26 March 2011

Alzheimer's Blogging Competition

This is an Alzheimer's Blogging Competition entry.

Thank to Sally Jenkins I've learnt about The Disabled Shop blogging competition. There is an entry fee, but as long as it is at least £1 or $1 it's up to you how much to give. There are many fabulous prizes to win, from one year membership of Aweber, or one year's membership of Survey Monkey or e-commerce, to a blogging job for The Disabled Shop, to name only a few. Obviously, it's an opportunity to promote your blog, but most of all since all profits will go to Alzheimer's Research UK, you help defeating the illness at the same time. All you need to do it donate money, write your post, email the organisers and promote it.
For more details and web addresses for donations and post promotion see The Disabled Shop Blog.

I'm taking part in this competition, because Alzheimer's Disease plays an important role in the novel I've written recently. The main female character - Ann, is a neuropsychologist who is passionate about early detection of AD, because her beloved father who died of Alzheimer's would have lived longer and with a better quality of life if his condition had been detected and treated earlier.
Early detection of AD is one of the most important aspects of treatment. This is because all treatments available now have more chance of making a difference at early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for AD so far, and currently available medication can only slow down the progress of the illness, and alleviate the symptoms. Not much, we may think, but for many sufferers and carers this may mean a difference between being able to lead a still pretty a independent life and having to rely on others in many everyday matters.
Alzheimer's Disease is often divided into three stages:
  • Early stage (1 to 2 years leading up to and including the diagnosis) - where the person has problems with mild forgetfulness or poor judgement, difficulty learning new things, following conversations or handling money; it's also the stage where problems with mood, orientation, restlessness or passiveness may occur 
  • Second stage (2 to 10 years after diagnosis) - this is when the person starts to forget details form their own personal history, becomes repetitive, has problems recognising family and friends, struggles to remember date, time or name of the place; this is also a stage with more severe personality changes, confusion, suspiciousness, anxiety, depression, or even hostility and aggression; sleep becomes disrupted, there are often fluctuations in appetite and problems with challenging behaviour; as the person's cognitive ability declines, she/he may require full time supervision and assistance with everyday tasks like getting dressed or undressed, personal hygiene etc.
  • Late stage (1 to 3 years) is the saddest stage - the sufferer becomes unable to remember, communicate, or look after themselves, they also can't control bowel and bladder movements, have difficulty eating and swallowing, often are immobile and bed-ridden. This stage inevitable leads to the sufferer's death, often as a result of secondary complications, like blood clotting, pneumonia or other infections.
One of the secondary characters in my novel, Mrs Peabody, is one of the lucky ones - her memory problems are detected early. She is beginning to have more problems with day-to-day tasks and gets lost on her way to a familiar place a couple of times, but a change in her medication, a good routine , adaptations in her home environment as well as some extra supports put in place enable her to return to her own home and enjoy a fairly independent life for some time.

More about three stages of Alzheimer's Disease here; more about treatment here.

16 March 2011

On being stylish

I'm pleased to announce that I've managed to bring my (that is your) valuable comments back to their home. I promise I will not mess with the template any more in any major way (but probably still will in minor way).
Now, since my blog is back in order I wanted to say once more a big than you to Patsy and Carol for awarding me with the Stylish Blogger award.

Now is the time to reveal 7 things about myself. It's going to be a tough one, because:

1. I have been brainwashed trained not to reveal things about myself.

2. I am anything but stylish. Just look at my blog template! I have no sense of style whatsoever and it was my hubby who put up pictures, knickknacks and other stuff like that in our house (after nearly 3 years of moving in).

3. I hate shopping.

4. I hate shoe shopping even more that I hate shopping, so once I find shoes that suit me I buy in bulk and wear one pair at a time, all year round, irrespective of the weather, until they fall off my feet. Then I get another, identical pair out of my wardrobe and throw the old one away.
I've been wearing these ones for the last few years (I'm on my 4th pair).

5. I learnt to read when I was 3,5 y.o. from an old calendar.

6. I always join the local library usually within the first weeks of moving to a new place.

7. I have an unusual gift for getting lost. I've got lost despite having a sat-nav, a map and a list of directions several times.

Here is 7 bloggers I love reading and admire for a variety of reasons (including being stylish):

Suzie Quint for interesting posts and particularly her The Careers for Characters project
Patsy Collins for her generousness in sharing links to writing contests and her stylish photos
Sandra Patterson for her sense of humour (still remember her NaNowisdom tweets during last year's Nano)
Sarah Duncan for reading my mind and writing interesting articles which answer questions bothering me at the time
Sally Quilford for her column in Writer's Forum and ability to bring writers together
Wendy Marcus for her fantastic ability to engage with her readers
Carrie Spencer for being an incredibly hardworking smart ass and her sense of humour, too.

09 March 2011

Characters and emotional baggage - your characters' motivations

Once again, there is an interesting theme to things I'm doing in different areas of my life at the moment.
I've just done a 'business skills for beginners' course (for my day job), where we talked a lot about what motivates people. I'm also doing an online writing workshop on GMC - Goal Motivation and Conflict (with RWNZ). Interestingly enough, I'm also trying to come up with enough conflict for my new novel and got stuck trying to think about my main character's motivation.
Motivation is the reason(s) WHY people do things; it's what makes us move or act. In fiction, motivation ties in with characters' goals. Characters have goals BECAUSE of their motivation.

So what is what motivates people, and how to develop your characters' motivation so it last throughout the book and make the reader turn the page?

People can be motivated in 3 major ways
1. Fear or The Stick.
photo by www.sunpix.com 
Unfortunately, although a good one, fear is a temporary motivator and works only as long as the threat. It's also an external motivator -remove it from the picture and motivation disappears.
* My heroine returns to the ward the hero works on to finish her run. If she doesn't make up for the time off sick she won't be able to complete the training and become a consultant, which is her dream. But once her log book is filled in she has no longer interest in staying on the ward.

2. Incentive or The Carrot.
Photo by
Unfortunately incentives also provide only temporary and external motivation, so won't last long. 
* if my heroine wanted to work on the unit longer than absolutely necessary to complete the run because she wanted to become a consultant and because of the prestige of the unit - this would only last as long as her training requirements and the need for that prestige. Once she had enough to put on her CV, she would go.
Unless, of course she had another reason for staying there.

Well, she has. She wants the Hero.
This is the bit I need to work out, but it must be something to do with her attitude.

3. Attitude is the best motivator: more permanent (as we don't change our attitudes too often) and what's more important, internal or internalised - coming from within the person.

Attitude is an established way of thinking or feeling, which is shaped by our past, by
a/ upbringing, family values
b/ education
c/ personal experience
d/ mistakes and failures

In my experience, the deeper the attitude is rooted, the stronger the motivation, e.g. an attitude developed as a result of upbringing is more likely to last and motivate us than what we have learned from mistakes. The best motivation is through attitudes which developed on several levels - from upbringing, through education, personal experience and learning from mistakes.

At the moment I am reading a novel, where the heroine broke up with the hero, because she couldn't cope with his need to have a dangerous job. She wanted him safe, at her side when she needed him. Thanks to her education, she knew what potentially could go wrong with his job and that he ultimately can loose his life. Throughout her relationship with this guy she'd learnt that she couldn't rely on his promises of being back soon or making up for this time with another time tomorrow, or indeed being there for her when she needed -because he couldn't guarantee he would be back on time etc.
But the problem doesn't stop at the level of personal experience and failure to make this relationship work. It reaches deeper levels. She knew he could die while on duty, not only because she was a doctor and could figure it out, but also because her father, who had a similar profession died while on duty. She didn't want her beloved man to die prematurely. She also knew well what it's like to live with a man, who might die while on duty - she had seen her mother not coping with that every day her father went to work. And she didn't want to spent her life worrying sick about her man, like her mother did.

These are all WHYS she had to end this relationship and why there was no point in trying to make it work. No way.
Fantastic motivations and a good source of conflict (because hse obviously loved the man and wanted to be with him for the rest of her life, because (here goes a list of usual physical, intellectual and emotional qualities that usually romance heroes are supplied with - all good motivation though!)

So now, since my heroine has a bunch of good reasons why she wants to work and be with the hero, I have to come up with a few good reasons why my heroine would want to avoid the hero like a plague.
I've got some thinking to do.

How do you find motivations for your characters?