Monday, April 22, 2013

WRITING: a Potentially Problematic Passion by J.A. Marx

When I was a child, I didn’t write stories, I acted them out. Living in the heart of the Rockies, my playground was made up of rock outcroppings and climbing trees. Today’s term for this type of acting is LARP – live action role-play. I larped with my friends all the way through my first year of college. Active.

Once I had children, my larping included storytelling, and the kids became the protagonists along with a flying dragon named Murgatroyd. My teen daughter now carries on the larping tradition.

Between those years, fitness became a serious hobby. I taught aerobics for twelve years and studied nutrition on the side. Today, I work out six days a week and understand the importance of exercise and nutrition. Now that I write fulltime, I find myself in a catch-22.

A few hours at the gym does not
make up for sitting the rest of the day. (Mayo)

According to medical studies, the longer we sit the more health problems we create for ourselves. The Mayo clinic states these problems, “Obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.” (Link read their article)

So what’s a writer to do?

I’ve also read stories of how some authors are either too busy writing to eat or they just grab whatever is “handy” in the kitchen. Speaking from experience, handy isn’t usually healthy.
The more important matter for a Christian author, however, is TEMPLE MANAGEMENT. We are the temple of God. What we “ingest” through our eyes and ears matters to our soul, but:

What enters my mouth fuels the temple God gave me.

Who would pour dirt into his Ferrari gas tank?
I will be held accountable for what God has given me to steward.
My frustration has led me to discipline myself in order to honor my Editor in Chief. I’ll share solutions that help me with temple management.

-Plan out healthy meals for the entire week.
-Prepare lunch and snacks the night before. (It’ll be ready when you are.)
-Do food prep for the family meal the night before. (When the dinner bell tolls, just throw the food in the skillet/oven.)

-Basics: if you’re not already exercising daily, start with a brisk, 30-minute walk (I listen to sermons and praise music. It’s an awesome time of worship for me.)

Active writing (Mayo ideas):
-Stand rather than sit whenever you have the chance
-Stand while talking on the phone or eating lunch
-Try a standing desk (improvise with a high table/counter)
-Walk laps with your colleagues rather than gathering at Starbucks for meetings
-Position your work surface above a treadmill (Use a specialized treadmill-ready vertical desk and be in motion throughout the day.)

Increased health = less sickness = increased effectiveness.
Live better, write better. We can do it!

J.A. Marx loves illustrating spiritual warfare through speculative suspense. Her debut novel, “Destiny Defied” releases April 17th 2013. She has published several articles and edits for a healthcare e-zine.
Her hobbies are fitness, nutrition, and dancing the Argentine tango. She and her husband live in Texas. Meet J.A. at 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Paperdolls By Lynne Gentry

What is a well-drawn character and how do you draw one? While these questions are tackled at every writer’s conference, it’s easier to bag the wind than nail down the one thing that makes a character real in a reader’s mind.


Because characterization requires layers…lots of them. That one elusive device or trick that makes a flat character three-dimensional doesn’t exist. It takes many tools to fashion a person the reader will care about. I’d like to share a simple tool I’ve added to my writing craft box, one I picked up from twenty years of helping novice actors excel on the stage.

According to Albert Mehrabin, a noted expert on nonverbal communication, only 7% of what we communicate is communicated with words. The other 93% is communicated with 55% body language and 38% vocal intonation. Where do these alarming numbers leave wordsmiths like us? Up a creek…unless we learn to manipulate our words in order to give our characters movement and sound.

One quick and easy way to make progress toward accomplishing this feat is with costuming.

Far too often we dress our characters in jeans and a shirt and send them forth in our WIP without further consideration. But taking a moment to select costume pieces that either restrict or increase a character’s fluidity of movement can create mental body language specific for that character. Simply by adding body language, we’ve increased the believability of a character’s dialogue by 55%.  

How does costuming work? For the stage, I can take a stay-at-home mom who’s comfortable in her sweats and costume her in a suit and heels and suddenly she moves like the CEO of a major corporation. Can this happen on the page? Absolutely.

In her stunning debut novel, The Russian Concubine, Kate Furnivall gives an example of costuming’s influence upon a character’s fluidity of movement. When Alfred, an uppity Englishman, makes his stage entrance in the middle of a filthy Chinese market, he is dressed in a cream linen suit. Immediately, the reader sees a man desperate to keep himself pristine. Ever tried to keep a toddler’s sticky hands off of your white blouse? Then you have a mental visual of how Alfred would move to protect his clothes in this uncomfortable environment. And it is in our mental movements of Alfred that he suddenly becomes…more real.

Want to know more about creating characters that leap from the page? Visit my StageWrite blog and follow along as we investigate ways to use costuming to create well-drawn characters and then use costume changes to create that illusive character arc. Or if you are the impatient type and would rather not have this information piecemealed out, order the Paper Doll CD from me and hear the whole spiel.