Monday, November 14, 2011

Pondering confidence

Confidence is a strange thing, isn't it? What exactly is it? Is it a belief in oneself? Is that belief a general one or is it tied to a specific ability? Does it change from day to day? Does it impact the outcome of any given event? If so, how directly and how much? Is confidence something you're born with, like the range of your voice? Or is it dependent on your upbringing? How is confidence different from arrogance? Are they the same thing except on different places in a continuum?  Or are they different animals altogether? Is confidence  necessary for success? When confidence is not commensurate with ability, does that confidence in fact catapult the person into a higher level of success? Is a person with ability but no confidence doomed to mediocrity? Is this kitty delusional? Or is this what confidence looks like? 

Does a truly confident person ever think much about his confidence level? Does the fact that I ponder and analyze it so much say anything about my confidence?  

Edited to add: And does the fact that I accidentally wrote "commiserate" instead of "commensurate" say anything at all? Sheesh.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Oh Captain Hook, how you taunt me!

How's that for a catchy title?

No, my post has nothing to do with Peter Pan and evil pirates with hooks as hands. I am talking about that wretched hook at the beginning of the book without which nobody will want to read on. 

Am I being facetious? Why, yes. 

To an extent I agree with the general idea of a hook. What I rebel against is how it seems to have taken on a life of its own in the writing circles, not unlike query-writing. Agents and other gatekeepers are now lamenting that often the manuscripts fall short of the standard set up by the very polished queries.

This isn't the first instance I am dissenting under the yoke of the hook --in my nook of books. (Sorry, being rebellious and frustrated brings out the groaniest of jokes from me.) So why am I ranting right now?

Because I am considering yet another idea about the structure of my YA novel. My original scaffolding had the prologue (oh wait, prologues are no-nos. So I'll just call it the first chapter) showing the inciting incidents. I would introduce my two protagonists (wait again; multiple POV characters are frowned upon) at the moment their lives are changed by the deaths of a loved one. Over the course of the book, we see how the girls deal with their grief, their scenes interspersed with short, flashback chapters (speaking of no-nos...) that show the relationships between each girl and the loved one.

The other night while mulling over a different problem of the novel, an idea occurred to me: that I shouldn't start with the deaths but I should just show these two girls having difficulty navigating their lives. That way, I set up a question, a mystery of sorts: why are the girls acting and thinking this way?  I'll keep the flashback chapters to show the relationships. It's only in the middle of the book, after readers have come to know those loved ones that I reveal their deaths. Hopefully the mourning and grief my protagonists feel will be shared by the readers who have come to know them.

But who wants to read a book that starts with two girls starting a school year pretending everything is fine? 

Where's the hook?

Friday, November 4, 2011

What if they'd been all air balls

Have you seen the video that has been making the rounds on Facebook this week, about the young basketball player with autism? Like most people, I was moved to tears, cheering for Jason, the young man, and rejoicing with the people around him.

But while it encouraged and filled me with optimism, I also ached for all those other people who have the same difficulties in life but who don't have a coach caring enough to make him team manager or insightful enough to let him take the court; who don't have parents who make it possible for him to be part of the team; who don't have teammates trusting enough to hand him the ball for his three-pointers; or who may have all of those but miss all his shots. 

What then? The video, if there were even one, wouldn't go viral on Facebook. They would get a few hundred less "way to go"s. They don't get to feel the high that comes from such an incredible event. 

Hopefully this makes me a bit more aware of people around me struggling, not just with autism. In my circle, it's with the kids who don't understand boundaries, those who feel defeated by every small setbacks. It's the adults with chips on their shoulders carved so deep they can't even notice it, those who are simply worn out by demands on their strength and emotions.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Time to enjoy confrontations

 My two protagonists are about to have a big fight in my YA novel, and I am having enormous trouble writing the scene. All I want is to be as far away from the situation as possible. A lifelong inclination and practice in avoiding confrontation will do that to a person.

Maybe I should just think about the plot and where it needs to go and then steer the fight toward that end in a detached way. Maybe I can even pretend to be someone who welcomes such a challenge (I know such people exist; they just may as well be aliens to me.)

Or maybe, working through the emotions and the thought processes involved in a confrontation can reveal insights and new understanding in ways I won't even anticipate.