How to Dish Up Your Own Cup of Soup

Amy Mullis - Cup of Soup Anthology Secrets

Have you ever borrowed a recipe from someone because the very taste knocked the socks off your taste buds, but when you got the recipe home to give it a try, something was missing?  Trying to figure out where you went wrong, you head straight to the telephone to give them a call and they say, “Oh, I forget to tell you.  I leave out the tarragon and add extra sour cream.”  Or they might say, “Double the sugar and add chocolate; that’s the key.”  Sometimes you have to tweak a recipe to make it perfect for you.

 

That’s the way it works when you craft a story for an anthology.  Take an event, add a personal touch and a dab of joy, and you have a tale that will make hearts sing.  Or weep.  Or thump and turn somersaults.  Because even though we may all be very different, we are fundamentally the same.  Everyone experiences happy times and sad, the exhilaration of personal victories, and the devastation of loss.  To make a personal story appeal to thousands of people, find a story that deals with an event or emotion that is fundamental to life; that is so common to basic humanity that most everyone will experience the same feeling at some point in his or her lifetime.  Then tell the story earnestly, make a point, and submit the essay.  It’s as simple as that.

 

When Jenna Glatzer, founder of AbsoluteWrite.com, set out to publish an anthology to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina, she chose strength as the theme of the book.  I didn’t have money to send to the victims of this unexpected and horrible storm, and I especially wanted to contribute to this anthology as my way of extending a hand to these disaster-worn people I would never meet.  How, then, to give myself the best chance to be included?  I decided that most people who approach the topic of strength would do so from a deep, introspective point of view.  I decided to go the opposite route and tackle the topic with humor.  I chose a meaningful time in my life, a time when my father showed me how to face life’s troubles on my own during a period when childish imagination has a way of making waterfalls out of dripping faucets.  I told a true story, but a story decorated with the terrifying exaggerations of a child’s mind.  In The Wonderful Transformation of the Library Troll, a little girl has to find the courage to march up the library stairs and face the evil librarian in order to return a library book that was dreadfully overdue.  Then I tied up the story with the sigh of relief that comes from turning dragons into dragonflies. The point?  If a kid can lead the charge up the library steps and tackle the troll she finds inside, you can fight your fiends as well and come out a hero.

 

Having trouble finding a topic?  Everyone has a favorite story.  Think back to birthday celebrations, anniversary parties, engagements, divorces, the first day at school, or starting a new job.  Changes in life bring stories like flower fields bring butterflies.  Did you get married, attend a friend’s wedding, get a new stepparent, go on a trip?  How about challenges?  If you’ve lost a loved one, a job, or a memento or got a new computer, tried to program a DVD player or given up on how to do anything with your cell phone buy say hello, you’ve got a story.  Make a habit of writing down the events in your life as they happen.  You’ll be ready with a rose garden full of memories, and when an editor calls for a single bloom you can pick one from your bouquet.

 

Think back on the stories you tell and retell when you get together with friends over Friday night coffee or with relatives at family reunions.  Any story that begins “Remember the time” or “I’ll never forget when” is a potential story to share.  These are your highlights, the moments when all of life’s special effects worked together to produce a magic memory.  It may be a story that makes your lungs and backbone ache from laughing, or that makes you sniffle and blink away the tears as the words drop one by one into the silence of the listeners, like snowflakes onto a barren field.  These are the stories that, carefully and lovingly unfolded like grandmother’s wedding dress being readied for use by a devoted granddaughter, will touch the hearts of everyone who shares the moment. 

Now you can lean back and congratulate yourself for capturing this beautiful moment on the canvas of a computer screen, right?  Of course not.  If you do, you’ll miss the most exciting part of the journey.  Submit your work.  Both Chickensoup.com and CupofComfort.com have story guidelines on the Internet and include lists of story topics currently underway.  Anthologies.com also has a Writer’s Wanted section that lists books in the making.  If you belong to a writer’s group, either in person or online, you will likely share information about callouts for new anthologies.  In most cases it costs nothing to try.  So why wait?  Stir up your own cup of soup, add a dash of personality, and see your story in print!

 

BIO:  Amy Mullis tells the tales of friends, relatives, and self from her home in upstate South Carolina.  Because her entrepreneurial teenagers demand a share in the profits if they appear in her work, their names are absent from this article.  Read more of Amy’s work in Stories of Strength, Letters to My Mother, Chicken Soup for the Beach Lover’s Soul, A Cup of Comfort for Writers, and Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover’s Soul.

SG1 Series Part Two: Character Development

Characters are an elemental part of every story. An intriguing plot with a good story-arc is important but without approachable characters your story will never connect with an audience. Readers need characters. Characters are the socket for your stories power supply. It is through your characters that readers can plug into the plot and experience the life of your story.

The Stargate series introduces a multitude of characters in various stages and of differing quality and consideration. Some play bit parts as extras or body count but others grow into the story, we come to love them or hate them, we come to care for the part they play in the story, their injuries and deaths bring anguish and grief or heartfelt cheers.


SG1 – Jack, Daniel, Sam and Teal’c

The original SG1 is a team of four diverse characters. Their differences create an initial challenge; they struggle as a unit until they learn to use each others strengths to counter their own weaknesses. It shows the importance of bringing opposites together. These characters are unique in their own fields. It is their united purposes, each individual to their character, which brings them together. A bond is formed that gives this eclectic community a solid friendship. We see the bond develop and grow with the characters as the series progresses.

It is important to blend characters but avoid carbon copies. Each character should be unique and individual. Distinguish them with separate goals, established histories, areas of interest and technique.


The SGC and General Hammond

The Stargate Command is an entity in its own right. It is actually a collection of individuals that work in regulated ways to create a standardized base of operations. There are many faceless characters lead by the General. Most of the time we don’t connect with these individuals but General Hammond represents the unity. His personality molds the actions of the SGC.

Larger forces need a strong head character to represent their interests. Armies can seem like a long column of faceless men but a charismatic leader will show a distinguishing command of his forces. Each of his men is ultimately the voice of this man and a solid leader is one whose men will lay down their own lives to support the orders he puts forth. This is true of the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ guys.


The Goa’uld

While the Goa’uld are a nasty bunch in their own right they are an ideal antagonist. They aren’t evil. They have solid reasoning and a collection of emotional reactions that allow readers to associate with them. The Goa’uld act entirely out of an arrogant sense of self preservation and domination. As a people (um… symbiotic race) they act with rational, intelligent thought. They are challenging but not insurmountable.

Antagonists should be normal people. You can create more impact with a sympathetic antagonist then with a diabolical freak. If a reader can see themselves in a protagonist you have a good story but if readers can see themselves to some small degree in the antagonist then you have a charged situation that will keep a reader tied to the outcome.

There are many more characters involved in the Stargate series. Each new person (or group of people) is shown in snippets. Base motivations appear and personality traits are revealed but characters always have an element that remains unseen. It is impossible to know everything and it is important that characters can still do something unexpected or unpredictable.

Over time, we get to know the main characters. Their own personal stories are revealed and delved into. The primary characters are challenged with personal situations forcing them to make choices that distinguish them. Whole episodes play a vital role in adding depth to these characters and introduce situations that push their qualities forward.

  • Use time in your story to slowly reveal your characters.
  • Allow their actions and reactions to portray the depth of their beliefs and desires.
  • Each scene should use your characters strengths and weaknesses.
  • 3D characters have sides we cannot see.
  • A characters relationships reveal vital clues to their personality.
  • Characters always continue to grow and change based on the situations that occur in each moment of their lives.

Finally, just because your story has reached ‘The End’ does not mean your characters have. Characters should still be imperfect in the final scene. Their growth remains incomplete. Some of your characters may have died but most will live on beyond your closing paragraph and while they began at one point and progressed to another in this story there should always be another world to save, another enemy to fight, another day to live and another dream to follow.

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