Sunday, November 16, 2014

+J.M.J.+

This post may be a little bit different than what I normally post…I don’t talk much about my writing, but I felt it only appropriate to show what God has done, since I’m only about 9,000 words away from the end of my first draft of my novel. To say the least, I’m in a bit of a giddy shock right now. Last night I typed the first 1,000 words of the climax of my novel. For those who may not be up on writerly terminology, the climax is basically the high point of the novel, where the main character and villain meet and clash for the final time; the climax decides the outcome of the novel. It is also the penultimate scene or scenes—the only thing left to write after the climax is the resolution, which only takes up a scene or two at the end of the novel. Just since August, I’ve written 6/8 of my novel. That’s 60,000 words. 60,000!!!!!!!!! I’ve been drafting since the end of April, but April was right before my graduation from college and getting all of that together. I spent some time at home with my mom and sister after graduation, and drafted some, but had to go back and rework all of my plot points. I was also trying to get on my feet at the beginning of June—I got my driver’s license, a car, and a job the first two weeks of June, and made my first road trip. So that was stressful. Then, as I got settled in at work and got used to being here, my drafting picked up speed. By August, I was confident in my plot points. I stopped every once in a while, studying writer Katie Weiland’s Character Arc series on her writing blog, “Helping Writers Become Authors.” She has some great books on writing, by the way, and I’m in the process of reading her novel “Dreamlander”—just what I needed to refuel my creative tank!

I’m using the 3-act method for character arc and story structure, using techniques and pointers from Katie’s books and her posts to guide me along the way. The first act takes up the first quarter of the book, and at the end the character will step through the door and set foot on the road to his goal, his change, and the final meeting with the antagonist. The second act is all about learning new skills, embracing the truth, at least partly, and making steady progress towards the goal. The beginning of the third act is a low moment for the character, as they lose their chance of getting what they want by choosing the thing they need. Then they rise up from the ashes of their low point and make their plans to defeat the bad guy. The Climax is that final battle, where the character will be given the ultimate test—will he stick to his guns and use the truth to defeat the baddie, or will he succumb to the lie he’s just shed? Of course, in the type of arc I’m writing, a very popular arc known as the positive change arc, the character will use the truth to wipe the floor with the bad guy. The exciting part is giving the reader just enough doubt to sit on the edge of their chair, biting their nails, thinking Will the main character do it? Will he survive this encounter?

This structure has changed my whole writing process. Before, I would launch in excitedly after typing up a few thousand words of an outline, the story idea fresh in my mind. But usually, when I would get between 40-60 pages in, plot problems began to arise that I would have to go back and solve before moving on. This frustrated me and created endless tangles of problems—sometimes the problems would require excavating entire chapters, reworking characters and backstories, and generally changing the entire story as a whole. As a ‘judging’ type of personality (if you know Myers-Briggs type personality tests, you’ll know what I’m talking about), I want to come to a plan of action and execute it. That’s what I do best. But when it comes to brainstorming a story and outlining it, it is essential to think of all the what-if’s. That means being more of a ‘perceiver’—thinking of all the possibilities. But this process, I think, frustrates me because it delays me from getting started. Still, I’ve realized the hard way (after 8 years of writing and re-writing and re-writing again) that that’s what I need to do. Frustrating? Yes. Worth it? Yes. It’s better because if I let out all the possibilities from the start, I can then execute my natural ‘judging’ function and choose the best ones, and arrange them to see if they’ll all fit together. Much less frustration in the long run this way.

In Katie’s book “Outlining Your Novel,” she walks you through an intensive outlining process that she uses, which is very effective. The great thing is that she gives a disclaimer that you don’t necessarily have to use all of the steps she lists, or stop where she does. I gave her method a shot, and found some things really worked, but others did not. I condensed her steps to a few that work well for me. Whereas she suggests outlining each scene in a bit of detail, and going through the whole novel with this process before you begin drafting, I’ve discovered that if I pin down my major plot points for the whole novel first, then dive into the first act’s requirements, using the plot points in the first act as my frame, I can jot down a few hundred words on ideas for what will need to happen in that first act, then arrange those few hundred words into a workable outline and begin drafting. Once I’m done with the first act, I work through the second act in the same way, then draft it. For some reason, this keeps me more sane than outlining the whole novel in detail from the get-go. I think I get intimidated by an entire novel’s outline, and that if I stray from it I will be shamed for 50 days or something crazy. In other words, I feel guilty if I expend all that energy on an outline that I know I will stray from later. So I take it in smaller chunks. Then, when I’m finished with the first act and I can see how it’s panned out, I can tweak anything that may no longer fit with the plot points in the second act and construct a more accurate outline for the second act, building on what’s happened in the first act. It’s a process that keeps me sane, because it saves me the trouble of having to rework an entire outline if I realize something in the second act no longer fits with the first, or the third with the second, etc. But I still have a decent roadmap for the entire novel before I ever begin drafting, because I have the major plot points (the inciting event, the midpoint, the third plot point, the climax) pinned down.

Hey, you can’t argue with results, right? I fell in love with Katie’s method; I took extensive notes, studied it for hours, and honestly filled an entire notebook trying to accomplish it. But I ended up doing the same thing with the outline that I used to do with my drafts—I wadded it up and threw it away and had to start all over. So in my creative writing classes at college, I spoke with my professor (who happens to be the same four-letter personality type as me) and asked her about her process. She confirmed my intuition about working from plot points rather than an entire, lengthy outline—her process is similar to mine. Plot points, character backstories and goals, and a good knowledge of your setting are all you need to get started. And using this, combined with a bit of extensive brainstorming when I’m pinning down the plot points, and God’s grace, I’ve almost got my first, finished, rough draft of a novel.

To be honest, I didn’t know if I was ever going to finish a project. I kept writing because writing is just what I do, and kept hoping that maybe something would happen and I would discover the way to finish a draft. Discovering this process has helped me so much, and I know I’ll keep refining the process—I know it may not be exactly the same for each project I work on. I’m so grateful to God for His grace and for giving me this gift of writing, and showing me how to put it to work more efficiently and effectively.

I don’t know if I’ve ever blogged about what my book is actually about. The main theme is of uniting faith and reason, and the two main characters in the novel are representatives of faith and reason, so to speak. It is fiction in the spirit of Tolkien and Lewis; somewhat allegorical, but also exploring the personal changes and cruxes that the characters have to accomplish and overcome in order to reach the ultimate fulfillment of the theme, and of their journey as human beings. It has a more modern style to it, more like Ted Dekker than Tolkien, but it is sort of a high fantasy as well—all about the quest! And yes…it will probably end up being a trilogy.

So yes. I apologize sincerely if any of this has bored you, dear reader, but I haven’t journaled about my writing for a while, and I felt the need to share all the exciting discoveries and progress God has helped me to make. Thank you for reading and sharing this exciting time in my life with me!

+Deo Gratias! Maria Gratias! To God be the glory!+

In, not Of, the World!

I overheard a conversation that maybe I would have been better off not hearing. This is more letting off some steam than anything. 

I simply get tired of being told, or hearing others being told, to lay off this religious stuff and come be a part of the here and now. 

Guess what? The time period we live in doesn’t work as an argument against truth. Truth remains truth, regardless of the time period. It isn’t relative like many people like to think that it is. If truth were relative, that would defeat the very definition of truth. Truth is what it is, and nothing can change it…much like what God told Moses in Exodus 3:14: “I AM WHO AM…HE WHO IS hath sent me to you (DRA).” Seeing as God is Truth…this makes perfect sense. So how can people who know nothing of the truth claim that we are not following it, that truth and that the very commandments that should dictate how we live are found in modern culture? Have they ever considered consulting Scripture, consulting Church teaching, anything other than themselves? 

We see what happens in Scripture to those who decide to throw away the truths that God has given them to live by, and make up their own self-serving versions of it. Nations are scattered and destroyed. There are wars, chaos, murder, vice and fear around every corner. Confusion and suffering are sure to follow. 

If only these people nowadays could see past the mush and gush of this sentimentalist ‘gospel’, this so-called ‘tolerance’, that is preached from every venue, and see that the truth has not changed, nor will it ever change, simply because the people of today decide that they do not like it, or that it is not ‘nice’. We live in a culture of ‘niceness’ that forsakes truth in favor of what will make people like each other better. WHO CARES IF PEOPLE ‘LIKE’ EACH OTHER? It’s not about making people like you. It’s about showing genuine charity–which is something many do not understand, and something that I struggle to understand, though I want to. Showing real love to our neighbor DOES NOT mean condoning their sins and helping them to commit them and supporting them in that goal. It means living the truth at all times, that our neighbor may be able to see the light of Christ in us. It DOES NOT mean showing condescension or hatred toward our neighbor, but simply showing by our actions and words at all times what Christ, what TRUTH itself, taught. 

But of course, the world takes this to mean that if we do not support them, we do not love them. According to the world, we must abandon what we know to be true in order to please our neighbor, therefore making love of man greater than love of God. 

I’m pretty sure the commandment to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength comes before the command to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we are not pleasing to God, we are not in a position to show true charity towards our neighbor. We must first love God, follow his commandments, and live by the truth that He has revealed to us. Then we can be charitable towards our neighbor in the true sense.

But this ‘tolerance’ and ‘no-hate’ nonsense is skewing things considerably. People feel the need to point the finger and call it hatred when we do not support or condone things that we do not believe are good. Their definition of ‘love’ is a no-questions-asked support and encouragement of everything that people do. Their definition of ‘hate’ is having an opinion or belief different than someone else’s and living by that belief. It’s just not feasible. Everyone has opinions and beliefs, and they’re not always going to line up. So anyone who disagrees with someone else’s choices is automatically branded a ‘hateful bigot’–unless, of course, the intolerance is shown towards those who have an opinion different than society’s. Then it is acceptable. It shouldn’t really be called ‘tolerance’, but ‘selective tolerance’. They choose who gets to be tolerated and who doesn’t under the guise of accepting all peoples. It’s the same old song and dance under a new, more sentimental banner. 

All that to say that it becomes tiring and frustrating to be rebuked for not following the ways of the world, to be fussed at for refusing to go to parties because they celebrate a sinful union, to be told that we ‘pray too much…’ If heaven is where you’re thinking of going, why wouldn’t you want to be in prayer more often? Heaven is eternal communion with God, contemplating his glory, seeing Him as He is in His beauty and richness and perfections. If you don’t spend time with God now, where does that place your priorities? And are we supposed to lie to our friends and family by showing up at these celebrations of sin, when they know good and well where we stand? What sense does it make to become angry when you know someone does not agree with it and they live by what they believe? Why rebuke a woman for wearing ‘ridiculous’ modest clothing, especially when that woman is your future daughter-in-law? Would you rather her look like every other woman, baring her bosom and legs and every other body part that can lead men (and in this day and age, even other women), including your own son, to sin? 

 

There are a lot worse things in this world than becoming Catholic. Sometimes I feel that if I were a drug addict, pregnant every time you turn around, dumping grandbabies on my parent’s doorstep from who knows what father, I would get a better treatment than I do now, wearing modest clothing, going to the CMRI Latin Mass, trying my best to live the ageless Catholic faith. It is really a confusing subject for me to contemplate. “Why do you go out of your way to go to this church, and not that one which is much closer?” “I think it’s pretty ridiculous that you want to stay in separate houses just because of what it looks like.” “Good grief, are you kidding me? What next?” 

 

What next? Well, maybe I could just become a bum, mooching off my parents, sleeping around with random men…that would throw them for a loop. I’m only kidding, of course, but it just becomes frustrating. What do they want from me?

The important thing to remember is, it doesn’t matter. TRUTH does not change, and I want the TRUTH more than anything in this world. It is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It is God’s own word. It doesn’t matter what the world wants, what my parents want, what my future husband’s parents want…it only matters what God wants. We are here to please God, not the world, and not ourselves. 

On the New “Pope Francis”…

In light of all this buzz about the ‘Pope’ resigning, and the new “Pope” taking his place…I have a few questions. Not to sound like Luther (when he falsely maligned the Vicar of Christ in his day), but I do have some concerns. And so do many others, many able-minded Christians. 
How can I, as a conscientious Christian (young though I am)…how can I align myself with someone who prays in a temple with Jews and Muslims, when I know that we can only come to the Father through Christ? And what kind of example is that supposed to be to the faithful? How can I stand by and applaud someone who supports changing the words of Scripture to suit a theology that is NOT sound (‘for all’ instead of ‘for many’). The words of Christ were clear. Why would we change this? To suit an ecumenical theology that is not at all in line with what has been taught and known for centuries.

The Church is one, holy, apostolic and Catholic (universal). This Lutheran theology of ‘faith alone’, which was condemned centuries ago…why is this finding a place in what is supposed to be the true faith?
The difference between Luther’s complaints and mine are this: He protested the teachings of the True Church, the Church instituted by Christ, when a true Vicar sat on the Chair of Peter. The teachings then had been the same for centuries and did not change on account of his belligerent falsehoods.
Now the ‘Church’ which sets itself up as the Bride of Christ denies the very thing which should make her THE Bride of Christ: oneness! By proclaiming that there is salvation outside of the church (this is NOT referring to the true and ancient teaching of baptism of blood/desire) she denies her identity as the Bride of Christ, and cannot, therefore, be called such. Not only that, but she audaciously changes the liturgy, altering the Sacred Words of Scripture, indeed, the very words of Christ her Spouse, to suit a doctrine that has not been believed or condoned since the time of Luther, and certainly not by the Church, whom Luther attacked!
These are my two main complaints, the only ones I feel knowledgeable enough about to elaborate on, but two that nonetheless disqualify this ‘novus ordo’ abomination from being the true and spotless Bride of Christ, along with her pseudo-‘Popes’, who think it right and beneficial to the faithful to take up the yoke with non-believers, refuting outright the Way, the Truth, and the Life, without Whom there would be no salvation and no way to come before the Father.
This is why I cannot ally myself with Rome as it is in the present. If it were the true Rome, the Rome of Christ’s institution, I would love her dearly. But she lacks at least one of the four marks of the true Church (oneness), and therefore I disown this abomination as a usurer and a false church.

Just saying…

Marriage is a Sacrament. It has been for two thousand years. Anything that anybody does to disrespect it is guilty of ‘destroying marriage’, as everyone likes to call it. Whether it’s divorce, gay marriage, or adultery…it’s all committing sacrilege and perverting what it was created for: for mutual sanctification and for the generation and education of children.

PERIOD.

Don’t believe me? Consult the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Consult Scripture. Both Old and New Testament will tell you the same thing. Our Lord’s presence at the wedding in Cana made marriage a Sacrament. He tells us that a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife (Gen. 2:24). And to ‘put her away’ and marry another is to commit adultery (Matthew 19:3-9). And notice the words our Lord uses. Man and wife. 

Those who say that Scripture does not speak clearly on these issues of divorce, adultery and gay marriage, have clearly not read Scripture. 

The Truth about Meaning

If God does not exist; if the universe is apathetic to us; if there is no other life for us than what we have now; what right do we have to claim morality? Human dignity? Justice? Tell me, why does it matter if one meaningless human being kills another? It’s not as if their lives would be worth anything anyway. If there is no purpose to human life, if all we have is the here-and-now, what is the point of being moral? It’s not like there is anything to work toward. Just death. Death for all. The same destiny and fate for everyone, regardless of what morals they did or did not have, regardless of what they did with their life. Whether rich or poor, what possessions or merits or achievements they accomplished will go with them into the grave. And there they will stay, and eventually even their memory will perish. Even the ties we create with people will be forgotten and corroded when we die. Our loved ones, our families, will all be forgotten when we die, and when they die they will forget us, too.

And eventually all will perish, with no hope for resurrection or meaning as a recompense for death.

This is what does not make any sense about the logic of those who claim there is no God, yet still lay claim to the dignity of being a moral, sentient, conscientious human being. Why do we know what meaning is if the universe is as meaningless and random as some claim it is? What place would purpose have as a knowable concept if it does not exist in the universe? And what of every culture’s craving and knowledge of repentance, of forgiveness, of expiation and mercy and love? Why does every known culture feel the need to worship something? Why do people feel the need to make things right on their death bed? Why are there laws governing our actions toward others, and consequences for what  is deemed ‘right and wrong’, if we live in an amoral universe that cares nothing about our fate?

If the Universe is really as meaningless and our lives as random and purposeless as some would suggest, it might be just as well for us to be dead. Maybe this is why so many have committed suicide. In their minds, it is better to end their brief light of life than to be tortured by a conscience that cries out for meaning where there is none.

And if the gentle reader would permit me to be blunt, I believe it is not strength of will, but stubbornness and stupidity that prompts those without faith to scoff at those who hold it dear, and to say to them, “I am strong because I don’t need to use religion as a crutch to get through life.” These people are blinded to the conclusion that human reason and logic would bring them to, and they suffer without merit or validity. That very statement, in and of itself, suggests that the speaker is indeed suffering, struggling with the concept of meaning in a ‘meaningless’ world. They believe their strength comes from rejecting faith, which would bring reason and meaning, and a logical conclusion to their mental dilemma. In reality, it only makes their dilemma more frustrating and their struggle fruitless.

And this is where the search for truth has led me. I am not a random lump of matter floating around in space. Neither is anyone else. No one can convince me that my God does not exist. No one can tell me that truth is relative. Truth is truth, and it remains what it is regardless of human perception or interpretation. The faith is not my faith. It is the faith of the Church; it is the truth that God Himself laid out for us to see and follow; it is what guides every human being’s conscience and intellect; it is what tells us who we are, what we are, why we are here.

It is “the true Light that enlightens every man who comes into the world.” (St. John 1:9 [DRA])