True Sentiment versus Sentimentality by Janine Donoho

Trumpeter Swans fly through morning light streaming through clouds to silhouette Whitehorse mountainLast night I finally watched Hallmark’s prerecorded Away and Back. Don’t judge me. I resisted for a time because I intensely dislike attempted emotional coercion and that’s been Hallmark’s modus operandi for too long.

Still, trumpeter swans… Then appealing characters and storyline charmed me into staying. Gone the silly and soapy scrum of recent Hallmark movies in celebration of the return to story and true sentiment. Okay, a few glitches, but more on that later.

Flawlessly cast adult protagonists delivered on story as battered widower Jack Peterson and truculent swan conservationist Ginny Newsom. Empathetic and gritty 10-year-old Frankie emerged as the fictional daughter I’ll never have. And saving Cygnus buccinator—balm to a conservation biologist’s heart.

Trumpeter swan by Brian StevensThe cinematography stunned me to tears with trumpeters silhouetted against the sun or harvest moon. Sweeping scapes of other natural beauty and even a subtle message of hope amid the human interactions lifted me. Mostly.

Now a lesson for all of us conduits of story. Hallmark engaged me until the last twenty minutes, when they imploded into the black hole of clichéd sentimentality. At that point, I forgave them—this time.

The earlier glow carried me through this misstep. They dished up the real deal Soundings Cover Upgraded 1-23-2015for much of the movie and maybe next time around, they’ll persist with honest emotion and storytelling.

Until then? I’m reading and writing. Plus launching SOUNDINGS, WATER ELEMENTAL into the world—a novel brimming with story, impactful characters and yes, true sentiment. Or at least that was my intent.

How do you feel about sappiness and overt attempts to influence us? Where do you draw the line as viewer? As reader? As writer?Trumpeter Swans

The Strange Origami of Story Construction by Janine Donoho

What my Mistborn Chonicles look like when printedWhen it comes to storytelling, I view myself as a fusion pantser/plotter. There’s an inherent thrill with going where story takes me and once the first fold connects points 1 and 2, I’m hooked. Then inexplicable clusters, timelines, and abstracts recombine into more intricate patterns.

Still once I’ve developed basic folds and angles of characters, setting, scenes, and

Basic origami of what's to come

Basic origami of what’s to come

plot, I know it’s time to begin shaping the work toward a final vision. Central shapes pleat in macro and then micro gradients with affinity for movement toward or away from certain objectives. The permeability of each segment changes the structure. Visualize folds bisecting lines and angles at various degrees in progressively complex ways through cube doubling and angle trisection.

Complex origami foldsOne fold at a time, the next two Elementals have been forming into specific and recognizable shapes for years now. A few weeks ago, I pulled all accumulated files and references for the Earth Elemental before plunking them into a bag—my first clumsy origami of what’s to come.

Each story progresses through this cycle of fold, open, deconstruct, and reconstruct until it’s gone as far as I know how to take it. In that final stage it looks either like reams of stacked paper or a much less intriguing, yet substantial, electron file.

If I’m very lucky, it begins to look like this.Cover Collection 2

On Relevance – Part II by Janine M. Donoho

The view from our balcony in Leavenworth.
I had the opportunity to attend Write on the River in Wenatchee this May. Actually, my friend and critique partner Anjali Banerjee was a speaker, so we made it a girlfriend weekend of three that included best buddy and fellow writer Kate Breslin. Since Kate ended up coming a day late due to her spousal unit’s truly wretched bout of gastroenteritis, on Friday before the conference I assisted Anjali as she visited two schools. Incredible writer and presenter both, she gave four different and delightfully relatable programs for various elementary school grades. Introducing her, then juggling props, especially wrapping and unwrapping children in a stunning sari that belonged to her mother, I got a good taste of the peripheral nature of a sidekick. Yes, ‘relatable’ and ‘peripheral nature’ both refer to relevance.
 
Then on Sunday, opportunity again shone when Larry Brooks, who writes critically acclaimed thrillers, spoke passionately about The Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling. This offered another view of storytelling as espoused by Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey” and more recently by Donald Maass’ “Writing the Breakout Novel”. However, Larry’s approach, soon to be followed by his book on the subject, clarified the process even further. One of the samples he gave for dissection was the movie Collateral, starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox. Dutiful student of the craft that I am, the movie arrived via NetFlix the following week. It delivered on all of Larry’s elements.
 
However, the shocker of the day arrived as an aside. Larry claimed that actual writing, that sublime weaving of words, comes in dead last when weighed against concept, theme, character, structure, scene execution and writing voice. Last.


Leavenworth goat–apropos of this writer’s journey.
As a writer enthralled with both the import and nuance of words, this served as a body blow. All the books on my shelves, also known as ‘keepers’, are well written. However, Larry’s notion does explain many of the big brands in publishing, some of whom no longer write their own novels. So to be relevant to publishers, the six core competencies are paramount, while beauty and specificity of your words rank much lower. Ouch.
 

Which means I need to review my stories for those competencies–again. Maybe you’ll want to do the same. Perhaps publishers will overlook that they’re also delivered with well-written language. We want to be relevant after all.

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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