Spring Symbols: 3 Unusual Items For Consideration

"The protective qualities of the scarlet-dyed egg are still invoked in parts of Europe to guard fields and vineyards from lightning and hail — one of these eggs will be buried on the property for that purpose." Barbara Mickelson
Read more at http://www.snopes.com/holidays/easter/easterlore.asp#pGz4KwlAaSmgwyGt.99

Symbols of new life and resurrection abound in many cultures and religions during this time of year. Some are familiar, like the emergence of the “Easter” bunny. Others are not so familiar to those of us who’ve grown up in the U.S.A.

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Don’t forget, cracking open your egg on the small end leads to bad luck and frustration.

Photo Credit: sea turtle via Compfight cc

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Take, for instance, the serpent. While often thought of as “evil” by readers of the Garden of Eden story, it has other symbolic purposes.

”[…]even the lowest serpent sheds its skin and renews itself, it is a token of resurrection. As a symbol of spiritual power, the serpent represents the awakened self.”

"The Secret Language of Symbols: Part Two”

Symbol Dictionary.net

The Bible cites the “brazen serpent” (bronze serpent) God told Moses to fasten to his staff to help heal and lead the Israelites. (This is a nod to the Rod of Asclepius, a Greek god of healing.) God also is cited to have proven  authority through Moses by turning his rod into a serpent—-one of the miracles in Egypt.

Some Christian iconography represents Christ as a serpent, blending the concept of eternal life (the serpent shedding its skin and becoming “new”) and healing as well.

"Christ compares himself to the bronze serpent saying, ‘And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,’ (John 3:13-15) and in medieval images it was not rare to see crucifixion images with the snake on the lower tier and Christ on the top tier, both hanging on the same cross/tree of knowledge."

-Jonathan Pagau "The Serpents of Orthodoxy"

via Orthodox Arts Journal

The insect world even has a part to play, as is the case with a Scarab beetle in the religious beliefs of ancient Egypt.

"The sun is represented as a beetle, a promise of his next morning rebirth, as well as of the young pharaoh’s resurrection."

"Scarab Beetles as Religious Symbols", Yves Cambefort

via Insects.org

The sun dies at night, and resurrects in the morning. The beetles shed bodies and become new=symbols of sacred life.

So this Spring, amid the plastic pastel butterflies and the multi-colored chicks and marshmallow bunnies, maybe it makes sense to throw in a few gummy snakes and a handful of of chocolate-covered beetles. And don’t forget to bury that scarlet egg in your vineyard.

Cheers!

Elizabeth Ellen Everson

Questions worth 1,000 words: How to Dig Deeper when Building Characters

So your critique group likes your pitch. Yay.

But they say characters are kinda “meh”. What’s a writer to do?

"Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers."- Tony Robbins

via Brainyquote

No, this isn’t where we nail down what the character’s fave color is, or the color of her eyes, or anyone’s measurements. That’s fine for a snapshot, but we need better information when we’re going for depth. 

Letting “questions” guide you can really fill the page.

Photo Credit: Russ Allison Loar via Compfight cc

Experts: your ideas, please?

1. From The Write Practice,

 35 Questions To Ask Your Characters From Marcel Proust:

What or who is the greatest love of your life?

2. From Reference for Writers,

 50 Questions You Should Ask Your Characters Before You Start Writing

What is your greatest regret?

3. From Gather.com, 

100 Character Development Questions for Writers

Do you think the future is hopeful? Why?

A few more from me:

  • What is your greatest strength?
  • When you have to make a decision, do you rely on gut instinct, your intelligence, your experience, or…?
  • How do you decide it’s safe to trust someone?

WHAT YOU DO WITH THE ANSWERS

  • Use “as-is”

Sure, things can be that straightforward. You’ve got your character’s answers, so you take opportunities to show them in practice.

  • Twist the knife

So your character thinks his greatest strength is his dashing good looks? Muhahaha! Guess what he loses? Or maybe that’s what the antagonist threatens to destroy about him.

Maybe your character is the smartest one in the class. What happens when she’s cast into a new world where she’s (gasp) ordinary? Or in a situation where book-smarts fail her?

  • Build around ‘em

Your M.C. is the tough, no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners toughie? Well, guess who she has to rely on for help and growth—-maybe the gentle nurturer, an abstract-thinking artist, or a young child.

BONUS TIP: Character Building as Plot-Aid

If you start with a basic understanding of character, then choosing events and casting to challenge their deepest fears, strengths, and flaws can lead to much stronger, sure-footed plotting.

Elizabeth Ellen Everson