Friday, February 27, 2009

How Do I Come Up With Story Ideas?

Story ideas come to me at the most inconvient times: while I'm doing research on the book I'm writing, while I'm in the shower, or the most dreaded the middle of the night.

Research can become a treasure of ideas. For instance, as I studied the battles of the stripling warriors, I found the writings of Hugh Nibley. He was such a brilliant man. While reading his Teachings of the Book of Mormon series I was introduced to so many wonderful heroes; endless stories can be written about them.

Stories that come to me in the shower usually happen when my hair is lathered up with suds and the hot shower steam is making me relax. One time while in this situation, I suddenly realized a secondary character in the book I was currently writing was taking over the story. What I needed to do was write a story for the secondary character. I was happy that another book would come out of it, but I was also sad because I'd have to delete ten to twenty pages of my current book and start over.

Stories that come to me while I'm sleeping... I can't tell you how many times I've awakened about 2:00 a.m. and can't go back to sleep. Come follow me on a sleepless night.

I'm determined to stay in bed just in case I dooze off. So what happens with the light off and no pen or paper handy? My mind starts to wonder and "what if" scenarios pop into my head. What if...there was a woman staying alone in a cabin and in the middle night she heard a scratching sound coming from the attic? Okay, so what if...the woman decided to see what was making that scratching noise? She puts on her bathrobe and slippers, grabs a flashlight...oh and a weapon... She doesn't own a gun, so what does she take? A baseball bat...but where would she get said baseball bat? What if the woman has a son? He's is all grown up now, but some of his things are still at the cabin. Good validation. Now the story can continue. She grabs her son's old baseball bat and tries to quietly inch up creaky attic steps. She reaches for the door, but all at once it is flung open and before her stands...

Okay, now I'm getting a headache. I fall out of bed and stumble to the kitchen to make some cocoa. As I'm stirring the hot liquid in the cup, I'm once again pulled back into the story...What if standing before her is ...? Do I want this to be fantasy? How about... it's a confused confederate soldier from the Civil War? That has possiblities. Or what if... it's her fairy godmother? No--better yet an angel that's been assigned to help her... No, I've got it; it's a vampire. Wait...that's probably been done. I've been watching too much Buffy. I take a sip of cocoa, still thinking of the story...What if it's her grandmother, who has been dead for at least ten years, and she hands her a cup of cocoa? That's original! I've got to go to bed, but before I can rinse out my cup and head for the covers another idea comes. What if the grandmother is there to tell the woman an old family secret?

Enough about how I come up with stories. How about you? Let's have a little fun. What family secret could the grandmother tell her granddaughter? Could be something dark and mysterious about the family, or it could be that the granddaughter has a special mission, or...?

Please let me know what you think.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Patriotism Part Two

Monday I promised that on Wednesday I would give you a case scenario and challenge regarding patriotism that would help bring the topic closer and help us develop the Stripling Warrior character trait of patriotism.

Fictional Case Scenario:

Fredek’s father was a captain in the military. He’d served in the armed forces for nearly twenty years. When Fredek was young, he missed his father, but not like he did now. His father was deployed on a military mission to help fight in the War on Terror. Fredek didn’t even know where his father was stationed.
His dad kept in touch through email, but he wasn’t allowed to state his location. With Fredek, now a teen-ager, his mother relied on him to be the man of the house. He had to fill in for his father. Many times Fredek couldn’t go with his buddies to hang out. Many times he had to stay home with his sisters and make them supper. And many times his mother had to work late. It just wasn’t fair. Fredek’s father was supposed to come home next month, but then the government asked him to stay a while longer and he said he would. Fredek just didn’t understand why people on the other side of the world were more important to his father than his own family.

How could Fredek be more understanding of his father and his situation?
How could he show true patriotism to his little sisters? To his mother?

Possible Endings
Fredek decided he wanted to "be there" for his little sisters. He made a concerted effort to play the games they liked, fed them before Mom arrived home, and even had a plate ready for his mother when she arrived. He realized his dad was serving his country by helping others and some day, he too, wanted to be that generous.

Every time he could, Fredek complained to his mother about how unfair life was, that he never saw his friends anymore, and that his father must not love them because he was half a world away. Fredek would make sure when he had a family, he’d never ask his son to fill in for him.


Show your gratitude for your country’s servicemen. Write a thank you note to a military person and let them know how much you appreciate their sacrifice for you. Supporting the troops is being patriotic.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Patriotic-Sixth Stripling Warrior Character Trait

“Now they never had fought yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives…” Alma 56:47

This passage took place before the stripling warriors went to battle. Do you think their patriotism changed after they’d actually fought and saw the ravages of war?
For the answer, let’s look at Alma 58:40 “But behold, they have received many wounds; nevertheless they stand fast in that liberty wherewith God has made them free; and they are strict to remember the Lord their God from day to day…”

Of course, the stripling warriors had changed─their love for country and God grew even stronger. Why do you suppose it would be stronger? Do you think they grew stronger because they had become invested in the cause by service, sacrifice and love?

War is horrible and ugly. There aren’t enough words to describe it. I wrote a nonfiction children’s book about World War One (WWI). In doing the research for that book, I came to understand that war was rarely a snap decision. Some blamed that war on a single shot that was heard around the world. But the German leaders had been preparing for war for decades. That an arch duke was assassinated was the excuse to execute a plan that had been in the making for years.

I also came to understand the plight of many countries during that war. As I think about love of country I’m reminded about the Russian people during WWI. They loved their country, but because of the ravages of war they eventually embraced communism.
The Russian people were starving to death, over ten million would eventually die of typhus fever (brought on by the war), and they were losing the fight. They turned against their leader, the Czar, and assassinated him and his family. The country was in shambles. Vladimir Ilich Ulyana Nikolai Lenin seemed to be the man with an answer; however, Lenin’s answer was not freedom, but communism. The people embraced communism because they were poverty-stricken and needed help caring for their loved ones, their babies. So Lenin seized the chance to gain power over them.

War clearly shows us at least two of the four things Satan uses to tempt us. Gain, and power have been at the root of every war. What about the other two temptations: popularity and lusts of the flesh and things of the world, are they at the root of war?
How could going to war be popular?­­­­­­
How could lusts of the flesh and things of the world play a part in war? Think over the answers, and if you have a chance share your thoughts.

The stripling warriors show us how to fight against temptations not only in war but in our battle with Satan. They used pure faith as their beacon. Their complete faith in God carried them through many battles and saved their lives. All the stripling warriors suffered wounds, but they lived. And they were patriotic.

Sometimes we think of patriotism as raising the flag, singing the Star Spangled Banner, or setting off fireworks on the 4th of July. But if you were to look into the eyes of a soldier as he left his loved ones to serve his country, or a soldier just coming home from a tour of duty, or a soldier who has lost a limb in battle, or even a soldier whose best buddy was killed in action─in their eyes you would see true patriotism.

Patriotism is putting country before yourself.

On Wednesday we will look a little closer at Patriotism and use a "case scenario" that will help us look at it on a personal basis. I'll also give you a challenge.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Exemplary-Fifth Stripling Warrior Character Trait

“…Therefore you may well suppose that this little force which I brought with me, yea, those sons of mine, gave them great hopes and much joy.” Alma 56:17

Just before this scripture the Nephites, who had been fighting for the city of Judea, were tired not only physically but mentally as well. These mighty Nephite soldiers couldn’t help but wonder if this war was worth all the bloodshed.

And then here comes these boys with Helaman. Boys that were determined to win and determined to fight the good fight. The young stripling warriors’ presence energized the Nephites and gave them hope.

Hope was contagious and became the “stripling-warrior” shot in the arm that Antipus and his men needed. Do you suppose the stripling warriors knew that they were good examples?
Probably not. I’m sure they didn’t stop and think…I need to be a good example. But they were because they were living what they believed, and they put their faith in God.

The stripling warriors also had good examples to follow in their mothers. “And they rehearsed unto me the words of their mothers, saying: We do not doubt our mothers knew it.” Alma 56:48

Not only did they have exemplary mothers, but their fathers’ lives were exemplary also. Either their fathers had died because they would not break their covenants or they refrained from breaking their covenants by not going to war. What a noble heritage!

Think of someone in your life who has been a good example to you and made you want to be a better person. I have had several. My mother for one. She would wake up cheerful most every morning. As I’d get ready for school, I could hear her singing hymns. It’s a little thing, but I remember it. I also remember how hard she would work in her church callings. There was no halfway in doing the work of the Lord. She’d go all out. Many times I’d come home from school and find people there whom Mom was helping with their family history. She didn’t just teach on Sunday, but was available when anyone needed her.
Good examples are all around you. You know them when you see them. Some, like the stripling warriors, are very young. They are people living their best lives, trying hard to serve the Lord, and who reach out to others with service.

Please share with me the good examples you have had in your life--young or old.

Case Scenario
Narkissa’s mom and dad weren’t active in church. In fact, sometimes when she was getting ready to go to her meetings her father would tell her to say a pray for him because he wasn’t going to no church. He believed he was closer to God in the mountains than in a building. Her mother was painfully shy and believed everyone in the ward was talking about her behind her back.
Many times Narkissa wondered why she went to church. She had no support from her family. They didn’t care if she went or not.
What should Narkissa do?

Possible Endings
1) Deep down, Narkissa felt the need to attend her meetings. She really liked going to church and listening to her Young Women and Sunday School teachers. It wasn’t always that way, and to be truthful, she started going to Young Women’s on activity night because opening exercises were with the Young Men. But as time went by she became more interested in the lessons. She also became more involved with the other girls’ lives, plus she believed in the Savior. She wanted to learn all she could about the gospel.
Did Narkissa have good examples in her life?
Her parents provided a home and love for her, which were good examples, but as far as helping her learn about the Savior, she turned to her Young Women and Sunday School teachers.
How was Narkissa a good example for her parents?

2) Narkissa quit going to church. She worked hard in school and had lots of friends, but something was missing in her life. Many times she thought about the teachings she’d learned when she’d attended church, but eventually she began to forget the importance of the gospel.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Determined-Fourth Stripling Warrior Character Trait

“Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually.” Alma 57:27
Do you put your trust in God continually?
The mere act of the stripling warriors telling their leaders that they wanted to fight showed their trust in God and their determination. They were not going to stand back and merely watch. The stripling warriors wanted to represent their families fighting in the war. And it didn’t matter if some people thought they were too young. It didn’t matter if some believed the boys would be wiped out. They were determined to do their part.
You might think it was easy for the stripling warriors. Their fight happened so long ago. They didn’t have the worries that you do. But history is full of stories of young men and women stepping forward when needed, stories of determination.

There is an old western movie about a cattle rancher who needed to take his herd to market, but all the men were caught up in the gold rush. The boys in the area heard that the rancher needed help and that he would pay a man’s wage. These boys were very young, with the oldest being fifteen, yet they were eager…they were determined. The rancher had over fifteen hundred head of cattle that he had to move four hundred miles or he’d lose his life’s work. Despite his reservations, the rancher decided to give these determined boys a chance.
As the story goes, these boys…these cowboys came through for the rancher. And even when the rancher was killed by rustlers, the cowboys remained determined. They not only beat the bad guys, but they also delivered the herd to market for the dead rancher they had grown to love and respect.

These cowboys were lacking something very important though. They didn’t have the gospel, and they didn’t face huge Lamanite soldiers determined to kill them in battle, but what they had in common with the stripling warriors was…they were mightily determined.

Are you determined to do what you’re asked? By your leaders? By your Father in Heaven?

Case Scenario
Trevor wanted more than anything to go on a mission. He believed in the gospel and he wanted to share it with others. He took it to heart when the prophet said every young man who was able should be a missionary.
Trevor’s mom seemed to have heard only one part “who was able”. She told Trevor because of his stuttering, he could not serve a mission, besides she didn’t have the money to send him. His dad had died long ago so his mother’s income was their sole support.
Knowing he had two years to turn his situation around, Trevor decided he’d get a job. This way he could help his mom with the expenses around the house, plus he’d put some money aside for his mission. The problem was he didn’t know anyone who would hire a person who stuttered.
What could he do?

Possible Endings
1) One day as he was going to early-morning-seminary, he caught sight of the paperboy. Trevor didn’t need to talk to customers to deliver papers. Most of the time people were sound asleep when the paper was delivered. Trevor applied and got the job, but he later found that most of his checks were needed to help his mom with their living expenses. Trevor realized he couldn’t save much for his missionary fund.
Then another paper route became available. Determined in his quest to serve a mission, Trevor took the new route. Each morning as he prepared the papers to deliver, he’d read the headlines, focusing on not stuttering.
After two years, Trevor surprised his mother stating without stuttering that he’d earned enough money for his mission.

2) Trevor decided to just go to school and not worry about a mission. When he graduated from high school he got a job stocking shelves in a department store. Many times he wished he could have gone on a mission, but he guessed he was just meant to stay home.
Which ending would you choose and why?

Monday, February 2, 2009

Loyalty--Third Stripling Warrior Character Trait

The stripling warriors’ had a heritage of loyalty. Many of their fathers and grandfathers had made a covenant to never kill again and buried their weapons. This covenant was challenged. But these noble men were so loyal and strong in their faith and belief in their Heavenly Father that when attacked by a mighty Lamanite army they did not unearth their weapons to defend themselves, no they prostrated themselves on the ground before their enemy. The Lamanites showed no mercy and killed over one thousand before stopping.
The stripling warriors were taught faith by their mothers and, no doubt, by the memory of loved ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice to remain loyal. Therefore, when the Nephites needed help to win the war the stripling warriors stepped into the noble footprints of their fathers and grandfathers who were unable to fight because of the covenants they had made.

How can we show such loyalty today?

Last summer I was involved in our ward’s youth conference. The theme of our conference was “Buried Treasures.” The leaders wanted the youth to realize the treasures that were all around them and that most treasures were not of monetary value.
To accomplish this task the leaders planned a hike that would take the youth to the top of Guardsman’s Pass. There we’d buried letters from their parents and leaders addressed to each young woman and young man. Also included was a Book of Mormon for each youth with the testimony of the bishopric in the front.
As the youth hiked up the trail they came to a fork in the road with one trail going up and the other trail going down. We stopped to get a drink and catch our breath. Here the bishop asked if anyone was tired.
One of the smaller boys raised his hand, so the bishop asked an older and larger young man, to carry him. Then the bishop asked this strong, young man which trail he was going carry his companion over: the trail that went up or the trail that went down. He chose the trail going up. The bishop asked who was going to follow them. No one wanted to go up, for the trail was in the sun and a bit steep. The young man’s sister raised her hand volunteering to follow her brother. The bishop asked why she wanted to do that. I’ll never forget the answer she gave. She said “In case my brother needs my help.”

That’s loyalty!

Please feel free to share with me cases of loyalty you have seen.


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