Thursday, February 23, 2012

Guest Post: Bryan Gill

I'm excited to have my writing buddy, critique partner, and primary source of idea development: Bryan Gill. Bryan is a talented writer having his work published in magazines, books, and newspapers. I've invited him to share a writing tip to encourage and keep us on the right path of story-telling. Bryan has a fantastic blog, Big Dreams, where he discusses writing, life, and displays his talent in photography. Check it out. It'll be one of the best choices of your day.

Swimming With Clothes On

I finished my first suspense novel last May. Although the actual writing took most of my time, I spent a significant amount of time researching. Research helps us make fiction believable. Unless you’re writing Sci-Fi, you have to make it believable. But even with Sci-Fi there are rules.

You don’t want people to say, “That could never happen.” For instance, a police officer in Detroit in 2011 will not hop into her flying car after her suspect shot her with a laser blaster. She’s probably going to jump into her Dodge Charger after being shot with a Glock. Research would’ve told you that and readers know. Believe me, they know.

The best way to research is to actually experience what you’re describing. For example, it’s much more believable if you’re describing swimming with clothes and shoes on if you’ve actually experienced it. How do you research this? Jump into a pool wearing your clothes and shoes, then write about it. Be sure someone is with you so you don’t drown. That experiment only works if you live to write about it. There are some limits to this method. You wouldn’t want to provoke a gang leader just so you could describe how it feels to be chased with bullets flying at your head. Some things should be made up.

Another way to research is through the Internet. It’s a little safer and you’re less likely to drown. I research using the Internet all the time. In my novel, I was trying to describe a setting in Mexico along the Sea of Cortez. I’ve never been to the coast of Mexico so I surfed over to Google Earth. I zoomed in to an uncomfortably close view, surveyed the scenery, found a tiny town, and voila! There was my setting. I could see everything I needed to hide a criminal right there from my laptop.

There was one scene in my novel where I was describing how to get from a house to a hotel in North Carolina. I didn’t have a particular house in mind but did have a general neighborhood. Again, I used Google Earth and gave exact directions from the neighborhood to the hotel; landmarks and all. If someone wanted to follow them, they could.

Why is this important? Someday, someone will read your book who has been to the place you’re describing and they’ll either say, “She’s right…there is a mural on that wall” or they’ll say, “What’s she talking about? That’s not right.”

I’m not saying that everything in your book has to be real. This is fiction after all. I’m just saying that the more realistic your fiction is, the better it will be. A good word to remember is “Plausible.” Encarta’s definition is “believable and appearing likely to be true, usually in the absence of proof.” Don’t stray far from the plausible when writing fiction. Most people won’t go to the places you’re describing, but they need to think that they could. Happy Writing!

Awesome Tip, Bryan! What about you? What do you use to keep your characters and setting accurate?

Bryan writes suspense novels when he's not ministering with college students in the metro Memphis area. Bryan and his wife, Sarah, live in Memphis, Tennessee with our Yellow Lab, Roscoe. Check out his full profile here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I got the Banned back together.

A recent tragedy has impacted a family and many many friends. When pain of death strikes so many questions rise to the surface. Answers are few and far between. The only real action is to love. Continue to show love through the tears, loneliness, and shadows left from a lost life.

It’s harder to handle death when a young life is cut short. Blame and doubts are expressed, depending on the situation. “Why were they driving so fast?” “They shouldn’t text in the car.” “Were things that bad for them?” “I should have done more.”

One phrase I often hear associated with a teenager’s funeral is, “This is another disaster from taking prayer out of schools.” I like to believe this comment is made in good faith. It doesn’t come from a mouth that wants to hurt a family but express their annoyance in our world, which began in 1962. The U.S. Supreme Court prohibited sponsored prayer in schools (it goes on from there but you can research the rest yourself).

Every time I hear or read something like this it causes me to throw up my hands in frustration. When can a student not pray in school? Many pray before they eat. Most shout out a prayer before a test they didn’t study for. Some pray in their car, others after school, and dare I say it in front of their locker with a friend. God is bigger than the box we cram Him into. If mom tells Amanda to stop talking to that boy, does she stop? Not usually. Why? Because for Amanda, the thought of ignoring a boy she likes is not a choice on the table. Students are constantly reminded by adults how "they can't pray in school." I'm just thankful not everyone listens.

Yes, government and law have forbidden prayer in many venues, but we are too busy waving our poster board signs in protest to realize it never left. A prayer is banned from being recited over the intercom. Okay. What’s stopping a guy in Algebra from talking to God? We argue over what “we’ve lost” instead of using what God allows us to have…His Spirit.

We all have to remind students that prayer is not banned from schools just like prayer is not banned from their thoughts. Encourage them in their relationship with God. It’s an everyday relationship that doesn’t stop.

Our fight isn’t with each other. “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6.12

Don’t live in defeat when victory is already here.