What I learned from Brandt Dodson, and more…

Tuesday night I was battling sinus/allergy problems, had a viewing to go to for a family friend that had passed, and I wanted to go to my WORD meeting (That’s the GA ACFW Chapter). Of course I worked that day… everyone is looking at me funny and I know they’re wondering IF I have swine flu and if so, I should be at home.

Nevertheless, I stayed at work, left early for the viewing and headed over to the WORD meeting (after I stopped by RITE AID to get a large Kit Kat and Vitamin Water (The new cure for sinus/allergies, if you didn’t know…. well, it’s under the test phase right now).

Brandt Dodson was speaking. He writes suspense and was talking about character development. Brandt’s an interesting chap himself. Once an FBI agent, he now is a podiatrist and Suspense author. Bet you never thought you’d see those three descriptions in one sentence. One day, I’d like to interview Mr. Dodson and find out how his paths wound the way they have… but for now, I’m talking about my silly little world….

On the coat tails of Amy Wallace’s book signing the Saturday before, and Brandt speaking at our local Lifeway bookstore, the WORD classroom was full. I rushed in late and took a seat toward the back.

Brandt offered some advice on character development. Here are some of my notes:

  • Go by your gut.
  • Take your time to think your characters through.
  • Give a description of your character that is interesting to the reader. (This may not be what you would assume – Its beyond brown hair, blue eyes. Brandt suggests reviewing some memorable characters like Stephen King’s Carrie – Check out how Master King describes Carrie in the opening scenes.

Brandt also talked about Assumption, Dialogue, Bad Guys/Villains, and suggested some good tools and reading material for writers wanting to get better. That’s all of us, I’m sure. Here’s what I jotted down:

  • Creating Dynamic Characters – Nancy Kress
  • Beginnings, Middles, & Ends – Nancy Kress
  • The Plot Thickens – Noah Lukeman

All of this information I’m sharing with you was interesting and helpful to me. I listened diligently through annoying sneezing spells and wondering if I was ever going to shake this allergy/sinus-whatever-it-is illness. During this time some of our new members posed some really great questions and shared their frustrations as well as asked Brandt’s opinion and the other published authors with us that night about self-publishing. Sometime in the midst of this discussion, Brandt shared a story about how he became published AND he shared a story out of the Bible, 2 Kings 6:8-23.

This is about Elisha being surrounded by the Syrian army, under attack. Elisha’s servant saw the army and in fear asked Elisha, “What shall we do?” Elisha responded, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then he prayed for the Lord to “open his eyes that he may see,” and the Lord did. The young servant saw the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire, God’s army forming a hedge all around Elisha.

Brandt offered his story of publication with this advice to those of us not yet published. He told us not to look at the problem right at hand. It seems impossible. We’ve met with editors and agents and been rejected by the ones we thought were right for us. But we need to open our eyes. God’s plan is greater than these troubles and challenges before us. It happened for Brandt and now this full time 60 hour a week podiatrist is churning out 2 books in a year. He writes about 3 hours at night after the kids are in the bed and on the weekends.

He’s writing 2 books a year.

I was inspired. I work a little under a 40 hour work week and I can’t stay up past 10 or get up very much past 6 on some mornings. When I hear a story like Brandt’s I realize, what’s my excuse? I can do this. I can succeed. These days we can’t shuck our full time job. We can work our full time job and have our dream.

In closing, this is the most important thing I wanted to share with you. Well, it is to me because it happened to me. I have been lax in my bible study. I’d been doing so well rising every morning and spending the first part of my day reading from the bible and then praying. As you all know, challenges and troubles rise and the important things like quiet time with the Father get wadded up with the dirty laundry and left for another day.

This morning, following our WORD meeting last night, I woke up, still feeling all sneezy and congested, but I managed to pick up my bible and plopped down on the couch. I couldn’t remember where I’d left off in study because so many weeks had passed that I hadn’t picked up my bible except to go to church.

So I opened it randomly.

I opened it to 2 Kings 6 – and to the story of Elisha praying that his servant’s eyes be opened.

I realized my Father never left me. As a matter of fact, He just dropped a big old whopping hint in my lap.

All I could do was close my eyes and ask Him, Okay Lord, what are You trying to tell me?

Lord, I’m listening.

Are you listening to Him?