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Monday, December 13, 2010

Character Stew

How do you create memorable characters?

What characters from movies or books stand out to you? Which ones do you still remember after many years? Which ones do you like to write?

I enjoy quirky, humorous, or outlandish characters, like...

Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Brian Blessed as Long John Silver in Return to Treasure Island
Niles Crane in Frasier
Anne in Anne of Green Gables
The old guys in IQ
Granny from the old Beverly Hillbillies
Bill Cosby in anything!

These are the types of characters I like writing into my plays.

We all have our favorite characters that touch our hearts—whether with tears or a shared memory or a good old belly laugh. But which ones will we remember for years to come? These are the ones I call “the greats.”

I've toyed with the idea of writing a play with all of the best characters I have ever written. As I ponder the characters I've created for the stage, I would have to include the gaseous, belching Uncle Floyd from Aunt Polly's Demise, the old guy, Sonny, who always wants to go on a vacation in Tales of a Time Machine, Meg Tanner, the girl who rescues orphans, from Secret of the Forest, and King Kristof, the peaceable king who rises up to defeat the enemy, from The Island of Shalamar. Uncle Floyd and Sonny would cruise in as the humor, King Kristof would be at the heart of the story, and Meg Tanner would shine as the hero. These and a few more would become my “Character Stew.”

How would I cross time and place, medieval to modern? I don't have that figured out. Maybe that's where a good old-fashioned time machine would come in handy!

As I work on my current writing project—At the Malt Shoppe, a 50's musical comedyI strive to have amazingly memorable characters who will live the story. I want to tap into emotion and humor and heart. I want the audience to remember it next year, and the year after.

Any story, whether in a book, a movie, or a play, must have a cast of memorable characters for people to recall it years later. A story without strong characters will be forgotten. It will be weak and boring. We've all watched movies or read books where this was the case. Even excellent writing, without good characters, will fall painfully short of touching hearts. And none of us want that to happen.

Who would you put in your “Character Stew”?

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Heart for Missions

Earlier this year, when I heard Ellie and James Swearingen's presentation about their mission's trip to Papua New Guinea, and the need to raise $10,000.00, I felt God nudge my heart to help. I had a play all written. A cast of ten actors stepped up to the call, and together we spent many Sunday afternoons throughout the summer practicing. In August we put on our play, and half of the proceeds went to this mission's trip. Since then, James and Ellie have given presentations at more churches, but with only three weeks left until their funds must be raised, they are short of their goal.

Today, I still feel God encouraging me to do what I can to help. My purse is small, but I thought that if I shared their story, that maybe together we could see this dream fulfilled.

For over two years, Ellie has been working toward an Aviation Maintenance Technology degree with Moody Bible Institute. One of the requirements for the completion of her degree is a six-week cross-cultural internship. This will take place with New Tribes Mission in Papua New Guinea. For Ellie and James, this will be a time of learning and exploring what God has planned for them in missions for the future.

 Here are some questions I asked Ellie:

  1. Ellie, when did you first have a desire to become a missionary?
The first time the seed was planted in my heart was when I was about 10 years old. I was at Awana Club at church waiting for council time to start when I turned to my friend and asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. She said "I want to be a missionary." From that moment, God used many different people to water and cultivate that seed. As I went to summer camps and sat in church listening to missionaries talk about the work that they were doing for God, it made me eager for the mission field.

  1. How did your desire to go on this mission's trip together with James come about?
I had been attending Moody for two semesters before James and I started dating. I knew that at some point in my future I would need to go on a mission's trip for school. As our dating became serious, we discussed our future goals in life and what course we would take if we got married. Although James had never considered missions before in his life, he was willing to see where God would direct. After we were married, we sat down with the internship adviser at Moody to discuss the options and time frame available. He strongly encouraged us as a newly married couple to go together in order to grow closer to God and each other. One of our goals for this trip is to get our heart for missions on the same page so that we can serve and move as a team.

  1. Why aviation? What draws you to that field?
In the past, I was a member of the Civil Air Patrol. CAP provided many opportunities to get up close and personal with planes, gliders, and helicopters that many are not privileged to have. The two peak experiences that sealed the deal for aviation was the multiple rides I had in Blackhawk helicopters, and in the time I got to spend in Osh Kosh, WI, taking flight lessons. There I logged 10hrs of flight time and soloed. The freedom and joy of flying is something I will never be able to get out of my system.

  1. Please tell us what you will be doing in Papua New Guinea and how that furthers your heart toward missions.
This trip will be a chance to see what life on the mission field is really like. I really believe that God has a special plan and purpose for our lives. He has placed in me a strong desire to serve people with the love of Jesus. When I hear about things that God is doing, I want to be on the front lines doing the actual work. Although I love to be able to give financially and pray for those who are doing the work, it is not enough for me. In Papua New Guinea (PNG), we will be learning from the missionaries who live and work there. They will teach us how to speak the language and communicate effectively with the local people. Also, each day we will be going into the local villages and interacting with the people using the newly learned cultural and language skills. We will be learning the joys and challenges of tribal church planting. The last two weeks of the six weeks we will be in PNG, I will be working alongside and shadowing full-time missionary pilots and mechanics. I will see first hand how aviation plays an important role in tribal church planting.
  1. A question for James,: What is your heart for this mission's trip?
I am still working out what God has in store for me, and He is working in my life as Ellie and I continue to grow in our relationship. This is a stepping stone for what God has in store.

  1. Can you tell us a little bit about Papua New Guinea.
Papua New Guinea is on the eastern half of the island New Guinea which is above Australia. It has over 850 indigenous languages and 7 million people. Only 18% of the population lives in urban centers. A third of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day. The main export of PNG is coffee. The trade language is Neo-Melanesian Pidgen, also called Tok Pisin. Because it is so close to the equator, PNG only has two seasons, the rainy season and dry season. While we are there, the rainy season will have just begun in the eastern highlands where we will be. We are told the temperature ranges from 90 degrees during the day to 40 degrees at night.

  1. What would you like to say to the people who have donated to your journey so far?
We are so thankful for all those who have partnered with us to make this dream a reality for us! Just thinking about the eternal impact that you have made is amazing! You have affected our lives. Because you have helped us, you have also impacted those we will affect. And you yourself have been impacted, by obeying the leading of the Holy Spirit. Thank you for investing in the Kingdom!

  1. You have $2,300 left to raise in 3 weeks. What would you like to tell people who are considering donating money toward your trip?
For those of you who have always wanted to go on a mission trip but never have, here is your chance to be a part of what God is doing. The question is will you?God will continue with his work whether you join Him or not. But wouldn't you rather take part in the blessing he has in store for those who serve him?
On December 28th, just twenty-one days away, Ellie and James are scheduled to board a plane to Papua New Guinea. Would you join me in helping them? A donation of five or ten dollars would be such a blessing.
A Christmastime gift of love...

To see Ellie and James's Giving Page:
To read more:
And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth,he will certainly not lose his reward. Matthew 10:42

Thank you, my friend!
Merry Christmas! And God bless...