Finding Talents!

“Grandpa! Can I ask you something?” The boy asked as he rested his head on the old man’s lap.

“Umm-hmm. Go ahead, son.” The old man ruffled his hands through the boy’s dishevelled hair.

“Miss May was telling me that everyone has a special talent.”

“Yes, she was right!”

“But how do I find my talents. I have spent twenty-three years of my life. But still, I haven’t figured out the purpose of my existence and the value of my presence! Leave alone ‘talents’. Sometimes I feel, I am not talented at all.”

“Hahaha! Well, that is not true, child” Grandpa replied.

“Then how do I find my talents? Martha is an excellent singer. Toby plays wonderful football. Lira is good at drawing. Ron is good in studies. And I am good at nothing! For the past couple of years, I have only been failing. I have failed in my exams. I have failed to qualify for the school football team. I have failed to make my parents proud. I have failed at everything I have touched.” A drop of tear rolled down his eyes as his voice trembled.

“Trust me, son. You are talented indeed. If you ever have the feeling that you are not talented enough, it isn’t your fault, child. It is the system that is faulty. It is the world which lacks eyes to recognise your talent. You may, in fact, be possessing a rather unusual talent. The talents that your friends possess are actually common talents. Like being good at sports or studies or being good at a particular art. The talents that do not get recognised are patience, thoughtfulness, optimism, the desire to succeed or rebuttal to defeat, will power and so on. If you observe, these are the same set of skills that are otherwise ‘taught’ to some people through ‘self-help books’ or the ‘lifestyle coaches’, but then there are few people like you who possess these naturally. And the worst part is that these kinds of talents do not have a conventional stage for display. For Lira, the drawing paper is her stage for display. For Toby, the football ground is his stage for display. But for you, my son, there are no stages for display and hence medium of expression.”

“So will I never get to show my talent? Will no one ever know that I am talented?” The boy looked up, a little relaxed.

“Well, that is not true again. It may be that your innate talent may be situation specific. There are people who do not handle failure well; these days little kids are committing suicide over trivial issues. There are people who do not even know how to get back up after falling. But if you have that talent called ‘perseverance’ then you are one of those rare kids who knows how to get back up again even after falling a thousand times. Your talents actually help you to live your life. Just ask yourself this one question. ‘Would that seemingly talented Martha be able to live your life? Would that seemingly strong Toby be able to keep on facing failure like you?’ and I am sure; the answer would always be ‘NO’.”




The Anatomy of a Story

What keeps readers enthralled with a book?  The answer depends on what you believe drives the story, is it the plot or the characters?  Aristotle in his book, Poetics, stated that “tragedy is a representation not of men, but of action and life.”  And for hundreds of years, writers and books were focused on developing the plot instead of their characters.

In the 19th century, the modern novel was born, and the idea of a story being character-driven became a part of the literary discussion.  I believe a strong plot is necessary, but if your characters are one-dimensional, the plot won’t matter.  Readers will be distracted by a lackluster cast of characters.   Envision “A Streetcar Named Desire” with a monotone delivery of the play’s dialogue or an over-acted performance by an actor that defied reality.   The same can be said for the written dialogue in stories.  Dialogue should engage the reader by adding depth of character and by moving the plot forward.

I’m a nurse, so I think about story structure in anatomical terms.  The plot is the skeletal portion of the story.  Without the skeleton, the story won’t have the strength necessary to support itself.  The story will figuratively fall apart without the plot to frame it.

The book’s muscle is the figurative meat of the story.  Descriptive passages and facts bring form and substance to the written word.  Holding it all together are the tendons and ligaments whose job is to tie the plot points together in a cohesive story arc.

A story’s lifeblood is dependent on its characters.  The thrill of the chase and the Machiavellian twists and turns are the nervous system of the story.  The book wouldn’t have the excitement or spark needed to attract readers and keep them engaged without our characters’ deeds, their actions, and their electrifying influence which keep the pages turning.  Emotional passion is the blood of the story.  It can be the pounding heat in your veins or the chilled sensation running through your body during a horrific moment.

Through their deeds and dialogue, the people within the story drive its direction.  The characters are the emotions, the beating heart and the flesh of any plot.  Character development is necessary to transform the words on a page into a force with the power to entertain.

Authors are asked about their inspiration in creating a specific character.  Each writer has a process she uses in the fabrication of the individuals who populate her stories.  Some will write a character sketch detailing the personality, interests, employment, social background, and relationships of their main characters.  They delve into the character with such depth that they catalog their childhood, where and how they live, their looks and even the meaning of the character’s name.

Other writers refer to the notion of their characters ‘finding them’.   A scene playing in his head inspires the writer, needling him until he acts upon it.  The characters grow and evolve during the writing of the story determining the direction of the plot through the natural flow of conversation and events.   They essentially write their own story, and in the process, fashion their own destinies.

Whether an author carefully documents details about his characters or they are the result of whimsy, the author’s goal is to bring the reader into the ‘reality’ of her characters’ world.   It is pure magic when a reader becomes so absorbed in the plot and characters; she begins to identify with certain individuals within the story.

Internal and external dialogue are a tool used to reveal who the character is, what is in her heart and what weighs on her conscience.  I know I can name several protagonists I have admired and about as many antagonists I have disliked intensely.  Do you remember a story where you became annoyed with a decision a character made?  Have you ever had a ‘book boyfriend’?  I have.  Don’t judge me—what young woman doesn’t find Mr. Darcy or Heathcliff worthy of her notice?

If it is true there are only six to seven plot lines total in all the stories ever written, the differences between stories rely on the strength and uniqueness of the story’s characters.   As writers, we are assigned the task of writing a believable story whose characters react and speak naturally and realistically in the myriad of worlds we construct around them.  Our success will turn one of the six or seven repeated literary plots into a creative journey so compelling our readers will lose themselves within the pages.


OMP Admin Note: Kate McGinn is a writer and OMP Network member – one of a group of networkers who will be blogging on a regular basis on various causes and issues. Kate hopes to spread awareness of the issue of American Veterans returning home to less help than they deserve. EMMAUS is one of the two main charities we are supporting.

Kate McGinn’s fiction can be found on Amazon in the flash fiction series BITE SIZE STORIES (Volume Two) along with five other guest writers. Her full-length book EXODUS is also available on Amazon.




Transportation The Chinese Way

I’m not that convinced how useful it is writing about this experience but for the purpose of letting people know about what can go on here in China regarding taking buses – local or otherwise – to experiencing road jams or bottlenecks. It rarely, if ever, surprises me why people here can’t seem to fathom out how going without using a car would be much better than using one, thus making road usage and bus travel a lot more efficient, straightforward or just plain simpler. Is it because cars cause some weird status orientation, or that car owners  here can’t seem to see past the idea that cars are convenient when in fact, they are just the opposite?

Last Sunday, I decided to take a trip to one of the nearest supermarkets which are on one of the local bus routes, so a trip there and back should be relatively straightforward – or so you might think. I hopped on the next bus which is quite a regular service and regularly overcrowded – more about this later. The bus reached the main road, and it wasn’t long before it drove into a traffic pile-up which had been going on for quite a while. The driver, following the bus’s route, broke free of the congestion eventually and continued on the way with little bother.

When leaving the supermarket, I got onto the next available bus. I didn’t think there’d be any difficulty in getting back to the college campus where I’m living and working,  until the bus hit the traffic problem which was still going on. As it went at a snail’s pace, I toyed with the idea of getting off the bus and walking the rest of the way. Once the traffic did get moving, the driver followed the route but then suddenly ignored the turn-off to and up the road which goes past the campus. There was no way of getting off the bus, and there was no nearby stop.

The only way to get back to the campus – so I thought – was to get another bus back the other way. Getting off at the next stop, I waited for the next bus, but it also avoided following its usual route because the traffic problem outside the college hadn’t cleared. It dropped me at the nearest stop not far from the traffic jam. I waited for the next bus. Despite being overcrowded the driver still let on people. One woman was one too many. She prevented the front door from closing for several attempts. Although I’d seen this situation before, I was baffled why the driver allowed this. The jam continued. The bus hardly made any progress. I’d had enough so got off and walked back. A return journey that should have taken no more than an hour took three.

The following morning I asked the students if they could fill me in regarding the problem. They confirmed the clutter of cars outside the campus was why the bus was re-routed, although they couldn’t answer or give a solution to what passengers were going to do if they wanted to get to the campus.

I can give the reason for the multi-problem, and it’s an age-old one – self.  If we thought less about ourselves and more about each other or each other’s problems, these situations would be virtually non-existent. It’s worse here because, one, there just isn’t the volume of people in the western world as there is in this country, and two, road users here don’t follow or respect the road laws or rules as they should, so they  add to the chaos that hinders or inconveniences everyone else. It’s been going from bad to worse, causing much distress and perplexity.

But if there could be a pause; if there could be a reflection, how people might consider, give this problem some attention, then it might be bettered or improved. However, I pessimistically think this is a pipe dream.

David Butterworth