Keli Gwyn
Happily Ever Afters: Fact or Fiction?

I’m a huge fan of stories with happy endings. I love seeing couples experience the thrill of meeting, getting to know one another, and realizing that they’re in love. A happy ending is the frosting on a mighty tasty cake.

I can’t help but wonder, though, if romance writers aren’t misleading readers when we wrap up our stories in tidy packages, tie all the threads into pretty bows, and give the impression that our couples will have no trials to endure, no challenges to face, and no hurdles to overcome once the proposals have been accepted or the wedding vows recited.

Real life doesn’t work that way, does it? We know it, and so do readers.

I read an unusual and unexpected Valentine’s Day post, written by my agency mate, Heather Kopp, titled “This is the Person You Will Hurt,” and was impressed with her honesty and transparency.

Heather talked about how we’ll end up hurting our spouses more–and more often–than any other person. It’s inevitable. The closer we become, the more friction there can be.

The most important point Heather makes is that forgiveness is crucial in a godly marriage. We’ll likely find ourselves on the giving and receiving end of this precious gift.

As I pondered the truths in Heather’s post, I asked myself how they relate to the HEAs romance readers crave. After puzzling over that question for some time, I realized that making a small shift in my thinking could make a big difference.

Instead of promising my readers Happily Ever Afters, I can strive to give them Hope-filled Ever Afters. The couples in a romance aren’t guaranteed happiness, but they do have hope of a rich and rewarding future.

The guests at a wedding, especially those who are married, know the couple’s life won’t be all sunshine and roses. They expect the husband and wife to face some tough times but to work their way through them as others have done.

In the same way, I believe readers who reach the HEA ending of a story know the couple has what it takes to make their relationship or marriage work. Our heroes and heroines have endured trials, faced challenges, and overcome hurdles. In the process, they’ve grown individually and as a couple. If the story could be classified as an inspirational, they will have matured in their faith as well.

If we’ve done our job as writers, we’ve given our readers hope that the characters they’ve come to know and–hopefully–love, will take the lessons they learned with them as they move into their fictional futures, futures that will include a hefty dose of happiness.

• • •

What do you think of HEA endings? Are they satisfying or sappy?

Do you think it would be more realistic to refer to HEAs as Hope-filled Ever Afters?

Do you believe that forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts we can offer our spouses?

• • •

Image from iStockphoto.
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Keli Gwyn
Life on the Ledge, or Leaning on the Lord?

Have you ever read a blog post that reached deep into your innermost being and begged for a comment, one that flew from your fingertips and ended up being a novella you were almost afraid to post because you didn’t want to appear rude for taking up so much space?

That happened to me when I read “How Do I Achieve Success as a Writer?” by Beth Vogt on her awesome blog, in which she talked about writers and how the writing road is lined with ledges. I posted the comment anyhow because I know and love Beth and knew she’d graciously accept my wordiness.

Since I lived on the ledge for several months this past year and survived that tough time, I want to share my experience with you and pass on the lessons I learned. What follows is my comment from Beth’s blog. (I told you it was l-o-n-g for a comment.)

I suffered a debilitating case of Second Book Syndrome earlier this year. I felt sure what I was writing was drivel or dreck or downright disgusting. My supportive hubby and awesome CPs held my hand as I teetered on the Ledge.

In time I realized there was no way to deal with Second Book Syndrome other than to trudge through it, so I wrote the story, such as it was, sure it was terrible. And I prayed, surrendering my efforts and the outcome to the God.

Guess what? He’s faithful and omnipresent, coming alongside me in my down times. No surprise there, huh? :-)

I wrote, but I wasn’t alone. The Lord plopped Himself beside me on the Ledge, ready to stay the course, and imbued me with renewed enthusiasm, energy, and ideas.

Gradually my confidence returned–in baby steps, mind–and when I looked up one day I discovered I was no longer languishing at the edge of the Ledge. It loomed in the distance, but as I kept my focus on the story I’d been transported to a new place, a better place.

Did I still feel the fears at times? Yup. But I wrote anyway, and the Lord honored my efforts. I finished the story, performed my self-edits, and will be sending it to my CPs soon.

When I delved into the finished story, sure it stank and eager to seek ways to improve it, I had a pleasant surprise. It was better than I’d thought.

Oh, I could claim creative brilliance, but that would be a laugh. I know the real reasons.

One is that my talent didn’t leave me; only my confidence did.

The other more important reason is that I tapped into the Source of my creativity and inspiration. I invited the Lord to be my partner on my writing journey at the outset some six years ago, and He’s been there for me all along.

With God beside me I can do this–even face the Ledge–because He’s there with me, upholding and uplifting me and blowing my mind with His goodness, guidance, generosity, and abundant love.

• • •

Have you lived on the Ledge? How did you respond? What lessons did you learn?

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Keli Gwyn
Operation Motivation: How to Move Toward Our Goals

What gets you moving?

Deadlines work for me. I don’t like letting others down and will do my utmost to fulfill my obligations, shoulder my responsibilities, and get the job done on time.

But what happens when no one’s waiting for me to finish a project or task?

My motivation falters, and my productivity drops.

Five weeks ago I received my osteoporosis diagnosis. I knew I could no longer sit idly by as my bones became less dense. I needed to take action.

I did. I joined Curves and began working out three days a week and walking on the others.

It takes 21 days to form a habit, so I was motivated by the goal of not missing a single day of exercise for the first three weeks on my new regimen.

Day 22 arrived. I’d met my goal. Suddenly working out didn’t seem quite as exciting. I walked into the gym, got into position on the first machine, and thought about going through the circuit week after week for the rest of my life. Suddenly something I’d been enjoying threatened to become drudgery.

Why?

I had an intermediate goal of showing improvement on the bone scan scheduled for November 2012, a long-term goal of arresting or even reversing my osteoporosis, and a somewhat nebulous goal of getting stronger. But I lacked a short-term goal.

I needed something to serve as motivation, and I found my answer in the Curves Smart program. What it entails is the use of a computer to monitor a member’s progress on each of the machines on the circuit. Once a participant is programmed into the system, she gets ongoing feedback on each machine as she operates it, including range of motion and energy expended. Green lights appear when a goal is being met, and yellow when it’s not. At the end of the workout, a member gets a report.

Upon learning of the program, I knew I’d found what I needed to spur me on. I signed up, got my cute little avatar, and set about working out.

I’d love to tell you that everything was wonderful from the outset, but I don’t like to tell tales. Well, I do like to write stories, but you get my point.

The first workout after signing up for Curves Smart was brutal. I was tripping over my tongue after completing only half of the first of two trips around the circuit. In the past I’d been able to dance jigs on the recovery boards stationed between each machine. That day I struggled to walk in place.

But I had a goal. Each time I got into position on a new machine, I knew I’d see those green or yellow lights, and I wanted to see green. Actually I wanted to see blinking green lights, which is what appears when I’ve exceeded my goal.

Once again I have a short-term goal and am motivated.

My intermediate goals have become twofold. When I reach the step machine with its heart rate monitor I don’t want to see red, which tells me I’m exceeding my target rate. At the end of my workout, when I go to the computer, I want all the dots on my cute little avatar lady (who looks as young as I feel =) to glow green, telling me I’ve met my goals for each muscle group indicated.

One week into Curves Smart I reached that milestone, and the entire room knew it because I let out a rather impressive squeal for a person my size. Now I go for green each time I workout. Having goals serves as motivation.

• • •

What motivates you?

Do you find that having goals gets you moving?

Are you a fan of setting short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals?

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Keli Gwyn
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