August Writing and Walks Across the Moors (England Part 2 of 4)
Here are the goals I posted for August on thelitforum.com:
Blog -- keep blogging and definitely keep up with social media before my book release in September!
Knitting -- no way, it's too hot :p
Reading -- keep going with Lawrence Block (yay!), but start my annual reread of The Lord of the Rings and reread The Silmarillion before the new Amazon show :p
Writing -- I missed the July X but would really like to do the August X!, keep editing Larksong
Work -- super busy, try to keep up (also, pay bills :p )
First house guest since December 2019 -- clean the place, do laundry, plan afternoons off :-)
Family -- submit one more photo album for printing, label items for school (three weeks of vacation left!), plan daughter's birthday party!
And I participated in this month's writing exercise!
If you'd like to have a go, the prompt is: Mentors!
"From one end of the galaxy to the other you’ll find characters with hard-won wisdom and a willing, or not, apprentice. These dispensers of sage advice and guidance appear in literature with one task: to prepare the protagonist for the mental, physical, or emotional challenges they face as they achieve their goal and/or overcome an inner conflict.
Consider your protagonist and his/her goal. What will it take for them to achieve it? Do they have the necessary knowledge, skills, and courage, to attempt it? Do they struggle with a lie that they believe is true? Who will reveal that lie?
This is where the mentor steps in. (Or is compelled, or practically shoved, into the conflict. Not all mentors are willing ones, after all.) The mentor exists to help provide what is needed for the protagonist to be successful on his/her quest. It may also be the mentor’s job to reveal the thematic truths in your story.
Besides sharing wisdom in that age-old tradition of all mentors, they can perform a variety of other roles. They can save the day, lead by example, or take the protagonist through a minor crucible. (But not THE crucible. This is for the hero to go through alone.) They can be a role model, sacrificial lamb, the one to burst the hero’s bubble, the server of a side dish of humility, the cheerleader, the compass, or the coach.
There are things your mentor doesn’t have to be: old, wise, bearded, or reclusive. We’ve seen plenty of those and there’s nothing wrong with a cranky old guy hoarding his magical wisdom. But nowhere is it decreed that a mentor must have white hair, boney fingers, and two x chromosomes. They don’t even have to be all that wise or use big words. They just need to be smart in ways the protagonist needs.
Consider that flawed characters, with their foibles and imperfections, are more interesting and apply this to mentors as well. A mentor may not like being one, nor do they have to particularly like their protege. The protagonist may not respect the mentor or believe they need one, but somehow they must learn to work together for the good of the story goals. In fact, in one way or another, this relationship shouldn’t be easy. It should cost something.
There are some cautions to consider when crafting a mentor. Avoid one who withholds information or is purposefully vague, drives the plot by controlling when/where information is revealed, is too helpful and solves the protagonist’s problems, or knows things outside their credible scope of knowledge.
Finally, not all mentors have the best interest of the protagonist in mind. Beware the evil mentor such as the Emperor who tries to turn Anakin to the Dark Side of the Force, or the greedy mentor such as Fagin, in Oliver Twist, who trains pickpockets for his own benefit and abandons them when they're caught.
Share a scene with your protagonist and mentor that touches on some of the points made above. It could be a moment of hard truth, gentle guidance, mutual disgust, shared humor... whatever fits the needs of your story."
And here's my snip!
Larksong (Canada, summer, 1914). George and Alice are out on the lake in the early morning. She mentioned that she's done charity work in a poorer part of Montreal called Griffintown. They touched on criminals, and how she helps anyone regardless of background. Then he asked, "What about artists? Can you hate the artist but love the art?" I cut out the first part of her reply to meet the word count limit for the exercises.
..."I've never met any. I rather thought they were all, well, geniuses." She bent and lowered a hand over the side. "Tortured and genius, like Van Gogh, or a family man and genius, like Monet."
"You give us too much credit," he said, laughing, and laughing again as she dipped a hand in the water then snatched it back with a shiver. "Most are neither here nor there," he added. "But you've only cited Europeans. We Canadians can hold our own."
"You said this past year." She cradled her hand in her lap and the fleeting notion that he might take it in his, to pass on his warmth, tantalised the edges of his thought. "Is that what you've been [studying] at university?"
"No. I'm in [business]." He lowered the oars and sculled them back to the dock, holding the boat close to the side as Alice looped the painter around the nearest [bollard].
"I've been sketching here and there," he went on, when she made no move to climb out. "Maybe a painting or two." He downplayed his output, but she wasn't to know that. "I managed to have one admitted to an exhibition at the Art Association of Montreal–"
"Eh? Er, thank you." He paused, savouring the sudden zest of her unqualified commendation. No demands, no commiseration about everything it had cost him to get so far, simply a pure, friendly expression of praise.
His first, as far as he could recall. It tasted sweet, like a tiny bite of a new-baked dessert. He longed to find out how many more such bites he might coax from her–or be worthy of.
"You were saying, at the exhibition," she prompted, then added, "I visited, by the way, if it's the Jackson and Hewton show you're referring to."
"I am! What I was–Wait, what did you think of it?"
"I think you were right in what you said just now; we Canadians can hold our own."
"Most certainly," he said comfortably. "All right, what I was leading up to; artists don't seem to have a type. Good art or bad, they're all unlike. Some are cheats, some are liars, some are afraid of lacking talent, some study and study and never have anything more to show for it than a perfectly sketched hand." He waved aside all his colleagues and acquaintances, everyone he'd ever measured himself against. He'd wanted to know if she could strike gold in everyone and how, when so many seemed unworthy. Now, though, all he wanted was to share with her his most prized possession. "I didn't meet Hewton. But on the second night, not the vernissage but the night after, I met Alexander Jackson."
"What type is he?"
"Generous. His is 'a personality of strength and charm', I heard Krieghoff the gallery owner say and he's right. What you said about genius; I hadn't known genius could share the playing field. On the ice, if you're a [cracker], the team rallies round and supports you, but you take each shot by yourself.
"In painting, you're also by yourself, but there's no team, no reason to have anyone about you. Jackson, though, if there was such a thing as a group of artists, he'd be in the [thick of it]. He talked to me about Hewton, about Harris in Toronto, about the work of others that excited him. He never had an unkind word for anyone and never mentioned himself. Did I say artists didn't have a type? Well, I've never met one before that combined both those qualities, of kindness and selflessness. He spent more time telling me about some old barn out where he lives."
He stopped and looked [west] across the water, as if he might overlay the woods before them with the paths he'd travelled in Jackson's paintings. "Over that way, a place called [Sweetsburg]. He drew me a quick sketch, a kind of map, but [cartoon]-ish, labelling his place, and inviting me down." He paused, and caught her eye for the crux of the matter. "And he talked about my art. Later, on the back of the sketch, I made a note of what he'd said."
"About your paintings?"
"Indirectly. He said, 'This country is glorious but its beauties are unknown, and but waiting for a real live artist to splash them onto canvas. [Get off the car track. Chop your own path].'"
He never blushed, but had also never before received unqualified support from someone far ahead on the trail. The thought that Jackson believed him worthy heated his cheeks and he turned aside without waiting for Alice's reaction. He planted his hands on the dock and hauled himself up and around to sit on the planks.
Yet he could not keep from lingering on the wonder of it. "I have it here," he added, as Alice rose to her feet in the boat. "The sketch. I can show you."
"I'd like that." She pushed herself up as he had, but didn't sit beside him, standing a few paces off. "Only, we started by talking of the denizens of Griffintown. What made you think of Jackson and his kindness?"
Taken aback by her perceptivity, he blurted out the truth. "You."
Photos of Yorkshire in the spring!
Where's your favourite place to take a walk?