What are the elements of a great climax scene?

Looking for advise from the writer’s community. I’ve been working on a children’s book for almost a year. My brief stint as a freelance newspaper writer did not prepare me for the massive learning curve I’ve encountered in attempting to write a book.

I think I’ve got great characters and an intriguing plot (but then what writer doesn’t think that, right?). The story is allegorical in nature with cats as the main characters and gangster raccoons as the antagonizers.

I’m working on the climax scene. I could use some advise on the elements needed for a great climax scene. I realize that it doesn’t have the oomph it needs and would like to hear from other writers.

This is a children’s book, ages 12 and up, but I would imagine that the essential elements of a great climax scene would be the same no matter what genre.

 

Biloxi angel

St. Michaels Catholic Church, Biloxi, MS

There is a Catholic church in Biloxi, MS which sits directly across the street from the floating casinos which abound there. It struck me the first time I saw it (before Katrina) because of the angel. He carried a sword and looked out over the floating casinos. He seemed to carry the qualities of both compassion and serious intensity of an divine being with a mission.

The church survived Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Katrina.

Recently, we traveled to this area and I was very curious to see what had happened to the angel. It had a such a strong presence and its placement is so incongruous to its surroundings that I can’t help but think that he is trying to tell us something.

Here’s what we found. The angel stands on the ground now, sword broken. The church is barely functioning, if at all. However, the casinos are back in full force. Most of the casinos had been completely destroyed by Katrina but now they are more plentiful than ever. Since the relaxing of the laws that prevented casinos to be built on land (pre-Katrina) the

I thought it was an interesting, and sad, reflection of how the priorities of humankind manifest themselves.

 

 

 

 

Junk mail: It used to be a tree!

 

 

 

 

 

I love trees. I love them for the shade, for their beauty, for their ambiance, for the fruit, for cooling my house in the summer. Here is a beautiful tree the way God intended.

 My mail box I’m not so crazy about. It’s probably just like yours. Full of junk mail every day. When I got a 5 lb. Staples Office catalog today, I’d had it. I called to get myself removed from their mailing list. They said it would take 4 weeks and I still might get another one.

Every time I get the mail (i.e. 95% junk) I think “these used to be trees!”

 

 

This is a junk mail tree. Some artist’s attempt to be creative with all that garbage.

I like the first tree better.

I am trying to figure out how to recycle my paper. It’s not easy. We’re not in the city limits so they don’t pick it up. There’s only one place in town that takes paper and they have ‘conditions’. Not sure what they are yet, because I’m still carrying it around in my car in a plastic bag. The recycle place is on the other side of town and with gas at 3.89 where I live I’m not sure how the carbon footprint measure out.

After a bit of research I found a group that reduces the junk mail for you. Actually there’s a number of them, but this one has a really cool wiget. It’s called GreenDimes.com 

Has anyone used this service? There are 3 levels of ‘care’. One is free, so I’m thinking to give it a try. It’s been written up in the NY Times and Business Week, and featured on Ellen and Good Morning America. Here’s the basic idea. 

GreenDimes reduces credit offers, insurance offers, sweepstakes offers, coupon mailers, charitable solicitations and retail catalogs that your household receives. We can’t reduce mailings you receive as a result of a relationship you have with a company or organization. These include magazine subscriptions, bank statements, brokerage statements and school alumni mailings. Please contact those organizations directly to manage your mail with them.
 
Has anyone had any experience with GreenDimes or other services like this?

What does a left-brain person do for fun?

Right brain vs. left brain test

This whirling dancer will spin both clockwise OR counter-clockwise depending on which side of your brain is most active. She will whirl for you if you double-click her.

This is an amazing visible detector of the right vs. left activity. It is so incredibly accurate. I can watch it spin one way, then when it seizes up, it might be going the other way. My brain flips back and forth with amazing speed these days. I guess this is good, since I need both sides in a big way. Just taking care of the nitty gritty elements of getting through a day of life require large chunks of my left brain.

LEFT BRAIN

Logical
Sequential
Rational
Analytical
Objective
Looks at parts

However, the writing process requires my right brain and I catch myself letting the “switch” flip when I have a moment to spare. I have to force my Left side to stay in gear, rather like a parent telling a child ‘finish your vegetables first, then you can have dessert.’

RIGHT BRAIN

Random
Intuitive
Holistic
Synthesizing
Subjective
Looks at wholes  

Why is being in my right brain is so relaxing? Why can I spend hours here, playing around, writing mostly and not get tired. I could never stay up ’til 2:00 a.m. entering receipt amounts in Quicken, or preparing a profit and loss statement for our accountant. I know there’s a good reason for this, but I’m wondering if naturally left-brained people feel that way about being in their element. I mean how does an accountant relax? What does an actuary do for fun?

Gosh, do they even blog? I’m starting to feel like meeting a truly Left-Brainer would be like a cross-cultural exchange.

How do you get in the writing mode?

I’ve love to hear what processes writers use to get down to work. Do you have a routine? A  favorite time to work? Does everything have to be quiet? or can you write anywhere, anytime?

After 9 months of working on a children’s book, I find that I am going through scenes in my head just about anytime. Especially while driving. I try to prepare myself for these moments now by grabbing my notebook when I leave the house….just in case something brilliant happens. So in between the bank and the grocery store, I might be ‘listening’ to a conversation between my protagonist and antagonist. Notes scribbled at stoplights and in parking lots.

Since I am required by law to spend most of my day taking care of our business, doing the books, paying the bills, keeping things organized, I am forced into staying in my Left-brain. Stuffing things into boxes, real or proverbial. 

But when I’m done being a responsible adult I get out my box of writing toys and play. The right side of my brain has a lot more fun! I love my characters and the more I work with them the more they let me know how they will act. I’ve heard this same phenomenon from published writers so I guess I’m not crazy. 

But what gets my right brain kicking when it’s 3:00 in the afternoon and it’s my naptime! That’s the lowest energy point of my day. How can I possibly write when all I want to do is sleep? The answer? Coffee and chocolate. It works every time. A cup of coffee and 65% cacao. Just a couple of squares….and it’s medicinal!

For better or worse, Starbucks is on my route home from town. They must have known I lived just up the street. When I go in and get my Americano, I also pick up their trash– used coffee grounds. They go into my garden and front lawn. I have a very perky front lawn now, but more on that in another post.

So, what is your writing process like? How do you get into your right brain?

Writing challenge

Here’s a writing challenge from an interesting blog I discovered today called Booking through Thursday   

 

  • Pick up the nearest book. (I’m sure you must have one nearby.)
  • Turn to page 123.
  • What is the first sentence on the page?
  • The last sentence on the page?
  • Now . . . connect them together….
    (And no, you may not transcribe the entire page of the book–that’s cheating!)
    Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Here’s what I came up with. I am reading A Circle of Quiet, by Madeleine L’Engle, her first Crosswicks Journal which has some short sections. Page 123 encompasses the end and beginning of two sections so the topics are very different.

The haiku is one of the most popular forms of poetry today: what could be more structured? and ends with, “Thomas Mann wrote that if the German writers had, through their fiction, made richer promises than Hitler, it would have been Hitler, rather than the writers, who would have had to flee the country.”

“The haiku is one of the most popular forms of poetry today: what could be more structured? 
tinpot german god
stealer of body and soul
writers avenging the lie
Thomas Mann wrote that if the German writers had, through their fiction, made richer promises
than Hitler, it would have been Hitler, rather than the writers, who would have had to flee the country.”

What I don’t remember

An entry from Books on the Brain inspired this post. I read Lisa’s response to a writing challenge from Natalie Goldberg’s new book Old Friend from Far Away. The challenge is to write for 10 minutes about what you don’t remember. How is this possible? Check out Lisa’s list.

The book, Old Friend, which inspired the exercise, is about writing memoirs, something I’ve never given a moment’s thought to. My childhood is a gray blur. It doesn’t conjur up a lot of cozy memories, no eccentric great aunts, plump doting grandmothers, homemade apple pie. 

Nothing terrible happened; just seemed like nothing happened. So this was an especially challenging exercise. But it caught my attention and I grabbed my writing notebook as I ran into town to do errands. I thought it was 10 things to write, but it was 10 minutes. After 30 minutes I only had 3 things on my ‘non-remembering’ list, but twice as many remembrances came floating to the surface.

What a brilliant exercise! Kinda’ like – ‘don’t think of chocolate for 5 minutes’. Then all you can do is think of chocolate. Not the same thing, but it just illustrates another way of how odd our brains are wired.

But here’s my list so far:

  1. I don’t remember my first, or any, birthday party.
  2. I don’t remember falling down the basement stairs and knocking my two front teeth clear back into my gums (age 2 or 3). I do remember not having any front teeth until I was 8.
  3. I don’t remember any laptime with my mother or father; how is that possible? Having had 3 kids and now going on 5 grandkids, laps and kids are inseparable.

There must be more I don’t remember, but I can’t remember what it is.

The following quote from a review of Old Friend from Far Away has me adding this to my Books I want to Read List.  “…her trademark workshop style with its terse, demanding writing sprints that train the hand and mind to quicken their pace and give up conscious control. These exercises divert the eye from the obvious and redirect it to the tactile details we miss, the embarrassments we pass over, and the complications we overlook in the blur of everyday living. Goldberg writes, No one says it, but writing induces the state of love. Old Friend from Far Away guides us into that state of love, where heightened attention and a rhythm of focus allow the patterns and details of the past to emerge on the page.

Natalie Goldberg also wrote Writing Down the Bones which I can’t believe I haven’t read yet. 

 

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