Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Make the Protagonist Choose the Ultimate Sacrifice

by Lisa Rector

I don’t know about you, but when the protagonist makes the ultimate sacrifice, that grabs me as a reader. That cements me to the character and into the story. As the character wrestles with making the choice, depth is added to the story and the character. And in the end, the sacrifice is what makes the protagonist a hero.

How can we make our protagonist choose the ultimate sacrifice in our writing?

One example of sacrifice a character has to make is in the TV series Moonlight. Vampire private eye Mick St. John has finally become human, and he no longer has his supernatural strength. He’s mortal. He could die. His beloved Beth, a human, is kidnapped. Her life is in danger, and Mick cares about her more than anything in the world. The only way he can save her is by becoming a vampire again, the one thing he despises most. Mick would give anything to stay human, but Beth is more important to him than his humanity. He makes the choice to become a vampire again, and we see that emotion when, in anguish, he slams his friend against the wall and shouts, “They’ve got my Beth!”

Mick convinces his vampire bud Joseph to bite him. As the camera zooms in on Mick as Joseph comes in for the bite, the look on Mick’s face says it all—he just made the ultimate sacrifice—to save someone else. Fans love this! It’s heartbreaking. And it makes a gripping scene.

As a writer, ask yourself—What ultimate sacrifice might the protagonist make to save someone else? What is the biggest deal, the worst thing he could do to himself for the sake of another? Who or what is so important that the protagonist would make this sacrifice? Now set up your story so the protagonist will have a choice to make. And the options aren’t good. The character is in a tough spot—stuck between a bad option and a worse option. Now ask—What series of events will bring your protagonist to the decision that will have to be made? Figuring this out will take some plotting, but the results will be worth the time.

Going back to the sacrifice. What are some things the protagonist might sacrifice? It might be his humanity. The trust of someone he loves so he can be honest with them. Maybe his sacrifice pulls him into a dark place, making him a person he loathes, or his dark side emerges because of his actions, but for the character, the sacrifice would be worth it as long as the loved one is safe. (Think Anikan in Star Wars.) The protagonist might give his life for another, (but death isn’t always the worst fate.)

Whatever the sacrifice, make the choice agonizing. Make the stakes high. Make repercussions follow. The choice has to be so tortured and life changing that the reader will feel it too, especially if the setup in the beginning of the novel is done right and the character is someone the reader is invested in.

My Vampire

Vampires, creatures of darkness.
Their favorite treats… storm sprites.

The blood of a storm sprite makes an intoxicating elixir for most supernatural beings, including vampires. After Killian, a reclusive vampire, comes across Sasha, a rare storm sprite, and saves her life, they develop an unlikely friendship. Because of his constant cravings for her blood, Killian keeps his distance while protecting Sasha from the supernaturals hungering for her. But as his behaviors change and he draws closer, Sasha’s no longer sure of his motivations. One day his cravings will become too much.

When a woman’s brutal murder spirals a hunt for an amulet that has demonic powers, Sasha and Killian are stuck between the feuding demons and vampires who are determined to possess the amulet’s secrets. Sasha must find the amulet for her protection—before she ends up on the wrong end of a demon’s blade, or worse, has her throat ripped out by the vampire she calls hers.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Eliminating Distance by Cutting Out the Filters

by Lisa Rector

I recently read about eliminating distance in writing by cutting out filter words and was able to create an analogy to answer a spiritual question.
Try to follow me.

Filter words create distance between the reader and the story and pull the reader out of a deep emotional experience. By cutting filter words, the reader is drawn into the story and holds on to a meaningful connection with the character.

So, jumping back to the spiritual. Here’s the question. How can we repair the breach between God and us?

How did I use eliminating distance by cutting out filter words as an example to answer this question?

I’ll start by saying, “Don’t put distance between yourself and God. Cut out all the filters.”
How do we do that?

In literature, I often see writers use modals. For instance.

I could hear God.

Usually, the sentence is written this way when a character is in a hazy state or is about to pass out. They can hear but can’t see, and writers like to make sure the readers know it.
But the modal can or could is not necessary.
Let’s go a step farther.

I heard God.

You still might not be able to see God, but you definitely hear Him. But why use the filter word? Heard is passive, creating distance once again between the reader and the story.
So what’s next?
Try writing it this way.

God speaks to me.

The writer has cut out the filter word. The sentence is active. God speaking to the character is a sure thing. It’s written in a powerful way.

So we go from hazily hearing God to hearing Him to acknowledging the He speaks to us.

Let’s pretend the filter words are a metaphor for something in our lives that creates distance between God and us. What can we cut out to restore or strengthen the relationship? What in our lives bogs us down, only letting us vaguely hear promptings? What blocks the connection between Deity and us? What keeps us from drawing closer to God and having a deep abiding trust in Him? How can we have an active relationship with God?

The first step is acknowledging the things we need to do to repair the breach, whatever it may be. And then act. If we do these things and ponder the above questions, we can have a greater relationship with our Father in Heaven.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Potato Chip Rock

I had a grand adventure a couple of weeks ago with my son.

Have you ever heard of Potato Chip Rock? Didn’t think so unless you live near Poway, CA. One more bucket list item checked off. I hadn’t even heard of it until I moved away from that city. The hike is a 2 mile trek up Mt. Woodson.

My son Brian was my guide. It’s the toughest 4 mile hike I’ve ever gone on. 

We hiked through beautiful terrain.

I made myself notice the beauty every few minutes when I stopped and gasped for breath.

We climbed 1,300 feet in elevation in the 2 miles up.

Potato Chip Rock deserves its name, and I wish I could have had my picture taken on top, but I couldn’t climb up the crack in the rock necessary to reach it.

I waited my turn in line, but when I needed to raise my knee to about waist height especially in that small space, my back said, “Don’t do it.” I didn’t. Still worth the hike.

The descent was easier, but by then my body was telling me “enough!” Brian made sure I drank enough water all along the way, and gave me a granola bar for calories before starting down.

I was surprised I didn’t have sore muscles the next day. My calves were burning on the way up, and the top of my thighs on the way down.

Was I disappointed that I couldn’t go to the top of Potato Chip Rock? Yes! But not devastated. At my age I’m thankful I could take the journey with my son. 

One on one time with any of my children is always special. 

It’s an adventure I’ll always remember.

I can do hard things, but I still have to be smart, and know when to let it go.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Succoring Us in Our Afflictions

By Lisa Rector

Part of Christ succoring us is not only giving us strength or patience to endure out infirmities, but also allowing a moment when the Spirit confirms a comforting truth that heals us emotionally and spiritually. “This is the power the Savior extends to us to succor us in our trials.” (Darren Wilcox, October 2017 Ensign) This is the power that comes to us through His atonement.

For example, we know that when our loved ones die, we don’t really lose them. They are waiting for us on the other side of the veil. But in the midst of our grief and affliction, we are often so weighed down by our sorrows that, until we receive again the confirming witness of the Spirit, re-declaring to us what we already know, our darkness won’t lift and turn to light. But as long as we put forth effort—studying and praying to God and trusting in His son, eventually that confirmation will come and bring us relief. It may come in a light-bulb moment, when darkness turns to light, after we go through our own personal Gethsemane and experience the darkness and bitterness.

I have felt the darkness turned to light. I have had my own light-bulb moment when the Spirit confirmed a spiritual truth to my soul that healed me from depression. I know there is power in the atonement to heal us. The Savior truly does succor us in our afflictions.

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Canary: Artificial Fragrances and Environmental Toxins: Are They Making You Sick?

by Lisa Rector

Canaries are vulnerable and highly sensitive to toxins, making them useful as early detectors of toxic gases. Because of this, miners would take them underground. If a canary became sick or died in the mine, the miners knew to put on protective respirators or to get out of there.

I know you've seen this in movies.

The reality is toxic gases aren’t just underground.

You may have heard of fragrance allergies or sensitivities. You may have friends who declare they get headaches from smells. That’s because something in the environment is toxic and is reacting with their system.

Don’t just ignore them or brush their symptoms off. They are one of the unlucky few that are cueing the rest of the world to how toxic it really is. They are real life canaries.

Are we listening to the canaries?

Take it from a real life canary who is highly sensitive. Every synthetic fragrance makes me sick. This canary is ill on a regular basis and is “sick” of it.

I had a recent exposure to some sort of fragrance. The following is a simple timeline after exposure. At the time, I didn’t connect my symptoms with the cause. Only when I was standing right next to the source and my symptoms dramatically became worse did I realize what the cause was.

My first clue should have been the ringing in my ears.

Within five minutes after entering the area, while waiting for guests to arrive, I said, “Whoa, my ears are ringing. That’s weird.”

Within fifteen to twenty minutes, I had a blotchy circular rainbow-colored patch in my vision.

Five minutes later, the blotchy circle shifted to a wavy rainbow of color diagonally across one-third of my vision. Reading because difficult. Concentration was impossible. I couldn’t focus on anything anyone was saying.

At this point I was worried I was having a stroke. I was prepared to interrupt the goings-on and have someone call 911. But my speech wasn’t garbled. So instead I sat there and prayed quietly to myself.

A few seconds after I finished my prayer, a fan came on, creating airflow. This is when the wavy rainbow lifted upward until it left my field of vision. Feeling shaky and disoriented still.

As event concludes, vision is clear, but flulike symptoms begin to increase. Disorientation. Headache. General feeling of malaise.

Make it home. Awake for most of the night because of extreme side effects. Mostly pounding head. Body aches. Brain fog. Edgy.

As I am writing this, I am still having side effects. Typing is really hard. I have to correct every other word because my fingers keep hitting the wrong keys.

Toxins are in our environment. They are everywhere. They are making people sick, causing things from ADHD and behavior issues to migraines to dementia and Alzheimer’s to Parkinson’s. Even headaches, flulike symptoms, malaise, and disorientation. Who knows what else. If you’re chronically sick, consider getting rid of the toxins in your environment.

Here is a list of some of the things that affect me and should be avoided. Baby wipes, plugins, Febreeze and other sprays, dryer sheets, hand sanitizer, perfumes, household cleaners, cigarette smoke, and scented candles, diffusers, and warmers using artificial fragrances.

I am the canary. You may not be feeling the effects, but the toxins are getting into your system. Do you really want to expose your children to this stuff?

Think about it.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Giving Thanks

Today’s the day we remember to be thankful. It’s common to go around the table and mention what we’re thankful for. It’s usually the big things, Mom & Dad, healing, food, modern conveniences, health, a child’s teddy bear, home, and so forth.
This post will point out different ways to find gratitude. For one week, notice everyone and everything that helps, encourages, or lifts your spirits in any way: The clerk in the store that smiles at you, the spouse that says “good morning,” the Face Book post that makes you smile, birds singing in the trees, trees, the sun shining, the Face Book post that inspires you, the clouds that bring needed rain or snow, and on and on. See how many you can find in one day. It doesn’t matter if it gets silly, nobody will know except you.
Living a life filled with gratitude will make us happier. Look for that silver lining in the cloud hanging over you. Even if you have lost a loved one, ponder the joys they brought into your life. Find someone else with trials, and lift their spirits. Lift the person you think least needs it. Chances are they also have a heavy load to carry.
Joy and happiness are born of Gratitude. Gordon T. Watts

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Struggle is Real

By Lisa Rector

I’ve been dealing with several different health problems this year, and I’m about crushed with exhaustion. Having health issues is very isolating and often people don’t understand. But I do. I haven’t really been questioning why, but more really, how much longer can I endure? 

I have many moments when I have felt God’s help, and it has been humbling. I don’t blame him, and I’m not angry at him, but I’m frustrated. I’m putting forth so much effort every day just to stay mobile, and it’s tiring. I have felt the spirit guiding me with things I need to do to help myself. There are some areas where I had to give up things, and this leaves a lot of guilt, so I am trying not to be too hard on myself. 

A sister missionary said in church one Sunday that she always says the phrase, “The struggle is real,” but conference helped her see it in a new light. Now she says, “The struggle is really good for us.” I wanted to get up and leave the meeting, but I mostly choked back tears. I have had many struggles in my life. Mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and now physically, which I think is the hardest one for me to bear. I try to look at how my struggles might help me grow, and I wonder what I agreed to in the spirit realm when I said, “Yeah, I will tackle that trial.” 

What was I thinking? 

I’m questioning my strength to endure. But I was reminded today through a song called “King of the World” by Natalie Grant that God is in control. I at least know that he will multiply whatever little effort we can put forth.

And so here I am, slugging along for another day. Whatever I have to give will be enough, because it has to be, because it’s all I have.