Monthly Archives: November 2009

What do you mean, “Forgive and Forget”?

My friend, not long ago, was whining about some slight that she was still churning over, when I tossed off the oft-used, but ill-considered phrase: “Oh, forgive and forget.” She stopped in her tracks, looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “I will never forget, and I have no idea what forgiveness means.”

Hmmmm.  I had to think about that. This happened several years ago, and I’m still thinking about it. Of course we don’t forget. And what is forgiveness, anyway? I have an idea these days about what mercy is, but forgiveness has eluded me.

Well, the other day I happened upon an interesting article on forgiveness, and the author said that forgiveness was simply allowing another person their path.

That was kind of a stunner to me, and I’m not sure I’ve finished assimilating that simple bit of wisdom.

We all have our paths. Some wind around in a convoluted manner, some take us through very dark places, some have us living the glamorous high life and some appear to be cut short before they’ve really begun. It is my personal opinion, belief and faith, that we all have the same destination, eventually, but it’s going to take us all a long time to get there, not just the 80 or so years we have in this life on this planet. But my path to that destination is my path and your path is your path, and if you do something that offends me, well, that’s your path, to be mildly offensive now and then. I certainly spent enough time being offensive to people before I decided not to do that any more. That’s a part of my journey.

I’m not finished considering all the ramifications of this simple raindrop of wisdom. A theological question I’ve wrestled with for years now, was answered in a simple four-word sentence: “Allow them their path.”

Could it really be that simple? Are all the things we wrestle with that simple?

Probably. We’re the ones who make our lives difficult.

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Filed under Beauty, Goodness, regrets, relationships, Resentment, Social Consciousness, Spirituality, Truth

Hey: Pray!

I mean it. You. Now. It only takes a second to send a little healing energy via the deity of your understanding to one of your kids, your spouse, a co-worker who is in trouble, our troops overseas, their families struggling to manage without them, the starving children in the world… take your pick. If you want, you can even move beyond prayer and extend a little mercy in the direction of those who have wronged you, those who have moved against us, those who knowingly and consciously commit evil acts upon others.

Listen, our planet is in a world of hurt, and if you don’t know that, then you really have not been paying attention. Do you think our national leaders are going to get us out of it? As Dr. Phil famously says, a good predictor of the future is looking at our history. Do you think we’re going to be able to mobilize the masses in time to make the drastic changes that are necessary to keep our civilization from going the way of so many that have failed to survive?

I say divine intervention is the only path left open to us, and we better be getting about asking for help in a serious way. Prayer circuits, I’ve been told, begin like game trails, and with more and more traffic, they become cart paths and then roads and streets, and eventually superhighways. We need those superhighways. We need all the help the celestial overseers are able to give us, and we need it now.

So do your part. I’m not asking you to vote, inflate your tires or even change a lightbulb, although we should all be doing those things anyway. Just say a prayer, a small one. Right now. Nobody’s going to know unless you tell them. And maybe you should tell them, and ask them to do it, too.  Maybe do it every morning while you’re brushing your teeth. It’d be more productive than admiring yourself in the mirror.

It’s a small thing. Just as every vote counts, so does every small petition to those on high. Your small request just might be the tipping point that makes the switch from a material citizenry to a spiritual citizenry. You never know.

So do it.

Now. It won’t hurt, I promise.

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Filed under Prayer, Social Consciousness, Spirituality

Speaking of Short Stories…

Fiction is about people in trouble. When the trouble is resolved, the story is over.

A short story is a piece of fiction under 15,000 words. It has all the requisite elements of fiction: a protagonist, an antagonist, and a major point of conflict. The bigger the conflict, the stronger the characters. The stronger the characters, the better the story.

Your protagonist is always a reluctant hero. He is flawed. He is dragged out of his comfortable world into uncertainty. He changes internally because he is forced to look at his flaws as a result of the conflict presented by the antagonist. This conflict is the stimulation to his character growth. There should be internal conflict and external conflict in every scene.

A short story conforms to all that is expected of fiction. It is comprised of three acts: Act One: the Setup, Act Two: the Complication, and Act Three: the Resolution.

Act One shows the protagonist before the trouble starts, in his comfortable world, but with myriad problems. Act One ends when the protagonist is so tired of avoiding the impending problem that he believes it is easier to fix the problem than to continue to avoid it. This is when he embarks upon his quest. By the end of Act One, all the major players have been introduced, as well as the major point of conflict.

Act Two complicates every tiny point of conflict introduced in Act One. At the end of Act Two, the protagonist and reader alike are certain he will never be able to fix the problem. This is the darkest moment.

In Act Three, the conflicts begin to resolve as a result of the protagonist getting smarter. In the climax, he deals, once and for all, with the external conflict, and he takes a good look at his internal flaws. This is when he either succumbs to his failings or overcomes them. The reader is cheering for him to overcome his flaws, but characters do whatever they do. The point is that he must look at himself and be changed by what he sees.

In the final analysis, readers will remember what happens to the protagonist internally, which is ultimately more important than what happens to the external problem.

A short story can be told from any point of view, can include any number of characters, can span any length of time. There is no room for subplots, so stick to one good guy, one bad guy, and one main point of conflict. Give your characters passion, memorable names, quirks, angers, frustrations and depth. Include lots of sensory imagery, so the reader can be in the scene with the character, and reveal your character’s nature through the use of facial expressions and gestures. Differentiate the characters from each other, and from you. Give them a serious problem, throw them off the deep end, and watch them work their way out of it, given who they are and what they do.

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Filed under Short Stories, Writing

Want to Write A Short Story?

I’ll be teaching The Art of the Short Story for Lane Community College on Thursday nights, 6:30-9:30pm, January 7-February 18 at the Downtown Center, room 321. Registration number is CRN 32718. To register via ExpressLane, if you have an L-number, go here.

As with all things, the more you put into a class like this, the more you will get out of it, but we’ll have fun and you’ll come out of it with some serious short story experience.

While short stories seem to have fallen out of favor of late, I am a firm believer in the art form. Unfortunately, most mainstream magazines only publish one short story per issue, if that, and most short stories are revered in the horror, science fiction and fantasy realms for their anthologies and magazines. But that’s fine. Writing short fiction teaches the writer many things about plot, character, scene and setting. It is always a worthwhile endeavor.

I grew up reading short fiction, and began my career with short fiction. A short story sale was my very first professional publication credit.

So while we’ll write stories, pick them apart and talk about them (both student stories and professionally-published stories), we’ll also talk about some marketing aspects for them.

It’ll be fun. Come and join us.

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Filed under Short Stories, Writing