Monday, February 28, 2011

The Power of a Story

My family watched the remake of The Karate Kid this weekend, starring Jaden Smith.  I won't debate whether or not it was better than the original.  My daughter, who has never seen the original, thought this one was great.  She's watched it twice now.

This movie is a good story with universal themes - perserverance, respect, friendship, and finding family where blood ties do not exist.  I don't think I'm spoiling the movie by discussing the end.  Dre Parker (Jaden Smith) is knocked down in the final round of the kung fu tournament with a horrible blow to his leg.  This is his black moment, where all seems lost.  If Dre does not get up, his opponent wins.  Watching the young man's struggle to stand, his determination to win, brought tears to my eyes, and that of my husband.  After the movie was over, my daughter asked me why we cried.

How do you explain the power of a story to a seven year old?  Isn't that something that has to be experienced, and not explained?  But her large brown eyes waited for an answer, so I did what any self-respecting parent would do when cornered with a question without an easy answer - I turned the question around and asked her how she felt watching Dre try to stand again and fight.  Her answer?  She wanted him to win. 

As a writer, I have a great respect for stories, in all forms.  I read a book a couple of years ago titled Story, by Robert McKee.  It is a book about screenwriting, and in it McKee does the best job I've read explaining why stories touch us so.  He explains:

"In life, moments that blaze with a fusion of idea and emotion are so rare, when they happen, you think you are having a religious experience.  But whereas life separates meaning from emotion, art unites them... The source of all art is the human psyche's primal, prelinguistic need for the resolution of stress and discord through beauty and harmony, for the use of creativity to revive a life deadened by routine, for a link to reality through our instinctive, sensory feel for the truth...  A story well told gives you the very thing you cannot get from life:  meaningful emotional experience.  In life, experiences become meaningful with reflection in time.  In art, they are meaningful now, at the instant they happen."  
I got tears in my eyes because Dre's struggle to stand reflects struggles I've faced in real life - to get up when knocked down, to keep going when it seems hopeless, to want something bad enough to risk emotional and physical pain for it, and the satisfaction of achieving something you've worked so hard for.

While my daugher may absorb the movie's message to get up when life knocks you down, it isn't until she experiences this struggle for herself that she'll understand my tears - and possibly experience her own - while watching or reading a story.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Connecting Twin Souls

If you look in the dictionary, the definition of soul mates is:  One of two persons compatible with each other in disposition, point of view, or sensitivity. 

BORING.  Here are some more interesting ideas:
  • In Ancient Greece, it was believed that humans originally consisted of four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces.  Zeus feared their power and split them in half, condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half that would make them whole.
  • A soul mate is someone with whom a person has shared other lifetimes through reincarnation, and thus, the instant feeling that you know the other person.
  • Combine the meaning of the words "soul" and "mate" = "a spiritual companion"
  • The one eternal partner made and given by God
Some believe that if you're with your soul mate, things are perfect.  Personally, I don't buy that.  Loving a soul mate can be hard.  As humans, we have a hard time loving and accepting ourselves - so why would we expect smooth sailing when loving the other half of our own soul?

I am married to my soul mate.  Both of us are strong-willed, independent, and hard-headed, which means the seas can get real choppy.  Where he sees black and white, I see gray.  Where he loves to have people around, I tend to be a loner.

So why do I believe he is my soul mate?  Because we share the same fundamental values.  Because I love him unconditionally, and ultimately I believe a soul mate is about unconditional love.

In my novel, Entangled, the concept of soul mates is intrinsically tied to the theme of the story.  One definition of the word entangled is 'correlated, even though physically separated.'  

Jennifer Crusie said in her essay, "The Five Things I've Learned About Writing Romance from TV," that Lesson #1 was "Opposites Attract, Twin Souls Connect."  She uses Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls as examples.

Popular literary soul mates?  Romeo and Juliet.  Catherine and Heathcliff.  Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy.  Noah and Allie.  Edward and Bella. 

Who are your favorite literary soul mates?  Do you believe in soul mates in real life?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Supernatural Heroes

I'm blogging today at Crescent Moon Press about Supernatural Heroes.  Please stop by!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Symbolism in Fiction

To celebrate the release of Entangled this month, I am blogging about themes and symbols found in the book.

I drafted this article during the Super Bowl (delayed posting due to modem death), when I was bowled over (no pun intended) by a very powerful symbol - the American Flag.  It is truly one of the most powerful symbols of liberty and freedom in the world.  It evokes emotion I can't easily describe.

In literature we can't see symbols, but we can visualize them.  Symbols impart deeper meaning to a story.  They can be subtle or obvious.  Flannery O'Connor in "The Nature and Aim of Fiction" states:

"I think that the way to read a book is to always see what happens, but in a good novel, more always happens than we are able to take in at once, more happens than meets the eye.  The mind is led on by what it sees into the greater depths that the book's symbols naturally suggest.  This is what is meant when critics say that a novel operates on several levels.  The truer the symbol, the deeper it leads you, the more meaning it opens up."
In Entangled,  I use nature symbols to add depth to the story.  The two primary symbols used are water/ocean and the wind.  Water/ocean symbolize our unconscious, and wind represents chaos and helps set the mood within the story.

As a reader, what fiction have you recently read that contained powerful symbols?  As a writer, which ones have you used enhance your theme or mood?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Traci Bell's Blog: The D Word

Traci Bell's Blog: The D Word

The D Word

My romance novel, Entangled, is set to be released this month by Crescent Moon Press.  To celebrate, during the month of February I will highlight in my blog the main themes found in the book.

I'll start with destiny. 

It's a heavy word.  A lot to live up to.

Have you ever asked someone if they believe in destiny?  Chances are that the person you asked enthusiastically said yes or emphatically said no.  Ask the question at a dinner party and, most likely, it will lead to a lively discussion about fate versus free will.  (I've done it before.  Quite a lively discussion.)

Fate - a predetermined course of events that can't be changed - is final.  Very few people like to feel that out of control - like it doesn't matter what we do, things won't change.

We are all fated to die.  The real question is - what is our purpose in living?

Ah, purpose.  That's an easier word to swallow.

Destiny can be defined as that to which a person is destined.  Destine:  to set apart for a certain purpose.

Five years ago I read a book titled, The Passion Test.  It is a book that helps one discover their passions.  Follow your passion, and there you will find your life's purpose.  (If you feel dissatisfied with the direction of your life, I encourage you to read it.  But I digress.)

Destiny doesn't mean that you have to become a doctor, Mother Theresa, or even Bono.  It means you have to become more fully you.  My passions are my family and my writing.  When I ignore those, I wither.  When I work at them (and yes - as much as I love them - both are work), I flourish.  My cup runneth over.

In my novel, the hero and heroine struggle to accept their destiny/purpose, for it challenges their basic beliefs about who they are and how the universe works.

So what about you?  What are your passions?  What do you believe is your destiny?  Is it a question that intrigues you or makes you squirm?