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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Finding the Message – Part VI

I had the pleasure of seeing a part of God’s creation brand new to my eyes—I saw buffalo. While driving through the majestic vistas of Yellow Stone, I saw things that were more beautiful than I could ever describe before. Sunrise over tree-covered mountains, steam snaking from the ground like hungry fingers, deep reds and subtle ocher contrasted against the vivid greens made the shallow valleys picturesque in the least bordering on the ethereal. Then came the buffalo…large, powerful…majestic. So much strength that as over half ton of beef wondered along the bank of the river—it paid no attention to either me or the several other dozen or so of its patrons. I watched as steam built then erupted from deep underground stores. It made me think again of the story and the way a true message builds up and then erupts into the story and the way that, even though it is beneath the surface, and for the most part unseen, without the park, it would have been just another shallow valley, so would the story be just another collection of words placed together on a page. So, a word from the road, from me to you—I know I said my last installment would be the last on the message, but this one just spoke to me. Steam from beneath, buffalo above, and God’s creation all around. The message. Think about it.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Finding the Message – Part V

In this fifth and final installment of Finding the Message, I would like you to consider again your favorite story. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my favorite stories as a child was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. While in the ninth grade, I checked the book out of my Jr high school library at least 47 times in the course of that school year alone. And yes, I read it each time, at least most times. What was it that kept me coming back? Was it the tornado, the famous yellow brick road, the fanciful creatures, the Kalidahs—the ferocious half bear half tiger creature that hunted in the deep woods; or maybe the Hammerheads with their elastic necks. Or maybe it was a combination of them all. But what was true for me, and I am sure it is true for all readers and lovers of good books, is that the message of true friendship and a love of family and friends is the thread that holds the entire story together. How many times did I imagine having a pal like the straw-stuffed Scarecrow, or a compassionate buddy (ready to lay his life down for me) like the Tin Man; and how could anyone ever forget the powerful comrade, like the Lion, that lets you hang on to his back as he carries you over life’s deep ravines when you don’t have the power to do it yourself. This is the same message of romance, of deep friendship enjoyed by the command crew of the Star Trek series. No matter what happened, including Spock’s death, you always knew the team would be there for one another. This was their message. This is what held them together and what held us as viewers glued to our tubes. Now we won’t all be a L. Frank Baum or a Gene Roddenberry, but we all can be the very best “Me” we can be. Go on now and create your new stories and build your masterpieces of creative thought, but in the doing so, don’t forget to weave in the threads of a message worth living. Think about it.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Reset: Finding the Message – Part IV

I was asked recently what I thought was the most important thing about writing. After a moment or two of thinking, the only answer that came to mind was the simplest of all…the story.Think of the best stories you have read or heard; or even watched in a movie. It is not the great prose, or the finely crafted sentences, but rather the human element; the story that first hooks you and then draws you into its mythos. Consider the book Raptor Red by Robert T. Bakker. In this story where there are no humans involved—sound familiar—but soulless animals only; nonetheless, yet Bakker creates a sympathetic character in Red and causes you as the reader to care for her and her struggle for life. What was the message that Bakker so craftily conveyed? That life has value; and life is worth the struggle, worth the fight for the right simply to be...“you.” In addition, what is it that draws the reader across the dusty ages and into the valley of a long ago Jurassic struggle? It is the message imbedded in a very well written story: Life is worth the fight. Think about it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Reset - Finding the Message Part III

Finding the Message – Part III Okay, here we are with the third installment on the message. To some degree we must first define what we mean by “the message.” According to Google a story is, “An account of imaginary or real people and events told for entertainment.” While a message is, “A verbal or recorded communiqué designed to convey specific information.” Consider Josh Snell’s new short story Beyond a Beating Heart, published by Snellster Publishing. While the story, in a very poignant manner, deals with the tragedy of a teen death and the horror it brings to a family, the message is about the quality of life, and how and why we make certain choices over others. The message is so skillfully wrapped into the story that the reader doesn’t realize he/she is being forced to ask and answer the question until the narrative has reached its zenith. So as you are creating your manuscript, consider what the message might be. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, one of my childhood favorites, tells the story of an over the road adventure. But at its heart is the message of friendship and a kernel of truth that there really is “No place like home.” Think about it. You can find Josh Snell’s book on Amazon at the link below:

Monday, February 4, 2013

More, Behind the Story

The more I consider the “message of the story”, or as I am coming to see it, “the life’s blood”, the more I am compelled as a writer, who is also a Christian, to reveal the subtle truths that run through life almost unnoticed. Would we care that the goose laid the golden egg, or that The Little Red Hen baked bread, if it wasn’t that the farmer learned that greed was bad, and that the farm animals learned that laziness had its own reward…lack. My point? When I began writing NOTORIOUS, I knew that the message that ran through the core of the story dealt with how we saw and treated people juxtaposed to how God commanded that we should. Then in DEAD LIST came the question of the value of a human life and just who it is that gets to set that value. Of course, the real message there is: What will you do with the coming judgment between you and the Lord? Now finally in INSIDIOUS while the message is ostensibly to police officers who’ve gone through an I.A.I. (Internal Affair Investigation), it is in the greater sense to anyone who has ever felt abandoned or cut off from a core group or family. The message is what drives me as a writer and pulls you as a reader from page to page. If we lose touch with the message, then we have, in effect, lost touch with our story. We’ll talk again later about discovering the true message within the heart of the manuscript. Until then, think about it.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Behind the Story

Now that INSIDIOUS, book three in the Nate Richards Mystery, previously slotted to be released as I.A.I., has been released, I can turn my thoughts to other things. Here are some thoughts I shared earlier. As I I have been musing on the realization that what is really important about any story is its message. I don't mean the simple storyline, but rather what is the deeper truth that the story itself is trying to convey. Consider the parable Jesus told of the vineyard. Remember how the owner of the vineyard hired a group of men to care for his property? And they being the crooks that they were began to plot how they could steal the land for their own. They even killed the property owner's son in the mad dash for power. Well, ultimately the owner of the land returned and killed them would have made a great movie. Enter voice over guy, "A grieving father returns to take revenge on the men who killed his only son... And this time there won't be any peace in the valley." But I digress. The point is that when we are creating our manuscripts we have to fight to first discover, then keep that message alive. In the case of the parable of Jesus, the story may have been about greed, but the message was much larger: salvation and the price of redemption. Think about it.