Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What OW Can Teach Us About Building a Better Hero

There's been a lot--possibly too much--said about the Ordain Women "movement" (can we call it a movement when it's so tiny?) lately. This isn't a religion blog, but today a comment on a Facebook thread abut OW struck me. The commenter was an LDS woman who mentioned that she had two friends, who had been leaders in the young woman's program, resign their church memberships and even divorce their husbands over the controversy.

These women were demonstrably strong and, just like that, they... weren't. If we look at the church as a fantasy magic system, the antagonist just scored some major points, yes?

This got me thinking about Kaladin in Words of Radiance, Brandon Sanderson's brilliant second book in his Stormlight Archive series.

Kaladin is one of the most heroic heroes I've ever met. [Minor Way of Kings Spoiler Alert] Kaladin started as a gentle surgeon's apprentice, went to war to protect his younger brother, lost his younger brother, stayed at war to protect others who were weak, became a powerful leader, lost everything, lost everything a few more times, wound up bound to a living hell, crawled from the literal and figurative pit to lead others once again, and ended up by the end of the first book a legendary figure who had saved thousands of lives and elevated himself and his friends from dust to eye-popping influence.

If there is something you need done, Kaladin can get it done. Something killed, someone protected, a battle won, a puzzle solved, a life saved: Kaladin can do it all. Lesser men should just stand aside, for Kaladin is IT. A leader of leaders, a friend of the fallen, inspirational and awesome. 

But, as Mr. Sanderson knows better than any of us poor imitators, flawless characters are rather boring in book two. (True in fiction, true in life.)

I'm not going to spoil Words of Radiance, since the book is 1008 pages long and has been out for less than a year, but know this: Kaladin is also deeply flawed, and one main flaw prevents him from becoming EVEN MORE AWESOME than he was at the end of Way of Kings. That flaw comes this-close to destroying all the good he was trying to accomplish. Clinging to that flaw, in fact, LOST HIM a great measure of the good he had already accomplished.

Only when he overcomes that flaw can he come into his full measure of awesomeness. And. It. Is. Awesome.

Mr. Sanderson is brilliant. Lesser authors would have struggled to tear down such a paragon of all things good as Kaladin had become. His strategy, though, is rather timeless: he took Kaladin's greatest strength and then simply made Kaladin RELY ON IT. Kaladin was a great leader? What if Kaladin was unwilling to follow? Kaladin was a friend to the underclasses? What if he held the upperclasses in contempt? Kaladin was great at surviving hardship? What if he accepted hardship as solely the work of cruel fate, and took no personal responsibility in the events that shaped him?

I'll stop there: read The Stormlight Archive. You'll thank me.

Let's discuss someone who is even better than Brandon Sanderson at taking extreme strength and turning it into weakness. Someone, perhaps, who was once called the Son of the Morning, but became the Father of Lies. What would HE do if he wanted to turn our greatest strengths into our greatest weaknesses? How would he convince a strong, intelligent, faithful woman to turn her back on the power she'd embraced since birth? How would he convince others to follow her? How would he convince them all that everything they once knew to be true was flawed, rotted, and powerless?

The strong can be too strong when they rely only on their own strength.

The intelligent can become idiots when they erroneously believe themselves the masters of all knowledge.

The faithful can become apostates when their faith turns inward instead of upward.

Do you have a character in your WIP who needs to be taken down a notch or two? Have you someone in your story who hasn't quite suffered enough for true change? Perhaps you should stop building in extra weaknesses and start inflating their strengths. Tell him he's wonderful, that he's always right, and that others--especially those the character himself has always looked to for guidance--would be wise to heed his counsel. Convince her she's invincible. Whisper that she's infallible. Let her glory in the wonderous joy of being practically perfect in every way.

Then just turn them loose and watch them fall. 

Won't that be awesome? Insta-tenderized characters all set for your build-them-back-up plot lines. Wiser and humbler and far more teachable heroes ready to step onto the higher plane of powerful perfection. And all you need to do is knock them off the pedestal you convinced them they belonged on. Spectacular fall, hard rebuild, fantastic end.

Just what every writer--or human--needs.

On a more serious note, my wise friend Jared Garrett posted an excellent commentary on Facebook yesterday that basically reminded all of us that 1) the best discipline is all about RETURNING someone to grace, and 2) exulting in anyone's fall from grace is... bad. Real bad. 

Let's all be like my friend, Donna Weaver, who, while she was reading the bad-Kaladin parts of Words of Radiance, kept texting me, seeking reassurance that her beloved hero would come out right in the end. Who was so agonized over his slightly less-awesome decisions that she wanted to avert her eyes and not finish reading it at all. Who loved him too much to take joy in watching him squander his potential.

None of us have seen the endings of our real-life stories. It would behoove us all to check our judgment of others and to take careful inventory of our own strengths, lest we, like Kaladin and so many others, fall prey to the oldest trick in the book.

So what's your favorite way to tear your hero to shreds?

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

What I've Been Doing Instead of Writing

I'm planning to get better at blogging. Soon. I AM! If nothing else, I have hours of notes from writer's conferences to share, and heaven knows I need to have some sort of accountability to get back to writing.

Lately, though, other things have been more important (I know, I know, incredible but true). The end of school was... time consuming. We made it, and everyone is advancing to the next grade, but it was touch-and-go. One young son was one retake away from summer school. (He utterly aced the retake, by the way, proving he's smart enough, if we can find a way to motivate him to study. Money will be involved next year.)

To relax from the frenzy of the end of the school year, I took a weekend to attend a different kind of conference. Have you noticed there're seminars to teach you about every major aspect of life? I've learned about the law and about writing that way, so it was just natural that I'd want to learn about dating that way, too. I attended a wonderful seminar in South Jordan a couple weekends ago taught by Alisa Snell, Utah's Dating Coach, working with The LDS Matchmaker. Just for fun, the same day, I attended a casting call for The Mormon Bachelorette. (I know, right? It gets worse.)

I applied to BE the Season 5 Mormon Bachelorette. I even made the required 2 minute video, which I'm only linking to here because, well, after so many months of zero posts, NO ONE is reading my blog anymore. So, here. I'd embed it, but, honestly, the video is unlisted. You can't find it without the link.

In all honesty, I auditioned because dating and this kind of personal publicity both scare me. It's not so much the inevitable rejection--I'm totally old hat with rejection. It's the requirement of opening myself up to the possibility of someone who WON'T reject me. Of being vulnerable in the dating scene. I'm not sure I'm good at that, but I want to be, because, well, that's what I need to succeed, right? Though it's unlikely I'll actually be chosen as the next Mormon Bachelorette, I'm hoping the application process will at least... tenderize me. In a good way.

Anyway, chosen or not, there's a chance my little video will be viewed by a virtual score of people, and those people might be coming here at some point, and I really just want to have something friendly to say to them. (Uh... hi!)

So... what important things pull YOU away from writing... or whatever else you SHOULD be doing?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Twist of Luck Blog Tour

[Jaclyn was smart enough to write her own blog post (she spent a lot of time with me at LTUE and knows how scattered I can get). So, in her own words, heeeerrrrres Jacklyn!]

Every day a different blog will post a question. When you find the answer, send an email to me at:   jaclynweist@gmail.com

I will draw a winner each day from those that got it correct. You can find the answers on Wikipedia.

The answers will also be posted the next day on the next post in the tour, along with the next trivia question. Some questions deal with colors of the rainbow. Other questions deal with leprechauns.

And, of course, at the end of the rainbow, there's a pot of gold. In that pot of gold will be an Amazon gift card! Those that answer questions by sending me an email will be entered to win the gift card on the last day.

And don't forget to purchase a copy of book one, Stolen Luck. The great news is that it's $.99 right now!

Good luck!!

Yesterday's Answer:

Stolen Luck is set in Burley, Idaho — not far from where Jaclyn grew up.

Today's Question:

The background color on the Irish coat of arms is called St. Patrick's ________.

The prize:

A cute leprechaun charm! Carry it in your pocket for good luck!

About Twist of Luck

Megan finally has her luck back and hopes that life will return to normal. Unfortunately, the magical world has other plans. Suddenly, she find she has fairies following her to provide security, dragons become a constant threat, and an imp tracks her every move. As if that wasn’t enough, her luck begins to manifest itself in ways she could never imagine.

About Jaclyn:

Jaclyn is an Idaho farm girl who grew up loving to read. She developed a love for writing as a senior in high school, when her dad jokingly said she was the next Dr. Seuss (not even close but very sweet). She met her husband, Steve at BYU and they have six happy, crazy children that encourage her writing. After owning a bookstore and running away to have adventures in Australia, they settled back down in their home in Utah. Jaclyn now spends her days herding her kids to various activities and trying to remember what she was supposed to do next.

Find the answer and tomorrow's question at: www.kristawayment.com

Friday, January 17, 2014

Hope's Watch by Donna K. Weaver--with a rafflecopter

Have I mentioned how much fun it is to have author friends? Especially when they're the sort where I can say I "knew them when?" And since I only pick awesome friends, all my wanna-be author friends who actually become authors are still friends. I. Love. That.

Even better is when your author friends are some of your favorite authors, and you don't have to just pretend to like their books. :)

In the interests of full disclosure, Donna Weaver is such a friend. This February will be my fourth year (wow) staying at her house for LTUE. I've watched her grow from wanna-be to awesome author and I couldn't be happier for her.

Donna's first book, A Change of Plans, told the story of Lyn and Braedon, who fell in love on a cruise and, after a pirate attack, spent a year or so marooned together on a tropical island. If you haven't read it, you simply must. Buy it on sale this week on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Hope's Watch is a short story about the friends they left behind, especially Lyn's best friend--and the woman who convinced her to go on the darn cruise in the first place--Elle.

But first, the pretty cover:

Elle Reinhardt loves people and has a gift for turning groups of strangers into friends. When she talks her best friend Lyn into taking a month-long Pacific cruise, Elle is in her element, gathering fellow passengers to her. But things go horribly wrong when a ship excursion ends in death and disaster at the hands of modern-day pirates.

Filled with her own emotional wounds from the experience, Elle tries desperately to buoy up the grieving loved ones as they wait for news on those lost at sea. Malcolm Armstrong, friend of one of the missing men, arrives to act as family spokesman. Elle knows it’s unreasonable, but she resents his presence. When Mal offers the strength she so desperately needs, will she be able to let go of her animosity and accept his support?

This ebook-exclusive short story includes special excerpts from both A Change of Plans and Torn Canvas.

You can also buy Hope's Watch at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

In case you're wondering, Torn Canvas is also a spin-off book about another of Lyn and Braedon's cruise friends. That's coming out later this year.

To celebrate the release of Hope's Watch, Donna is giving away $50! Seriously. Behold the Rafflecopter:

Oh, and if you're not doing so already, you're gonna want to stalk Donna: