The Hero's Journey - A Character Study of Lebron James

lebron-james-signed-si-cover-3 Lebron James has always fascinated me. I love basketball–coaching, playing, and watching.  I grew up and have spent most of my life in Cleveland. Since I am the same age as Lebron (actually I am 8 months older than him), I grew up listening and hearing about him. I remember when my high school boys' basketball team played his high school St. Vincent St. Mary. His team obliterated my high school, led by Lebron who scored maybe 50 points. And my high school boys' team wasn't your average high school team. It's a big school with a great basketball program.  I say all this to let you know I've been paying attention to Lebron for years, and I am a fan of his, even when he left Cleveland four years ago.

If you are sick of the Lebron story, or simply the fact that a professional athlete is such big news in our society, I agree with that sentiment. But I think Lebron is big news because he's a great character, and his life is telling a great story. Here's a couple quick examples:

Good stories start with great characters. Readers love a character with a tortured backstory who rises above his or her circumstances to accomplish a goal.

  • Lebron is a rags to riches story. He was born to a sixteen year old mother in a rough area of Akron, Ohio. He was introduced to basketball at age nine, and within a few years he was dubbed the next Michael Jordan capturing the basketball spotlight for the next fifteen years.

We resonate with a character who learns and grows through his or her mistakes. We want to read about a heroic character–a character who has a cause bigger than his or herself.

  • Lebron has made mistakes throughout the years on the court and a few off the court. But, he keeps learning and growing so he can be a better basketball player, teammate, dad, and person. One of the reasons he cited for coming back to Cleveland was to bring home a championship to the city. He sees the hunger for Clevelanders to have something to celebrate. He wants that to be part of his legacy.

Lebron is one example of someone who makes a great character in a story. I love looking at real people and seeing what story he or she is telling. Usually it's the people close to me, but sometimes somebody in the spotlight catches my attention.

Do you know someone living a good story? Why is he or she a good character?

Story Concept Brainstorming - Help Develop my next writing Project

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the concept of a story. In simple terms, a story can start as a concept, framed in the form of a what if question. The answer to the question, to your concept, becomes the story. The concept is the platform from which the story can enfold. Let me give an example of a story concept. What if a boy didn’t know he was a wizard?

The what if question above is the concept for the Harry Potter series. I use the what if questions to help me map out story ideas and outlines. And right now, I'm in the midst of figuring out what my next writing project will be and would love your feedback as I flesh them out.

Below I have a few story concepts (what if questions). Your task is to give a possible answer to the what if question - to tell me how the story will enfold from the concept. Or you can ask a follow up question or give me a completely new story idea. There are no wrong answers, so have fun with it! Just leave your feedback in the comments. Here you go.

What if it didn't stop raining for 40 days?

What if a teenage boy's mother passed away during his senior year of high school?

What if every part of the world below 1,000 feet above sea level was underwater?

What if a teenage girl learned her father was cheating on her mother?

What if a 4 year old Boston Terrier named Daisy moved in with Zelda the Pug (Of the Adventures of Zelda series)?

The Theme of Your Story

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA With the recent death of my stepfather, my mind has drifted a bit to life and how we live our lives. I like to think we all have themes to our lives, much like a story. Let me explain.

Theme is a key component of creating a great story. A theme is an idea or concept which is central to the story and usually literature explores more than one theme throughout the novel.

I like to think of theme as a way for the author to touch readers or as a way to illuminate something about real life. A few themes of the Adventures of Zelda series (Coming out soon!) are friendship, love, and overcoming obstacles. In my novel, a prevailing theme is forgiveness.

And in our lives, we have themes to the way we live whether we realize it or not. In my Live Your Best Story workshop, I ask participants to think about what message their life or story sends to others? How does the way they live their life help others or speak a truth about life?

For my stepdad, some themes in his life were kindness, generosity, and hard work. I saw those themes at work time and time again. He never said no if someone needed a hand. He managed his own roofing company for 35 years with continued success, even during recession years. I think we all could strive for those themes.

What message does your life send to others?

What is the theme of your story?

Creating Emotional Scenes in a Story - A Study of Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights is one of my favorite television series. I was a latecomer to the series, catching the entire series for the first time on Netflix a couple of years back. But, I loved it and couldn't stop watching. So, a couple of months ago, I started watching the series again from start to finish to see if it holds up after a second viewing. It does.

Friday Night Lights is a show that tugs on my emotions every single episode. I can't believe how often I have tears in my eyes, and often not sad tears, but tears because the moment on the screen is so moving.

So, as I continue work on my young adult novel, I am examining Friday Night Lights to figure out how the series manages to pack so much emotion into each episode and how I can bring emotion into my YA novel. Obviously, television and novels are two different mediums, but both are story-telling mediums and enough crossover exists for writers to learn from television and likewise.

I think the series is fantastic at portraying authentic relationships and those relationships create emotional scenes. The relationship between Coach Eric Taylor and his wife is a great example. Their relationship isn't perfect; they fight, argue, and disagree, yet they understand their love for each other remains in the tough moments.

I also think Friday Night Lights has an element of realism many teen dramas do not. The football team does not win every game. Star players get injured. People make bad decisions. And in all of those moments, the characters wrestle with what is right and many times, the decision isn't black or white. Friday Night Lights isn't afraid to go into the grey areas of our lives.

So I am using those two concepts to help me with my novel-writing. I want to create authentic relationships and tackle grey areas of our lives in my novel. I want my readers to feel like the story is real.

What are ways you create emotional scenes in your stories or novels?

What are your favorite novels, television series, or movies for tugging at your emotions?

The What If Questions: The Thanksgiving Edition

Several weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about story concepts. Every story starts out as a concept which can be a what if question. The answer to the question becomes the story. Here's an example of a story concept: What if a boy didn’t know he was a wizard?

The answer is the story of Harry Potter.

In the post, I extended the story concept to our lives. When we start asking what if questions in our lives, the answers lead us into a more exciting life story. Here's a few examples:

What if I went back to school? 

What if I stopped complaining?

What if I quit my job?

At the end of the post, I challenged my readers to ask what if questions for their lives and to explore the answers. In my Live Your Best Story Workshop, we flesh out the what if questions so participants know the next steps to answer the questions for their lives.

But, this week, I'm thinking about what if questions in a different light. I'm thinking in the past tense.

What if I never contacted Brian to speak at the youth retreat several years ago?

What if we didn't drive to London, Ohio to adopt a pug we hadn't seen or met?

What if I didn't move back to Ohio a few years ago?

These what if questions are tough. I don't have good answers for most of them. But, for all three of these questions, there is a common theme. I can't imagine my life if those things didn't happen. I don't want to think of a life without Brian or without Zelda the pug (go ahead and laugh at me). I can't imagine a life where I don't have the freedom and ability to pursue writing.

These past tense what if questions put me in a mood of gratefulness and of thanksgiving. I'm thankful for the life I have- my husband, my family, my crazy pug, my friends, my job(s), and my faith. As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week in the United States, I challenge you to think of the past tense what if questions. I challenge to be grateful for where you are in your life right now, even if you are in a rough stretch.

What are you grateful for this week?

Finding Redemption in Your Story

Life is hard. We go through phases of our lives where nothing seems to go right. Friends drift away. Loved ones pass on. Relationships falter. We make mistakes. Bad things happen. Superstorms strike.

So when we read a story or watch a movie, it's only natural to want the characters to overcome the obstacles and conflict. We want the characters to move beyond their flaws and succeed. We want the characters to find redemption.

We want the characters to find redemption because it gives us hope. When we see it on the screen or read it in a book, a small part of us remembers we can find redemption in our lives, despite our broken world.

The process of writing my book (When Light Hits the Path) caused me to look for redemption in my story. At times, the writing process was painful, but other times it was joyful. The process of writing the book taught me the importance of looking back over your life and looking for meaning in your story.

One way to find meaning and redemption in your story is to make a timeline of the significant moments in your life- the good and the bad moments. For example, your timeline may include a wedding, graduation, birth of a child, loss of a loved one, or loss of a job.

After you create the timeline, take time to reflect on the timeline.

What patterns do you see? What sticks out to you?

Maybe you realize that the negative moments in your life eventually turn out okay.

Or, you realize that a negative moment produced a blessing down the road.

Or, you begin to understand that your experiences prepared you for something important later in life.

You may not be able to make sense of all the tough moments of life (or the good moments). But, I hope you see a purpose and meaning to your life. I hope you find redemption because it's there, hiding somewhere among your life's stories.