Curiosity

Isn’t it funny how you can accept a concept basically all your life but not “get it” until someone else’s words trigger a deeper understanding.

For me, that concept is curiosity.

My favorite grad professor made a statement in class this summer about how the key for students’ success correlates to their level of personal curiosity.

We teachers can’t teach curiosity, but hopefully we can make the information so inviting that the students want more. In educational jargon, the students become so engaged in the subject they’re studying that they delve into their personal critical thinking skills to go beyond the target goal.

Curiosity is the key to survival, for if we as a people fail to assert our curiosity, we will fall deep into a pit of apathy and lose all problem solving and initiative taking. Then we will fall susceptible to mind control and submission.

I can’t imagine a life without curiosity. I guess that’s why I like to write. But writers don’t have dibs on curiosity. If scientists and mathematicians don’t ask questions, we will never have the answers that cure diseases, create durable structures, or harness energy.

Lately, I’ve been very curious about God. I have a myriad of unanswered questions, but the one thing I know for sure is that God is love.

I want to tell a good story. I want to make readers laugh—and cry. I want to make readers think. I’m a writer, and I’m a Christian, but I’m not necessarily a Christian writer. I’m a writer who writes from the Christian world view. Perhaps, however, through my simple anecdotes, readers can learn how to find love, how to find God.

But how does a writer convey the message that God is love? Sometimes I have to explain it to myself.

Love is powerful. There is nothing anyone can do to stop love. God loves all people, even if they hate him and even if he dislikes their actions.

But he’s the rule maker. He’s in charge. If he doesn’t want to allow anger, hatred, bitterness, murder, etc. into his home, that’s his business. He prohibits these things because they destroy love.

I make the rules for my personal life: Don’t lie to me. Don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt my family. Don’t use me. Don’t manipulate me. Don’t control me. Don’t ridicule me. Don’t take me for granted.

If people choose to cross these lines, I can shut the door and keep them out of my life.

Likewise, there is nothing that can force love. Not presents. Not money. Not power. Not flattery. Not bribery. Not bargains. People try all of these methods to earn God’s favor, especially when they try to make their own rules while living in his house.

It’s impossible to force love. I can’t make another person love me. I don’t try. I will never beg or plead. Ever. I would rather walk away and keep on walking. Either love is, or it isn’t.

God doesn’t beg either, but because love cannot exist in an environment of evil, God made the Way for imperfect people to find a place in his home.

Again, you can’t force love, but you can leave the door open and wait for it to walk in. God has done that, but when he chooses to close the door, well, that’s up to him.

I’m a teacher. I know. I can’t make my students love me. I can’t even make them like me. It’s up to them. I’ll never beg or bribe them. I’d rather accept the truth than live a lie.

As a writer, my goal is to create characters that echo the same emotions and struggles that all people go through. It’s inevitable. When readers get into a book, they readily identify with one of the main characters and live vicariously through him or her or it. They feel what the character feels.

I think we all seek love, regardless of our ages, but teens, especially, crave love. Unfortunately, what they often settle for is not love—it’s a cheap counterfeit.

I don’t be a Pollyanna, but I like happy endings. My manuscripts are full of humor, of course, but what I really want to stand out in them is love—not just romantic love, which may be lust in disguise, but real love.

And what is real love? It’s not so hard to define.

  • Real love protects. The counterfeit hurts.
  • Real love puts others first. The counterfeit doesn’t care about others as long as its own needs are met first.
  • Real love forgives. The counterfeit holds grudges and reminds others of their failures.
  • Real love offers hope. The counterfeit delivers despair.
  • Real love is truth. The counterfeit is just one big lie.

You are the main character in your own life. Where is your curiosity taking you? Do you ever question love?

Five words every writer should use

Don’t let the title fool you. I’m not talking using the words in your writing. I’m talking using the words as you are writing. I lived in the Boro this summer, almost quite literally, and picked up some great wisdom from my graduate classes. I thought I’d share.

Curiosity
I loved my literacy class. Felt right at home in there. The vibes among the professor, the doctoral students, and the outcast, me, were all in sync. My professor opened my eyes to one word that makes all the difference when it comes to learning—curiosity. We teachers can’t teach natural curiosity. We can inspire and encourage, but the really great learners have a natural curiosity that drives them toward answers. So writers, let loose your curiosity and feel free to explore. I love it. I could spend hours researching online. I could spend hours traveling across country to visit special places. I could spend hours reading or hours talking to people who have their own natural curiosity.

Conceptual metaphors
Most entry level English students know what a metaphor is. It’s like a simile—without the like. He is a dog. She is a social butterfly. The guy who sits next to me in class is a vulture. Conceptual metaphors exist on a more subliminal level. Take the novel Heart of Darkness, for example. The novel itself expresses a theme of uncertainty or ambiguity. The author uses numerous vague words throughout the novel to create a sense of dimness. The metaphor runs through the entire work and adds a deeper level of meaning to the story. I like using conceptual metaphors in songs. Crafting the conceptual metaphor is a great mental work out for every writer.

Liminality
Speaking of ambiguity, here’s a word that was foreign to me until I stepped into my stylistics class. Liminality literally refers to a state of ambiguity, that feeling of being stuck in the middle, on the threshold, too far to turn back, too close not to keep going. Liminality is a vital element of YA fiction. The characters find them in a state of liminality as they cope with transcending from adolescence into adulthood. Not an easy place to be. I suppose teen angst is a by-product of liminality. But liminality isn’t just limited to teens. Adults find themselves there too. We change every day. Who I am today is not who I was yesterday. Adults find themselves stuck in the middle of caring for the children and caring for their aging parents. It’s hard watching your parent grow old. The inner turmoil that comes with change creates a sense of liminality. Liminality creates tension. Tension keeps the reader turning the pages.

Limerence
I picked up this word totally by accident. Some might say by fortunate discovery, ah, serendipity. Actually, I was writing a paper on liminality and clicked on the wrong term as I Googled. But the word limerence is quite similar to liminality, but it very specificially deals with romance. So romance writers take note. You probably already know this, but now you’ll know why your writing techniques work. It’s a psychological thing. Psychologist Dorothy Tennov came up with the term. Limerence refers to a romantic state of mind that occurs when one person is so attracted to another that she or he becomes obsessed with the need for reciprocal feelings. When these feelings are not reciprocated, the limerence goes away. Limerence can develop into true love. Or not. The concept is worth researching if you are writing about relationships. Human beings are weird, obsessive, sensitive, emotional, dramatic creatures. When one of these creatures suffer from limerence, a story naturally evolves. And limerence involves tension, lots and lots of tension, again a key ingredient in what makes a novel a success.

Serendipity
Of course, I had to include my favorite word. But writers beware. Too much serendipity in novel makes the work unbelievable. Having the right people or tools to magically show up just when they are needed to solve a problem seems a bit unrealistic. Serendipty, of course, is a happy accident, something someone discovers without looking for it. Sometimes you can search your entire life for the answer to a question, and then almost miraculously when you finally give up looking, you stumble across what you’ve been looking for. A happy accident? Happy, yes. Accident? I don’t think so. God orchestrates everything. I believe in divine appointments. I believe in answered prayers. I believe in miracles. He knows our hearts desires, especially when we’ve honored Him. So open your eyes, and roll with the serendipity when you find yourself face to face with it.

So, folks, it’s your turn to get to work. Share your thoughts with me. I’d love to hear what you think  every writer needs to use—or know.