Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Being UU

When I was teaching young ones at my church one year, I made up a song for them, and we sang it each week as we gathered. I used it to set the tone for our exploration in that Sunday’s lesson.

I’m a UU.
Who are you, you?
I’m a UU.
Who are you, you?
I’m a UU.
Who are you, you?
We can learn together.

The roots of the Unitarian side of my church go back to the Reformation era. Unitarians rejected the trinitarian dogma of the Catholic Church. God, they said, was one, a unity, and could not, should not be divided into three parts. Of course, that was apostate talk at the time.

Universalism dates to 17th century England where the doctrine taught that salvation by their Christian God was available to all, even Jews, not just those who subscribed to a particular belief system. They believed there was no pre-determination of salvation.

Fast forward a few centuries and the Universalists joined with the Unitarians to form a collaboration in 1961. Though both churches came out of Christianity, the 20th century church is not considered Christian with a capital C.

Rather, this theologically liberal church subscribes to shared principles and covenants rather than creeds. Today, only about 20% of UUs call themselves “Christian”. Our faith draws from many traditions and teachers who helped shape the current church.

I come from a rural Christian church background (read that “conservative”) and my husband was reared Catholic. It never sat right with me. The questions I had weren’t honored, respected, nor addressed to my satisfaction. The first time I attended a UU church, while in college decades ago, I knew I had found something that fit me. 

But it wasn’t until we had our own children that we began regularly attending UU services. There is no better foundation, we believe, for rearing future young people for this world’s work.

We affirm the following principles:
  1. 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

I have many Christian friends and family who do not understand my choice. How can I not adhere to the tenets I was reared with? Quite simply. My church principles mean that the world should be a better place because I walked here.

I would not do or say differently if I believed in Heaven and Hell. I believe you do the right thing because it is the right thing not because of a reward or punishment at the end.

I do not know why the divinity or not of a great teacher like Jesus should cause me to do or say differently. His divinity--or not--simply has no impact on my actions or speech.

Many, many, many will not agree with me. But for those of you who know me, am I less a good person because I don’t accept what you do?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tropes Make Your Writing Easier, But Not Easy: Part Two

To clarify, in this series we will deal with character tropes only. There are also novel writing tropes that I may or may not take on in future. Tropes like flashbacks, describing the protag as he looks at himself in the mirror, starting the novel describing the weather, starting the novel with a dream sequence, or ending the novel with “it was all a dream” are often written.

Yeah, there are those and more, but we’re not doing tropes like that. Just characters.

And, I also want to clarify the intent is to avoid the devolution of tropes into clich├ęs. Tropes are not in and of themselves bad. Writers know that character types exist in readers’ minds and that they have expectations for a character like that.

It’s not using tropes that is the problem. The problem is how the trope is executed. Truly, there are only so many unique story plots and characters. The gazillions of characters we read are variations on a theme. Characters who are multi-faceted and complex are the ones we remember, even if the character is the evil step-sister trope.

And that’s not all bad. As I said in my earlier post in this series, tropes act as a shorthand for readers. Tropes allow you to tell more about your character than you have to actually state. And for minor characters, that may be good enough. The problem is the devolution to stereotype for major characters. A character should be more than the trope. You shouldn’t automatically describe your character as a recognizable trope because the character is more than those elements.

So how do you switch it up?

I made a starter kit Tropes Table taking on the stereotype of the trope and breaking the mold. Tropes are predictable so you have to avoid devolution to the stereotype and head to evolution in character development. In the comments, add some of your own suggestions so we all learn from one another!


Common Trope
Character Definition
Switch It Up
Strong Woman
This character deals with it all and lives to tell about it. She might be temporarily defeated, but the reader knows she will triumph.
Give her not just the obvious flaw that novel conventions require, but give her a hidden flaw that is stronger and drives her actions and reactions.
Knight in Shining Armor
He’s the guy who saves the day. Everyone counts on the Knight. And he never disappoints.
Make the “Knight in Shining Armor” a gal who is saved by a man.  
Damsel in Distress
She’s the one who is in over her head and can’t see a way out. She has to rely on others for her salvation.
Make the “Damsel in Distress” a guy who is saved by a woman.
Mentally or Physically Challenged
The trope for this one is the character overcomes the challenge or accepts that he/she has one and adapts and is happy and is an inspiration.
Let your character fail to overcome the challenge and remain bitter to the end. This works best for a minor character, but it can be used for a major one. However, out of bitterness might come a lesson for another character.
Woman Who Needs a Man
She defines herself by her relationship with the male in her life--or the male she is looking to include in her life. She is bland, characterless until the man gives her a sense of worth.
Lots of badly written chick lit and romance use this trope. It’s been done in good stories to show her without a man and realizing she is more than she thought she was. Self-love and self-respect make her more interesting.
Almost always the one with the gag lines, the comic relief to the straight-man protag. The character has odd quirks that make him/her hard to take, but the MC is besties with and defends the sidekick. The two complement one another.
Make the sidekick the straight-man and give the funny one-liners to the MC. Make the sidekick a strong, distinctive personality, enough so you could do a spin-off book based on the sidekick as MC.
The genius character who is misunderstood and underloved because social ineptness hides his/her shining light.
Let the nerd find a way to demonstrate a different persona. He/she might take improv classes and become life of the party for a specific time. Or the nerd might be pretending to be a nerd to hide his/her actual evil character.
“Bad Boy”
He rides a motorcycle, smokes, wears leather, and treats women like crap. The worse he treats them, the more women seek him out. They are attracted to a man they want to “save”.
How did your “bad boy” come up with that persona, because it is an acquired one. Take away the props and what’s left? What if the “bad boy” were female?
Boy/Girl Next Door
The idealized, small town, last century version of 1950s TV is what the boy/girl next door celebrates. Honorable, caring, dependable & smart enough without being a genius.
The perfect babysitter is discovered to be torturing children in her care. The captain of the football team is taking drugs. Against smoking and drinking, the girl next door sells meth to kids.

These are just a few tropes and how to change them in your novel. What have you done to switch up your tropes?

By the way, have you seen my new website, Sharon Arthur Moore-Author? It’s still under construction, but it looks a heckuva lot better than the old one! Drop by and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Guest Post: "What's a Little Murder When It Comes to Love?" by Brenda Whiteside

I am delighted to welcome a fabulous author to Romance Righter today. Her brand of romance fits right in to our region. Welcome, Brenda Whiteside!

When it comes to relationships we all got 'em, we all want 'em. What do we do with'em?…in the words of one of my favorite music minstrels, Jimmy Buffett.
In Southwest of Love and Murder, Mason Meadowlark and Phoebe Anderson are trying to figure that out. The old saying “opposites attract” strikes them both in the beginning.
Phoebe is a free-spirited writer. You know, the artsy kind of lady in flowing skirts, sporting a tattoo and lots of jewelry who dates starving artists and musicians.
Mason is a playboy rancher: work roughened hands, cowboy boots and always a Stetson on his head. He works as hard as he plays. He’s also from a small town and the trouble never gets more serious than an occasional bar fight.
Then he finds out the woman he’s attracted to, mystery writer, Phoebe, owes her success to killing her first husband on paper seventeen years earlier.
Although that might put off a few men, Mason is intrigued by Phoebe’s passions. Phoebe, on the other hand, is intrigued by Mason’s passion for the land he ranches. Maybe they aren’t so opposite. Strip away the clothing (they do that a few times, too) and their professions, you find two people who share some common personality traits.
But murder? Murder gets in the way of a relationship a whole lot more than a difference in styles.


Mystery writer, Phoebe Anderson, owes her success to killing her first husband on paper seventeen years earlier. Now, someone has actually done it. When she decides to take a few days away on the ranch of her best friend’s brother-in-law, she doesn’t expect romance to find her...or murder to follow her.

Mason Meadowlark is happy with his wild cowboy ways, avoiding love since the death of his baby and the end of his marriage twenty years ago. When Phoebe shows up, he fights to control his emotions, but soon wonders if she just might be worth the risk of opening his heart again.

With an obsessed fan close on her heels, Phoebe is thrown into her own murder mystery…and the next target on his list is Mason.

Excerpt :

Phoebe shuddered and stilled.
Like the aftershocks of an earthquake, trembling overtook her body. Her knees wobbled, but Mason caught her before she collapsed.

“What’s wrong?” He hugged her briefly then brought his face even with hers. “Phoebe, tell me. Why are you shaking? What’s happened?”

“Oh my God, Mason.” She spread her hands on his chest and glanced back at the bathroom. “Tell someone to call an ambulance. Hurry!”

He took a step toward the ladies’ room, but she grabbed his shirtfront. “No!” She peered around him and shouted. “Someone call nine one one.”

Mason touched his pocket. “My cell’s in the truck.” He grabbed the shoulder of a male customer, the closest person to them. “You got a cell on you?”

The man nodded and pulled a phone from his pocket.

“Call nine one one right now. There’s been…” His face questioned her.

“Someone’s badly hurt in the bathroom. Oh hell, hurry!” She thumped her palms against his chest.

The man pulled out his cell as he raced into the ladies’ room.

Phoebe wrapped her arms around Mason, tipped her chin upward, and found the words. “It’s that
waitress, Mason. Carla.”

His expression went blank, from concern for her to no comprehension.

“There’s so much blood.” She stifled a gag, the sweet, copper penny reek still heavy in her nostrils. “Her throat.” A shudder rippled the length of her body. “I think she’s dead.”

Brenda spends most of her time writing stories of discovery and love entangled with suspense. The rest of her time is spent tending vegetables on the small family farm she shares with her husband, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter. Together, they’ve embraced an age-old lifestyle that has been mostly lost in the United States - multiple generations living under one roof, who share the workload, follow their individual dreams and reap the benefits of combined talents.

Visit Brenda at www.brendawhiteside.com.
She blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at http://rosesofprose.blogspot.com
She blogs about writing and prairie life at http://brendawhiteside.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tropes Make Your Writing Easier But Not Easy, Part One

My dictionary says trope, as a noun:
is a figurative or metaphorical use of a word or expression: he used the two-Americas trope to explain how a nation free and democratic at home could act wantonly abroad.

a conventional idea or phrase : her suspicion of ambiguity was more a trope than a fact.

There’s a ton of fact and opinion out there on tropes in stories. Just search for trope and see what pops up. So much is out there, in fact, that this is part one.

On the one hand, tropes are very helpful if they act as a shortcut for attitudes and behaviors. Tropes help you build in character development with fewer words than if you avoided the trope.

For example, if in your novel you have a police officer showing up at a house, and he says to the guy, “Billy, this is the third time this month I’m picking you up for hitting your wife.” you know that this man is an abuser. That he demonstrates the controlling and anger-management issues of a serial wife-beater. That sentence saves you from having to put it into backstory. We KNOW this man.

But, if the trope is your lazy way to incorporating stock characters, of relying on stereotypes, who are only their trope, then you got it wrong. Each character, wife-beater or not, deserves further development. Surprises. Inconsistencies.

Because humans are not stock characters. The wife-beater may be a total softie around dogs. He shows them more attention, care, love than he does humans. But that is not part of the wife-beater trope. It is part of his inconsistent human nature.

Which, you explain, in your novel so the reader isn’t jarred by the inconsistency and accept the trait as part of his character. In this case, perhaps our wife-beater cowered in his bed with his puppy for comfort while his father pummeled his mother.

I’m coming back to do more on tropes, but first, next week, I am so happy to have guest blogger Brenda Whiteside writing about "What's a Little Murder When It Comes to Love?" Stop in and read what she has to share.