I have seen so many of your brothers and sisters come and go. Some I’ve loved, and some I’ve hated. Some have sped by so fast I got whiplash. Others dragged their feet so slowly I wanted to kick them for being so boring. All of them have the reputation of actually being worse than your black sheep brother, Monday, because everyone knows that Tuesday is when the real work gets done.
I am sending you this letter because I want you to know that I am not holding those other crappy Tuesdays against you. I’m not even holding up the good ones for comparison. It is not your fault that others of your ilk have been horrid, and not your responsibility to live up to the best of Tuesdays past. Your responsibility is to show up. It is my responsibility as to what I do with the day with which I have been presented.
It is my choice you see, my choice what I do with the day that I have been given. I can choose to see you as an opportunity, as a gift, and not a burden. It doesn’t matter if other people have decided that you are going to be crappy and frustrating and try to drag me down with them into their own personal Hell. I have made the choice to ignore all of that; to take whatever is thrown at me and to create something beautiful out of it; to see something beautiful IN it; something that I will remember forever. So, thank you for the gift of yourself, dearest Tuesday. Wish me well as I hurtle or possibly stumble along through your hours. You may not have the power to make my day good, or bad, but you are awesome in and of yourself, and I just wanted you to know that.
At first glance the concept of writing a short story seems to be simple. You have a story to tell. You sit down, pull up an empty page, and write it. So, why is it that so many people get as far as sitting down and opening up a new document, but then freeze up? So many times an individual knows what they want to say, but when it comes to actually putting it down in words it gets stuck somewhere between the their imagination and the fingers hovering over the keyboard. So, how do you get from here (an idea percolating in your head) to there (a completed story)? One of the best ways to do this is to start by creating a synopsis.
Begin With a Synopsis
A synopsis is a short summary of the story that you are writing. In order to create a working synopsis, it is necessary to ask yourself some questions to help you get all of your proverbial ducks in a row. The questions can be summed up with the following five phrases: Somebody. Somewhere. Wants Something. But. So.
The Five Questions
1). Somebody: Who is the main character of your story? Describe them in detail. What do they look like? How do they talk? What do they wear? What are their good qualities? What are their bad qualities? Yes, I know that is more than one question – but all of them come under the umbrella of the “somebody” who is your main character. The more detailed your character is in your mind, the more real they will come across in your writing.
Example: John is 18 years old. He is tall and lanky with sandy brown hair and freckles to match. He has a slight backwoods drawl to his speech and mostly wears jeans and t shirts, though he will wear a button down shirt for special occasions. He has just graduated from high school. He is polite and thoughtful but tends to be forgetful and is sometimes so caught up in his own world that he forgets what it is that he is supposed to be doing.
2). Somewhere: Where does your story take place? Describe the exact setting for your story. Is it a real location? A made up place? When does the story take place? What is the weather like? What is the scenery like? Are there Mountains? Oceans? Prairies? The more detailed you can be, the more real your story will seem to yourself and your readers.
Example: My story takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania, we will call it Hoboke. The town consists of just a few buildings, a town hall, a police station and a handful of stores, an elementary and high school and is nestled by a river that flows between rolling hills and while you can see mountains in the distance, they are a good ways away. The year is 1955. It is summertime and hot. The sidewalks are so hot they will burn your bare feet if you aren’t careful.
3). Wants Something: Every story is about someone that wants something. It can be as simple as that they are looking for directions on how to get to a specific location, or something as complex as that they are looking for world domination. Explain your characters goal or wish in the story including why it is that they want this particular thing.
Example: John has one great desire in life, and that is to go to travel and see the world. He would settle for seeing the United States, because he knows that there is more to life than one little Pennsylvania town, and he has to figure out a way to get what he wants.
4). But: If a person who wants something was able to get what they wanted with no problem, then there is not much of a story. A good story includes obstacles; challenges; hurdles that have to be overcome in order to achieve the goal. The BUT section is where you explain the problem in your story. Why is your character unable to meet their goal. What kinds of obstacles/challenges are they facing? Why is this a problem for them?
Example: In order to achieve his goal of seeing the world, John has to figure out a way to get what he wants. He does not have the grades or the money to attend college. He does not feel that he has the temperament to join the military. He has no real marketable skills that would land him a job if he were simply to get up and move to a new location.
5). So: Explain in detail how your character overcomes the problem/obstacle/challenge that they are facing. Be as detailed as possible.
Example: After weighing his options, John decides that he is going to use his life savings to simply take a visit the closest large city to see if there are any other options. After arriving in Philadelphia, PA by bus he gets robbed of all of his money and decides to hitchhike home. He is picked up by a 21 year old steel mill heiress who has just come in to her money and is off on a road trip adventure to California before she goes decides what she is going to do with her life and she asks him to come with her partly, because she likes him, partly because she wants to tick off her parents. They have many adventures on the trip and end up falling for each other by the time they reach the west coast where they decide to elope, much to the girl’s parents’ chagrin. While he didn’t actively attempt to overcome his obstacles to seeing more of the world, John inadvertently overcomes them by taking the step to go to the big town and go with the girl when she asks him to accompany her.
Using Your Synopsis
Once you have answered the five questions above, you will see that, if you put them all together, you have a synopsis of your story. It’s that easy!
Once you have linked the answers to the five questions together, you can use your synopsis to refer to as you are writing your story so that your characters, settings, conflicts and resolutions stay consistent throughout the telling. In fact, the longer your story is, the more important having a synopsis is so that you won’t forget the details.
Our society has a thing about being busy. We all complain about it, but simultaneously most of us take a weird, twisted sort of pride in it, as if, once we die, we will be able to wave the banner of busyness at the pearly gates and be guaranteed immediate entrance.
We all know the refrain; “I am so sorry, I’d really love to be able to help/go to/ see you with/at (fill in the blank) but I am really so busy, there is just no way to fit it in right now. Maybe next time?”
Most of us don’t take offense if someone uses the busy card. After all, we’ve all said it. We’ve all heard it. We all understand what it means. We know exactly what is going through someone’s head when they say it in a certain tone of voice. We might be a little hurt that they are too busy for us but really, we totally understand.
Yes, we all know what it feels like to be crazy busy; so busy that we hardly have time to brush our teeth, let alone floss. So busy that instead of sitting down for breakfast, we grab a muffin or bagel on our way out the door so as not to be late to work and then curse at the crumbs or coffee stains that get dribbled down our front. We spend out lunch break scarfing down something from a vending machine while making three different phone calls and checking our personal emails and bank deposits. We combine six errands on our way home from work, and, after eating a quick fix supper that we eat balanced on our knees while watching the evening news, we drop exhausted into bed at night with a whole list of things we wanted to do and never got to and feeling slightly guilty that we have to actually take time to sleep at all.
Weekends aren’t much better, especially for parents. Most times Saturday mornings are full of karate, dance or music lessons, afternoons are for soccer or football practices or games, Saturday nights are spent ferrying kids to parties, picking them up or dropping them off at movies or friends houses or hosting said parties and get togethers. Even those without kids end up most Saturdays running all the errands that couldn’t be done during the week and cursing out any business that doesn’t have Saturday hours because how on earth are we supposed to contact them when their business hours are the same as our working hours? (I’m looking at you doctor’s offices!)
And then there are Sundays. For those so inclined, Sundays may include Sunday School and/or church, which precludes any sleeping in and may go so far as to include pot lucks or afternoon services, and there goes your day.
For those not so inclined, it may be the one day of the week we get to actually sleep in, unless of course you have kids, or cats, in which case you will be getting up at the same time of day as the rest of the week unless you want to be jumped on or poked awake with carefully calculated claws. Maybe, just maybe you will have time to actually get some housecleaning done, or run the car through the car wash, do some yard work, or maybe get a start on cleaning out that closet. Or maybe not. Maybe you will just spend Sunday afternoon in your pajamas, binge watching some show that takes you away from all the stresses and ridiculousness of the week. But sooner or later on Sunday, usually just after 3 p.m., you will get that sinking feeling that tells you that you only have a few precious hours left until it is time to get ready for the new week and start the whole routine over again.
Why do we do it?
Why do we insist on keeping ourselves so busy that we never seem to have time for anything that truly rests or refreshes us? When did we forget what it is like to simply take time for ourselves to rest and recharge our batteries? Why is self-care so rarely on our list of priorities?
It is easy enough to say that we are too busy to take time for ourselves. We can even justify it by saying that our obligations to our work, our families, our church or whatever other groups we are involved in, preclude us from spending any time on frivolous self-indulgences.
The real problem is in our determination to insist to ourselves that any time spent on self-care is “self-indulgence.” Oh sure, we might find that we can justify a daily trip to the gym (have to be able to fit into those pants!) or a once-a-month trip to a hair salon (can’t be looking shaggy/have my roots showing at work!) But how long has it been since you truly did anything for yourself; anything that can in no way be justified as necessary, but which makes you feel absolutely amazing?
It is said that the Italians have a saying; “Il dolce far niente”, which can be translated as “the sweetness of doing nothing”. While there is some argument as to whether it is actually an Italian term or if it was devised by English speakers of the 1800’s in describing what they saw as Italians’ laid-back approach to life, the fact remains that the idea of “doing nothing” or, more accurately, taking time to unwind and recharge, has a distinct appeal, an appeal that is backed up by psychology.
“Taking care of yourself means compassionately accepting yourself for who you are instead of burning yourself out trying to be everything to everyone all the time. It’s living your life in a way that doesn’t leave you needing to check out or take a break just so you can have a bath, read a book, or sip tea.”
Psychology Today, April 23, 2021
The problem is, our society is so focused on busyness and accomplishment that if we purposefully slow down our pace (let alone taking time out altogether) we get hit with a wave of guilt over all of the things that we could have been doing; of all the time ‘wasted.’
But time spent on recharging your personal batteries is never time wasted. After all, you can’t get any mileage out of a car that has no fuel, and you feel no guilt over spending the time to pull into a gas station or hook up to a recharging station. Neither should you feel guilty over taking the time to refill your own inner battery. In fact, if it feels better, tell yourself that by taking time every day to recharge you are being proactive, because it is a known fact that if you refuse to take time to rest and regroup, eventually your body will break down and force you to rest. It will give you no choice.
So don’t wait to be forced into taking care of yourself. Find the time now to recharge. Do it today. Do whatever it takes to replenish your battery; Stop and smell the roses. Take a walk in the forest. Sit on the beach and watch the waves come in. Plant a garden. Go cloud watching. Splash in the mud puddles. Dance in the rain. Stare into the eyes of your cat. Whatever makes you happy; whatever makes your soul smile and fills you with awe and wonder, make time to do that. You will be happy that you did.
As long as mankind has had writing we have been recording our ideas and thoughts in written form. From the temple priests of ancient Egypt to the philosophers of ancient Greece to the Victorian writers who took sixteen pages and a bottle of ink to describe a sunrise.
Indeed, there has always been a driving desire among writers to get their words out of their heads and down on paper, or vellum ,or parchment, or, in the case of the Mesopotamians, bricks. But only in the last two decades has the idea of putting words down in a non-tangible format actually become something that would seriously be considered.
In fact, there is something of a debate that is still going on regarding the need to save a hard copy of all of your online work or ideas that are stored in electronic format. Those against saving a hard copy point out that with so many backup systems available, the chances of losing your online work (or the work stored on your computer) is slim to none while those for it say that electronic documents are nothing more than an illusion and that, given the right set of circumstances, you could end up losing all of your work.
Oh, did you think that your online blog is the equivalent of hard copy journals? Let me ask you this, what would happen if your webhost had a complete system failure? Well, hopefully you would have backups on your hard drive (or thumb drive) right? Well, let’s hope, for your sake, that the webhost’s system failure wouldn’t go hand in hand with an electronics failure (such as could be expected in a major solar storm) or even just a system crash on your own computer due to a nasty computer virus.
The point is, while you can take multiple steps to safeguard your information on the Internet and even on your own hard drive, the fact is that you are recording your ideas in cyberspace, it may look as if you have a page of written words, but it is really an illusion, and if for some unforeseen reason you no longer had access to electricity (as I did one memorable summer when dealing with two hurricanes on top of each other) you also have no access to any of the work that you have done as well. And then there are the dangers of confronting the cyber-dog.
ATTACK OF THE CYBER DOG
Wait, what was that about a cyber-dog?
Well, you remember that old excuse that kids used to give to their teachers, the one about the dog eating their homework? Well, in today’s world of electronic communications the culprit is an electronic dog, one that eats bits instead of kibble and whose byte is annoying as it can take great chunks out of your stored information.
How many times have you sent an email, or uploaded a picture from your iPhone, only to never have it go through? That’s because the cyber-dog ate it. Of course sometimes it shows up hours (or even days) later maybe Fido was playing fetch. Ok, so it wasn’t the cyber-dog, it was actually it was because all the pieces or Packets of information that got sent out failed to get reassembled at their destination. While most online systems have safety features in place to help prevent this, sometimes it’s just impossible for the information you sent to get to where it’s going. Mind you it doesn’t happen often that all of your information completely disappears, but it can happen. This is another reason to always make copies of everything that you’ve written.
In fact, there are at least three layers of protective “clothing” you should be wearing to protect yourself from the bite of the cyber-dog:
1). Always save a copy of your work on a separate hard drive or thumb drive. While this may seem like overkill, especially if your computer has a great deal of storage space on it, remember that accidents do and can happen.
2). Never write your blogs or written work directly on the website or in an email. If you write a regular blog or upload written material directly through an online uploading system, at least write it out (and save a copy of it) on your own computer. This will prevent needless re-writing should your document go missing in cyberspace.
3). Print out a hard copy of any work that you particularly value. Trust me, if something unforeseen happens, you’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t.
I’ll never forget the completed and corrected version of my book that I blithely sent off to the publisher via email (without printing it out) only to find that it never arrived. And when I went to retrieve it off of my computer I found that a worm virus had eaten through the bulk of my stored copy. I had a copy of the uncorrected manuscript on a thumb drive, but I had lost three months worth of editorial work and had to start from scratch. Try explaining that to your editor.
Of course then there was the time that I not only lost an article that I had emailed to the magazine I was writing for, but the thumb drive that I had the copy stored on literally broke in two and my IT dude was unable to retrieve any information off of it. I lost the commission from the article because I missed the deadline (the editor didn’t like the cyber-dog excuse). But I certainly learned my lesson. I now have stacks of hard copies of my completed work. They take up a whole corner of my den (and probably a small forest), but it certainly beats the alternative.
So yes, while computers, computer storage systems as well as online uploading and online blogs can be marvelous tools for today’s writer, keep a wary eye out for the cyber-dog. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the cost of printing off a hard copy of your documents definitely beats the sinking sensation you get when you realize that it is gone for good and probably buried like a bone under some virtual reality shrub on a back street in Second Life.
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