The Perfect Time to Visit Your Gratitude

This is Thanksgiving week in the U.S. It’s a time when many of us remember to feel and express gratitude. It seems frivolous in 2020—especially when you recall that more than 259,000 U.S. residents and over 1.4 million worldwide have died of COVID-19. Plus, at home and across the world, there are racial injustices and rampant abuses of power, not to mention the political messes. Yet, perhaps this is the perfect time to visit your gratitude.

Illustration of a sign behind pumpkins and gourds. The sign says Happy Thanksgiving--perhaps the perfect time to visit your gratitude

Showing Thanks Makes Others Happy

We all want to be noticed. It’s part of our nature. I’ll be you’ve noticed that being ignored doesn’t feel good. Being noticed means that you are of value. Even if it’s only for holding the door open for the elderly man with his hands full. Being noticed, being thanked feels good.

When you take a moment out of your day to recognize someone for being there—it makes them feel good. A simple thank you to the clerk at the store, the postal service worker, the nurse at the clinic, or your neighbor will be appreciated and remembered. Watch them smile. Bet it makes you smile, too.

Being Thankful Makes You a More Positive Person

two glasses of water--one half full the other full.

Gratitude doesn’t have to be overwhelming. You don’t have to bounce around and effuse thankfulness all over the place. Simply appreciating the things and people around you is enough. That appreciation promotes optimism.

Feeling thankful reduces toxic emotions like envy, jealousy, resentment, and frustration. According to Psychology Today, practicing gratitude increases happiness and reduces depression.

When you look for the things you appreciate, you realize how much you have. It’s fun to enumerate those things. Look at the 20 Weird Things I’m Grateful For.

Gratitude Improves Physical Health

Did you know grateful people report fewer aches and pains? Appreciating your physical health also means you probably take better care of yourself. According to MayoClinic.Org, practicing thankfulness improves sleep, boosts your immunity, and decreases your risk of disease.

A little gratitude each day decreases stress and increases resilience. Even during the worst times. 

Find Your Gratitude

A photo looking down on a cup of coffee, some sprigs of mint, and some cookies on a round wooden cutting board with a handwritten note that urges you to enjoy the little things-perhaps the perfect time to visit your gratitude

Don’t feel bad is you can’t always feel grateful. Even an optimist like me can struggle to remain grateful and positive during the kinds of stressors we’ve had this year. But you can find things you’re grateful for—all you have to do is look.

When I look around me, I see many things for which I’m grateful.

  • My two yorkies are sometimes annoying, but an endless supply of affection and entertainment.
  • My office—it’s not big and it’s not fancy—but it’s a space where I can work.
  • Having a roof over my head. There are so many who don’t have that luxury.
  • Clean water to drink.
  • And so many other things! And that’s not counting the most important things—friends and family and acquaintances. I am feeling grateful, thankful, and blessed.

Thank You

a kalidescope with a note that reads thanks for existing in my little galaxy

I am always amazed that other people read my posts. It delights me and energizes me to write better posts. And when you comment or share my posts—I am so very grateful. Thank you for joining me here.

Whether you’re having a Thanksgiving or a routine Thursday, my wish is that you feel the power of gratitude in your day, your week, and your life.

I hope you practice gratitude every day. Remember, it reduces stress and toxic emotions. So now is the perfect time to visit your gratitude. And please look around the room you’re in right now and comment below about one thing in that room that you are grateful to have.

The Importance of the Last Act in Story Structure

Seven days remaining in November means NaNoWriMo participants are nearing the end of their commitment to write 50,000 words this month. For some, that means their work-in-progress (WIP) is nearing the end of the story arc. Other writers may have many more words to scribble or ponder. Regardless of where you are, the importance of the last act in story structure, the last act of your WIP, is as big as the first act.

image of a stage with the curtains up and open and the words Act III on it--the importance of the last act is as big as the first act

The Beginning of the End

People will disagree where the beginning of the end of a story is. But if you get the last point of Act IIB wrong, your story will end with a reader’s whimper instead of the reader’s satisfied sigh.

The last plot point of Act II, often called the dark night of the soul, is when it appears all is lost. The antagonist has delivered a shocking blow, and the protagonist can’t see a way to go forward. She looks back at herself for a moment. She must face her flaw or fear—the lie she believes about herself or the world. Facing what she’s become, what she’s done, she’ll like or dislike. And in that mirror of self-reflection, she will see a piece of information in a new light. Despite her doubts and second thoughts, that information will solidify her new insights about herself. And those will propel her through the first half of Act III.

The First Half of Act III

photo of a wall with  seven identical closed doors-the importance of the final act in story structure leaves the protagonist with fewer and fewer choices.

The protagonist acts on her new information and yet she still cannot confront the big bad guy or solve the problem. Perhaps her doubts and second thoughts curtail her. Or defeat dogs her in such a way that just when she thinks she’s got it made, she must choose a different path. Each choice narrows the options she’ll have the next time. Each choice she makes drives her closer and closer to the final confrontation. She is on a runaway rollercoaster headed on the long downhill slope that takes her directly to a face-off with the antagonist. 

The Crisis Decision

At the halfway point of Act III, she faces a final decision. It’s do or die time. She will confront the antagonist face-to-face. Typically, we humans tend to shy away from this in real life. But this is fiction, and for the most satisfying story the protagonist must meet the antagonist head on. 

A rodeo clown with a barrel between him and a raging bull pictured here--shows the importance of the final act in story structure--the protagonist must face the antagonist

The decision that faces her demands she make a difficult choice. It’s the final sacrifice. In thrillers, it’s often literally a choice between a fight to the death or running away. In a love story, the protagonist makes a personal sacrifice for the one she loves. It’s that sense of giving up something personal (even if it’s not a life or death sacrifice) that makes the resolution satisfying. The protagonist gave up something and because of that she achieves her goal. Stories don’t always have to have a happy ending to be satisfying to your reader. Though a satisfying “unhappy” ending is much tougher to write.

The Rest of the Story

The rest of the story resolves or hints at resolution to loose threads or subplots. And if you’ve hit your plot points and crisis decision well, the last page, paragraph, and line will give the reader that sense of ah—satisfaction.

Final Thoughts

There are other ways to discuss story structure—the hero’s journey, the five act structure, the seven point story structure, Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method, and James Scott Bell’s A Disturbance and Two Doorways. They are tools, variations of the same basic story structure. The structure I teach? It’s a combination of the three act and the seven point structure. Which one should you use? The one you understand. The one that fits your way of thinking and writing stories.

No matter which method or what terms you use, if you want to be a successful writer—study successful stories. Figure out what terms make sense to you. Then use them, not as a template but as guidelines.

Thank You for Reading

I hope you’ve gotten something out of this series of blog posts. Did you miss the first two? Check out my post about using story goals and the one about a strong midpoint.

If you’d like to learn more, read my posts on re-visioning your story or check out the list of resources for writers on this site. If you have additional questions about the importance of the last act in story structure or any other story writing questions make a comment below. I will do my best to answer your questions.

Sneak Peek Revision Draft If I Should Die

A sneak peek is a portion of a story in progress. It’s an early draft which means there are grammatical errors, punctuation errors, and probably some story errors, too. So why post a sneak peek? It’s a tease of what’s coming. It’s a test—does this work? And it’s a peek into the writing process many readers enjoy. This snippet is from the revision draft and is part of a new chapter. So, without further ado, I present this sneak peek-revision draft, If I should Die, book two in the Fellowship Dystopia Series.

Image of a Monk class wooden yacht, the model for the boat in this sneak peek revision draft if I Should Die, book two of the Fellowship Series
a 58′ Monk class, luxury yacht–courtesy of YachtLife–a model similar to The Lady Angelfish

If I Should Die 

By Lynette M. Burrows

Day 2

The aroma of warm pancakes and syrup and the rumble of her stomach woke Miranda before her sleep shift had finished. She needed coffee, but the galley already held two people. David stood at the stove flipping pancakes. 

“Morning, Captain.” Wanda offered her a mug full of hot, black coffee. “Beryl’s piloting. David’s cooking. Mind if I go forward?”

Miranda took the mug. Lifted it and inhaled the fragrance of fresh coffee. “Go ahead.” Someone should get some extra sleep. She sat at the lower helm, sipped coffee, and watched the remaining fog roll off the river.

“Peace offering,” David said behind her.

She faced him. “You and I are not at war.”

He stood, braced in the hatch to the galley against the motion of the boat. Held a plate with a lopsided tower of pancakes.

Her smile broadened at the size of the stack. “That could feed an army.”

“Not after I get my serving.” His mouth twisted, rueful and hopeful at the same time. “Should I take some up to Beryl?”

“No, she’s already had breakfast and will eat again in a couple of hours when I relieve her..” Miranda peered down the passageway behind him. “Where’s Leslie?”

“Coming,” a lilting voice called. Typical landlubber, she lurched down the passageway toward the galley. Her strawberry blonde ponytail bounced behind her. And somehow the borrowed gingham dress fit better today.

Soon all three of them sat at the table and dug into breakfast.

When they’d had their fill, Miranda rose to take the dirty dishes to the galley.

“I’ll take care of those,” Leslie said and took the dishes. Duct tape made an extra seam down the back of her dress.

“I need to say something. Try not to get mad and just listen. Can you do that?” David asked once Leslie had slid the galley hatch door closed.

Miranda folded her arms on the tabletop, leaned forward. “Say what you must, but I won’t change my mind.”

“Even if you don’t believe that the Azrael are being grown again—think about what Leslie told us. There are Fellowship labs hidden in former mines hundreds of feet beneath the surface. That alone is cause for alarm. The Fellowship is up to something. If they’re not growing an army of assassins, maybe they’re making munitions, or a poisonous gas, or prisons for folk like us.”

“And that’s what you should focus on when you talk to Monkshood.”

He tilted his head, studied her.

The thrum of The Lady’s engines and the slap of water on her hull filled the silence between them.

“You still don’t see that you and Beryl should take precautions?” His voice held disbelief and a tinge of anger.

“They aren’t doing that just for Beryl and I.”

“No. They’re doing it for you and your refugees.”

The idea of an underground Redemption seized her in a tight, icy grip. She swallowed. Wiped her sweaty palms on her culottes. “All right. You’re right. Monkshood needs to know this. We’ll make sure you and Leslie get to that meeting.” She leaned forward. “But this doesn’t mean that my mission has changed. It means the Freedom Waterway is more important than ever.”

David set his mouth, then nodded. “Get us to Waverly. Maybe Monkshood will convince you that this means you have a new mission.”

She almost laughed. We’ll see who out stubborns who.

Want More?

Sneak peeks of the rough draft are available on this blog. See the first installment of chapters one through six.

Book One

Miranda lived a charmed life…until she broke the rules.

Now, she’ll fight the tyrants, even if they’re family. Even if it costs her freedom—or her life.

Available at all your favorite online retailers, My Soul to Keep, is book one in the Fellowship Dystopia Series.

Thank You for Reading

Revision is a process of refinement, expansion, and surgical excisions. As a result, chapters from the rough draft disappear or appear in different locations or from a different viewpoint. Kind of like putting a puzzle together, it’s a process I love. But I am not a fast writer. I hope to publish If I Should Die late spring or early summer of 2021. Did you enjoy this sneak peek-revision draft, If I Should Die, book two of the Fellowship Dystopia?