Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ode To Thanksgiving Leftovers

The month is gone, where did you go?
Goodbye fall leaves, it's time for snow.

And with another season change,
My food I'll have to rearrange,

Oh turkey, it is time to leave,
I know it seems hard to believe,

'Tween ghosts and elves you were the bridge,
But now your scraps are in my fridge,

And going bad, I'm sad to say,
They won't last even one more day.

Out rolls and sweet potato pie,
Out mashed potatoes, my oh my,

'Cause I need room for Christmas treats,
for custard, ham and yummy sweets,

So leftovers, it's time to part,
But know you'll stay deep in my heart,

Until next year when one more time,
we meet again to feast sublime.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Micro Tension: Welcome To Life

There was an LDS Family Services counselor who spoke at a multi stake meeting a few weeks ago about overcoming trauma and fear.  One thing really struck me in that meeting.  She said that our bodies are engineered to handle the big catastrophes.  People who have been through horrendous tragedies surprisingly don't always need counseling because their brains and bodies are essentially wired to help them endure.  Instead, its the smaller things-- the day-to-day trials and struggles-- that actually impact us more and do greater harm.  Especially when we're young.

I'm reading a book right now that I feel like I should love but I don't.  There's action (major, end of the world type stuff), a romance, good characters.  The writing is beautiful.  So why don't I like it?  It's boring. There's no micro-tension! Turmoil and major catastrophes?  Yes, there's plenty of those.  But from chapter to chapter it feels like the characters are numb to the crazy things happening around them and they just sit around worrying about the big picture.  It's getting a little annoying, honestly.  The author does a great job of getting us inside the characters' heads, but nothing is happening in there.  At least, nothing new. 

So what is micro-tension?  It can be a lot of things.  It's the animosity Harry and Draco have for each other while Harry is trying to defeat Voldemort.  Or the typical teenage/parent tension between Bella and her dad that Bella has to deal with while figuring out how to survive when dating a vampire.  Or the death of a little girl that Katniss honors while trying to stay alive in a horrific game of Last Man Standing. 

We need micro-tension in our stories.

If in life it's the small, day-to-day things that impact us the most, maybe it works that way in literature too.  Just like in life, micro-tension develops character, shapes decisions, and often directs the final outcome. The big story is important, but it's the micro-tension from chapter to chapter that keeps us reading.