Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Character Bible

I'm pretty good at the thirty second answer. That's when my husband asks me a question and it takes me thirty seconds to respond with something like, "What was that again?" I always have a lot on my mind--whether it's planning the next chapter in my novel, the next cub scout den meeting, or the next birthday celebration. My mind can only store so much information before I go into overload and forget really important things like feeding my children.

One of the best tools I've found for remembering stuff in my novel is the character bible. This is a place where you keep details about each character in your book. Without my character bible, I find myself forgetting things like a character's age or occupation.

I searched all over the Internet for ideas from other authors about how to make a character bible and found . . . almost nothing. If you have a character bible, I'd love to hear how you've done yours. Here's how I made the character bible for my latest project:

First, I compiled a generic list of questions I need to answer about each character. These questions fall into several catagories:

Physical Description: this includes things like the character's age, height, hair color, clothing styles, etc.

Family Background: It's important to have a sense of the character's family background. It makes her seem more realistic, instead of something I created out of a vacuum.

Occupation: This section includes details about career, office environment, and degrees.

I don't answer all the questions for all the characters. They're just there to fill in as I go along. My character bible also includes additional information that can't be put in a question-and-answer format:

Backstory: This section can include just about anything that may find its way into the plot--scandals, traumas from childhood, dating history, etc.

Secrets: Most characters have secrets that are fun to reveal a little at a time over the course of the novel or, sometimes, mostly at the end.

Character Arc: The character arc is what happens to the inside of the character over the course of the story. In the beginning, the character will have certain beliefs and values. The incidents in the novel will cause the character to react and change their beliefs and values. It's good to map this out, so your characters aren't just bouncing around, learning nothing.

Pictures: I like to add pictures of people who look like my characters. I do this the low-tech way--printing them straight off the Internet, cutting them out, and stapling them to my questionaires.

Maps: Sometimes it helps me to draw maps of a character's home or workplace. I've also drawn maps of dining room tables, so I can keep track of who's sitting where.

As I write,  I add more and more details to each characters' pages.

I have kept my character bible online, in a folder, and in a bound notebook. This time around, I'm using a three-ring binder.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Memories of Cape Verde

I've been procrastinating this post since last spring when the Church dedicated its first stake in Cape Verde. I was lucky enough to be a missionary there almost twenty years ago, and I really miss my wonderful friends. It's ironic that the Cape Verdians are the poorest people I've ever known, yet they're also the happiest. I had so much fun with them.

One of my favorite memories is of the first New Beginnings on Fogo island. Here are the beautiful young women, who dressed in the value colors. They also did a skit, which happened to be the first skit I ever wrote for young women.

This next picture is one of my favorites because it reminds me to be grateful for all I have. These young women, who were poor even by Cape Verde standards, decorated their wall with pictures from a church magazine.

Here is a typical group listening to a missionary discussion. My mini missionary companion was braiding hair.

This woman was a teacher and the wife of the branch president. The background has a good view of her street on Fogo.

This young mother visited us regularly with her children. In Cape Verde, the government made it so difficult and expensive to marry that most people didn't bother. She and her husband were waiting for the papers to go through so they could marry and then get baptized. This picture was taken in the sister missionaries' apartment.

Here's another picture of our apartment. Manuela was our maid, and Nina is her daughter. All the missionaries had maids because we ate beans every day, and there wasn't a crock pot. Manuela also did our laundry by hand. My companion teased her all the time about men we were going to set her up with.

I wish I could post all the pictures I have, but this post is probably already going to take forever to load. So, I'll just sum up by saying I'm grateful I got to live with these people for a few short months. They didn't have hot water or running water or electricity. Most of their clothes were thrift store rejects. But they have achieved a joy that most Americans spend their lifetimes pursuing.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Pluck the Day

Appreciating the little things. (This is my son's creation from a mini cucumber and blueberries.)

I still feel like I was spared 11 years ago. I've ridden plenty of airplanes. I've been to the top of the World Trade Center and lived near the Capitol. I wasn't much different from the people who lost their lives or their loved ones on 9/11. How blessed I am to be alive and to have my family members with me. I've had closer calls in my life too--times when I've survived an accident, and two times when my husband avoided being in the same building as a shooter.

The phrase Carpe Diem means more than seize the day to me (thanks to my Latin teacher.) The word carpe also means to pluck, as in "I plucked the grapes." I think of each day as a ripe fruit, ready for plucking. If we don't pick that fruit now, it's wasted. Right now, I have a bunch of zucchinis in my garden that I didn't pluck when I should have, so they're enormous and not quite as delectable. Each day of our life passes quickly, and it gets so the years are flying by. I appreciate my life more when I slow down a little to talk, take pictures, or do something fun.

After 9/11, most of us appreciated life a little more. We took time to be thankful for small things, but some of us also got up our courage to do bigger things. I've heard stories of people finally deciding to marry their lifelong love or make a career change or start to sing in front of people. I'll always be grateful for the brave men and women who decided to serve in our military.

This life is a gift in more ways than one. It's God's gift to us, but it's also our gift to others.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Potty Training

One of my favorite potty training books.
My brother, the pediatrician, suggested I write a blog post about potty training. I told him I'd never do something so undignified, but what the heck! After potty training five and a half kids, I'm practically an expert, right? (I say five and a half because I haven't quite finished with child number six.) In my book, anyone who claims to be an expert at potty training isn't currently potty training or has never potty trained a difficult child. However, I have learned a few tricks as I've navigated the murky waters of potty training that I'll share with you. I'd also love any tips from readers since I'm still in the middle of potty training.

The most important rule of potty training is this: The child must think that potty training is his idea. (I'm using "he" because I have mostly boys.) He could care less about how tired you are of changing his diapers. Usually, you'll have to find outside rewards for his using the potty. I have used stickers, candy, cookies, paper airplanes, paper helicopters, special television shows, new underwear, play dough, verbal praise, and bubbles as rewards. Beware the escalating reward tendency. I had one child who decided a piece of candy wasn't enough. He wanted 2 pieces, then three, then a whole cookie. Stand firm and think of this as your preparation for the pre-teen years.

Getting the kid to go: Sometimes, when the rewards have gotten old, the child will need an extra incentive to go in the potty. For boys, you can try having pee pee races with an older brother or having him hit targets like little squares of toilet paper or cheerios. For boys or girls, you can dye the water with food coloring and tell them their pee will change the color. You can give them books, play dough, a special drink, or bubbles while they're sitting on the potty. Sometimes a book or dvd about using the potty will help motivate a child. I like to get children's potty training books from the library because who really wants to own a potty book?

Getting the kid to keep going: Just because the child learns how to go in the potty doesn't mean he'll go on the potty every time. It takes a lot of patience. Most kids have a lot of accidents. I try to make accidents as inconvenient as possible. The child can help clean up any puddles and helps transport clothes to the laundry room. You can also says things like, "That's too bad you didn't get to watch your special show for going on the potty. Maybe next time."

If you have any tips for me, I'd love to hear them. My patience with wet pants is running out faster than my laundry detergent.

Honesty Skit for Cub Scouts

Our cub scout value for last month was honesty, so we wanted to do a skit on honesty. We couldn't find one on the internet, so our smart Bear den leader came up with one that was really simple and funny. You don't really even need a script.

She lined up all the boys in chairs as if they were in school, then she handed out papers, acting like she was their teacher in school. Each test had the numbers 1-10 along the side of the page. She said, "Okay, children, we're going to take a test. You can start now."

The three boys in the middle are the only ones with speaking parts.

Boy #1: "David, what's the answer to number one?"

David: "I'm not going to tell you. I'm not a cheater."

Boy #1 then turns to another boy: "Jacob, what's the answer to number one?"

Jacob: "C."

Boy #1 goes on, asking what's the answer to number two, then three  . . . all the way up to ten. Jacob always says the answer is "C."

After boy #1 writes down all ten Cs, the teacher says, "Okay, your time is up. Trade papers with the student next to you, so you can grade each other's papers." She then lists the answers, and you guessed it, none of the answers are C. At the end, boy #1 covers his face with his hands and groans loudly. The End.