Keep Your Eyes Open

Okay, guys, I’m soundtracking this one. In 3… 2… 1…

Why this theme? For one simple, very good reason.

The best piece of writing advice I have ever gotten came from a book I read recently. What was this sage piece of wisdom? Let me share it with you: “Don’t look away.”

Three simple words that changed my story method forever.

Why, you ask? Because until that point, I had been looking away. Away from embarrassing moments. Away from painful moments. Away from moments that could make you cry they’re so wonderful or could make you cry for other reasons. I had been stopping before I hit reality. And what’s the one thing every writer must bring a touch of to their story? That’s right. Reality.

As writers, our first and most important job is to tell a story. But our second most important job is to not look away from those everyday moments that make life… well… life. How are we supposed to bring readers to their knees or make them swoon or laugh or cry if we look away before the full effect takes place?

I’m not just talking about when we’re researching, either. Yes, it’s good to watch an entire moment play out before you, but the whole point of keeping your eyes open is so you can write it accurately. What does the audience gain if you end a touching (thrilling, tear-jerking) scene before its full conclusion, or if you skip the parts you think are “too emotional”.

Answer: nothing.

I know it’s difficult to write and it drains you emotionally, but I beg of you to put in those raw emotions. That’s what makes your characters real.

Is she heartbroken? Show her sobs.

Is he angry? Show his rage. ALL of it.

Study body language and psychology. See what makes your characters tick and how they react to a situation that throws them out of their comfort zone. It’s okay to do this! You know why? Because the second best piece of advice I’ve gotten is: “Kill your darlings.”

Don’t be so attached or so fearful for a character that you just can’t hurt them. Reality, remember? Everyone gets hurt, that’s the horrible truth. Hearts break, people lie or miscommunicate, and everyone has bad days. Just look around you. That girl sitting in the corner Starbucks booth all alone? What’s her story? That busboy in the restaurant that you pay absolutely no attention to – Why does he work there? The mom with three little kids in the grocery store – Is she alone or did she choose to be by herself?

Why?

That is the biggest question you should ever ask yourself. Why do things happen around you? Why are people where they are at this moment. Listen for the stories and when you find them: Don’t. Look. Away.

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What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

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Did you like what you read today? Do you have questions, comments, or cat-killing curiosity about something? If so, please either comment on this post or visit the Contact page and drop me a note!

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BONUS POST: Forgotten Glory

Seeing as how Resurrection Sunday is fast approaching, I thought I’d share with you a short story I recently wrote on the subject. It’s titled Forgotten Glory, and is one of the works I’m very proud of. Please enjoy it, and share it with others this Easter season.

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Forgotten Glory

copyright 2015, by Megan Fatheree

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His sentence was set, and I watched them beat him again and again, stripping the very skin from the body he had chosen. He didn’t cry out, he didn’t try to run away.

They laid a cross on his back and demanded he carry it, though I knew he didn’t deserve it. He was blameless, and always will be. Yet he took it upon his shoulders and started that long walk to the destiny he had crafted with his own hands.

Along the way he faltered, and fell under the weight of his burden. A man stepped forward, chosen from the crowd, and stepped beside my Lord. With much exertion and a cry of a mortal’s pain, this man lifted the load I would have gladly carried. If only He would say something.

The Lord rose from where he had fallen and rested the weight once again on his shoulders. Even like this, his glory poured forth and touched the ones willing to receive.

The people threw words and launched their anger. I couldn’t understand how quickly they had forgotten all the things their Lord had done. How soon they had turned from his love and overflowing compassion to follow their so-called spiritual leaders.

Others joined me on the way to Golgotha, the Place of the Skull that should not belong to the one who made all of Heaven and Earth. Demons taunted, laughed, and those who had fallen long ago looked on without interest.

With each beat of the hammer that drove metal through his precious skin, a pulse propelled all of us forward. A host of heavenly warriors ready to battle. We would take him up, away from this earthly agony. If only he would say the word.

A sign above his head proclaimed his majesty, and still the people did not recognize him. They mocked him. They asked where we were, why he would not call on us to save him. And I didn’t see their beauty then. Instead of the masterpieces he had molded them to be, I saw only the Serpent, ruler of the mortal realms.

The sky turned dark as night, and thunder clapped in the distance. Lucifer himself arrived to see his great accomplishment.

The sin of all those he loved so dearly appeared to us. Each sin a blemish on his skin. One by one, we saw the sin of the past. The present. The future. A mountain of evil so vast, we could hardly bear to look at him.

“Where is your Father now?” Lucifer taunted, and a sneer distorted his beautiful face.

My Lord lifted his head and shouted through his pain, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

I leapt forward, ready to pull him from this cross, but the others held me back. “Why does he not say the word?” I screamed.

The humans below had not understood his agony, and they offered him the worst of their wine. Thunder cracked and lightning split the clouds, a brief reprieve from the opaque blackness surrounding him.

Then, in a moment of splendor, he gave one last shout. “It is finished!” he decreed, and we watched his spirit rip from its mortal confines.

Lucifer laughed and disappeared to his Hell, and the Demons danced with joy. The fallen ones turned and walked away. But they didn’t see what we saw.

For once in forever, all of heaven cried as we watched him release his mortal being. Rocks split open and the earth shook, crying out for the Messiah they knew. Tombs opened, the dead rose again, and those who had killed him fell to their knees. The curtain in the temple split, and we could hear it tear from miles around. His glory spilled from the Holy of Holies and flooded the entire earth. There was no more separation.

I looked on as a stranger laid the form in a borrowed grave, but I knew he wasn’t there. So I turned my eyes down and watched him descend to the very pit of Hell, where the gates swung open willingly.

Without a warrior in sight, he marched in to the place he had created for the fallen ones.

Lucifer cringed and cowered in fear, but my Lord reached out a hand. No argument could have been made. No agreement could have been reached. Even Lucifer recognized the authority of the Blameless One, whose spotless life meant He never deserved to die. An undeserved death that granted Him authority over the one who thought he had caused His demise.

The heavy keys of death and the grave jingled in His hands, and for one moment in time, all of Hell was silent. Every monster and sinner knew that Jesus had won, and they hadn’t even known there was a battle.

The gates slammed as He left them, and locked in finality. No longer would the Earth be without hope.

I watched him ascend, back to the Earth, and I knew the others saw too.

Spirit met flesh in a flash of blinding light, and the human guards couldn’t stand for the weight of His glory. We moved as one to surround the tomb, and I easily pushed the stone away from the entrance.

Not one of us stood as He stepped into the light of His own Majesty. We all knew the love that He had displayed. For a second time, graves split open and those thought dead rose from their slumber. Each one saw him and each one worshipped. No one would ever understand His great love and mercy better than those who had seen it that day.

As we watched Him ascend to greet His Father, all of heaven rejoiced in that love. For we knew He had defeated the chains of bondage and won freedom for all. We knew this wouldn’t be the last time He showed his glory to the humans He loved best. We knew we would see Him forever seated by His Father in Heaven.

And that he would come back again.