Trash or Treasure

by Marilyn Friesen

Someday I would like to write a classic.  But how would you define one? It seems like what was regarded as classics in the past aren’t as highly esteemed by the publishers of the present, that is if you came to the same conclusion I did from a previous article. Were you more amazed, shocked or amused that Jane Austin’s writings were rejected by modern publishing companies?

Not that I entirely blame them. We live in such a high-speed world that wading through tedious epistles just isn’t practical. 

But back to my aspirations. I still want to write classics. My definition is stories, whether based-on-truth or highly fictional that are worth re-reading several times and having a treasured spot in one’s heart and your home. 

1. They must flow smoothly, so quietly in fact, that your barque [a barque is a sailing ship usually with three masts] never hits a snag, or a rock that jars you back to this present world. 

      2. The description is essential but woven in subtly enough that it is not like said rock that would have to be circumvented or skimmed over. Try this on for size: “ten-year-old Elsie Schrock was a skinny girl with shoulder-length red hair. She blah-blah-blah.” Or: “ten-year-old Elsie Schrock hunched her shoulders and twisted a lock of red hair around her finger.” Which one would entice you to keep reading?

     3. Make your characters three dimensional! Every one of your main characters must be so real that you’d have a pretty good idea of how they would react in any given situation. Do they clench their fists, bite their nails, go red with anger, dress frumpily, sweep into the mall with their nose up and wearing spiked heels? What do they smell like? What do they eat? How do they eat? Are they neat or sloppy? Squeeze toothpaste from the middle? Tiny details slipped into the narrative seep into a reader’s conscience building the character into a real person much better than a paragraph of description.

     4. There must be conflict-–of course! Just recently, however, I have been experimenting with what for me is a slightly different twist on discord. Instead of the typical good guy, bad guy images, I’ve been letting the ‘bad guy’ act in a certain way for a while and the main character gradually learning why she is so difficult, which changes her own response to her. Why would this be a great way to deal with conflict and cause your readers to care about the main characters?

    5. Make your story meaningful. I shun shallow writing. Try deftly weaving in little tidbits of information that will make your readers more knowledgeable, happier, comforted, or something! By the way, did you know that dust pneumonia was a real danger in some regions of the United |states during the Dirty Thirties and special masks were sometimes worn? Did you know that during the same era farm boys found badgers to be playful pets? Until they were large enough to leap out of a barn loft and kill a sixty-pound pig, that is! Those ‘news items’ were a tiny peek preview of my next book, which will be out soon. Family: the Gift that Lives Forever.

    Said autobiography isn’t out yet, but I would love to receive more honest reviews on my other books. Tell me if I’m succeeding in making them seem realistic. www.marilynshistoricalnovels.com

Marilyn Friesen, contributor is a Mennonite mother and grandmother and she also loves writing. If you gravitate towards books about Christian-based history, check hers out. They are family friendly and enjoyed by all ages.

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4 thoughts on “Trash or Treasure”

  1. Great Marilyn. Love that you are writing where the so-called “bad guy” has reasons for actions but isn’t doing something bad all the time. Many do have compassion/love in some way. The same with the hero. He/She isn’t always perfect. In the story, I am writing now the good guy gets pulled in with thieves and lives the life until he is awakened to where his path is going. But temptation isn’t just once. It rears it’s head again. God Bless on your new endeavors.

  2. #3 works resonates especially well with me because I admire the depth of characterization in your book “Mary’s Diary.”

  3. Great article, Marilyn. In movies you can see each character in detail. At this time in history, we can stop the movie and study the character if we want. In our books we must paint the character so the reader can see all the details in her mind. Barbara, my wife, is an avid reader. One day I asked her how she decides what to read. Is it all about good writing? She told me the answer is no. Reading some books, although the writing leaves something to be desired, I fall in love with the characters. I’ll read the author’s other books because of these characters.

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