Small Choices

December 21, 2017

Small Choices

One of the principles I stress as a teacher and parent is personal responsibility.

For me, this means trying to teach that each action, each choice, has either positive or negative consequences.  I also try to teach the importance of following our moral principles when making even the smallest of decisions because even small decisions direct our lives.

When we read fiction (or play strategy board games, watch movies, play role-play story-line video games, etc) it is easier to see the “big picture” of each small decision (when reading or watching a movie, I often yell at the characters when they make a stupid decision and I know it will cause problems – this entertains my children).   I love games like chess, cathedral, Settlers of Catan, and Risk because they teach us to look ahead, plan our strategy, and make small decisions (moves, location of settlements, or deployment of men) to affect the goal (winning the game).

In real life, whatever our age, we often miss the “bigger importance” of an event as we live it.  It is only through reflection (as in the Bible, Mary “ponders in her heart”) that we see our experience in its proper place in the tapestry of our lives.  We sometimes catch a glimpse of the awesome scope of a seemingly simple event in retrospect (a large purchase decision, joining a sport, a move, competing in an event, a new job).  Occasionally, we realize our decision is massive at the time (picking out a pet, choosing a spouse, deciding to start a family).

As young people, we seldom see our “small” choices as momentous.  We don’t often see our choice of high school classes, friends, or activities to be important.  In truth, classes generally pique interests, aim career paths, and influence our college choices.  Friends shape our personality!  Activities often lead us to long term relationships, future business and personal connections, and help shape our character.

When I write stories, I try to hint at the importance of personal decisions.  In Pirate Child, one simple decision by Darren (his decision to treat his “charge” as he would his younger brother) affects Ethan’s entire life.  In Web of Deception, Chloe’s decision to aid and follow Jordan leads to her discovery of her destiny.  In Story From the Inn, Rachel’s choice to help instead of complain (although, it wouldn’t have been in her culture or personality to complain) leads her to being present at a baby’s birth.

Small choices shape our lives.  Sometimes, they help shape the lives of others.  Choose wisely.

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time…

~Nancy Tart

 

Finding Perspective

December 20, 2017

Finding Perspective

One of the most important things for me to find when I’m writing is the perspective of my target audience.

Simply: for whom am I writing?

For Web of Deception, I was writing to the adventurous young adult (myself and my brother), for the Brantley Station Saga, my target is young adults, and my target readers for The Devonians are those in first through fifth grade.  The Funny Sisters stories are written to be read-aloud so they are more complex.  My goal for them is to entertain both the mom or older child reader and the younger preschool or elementary listener.

Story From the Inn was written when one of my girls mentioned, “I wonder what it was like to work at the inn where Jesus was born.”  (We had just watched a show about the culture of Jewish life in Jesus’ time and read through a book about growing up where Jesus lived.)

I imagined the small inn at Bethlehem run by a family (most were in that time) and one daughter (one my girls could relate to) always trying to help yet always getting underfoot.  This became the eyes and ears of my target audience (my little girls).  Children would relate to Rachel and see, hear, and feel that inn, culture, and special event through her eyes.  I dove into some more specific research and developed Rachel’s story of Jesus’ birth as remembered by a beloved grandmother while entertaining several grandchildren awaiting a new baby’s birth.

Rachel epitomized most children: full of life and expectancy, eager to help, longing to please, and constantly asking questions.

In the moment, Rachel doesn’t understand the magnificence of the event, she only feels elated that she gets to help with a birth (something “big”) and hold a newborn baby (for the first time).  As the storyteller, she reflects on this as an adult, to complete the circle.

Check out Story From the Inn to read Rachel’s story!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later…

~Nancy Tart

 

Research for Caleb

June 8, 2017

Caleb

I love to write historical fiction.  Historical fiction is fiction (a made-up story) set in a historical setting.  It can be following an actual historical figure, about a historical figure, place, or event, or a made-up story in a real time in history.

Writing historical fiction requires research.  The deeper and more accurate your research, the more in-depth and believable your story will be.

For example, “The Living God” is a historical fiction story.

Historical setting: Babylon, 6th/7th century BC

Historical figures: Daniel, counselors, princes, King Darius (Persian)

Culture(s): Recently occupied Babylon, rule was Mede/Persian, servants/slaves of various conquered tribes/nations/villages including Judean (Israelite)

For this story, I researched the culture of Babylon pre-occupation, the culture of the Mede/Persian empire, and the Judean culture for the time period of the story.  The Babylonians had a rather effective “conquer and subjugation” method of stealing conquered people’s high-ranking children and using them in court service to prevent uprisings.  They generally treated these individuals as princes and only took the best of the best.  Daniel was one such captive.

I also researched what was available on King Darius (and Mede/Persian rulers of this time in general), and Daniel; as these were my primary historical characters.

This research gave me insight into Daniel’s mental state.  Reading historical information about him revealed that he was grateful for his position, served his masters (at least three different kings) faithfully even if he disagreed with them, fulfilled his duties honestly, yet considered himself a prisoner and yearned for release and the ability to return to his homeland.

I created a main character to follow (Caleb) as a palace slave (captured youngster from another dominated tribe) using the cultural information I could gather.  Caleb is feisty, independent, used to being above the law (a noble in his former land), yet knowledgeable of the laws of his captive land and attempting to follow them.  As my research showed that often pairs of children were stolen, I also created Miriam, Caleb’s younger sister who is more accepting of her lower status as women were culturally lower than men even in nobility.

Since “The Living God” is a retold Bible story, the central storyline (regarding Daniel) is taken from the Biblical account.

So, that’s just a little bit about the research behind one short, historical fiction story!  I love researching things, so historical fiction is a favorite genre of mine.  Try that out with your next story – research and write!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you next time,

~Nancy Tart

 

 

Building Katy Bear

May 30, 2017

Building Katy Bear

“Tell me a story about creation!” Pipes Christina.

“Animals!” bubbles Rebeccah.

So began a little story about a bear named Katy who wants to see God create something.  This story was told for about three years before I wrote it down because Rebeccah wanted to read it to her younger sisters.  We added Ralph Bear and the raven changed to a wise old owl. Ralph was added because the girls wanted Katy to have a brother.  Rebeccah said we had to change the raven to something that lived longer so it would be more believable.  (Animals talking and praying is believable, but an old raven isn’t)

They had lots of discussion about different birds but the owl won.  He could be very old.  Birds were made before mammals so he could remember God creating.  The Bible calls owls wise. Kimberly was the toddler when we wrote it down on paper (okay, typed it on the computer and printed it out) so Christina wanted another bear.  Rebeccah said bears have singles and twins, so a third bear wouldn’t really work.  Christina reasoned it was a fairy tale and anything could really happen.  We looked up lives of bears.  Because they usually do just have twins, Christina pointed out that this story takes place before the flood – maybe pre-flood bears had triplets and quadruplets!  Rebeccah wanted to know why bears would have more babies before the flood.   Christina’s reply was that they were obeying God’s command.

“Which one?”

“Being fruitful and multiplying and filling the Earth.”  Christina said, “that would easily explain why animals in olden days had more babies.”

“Mice live today and they have tons of babies.”

“That’s because they have lots of things that eat them.  Who eats bears?”

Well, that prompted some more investigation into the lives of bears.  We learned a great deal about bears in the few days while we wrote “Katy Bear’s Request.”  Christina and Rebeccah even bought a National Geographic DVD special on bears from the resale store because now they love bears.  (Kimberly LOVED watching this movie, along with the VHS tape about African lions – zoologist in the making)

I learned a lot about bears.  What I really like about researching for a book is that I can drag the girls into it too!  We all take a few days and launch into learning about whatever subject.  For Daydreamer, most of our knowledge was already there (farming, food without processed flour, community) but for Pirate Child, we dove into learning about “the deep” ocean; building challenges, what kinds of creatures Ethan would see, basic physics of underwater travel.

For Katy Bear’s Request, we learned about bears.  I always wonder what subject we’ll become “little experts” (as Rebeccah calls it) on next time!

Thanks for reading!

Type at you later,

~Nancy Tart