Sunday, January 29, 2017

Plot Structure

Do you ever get so absorbed in developing your characters that you forget where the story is going? Do you have thread after thread weaving through your narrative but lose a few along the way? Or do you get to the end of the book and your plot has holes in it? Every writer faces these challenges to structure the plot well. It's all part of the fun of creating an original story! There are lots of ways to organize your ideas and here are five different concepts.

1. Start at the beginning.
Some writers start with the first page of their novel and jump write into the story. Usually this type of writer has an outline and clear direction of where they are going with the novel. They are more structured and don't like to jump around in the story without necessity. Organizing the plot in this way requires chronological order.

2. Start in the middle.
Lots of writers like to skip the beginning and the end and work from the middle. They focus on the heart of the story, where their characters are facing important decisions or encountering great obstacles. The writer is often unsure how they got there and how they will escape it. It is usually the best part of the book with the conflict and climax. You structure this plot well by having a solid conflict that makes sense.

3. Start at the end.
Some of the best stories ever written started being written at the end. It's like working backwards from the resolution. The writer already knows how everything will play out. It's just a matter of getting the characters to their happily ever after . . . or not. The best way to organize this kind of plot is building the suspense properly and not giving away too much as you go along.

4. Start with an idea.
This kind of writer is a big picture sort of person. It can be a more scattered approach, jotting down ideas on paper or a board. Then it's like connecting the dots and threading the ideas together. Lots of times the ideas are out of order, or they jump from one section of the book to another. To organize this structure, you have to be willing to give up certain ideas so the story isn't bogged down without a clear direction.

5. Start with a character.
This writer is usually more detail oriented. The characters are key. Developing them correctly will make the plot smooth and/or complex. It could be one character or several characters, but the story sort of forms around them and their particular flaws or virtues. These plot structures often have more depth, and you organize it by following the character.

No matter which way you write, the plot will have difficulties. Don't let writer's block get you down! Keep working through those rough spots, and you'll turn out with a flawless story. Or if not flawless, human, and those are the best stories anyway.

Now which kind of writer are you? (Maybe you write in all these kind of ways!)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Save the Shrine

"The more you honor Me, the more I will bless you." The promise of the Infant of Prague to all who love Him. In October of 2015, the Shrine of Christ the King in Chicago suffered a devastating fire, which destroyed most of the church. Rather miraculously, the firefighters were able to save the tabernacle with the Blessed Sacrament and the beautiful statue of the Infant Jesus, but the church is in great need of funds in order to restore the existing structure.

Run by the Institute of Christ the King, the Shrine is a home of Catholic tradition with the Latin Mass, Sacraments, and thriving prayer life. The church is a beacon of hope in these trying times and a necessary haven where one can find the Source of all that is good in Christ. Parishioners, friends, and locals are fighting to restore the beauty and peace of this house of God. 

There is a new fundraising campaign being launched, which you can read about here. Over twenty sponsors have offered beautiful items to raise donations to restore this historic landmark. My online store, Handmade Catholic Shop, is one of the sponsors, and you can receive one of the Carmelite scapulars through your support of this noble effort. 

We can do no greater service than to give honor and glory to God. Let us answer this call of action to restore His home at the Shrine in Chicago. Padre Pio often said, "It would be easier for the world to exist without the sun than without the Holy Mass." By your support, the Shrine of Christ the King can offer Masses once more in this sacred place.

Please donate to save the Shrine, and, above all, keep this inspiring task in your prayers! Visit for updates!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

My Author Hero

Relics of St. Robert Southwell at Holywell in England
Every writer has their source of inspiration and influence. There is not one author who doesn't hold another author up as their hero. There is always someone who gives us the courage to embark on our own dreams because they gave the example first. That person may just be our example, or they may actually influence the way we write or what we write about.

For myself, St. Robert Southwell is the reason I became a writer. I had never even heard of this poet saint, until I decided to write my senior thesis on him in college. Southwell was a priest in Elizabethan England, who was martyred just for being a priest and providing the Mass and Sacraments for suffering Catholics in England. He stealthily avoided all the priest hunters for six years in London, an impossible task, until he was captured because of betrayal, which led to his martyrdom at Tyburn.

I was blessed with the opportunity of traveling to England on a pilgrimage to visit the sites of the English martyrs. It was an unforgettable experience, and one that was in a sense life-changing for me. For although I have always loved to write and been fascinated with books since I was a kid, it wasn't until Southwell that I considered pursuing writing full time.

Southwell was a priest, but also a poet. His writings were distributed secretly to the Catholics through his hidden printing press. His works kept the Faith alive during the persecutions, and his talent rivaled those of his time like Shakespeare. Southwell's life inspired me because he used his gift of writing to compose literature that would inspire readers throughout history.

While in England visiting all the holy sites, I realized that God gives every person specific gifts that are meant to be used for His glory. We cannot waste these talents. Southwell made me realize that being an author is a way of life that can lead to holiness. I knew then and there I would be a writer and try in my own way to bring readers to God.

Check out Southwell's writings available on Amazon here. And be sure to read his poem "A Child My Choice" here which is one of my favorites.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Source of Security

As the Christmas season begins to drift behind us, we are faced with the monotony and humdrum feelings of normal day-to-day life. The joy and excitement that the holidays give help us forget for a time that bills have to be paid, laundry has to be done, errands must be run, etc. The peace that Christ brings us at Christmas is wrongly forgotten, when we are overwhelmed with "catching up" after the busy gift-giving season.

But what is our source of security? It is easy to look to money as the essence of happiness in this life, for without it one cannot really function in this world. Health is also a big factor as we see how poorly we carry on in our lives without it. Some look to owning a big house or having friends in high places as the answers to their dreams and problems. 

We know all too well that these things come and go in life, that if they come at all they are only a passing thing. There has to be a stable source of security that remains when everything else is lost. You probably know where I'm getting at--that God is the only true source of security. Without Him, we would surely give up amidst our trials and tribulations.

It is a good reminder for all of us when we are feeling insecure about something in our lives, that God is the source of our peace. It doesn't matter what people think because there will always be some person who judges us and decides they know better than we do about our lives. Not that it isn't important to take advice, but as a general rule the only person we have to worry about pleasing is God.

In the words of St. Therese, "If you want to be a saint, aim only at pleasing Jesus, at uniting yourself intimately with Him." And when the world feels turned upside down and nothing seems to be getting any better, we have to remember that life is a journey and all our sufferings will be pearls in our crowns in Heaven. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Daily Resolutions

I am going to be honest. I don't do New Year's resolutions. One good reason is I won't even remember at the end of 2017 what my 2017 resolutions were. In a sense, giving yourself a goal for a whole year is almost setting yourself up to fail. You will grow weary of attempting it and will most likely give up before it's March.

A much better way of making goals is short-term. Long-term goals change. When you look back on an entire year, things have changed drastically from the beginning of the year. Making long-term goals tends to be in the abstract sense because you have to be open to changing them. Thus the short-term goal idea--in daily goals.

I found this great prayer (from a calendar of Bishop John H. Vincent Copyright 1909):

A Resolve for Every Morning of the New Year

"I will try this day to live a simple and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking, 
cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimitycharity and the habit of holy silence, 
exercising economy in expenditure, carefulness in conversation,
diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike trust in God."

This prayer reminds us that we need to make resolutions each day, according to what circumstances and situations present themselves. For instance, one week we may need to work on patience, but another in charity. Our daily goal of embracing God's will for us naturally will transmit to our entire lives and our long term goal of the holiness of a lifetime. It's taking one day at a time and not thinking too hard about tomorrow that will dispose us to be ready for the entire year ahead of us. 

So welcome the New Year with the words of Anne of Green Gables, "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it?"