Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Those Rambling, Incessant Talkers!

This is my last entry on real character analysis. Today I’m doing the incessant talker. Do you know anyone like that? More than one?

I have a family member and a friend at church who are like this. They are both precious ladies, BUT unless you have plenty of time on your hands, do not, I repeat, do NOT engage them in conversation.

I am a talker, also, so I understand incessant talkers. But these two ladies will bend your ear about people and things you have no interest in. As in a recent conversation that including the telling of one lady’s daughter’s co-worker getting written up for something. I don’t know this daughter’s co-worker and the story about her getting written up by a supervisor wasn’t an unusual or interesting story, and it certainly had no point to it. But incessant talkers don’t need a point.

I have concluded that incessant talkers are lonely for conversation because they don’t get enough talking, with someone who will listen, at home or from their spouse.

But imagine the scenario with an incessant talker in a novel. Let’s say for instance, a detective investigating a crime scene. One of the people he interviews is a rambling, non-stop talker. He finally sees a break to walk away, or he creates a break so he can walk away, and chalks up the mountain of information he just heard as unrelated to the case.

But he finds out later that in all that rambling monologue, the talker revealed a key clue to the case. Only he dismissed it along with everything else the talker said.

Use your imagination. There are so many possibilities for characters in our writing in the people we encounter all the time. So observe and write, write, write!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Those Quirky Characters Who Refuse to Grow Up

As writers we are surrounded by people that we can use as characters in our stories. Perhaps not the actual person, but someone with the same quirks, personalities,and appearance. There is no end to this. So following in theme I have for this month, here is another character I know or have in my life – the person who never grows up.

She’s in her early 30’s and I don’t think she has ever had a serious relationship with the opposite sex. I’ve known her since she was eleven or twelve, and she’s never really dated a lot. She’s attractive enough, has a bubbly and outgoing personality.

She doesn’t want to commit to anyone because she doesn’t she doesn’t want to grow up. She LOVES hanging out with the teenagers, but not in a weird way. She’s always served as a youth sponsor/leader in whatever church my daughter and her husband are youth pastors. But she hangs out with teens – mostly girls – during the week and weekends.

I love this young lady. She calls me mom. But she is quirky and sometimes her quirkiness is irritating and frustrating. I think I understand her refusal to commit (she was in a relationship recently with a handsome, sweet Christian guy, but she broke up after two months) because I know some of her background.

But the whole point of this blog is how this person I know would make a good character in my writing. Let’s see…a quirky 30ish woman who doesn’t want to grow up, is afraid to commit in a relationship. Yes, I could tweak that into an interesting character in a short story or minor character in a novel.

Go, my friends, and share your story with your vast array of characters. God bless us all, and bless our words that we pen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Those Self-Absorbed Selfie Takers

Continuing with my blogs about people-watching and characterizations. This week I want to concentrate on not one person, but numerous who fit this description: the ever-loving, selfie-taking, posting-pictures-of-themselves-on-social-media people.

We all know at least one. Most of us know several people like that. And let’s face it, they are normally good-looking people. Although a few aren’t, yet they must think they are. One I know posts a different picture of herself every day and sometimes more than once a day. Maybe she was pretty in her younger days, but not so much anymore. But don’t tell her that. Someone did ask her one time at a social gathering why she posted so many pictures of herself. The next day she posting all over social media about how her feelings were so hurt.  What did she accomplish by doing that? Just what she wanted to accomplish. People were consoling her, telling her how they loved all her pictures, criticizing whoever could say such a cruel thing.

It is terrible when older, mature people, especially Christians, behave like they’re still in high school. But what great fodder for writing – the self-absorbed-with-their-looks characters. Of course, people can become absorbed or obsessed over many things: their intellectual prowess, their money, their fame, their physical ailments, their romance, their children, their accomplishments, and so on.

What would we see if we could look into the heart and soul of these people? Pride? Arrogance? Insecurities? Selfishness? A cry for love?  Loneliness? A need to be noticed? Constantly needing praise and affirmation?

Please don’t mistake my example for those of you who post a different picture once a week or so. I am not referring to you. But, just think of the twists and turns your story could take with a person continually taking selfies.

And of course, if I was young, gorgeous, and hot maybe I would be posting selfies every day, eh?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Using Real People As Character -types in Writing

For the month of June I am going to blog about character observations of real people.  Good writing includes great characters, both good and bad. Do you enjoy people-watching and forming opinions about people from their actions and mannerisms? I do. But we only see on the surface. We can’t truly know the heart and mind of anyone.

Today I’ll talk about Louise – not her real name. Louise attends the church I do. She’s hard to miss since ours is a small church. Louise makes sure she’s not overlooked.

We all know people who are focused on, and love to talk about, their physical ailments. Louise should teach a class on it. She has mastered this. Do not, I repeat, do not sit next to Louise unless you are prepared to hear a litany of her ailments and illnesses – real and imagined, but more imagined, I would surmise.

She is a nice enough person. I don’t believe she has a mean bone in her body. But oh, those bones of her body! In the past few years I’ve known her she has had every illness, disease, and condition. If she truly has had those conditions, which includes cancer in various body parts and several deadly diseases, she should not be alive.

But she is very much alive. How do I know? In every church service, she struggles out of her seat, and proceeds to moan and limp to the back of the church where she limps back and forth with a pained expression on her face.

Please don’t think I am heartless and Louise really is suffering. I’ve seen her after church rush to her truck because her husband wants to leave – this after she has spent the time during the sermon moaning and limping.

Intermittently Louise will announce that she is healed and pain-free. No limping. No moaning. But this announcement is quickly followed by her announcement that they—whoever they are –  have found cancer, or she’s diabetic, or has lupus, shingles, congestive heart failure, and the list goes on and on. Eventually those ailments fail to materialize or don’t have the desired effect, so she’s back to limping and moaning.

Louise is not old; she’s probably mid 40’s. Her husband always looks embarrassed by her antics. What would your in-depth conclusion be on someone like Louise? On the surface, I would say she’s a drama queen. She craves attention. She’s a hypochondriac extraordinaire.

All those surface conclusions don’t get to the real issue deep within the heart of Louise. I have no idea what has happened in her life to make her this way. I can only guess. Recently she has glommed onto me. I groan and ask God to help me be kind and patient -- help me show her hope and a better way, that she is likable and lovable as she is; she doesn't need an ailment for people to care. 

But, oh how I can use a Louise-type in my fiction writing. That’s the beauty of being a people-watcher if you are a writer.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Brain Tumor That Turned Out to Be Shingles

Pain riddled through the right side of my head, and behind and through my right eyeball. Brain tumor? What else could it be? I don’t get headaches. Or I rarely get headaches and usually it’s sinus related when I do. After the pain waking me up for two nights in a row, I decide to drive myself to an ER (hospital emergency room) on a Monday morning.

Why would a sixty-six year old great-grandmother drive herself to ER? Because my mother-in-law had passed away four days before and my husband was in another city with his father, and my daughters were all at their places of work. Besides, there’s a tad bit of independence leftover from my days as a single mom.

Brain tumor was a mantra running through my thoughts as I drove myself to ER. But? What was the blistery things on my right forehead? Maybe I got bit by a scorpion or brown recluse spider? Wouldn’t that cause my head to hurt? But what about my eye pain? Was my head filled with some venomous insect poison?

Dear God, you do remember I am one of the speakers at a Single Moms Conference in a few weeks?  How can I do that when I can’t even think straight around the pain in my head and eye?

“Shingles,” the ER doctor tells me. Well, I suggested it first. “Please tell me this isn’t shingles,” I say. “Yes, I’m afraid it is,” he replies. “Noooooooo,” I respond, followed by, “At least it isn’t a brain tumor.” Doctor, “Or an aneurysm.”

I text my husband and daughters that I am in ER and have shingles. My youngest daughter, Heather, leaves work to join me. Armed with prescriptions, we leave the ER. Thump thump thump goes my van. I pull into a CVS parking lot and my front tire has a huge bubble in it. Seriously? This happened two weeks prior on the other front tire. Pow! Bubble pops and two women entering CVS come running over. “Are you okay? Were you shot at?”

If I was being shot at, why would you come running over? I wanted to ask them that, but I was in pain and extremely frustrated over another bubble-popped tire. Heather showed up to drive me home, then pick up my meds and some lunch for us. Her husband and sons (my son-in-law and grandsons) arrived to get my keys to retrieve my van after they changed the tire.

Heather and family left, granddaughter Hailey staying with me until her mom, my daughter, Denise, shows up to relieve her. By 9:00 PM, the pain in my eye had increased to a steady hot-knife-continually-stabbing-my-eye pain.

Denise drove me back to the ER where my daughter, Stephanie, and husband, Jeff, soon joined us. Unlike earlier that morning, the evening ER was crowded with people. After an hour or two, I was writhing in pain. “What ER lets a sixty-six year old woman in pain wait this long to get seen?” I whine.

Many pain-filled hours later with no relief from the knife stabbing my eye, they knock me out and admit me to the hospital. Tuesday is lost to me. I have vague memories of visitors (I was in isolation. Apparently my shingles was contagious for chicken pox), and numerous doctors and nurses checking in on me – taking my vitals, drawing blood, looking in my eye, adjusting my IV, injecting pain meds in my IV, giving me oral meds. On top of all that, I continued to vomit throughout the day and night.

On the fourth day I am sent home with eye drops, 4 pain meds and antiviral medicine in pill form. I see an eye doctor who prescribes more eye drops, one a steroid to promote healing and the other an antiviral drops. Mr. Eye Doctor came to see me in the hospital. He is not hospital staff. He was rude and rough. I vaguely remember and my family, several were there in my room, tell me how rude he was. I politely tell him how rude he was, and, sigh, he apologizes. At least he didn’t deny he was rude.

For over a week, my right eye oozed yellow gunk that stuck my eye together. But the good news is that the shingles virus that got into my eye did not cause vision loss.

I have not written or read anything for two weeks. My dear husband got me a new laptop for Mother’s Day and I have not felt well enough to play with it. God is good and prayer works. So many people were praying for me. I am blessed by amazing family and friends.

If you have NOT gotten a shingle vaccination, let me encourage you to do so. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Mother's Day 2015

Mothers. Mother’s day. The day we honor mothers everywhere. If you have been blessed with a wonderful mother, then thank God. Not everyone is so fortunate. My dear mother has been gone for a year and a half now. Was she a perfect mother? No, but she was a good mother and loved us.

There is no such thing as a perfect mother. Or a perfect person. We are all flawed and fallible. I was a young mother – very young – three children by the time I was nineteen years old and two more by the time I was twenty-five. I was a grandmother ay thirty two. I have a lot of failures and regrets as a mother and grandmother.

But God is faithful. When I look back at that young, frustrated, high-strung, frightened, overwhelmed young mother I was, I want to hug her for every time she cried herself to sleep in defeat. I want to tell her to do the best she can in the circumstances she is dealing with.

There’s no magic formula for being a good mother. Except prayer. Prayer is a vital key. Don’t overlook it and don’t underestimate it. God, through your prayers, will make up the difference in your lack of parenting skills. It may take years before you're aware of this, but it will happen. 

If you’re children are small, shower them with love and make wonderful memories. If your children are gown and you are now a grandmother and great-grandmother like me, let it go.  My advice is simply this – forgive yourself.

Healing came to me when I allowed God to get it through my heart and spirit that I did the best I could while struggling in an unhappy, dysfunctional marriage. So this Mother’s Day in 2015, celebrate mothers everywhere. Celebrate you! 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Weeping Willow

Topic: Cup and Saucer (08/28/14)

TITLE: The Weeping Willow
By Leola Ogle

I am, and stand on a dairy farm, because of Aaron. Aaron’s grandfather planted me to commemorate his birth. Aaron is gone now but I will always be his tree. I am a weeping willow with deep roots. My trunk is thick and strong. My branches reach upward as if to beseech the Almighty, then droop so my leaves caress the ground in mournful surrender.

Now my branches sway in listless melancholy. Even the melody of birds that make their home in my branches can’t lift my sorrow. I miss the times of a little boy playing beneath my shade and climbing my branches. I was his fortress. He believed my drooping branches hid him from the world. My leaves danced with the sound of his laughter, then sagged with empathy during his tears.

My favorite memories are when his sister, Becky, was born. Aaron was five. Grandfather planted a peach tree near me to commemorate her birth. Although this tree would provide them with delectable fruit, I am the one both chose as their play area. 

Aaron was special, but Becky even more so. She was born with a mind that would always remain a child. Aaron loved her all the more because of it. Many days he laid aside his toy soldiers and cowboys, and cars and trucks to participate in Becky’s tea party. 

“Aaron, have a tea party with me.” He would sit at the wooden picnic table their father had made especially for Becky. Aaron would lift the plastic cup and saucer and pretend to sip. Sometimes Becky really did have tea or lemonade, and cookies on tiny plates. Tea parties with her brother were Becky’s favorite thing. Their giggles caused my leaves to vibrate with joy. Even the birds’ melody was sweeter. 

Aaron’s love for his sister never waned. As he got older and outgrew toys, he never refused to sit under my branches and sip tea with Becky. It’s what little girls do. It was something he understood and accepted. As she grew, her plastic cups and saucers were replaced by porcelain. For her sixteenth birthday, Aaron sent her home a set of Royal Albert fine china he bought in England during his tour of duty with the Army. 

When war broke out, Aaron’s plane was shot down. For months, his family didn’t know if he was dead or alive. Only Becky believed beyond a doubt that he would return. She set her fine china on the table under my branches and spoke to God. “When you bring Aaron home, God, we’ll have tea in my beautiful cups he sent me.” 

One day a fierce storm hit. The violence of the wind broke off some of my branches. I tried my best to shelter Becky. She had sat out her tea set and was having imaginary conversations with Aaron. By the time her family noticed she wasn’t in the house, she was soaked and chilled to the bone. 

She was very ill, and for many weeks she didn't come to sit beneath my branches. So somber was the countenance of everyone in the farmhouse, I feared she’d never return. One day, a man came slowly walking towards me. He had a limp, and was so thin. A young beautiful lady walked beside him.

As they drew closer, I recognized in that drawn face the vestiges of the boy I knew. The lovely lady was his bride, the daughter of the farmer who found Aaron and nursed him back to health after his plane was shot down. 

They chatted amiably as she, Paulette, set out the tea set. She arranged crumpets and scones on a plate and poured tea into cups from a teapot laced with delicate roses. Aaron’s parents helped Becky to the table, bracing her on either side. It was the most marvelous tea party ever. 

They’re all gone now, every one of them. Grandfather and Grandmother were the first to go, then Aaron’s parents. Even as an old woman, Becky had many tea parties with Aaron’s and Paulette’s daughters and granddaughters. When Aaron and Becky departed this earth, his sons sold the farm. No more children came to sit beneath my leaves or climb my branches. 

On nights when the howling wind rustles my leaves with a mournful sound, I can still recall the clink of cups on saucers as Becky’s giggles summon Aaron. I hear the sigh of acquiescence from a boy who understood the importance of tea parties with his sister.