Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You Will Need A Sidekick, Trust Me

by Terri Wagner

Does anyone think Batman and not follow that with Robin? Can you say Qui Gon Jinn without saying Obi Wan Kenobi? Han Solo without Chewbacca? Sherlock Holmes without Mr. Watson? And in a very dramatic way Dr. Jekyll without Mr. Hyde? The list is probably endless. But exactly what are sidekicks and what is their literary function?

Ultimately your sidekick is the reader. By that I mean the sidekick says or does things that helps the reader understand what is going on...gives the main character a chance to show off his/her brilliance. The MC bounces things off the sidekick which gives the reader inside information. Generally though not always the sidekick is slightly denser than the MC. In Star Wars, of course, Chewbacca did not even speak. But his muffled roars gave us a pretty good idea of what he was thinking. Your sidekick is a critical part of your story. Choose well how you define him. Most writers blog now, and they can give you pretty good advice on how to develop your sidekick. Even down to names. For example, did you know a sidekick never has a name that starts with the MC's name, i.e., Lana is the MC, Lilian would NOT be the sidekick. That sidekicks are usually simple easy-to-remember names. These are not set in concrete as any fantasy reader/writer can tell you. However, it is a start. Pick your sidekick's vocation. It must mesh in some way with the MC. Cop shows usually have a quirky coroner that adds some fun in otherwise gruesome scenes.

A sidekick is generally the likeable character, especially if your MC has some dark sides to him. For example, early on in Star Wars and in the current sequel, Han Solo had a dark side, a murky past...you were never really sure if he could be considered the hero type...but Chewbacca served as his conscience...which lead to Solo becoming a hero and a dad reaching out to a son that unfortunately did not end well. A sidekick almost always has the opposite personality of the MC. And a sidekick is almost always by the MC's side. They can be the comic relief in a tense situation. Or the as in the case Samwise Gamgee in Lord of the Rings, Frodo's rock to lean on during the difficult journey. Samwise is a great example of a sidekick in that he has one mission to assist Frodo...he distrusts most everyone and so functions as a warning to Frodo not to be so trusting, he is average in looks with one passion, the young lady back home in the shire that he wants to marry. He is also rather plain looking. This is more important if your MC is depicted as being considerably handsome, charming, or extremely clever.

Here are a few blogs to check out about sidekicks

Yappy Sidekick

Kick up your story with a sidekick

Sidekick Archetype

Saturday, November 26, 2016

What’s In A Name?

What’s In A Name?

I’m Deb. Although it’s not an uncommon name, certainly not an interesting name, I’m particular about it. If you call me Debbie, I may not respond, and the only places I tolerate being addessed as Debora is in doctor's offices. No need to get chummy there.

 My brothers married Debbie and Deborah. At the very least, that shows a distinct lack of imagination. Growing up, there were at least three or four Debs/Debbies/Debras in every class. Names run in streaks, you know.

By adulthood, I’d had enough. I determined to name my children not-typical names. We ended up with Mollika, Bjorn-Josef, and Darthaniel. I’m convinced Darthaniel was born three weeks late because Husband insisted on naming him D'Artagnan; you know, from the Three Musketeers story. It took me a while to find a close-enough name he’d go for.

Tell me, how would a child with an apostrophe ever get through kindergarten? As it was, our boy hated his name his first month of school. The rule was, “As soon as you write your name, you may go play.” Tim and Sue had the advantage, while Darthaniel and Stephanie struggled with their extra letters. They soon became “Stef” and “Darth.” In the age of “Star Wars,” that had its own drawbacks.

My criterion for names is that they should be interesting, and must be pronounceable at a glance. I met a woman named Alycyee, who insisted her name was Alice. What were her parents thinking? Same with my friend’s daughter, Kuqwinnsce, whose name sounds like Quincy. Husband’s uncle, Maurice, says his name is Morris, not pronounced Mor EES, as it’s spelled.

As I’ve dabbled in fiction writing, working on Novels #2 and #3, I find my opinion is the same for naming characters. It’s slightly less agonizing than naming a full human, but still important. If you pick the wrong time period or geography, it may jar the reader. A Native American warrior will probably not be named Giovanni, any more than a medieval princess be called Lulu.

        Partway through my first cozy mystery, I needed a name for the kooky cruise director. I wanted to name her Lisle. I’ve always I liked that name, and we didn’t have enough daughters to inflict it on. As I mulled it over, I could plainly “hear” the character blurt “Lisle rhymes with weasel, and that won’t do for a public relations job, so I’m Cinci, from Cincinnati.” Cinci turned into a favorite character—and what a character she is!

        I’m all in favor of talking to myself– sometimes, it’s the only guaranteed attentive audience– but coming from a non-fiction background, hearing voices in my head that didn’t sound like my own was unnerving. I learned to listen to the characters speak as if they were already developed, just waiting for me to wrap words around their story.

           As you write, try listening to the character’s voice, envisioning them speaking to you. After all, names are meant to be personal, validating, and imaginative, within reason. I draw the line at ridiculous names, such as the little boy named Fruit Stand, and his sister, Celestial Being, called Bea.

       Life’s hard enough, without one’s own moniker being a handicap.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

by Kari Diane Pike

Happy Thanksgiving! As a neighbor pointed out the other day, this is a day of giving thanks, and a day for giving. What are you thankful for? What are willing to give and to whom will you give?

Dear Hubby and I are hanging out in Utah for this Thanksgiving holiday. Two of our nieces chose this week to marry their sweethearts for time and all eternity. So bonus: We get to spend time with many different branches of our family all in the same week. Extra bonus: The most beautiful snow fall I have seen in many years. Great big, downy flakes drifted to the ground, piling up almost four inches in the three or so hours we spent preparing dinner and pie crusts and sipping hot chocolate and playing Five Crowns. Of course we had to step outside and celebrate...and take a picture. We even had enough on the ground to make snow angels.

I have been pondering on the virtue of gratitude lately, and not just because dear hubby answered a phone call from a member of the bishopric asking us to speak in church this coming Sunday on the topic of gratitude. To me, gratitude is a virtue that leads to the development of all the other virtues. Gratitude has taught me how to recognize trials as blessings all wrapped up in paper and string. Gratitude teaches me how to forgive as I recognize the role others have played in my life to teach me humility, patience, and charity - and who open my eyes to understanding and seeing that we are all children of a Heavenly Father who loves us and who wants all of us to return to live with Him someday.

I shared this quote a couple of years ago. I still love it:
 It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach? Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.
—Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "Grateful in Any Circumstances
Life is magnificent!

Friday, November 18, 2016

Acrostic Poems and Gratitude

Photo attribution: Pexels.com
My friend Mary introduced us to poetry at our last Chapter Meeting (and at the NW Retreat, if you were there).  One of the types she introduced were acrostic.  Which, for me, is almost do-able. In an effort to broaden my horizons, and to celebrate one of my favorite times of year, I've written a few to share.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Thoughtful teachers who challenge my children
Hot cocoa on a cold winter night
ANWA sisters and brothers to lift me up
No more political posts!!
Kneeling to converse with my Father in Heaven
Friends who offer undying support
Unadulterated love from my family
Laughter until my stomach hurts


Turkey until I'm bursting at the seams
Holiday cheer fills the air
Apple cider warms the tummy
November frost nipping at our noses
Knee-deep in mashed potatoes
Sweet and savory delights makes mouths water
Gratitude is the attitude
Introducing young ones to Thanksgiving parades
Victory dance after football games
Icicles dripping to puddles in the snow
Not quite Christmas
Grateful for my abundance

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Font Fun

by Terri Wagner

Because things have been so nuts lately I just thought I would share this little meme from Facebook. Picture worth a thousand words?

Saturday, November 12, 2016



SPOONS   by Deb Graham

A little boy, about age eight, stood on Testimony Day in our ward at Church. He said, "I've been trying to think of my blessings, and today I thought about spoons." He went on to talk about his deep gratitude for spoons, of all the overlooked things.

He said he was glad he could eat his breakfast cereal with a spoon before Church, "because it's hard to suck Cap'n Crunch and still keep my Sunday shirt clean."  He talked about playing in the sandbox with his little brothers on Saturday, and said spoons were just the right tool for tunneling under the castle. He liked the soup his mother made for dinner last night, and said, “good thing I had a spoon, or those noodles could have gone right in my lap."  Spoons, he said, were the best thing ever for eating ice cream. “Just think of how much you'd miss if you had to use a fork, or chopsticks!"

 People in the congregation were chuckling by now, but it set me to thinking. I've never been thankful for spoons. I've hardly even given thought to spoons at all! 

Historically, I know forks were important. The Pilgrims only had a knife and a deep wooden spoon to eat with; forks were harder to make, thus more expensive and rare, and ownership of more than one or two was even considered a sign of pridefulness. Often only one fork was available per household, used by the cook for turning over dinner in the pot. And of course knives are essential; if people didn't have knives to eat with, manners would be out the window, along with the Flintstone-sized bones after dinner. No dainty bites for you! But spoons... hhmmm...

      I paid extra attention to spoons the whole next day. I used two for breakfast (I don't like hot cocoa in my Frosted Flakes). I used another two to make Et Cetera soup for lunch; a wooden one to stir, a smaller metal one to spoon leftover rice and vegetables into the pot. Oh, wait; I also ate the soup; that's three. I made Killer Chocolate cookies later on that day. Let's see; I used one spoon to pack the brown sugar, a measuring spoon, a wooden spoon to stir the chocolate chips in, and two teaspoons to drop the dough on the pans. I finished painting the philodendron vines on the wall by the laundry room, and used a plastic spoon to stir the paint. Repotting my teacup orchid required another plastic spoon. I cooked dinner, using two wooden spoons in the preparing, and a large spoon and a slotted spoon for serving, plus I set the table, one spoon at each place setting. I polished off the last of the lemon pudding before bed; that was the fluted spoon that I like best. That's nineteen different spoons---in one ordinary day!

          I'm a lot more aware of spoons in my life, but what other tiny everyday items do we overlook, things that make our lives so much better? Toothbrushes, erasers, tissues, buttons, soap? Think about it, next time you pick up a spoon, and in this season of Thanksgiving, count your blessings!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Ultimate Weapon

by Kari Diane Pike

Recent attempts to broaden my reading horizons and (guilty admission here) a search for something to binge on on Netflix because I watched every episode of Gilmore Girls and needed something to tide me over until the new episodes come out, brought my attention to a particular theme common to nearly every genre: the search for the ultimate weapon (like a super soldier) - someone or something to defend and protect from or even destroy the enemy.

They need not look any further. I encountered a real life secret weapon last Sunday. Code name: "Sunbeams". Sunbeams (for those not familiar with vocabulary from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints - Sunbeams are the children who are three-years-old, turning four) have the ability to enervate even the most experienced adult. They lure the poor patsy in with shy, dimpled smiles and coy giggles.  They peek from behind their parents' backs, wave their chubby fingers, and create a false sense acceptance. Once left alone with their common enemy,  Sunbeams synergize and zero in on their victim's greatest vulnerabilities. They take no prisoners. They paralyze and then suck their prey dry. Except for the tears. Sunbeams leave behind lots of tears. I should know. I was there. Me, a veteran mom with more than thirty-five years and nine plus more children worth of experience.

I knew I was in trouble when one of the four Sunbeams in the class declared: "Don't listen to her. Let's play pretend and I'll be the king and you can be the princesses  and the wizard and she (meaning me) can be the witch because she doesn't talk nice to us."

I had told them I was disappointed in them because they were using their outside voices and not listening to the story. I would have to talk to their parents, I said. They would be sad, I said. I guess I did lay it on a little thick. Plus, I didn't have food. Never  let yourself get trapped with Sunbeams without food or they will turn on you. Really, really fast.

I changed my tactics and we spent the rest of class time singing and playing "Button, Button, Who's Got the Button." Their parent's picked them up at the door. My husband took me to the car where I melted into a puddle of tears.

For some reason, I can't wait to go back. Maybe that's what makes them the ultimate weapon. The enemy actually wants to go back for more. I really do love those Sunbeams. Some days are easier than others. You can bet I will be better prepared from now on. I will go in armed with prayer, patience, smiles, love, and lots of snacks.

Life is magnificent!