May 28, 2015

Authors Are Killers

"Bunhill Fields, London" by Paul Wilkinson
Author Sarah M. Eden tweeted on 5/27/15:

My 12yo: “What’s that face?” Me: “I’m trying to decide if someone needs to die.” 12yo: “If you weren’t a writer, that would be disturbing."

As an author, I often decide the fate of my characters. I realize that I have killed characters in my works in progress. Why should authors play God? Of course, we claim that our characters actually drive the action of the novel. However, we ultimately decide what to write. As an avid reader, I've noticed certain patterns of authors as killers. Warning: may contain spoiler alerts.


During college, I read a lot of Anita Stansfield, an LDS romance writer. She had a pattern of a horrible first husband who had to die for real romance to happen. In the novel First Love and Forever, the woman falls in love with a man outside of the LDS faith, but she knows she shouldn't marry him. So she marries an LDS guy who turns out to be financially secretive. So what has to happen to him? A convenient car accident kills the first husband and the protagonist female can pursue her first love who has converted to the LDS faith. Similarly in Christmas Melody, the first husband was addicted to pornography and committed suicide. Cue, perfect second husband.

Another LDS romance writer, Rachel Ann Nunes kills spouses on occasion. In her Ariana series, one of Ariana's sons dies and a daughter-in-law dies. The remaining daughter-in-law marries the still living son. At least this happens over a series of books and the first spouses were good.

In Return to Me, the first wife dies, but enables the second wife to live. And the list goes on with other spouse killer plots. These deaths were at least necessary to the plot.

All of these romance plots influenced me early on in my marriage. Sadly, I told my husband that if he died then I would remarry soon after. Now, I want him to live as long as I do. He wants me to live too. Besides, we don't want to go through the dating process again.

Orphan Makers

"Seriously, you have to get rid of the parents because no good mother or father will allow their child to take a perilous journey or quest to save the world or whatever." -Julie Wright

Children's books often have incompetent or dead parents so the child can be the hero. One of the most famous of our time is Harry Potter. Dickens knew this well too. YA author Julie Wright explains this phenomenon well in this blog post

As a side note, another class of orphans includes children left with stepparents. For example, children without their biological mother or father are at risk in fairy tales: Cinderella, Snow White, Hansel and Gretel and so on. What is it with wicked stepmothers? Were they that awful during the Dark Ages that it survives in so many of our fairy tales?

Tragedy for Tragedy's Sake

Some authors kill off characters just for the shock value or to elicit some emotional response. It's somehow literary and thought-provoking. In my opinion, it often ruins the story and the reader is ticked off. Who hated the ending to City of Angels? There's no point to Meg Ryan's death. I know they wanted to emphasize the fragility of life, but her death ruined the entire show for me.

Shakespeare killed off so many characters in his tragedies that it is seriously a farce after so many times. In fact, we cheer for Hamlet's death in the end. I did anyway. And why did Romeo and Juliet have to kill themselves? Check for a pulse and breathing, for crying out loud! Truly, I hate Romeo and Juliet simply because they are too young. As adults they would have the brains to run away or resign themselves to loving someone else.

When Can an Author Kill A Character Reasonably?

I'm okay with some characters dying in books. Wicked villains deserve to die, rot in jail, or repent in jail. Some plots are more poignant with the death of a character, but it has to be done for the right reason (or because it's based on true events). It has to be foreshadowed and a significant part of the story--not an afterthought or this would be "literary." Tale of Two Cities, is a good example of how to kill a protagonist right. Dickens foreshadows Sidney's death similar to Jesus' death. Sidney sacrificed himself so someone else could live. It's a bittersweet ending that carries hope. The movie Return to Me is another great example.

So if an author kills a character, there better be a very good reason why.

So what deaths in books and movies did you agree with or not agree with?

May 18, 2015

8 Ways to Handle Frustration and Anger as a Parent

"Annoyed Woman" by Petr Kratochvil
My kids demand things on a daily basis. Sometimes, they'll harp on the same thing for hours or go cry. My frustration rises and I feel anger. Oh, we've all had these times when children drive us crazy. We may yell, threaten, or do any number of things. Our thoughts may turn to revenge or we choose to ignore our children. What can we do during these moments?

Remember We Are Children of God

We are all spirit children of Heavenly Father no matter what age we may be. That means we are spiritual brothers and sisters with our children. Jesus said, "Suffer the little children to come to me." Try to view them as through God's eyes. We may need to pray for this reminder. I repeat, they are not little devils!


We need to take care of ourselves spiritually, mentally, physically, and emotionally. So remember to pray regularly, read scriptures, or do whatever calms your spirit. We can feel the peace of the Spirit despite the chaos around us. Pray for help, knowing you need help beyond your own. God's grace will fill the gap when we keep trying (see 2 Nephi 25:23).

Your physical body needs good food, enough rest and exercise to function properly. For our mental and emotional health, we need to take breaks from our children when we have the opportunity. We need time to recharge.

The Average Child

When I shared a moment of temper about my child at a Recovery International meeting, another group member mentioned that my child was being "average" for his age. Children usually act their age, whether it be the terrible twos or troublesome teens. Each age has its challenges and rewards. I remind myself that my toddler will grow out of the climbing phase and preteen will stop saying "worst family ever!" when he turns 20.

Humor Is Our Best Friend

Some annoying things children do can be funny too. You might as well laugh with your child or laugh at yourself. Humor reduces our temper and helps us cope. My kids may not laugh with me, but I still laugh for my own mental health. One time, my husband and I walked into a room with walls covered in fecal matter. The then one-year-old had taken off his diaper. After freaking out, my husband said we had a scratch-and-sniff wall.

Avoid Temperamental Language

When we choose to call our children little devils, brats, or any other derogatory term, the term automatically triggers temper or stress. We can avoid these terms in our thoughts and when we speak about or with our children. I remind myself that my children are angels in devils' clothing.

Let It Go and Simply Survive the Day

Some things don't matter in the long run. I feel upset when my boys won't clean their room and whine about getting on the computer. Some days I am really tired or stressed when I try to enforce this. My temper rises and I yell. I feel guilty over an action or thought, but it can't define me. Over time, I realize it's better to let them play on the computer and have a messy room instead of a mom ready to bite their heads off. I only have to function until I can take a nap or Dad comes home.

Call in the Cavalry!

Sometimes we are at the end of our rope. It's time to call for help. Keep a list of people who may help you in a pinch. They are like gold. By the way, some cities have crisis daycares for emergencies. 

Maybe you just need to talk the situation through with someone, even if you can't leave your children. I call my mom to help me cope through a tough spot. It's okay to go to a local group therapy like Recovery International or see a therapist. If parenting has you on edge or depressed constantly, see if you need medical help.

You Made It Through Another Day

I congratulate myself for making it to the end of the day with my hair still on my head. I only feel like this once or twice a week. Endorsing yourself for small successes will lead to bigger successes. Life is simply taking one step at a time.

Good luck to all you parents out there! May you have a solid few hours of sleep.

So what do you do to handle frustration as a parent?

May 11, 2015

Weight Loss Struggle

"Scale" by Megan Shannon
Probably about once a week I feel discouraged because of the lack of weight loss. I do well some of the time and then stumble. I look around and see I'm not alone in the struggle. Others are overweight or underweight; some using food as a loss of control mechanism. I've met some women who want to gain weight and can't. If only we could trade fat from body to body. Even those who maintain a healthy weight struggle.

Weight gain is common when taking medicine for mental illnesses and other illnesses. I gained probably about forty pounds from the different medicines I've taken over the years. Birth control adds to the weight gain too. Then it's more difficult after having children. The odds are often stacked against people.

We also think it's a simple calories in and calories burned. That's not always the case because there are many factors involving weight issues. Many bodies are different and a healthy diet can be different from person to person. Medical issues also contribute: thyroid conditions, depression, imbalance of chemicals in the body, etc.

Recently, I gained seven pounds within six weeks. My psychiatrist said it was probably from lack of sleep. I stay up too late at night and don't recover. I also eat more during this time. I went to bed earlier for a couple weeks and went down five pounds. Sleep makes a difference!

Food issues usually stem from emotional and control issues. It begins a vicious pleasure/guilt cycle turning into compulsive eating, or lack of eating. The key is to break that cycle. "I made a mistake and move on." Got to work on this.

Exercise makes a big difference too in how I feel. I know it helps me sleep better and increase my metabolism. However, when I don't get enough sleep, I don't feel like exercising. Ah, the vicious cycles :). When exercising, don't forget muscle toning. That increases metabolism too.

If only we didn't need food, but we do. So we struggle with weight issues on both ends of the spectrum. Now it's time for a nap.