Real life is full of turning points. Some we ignore, others are decided for us. And where I’m at right now, “Turning Point” fits. I find writing about them helps me process them. What can I say? I love to journal. It’s the writer in me. Thus the title “Tracking Real Life Turning Points.”
Definition of a turning point: “Turning points are story events, either plot or character related, that mark where the story “turns” in a new direction. The new direction is usually caused by a big choice or dilemma faced by the characters.”
What new direction am I talking about for me personally? Quite a few small ones that are turning into really big ones.
Yes I will admit my life has circled around my kid’s activities and schedules. I volunteer, I attend events, and I help out wherever I can. I’ve thrown class parties, graded papers, made props, and cleaned up after a performance. I’ve coached a robotics team for four years and choreographed seven years of musicals. I’ve attended chapels, assemblies, traveled to Sacramento and DC. After sixteen years of having our three boys attend Friends Christian School, our time has come to an end. Our youngest graduated from 8th grade in June and with that a new direction for our family.
And quite possibly if I didn’t, I might inadvertently do something I shouldn’t, but I wouldn’t know if I didn’t write it out. Does that make any sense at all?
This past year I have worked more hours as an employee than any other. Robotics Coordinator, Substitute Teacher and Choreographer. I have to make a decision whether to continue in these capacities next year. I’d love to, but I really think God has other plans for me and my family. Hence why I call this a ‘turning point’ in my life. I need to say goodbye and then wait for God to open the door for the new direction He wants me to go in.
With my middle son graduating from high school, things will change there too. But I won’t be leaving EDHS, nor will we not have a kid in choir, theater or DMAA, since the youngest plans to be involved in all those things just like his brother. And with my middle son heading to college (even though he will be still living at home), that schedule will be new and exciting and a huge turning point for all of us as well.
I don’t know. But what I do know is that I need to be ready and if I have year-long commitments, I won’t be available to do what God wants me to do. This is so hard for me to put down on paper. Whether it’s the fear of the unknown and worrying about how much I will miss it, I feel God nudging me to let go.
I’ve been stretched so thin for so long, that there’s nothing left for me to give for the new areas God has called me to go. Writing, a regular paying job, more attention to my family and home. Rest. All of it.
I’m probably way behind in letting go. God has been waiting for me. I sense it. I feel it. He can’t do more with me when I’m stretched so thin. And I want to be used by Him. Where he wants me.
Maybe I’m more like my heroine, Olivia Carmichael, than I realized. I find it interesting that the novel I’ve been writing for the past five years is about letting go and trusting God. Give up control. Maybe I’ve been writing this novel for myself more than anyone. And I’ve been so focused on how to write it and what to write and getting it right, that I haven’t internalized what my story was truly about.
Plans. Our plans vs God’s plans. And what happens, when we let go and let God guide us and direct us.
My theme verse for my book is “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9 (NKJV)
But there are other verses that I have written down as well that fit.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 5
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Hebrews 10:36 36
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
I began writing this post in June as I was processing all this change. In the midst of that a part-time corporate marketing copywriting job came about which has been much answered prayer for many reasons (i.e. paying for college!). A short-term project that now looks like it will last much longer. Yes, it has pulled me away from other things (like summer fun with my family), but it has also helped me get in a better writing routine overall and helped set much needed boundaries with my family because “mom is working from home.” These are the habits I have needed for my writing.
But it’s so much a part of my writing journey, I decided to still post it.
I’m sharing my heart and hope there is some encouragement here for others. What I find amazing is how when we write about a point in time, how quickly circumstances or those feelings change.
Capturing these turning points helps us to see where we’ve been, how far we’ve come, and gives us hope for the future.
In essence, I just got through this big huge turning point and I’m already on to the next chapter. I can see my next steps on the horizon and even though it’s not all spelled out, I believe I’m headed in the right direction.
It will be interesting to see the next part of my story unfold.
I love historicals. Reading them, writing them.
And creating the perfect heroine. But is she a blonde, a brunette or a redhead? We writers wrestle with this question every time we put fingertips to keyboard. Sometimes the character is so clear in our minds, we know for certain sheâ€™s a natural blonde (and if she isnâ€™t, well, we wonâ€™t tell–itâ€™s up to the hero to see if the collar matches the cuffs).
Imagine if Scarlett Oâ€™Hara was a blondeâ€¦
Do you remember the vivid opening scene with Scarlett surrounded by the redheaded Tarleton twins? Her beautiful dark hair provided a rich halo around her face and provided a contrast against her white organdy dress with flounces and flounces of ruffles. The red belt cinching in her tiny waist was the perfect accent piece to complete her outfit.
Was this what Margaret Mitchell envisioned when she wrote â€œGone With the Wind?â€
In a word, no.
Ms. Mitchell describes a â€œgreen flowered-muslinâ€ dress, not the white one. Although in the film, Scarlett does show up at the Twelve Oaks BBQ in a similar dress (who can ever forget the scene in the film when Scarlett throws a porcelain bowl across the room not knowing Rhett is lying on the couch out of her pov and he pops up with the line: â€œHas the war started yet?â€ Pure classic romantic attraction).
Which brings me to the question: how important to you as a writer and/or reader is the heroineâ€™s hair color?
Do you enjoy reading descriptions of what sheâ€™s wearing? Do designer labels intrigue you or turn you off?
I must admit I enjoyed designing my heroineâ€™s wardrobe in â€œThe Blonde Samuraiâ€ about a Victorian heiress who weds a British lord then falls in love with a handsome samurai.
Here is what Katie Oâ€™Roarke as Lady Carlton wore at a grand dinner:
â€œâ€¦Which was why I chose the color red. A defiant color, bold and perfect. I relished how the velvet gown in crushed strawberry hugged my body, the small cap sleeves sliding down my bare shoulders while the tiered soft bustle swayed behind me, the long train sweeping over the muted Oriental carpets. A long row of pearl buttons gave off an opaline luster, racing down my back like a game of dominoes.”
Tell me what you think about whether or not a description of the heroineâ€™s hair color and her wardrobe enrich the story for you.
Frankly, my dear reader, I do give a damnâ€¦
The Blonde Samurai is a 2010 Reviewers Choice Award nominee for Romantic Times
By Sandra Paul
I used to lack emotional depth.
Hey, don’t pity me. You probably still do. You just might not know it yet.
After all, I wasn’t aware of my own deficiency until about my fifth book. But when my editor returned my manuscript for revisions there it was, right in the margin next to my dramatic, climatic resolution. Plain as day, my editor had written, Lacks E.D.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t plain as day at first–because I had no idea what, or possibly who, E.D. might be.
So I called my editor to find out.
“E.D. stands for emotional depth,” she told me. “The book needs more of it.”
“C’mon,” I said, trying not whine at the thought of doing more work. “My word count is only 50,000 words. This isn”t War and Peace here.”
“No, it certainly isn’t,” she agreed, much too readily. “But even in a short contemporary romance with, I might add, extra wide margins, the reader needs to come away emotionally satisfied. I don’t even know what your characters are feeling there at the end.”
I honestly didn’t understand how she could say that. I’d written it plain as day (really!) right there on the page. “The heroine feels sad,” I said, quoting directly from the manuscript, “That the hero has found out what she’s done. He feels betrayed and angry.”
“I need more.”
I sighed. “Okay. How ’bout I say she’s very sad and he’s very angry?”
She sighed louder. “I’m not looking for adjectives here,” she replied, very heartlessly. “What I want is to feel something. To feel what your characters are feeling. Go deeper, Sandy. I know you can do it.”
I hung up the phone feeling (in case it isn’t plain as day) very resentful. Easy for her to say. She was just an editor with a stable at the time of over thirty writers, with a slush pile higher than her head next to her desk, who merely spent ten to twelve hours a day editing, writing copy, proofing, and other stuff like that. Obviously, she was much too busy to understand the stress that I, a one-book-a-year (more or less) writer, was under.
Brooding on my editor’s lack of empathy, I went and had a leisurely lunch, then took a three hour nap. When I awoke, I went and did what I should have done in the first place.
I called my critique partners.
“I think it’s fine,” Angie told me after I’d read the last chapter to her five times. “In fact, if anything, there’s too much emotion. I suggest you delete the whole thing.”
She slammed down the phone. Gingerly, I hung up, too. O-kaaay. Apparently I wasn’t the only one dog-paddling in the shallow end of the emotional pool. I then moved on to Barbara J.
“This isn’t just your typical sweet traditional,” Barbara J. informed me. “This is a transformation story about a woman who, after doing something on impulse, learns from that experience to quit being afraid of life. To start going after what she wants.”
I have to admit, I liked the sound of that. But it wasn’t much help for my E.D. problem. So I called Barbara B.
“The universal appeal of this book is that it’s about anyone who’s ever done something stupid, and had to move past it,” she told me. “You need to explore that emotional reaction for the reader. Use the five senses.”
“But I’ve never done what the heroine did. And I never would.”
“No, but you’ve done other stupid things. Use those.”
Totally inspired, I hung up the phone. As usual, Barbara B. was right. I had done stupid thing—lots of them. I’d use the pain and embarrassment I’d lived through to make this book come alive for the reader.
So, after discussing the problem once more with my Artist’s Way group, a dozen people at OCC, and a paunchy, bald guy who happened to be pumping gas at the same time as me at the nearby 7-Eleven, I got down to work.
I thought of all the times I’d humiliated myself and I wrote—and rewrote—until I could smell the heroine’s fear when the hero discovers she’s the one who’d mooned him from the company van. Until I could see the horror on his handsome (yet rugged) face, when he realizes it was her, his trusted secretary (not to mention the woman he’s learned to love) that committed the dreadful deed. I wrote until I could hear the anguish in her soft voice as she struggles to explain, until I could taste their despair as they realize—Mooner and Moonee both—that the memory of what she did will forever be there between them. A big, white blot on their love.
I sank to emotional depths so deep that even those little, jelly-like fluorescent fishes from National Geographic couldn’t survive there. Then I made the hero and heroine both very, very happy when they somehow (cause I don’t want to give the story away here!) manage to overcome all that to live happily ever after.
And when I finally turned the book in—just one month past deadline—I knew I’d done a good job. In fact, my editor told me it was one of the best—if not the best—mooning book she’d ever read.
So, emotional depth? You betcha I’ve got it now.
Step aside, Leo Tolstoy.
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