Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Getting the Ending Right

I've been coming home from the library every week with two or three new Romance DVDs to try out. This is how I cope with organizing my taxes and folding laundry. (My husband is going a little crazy. Last weekend, to get me back, he brought home a pile of Star Trek movies.) It's not that easy to find a great romantic movie. They all start out great. It's the end that's the problem, so you have to watch the whole thing before you know if you're going to like it or not.

Writing a great ending is a challenge for any writer. I only found two movies that succeeded in doing this--The Decoy Bride and The Lake House.  They both had likable characters, who were well developed. I especially loved the dialogue in The Decoy Bride. The endings were predictable--a characteristic of the Romance genre--but both movies left us guessing about how that ending was going to come about.

Now, onto Pitfalls to Avoid in Writing Endings:

An Ending that is Too Short I've heard many authors say that you should end the book quickly--right after the climax and resolution. This is what happened in North and South, one of those four-hour-long BBC productions of a classic novel. Though the movie was a bit dismal, I enjoyed learning about the characters and the English industrial age. (I should also mention that the actor who plays Mr. Bates from Downton Abbey has a leading role in it.) During the final episode, I was on the edge of my seat. After watching this thing every night for a week, I was rewarded with a resolution that lasted less than five minutes. Ughh. Even my husband was dissatisfied. We wanted a glimpse into the characters' lives after the resolution. We wanted some more dialogue.

A Climax that Isn't Stressful Enough I'm a fan of classic movies, so I thought I'd try The More the Merrier. The beginning was hilarious and charming. The middle was pretty good. But the conflict kind of fizzled out before we got to the ending. To make a good ending, the characters must suffer. Like Jonah, they must enter the belly of the whale before they can come out on the other side. It seemed like the writers of this movie didn't want to hurt the characters, so they allowed them to anticipate potential suffering and avoid it. Not a good idea.

Characters who Aren't Developed Enough In Midnight, another classic movie, the writers got the plot right. It's unpredictable and suspenseful. I liked the main character in the beginning, but I didn't learn more about her during the movie. I wanted to know how she got to be the way she was, and the writers never let me know. Sure, she was witty and clever, but I didn't really care enough about her to get excited about her happy ending.

Characters who Act Inconsistently I know, I should have learned my lesson about classic movies, but I watched another one--The Major and the Minor. Once again, it had a great beginning and middle. In the end, both main characters act against their values, which totally killed the story.

How about you? Do you have any movies to recommend or any advice about endings?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The 8 Keys to a Woman's Heart

The other day, while driving carpool, I heard that there's actually a secret to a woman's heart--just one, mind you. One of the boys at my daughter's high school knows the secret, but he's not telling. Being a woman, I really wanted to know what it was. Unfortunately, none of the girls in the carpool knew the key to a woman's heart and neither did my son. Dang!

Then it occurred to me . . . I've been creating romantic heroes for the past six years. I may not know the one and only key to a woman's heart. But I can teach my sons some simple steps to becoming a romantic hero. So, here they are--8 keys to a woman's heart:

  1. Keep up with basic hygeine, wear clothes that fit well, and don't be sloppy. You don't need to be incredibly handsome (although that helps.)
  2. Listen and be a friend first. Focus, oh so intensely, on your heroine.
  3. Give gifts of service. If you want women to swoon, find ways to help them--whether that be opening a door, changing a flat tire, or carrying something. Anticipate her needs. Just don't be a cave-man--overbearing and forceful about it.
  4. Be responsible. No romantic hero sits around all day playing video games. Usually they have a job, go to school, or both. They work hard.
  5. Be intelligent. Learn important things.
  6. Be confident. I know, that's easier said than done, but women love men who are confident.
  7. Have a sense of humor.
  8. Live with integrity. Have a strong moral code.
What do you think? Did I leave anything out?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


I don't know about you, but my 2013 has been somewhat dissatisfactory. It started out with a week-long case of the flu, followed by extremely cold weather, record-level air pollution, a snowstorm, two car repairs, and a case of pinkeye. I haven't really had a chance to think about resolutions. So you know what? I'm starting over. I don't know if it's possible to exchange 2013 for a better year, but I'm sending it back. Therefore, today is going to be the first day of my new year 2013.1. Happy New Year! So far, I've kept all my resolutions today. How about you? Do you think they'll let me write 2013.1 on my checks?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Book Review: 10 Questions to Answer While Preparing for a Mission

Before I get into my review of this really great book, I just want to say sorry I've been missing in action so long this month. The good news is that I'm in the middle of rewrites for Emma, which will probably come out in August. Yay! Now on to the review:

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, my husband and I have encouraged our children to prepare for missions. Until recently, young men could serve starting at age 19 while young women served at age 21. Now the age requirements have changed to 18 for young men and 19 for young women. It may not seem like a big change for some, but for me, it means that I could potentially have two children serving missions within the next two-and-a-quarter years. Yikes!

One of my concerns, as a parent, is that my children are adequately prepared for the challenges of being a missionary. When Benjamin White asked me if I'd like to review his book, 10 Questions to Answer While Preparing for a Mission, I was hoping it would be the kind of book to help them prepare. I was very impressed with the book. It's a quick read, straightforward, and honest. It's written for young people who are already interested in serving a mission. (In other words, it's not the kind of book you give someone to convince them to go on a mission. That book would be The Book of Mormon. The author also recommends that youth familiarize themselves with Preach My Gospel.)

Since the book contains a lot of good scripture stories and quotes from General Authorities, I plan to use parts of the book in Family Home Evening lessons. I loved all the chapters, but one of the most insightful chapters for me was "Question 8: Do I know what success really means?" (I wish I'd read it before my mission. Oh, well, my mission was awesome anyway.) The book also helps missionaries plan for what they'll do after their missions--something that is often overlooked as we help young people prepare for missionary service.

The author, Benjamin Hyrum White, is a seminary teacher and recently received his master’s degree in religious education from BYU, where he wrote the history of Preach My Gospel