Writers and Research

researchThe month of November is dedicated to writers and research here on the Writing Prompts blog. By definition, research is a diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc. Another way to look at it is to search and search again.

Whether you are writing an English paper in high school or the next great American novel, research is vital for a good story. You want your narrative to have a true-to-life atmosphere about it. Even if you’ve invented a fantasy world on an exotic planet, ground it in research from our world. If its a jungle setting, research the Amazon. If an artic setting, study ice and cold. Make it so real that people believe this planet could truly exist.planets

All month long, we’ll be looking at many forms of research, different research links, and other useful information. Make sure to bookmark our site and join us every Tuesday and Friday as we delve into the subject of writers and research.

Also, 2014 is fast approaching and there will be a few changes on the writing prompts blog. You’ve noticed our updated appearance and we’ll be adding bigger and better prizes. Woo hoo.

Enjoy the research and a slew of Christmas articles in calendarDecember while you wait for New Year.

The Most Commonly Translated Book After the Bible?

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First Edition

Pilgrim’s Progress

I love classic novels, and enjoy all genres and time periods. How could I narrow it down to write articles on only two? One of my favorite genres to read is the allegory, so this month we’ll look at two classic allegorical novels.

The Pilgrim’s Progress is one novel I’ve read numerous times. The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come is a Christian allegory written by John Bunyan and published in February, 1678. It is regarded as one of the most significant works of religious English literature, has been translated into more than 200 languages, and has never been out of print.

John Bunyan was a man of strong convictions, though his youth was spent working as a tinker, a young man known for swearing and an inconsistent lifestyle. At one point in his life, he felt conviction to change and claimed to have heard a voice that asked: “Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to heaven or have thy sins and go to hell?” This is what began his search for God. Two books played a major part in his spiritual journey: Arthur Dent’s Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven and Lewis Bayly’s Practice of Piety.

At the age of twenty-seven, he began to preach and was soon arrested for preaching without a license and outside of the mandatory Anglican Church services. Bunyan’s ministry was fruitful between times spent in prison and during one of these prison stays he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress.

At one time, The Pilgrim’s Progress was considered the most widely read and translated book in the English language apart from the Bible. The charm of the work, which gives it wide appeal among old and young, learned and ignorant, readers of all possible schools of thought and theology, lies in the interest of a story in which the intense imagination of the writer makes characters, incidents, and scenes alike live in the imagination of his readers as things actually known and remembered by themselves, in its touches of tenderness and quaint humor, its bursts of heart-moving eloquence, and its pure, nervous, idiomatic English.

The Pilgrim’s Progress is arguably one of the most widely known allegories ever written, and has been extensively translated. Protestant missionaries commonly translated it into local languages as the first book after the Bible.

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Evangelist points Christian to the Wicket Gate.

The English text of the novel is divided into two parts: Book one was written by Bunyan at the age of forty-seven and book two at the age of fifty, with the first part being the journey of Christian from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City and part two being the journey of Christian’s wife, Christiana and her children to the Celestial City.

In the City of Destruction, Christian reads the book in his hand (the Bible) and is convicted of his sins. He finds a man named Evangelist who points the way to the wicket gate, and thus begins his journey through the narrow gate, on the narrow path to the Celestial City. He begged his wife and children to join him, but they refused. Christian met good friends like Faithful and Hopeful along the way. Wicked men and women like Mr. Worldly Wiseman, Wanton, and Hypocrisy try to lead him on the wrong path, but in the end he reaches the River of Death and crosses to the Celestial City. His wife and children decide later to take the journey and led by the brave guide, Mr. Great-Heart, also arrive at the Celestial City.

Allegories, like parables, are wonderful ways to learn deeper truths through simple illustrations. Bunyan’s way of weaving the story with deeply thought out characters, descriptive lands, and his convictions pull you into the story and leave you wanting more.

My own version of this book is the original language which can be hard to understand, but it has footnotes to explain what many of the words mean in today’s language. I would highly recommend reading The Pilgrim’s Progress and also his spiritual autobiographical work, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.

The Classics. We can learn from the past and carry this knowledge into future works.

Today’s Writing Prompt: Lisa glanced at the tattered cover of the book as it lay in the weathered trunk she’d opened. Could it be a first edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress?

Information gathered from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grace_Abounding_to_the_Chief_of_Sinners
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pilgrim’s_Progress
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bunyan

An Invisible Disability

I sat on my couch, staring at my hands, on a summer day, five years ago. Six blood blisters dotted my fingertips like they had been carefully placed there by an artist brush. The blister on my left thumb was at least a quarter inch in diameter but since I’m right handed it was not a big issue except the pain. The five on the right hand made it hard for me to type or hold a spoon or a pen.

As I held my hands to an ice bag, I watched my son crawl by. What was odd about that you ask? My son was nineteen years old and had so many blisters on his feet that crawling was easier than walking. Well, that’s not totally true since he’s six foot four inches tall and trying not to let his feet touch the ground.

As my son crawled by, I was transported back to my youth, and a seventeen year old girl crawling through her parent’s house.

“Get up Jennifer,” my mother said, “Walk. Don’t crawl.”

“It hurts too much.” I whined, but slowly pulled myself to my feet.

Carefully I placed one foot in front of the other, twisting each in an attempt to find the spot with the least blisters to take the pressure off of each step. I made it into the kitchen, got something to drink and sat at the table. My feet would throb as the pressure was taken off and the blood flow and heightened nerves combatted to bring normalcy to my body. Several days in Florida on a senior trip brought me to this place.

Epidermolysis Bullosa is a group of skin conditions whose hallmark is blistering in response to minor injury, heat, or friction from rubbing, scratching or adhesive tape. Four main types of Epidermolysis Bullosa exist, with numerous subtypes. Most are inherited.r7_basementmembrane

Most types of Epidermolysis Bullosa initially affect infants and young children, although some people with mild forms of the condition don’t develop signs and symptoms until adolescence or early adulthood. Mild forms of Epidermolysis Bullosa may improve with age, but severe forms may cause serious complications and can be fatal.

There’s currently no cure for Epidermolysis Bullosa. For now, treatment focuses on addressing the symptoms, including pain prevention, wound prevention, infection and severe itching that occurs with continuous wound healing.

Epidermolysis Bullosa Simplex (EBS) is the name they have placed on our problem. This genetic skin disease, which affects 25 to 50 thousand Americans, is caused by a faulty encoded gene that affects the protein that holds the layers of skin together causing a “blistering” breakdown of the skin.

My son and I are the fortunate ones; our strain of EBS, also known as Weber-Cockayne disease is one of the mildest forms and our blisters are mainly formed on the hands and feet. Other strains can cause blistering all over the body and internally, scarring and death. I call Weber-Cockayne disease an invisible disability because basically it is not seen by others.

An invisible disability. The word “disable” according to Webster’s dictionary means, to make powerless or incapacitate. That would imply something conspicuous because don’t you notice someone that is incapacitated? EBS, like back problems, fibromyalgia and lupus, is invisible. It affects the way people live, but is not apparent to the naked eye.

I am an adult now and know added pain, the pain of watching my son go through the same process I did many years ago. My father talked of roller skating all evening as a teenager and being carried home because he could not walk. EBS did not stop him.

I enjoyed a fairly normal life even participating on the high school track team and church softball team in a limited capacity for EBS could not stop me. Today I am proud of my son as he has married, works in management, and leads a fairly active life. EBS has not stopped him either.

An invisible disability. What I am finding out is many of us have these; my friend with lupus, the one with fibromyalgia, and my husband with arthritis in his back. Each one is a tribute to perseverance, not letting the disease win. EBS will not win in my family either. We will live life in abundance, to the full, until it overflows.

What about the characters in your book? Are they real people, with real aches and pains? Or are they cardboard cutouts that are perfectly healthy with perfect bodies? A great way to draw the reader in and bring empathy into any story is through an invisible disability. Let your reader connect with your character as they struggle with him or her.

Today’s writing prompt: Janice perched on the bench in the park, rubbing her knees as the joints throbbed from the half-mile walk. She blinked back angry tears. Why did twenty-year-old body react to exercise like a sixty-year-old? The doctor told her…

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/epidermolysis-bullosa/DS01015
http://www.debra.org/ Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) — The Worst Disease You’ve Never Heard Of.™

A Full Breath

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Peak Flow Meter

This month’s blog posts make me sick. Wait. That didn’t come out right.

All through April we’ll be discussing medical conditions, which can play a key role in any author’s story at hand. What speaks love greater than our lovely heroine nursing the fever-stricken hero back to health? Or a mother sacrificing her own well-being to stay with her contagious child?

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with asthma. Now I knew why I had struggled with bronchitis, tiredness, and shortness of breath. Treatment and going through immunology have made a big difference, so this week, let’s discuss asthma.

Asthma is a lung disorder that interferes with breathing. It can cause serious, recurring episodes of wheezing and breathlessness, known as asthma attacks. The trouble stems from chronic inflammation in the tubes that carry air to the lungs.

In people with asthma, the airways are chronically inflamed. Certain triggers can make the inflammation worse and cause a narrowing of the airways. At the same time, the body may produce extra mucus that clogs the airways. These changes work together to restrict the flow of air to the lungs. As too little air gets through, wheezing and breathlessness occur. There is nothing scarier than to wake during the night and feel like your nose and airways have closed in on you.

One thing I learned that surprised me was that frequent nighttime coughing can be caused by these constricted airways. I use to take cough syrup or cough drops, but they didn’t help. Two puffs of my rescue inhaler now halt the coughing in a few moments and I sleep better.

Asthma can appear at any age, but it typically develops during childhood. Those most at risk include people with allergies or a family history of asthma. Having a parent with asthma makes children three to six times more likely to develop the condition. Gender also plays a role. Asthma is more common in boys during childhood but in women during adulthood.

For optimal asthma relief, it’s important to participate in your care. With the help of your health care provider, you can get the best asthma relief by checking your peak flow daily, developing an asthma action plan with your health care provider, keeping an asthma diary, avoiding asthma triggers, and learning ways to manage stress. Getting the best asthma relief means staying on top of your asthma triggers, signs and symptoms, and medications to prevent asthma problems. For me that means no mowing the grass or going to places I know will be dusty.

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Asthma-before & after

Using a peak flow meter may help you manage your asthma symptoms. With asthma, the inability to exhale air out of the lungs is responsible for many of the symptoms of asthma. A peak flow meter is an inexpensive, portable, handheld device that is used to measure how well air moves out of your lungs. Measuring your peak flow using this meter is an important part of managing asthma.

The Mayo Clinic suggests seven keys to prevention of asthma symptoms:

(1)   Follow your asthma action plan.

(2)   Get immunizations for influenza and pneumonia.

(3)   Identify and avoid asthma triggers.

(4)   Monitor your breathing.

(5)   Identify and treat attacks early.

(6)   Take your medication as prescribed.

(7)   Pay attention to increasing quick-relief inhaler use.

Ignoring asthma symptoms won’t make them go away, as I learned by experience. I don’t take a full breath for granted anymore. Meeting with a specialist and setting up an action plan made all the difference for me. It can for you or your novel’s characters also. 🙂

Today’s writing prompt: Angie’s hand shook as she grasped her rescue inhaler, her breathing impaired to the point of a panic attack. Could there be a cat in the house?

http://www.webmd.com/asthma/default.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/asthma/DS00021

Surrender

677px-Foster_Bible_Pictures_0014-1The theme of surrender abounds in the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. We see surrender in a negative sense, as Adam and Eve surrender their authority to the serpent. Surrender can birth a nation, when Abraham surrenders his son, Isaac. The ultimate surrender came when Jesus laid down his life as the Son of God for our lives. Surrender.

When I looked up the term surrender in the thesaurus, the verb meant submitted, yielding, and laying down your arms. The Encarta dictionary had several definitions:

• Declare yourself defeated.
• Give up possession of something.
• Give something out of courtesy.
• Give self up to something.
• Abandon rights to something.

In His Word, God constantly asks individuals or nations to give up something, to release tightly clutched attitudes, possessions, or mindsets so that we can receive from Him freedom, joy, love, and peace. The list goes on. The transference of trust from mine to His is monumental and requires surrender.

The correlation between an individual surrendering to God and a writer surrendering to writing cannot be understated. Even a writer who doesn’t believe in God adheres to the definitions above. He or she constantly gives up time, money, and privacy to pursue the dream of becoming a published author. Every time someone changes a story line due to a critique, they are declaring defeat, that they are not perfect and don’t know it all. The abandonment required to freely write from the heart, knowing some will be critical, takes a great sense of yielding.

As a Christian, surrender goes to a different level. Besides giving up and yielding to people, now you factor God into the equation. Questions revolve in your mind. What does God want me to write? How do I approach publication? How is my writing to minister to those around me?

God, what do you want me to do?

“Some time later, God tested Abraham’s faith. ‘Abraham!’ God called. ‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘Here I am.’ ‘Take your son, your only son—yes, Isaac, whom you love so much—and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.’” Genesis 22:1-2

Every time I read this, I shake my head. Abraham, how did you do it? How did you, as Scripture records, get up early the next morning and start on your way? Abraham demonstrates the ultimate sacrifice, a trust in God that speaks to us today. Each time I change a story or lay down an opportunity at the prompting of that still, small voice, I walk the path of Mt. Moriah.

“Isaac turned to Abraham and said, ‘Father?’ ‘Yes, my son?’ Abraham replied. ‘We have the fire and the wood,’ the boy said, ‘but where is the sheep for the burnt offering?’ ‘God will provide a sheep for the burnt offering, my son,’ Abraham answered. And they both walked on together.” Genesis 22: 7-8458px-Foster_Bible_Pictures_0036-1

Every time a person asks if I sold my novel or have made lots of money writing, I answer truthfully, yet trusting that God will provide.

“And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. At that moment the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, ‘Abraham! Abraham!’ ‘Yes,’ Abraham replied. ‘Here I am!’ ‘Don’t lay a hand on the boy!’ the angel said. ‘Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.’” Genesis 22: 10-12

Every time I give up self to promote another writer, lay down a story to start another, or read another rejection letter and choose to trust Him, God is with me and is faithful.

“Then Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the Lord will provide”). To this day, people still use that name as a proverb: “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.” Then the angel of the Lord called again to Abraham from heaven. ‘This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants[a] beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies. And through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed—all because you have obeyed me.’” Genesis 22:13-18

For Abraham, the God of provision supplied a ram in the thicket. For the writer, it could be something as simple as an encouraging email from a fellow blogger or as massive as the next best-selling novel. Or somewhere in between.

I love Chris Tomlin’s new song, “Lay Me Down.” The bridge sums up the life of a writer, particularly if you are a Christian.

It will be my joy to say, Your will, Your way,
It will be my joy to say, Your will, Your way,
Always.

The word surrender as a noun has another interesting definition: giving up control. It is the act of relinquishing control or possession to somebody or something.

Selah. Pause and think on that a moment.

Yield your writing today to God. It’s one decision you’ll never regret.

Father God, I give my writing, my stories, my talent, and my all to You today. Take it and make it Your will, Your way. Always. Amen.

Writing prompt: Turn your own surrender into a scene in one of your stories. An example could be as simple as surrendering your need for comfort food after an exhausting day at work.