Character Development

No doubt in any work of fiction beside the plot and the setting, the characters are most important. What would a story be without characters to care for, identify with or challenge us for some reason. In any writing course, workshop or at writers’ conferences you learn about character development, meaning you invent your main character – the protagonist, – but also their nemesis or antagonist, and all the other secondary characters you could ever need. You flesh them out: give them names and a physical appearances, decide on the age and ethnic  background, give them certain behaviours and follies, likes and dislikes, families, friends, pets, books, you name it. You are their creator. You invent them so perfectly, that you know about their most secret dreams and their phobias although you will never need to know that for the actual story. The secret is to not only do that for your main character, but for every single character in your story no matter how small a role they play. Well, maybe not for the guy who passes you in traffic you noticed only for his cool car… But everyone else. Yes. That’s a lot of work. Especially when down the road you decide to cut this character out because she doesn’t move the story forward and even though you were so much in love with her, she has no real purpose in your story…

I imagine this is pretty much what our Creator does with (the story of) us …

So you fleshed out all your characters, give them a role to play, lines to say, things to act on, respond to, grow at, cheer about, age on …  whatever you want. And then comes the point when you get stuck in your story… because you don’t know what your character is going to do next. He has developed a life of his own. He can surprise you, do things you never thought he would do. Honestly, even though you are his and her and its creator, you had not a clue he would say that eventually. So you have to be quiet at times and ask him, what would you like to do next? Why did you act like that? Because all of a sudden the story you plotted so perfectly changes with just one sentence. Well, yes. You could delete this sentence. Pretend he never said that and his friend or this girl or his dog didn’t respond like they did. You are their creator after all… But it’s kind of intriguing to listen to them. Watch how they get a life of their own. Come up with lines so brilliant you never thought of it. It’s fun…

I imagine this is how our Creator responds to us… 

So all of a sudden you have to come up with Plan B because A is not working anymore, because of this fight the characters had and you tolerated it and now they go separate ways and you have to give them new playmates or colleagues or partners or pets or travel companions or whatever your story is about. Perhaps your story gets much better… Or, because you are their creator, you listen to them for sometime and then you say, NO! That is NOT what I intended for you. Either I delete everything you did and said, because really, I can do that, or you are willing to apologize, and reach out and come back together so that MY story can finally happen. Is that understood?

  I imagine this is how our Creator gives us second chances, but often we don’t take them. And usually He doesn’t make us obey him, but grants us free will. Therefore he created the alphabet in all languages to come up with Plan B,C,D,E,F,… you get the picture…

Well, I know the drill in writing. I admit I all too often listen to my characters and come up with different plans and again I don’t submit to the editor and another month is passing because I rewrite instead because I do respect other people even though some of them are only invented …

Aren’t we all…?

And if writing wasn’t challenging enough, I do the same for illustrating. Well, now I do – I should add… because previously I only illustrated what I needed for a certain scene, but never bothered to flesh out my characters. I never knew that the owl that likes to serenade, also holds a grudge deep down and the cat who likes adventures, easily gets scared… How does that fit together? I don’t know. It is what it is, unless I change the characters… or their attitudes… or their sensibility… But I can only do that when I get to know them inside and out. I like them to surprise me with their inner life, ideas and emotions. And if I can’t stand them that way anymore… well, then I can change them, delete what they said… or erase them altogether. I’m their creator after all!

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Interrupting Frequency

I’m not sure if I didn’t realize it before, or if this phenomenon only appeared after I gained parts of my memory back that was to my frustration for so long tugged away in some “stuck drawer” in my brain. One night about five years ago however, I was walking the boardwalk along Lake Huron with my friend, a naturopath and doctor of Heilkunst, when all of a sudden the lantern we just approached extinguished just by my looking at it absentmindedly while we were talking.

“Antje, that was you!” my friend exclaimed.

At first I wanted to deny it, but at my core I knew it was true. Since then I’m aware that these strange things occasionally happen: Lights flicker or extinguish depending on my state of emotion or topic I think/speak about, electric appliances break, radios stop playing when I’m at a certain distance, the TV doesn’t respond to my pushing buttons on the remote, sometimes my family sends me out of the room because I interrupt the frequencies of TV and other networks altogether.

I was kind of glad when today another Near-Death Experiencer, Peter Panagore, posted this video of his unusual “NDE After Effect:”

Weird, eh?

To find out more about NDE’s After Effects please visit iands.org. Or stay tuned, as I will share more with you as I slowly learn to put mine to use.

Did you or someone you know has had a near-death experience? What are your/their “after effects”? I would love to hear about it!

INKtober

31 Days 31 Drawings. Every October, artists all over the world take on the InkTober drawing challenge by doing one ink drawing a day the entire month. Jake Parker created InkTober in 2009 as a challenge to improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits.

Day 1st: My first ink sketch. I should have stopped adding to it a long time ago, but I was listening to the amazing presentations at the second ever online Picture Book Summit. I mean how can you think/draw straight when listening to e.g. Jane Yolen?

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I used Sennelier ink and two water colour brushes size 0 and size 10 on Canson Mixed Media Paper

What about you? Are you up for the challenge? Or do you rather resonate with Jane Yolen’s “A poem a day”?

During this inspiring month of October when nature surprises us with an ever changing palette, I guess we can afford to be creative as well. No pressure. Just be spontaneous. Or at the very least, how about you find something you are grateful for each day?  – I invite you to share in the comment section.

Truth Has 144 Sides

Ever since I can think, I was searching for the truth. Perhaps this is why I got really good at observing and even better at listening, because I grew up in a world where adults thought children should be seen rather than heard and I got a liking to listen to the stories people told  each other – or sometimes just themselves – and in my mind I tried to condense all these stories to their essence and find the one truth.

It took me a while to realize that there isn’t something as one truth. Sometimes we are so convinced that we are right about a topic – usually the one we are very passionate about –  that we have difficulty respecting that not everyone else agrees on that, or not even understands what we mean.

There’s an interesting quote by Paul John Rosch, chairman of the board of the American Institute of Stress, clinical professor of medicine and psychiatry at New York Medical College, and honorary vice president of the International Stress Management Association:

“There is an unfortunate tendency to believe that just because you have given something a name, that somehow you have defined it – or worse, that everyone will understand what it means. Stress is a good example; after almost fifty years in the field, I can assure you that attempting to define or explain stress to a scientist’s satisfaction is like trying to nail a piece of jello to a tree. Hans Selye, who coined the term stress as it is currently used and struggled with this problem his entire life, was fond of pointing out that everyone knows what stress is, but nobody really knows.”

Especially as a child, whenever I made a new discovery I had to share my finds with the people around me, but usually I got so excited that I talked too fast and my words came out in summersaults and no one could understand what I had to say. (Perhaps that is one of the reasons I started writing, because that way I have to think first and come up with a structure and a concept to articulate myself. Although, maybe the reason I write is simply to process so that I can make sense of my discoveries myself…)

In the year 2000 I not only moved to a different continent and had to learn to articulate myself in a foreign language (English), I also had the privilege of going to Heaven in a near-death experience and then to come back. I discovered, that without being attached to our limited body and brain, we still have full function of our senses and for once we are able to comprehend more than ever possible in human form. However, God has a way to humble people. As soon as I returned into my body, it seems that a veil came down and covered my understanding. Although I knew more than I ever thought was possible, I couldn’t put it in words, worse, I couldn’t access information I knew I had learned earlier e.g. in my university years – similar to someone who knows of the content in a drawer, but isn’t able to get it out because the drawer is stuck.

In my anthropology courses in university I first heard of Robin Dunbar, but not until later of his number “150.” This number refers to the cognitive limit to people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. If you look at social media, you will easily see that if you have 150 “friends” or more on Facebook, chances are you have not the faintest idea who they all are or can follow what each of them is doing/posting on a regular basis. Dunbar wasn’t talking about Facebook of course, he meant the relationship in which each person knows who every other person is and how each person relates to every other person.

Approximately 150 was the basic unit size of the Roman army, it is the estimated sizes of a Neolithic farming village, as well as the splitting point of Hutterite settlements – or more familiar in the region I live, the Mennonite communities. Dunbar claims, 150 would be the ideal size of a company or company division. Numerous studies support his theory; consequently a group of people larger than this number would require rules and regulations to maintain a stable cooperation.

When I read Eileen Day McKusick’s book, Tuning the Human Biofeld, I wasn’t surprised that she connects Dunbar’s theory of the number 150 with the at first puzzling yet freeing quote by Dr. Johan Boswinkel, “I believe that truth has 144 sides.”

Wow. Just let this sink in! – Instead of arguing with your spouse or colleague about an issue, listen to his/her viewpoint. Chances are that what we perceive as the truth is in fact just a facet of the truth and we need other people’s perspective to understand it completely. Could it be that we need the ~ 150 people we maintain a stable relationship with to get to the ground of things?

 

 

A Wild Weekend in the Woods

Last weekend I went camping at MacGregor Point Provincial Park, right at the shores of Lake Huron, with my daughter and our artsy friend Andrea and a trunk full of paintings. We got a campfire going and set up our tents before dark fell, but still were surprised that darkness comes quite early mid September. However, a bright full moon watched over us and illuminated our experience … until at night I woke up from my daughter crawling over my sleeping bag to zip-up our tent window because it rained 😦

Pretty much everyone at our campsite and all around Fox Way Loop slept in that next gray damp morning in nature and we finally had to hurry to transform the campsite in an art studio by setting up props to hold our art work while also getting a fire going to brew some much needed coffee before the Studio Tour started at 10 a.m., hosted by Mother Nature, the Friends of MacGregor and artists and artisans across Southern Ontario.

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The forecast predicted 40% chance of light rain and up to 0.2 cm precipitation; we could manage that, we thought. Instead we got what felt like a Monsoon. We were busy setting our “booth” up and putting artwork back under tarps or in the car, and setting up again as soon as the rain stopped only to cover things up again… and overall were surprised how many campers came out anyway to admire our work, or Emily’s fantastic “VW Van”!

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We had real troopers visiting who had wanted to take our workshops, but what do you do in the rain…? Despite our beautiful studio campsite, there was no sale… but puddles that turned into mini Tsunamis, flooding our sleeping tent and threatening Andrea’s display tent…

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Saturday night, I sadly admit, we vacated our campsite and went home for a hot shower and a lovely snooze in our own bed.

Sunday was indeed a sunny day and the world looked friendly and bright. A crowd toured Fox Way Loop and stayed for workshops, browsing artwork or admiring the VW van/tent that helped keep the conversation going. They went away with an organic apple in hand from our orchard, the one or other book, card, or painting while we listened to life music from the neighbouring campsite.

Despite Saturday’s disappointing weather, I’d like to express a big “thank-you” to the Friends of MacGregor for organizing this event and for cooking and catering delicious food at lunch time! Also for all the campers and day-trippers who came out to support us, and to all the fellow artists and supporting family members who made this unusually wild art studio tour happening! – Hope to see you again next year!

And what about you? Will you join us perhaps?

 

Wild for the Arts

Two weeks into the new school year, we are ready to go camping again 🙂 What about you?

What better opportunity than to go “Wild for the Arts,”celebrating Mac Gregor Point Provincial Park’s 40th anniversary! This festival puts artists, writers, musicians, and crafters on campsites in the Fox Way loop of the Nipissing campground. Andrea Zimmer and I will be hosting workshops on our shared campsite, Kids can have fun at the creativity site, the whole family can enjoy scavenger hunts and word games – and important: there will be food available to purchase on-site. Also: Free day use admission to the park. So if you live in the area, there’s really no excuse not to come out and check out what the crazy artists camping out in the rain (no, no, don’t believe the forecast!) and likely smelling a little smokey from their campfires at night, have to offer. The event is hosted by the tireless volunteers, the Friends of MacGregor Point Park 

When? This coming weekend:

Saturday, Sept. 17 and Sunday, Sept 18
Wild for the Arts Festival
MacGregor Point Provincial Park, Saugeen Shores (the only location I know of where wild birds sit on your arm and eat from your hands.)

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#218 Fox Way loop: Here’ll be our Art Camp! – We look forward to seeing you there!

Paisley & Area Art Show

13th Annual Paisley & Area Art Show and Sale is scheduled to run from August 27 -September 18, 2016 at Nature’s Millworks.

Over 50 local artists will show some of their work at this popular art show in a historic mill right next to the Teeswater River. Even if you happen to be not into art that much, you should still pop in to see Helen and Paul Crysler’s carefully restored heritage building, the former “Paisley City Roller Mills” that shipped flour around the world.

The mill that includes several acres of land and river is currently for sale; another good reason to check it all out.

Here’s one of my artworks I will be showing at the Mill:

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mixed media/sculpted paper on wood panel