Part 1 of the magic ingredients of a novel looked at things like plot, subplots, themes, conflict, emotion and characterisation – all common elements that are vital to any good story. This second part will look at six more crucial elements that authors should ensure are present within their novels if they want to impress agents…
Some girls love hunks who are well-built and popular. Some want successful men who are rich, tall, manly or whatever it is that does not go two inches beneath outer appearance and social status. I, on the other hand, have found myself drooling over guys who are bookworms! Yes, you heard me right! I love a guy who can appreciate a good book. I am drawn to guys whose hobby involves reading and/or writing. To me such guys are hot even if their looks are not so attractive. I am attracted to the confidence and the brains. The smarter the better. A guy who can speak in public without fidgeting and who is well-read excites all my senses! I cannot resist such a man. I am a bookworm myself. I love to write and intellectually stimulating philosophy makes me squirm with pleasure. If my guy could be delighting in the same pleasures I do, I will be so glad. You see I believe after the initial excitement ends when you are dating your significant other, reality pops in with a blow! What your partner does in their free time suddenly becomes an important factor in your relationship because it will dictate how you guys spend your life when you are not at work or school. Are you compatible outside of romance? Do you share the same interests? If you would like to spend your holidays traveling and exploring new worlds, would he rather stay behind and lounge in his man cave? I want my guy to want the same things I want. It may seem boring to most people, yes! But apparently that is what makes me happy.
I want a guy who enjoys reading a novel, watching the amazing race,has an active blog or two, gets giddy and excited over philosophy, enjoys watching k-dramas and chinese dramas, loves camping and sailing. If I could get a guy who loved philosophy and writing, I would still be happy. I am ready to compromise on the rest. Someone once said that they needed to feel attracted to someone physically to be with them intimately. However, I have observed that what is important to me is intellectual stimulation rather than physical looks and has more to do with a guy’s reading list than his biceps. If a guy stimulates my mind with his mind, I can overlook appearance without a second thought! In fact, I hardly see ugly in a person who successfully manages to sweep my brains away with his smarts. Instead I see him as handsome and attractive equal to his intelligence and confidence! To me, a guy’s level of intelligence and creativity is directly proportional to his attractiveness. The more creative and intelligent he is, the more attractive he will look to me.
I took myself out to dinner for Valentine’s Day and I could not have been happier! I had nothing fancy, just a plate of french fries and Prawns Scampi that came with a delicious mayonnaise dip on the side! I had a banana chocolate shake with my food and totally relaxed my otherwise stiff shoulders as soothing instrumental music played in the background. The lighting was dim and just right for me because I find bright light too headachey for my eyes. I enjoyed my dinner and as I dipped my fries and prawns in the mayo, I thought how amazingly refreshing taking yourself out to dinner is; you get to enjoy your own company without the pressure that comes with trying to please or impress your date. Taking yourself out for a date is way better than bringing along someone who might dislike the way you chew or keep on staring at your mouth the whole time or whatever weird elses another person seated across from you is likely to do.
I find that there is no better time for self love than Valentine’s Day! Because this day is specially celebrated for lovers, I find that it makes perfect timing for some personal TLC. Afterall, if you cannot learn to love your own company, you would hardly appreciate the company of others.
Today I made an enlightening observation about my subconscious self! I observed that I have always seen myself as “that child who got a neglectful,miserable,directionless early childhood.” I was a helpless,neglected child, yes! But that sad image of a child trying out her mother’s clothes before a mirror in an empty house after ransacking her mother’s wardrobe in a frenzy of freedo-excitement, the kind Jerry feels when Tom is away; the thrilling excitement to invade every space in the house, never left me when I turned eighteen! Somehow, subconsciously, I have seen myself in every child. That explains why I was drawn to love International Child Law above everything else in my four years of Law, because I believed children needed someone to stand up for them when they are helpless because they have no voice of their own(atleast was my case). My gloomy childhood made me empathize with every suffering, lonely, neglected and abused child in the world. When I read about Adrian Jones in the news and the abuse he was made to endure at the hands of the two people who were meant to love and care for him the most, I cried so hard that I almost cursed human beings out of existence! There is no way I could see a child crying without feeling pain equal to that of being stabbed in the gut! I wanted to open an orphanage. I wanted to help every child live a happy life. I saw myself as the defender of children all over the world! I even wrote a dissertation about street children just because I could not stomach seeing homeless children in the streets of Nairobi.I felt someone needed to act and quickly at that!
In short,in my mind, I was still that child who got little of what she was supposed to have ,which was a loving, caring family, but instead got plenty of what any child in the world was never supposed to be subjected to,neglect, neglect, and more neglect!
The child was my glasses,my perspective and my paradigm. I woud look at and react to everything in school,romantic relationships and friendships as this severely disappointed child who got tired of being let down over and over again by the people who were meant to love and nurture her, that she lost faith in people’s capacity to be compassionate, considerate and kind; the type of kindness that does not conceal personal interest at my expense,manipulation or exploitation.
Because I was so tired of being let down as a child, I became reactive instead of proactive. Whenever I felt put in that spot I was always in as that child: dismissed, disregarded,belittled or ignored, I would react desperately, as if to pay forall those times I was voiceless and could not even squeak in my own favor whenever my needs and interests as a child were dismissed without a careful consideration of my physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing and development!
Whenever I reacted to situations that took me back to that child,I was judged too harshly by some who were strangers to me, but excused by those who walked my journey with me and understood me.
So this eye-opening realization I made which was that I was still that child inside and have been so despite being an adult and moving on in life, is a big deal to me because it helps me make a paradigm shift. I count this realization as one of those major milestones in my life which have the potential to change the course of events affecting my life in the present and future.
To start with I am going to learn to let go of that child or atleast stop making her the lens through which I look at life. I will do this by doing an imaginery initiation ceremony in my mind officially, mentally recognizing myself as an adult. I will recognize my childhood trauma and the fact that I am sad over having a less-than childhood experience but most importantly I will tell myself that I was not the only child of divorce who faced hardship at the guardianship of a bipolar single parent, but that there are millions of children like me everyday and some have way worse situations. I want to emphasize that personal success is as possible for children of divorce as much as it is for children who come from functional families. What are my thoughts about marriage and kids? Well, I believe having gone through what I went through as a child will make me a committed mother and parent and nothing will come first except my children and their wellbeing.
It’s hard to define what makes any novel work. It’s quite a subjective subject – what one person likes is what another person doesn’t, and what works for one agent/publisher may not work for another. Most often it’s down to the content of a novel that really counts.Writers can help their odds of an acceptance…
Today I was rearranging stuff in my wardrobe and I came across two photo albums containing old photos of my mum when she was beautiful, healthy and stress-free. I felt more connected with her than I have ever been. It was as if I was living her life in the photos; as if I understood the meaning behind each facial expression and smile. How did she end up like this? I did not get to see this wonderful, blissful, ever-smiling and gorgeous woman that I am seeing before my eyes. I feel as if I am seeing her for the first time. Something tells me that this is my real mum whom I have not had the honor to meet and get to know. I feel as if I missed out a great deal.
With tears in my eyes I wished that mum returns to her happy self. I want to see my mum happy and healthy like she was in this photograph. I was not lucky enough to meet this lady. I met a severely stressed woman who had had just enough of disappointments in one lifetime, that she lost her old self somewhere along the way and never got to find her. I feel for her and I am ashamed of myself for failing to understand her journey. I am disappointed in myself for judging her too harshly without knowing what she had had to face or the hardships that kept her crying through the nights. The tears that might have fallen down her cheeks as she hid them so that I could not see. How could I ever judge her when I did not live her life! Going through the albums was a huge eye-opener for me. Seeing her in every stage of her life made me realize that she is not just a mum, but that she is a human being, just like me, with dreams and disappointments,with good days and bad days. I do not like labels. When someone is labeled as a mother, it comes with expectations. A mother should be this or that. I expect a lot from someone who went through so much which I could hardly comprehend or imagine. I made an astounding realization: I do not know my mum. Yes! I do not know her at all! I do not understand her as a person. I never saw past the label, I never saw the human being desperately trying to hang on to her happier old self behind her station as my mother. This is where I went wrong.
Look at me calmly sleeping in her arm. How dare I focus only on her failures and not on that warm and reassuaring embrace?! Shame on me! How would I feel if one day I should have children and they judge me without giving me the benefit of the doubt? I want to take this time to pray for my mum. God please restore her health and beauty and smile. Make her happy and mentally strong. Amin.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”Marcus Aurelius “Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”Abraham Lincoln “If you want happiness for an hour — take a nap.If you want happiness for a day — go fishing.If…
You all know by now that I had a rough childhood growing up and I wish I was writing about happiness or improvement in my life but so far so bad. Nothing has changed. The main cause of my stress which is my dysfunctional, mentally-challenged family, has poven to be consistent and resistant through time. I was born and raised in a chaotic, aggressive, hostile, crazy, functionless family environment that almost got me for good. I don’t remember much but my crazy family wanted so much to recruit the child me into their gang of nut jobs that they came up with all this nonsense about me being possessed by jin saying I was bewitched or something. I was still in elementary school then. They made me sick and word got out that I was crazy. I cannot believe it!These people are truly, officially bananas! I was just a child! Had it not been for my aunt who stepped up and saved me insisting that my father should send me away to start highschool far away from my family, I would not be where I am right now!I cannot thank her enough!
So I went away to pursue my highschool education and later college and would only interact with my family over holidays. I dreaded holidays because they meant coming back home. The word home lost its meaning.Home to me was a house gathering dust. Home to me meant a bipolar mother who refuses to accept she is sick and therefore never takes her medication ultimately leading to exasperatingly frustrating manic episodes and outbursts. Home meant a grandmother who thinks neighbours are stealing her money through magic and who wants to do things her way or the highway. Home meant having to come back to a house gathering dust since grandmother is too weak to maintain the house and does not trust anyone esle to stay with her because she would rather be alone in the house than live with another human being who might steal her belongings or get in the way of her obsessive compulsive behavior. I have no words!
I know that I am not the only child in the world who comes from a mentally challenged family,but problem is, mental illness is so misunderstood and highly back-staged in Coastal Kenya,that cases like mine end up severely underestimated and dismissed as just another case of evil eye or witchcraft! What is worse is that mental illness is the last suspect always! Nobody seems to notice abnormal behavior and even when they see smoke, they do not pay mentally-challenged members of a family the proper attention such a situation obviously deserves: medical diagnosis and treatment!
So this explains why I have had to single-handedly struggle living with my mentally-challenged grandmother and mother. I thought I could dream big and be a successful person one day. My success story being, “From the bottom up:a girl from a dysfunctional, mentally-challenged family in Africa beats the odds to become a successful writer and esteemed intellectual!”. I still hold onto this hope:the hope that someday I will make it big despite the roadblocks and rollercoaster rides in my life.
It is always darkest before dawn. I feel completely helpless right now. How does anyone expect me to care for my grandmother who is weak and has mental problems? In my community people look after their mothers. My mother bailed out on hers so I am left taking care of her during the holidays. In the same way,I will be duty-bound to look after my bipolar mother when she is rendered functionless which is a guarantee if she continues denying that she has a problem and needs medication. I want to shout and scream. I want to cry my eyes out. There is no one around to live through the crazy with me. I wanted to become an intellectual,an academic, and that is the reason I chose law because even though it was not what I previously had in mind,I was able to appreciate the course for it opened my eyes to reasoning and logic. It made me think without any barriers. I took it as a challenge to make my dream of being an intellectual true. I embraced analytical and critical thinking in law with the hope that it will help me understand life better and will help me find my own philosophy in life that will work specifically for me and my case scenario.
I completed four years of law school. There is two more years of Advocate Training Program(ATP) to go but I will be happy to have completed the four years and to move on to my passion which is writing. I am proud of myself for having come this far despite all the problems in my life. I am trying to look after my grandmother as best I can. We have better days and worse days. On the best of days I feel grateful for wanting to take care of her. On the worst days I feel helpless and pessimistic. I want to run and never look back. But something always whispers in my heart, “your granny is way too old. She has no one else. Please do not leave her.” I am not capable of cruelty. I think it is cruel to let an old woman like her suffer alone. I think I can still sacrifice my comfort and happiness to look after her. I think I can afford a little more emotional and psychological damage for a good cause. I am righteous. Some praise me for that, some pity me. What I found defeats my purpose is pity. When someone pities me, I feel unable to focus on the positivity in this whole experience and instead I spiral into a state of pessimism and depressing thoughts. I tell myself for someone to pity me it must be so awful. Oh I cannot handle awful.This is too much! But they are wrong! Just because they think my life is too awful for them, does not mean they are the best judges of awful situations! Maybe the worst experience they ever had in their lives was that moment when they slipped in public. To others awful means cancer, or to be hit by an avalanche, or to live without electricity, or to be a war victim! The word awful is relative to the person’s limited understanding of the application of the word to their personal experiences. In other words, what might be too impossibly difficult for some, can be handled by others who are mentally strong and are hard-wired survivors that can live through anything really! So I am telling myself right now that I am a survivor and survivors never quit! I will never let my experiences hinder my development as an aspiring writer and intellectual! I am fierce and strong! I can and will continue to beat all odds to achieve my highest intellectual and creative potential. Take me to crazy town, forget me there for a lifetime and it still won’t stop me from becoming the best I could possibly be!
“Of all the things that I am sure about, I am sure that my perception does not describe the reality, it is only my reality.” At A Light Circle, M.P. Baecker writes a thoughtful, poignant essay on self-centeredness and awareness.