Merry Christmas – A Season For Family

Photo by moniquef12

Photo by moniquef12

This Christmas I feel so very blessed for each one of you who have read my blog and traveled with me on this journey!

Over the next few weeks my blog will be going through a holiday renovation. No, we are not taking away the Super Sleuth Challenge, or writing tips, or other fun features. I’m just inviting some incredible author friends to join me.

Watch for the big event week to launch the new year here at thoughtsonplot.com with prizes, surprise unveiling of the newly extended blog family, and fun for all.

Until the first week of January, my blog’s elves will be working their magic…okay, maybe they don’t have pointy ears. I can’t wait to see you in the new year!

From Christmas Programs, to baking cookies, shopping, family gatherings, and the wonder of the season, I am running full tilt ahead. This holiday I’ve spent a bit less time online and more time with family.

Sometimes it is okay to take a deep breath and find joy in the simple things. I hope you are able to do that this season as well.

Settle back with a cup of hot chocolate and watch the tree lights chase one another, sprinkle reindeer food in your yard, bake goodies with your children, go sledding, and read an amazing book.

Embrace the joy of the Savior this season above all else. A tiny baby revolutionized the world, may He revolutionize your heart.

This year I’m excited to help direct the children’s Christmas musical at our church. I’m singing with my kids, sorting through costumes, practicing lines, and enjoying the fun they bring to the season.

We will be baking tons of gluten free, egg free, milk free goodies that taste amazing! A yummy and messy adventure.

But most of all, just being together as a family is the best thing about the season. Time to share hugs, adventures, and Jesus.

Until the new year, what are you planning to do to celebrate the season? Do you have a favorite snack, tradition, or event? 

 

3 Tips To Make Your Story Stronger From Olaf And The Movie “Frozen”

Photo by lovetoday

Photo by lovetoday

Snow has pummeled my community with more than sixteen inches in one day last week. We hearty Minnesotans have a love/hate relationship with the snow. We love a white Christmas, winter sports, and hot chocolate. Most of us are not that fond of shoveling.

When I get snowed in with the kids for a “Snow Day,” we love to cuddle up with a great movie. Now that Disney has one named after our winter experience, it is even more fun.

Watching a clip of the movie Frozen with one of my kids, a few things about it struck me that could be applied to story. These 3 Tips To Make Your Story Stronger From Olaf And The Movie Frozen come from the following clip:

3 Tips To Make Your Story Stronger From Olaf And The Movie Frozen:

1. Believability Is Key – No matter how much we love an idea for a story, if it isn’t believable, it can’t happen. Olaf loves the idea of frolicking in summer as much as we love some of our improbable story ideas. They are fun to entertain, but in real life they never work.

2. Be Unpredictable- Not only is it unpredictable that a snowman dreams of one day experiencing summer, but also there are unpredictable moments inside of that unpredictability. He wants a tan, to swim, and do things that are not a everyday snowman type of dream.

Also, the song lyrics are unpredictable, but they play with the humor of the predictable. “Winter is a great time to stay in and cuddle, but in the summer I’d be a … happy snowman.”

Our stories need the unpredictable. Find something about your character that we would never guess and reveal it at an unexpected moment. For example, a rock climber who is afraid of heights. Not possible, right? That all depends. Maybe they are determined not to let it win.

Or, you could have a character who eats at fast food all the time, but you find out they love to cook. Maybe they haven’t cooked much since they have no one to cook for and cooking reminds them of their lonely life.

A great example of this can be found in Rachel Hauck’s book Dining with Joy. The premise of the story is based on a cooking show host who can’t cook.

3. Snarky One Liners – In this section there are two lines of dialogue that really stand out. “I’m guessing you don’t have much experience with heat.” And, “I’m Gonna Tell Him.”

The first line states the obvious in a way that is humorous. A sidekick type character can add these elements so well. They add so much to the unpredictable moments.

The second line states the one thing that could be done to pop the dream bubble for Olaf. Wouldn’t you love to see the character’s expression when they find the truth?

What is your favorite part of the movie Frozen?

Wednesday Super Sleuth Challenge – Legal Or Not, Election Crimes

Photo by ProLife

Photo by ProLife

Hi Super Sleuths! We are starting a new month for the super sleuth challenge. Our Prizes for this month are a $10 Amazon Gift Card and a copy of …

Start reading A Promise to Protect (Logan Point Book #2)

“Acting Sheriff Ben Logan hasn’t heard from Leigh Somerall in a very long time, but it doesn’t mean he can get her–or their whirlwind romance of ten years ago–out of his head. When she calls out of the blue, it is with a strange request to protect her brother, Tony. When Tony dies just days later, Ben is charged with a different task–protecting Leigh and her nine-year-old son, TJ, from the killers. But how can Ben keep an eye on Leigh if she’s doing everything in her power to avoid him? And could the secret that Leigh is keeping change Ben’s life forever?”

***

Hopefully many of you got out to vote yesterday! The elections got me thinking about election crimes. Of course we have heard of hanging chads and voter suppression in past years, but what about the individual voter? What constitutes a voter crime?

How well do we really know the election process? For today’s challenge you will be identifying what you think is an election crime punishable by ballot invalidation and possibly fines or jail time.

Which of the following is an election crime in the United States:

1. In some states it is illegal to post who you voted for on Facebook.

2. In some states it is illegal to share a photo of your ballot on social media.

3. In some states it is illegal to vote without showing a valid photo I.D.

4. In some states it is illegal to text out who you voted for on Twitter.

5. In some states it is illegal to ask poll workers who they voted for.

How is your election savvy? Which of the above actions is a crime?

 

3 Guilt Trips Writers Need To Ignore

Photo by mindfreak

Photo by mindfreak

So you’re a writer. You keep your own hours, but they are set in your mind as the time when you set aside to work. Sometimes they must flow with your creativity and sometimes deadlines require us to buckle down and get words on the page.

Still. You are a writer.

Do you ever feel misunderstood about your career? Do you find yourself feeling guilty for writing?

I have so been there. With four kids, volunteering, church, and other commitments it often gets overwhelming. But to top it off I occasionally let guilt get a hold of me and interfere with my writing.

3 Guilt Trips Writers Need To Ignore:

1. The Volunteer In The Day Trap. Yes, as writers our hours are flexible. But that doesn’t mean that we are required to fill every day time volunteer opportunity just because no one else is available.

Are you really available during that time, or should you be writing? There is absolutely nothing wrong with dedicating your time to serving others, in fact, it is important. But make sure that the reason you are volunteering isn’t out of guilt, but rather a devotion to the group you are serving.

This rule will be a gift to you. You find more joy in serving and it will help others to take your job seriously because you do.

2. I Shouldn’t Spend Time Away From My Kids Trap. Family is number 2 on my list, right after God. They get my love and attention.

Photo by Tuingui

Photo by Tuingui

Is it neglectful to take time to pursue your dream? If you take time for your family and you are there when they need you to show love and support, it is only healthy to have some of your own interests.

A family is not a vacuum where all personal identity is sucked out of you. When this happens you begin to feel invisible, unimportant, and as if you have lost who you are.

Do you want your kids to be dreamers? How will they dream if you haven’t shown them how to pursue your dream?

What a powerful thing to let your kids see you dream. Make them part of your journey. Show them how you break your dreams down into little steps and achieve each a bit at a time. Show them how you budget to support your dream. Make them part of your success and it won’t take away from your family, merely enhance it.

3. The “Oh, Isn’t That Nice” Trap. Every writer has a few people in their life who just don’t understand that writing is a profession. They don’t treat conferences like a professional learning experience, but rather a fun get away with the guys or gals.

Often if you tell them you are working on a book you will get the, “Oh, isn’t that nice,” type of comment. You begin to feel guilty about going to a conference, taking time to write, or even talking about your story.

Never belittle your own career with this guilt trap. Writing is a profession, it requires training, you must put in office hours, and it takes incredible skill.

Don’t feel guilty for talking about your job, everyone else does. It is a part of you. Don’t be afraid to share it. (Although, you may not want to tell “normal” people that you hear your character’s voices, LOL.)

What guilt traps do you have to ignore? Or How do you avoid guilt traps?

Super Sleuth of the Month

Photo by grim12

Photo by grim12

Hi Super Sleuths! Things are changing up a bit on this blog over the next few months. I will be inviting a few other Romantic Suspense and Romance writers to join me. We will still have our Super Sleuth Challenges and other features you have come to enjoy, plus some new and fun features.

It does mean that our sleuthing answers will be posted the following Wednesday for each challenge. Today that is what I have done. The Super Sleuth Challenge Answer is Below our big SUPER SLEUTH OF THE MONTH ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

AND THE Super Sleuth of the Month IS:  JANET B!!!!

Congratulations!! You are the winner of Brandilyn Collins’ book Dark Justice and a $10 Amazon gift card!

***

For those of you who are still waiting for the answer to the Super Sleuth Challenge from last week. The answer is…. ALL OF THESE ARE TRUE:

1. A man with clown pants was staking out a business. He goes up to the main door and looks inside. Then he walks a few feet away on the sidewalk, just out of view of the security camera. The next time the camera sees him he has pulled a ski mask down over his face. Hmmm…I wonder who he is?

2. A burglar was caught trying to loot a house where the police were already inside conducting an interview of a victim of a completely different crime.

3. A man attempted to rob a bank with a toilet plunger.

4. Three criminals held up a university student, taking her money and her car keys… to a stick shift car they couldn’t even drive.

5. A burglar is scared off by the singing Billy Bass.

6. Two men jump out of the bushes at a McDonald’s, fire a shot, and steal a number 7 from the customer exiting the restaurant.

I am amazed at the crazy things people do.

I’d love to hear from you.

Which kind of Super Sleuth Challenges do you like most (criminally challenged, solving mysteries, crime solvers, forensic sleuthing)?

Wednesday Super Sleuth Challenge – Criminally Challenged

Photo by nokomai

Photo by nokomai

This is by far one of my favorite types of Super Sleuth Challenges. Tales of the criminally challenged. By that I mean those who really shouldn’t quit their day jobs.

There is no limit to the number of times I can be surprised by individuals who do the craziest things and all in the name of crime.

We have heard the tales of the Subway toilet tank theif and the crook who had to call for an ambulance after falling off of a roof and breaking bones. This time is no different. A dose of funny with our Wednesday challenge.

For today’s super sleuth challenge see if you can guess which criminally challenged stories actually happened, then leave your comment below for your chance to become the super sleuth of the month.

Which of the following are actually true:

1. A man with clown pants was staking out a business. He goes up to the main door and looks inside. Then he walks a few feet away on the sidewalk, just out of view of the security camera. The next time the camera sees him he has pulled a ski mask down over his face. Hmmm…I wonder who he is?

2. A burglar was caught trying to loot a house where the police were already inside conducting an interview of a victim of a completely different crime.

3. A man attempted to rob a bank with a toilet plunger.

4. Three criminals held up a university student, taking her money and her car keys… to a stick shift car they couldn’t even drive.

5. A burglar is scared off by the singing Billy Bass.

6. Two men jump out of the bushes at a McDonald’s, fire a shot, and steal a number 7 from the customer exiting the restaurant.

7. Numbers 1, 4, and 6.

8. All of the Above

Which of these criminally challenged stories are true?

 

How To Add A Twist To Your Story – Tips From “Frozen”

Photo by Ayla87

Photo by Ayla87

Have you ever despised the linear, flat story line you have going in your novel? If each scene outcome is predictable and you worry your reader will lose interest, then it is time for a change.

Maybe it’s time for an unexpected twist. Easier said than done, right? Still, it doesn’t have to be as complicated as we make it.

Using a technique that I call fringe plotting, or Susan May Warren’s similar technique of peripheral plotting, you can easily bring in believable twists to mix things up.

What exactly is fringe plotting?

It is finding the details or story components on the edge of your current story line and drawing them into the plot in an unexpected way.

Take a look at this clip from Frozen:

What is the fringe plot detail in this clip? The camera man. He is the unexpected element that plays into the clip. It makes the other characters act completely different.

Who is on the fringe of the scene or story line you are working on? How will they make the characters act differently?

Now, notice the carrot. The carrot is an object on the fringe of the plot when Olaf is sitting on the moose’s back and he doesn’t want to move. It is unexpected that Olaf takes off his nose as incentive, but the nose was there all along waiting to be noticed.

What objects or incentives could there be in your character’s scene that are on the fringe going unnoticed?

In the clip from Frozen it seems so simple, but when we look at our stories it appears complicated sometimes. Break it down in the following way.

Describe these things as they relate to your scenes, characters, or story line:

*Job

*Friends, Family, Co-workers, Side Characters

*Events- Town Seasons, Holidays, Charities, Calendar

*Values – Things valued in the scene, lives, or backdrop of the story.

Once you identify these things, think of how they intersect with your character’s life and then you may find some of those carrot style twists you are looking for in your novel.

What is your favorite Disney Movie for surprises?