An example is in Chinatown, Evelyn Mulwray’s dark secret.

In my YA novel, Lilli has a secret that isn’t divulged until the fourth chapter but I sprinkled hints along the way. For instance, she says she accidentally almost killed her unborn child’s grandmother. How and why isn’t told until later.

Remember, however, that the reader doesn’t want to be confused or frustrated with too little information that they give up on wanting to know the secret. Tantalizing is the key, but avoid irritating your reader.

See you tomorrow for the mysterious present.

Celebration after Las Positas College Book Launch

Celebration after Las Positas College Book Launch

Paula Chinick, present president of California Writers Club, Tri-Valley Branch, and Vi Moore, past president, celebrated with us at Paula’s house after the Las Positas College book launch on May 11th.

Published in Las Positas College Anthology

Published in Las Positas College Anthology

Jordan Bernal, Stacey Gustafson, and I are holding copies of the Las Positas’ anthology called, ALL THAT REMAINS. My short story, “Stepping Stones”, Stacey’s humorous two essays, “He’s Not That into Me” and “Hair Today Gone Tomorrow”, and Jordan’s two poems, “Get Off the Road”, and “Dreams” were published in the book.

Harlequin Accepted my Short Story

My short story titled, “The Crumpled Card”, has been accepted for publication by Harlequin for their 2013 Christmas anthology called, A KISS UNDER THE MISTLETOE, edited by Jennifer Basye Sander. It will be available later this year.