Posts Tagged ‘The Story Woman’

September 5, 2011

Dear Lynn Henriksen,

I miss my mom so so much. Your inviting me to guest-blog is a huge gift and I thank you. Today is Labor Day. I salute you, your mom, my mom, and all moms who labor/labored with love and hope for their families.

Sincerely,

Teresa

“What Does Your Protagonist Want?”

By  Teresa LeYung-Ryan, aka “Writing Career Coach & Manuscript Consultant Teresa”

“If you’re writing a novel or memoir, what does your protagonist want?”
“What are your themes and who are your archetypes?”
“If you’re writing a how-to book, what are the issues?”
“Do you want to build your platform to attract agents, publishers, and fans/readers?”

These are the questions I ask when writers hire me as their coach.

For many writers, the first question (“What does your protagonist want?”) is not an easy one to answer. What does your main character want when the story opens? As the story moves forward?

For memoir authors, the protagonist is the Self. You the author lived your story and you know the outcome; now is the chance to engage readers via story-telling techniques and show them what you wanted and how you went about getting (or not getting) what you wanted.

For novel authors, oftentimes the protagonist (or another major character) is modeled after the author; what the protagonist wants is also oftentimes a recurring theme for the author.

In the opening scene of Love Made of Heart (my autobiographical novel about an adult-daughter struggling to understand her mother’s mental illness ), protagonist Ruby Lin asks herself: What have I done? (as she watches police officers escort her mother from her apartment).

Ruby wants her mother to get well; she wants to return to her routines; she wants to forget her past; she wants a wise elder who listens and doesn’t judge. As we get to know Ruby, we find out what her “big wants” are—to find love and forgiveness.

I, Teresa LeYung-Ryan, author of the novel, did not have a maternal grandmother. How I used to fantasize about a kind and wise Grandmama to run to! Writing fiction gave me the luxury to give my protagonist something I never had, so, I created the elderly neighbor Mrs. Nussbaum (embodying the mentor and ally archetypes); she would listen to Ruby and not judge her.

In the introduction of Lynn Scott’s memoir A Joyful Encounter: My Mother, My Alzheimer Clients, and Me, the author reveals: I needed money. I was sixty-seven and living thinly on Social Security… As we read on, we meet the other characters/archetypes and see how they help the author get the “big want” (what money can’t buy) . . .  a spiritual journey to her mother’s love.  Lynn Henriksen’s review of this same book ends with “… Scott’s book made me laugh, cry, and wish I could have my mother back for just a day, even one more hour.”

Aah, to have Mom back for just a day, even one more hour. That is exactly what yours truly wants right now.  I’ve been ill (coping with symptoms from wheat-intolerance) and I yearn for my mom’s hugs and encouraging words: “All will be fine, my darling daughter.” But, I can’t get what I want on a physical level; Mom died over ten years ago of metastasized breast cancer.

My biggest angel is my mom, and, I ask her to help me on a daily basis. “Mom, I want to feel well.”  My muscles and sinuses were hurting; fatigue overwhelmed me; then, when depression moved in . . . I knew that I needed to be an active protagonist. I stopped eating breads and anything made with wheat flour (and that include flaky pie crusts, almond tea cakes, Challah, tortilla that hold a burrito together, Pad Thai, and pasta).

My mastermind colleague Lori Noack reminded me that wheat is in soy sauce (gosh I eat a lot of Chinese food too) and in marinades and salad dressings (yikes).  LN, thank you for your encouraging emails!

Next, I went to see a Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioner. Heather Richmond said “Teresa, the foods you’ve been eating are ‘damp.’ To treat the ‘dampness’ so that you’ll feel better, not only am I advising eliminating wheat from your diet, I’m also recommending eliminating soy as in tofu and corn.” No tofu and corn, in addition to no wheat?  Oh my.  Heather had explained that wheat, soy and corn are the top three most genetically-modified foods in this country.

Mrs. Nussbaum’s voice (my inner Wise Self) stepped into my head.  “Making a lifestyle change calls for perseverance. Go easy. Go gentle.  I’m proud of you.”

I tell my clients “Reach out, not stress out, when pursuing your dreams.” I too have been reaching out—by telling my friends about what I want—to feel energetic again. I will need their moral support (to cheer for me when I turn down a slice of bread, a fresh croissant or homemade pizza crust).

At a meeting, Linda Joy Myers, author of 3 books and founder of National Association of Memoir Writers, gave me delicious rice crackers, wild salmon, and green beans when she found out about my wheat intolerance. Thank you, LJM!

Thank you to all my friends and family members who are supportive of my goals!  My sister sent me a gift card for shopping sprees in “organic produce” aisles.  Thank you, Maria!

These books continue to be helpful as I want to live well in spite of food allergies:

  • Eating Gluten Free: Delicious Recipes and Essential Advice for Living Well Without Wheat and Other Problematic Grains by Shreve Stockton
  • Optimal Healing: A Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine by Patricia Tsang, M.D.

Heather Richmond is recommending I stop eating rice in the next phase of treatment.  Oh oh . . .

I still want hugs from my mom.  I feel them.  Every morning and every night, in my prayers.  And I give hugs back. “Thank you my Main Angel.”

Lynn Henriksen aka The Story Woman, thank you so much for asking me to guest-blog. You’ve given me a lovely gift—a chance to talk about my mom, knowing what the protagonist wants, and how to reach out not stress out!  I cheer for you, your books, blog, and classes!

Sincerely,

Teresa LeYung-Ryan

Author, Writing Career Coach, Manuscript Consultant.

Teresa’s blog http://writingcoachteresa.com for resources.

Teresa uses Love Made of Heart to inspire adult children of mentally ill parents to speak openly about the stigmas and find resources for their families. (the novel is available in libraries, archived in the San Francisco History Center, and used by teachers in college and universities).

She’s also the author of Build Your Writer’s Platform & Fanbase In 22 Days: Attract Agents, Editors, Publishers, Readers, and Media Attention NOW (a workbook to help writers of all genres gain a competitive edge before and after publication. Available as ebook too! Customers of the workbook are saying that it’s useful for anyone who has anything to promote.)

Coach Teresa LeYung-Ryan says: "Reach out, not stress out, when pursuing your dreams."

***

Lynn Henriksen wrote: “Teresa – it was my pleasure placing your guest post on The Story Woman blog! Thank you for an interesting piece and for speaking from your heart as you always do.”

Kate Farrell, Wisdom Has a Voice wrote: “Teresa–What a great post that speaks to how writers think, yearn, and write for themselves, to connect and to share in a way that makes the world a community!”

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