Friday, December 28, 2007

You Guessed it, The Man of the Year

By Keith Fisher

The best part of the fiction in many novels is the notice that the characters are purely imaginary. Franklin P. AdamsUS journalist (1881 - 1960)

Last week I published a list of woman of the year candidates that were characters from some of the books I read in 2007. This week I want to share a list of man of the year candidates using the same criteria.

As the beginning quote insinuates, sometimes the characters in fiction are larger than life, but other times they are people who waste the space in a manuscript. If those characters were real, I would be tempted to pull them aside, slap them silly and tell them to wise up. I am often disappointed in the male characters in the books I read.

If the author is a woman, the male protagonist is sometimes portrayed as selfish, whining, juveniles, who the female protagonist can control, dominate, and be better than. In the same vein, women who are written by men, are often brainless helpmeets who wouldn’t think of having a thought of their own. Of course there are many authors who create characters that live. Those characters possess all the good and bad qualities that real people have, and if they are created well, they have something that can be admired, respected, and emulated. Those are the characters we will remember forever.

In my reading this year, I found many men who have taught me something. First on the list is Macon Fallon from the book Fallon by Louis L’Amour the author of this book created many strong male characters over the years, some were revisits under a different name, but I chose Fallon because he came to the realization that having love and respect was better than walking away with everything else. The character was very much a man, even admitting his total lack of understanding of women.

Next we need to talk about Sam Carson. Here is a man who tries hard to fix problems but he knows that he can do little, if anything, that would make a difference. He’s the kind of man who could use a good dose of feminine wisdom but we like him all the same. Sam is on the pages of False Pretenses by Carole Thayne.

Next is Robert Harlan in A Perfect Day by Richard Paul Evans. This man is a great example of what could happen to a writer who finds more success than he can deal with. Almost too late, he realizes what’s most important in life. It is a good lesson for writers but more than that, I can relate to the character. He is real and he is written well. One might suspect there are elements of true story but the author refutes that rumor in the dedication.

Last but not least is a man who reinvents himself several times. He passes through trials most men never deal with in their lifetime. His behavior, at times, is so frustrating I want to shake him, at other times I want to be like him. A man could learn a lot from this character. His name is Gene Thomas from the Hearts of the Children series by Dean Hughes.

After complaining that there was a lack of male characters these days, I set out to find some, and I found a pile. I must not end before I mention two more,

Ken Sugihara is the protagonist in Nothing to Regret by Tristi Pinkston
Owen Richards from Race Against Time and the sequel, Pursuit of Justice by Willard Boyd Gardner.

This list is too short but space is limited. If you think back on all the characters you’ve known over the years, then think of why you remember them, what must be done will become clear. Think about the character of Wil Anderson. He was the character John Wayne played in the movie The Cowboys. It’s true the actor developed that character and made him what he is, but Wayne had great building blocks to start with, and they were provided by a writer.

Good luck with your writing in the New Year. Woo Hoo! 2008, and you thought you’d never get through 2007.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Woman of the Year

By Keith Fisher

Every year, magazines and other publications announce their pick of woman or man of the year. Even though we may not agree with the choices, the candidate has usually done something noteworthy and deserving of praise.

Since it’s the end of the year, I decided to mimic that tradition and announce my choices of woman and man of the year. I won’t be choosing from a list of people in the news, nor will I choose a real person—I’m choosing characters from the books I’ve read this year. I’m sorry if I didn’t mention your character, or I didn’t get to your book. I hope you agree with my choices.

First, is a woman who really shines in False Pretenses written by Carol Thayne. Here is a woman who is true to her heart and her principles. Never compromising, always caring. She is personified so well in her 1960’s ways that it is hard to believe she isn’t real. Her name is Sunny Day, and she is one of my picks for this list.

Next, is a woman who is so convincing as one of the boys that I was stunned to see her as a beautiful woman. She made her choices long ago, and she’s fiercely loyal to them. She’s the best friend a young man ever had, and the best wife that young man could ever choose. She is Tiffany Gibson and she lives in a novel by Alma Yates called Race to Eden.

Next is a woman who’s one section of internal dialog earned her high marks in the believability scale when she begins her prayer convinced she is right but suddenly realizes she really doesn’t know and humbles herself to ask and listen. It’s the way most of us approach the Lord and it’s written well. Her name is Ruby Soderberg Alder and she lives on the pages of Seven Days for Ruby by Blaine and Brenton Yorgason.

One could not make a list like this without including the practically imperfect woman who admits to her obsession for food, and follows her heart instead of her mind. Of course I am talking about Shaundra Covington in the series by the same name, written by Jeffrey R Savage.

Perhaps most deserving of all to be on this list is the creation of an author who, like all of us, makes mistakes in our writing but I’ve never seen a better character creator. The character she created lives in the hearts of many, and is so convincing with her flaws and ethical standards that the reader is surprised when she shows a slight change of character. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and fights for them, and with them. Always prepared to the point of being obsessive, my best choice is Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling.

That’s my list, such as it is. I don’t have the space to list all the noteworthy women I have found on the pages I’ve read this year and some are best forgotten, but almost all should be mentioned, the authors as well. Next week, I’m going to do my list of men and boys, but keep in mind it won’t be easy. There aren’t as many male protagonists in books these days, especially LDS fiction.

Good luck with your writing, and reading, see you next week.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Finding the Magic of Christmas

By Keith Fisher

Christmas has always been a magical time. In this day of so much stifling affluence and abject poverty, it sometimes helps to remember Christmases from the past. Did you ever notice that Christmas was always happier and more magical in our childhood than it is today? Or was it?

One of my favorite Christmases was the year a group of us slept in sleeping bags around the Christmas tree on Christmas night. It was during a time before the ease of freeways, and rather than drive home on icy, two lane, roads, my family made a pilgrimage visit. We stayed over at one house or another and Christmas was at my house that year.

I received a cool penlight in my stocking that morning so I spent most of the night turning it off and on, driving everyone crazy. There were board games, great food, and family togetherness. There was also, the snore of my uncle and aunt the next morning as I sneaked past them to retrieve my clothes from my bedroom. "You just don’t go into the bedroom where a married couple are sleeping," mother said. "Especially if they are newlyweds." Now that I am older, I know she was right.

All in all, that Christmas went down as one of the best two-day events of my life.

Years later, when I was in high school, I tried to rekindle that magic by inviting my recently divorced aunt and her family to stay with us for Christmas. This was after Freeways and they only lived thirty miles away.

My mother was surprised they accepted my invitation, and she was nervous to have the houseguests she wasn’t expecting. I was somewhat disappointed—it wasn’t the same—the magic was different.

In my memory, the earlier Christmas was wonderful, magical, and memorable. I ask myself, why can’t Christmas be like that these days? When I talked to my parents about the holidays of my childhood, I discovered they remember things differently. I got a penlight in my stocking because it was cheap and my parents were struggling, and my mother was frazzled over the logistics of taking care of so many guests. My parents don’t talk about the magic I remember.

We often say Christmas is for the kids, and the magic is in the eyes of your children, and that is true, but what if you don’t have kids? As adults, are we doomed to a life of checkout counter battles, shoveling snow, and cursing our fellowman?

Then there was the year my daughter was born. She was two months old at Christmas time. We placed her in an oversized Christmas stocking and took pictures. We joked that Santa had brought her and she was our Christmas present that year.

The year, my wife had emergency surgery to save her life was a magical Christmas too. I spent money we didn’t have on a Christmas tree. She didn’t like it, but I did my best to make Christmas magical for us. I was just grateful she was still around.

You see it’s a matter of perspective. Children don’t obsess with worries like parents do. To a kid, there is magic in almost everything, especially Christmas. Like the year my daughter was born, we can draw magic from special events and circumstances, but I see adults who thoroughly enjoy Christmas. Between the giving, the singing, the good will to men, and worshipping HE, who gave us Christmas, they are convinced it’s the happiest time of the year.

So, I challenge all of us to find the magic. Have the time of your lives—cut loose, and succumb to the joy. It’s tapping you on the shoulder. Just turn around and take a look. If for no other reason, be glad you made it through another year. As for me, I’m trying to look at it through the eyes of the child I once was.

Good luck in your writing, and Merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Fighting the Urge

By Keith Fisher

I made procrastination into an art form this week. I’ve been writing the family newsletter and I got bogged down playing with PhotoShop. When I worked as a typesetter I could knock out a two-page newsletter in a few minutes, but trouble with Word, and Page-maker, added time to the project, all the while, I could see my edits slipping further and further from my grasp.

You may wonder why I’m telling you this . . . well, it’s Friday night, I don’t have my blog written, and that is my excuse.

Although I have been working on a blog this week and I hoped to be finished last Monday, but well, you know what happened. I’ll get back to it this week I promise. Then again, I noticed that Danyelle Ferguson tagged me for another game. Maybe I’d better do that instead.

I saw a sketch on The Carol Burnett Show once, where a writer was trying to plot a story. He kept typing and striking out what he wrote. In the mean time, the characters were behind him acting out what was on the page. It was hilarious—the characters had to stop what they were doing and switch. I don’t remember all the particulars, but the writer killed one of them, then changed his mind in favor of killing someone else. The actor fell dead only to stand up and push the other actor down.

The sketch ended when the writer finally got tired of it, took two aspirins, and walked away. The characters were left to deal with two large, white, tablets crashing down on top of them.

Sometimes things go that way, and there’s no harm in taking a chocolate break, but we need to remember to get back in the chair as soon as possible. It can be hard to continue a story after distractions take us away from it. We can’t give up and drop large, white, tablets on our characters.

Now that I’ve said it, I need to practice what I preach, instead of taking aspirins, I think I’ll toss the other stuff, and get back to my characters. They’ve been beckoning to me since I drifted off into regions far removed. Good luck in your writing, and let me know what it is, that steals time away from your work.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Reeling In the Years

By Keith Fisher

I know, I know, I'm late posting this. It's Sunday and in my haste to get it written I probably messed it up. please let me know where my errors are.

I have a birthday coming up and it is one of the big milestones. You could change the spelling and say it’s a millstone . . . hanging around my neck . . . as someone drops me into the water . . . from off the pier.

All joking aside, we all have moments when we pause to assess our lives and discover, with horror, that we aren’t even close to realizing our goals. We look back on all the mistakes we’ve made, the wrong turns we took, and the missed opportunities. So we ask ourselves if we have done everything we could do in order to make our dreams come true.

However, don’t feel sorry for me, or for your self. When I begin to feel like there isn’t enough life left to fulfill my dreams, I remember what it took to get where I am and all the wonderful blessings along the way. There's a great line in a John Lennon Song, he wrote, Life is what happens, when were making other plans.

So when you stumble and fall, when you get a rejection letter and you feel you cannot type another word, think of the successes you’ve had in your life. The first time your children cleaned their room, the day they came home with a good report card, and the way God has taken care of you, especially during those lean years.

Keep writing! Never give up your keyboard until the day someone pries your cold dead fingers from off the keys. Then, when our books get published and we see someone reading it in an airport or crowded checkout line, we can remember the journey. I just hope it happens before my next birthday. Like white lines on the freeway at seventy miles per hour, they’re passing by. To quote another seventies song, Are you reeling in the years? Stowing away the time?

Good luck in your writing and watch out for over-the-hill writers. It's hard to keep from racing after you reach the summit. Try and help them slow down a bit and remember, I won't be one of them . . . I refuse . . . I'm going turn around and go back . . .