Why do they do what they do?


Whenever Taylor Swift has a bad break up, she puts the poor guy in a song.

I taunt my friends and tell them to watch out. I won’t put them in a song; I’ll write a whole book about them.

Uh, wrong. I could never do that. I’m a keeper of secrets. I’d make a terrible member of the paparazzi. I don’t like intruding. I don’t like airing people’s dirty laundry. I live by the journalistic principal “Do no harm.”

But, yeah, if your path crosses mine, you might end up as a character (or part of a character) in one of my manuscripts, but I would never reveal the secret of your identity, not unless you wanted me to–or unless you are already famous. Then you’re fair game.

Right now I have two manuscripts under my belt, and, yes, I deliberately modeled the characters after people who have stepped into my life. Of course, the names have been changed to protect the innocent. And I doubt these people will ever know the influence they made.

I named one minor character after a server at Red Robin, and I don’t remember why. Maybe I liked his name. Maybe not. Maybe it was just because I was really hungry at the time, and Red Robin has the most amazing onion rings. I am a magnet, I draw stories from people, people I don’t know. Maybe he told a cool story.

One of my characters in one of my manuscripts is based on Little Richard, yes, THAT Little Richard. The famous one–thus, the revelation of his identity.

I don’t know why. I guess his humbleness and gentleness touched my life second hand. He met my parents and was so kind to them that I’ll never forget how pleased they were to tell the story.

And, yes, Little Richard, is one of those celebrities I have chosen to pursue. Notice I didn’t say stalk. He lives close to me, but he’s so far away. Other people run into him all the time. But I don’t. Why not me? Why not me?

Maybe I would scare him. I don’t know. I do believe people’s paths cross for a reason. Maybe they don’t cross for a reason. God wrote the story. He knows.

I love analyzing people. Every person has a story, and an enticing motive makes a great story.

I’m also into pop psychology. I stumbled upon a theory of  the German-American psychoanalyst Erich Fromm. It’s referred to as “character orientation.” Influenced by Freudian ideologies, Fromm asserted people have specific character traits which serve as powerful forces that guide their behavior and motive.

And people aren’t even consciously aware of them.

As a writer and a reader, I spend a great deal of time getting to know characters. I have to believe them in order to trust them. I have to trust them in order to like them. If I don’t like them, I won’t read the book. And, of course, if I don’t like my own characters, there’s no point in writing the story unless my protagonists win and the ones I don’t like get what’s coming to them. Is it okay to seek to revel in revenge if the plot is made up? I think so. I’m not vengeful in person.

But back to the personality analyses, psychologists have determined there are twenty-four character traits that fall under six categories, which are referred to as virtues. Four of these are nonproductive, the other two productive.

Remember if you are writing a book, you want to write it true, so you should make sure that your characters act true to their natures. If we go with Fromm’s research, our characters’ should fall within these parameters. If they do something uncharacteristic, then we should analyze their motives.


The following are considering nonproductive orientation characteristics. Think character flaws or antagonist traits:

  • Receptive Orientation Characters
    Wait passively for others to provide them with things they need
    Want others to provide them with love and attention and are reluctant to give these things away
    Lose loved ones because they have a hard time talking about their feelings or troubles
    Have a hard time letting go of past issues
    See minor or trivial conflicts as a conflict to their security with a loved one
    Lack creativity–REALLY lack creativity
    Are quiet
    Have a difficult time making decisions
    Lack confidence in their own abilities
  • Exploitative Orientation Characters
    Take whatever they want when they want it
    Do whatever they can to get whatever they want
    Have no qualms about stealing or taking something from someone else, even if they have no real desire for it
    Manipulate others
    Hate those they manipulate but rely on them but also hate themselves
    Love to lead and live in the ruling class
  • Hoarding Orientation Characters
    Save whatever they have
    Hold back their opinions
    Hold back their feelings
    Hold back their possessions
    Grasp and refuse to let go of love, power, or other people’s time
    Desire order
  • Marketing Orientation Characters
    View themselves as commodities
    Think they can sell their themselves based on their good qualities
    Possess very few positive qualities
    Are typically empty souls
    Choose mates on a commodity basis
  • Necrophilia Orientation Characters
    Love death
    Possesses passion to tear apart living things
    Destroy for the sake of destruction
    See no hope

The following are considered productive orientation characteristics. Think protagonist traits or redeeming qualities of conflicting characters:

  • “The Person Without a Mask” Orientation Characters — (Fromm came up with this title.)
    Accept freedom
    Accept responsibility
    Come from a family that loves
    Prefer reason to rules
    Prefer freedom to conformity
    Have learned to become one with the world
    Love all

So how long did it take you to shift from your character to yourself? Stop. Don’t do it. The story is NOT ABOUT YOU! Likewise, as you are writing, remember that your character is not YOU, and your character’s motives aren’t necessarily the same as your own.

Let’s be honest. Did you ditch your character and start analyzing yourself? Yeah, me too.

I thought I had myself all figured out. But then I took an online test based on character orientation. The first test I took said I possessed “hoarding orientation.” Ouch. I do desire order. I don’t like letting go of people I love. I took another test, and it said I possessed “receptive orientation.” Worse–I’m quiet, passive, insecure, and non-creative. Non-creative? BIG TIME OUCH!

Who believes these test anyway?

My suggestion? Stick to using these tests–for now–to analyze your characters, not yourself. Otherwise, you’ll be drawn away from what matters right now–your writing. We writers are neurotic already. We don’t need anything else negative to self analyze.

Oh the crazy things we do.

Choose either your own character or a character from your favorite book. Take one of the tests below and answer each question as your character would answer it–not yourself. This exercise is great practice to help you see through the eyes of a character.

“I have always thought the actions of men the best interpreters of their thoughts.”  ~  John Locke

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.”  ~ James 3:13

“If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.”  ~  Mother Teresa

“A long, long time ago / I can still remember how that music used to make me smile / And I knew if I had my chance / That I could make those people dance / And maybe they’d be happy for a while”

Which of Erich Fromm’s Personality Orientations are you?

Fromm’s Orientation Test



Waiting on 9-11


It’s a page turner, ain’t it?

Every day we write ourselves a book. Life is a book, unpredictable. Sometimes we get so anxious, wondering what’s going to happen next, we push it and try to skip forward to the end.

Nope, don’t do it. Wait. Read every page. Every page. Examine it. Ponder it. Reflect upon it. Tomorrow will be here soon enough. If it’s not here, then we won’t have to worry about it, will we?

You’ve done that before, right? Skipped the pages because you couldn’t wait to find out? I bet you had to go back and re-read so that you could understand what was going on.

Me too.

Every day is a new story with pertinent information that will help us understand tomorrow, so don’t go so fast. Reflect. If you skip the details and rush the end, you may miss the significance.

I have had a terrible time focusing the last couple of years. I haven’t been able to read anything but road signs. Sometimes I even miss them. I tried to explain my trouble to the cop who clocked me going 35 in a 15-mph speed zone.

Nobody told me that’s what the new sign meant. I should have paid attention to the details so I didn’t have to pay the triple-digit ticket.

I teach three dual-enrollment college classes. For the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about remembering an event and creating a narrative.

My students lead the class, and one of them drew a diagram of a dramatic arc on the page. She explained the importance of providing the background details, setting the stage, adding the conflict, reaching a turning point and, finally, coming to a conclusion.

Those elements are the essence of life, each day. Each day is a brand new story.

But the main lesson I sought to teach my kiddos is that whatever they choose to write about, their story has to have the MAIN thing. That thing is significance.

All day long today on 9-11, I’ve been waiting for something to happen. My anxiety levels are at high alert.

I’m ready to turn the page, skip to the end.

I can’t. And it doesn’t matter anyway. I’m not in control of anything but myself. I can’t change anyone but me, and I can’t stop the world.

If I were to skip to the end, I would miss out on the details. I would miss out on how this page prepares me for the next. I would miss out on the significance.

I believe in serendipity, fortunate accidents, but I can’t predict them. I just have to deal with them when they happen.

I also believe everything happens for a reason and that all things work positively for those who love God and who are part of His plan.

It’s not up to us to change his plans. I do think we should be wise and reflective and think about what is happening in our lives. There’s a reason for it, you know, a purpose, leading up to something important.

Remember every story goes through a dramatic arc; every day is a story. What is the significance?

People are motivated by many things. Not to sound cliché, but I am motivated by one thing–love. Love is the significance of my life story. Even though I don’t understand why or how things happen–yet, I do know that I know love.

And no matter what happens today, 9-11, or any other day, I have known love.

But the story is NOT over yet. I’m not skipping pages. I will wait patiently so that when I get to the end I will understand all the details.

Today is 9-11. What emotions surged through your soul? Did you experience fear, regret, grief, relief, anxiety, etc? Why? What is happening in your life story? Reflect upon these questions. Please add a comment or two if you have time. I encourage you to write in your journal as documentation of your existence on this day in history. It’s always interesting to go back months or years later to see how you have changed.

“EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”
STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

“Now there are some things we all know, but we don’t take’m out and look at’m very often. We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars… everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
Our Town by Thornton Wilder

In life I know there is lots of grief / But your love is my relief. / Tears in my eyes burn, tears in my eyes burn / While I’m waiting, while I’m waiting for my turn.
“Waiting in Vain,” by Annie Lennox, featured in the movie Serendipity




My love-hate relationship with pop culture


I am both fascinated and disgusted by this thing we call pop culture.

I don’t like using the word love so glibly, but I do love people. I love people watching. People are warm, brave, smart, endearing, witty, quirky, Machiavellian, passionate, stupid, and predictable and unpredictable at the same time. People ARE pop culture.

And people consume pop culture. But more importantly, pop culture consumes people. It eats away at them, US, starting with our brains and then onto our souls. We allow it to happen.

Take me, for example. I like to think I know better. I am an outsider, watching from a window, the sparkly, shiny happenings of the  entertainment industry, our mecca of pop culture. I like to meet “famous” people and talk to them and ask them about their lives.

And at the same time, I see them as hollow shells, robbed of their humanness. Thanks to their handlers, agents, media consultants, and fans, they are no longer themselves–at least at some point of their journey. They are products, holograms of what “we” want.

Why do I feed into this reality? I could stop if I want to, but I don’t.

Our fascination borders on idol worship, and THAT scares me. I feed the myth every time I post on a social media site.

I love to laugh. I love adventure. And I make jokes that I would like to “stalk” specific celebrities, as if they are somehow more important than I am.

I give the impression that I am so infatuated that I spend all of my time thinking about something as trivial as a media-coated life of a person who dulls in comparison to the God whom I adore–and upon whose words I should more time meditating.

I am not infatuated. I despise the word infatuation. I am a thinker. I deliberate on my emotions, almost to the point of Stoicism.

But sometimes…it just feels good to get away from it all and step into this dream world, this illusion that has been created.

It is an illusion, you know. All of it. All of pop culture. Sadly, we humans living upon this spinning mass are losing, or have lost, the ability to discern between truth and deception.

We want candy to soothe us, but we ingest poison. Ah, but it tastes so good.

I reference Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 too often, but are we not like Mildred, living our lives as members of the audience? Do we not sit glued to our parlor walls and go about our daily business creating emotional barriers with Seashell thimbles in our ears?

We watch “reality” shows built from a script.

We watch the news, thinking that what we see is raw footage, but we forget that our eyes are only privy to where the camera points. Who is manning the camera? Is the news really unbiased, or does it matter which sponsor pays for the show?

Somehow I can’t help but think the truth is laid out for us in the comedies and sci-fi shows we watch to escape. But we’re so “dumbed down.” we couldn’t digest figurative language if it were force-fed down our throats.

Perhaps I should continue watching Big Bang Theory and wait for Sheldon to discover the truth during his quantum physics and string theory research.

As I ponder how I act as an enabler and turn a blind eye to the dimming around me, I want to go back to Facebook and delete all my self-indulgent posts that border on idol worship.

But instead I post a picture of Stevie Nicks.



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I am soapstone


Today’s post comes from the Daily Prompt: I Am a Rock.

Is it easy for you to ask for help when you need it, or do you prefer to rely only on yourself? Why?

I HATE asking anyone for help. It’s not that I’m arrogant. It’s that I hate being a burden. When I feel like a burden, I apologize–even when I’m not a burden. And when I apologize, I annoy people. And when I annoy people, I feel worthless. I crumble. And then I HATE feeling that way about myself. I don’t want to empower others by letting them think they made me feel weak.

So, no, it is NOT easy for me to ask for help.

But does relying on myself make me a rock?

Am I sturdy, unmoving, hard, strong? I already admitted to crumbling, so there goes that lie.

Call me Soapstone.

Soapstone is a metamorphic rock, i.e. a rock that has changed its form due to heat and pressure that occur with the shifting of the tectonic plates.

Well, now.

Though soapstone may crumble, there are a few other characteristics that make it interesting.

  • It’s easy to scratch the surface of soapstone, even with a fingernail. It’s sensitive.
  • It’s also durable and moldable and works great as an insulator due to its low electrical conductivity.
  • Soapstone is resistant to acids and alkalis.
  • Artists rely on soapstone to create inlaid designs and sculptures. It also works well as a counter top, a cooking surface or a gravestone.
  • Soapstone absorbs, stores and radiates heat. It’s a great material for a fireplace.
  • Because soapstone is so easy to work with, it’s known as “the quiet stone.”
  • Some people say soapstone has a calming effect.

But back to the topic — asking others for help. It’s just something I’m not comfortable doing. But lately, it seems I’ve had to humble myself and just say, “Help.”

In the last month, my computers have gone bonkers. I don’t know how to fix them, so I’ve had to ask for help. I don’t know how to get back into the writing game, so I’ve had to humble myself and go back to my mentors and say, “Help.” And I won’t even go into all my other issues. I need help. But I’d rather give it.

I am a rock. I am soapstone.

No, I don’t have thick skin, but my sensitivity allows me to communicate with others on a deeper level. I’m approachable. I’m flexible. I go with the flow.

I teach, and rarely do I ever lose it in the classroom. I absorb a lot. I don’t always have to be right. And all things considered, I’m pretty resilient. I don’t break down that easily.

Simply put, when it comes to asking for help or relying on myself, I am a rock.

Get your writing game on and try out the Daily Prompt. You can find it here: http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/daily-prompt-self/ .

“My God is my rock, in whom I take refuge.” ~ Psalm 18:2

I’ve built walls, / A fortress deep and mighty, / That none may penetrate. / I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain. / It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain. / I am a rock, / I am an island. ~ “I Am by Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel




Sound Track of My Life


Welcome to today’s totally self-indulgent blog. Should I become uber famous and “they” make a movie of my life, I want to make sure “they” get the songs right. Here goes–sixteen songs that define my life.

My Tweenage Years

1. Convoy by C.W. McCall http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gI5eT4UmyFY
CB radios were the craze during my adolescent years, and my neighbor and I spent our afternoons making up new lyrics. He sang. I played guitar. It was just a totally stupid thing to do. Surprisingly, a few kids today have heard of the song because their parents still play it. One of my newspaper kids put it on our classroom iTunes playlist last year.

2. Chevy Van by Sammy Johns  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiEIToOWr64
Remember 45’s? I would put on a stack and turn up the volume then sit and listen on my front porch swing. By far, this song was the most provocative, scandalous song of them all. But it was my favorite. I didn’t have a clue what the song was about. There was also a little boy I liked whose parents owned a Chevy van. He lived across town  near what used to be Dairy Queen. Sometimes his parents would drive down my street, and I always remember looking for his van.

3. The Joker by The Steve Miller Band http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmVusVh4TRQ
Quite possibly, the best song EVER. I think I wore out the album. I spent a lot of time alone, listening to this song, picking the needle up on my record player, starting it over and over and over again. It was so nice decades later to go to a Steve Miller show and to have Steve Miller himself put his guitar pick in my hand. I did a lot of  dreaming to that song.

My Teen Years

5. Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w9TGj2jrJk8
Best birthday present during my teen years? An eight-track tape of Van Halen’s Women and Children First, hand-delivered by a couple of Thieves. Afterwords? Snow falling, a ride home in a shop-painted pick up, and a guitar lesson of Stairway to Heaven. A defining moment.

6. Love Hurts by Nazareth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iZhNW_jKrQY
This song brings back memories of The Barn, a backdrop, and a couple of broken hearts. Ah, love hurts.

7. She’s So Cold by the Rolling Stones http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xrx_55SgwAY
One of the best decisions I ever made as a high school student? Becoming a band geek. When I think of this song, I think about my sisters on the flag corps and a group of incorrigible drummers. I hear us singing this song at the top of our voices and see us trudging out the door to afternoon practices, and remember wreaking havoc on a very young, very kind (and very forgiving) band director who changed my life by opening my door to music.

The College Years

8. The Stroke by Billy Squier http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LS-oyLm-_fg
I HATED my college years—the music, the clothing styles. I have nothing good to say about this time except for one moment. My friends and I were in B&L Pizza, The place was crowded, and there were these guys there who were ina typical unknown garage band. The lead singer lept up on a table and sang along with the music. I don’t remember the dude’s name, but I remember his very eighty-ish white jacket and white gangster-type hat. I’m sure the moment didn’t happen like I remember it, but the moment was like a music video.

9. Rock You Like a Hurricane by The Scorpions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxdmw4tJJ1Y
I do not know why my roommate and I liked The Scorpions. It was a short-lived infatuation, but I can’t think of college without thinking of Domino’s pizza, braided headbands, leg warmers, and The Scorpions.

10. Celebration of the Lizard King by Jim Morrison http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMDYRNUV7o4
Self confession –I spent a lot of time in my door room listening to Jim Morrison’s Lizard King. Always the loner, I was fascinated by what made Morrison tick, so I tried to psycho-analyze him through his music.

The CCM Music Journalist Days

11. Cross of Gold by Michael W. Smith http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1CI8P1MHS0
When the church convinced me secular music was evil, I shut the door, but then this thing called contemporary Christian music appeared on the scene. Michael W. Smith was at the forefront. I was walking down a Nashville street, and I saw this man who looked me square in the eye and smiled. I just KNEW it was Smitty. Whether it was or wasn’t, the blip in time changed my life. I dove  headfirst into CCM and started writing for magazines. I met everyone and anyone associated with the business and probably interviewed almost all of the artists from the 90s. But Michael W. Smith was my hands down favorite. His love for teens changed my heart. I admired him so much, I named my younger son after him.

12. This Is Not My Home – Three Crosses http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzkfZziiZqM
Serendipity, my favorite word, comes to play here. I went to a bookstore with a meet and greet because the store was giving away tickets to a MWS concert. We won! My son had his picture made with the lead singer of Three Crosses. I bought the CD and absolutely FELL IN LOVE with the music. The vocals were/ are IT, everything I like in music. As for the serendipity part of the story, my son now frequently works with the lead singer. I’m still the geeky fan.

13. Black Bird by Third Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KmZ38HehKxE
Other than Three Crosses, I had never heard a CCM artist sing songs the way I like them, i.e. a bluesy rock style. Third Day introduced me to the Black Crowes. As I mentioned, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting just about every 90s CCM artist, but Third Day was a special treat. Even though I don’t listen to CCM much anymore, I will forever be a Third Day fan.

My Journey to the Crossroads of Rock and Blues

14. Crossfire by Stevie Ray Vaughan http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p77e2_0fUyo
When I finally realized that God would not send me to Hell for listening to mainstream music, I finally realized my true passion was The Blues. My all-time favorite is SRV. I think Stevie had a gentle spirit with a troubled soul. But he found his way back to God. I will meet him someday.

15. Voodoo Chile (blues version) by Jimi Hendrix http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-C6wSGcFEmA
Another troubled soul. Another life lost too soon. I can’t tell you why I like the blues, but I can show you—Jimi Hendrix. Mystery. Imagination. Fodder for my creative writing.

16. Thorn in My Pride by The Black Crowes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hmWtBTX8rhc
Some of you wouldn’t put this song in the blues category, but it is my all-time FAVORITE song. I melt.

P.S. Anyone who knows me well, may notice I left out one very important artist–Steven Tyler of Aerosmith. I’m still waiting on Steven’s personal visit and phone call. I wouldn’t call myself desperate, but….take a look at this video and, you’ll see how desperate a teacher can be. No students were harmed physically (can’t guarantee emotionally) in the making of this video.


Suppose someone stumbled across your diary and decided to make a movie about your life. Create a soundtrack for the movie of your life. Be sure to comment on WHY these songs mean something to YOU. And share! We all love comments on our blogs. Comments remind us SOMEONE is reading.