Monday, April 21, 2014

Writing Imagery

Easter time has always intrigued me, not only because of my faith, but because of my love for the  beautiful symbolism and creative plan of God's story.

We attended a Christian Passover Sedar this year, and remembered a time when the blood of a lamb saved the firstborn children of the Israelites in Exodus. Then, we remembered a time when the blood of a begotten Son of God, the final sacrificed lamb, was shed to save ALL the children of God.

How amazingly intricate God used foreshadows, symbolism, and imagery to carve His path of redemption over centuries!

Truly the Perfect Author of a remarkable story!

I feel my creative juices bubbling as I ponder God's Word. I love His Word, and it makes me realize why I love crafting words to reveal Him through my writing. He is my greatest example of imagery and symbolism of story.

After a full weekend with family and friends, I decided to dig up an old post on similar lines... one on some of my favorite literary tools: metaphors and similes.

Have a great Monday.

Christ is Risen!

Now-a-days, readers want excellent writing, but it needs to be straightforward. This makes it all the more important to place your metaphors and similes in appropriate places throughout your novel. If you have one metaphor after a simile after another metaphor...then you will slow down the reader and your story will sag with the weight of a word picture frenzy in the reader's overloaded mind.

Using well-placed metaphors and similes can 1) Anchor the reader to the setting and have them  connect to your character's situation, and 2) Emphasize high emotional intensity, as implied by James Scott Bell in his book, Revision & Self Editing.

Just as a poem begs to be memorized, a metaphor or simile create a memorable experience for the reader, and etches your story into their mind. I can think back on certain books and remember their well-placed metaphors and similes out of the entire 90,000 words. These tools grip a reader's thoughts and leave a “book”print in their mind long after the book is closed and put away.

Here are some examples from books that have printed on my mind:

Anchoring to the setting:

"If Broadway was Manhattan's artery, Five Points was its abscess: swollen with people, infected with pestilence, inflamed with vice and crime. Groggeries, brothels, and dance halls put private sin on public display. Although the neighborhood seemed fairly self-contained, more fortunate New Yorkers were terrified of Five Points erupting, spreading its contagion to the rest of them.” Wedded to War, Jocelyn Green.

Jocelyn uses the metaphor of the condition of the human body to not only emphasize the point of view of her heroine, an aspiring nurse, but she also gives such a vivid understanding of the setting that a reader could hardly dismiss this and move on without allowing the imagery to paint itself in their mind.

“Through the makeshift curtain that gave her some semblance of privacy, she could make out Captain Click's sturdy shadow like a locked gate barring harm's way.” Courting Morrow Little, Laura Frantz

This book is set in a time of unease and discord between the settlers and the Native Americans. This metaphor of Captain Click being a locked gate is appropriate to the point-of-view of the heroine who is a young woman traveling into hostile territory. This anchors the reader to the setting not only through the heroine's perspective, but gives the overall emotional climate of the setting—one of possible danger at every turn.

Emotional Intensity:

“The man who stared back was not a man he knew. The careful control bred into him since birth was gone. In its place he saw a fire-breathing dragon capable of murder.” The Duchess and The Dragon, Jamie Carie

The image of a fire-breathing dragon is placed at a time when the hero's emotions are high and his actions have culminated to a dreaded circumstance. Jamie Carie imbeds this metaphor in such a way that it maintains the momentum of the story but shows intensity of the hero's emotion.

“In the domestic cloud of dust and family, I too can forget the One who sees me, but in eucharisteo, I remember, I cup hands and all the world is water.
The well, it is still there.
There is always a well—All is well.
I choke out my son's name. His skin is And he stares long, brims...quavers...falls. And I cradle him, the Boy-Man, flood over shoulders.” One Thousand Gifts, Ann Voskamp.

Ann's moment with her son is filled with word pictures that emphasize the build to an emotional outpour. This book takes the use of metaphor to such a deep level, my heart stirs at every turn of the page.

Metaphors and similes can also unveil a writer's voice. Ann Voskamp does this amazingly well, not only in the example above, but consistently throughout the book. Depending on a writer's voice, these descriptive tools can be well-placed mirrors to the under-lying tone of the story.

Do you have examples of well-placed metaphors and similes in some of your favorite books? How about in your own? Please share!

Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What's Up the Street for Next Week?

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Our Lord and Savior, the Author and Perfecter of our faith is RISEN!

As we go into this weekend, signing the songs of praise during this heart wrenching and glorious time, may we never lose sight of the fact that yes, we are novelists, we do create. But may we always remember that He is the ultimate Author and everything important penned started on that cross for you and me.

What's up the street here at the Alley for next week?

Angie shares about the story of ultimate foreshadowing and the lessons we can learn from it on Monday.

Tuesday, Julia will be continuing her creativity series and give us plenty of story prompt ideas.

What do you blog about when you're a fiction writer? Karen has ideas on Wednesday.

Ashley (recently contracted for a SECOND Guideposts novella!!) is your hostess on Thursday!

Rita-nominated author Carla Laureano is our guest to close out our week on Friday. Make sure you don't miss her post!

Have a wonderful, worshipful weekend!

Friday, April 18, 2014

How Well Do You Accept Criticism?

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Criticism is, unfortunately, part of the game when you put your words on a page and then submit them to a critique partner or a contest or a first reader or your mother (well, maybe not your mother… ;-)). It seems to be a dangerous business, writing. I don’t know why it has to be such a land-mine pursuit, but it seems the more we put ourselves out there and write more from our heart and fall harder for our stories, the more criticism we can get. And the harder it gets.

Being told you stink at something is never easy, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a huge fan of it myself. ;-) When you look at how hard you work and how many hours you spend alone pounding the keyboard, only to be told by a judge that your POV is a mess and your characters are flat and unlikeable, it’s enough to plant one’s head squarely in the middle of the keyboard/screen/desk/wall, etc, etc.

But criticism does not have to be all bad. Yes, I know. You’re scowling at me fiercely right now because I’m telling you to actually like being corrected. Well…maybe not like, because who likes that?? But there is much more to be learned from criticism than there is to be learned from praise. While all correction should be taken with a grain of salt, it might be an opportunity to see the big picture flaws we miss when we’re zoomed in too close in our stories.

What is the universal appeal of your hero and heroine? Did the judges or first readers find them fun and entertaining or flat and apathetic?

Look at what you’re aiming for and then see if what and where the criticism is coming from matches up or is moving in the same direction. If you’re aiming for a funny and light-hearted heroine, but you’re being told she’s moody and discouraging, maybe it’s time for an edit—or maybe a change of genre. ;-)
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Is the topic of your “voice” coming up in more discussions or disturbingly absent? Read the comments as one would who has no emotional attachment to your story. If this was your friend’s story or a random book off the shelf would you agree or disagree with the comments?

It’s easy to immediately disagree with everything the critique had to say, but stop for just a minute. Separate yourself from the heart-wounded part and pull up those muck boots to go in for another stomp around and discovery.

While it’s never easy to volunteer for criticism or correction for anyone even when the criticisms are so far out in left field that’s it’s not even worth putting the time into reading! Novel crafting is one of the most subjective businesses out there—it’s not even funny how subjective it is. And yes, it’s a near constant lesson in the art of accepting criticism gracefully.

But it gets a little bit easier if you think in these terms: we’re in the place we love. God put us here. This is part of His hands forming our clay. Put’s a little bit different perspective on it, doesn’t it? J  

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in rural Eastern Oregon in a town more densely populated with cows than people. 


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Whose agenda are you writing anyway??

What our fiction shouldn't do....
Pick a "big" social item that has varying opinions...

Pre-marital Sex...
Gun Control...
Same-Sex Marriage...
Global Warming (or newly called, climate change)...

The list is a long one.

And occasionally, there is a particular issue you feel passionate about and want to incorporate into your fiction to spread your heart-felt opinion.

But how do you do it? And SHOULD you do it?

There is no right or wrong answer. In fact, the idea of "agenda" driven fiction is another one of those items that have various opinions. Strong opponents say you annoy readers by writing only with your own agenda in mind. Strong proponents say that important issues shouldn't be ignored in fiction.

So what do you do?

The below is MY opinion, so you can officially call this an "agenda" driven blog today, I guess.

The purpose of an "agenda" is to sway people to your opinion.

The purpose of "fiction" is to tell a story.

So the definition of "agenda fiction" is to tell a story with the goal of swaying people's opinion.

The problem with this is chances are, the majority if not all of your readers will end up being people who agree with you. And the people who don't are likely strong in their belief in the opposite, which won't encourage them to read more of your books or tell others to read them.

And still others will be annoyed that you've used your story to beat them over the head with your agenda.

So you've written a book few will read, many will hate and your goal will remain unaccomplished.

Not really productive, if you ask me.

So what's the answer?

What our stories should do.... well... kinda
or me, as a follower of Christ, I've chosen to write what I call "Missional" fiction. No clue if this is a true definition, because I just made it up and liked it. :-)

The definition of "mission" is a task or job you've been given. For me, I take my direction from Jesus Christ.

So my missional fiction is accomplishing the job or task God has given me through story.

This is broad. And I like that.

Basically, I want to spread GOD'S agenda, not mine. And I want to do it in a way that's natural.

When a missionary goes to a foreign country, they don't go and stand on a soap box and yell their message to the locals. No, they get their hands dirty. They provide food and water and supplies. They build schools, orphanages, churches. They learn the language and live life with those they are trying to show God's love to.

Our stories should show God's agenda in a similar way.

As authors we use our characters to invite our readers into their life. Through fiction, they live life together. Experience highs and lows, fears and failures, successes and triumphs. They struggle with sins together, with forgiveness, with grace.

Jesus used the power of story heavily in his ministry.

I think we absolutely can follow in His footsteps... if we do it in a way that is wise and helpful, not reckless and arrogant.

Discussion: How do you weave a spiritual theme in your books? Do you struggle with wanting to put an "agenda" in them or do you avoid at all costs? 

(pictures courtesy of

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance . She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by Rachelle Gardner.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

He Asked-Tips to Restore the Thrill of Writing

Your first date.

Do you remember what it was like? Take a step back in time...

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Your bed is layered with twenty outfits tried on and rejected. The one you're wearing barely meets your approval. You've borrowed your older sister's necklace, restyled your hair at least five times, and settled for the lipstick in your left hand.

The doorbell rings. Your heart flutters faster than you can handle and you smear the makeup.

Of course, siblings offer their support with teasing, sing-songy calls--"He's here. Better hurry up."

The left black shoe is missing. You've checked under the bed and behind the laundry hamper twice before remembering seeing your little sister walk off with it yesterday. The sandals will have to suffice.

One last look in the mirror warrants a sigh. He'll have to settle for this. 

His voice echoes up the staircase to your room. That tenor, sweet sound.

You run to the landing and stop. He turns and looks up at you. A smile spreads across his handsome face you adore. He doesn't speak, but his eyes sparkle.

You walk with grace down the stairs despite the urge to tromps as usual. He blushes ever so slightly and reaches a hand to you. "You’re beautiful. Are you ready to go?"


This is the thrill.

Anticipation stimulates an electrifying rouse. 

Think of a child’s excitement Christmas morning or on his birthday. The energy surges exponentially—no chocolate needed!

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Now think about your work in progress. Is this not the preparation for the writer’s dream date—publication?

Do you wake each morning excited to:

*  try on a new scene?
*  borrow an idea from a crit partner to improve the plot?
*  slip into your character’s POV?
*  look into the mirror (edit) and search for flaws?
*  check the clock and appropriately panic about progress
*  switch ideas when the original doesn’t pan out (like the missing left shoe)
*  are you determined to make the final product the very best it can be?
*  do your thoughts revolved around what you’ll write/edit next?
*  do you match your genre and story theme to your dream publisher?
*  are you bursting to tell all your friends? (marketing foundations)
*  have you journaled your thoughts, concerns, and expectations?

The books we write are destined to fulfill a need, if for no one else, at least for ourselves. God has asked us to do much more than fill pages with words. He wants us to touch lives and meet needs.

As you go about your day today, consider your WIP the magical date you’ve longed for. Talk to God about it. You would talk to God about your date wouldn’t you?

*Make your WIP real. Print out something from your WIP, a favorite scene, a photo of your hero, and/or a color photo of the setting. This will give you something tangible to touch, post in your workspace, and show others.

*Spend lunch or take a coffee break with your characters. Start the conversation by sharing their issues. Listen to their input.

*Go shopping for the appropriate clothing. My heroine is from Chicago. While on a vacation trip to the Rockies she stops in a western outfitter store with a friend and finds a beautiful necklace. She buys it as a souvenir of her trip. I had a great time shopping online for the perfect piece, one that suite her hair color, blouse, and complexion.

Writing a book is no more a chore than going on a date. It’s all in the point of view. And since God asked you to do this task, shouldn't there be a joy/love for the project? 

Consider the best books you've ever read. Someone who simply loved to write wrote those books. Your book could be on someone's list of best loved books one day.

Share how you’ve enjoyed preparing your WIP for the big dream date.


This blog post is by Mary Vee

Mary has moved to Michigan with her husband, closer to her three college kids. She misses the mountains of Montana, but loves seeing family more often. She writes contemporary and romance Christian fiction, is honing marketing and writing skills, and loves to pen missionary and Bible adventure stories on her ministry blog, God Loves Kids.

Visit Mary at her website and her ministry blog to families: God Loves Kids. Or chat on Facebook or Twitter

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Artisan Soul

I have to say that The Artisan Soul by Erwin Raphael McManus is one of the best books I've read in a long time....and I'm not even halfway through the book! From the very first chapter, the words I read made my soul burn with yearning, agreement, and connection. I've highlighted most of the book so far, wanting the words to be imprinted on my heart, for they encourage and motivate me to be creative, to be brave, to risk, and to truly be an artist.

McManus is not just an artist. He is a creative who uses his gifts to further the work of God. He started a church in LA, CA called Mosaic where the people of his congregation use their creative talents for the Kingdom. And what he calls us to in The Artisan Soul is a life of creativity...every matter the medium or vehicle through which we create. What he teaches is that every soul is a creative soul, whether they think so or not.

"...the great divide is not between those who are artists and those who are not, but between those who understand that they are creative and those who have become convinced that they are not."

We are all creative. We are created by a creative God who made us into His image.

"Yet what humanity needs most is for us  to set creativity free from this singular category of the extraordinary and release it into the hands of the ordinary. Creativity should be an everyday experience. Creativity should be as common as breathing. We breathe, therefore we create."

A person might say that not all people are creative and that saying everyone is just sets a person up for failure. But as people who have the Spirit of God living within them, we are creative beings. We want to create whether it is through decorating a room, cooking a fabulous dish, writing a short story, blogging, painting, making a yard look good, or crocheting a blanket.

Being creative doesn't mean there won't be failure. There will be.

"...we live in the fear that if we aspire to be more we will discover ourselves to be less. We live in fear of failure, convinced that failure will prove us to be frauds. We have bought into the lie that creative people never fail and hence failure is proof that we are not creative."

"Fear is the shadow of creativity....The creative act is inherently an act of courage....To make our lives a creative act is to marry ourselves to risk and failure...creativity is born of risk and refined from failure. If we are at the core both spiritual beings and creative beings, then the artisan soul is where we live when we have the courage to be our truest selves."

It's so hard to step out and risk it all to share our creative selves. When we hit send on the manuscript we have written, we feel we are sending a part of very essence out for the world to judge. We fear we will judged as inferior, which reflects on who we are at our core. But those rejections are the building stones of creativity. They are what grounds us and molds us. We are indeed "refined by failure".

I just can say enough about this book, The Artisan Soul. I am reading it slowly to imprint the words on my heart, and I hope to share more of it with you as I glean from it's wisdom.

Do you consider yourself creative? Do you embrace your artistic soul? Or is it hard for you to say you are an artistic person...whether it is with word, paint, landscape, or food? 


This post is brought to you by
 Sherrinda Ketchersid

Sherrinda is a minister's wife and mother to three giant sons and one gorgeous daughter. A born and bred Texan, she writes historical romance filled with fun, faith, and forever love.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Melody Plotting Along with Disney - The Song of Hope

Welcome to the second part of my series, Melody Plotting along with Disney, where I’m taking the general ‘songs’ in Disney movies and applying them to novel writing.

As I said before, Disney is brilliant at using songs to portray the emotions and forward motion of its stories. The first post discussed the Song of Longing. You can read about it here:

The three song-types I'm discussing are:

Song of Longing
Song of Hope
Song of the Antagonist/Villain

And I might end the series with a Happily-ever-after post, but for now, we’re going to talk about the second ‘song’ we can learn from as authors. 

The Song of Hope.

In almost every Disney movie (especially the ‘princess’ ones) there is a Song of Hope. This song is the moment when the ‘longing’ (from the first post) seems like a real possibility for the protagonist or it shows a ‘change’ in the protagonists previously ‘hopeless’ circumstances. Lots of times, it involves a love song of some sort. It’s the ALMOST-but-not-yet. 
A few examples?

A Whole New World from Aladdin – Aladdin’s song of longing to be seen as more than a street rat is realized in the carpet ride with Jasmine. (the fun doesn't last long as Jafar has him kidnapped right after he lands Jasmine on the balcony)

At Last I See the Light from Tangled  displays Rapunzel’s deepest dream of her heart, she finds hope in being with Flynn. (Yet again, it doesn't last long before Mother Gothel and the gruesome dudes mess things up.)

Belle and the Beast have a clear ‘change’ in their relationship when they sing Something There that Wasn't There Before, followed pretty quickly by the title song, Beauty and the Beast. The adventure and romance Belle had been searching for became a possibility. (But when she leaves to rescue her father, the tables turn and the beast’s life is in danger)

Kiss the Girl clearly displays the hope Ariel has to be ‘kissed’ by Eric and gain her voice back, as well as her future. Her dream is literally a pucker away, but due to the magnificently maniacal Ursula, a hurricane of trouble is soon to follow.

Frozen succeeds in flipping this idea on its head by giving Ana false-hope through the song, Love is an Open Door, while Elsa’s song of hope is the extremely popular, Let it Go. Ana believes her longing from For the First Time in Forever has been revealed in Hans (boy, is she wrong) and Elsa’s biggest fears represented in the same song are replaced by her new-found freedom from her ‘concealment’ of her magic.

If we want to switch gears and look at popular movies?

The Song of Hope in a movie like Titanic is the night Rose and Jack spend together dancing, painting…and other things. There is hope that Rose will no longer be confined by the expectations
placed upon her – it’s a taste of her dream-come-true. But only a taste. We’ll discover near the end of the movie, she has to make that final choice to bring her dream to reality.

The Song of Hope in The Princess’ Bride is when Wesley and Buttercup are reunited before going into the Fire Swamp. Sure they’re almost killed by lightning sand and R.O.U.Ses, but they’re together. (but the sweet happily-ever-after moment ends as soon as they get through the swamp and come face-to-face with Humperdink)

In my historical romance, it happens after a horse-riding incident that ends in a kiss. In one of my contemporary romances, it happens in a tower that ends in a kiss.

Do you know what the Song of Hope is for your story? Is there a part of your novel where the protagonist realizes his/her dream is possible, almost palpable? The Almost-but-not-yet part of your book?

Would you like to share?