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Writing Tip # 11: Skip Ahead

Who says you have to write your story chronologically? It can be helpful–but then again, it can also get you stuck. If you know generally where your story is going, you can jump ahead to a less difficult spot, to a segment where you know which events happen and what the consequences are. Jumping ahead and working on a different part of the story could spark ideas for that trouble spot as well.  Anyway, the story is a draft, right? It doesn’t have to be a smooth read from start to finish that first time. 🙂

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Writing Tip #9: Learn How You Work

Every writer has a different writing process.  Some writers need more time to make notes and outline than to draft.  Others need to create well-developed characters before starting chapter one.  Still others may need only the general concept, and they’ll dig deeper into it while writing.  Other writers just write and see what happens.  You get the idea.

Learn your own writing process–what works best for you.  Whether you need to spend more time outlining (if at all), developing characters, organizing themes.  Whether you find it easier to focus on the details or to start with concepts.  Whether you need lots of notes or only general ideas.  Discovering the writing process that suits you best will take time and experience—and failure, but all this pays off.  Because once you know your own approach, you can be flexible in non-essential areas and prepare adequately for a project.

For instance, I’m the planner sort.  (Can you tell?  🙂 )  I need to know the general concept of the story, the conflict, and the conclusion of what I’m trying to say (see this post for further explanation of those points).  I also need characters developed pretty deeply before drafting.  And I’m definitely an outliner.  It took 10 years, a lot of trial-and-error, and about 7 abandoned or paused stories to figure that out—but now that I know, developing and planning any story is much easier!


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Phantom Film Remake Wish List

I do like some aspects of the 2004 film–it’s a film of one of my favorite musicals, after all, and the instrumentals and sets are fabulous.  And some of the character moments are touching.  Gerard Butler was a better actor for the Phantom than singer; I have no objection to him portraying the character, but I wish the filmmakers had dubbed his voice over with John Owen-Jones’s or some professional singer.  Also, I think Patrick Wilson was underused in the film, and is under-appreciated for his portrayal of Raoul, which I discussed in this post.

Point being, the 2004 film has a few good points–but a lot of flaws that could be corrected in a remake.  So here’s what I’d like to see should anyone undertake that task:

  • #1 requirement: a cast who can sing. This should be a no-brainer, but unfortunately, it’s not.  Half of the story’s beauty and power would vanish if Christine and the Phantom lacked professional and polished singing voices.  And hey, since it’s a musical, the rest of the cast also needs to be able to sing!  Melody and vocals are the storytelling medium here, and part of what drives the plot.


  • #2 requirement: a cast who can act.  Since this would be a film version of a stage musical, both singing and acting abilities are essential.  And it’s not a shot for the moon to require both: in the 2012 film Les Miserables, Aaron Tveit was a polished singer and talented actor; in the 2000 Broadway production of Jane Eyre, James Barbour not only had a powerhouse voice (and very versatile) he portrayed Mr. Rochester almost perfectly.  Same for his portrayal of Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities.


  • #3 requirement: a deformity that looks hideous.  This is essential to the power of the story.  If the Phantom is only moderately ugly when unmasked, it destroys the whole reason he was outcast from society, and destroys the power of Christine’s compassion and sacrifice.  The cool thing is, with all the special effects filmmakers have at their fingertips these days, they could make the deformity really horrific and gross.


  • #4 requirement: no Love Never Dies set-up.  No longing looks back as Christine leaves, no over-aggressiveness or pushiness from Raoul, no hints that Christine and the Phantom got too cozy down in the lair—nothing of that sort.  The idea of a sequel actually undermines the mystery and tragedy of that last Phantom scene—and LND not only destroyed that power and mystery, but it ruined the characters as well.  For example, in LND, the Phantom still pines for Christine–understandable–but also ignores the choice he made to let Christine and Raoul go, and pulls almost the exact same kidnapping and threats he performed in the last musical in order to keep Christine near him.  Seriously?  That completely ruins his sacrifice in the original musical.  Would the Phantom miss Christine?  Of course.  Would he perhaps dream about “the way things might have been”?  Possibly.  Would he try to take her back?  I don’t think so–I think he would have stuck with his choice.  And I’m not even going to mention what LND did to Raoul, or I might explode.


  • #5 requirement: filling in of “missing scenes.” The following are what I particularly want to see:
    • What, exactly, did Raoul do after discovering Christine gone from her dressing room? Given the lengths he goes to protect her in the musical, I don’t see him thinking, “Whelp, she’s gone.  Might as well go home and get some supper.  Like, on my own…thanks, Christine.”  He’s going to get to the bottom of the matter.  It could be set up something like this: after Christine vanishes into the mirror, Raoul comes back and looks around in bewilderment.  During the opening notes of the title song, the Phantom and Christine head through the passages to the lair; then the scene cuts to a quick shot of Raoul speaking to two or three people, his face worried, and they answer by shaking their heads.  Then the scene cuts back to tunnels, and Christine begins to sing the title song.  The sequence continues until after “Music of the Night”—the camera cuts to Raoul in entrance to the Opera House, and the managers tell him, “We’ll send word if we find her.  Go home, Monsieur le Vicomte.”  Raoul looks over their shoulders to the policemen conferring inside, and then puts on his hat and reluctantly leaves.  As he crosses the street, a tower clock strikes 3: 00 a. m.   (I don’t think the timing is too far-fetched: if the opera started at, say, 8: 00 p. m. and lasted until 11:00 p. m. or 12:00 a. m., it would probably take an hour or so for everyone to become aware of the disappearance and summon the police, and another hour or two to realize that nothing further could be done that night.)  Then Christine wakes up in the Phantom’s lair, and “I Remember” starts.
    • How long was Christine missing after her debut?  The musical indicates it was only one night, but the newspapers somehow got wind of it–as I mentioned in my Raoul Defense posts, I have a head canon that a journalist showed up to interview the new soprano, but before he had a chance, he ran into a worried Raoul, and, well, there you go.  (This discrepancy in the story’s time line probably occurred by ALW’s condensing how long Christine was kidnapped.  In the book, it was two weeks, giving everyone plenty of time to notice and discuss her disappearance.)  There aren’t huge questions or gaping plot holes, but a film could devote a few lines to answering them.
    • What happened in the 6-months the Phantom was absent?  Did Christine continue to sing?  If so, was it as a soprano or as a background vocalist?  This would be interesting to answer, as both she and Carlotta are at the masquerade, with apparently no enmity between them—possibly suggesting that Christine sung as a chorus girl or understudy.  Which then begs the question: why didn’t the Phantom do anything about this?—all these questions could be answered in some dialogues between the managers or cast members wondering where the Phantom is and scenes of rehearsal in which Carlotta rubs the role reversal in chorus-girl-Christine’s face.


  • Lavish sets.  ‘Nuff said.  But I’ll say more anyway.  The stage versions of the musical just can’t convey the power of atmosphere and color that a film could.  A film has the opportunity to show the glitter of the stage; the richness of the theatre boxes and the (non-ghostly) occupants; the bustle and messiness of backstage; the roof of the Opera House, so high above the rest of the world and drenched in moonlight; the dark elegance of the Phantom’s lair lit with hundreds of candles and strange inventions in the corners; the underground tunnels and lake…


  • Nods to the Leroux novel, such as the Phantom’s violin-playing.  It would be amazing if, after Christine’s swoon, he plays a little of Music of the Night on his violin before finishing, “help me make the music of the night…”.  Perhaps also, Raoul could mention (with some disgust) his elder brother who’d gone to see a mistress in the north of France, and Christine referencing the family that took her in after her father’s death and provided for her education.


  • Raoul swimming the lake to get to the Phantom’s lair.  A strange wish, maybe, but it’s a cool piece of action, and it would heighten the tension by showing how frantic he is, what danger he is willing to risk in order to find Christine.  It would also show that, no, he is not a sissy.

So that’s my Phantom film remake wish list.  What would you all like to see in a remake?













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Thanksgiving Tag!

I absolutely love blog tags and memes, and it made my day to see that Bella tagged me!  (Thanks, Bella!)  Go check out her tag; she gave some great answers.

What are you most Thankful for?

A lot…but this year, I was particularly grateful for:

  1. The freedom to elect our leaders. I fuss about how the federal government violates the Constitution (verbally, if not yet on the blog).  But the American people still have enormous legal and political freedom.  No, our leaders do not uphold the cornerstone of our laws.  But political control over the country could be a lot more restricting and dangerous.
  2. The blessings God has given our family, such as our house, a home in a safe neighborhood, our delicious Thanksgiving food, my laptop, my drawing supplies, our sweet fluffy dog, the list goes on.  🙂
  3. My health problems. I’ve struggled with a compromised immune system for years, and the number one symptom is fatigue.  Sometimes a task as simple as loading the dishwasher wears me out.  And I am a type A person, y’all, not to mention that I take all my responsibilities seriously.  And just can’t fulfill them consistently.  However, in the 10 or so years I’ve struggled with this, I’ve become more compassionate, which is not a trait I’ve had naturally.  The weakness has forced me to pray constantly, to rely on God for strength I do not have.  It’s taught me perseverance.  And it’s definitely given me a lot of writing material.  It was only recently that I matured to where I was truly thankful for those difficulties—but this year, I can see the blessings from them.
  4. Little things that make me happy, like a nice, tidy backyard, the way the sun falls on the trees, lunch heated up to just the right temperature, coffee in a pretty mug, and illustrations in my favorite books.

What is your main source of Happiness?

Definitely writing.  Also pondering God and His character and creation.  (Seriously, think for a while about how perfectly He designed the physical world and how its details fit together, and you’ll end up amazed and humbled.)  And watching my siblings talk and play together.

What are some dreams and goals to Aim for?

Let’s see…I’d like to (finally) finish writing a picture book that I started a couple of years ago.  If you thought a picture book was easy because it’s short, well, not necessarily.  And certainly not in my case; I think it’s because I’m so used to reading and thinking on complicated and multiple levels, that sticking to one plot (no subplots, aaarrgh!!!) and one point-of-view is a challenge.  But I’ll stick with the project and Lord willing, get it finished eventually.

I’d also like to continue singing lessons and learning how to use my voice.  And I always want to grow in Christ, grow closer to God and trust Him more and more.

Who is a Neighbor you are especially grateful for, or have recently found friendship with?

Going stretch this one a bit and apply it to friends (I don’t know the people in my neighborhood very well).  And one friend I’m very grateful for is Julia.  We met at the wedding shower of a mutual friend in February, and Julia and I started talking about our siblings.  I was impressed and pleased that she valued friendship with her siblings the way I valued friendship with mine; we both enjoyed spending time with our siblings and took seriously the fact that they copy our examples (we’re both the eldest in our families).  From there, we discovered that we’re both writers, avid readers, and history buffs–she’s studied the Revolutionary and Civil wars; I’ve studied the British political landscape of the 1830s.  We talked about literature, history, and classics; we swapped book recommendations and discussed favorite films and how well or poorly a book was adapted.  We exchanged email addresses that night and have been emailing ever since.

Another friend I’m thankful for is Bella.  We struck up an acquaintance over the Tale of Two Cities musical, and chatted via Pinterest messages about both the book and the musical.  We’ve also discussed other musicals (such as The Phantom of the Opera), and talked about music, writing, and storytelling.

And a third friend I’m thankful for is Treskie.  She has a fantastic art blog, and I look forward to her Picture Saturday posts every week.  We’ve discussed art as well, and critiqued each other’s artwork.

What are some acts of Kindness you will always remember or treasure?

Julia’s prayers during my recent fight with pneumonia.  I would often e-mail her to let her know what was going on and ask for prayer, and she always let me know she was praying and offered encouragement.  And on a similar note, Gingersnap’s friend Krista also prayed for my healing, which was sweet and special because Krista knows me through Gingersnap and not personally.

What are some Special Thanksgiving Memories or Traditions?

Honestly, the most cherished Thanksgiving memories and traditions are of just being with my family for the holidays.  Dad gets to stay home for a couple of days, which is really the highlight of the holiday (his work schedule is hectic the rest of the year).  We relax and chill for the holiday and have lively conversations around the Thanksgiving table and in the living room afterward.  Sometimes we play games as a family; sometimes we go out for a treat–last year, we went to see the Peanuts movie in theaters.

Now I get to tag someone else!  *rubs hands*  I tag Treskie, Julia, and all my siblings!

Happy Thanksgiving!

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“Now…Where to Begin?”

To borrow a quote from The Fellowship of the Ring film.  🙂  Well, for starters, here’s a list of random facts about me:

  • I grew up reading.  Reading anything I could get my hands on, and my parents never told me a book was too hard.  Mature novels, such as The Scarlet Letter, were off-limits when I was in single digits, but if I wanted to read Ivanhoe at age 12?  They let me go for it.
  • Consequently, I struggle to decide what age groups my own stories are for.  “Whoever wants to read them” is probably not what a publisher will want to hear.
  • Though I’m a writer, I’m not a published one yet.  Unless you count a letter I sent into Nature Friend magazine at age 9 or 10.  🙂
  • I do not have a favorite actor.  I do, however, have a favorite director: Christopher Nolan.  His storytelling style is masterful, combining high-concept ideas with basic story techniques.
  • I have drawn more pictures of Sydney Carton than any other literary character.  He’s so vivid in my mind that I have to capture him on paper.
  • I sometimes refer to myself in third person, e.g. if a family member says, “Christine can do that for you, if she doesn’t mind,” I will reply, “She doesn’t mind, but she’ll have to drop a project from her schedule; can she have some free time to finish the project this weekend?”
  • Nothing gives me amnesia like writing facts about myself.  Seriously, I’ve sat in front of my laptop for half-an-hour trying to think of an interesting list, and have now turned into Thor: “I am running out of things to say!”

But rest assured, more content will follow!