Take Care of Your Characters

Have you ever been writing a story and get the worst writer’s block? Maybe you simply can’t figure out where the plot should go or why your characters are even in the situation in the first place. If you’ve had this experience, don’t worry. You are not alone. (If you haven’t, then I am jealous of your talent.) A good method to use when you get writer’s block is to focus on your characters. The plot is definitely the main element of a story, but the characters have a huge impact on where the plot is going.

If you’re like me, then you can get caught up in all the plot details like how Person A and Person B will finally fall in love and be together or how the hero will climb out of the hopeless situation he’s been thrown into. These, along with many other types of plot details, rely on characters. If you can figure out what you want your character’s thoughts, feelings, and motivations to be, then you can figure out where your story is going.

One thing I like to do in order to keep everything organized in my brain and give me a visual aid is make character sheets. I compile a list of all the things I would want to know about my character. And this isn’t limited to a simple description like eye color, hair style, body type, and clothing. Although appearances can give certain clues to the identities of people, they do not tell the entire story. You can also list personality traits. What mood are they in most of the time? Give both the good and bad side of their character. Also, list some other random facts about them. What annoys your character to the nth degree? What can they simply not resist? What is their sense of humor like? What are their greatest fears? Do they have any deep, dark secrets? All of these attributes can affect your characters’ actions and therefore guide the plot of your story in a specific direction.

If you’ve got all this stuff down already, then maybe it’s time for a plot twist of some sort; you may need something unexpected to happen. Well, this may sound harsh, but to do this, you’ll probably need to put your character through a little (or a lot) of turmoil. But don’t be afraid to be mean to your characters. A lot of the time, the most influential moment in a novel or short story is when something negatively impacts the characters, especially the main protagonist. If they take something for granted, take it away, whether it be an object or a person. It will cause them to either change routes or test their commitment to a certain path. Maybe they have a belief or a certain someone or something they believe in. Make them doubt it. Make them confused. They may choose to seek out another truth or maybe they will overcome it and have a new, stronger faith. Remember their worst fears? Use them. They could fall in defeat or overcome it.

I used a couple of these methods when I was in one of my creative slumps as I was writing one of my fantasy stories. I specifically turned to my protagonist’s loved ones. My young, orphaned heroine had recently begun to form a positive and growing relationship with her newfound father figure and mentor, and she couldn’t have felt happier or safer with him. The plot grew to a standstill because the protagonist felt too safe and had no reason to move forward in her quest, so I decided that this was the time the villain should strike and take away this new safety from my heroine. I didn’t exactly kill the beloved mentor off, but I left barely enough hope for the heroine to hold onto so that she would have the motivation to continue her quest and fulfill her destiny in my story. Saving him and the goal of her quest became the same, so if she believed that she could save her mentor, then she would have the motivation to fulfill her destiny in completing her quest.

You can use these concepts and techniques to both develop your characters’ identities and push the story forward. Thinking about your characters, their actions, their beliefs, their fears will help aim the plot of your story in a certain direction. Without your characters, there would be no story.

Written by Taylor Hayes

Image credit


Sesame Street Around the World

Being in tune with different cultures around the world is incredibly important in order to understand the people who come from various cultures. They have different customs, traditions, clothes, foods, movies, and television. Specifically children’s television. To be even more specific, the kid’s show, Sesame Street. Yes, Sesame Street can be instrumental in understanding the cultures of various nations and relating to the people thereof.

Sesame Street has been shown in over 140 countries around the world and has 34 international co-productions. And each of these productions is unique in its own way. Many don’t even go by name of Sesame Street. In the Middle Eastern country of Jordan, the program is called Hikayat Sesame, which roughly translates to “sesame tales.” The Philippines just has Sesame! The one in Australia is Open Sesame. Northern Ireland’s show doesn’t even take place in a city or on a street, but it does takes place in Sesame Tree. And then there are the countries that keep the same title but translate into their own language, like Sesamstrasse in Germany.

But what’s in a name, right? Well, each of these countries presents a title that relates best with the children who watch it. Most kids are familiar with cities and streets in America and Germany, but kids in Norway may know more about trains since that’s a popular way to travel there. So, their show is called Sesame Stasjon, which translates to “sesame station.” There is enough difference even in the names to establish a certain aspect of a specific culture, but it’s still possible to relate to the show and those who watch it.

The other similarities and differences that define each country’s version of the show consist of the characters themselves. Most productions have the same main characters like Elmo or Grover, but sometimes other characters get a makeover. For example, several programs have a grouch similar to Oscar, the green, grumpy muppet who lives in a trash can. In India’s Galli Galli Sim Sim, Khadoosa is a similar grouch but loves to take care of his garden and is quite proud of his flowers. Another is from the Rechov Sumsum show in Israel: Moishe Oofnik, who is brown and furry and lives in a broken car. (I guess that’s better than a trash can, right?) There are so, SO many more. And of course, all of their names pertain to the language of country where the program is shown. But just because they are in different languages doesn’t mean you can’t talk about the show with someone from a different country.

For example, I found out from a friend, who grew up watching Plaza Sésamo in Mexico, that instead of Big Bird, he knew Abelardo. Abelardo is not the big, yellow bird that Americans know, but he is a large, more colorful bird with bright green and red feathers, who is roughly the same character as Big Bird. These characters are different because of the cultures in which they are portrayed. Big Bird is supposed to be a canary, which is an American bird, and Abelardo is a parrot, which is more popular in the Latin America culture. It’s these types of seemingly little differences that can distinguish various cultures while also bringing people together.

So maybe the next time you talk to an international student or someone who was raised in a different country, try asking about Sesame Street. It can be a pretty entertaining topic. The show tells a lot about the culture of different societies, so you may learn something! At the very least, it serves well to strike up an interesting conversation.

Written by Taylor Hayes

Image credit

Christmas Doesn’t Come From a Store

‘Twas the eve before Christmas

And all through our dwelling

The thrill of the season

Was growing and swelling

The lights were all shining

The presents were wrapped

And I and my sister

Peacefully napped

For in a few hours

We’d pack up our stuff

And head to my grandma’s

All bundled and muffed

On the short drive

Our excitement was mounting

For soon we’d eat food

Open presents, and do gifting

Nana met us with cheer

As she opened the door

And Papa placed parcels

By the tree on the floor

First we trooped to the table

To gobble and dine

On luscious food

Of most every kind

Then we all gathered

In the room by the fire

All bundled and snuggled

For the rest to transpire

My dad read the story

Of that first Christmas day

We listened intently

Then he asked us to pray

After the reading

Sister and I took the floor

To present our creation

That had been quite a chore

Clad in Dad’s shorts and oversized shoes

We enacted “Papa’s Adventures”

The tales of our grandpa

And his hilarious misadventures

The family all laughed

And poked fun in jest

We all were so happy

And we felt very blessed

Next was gift time

And I was oh so excited

We all gathered ‘round

The tree that was lighted

Presents were opened

And scattered around

The paper piled up

‘Til we couldn’t see the ground

We played with our toys

Until late into night

When our eyes grew heavy

And we fought sleep with great might

Then we packed up our car

And made the trek back

Each with our gifts

All stuffed in our sack

But it wasn’t the presents

That made that year good

It was the time with my family

And the joy of childhood

It’s been many years

Since that one special day

But it’s forever in my heart

And there it will stay


Written by Taylor Hayden

Merry Christmas from the DBU Writing Center!


Oh Christmas Staff

Anyone who has ever stepped into our office during the month of December can gather one important thing about us: here at the DBU Writing Center, we really love Christmas, and we go to great lengths to celebrate it. (If you don’t know what we’re talking about, come by our office anytime between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You’ll get it.)

Why? Well, the classic answer, of course, is that we are excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. We all do our best to not be consumed by the crazy hubbub of shopping and decorating and eating and remember that Christmas is still the precursor to Easter.

The more honest answer is that we have many, many other reasons to love Christmas. So, we polled our entire staff on some of the other aspects of Christmas that get us excited for the season. We asked ourselves two questions: what are we thankful for this year, and what do we want to receive for Christmas this year? The myriad of responses we got were both thoughtful and funny, so we just had to share them with you.

Things for Which We’re Thankful:

Ashley: I am beyond grateful for all of the amazing advice I‘ve received during 2017.

: Outside of those obvious things we talked about, I’m most thankful for the people in my life: my husband, my kids, my grandkids, my friends, and my staff.

Taylor Hayden: I am thankful for the amazing support system of friends and family that I have to help keep me going when life gets rough. Lately, the semester has made life crazy, so having people to cheer me up, distract me, and/or encourage me has helped make it bearable.

Leah: This year, I am super thankful for the oven in my apartment! I love baking, and I can’t wait to make all sorts of Christmas treats now that I am out of the dorms!

Karoline: I am most thankful for words. Specifically, I am reveling in all the ways they can be used to build up, bless, encourage, correct, and teach others. Incredibly thankful that God speaks to us through His gift of language and for all the different means of language we have access to!

Michelle: I feel God has richly blessed me this semester at DBU with new friends, amazing professors, and a supportive family. I believe I am most thankful for God opening the door for me to come to DBU in the first place and experience all He has prepared for me.

Jack: I am most thankful for my family. They support me in so many ways and have done so much for me throughout my life. I am very grateful for them, and I love this holiday season where I can spend time with them.

Savanna: I am thankful for people who actually use their blinkers.

Catherine: I think I’m most thankful for the gift of friendship. My friends I’ve made at college have been the best friends I’ve ever had, and impending graduation is making me realize how much I appreciate their presence in my life.

Lindsey: I’m most thankful for Freeform’s 25 Days of Christmas. I used to watch this Christmas movie marathon with my family every year; I love continuing the tradition even though I’m not at home anymore.

Taylor Hayes: I am thankful for the Chick-fil-a on campus! Without it, I’d probably starve.

Becca: I am thankful for where I live now. I like the people I live with and the environment that feels like a home.

Maddison: I am thankful for a wonderful extended family of friends and immediate family that have supported me throughout my life, but especially my college career. There have been good and bad days, but these relationships are ones that I seek to keep for the rest of my life.

What’s On Our Christmas Lists:

Ashley: I want money for Christmas $$$$$$$$$$$

: What do I really, really want for Christmas? A pony and a place to keep it. Realistically, though, I have all I want or need, so I would like more sparkly pens, a trip to Scotland, or a week in New York City doing all the NYC things on my list. What am I likely to actually get? Who knows, but my husband Michael is the best gift giver ever, so whatever I get is sure to delight the little girl that still resides in my soul.

Taylor Hayden: I am obsessed with baking and kitchen gadgets, so anything related to baking supplies and or/utensils and small appliances for my current and future kitchen are at the top of my list.

Leah: For Christmas, I would like some fancy pens. I really enjoy journaling and hate buying expensive pens out of my own money.

Karoline: My once-sturdy army-green backpack has some significant rips and tears. So a new book bag to tote my heavy essentials around during my senior year wouldn’t be too shabby!

Michelle: Honestly, I cannot think of anything that I want for Christmas. I have a loving family, both at home and at DBU (#DBUishome). But, if I was forced to pick one thing, I would enjoy a drone or electric helicopter.

Jack: What I really want for Christmas is an international trip to Europe, Asia, or really anywhere other than here. Of course, the chances of receiving this gift are very slim, but I can dream and continue to ask. Maybe one day it will happen.

Savanna: I don’t want anything realistic for Christmas, so Hamilton tickets would be fabulous. Or if Jack wants to include me in the trip to “anywhere but here,” that would be cool, too. I hear London is beautiful this time of year.

Catherine: I’m hoping for as many Lord of the Rings/Middle-earth books as I can get my hands on, and maybe some money for the new Sonic the Hedgehog game (#jointheuprising).

Lindsey: For Christmas, I want either some Harry Potter wand makeup brushes or a remote-controlled BB-8 droid!

Taylor Hayes: I would like gift cards to basically any of the eateries that surround the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Free food brings me joy.

Becca: For Christmas, I want an external mic to plug into my phone. (Little known fact about me: I wish I could record every conversation I ever have and keep it as a physical copy forever.) In a similar vein, I’d also like for Andrew to Dropbox me the broadcast recording of our Christmas Eve services at church.

Maddison: I would say I’d like to upgrade my very old and cracked phone for a new, not-cracked one.

Sure, we have a lot to be thankful for. We love Jesus, and we love the story of how He came down to live among us and save us from eternal separation from God. But we have some weird stuff on our Christmas lists, too, and that’s okay. Our goal with these questions isn’t to provide passive-aggressive hints to our parents (although, to any who are reading, we hope this helps). Our hopes and dreams make us human, they make us unique, and they draw us closer to God. We want to embrace them as the God-given desires they are, even as we remember all the wonderful things He has already given us.

Merry Christmas, writers, and keep dreaming!

Intro/outtro written by Catherine

Image credit: Catherine Anderson


A Frosty Thanksgiving

May your stuffing be tasty, may your turkey be plump,

May your potatoes & gravy have nary a lump,

May your yams be delicious, may your pies take the prize,

May your Thanksgiving dinner stay off of your thighs.

~ A Thanksgiving Poem by C.J Beaman

Everyone’s pretty familiar with the button-bursting power of Thanksgiving food, but what about the cool traditions? Can you think of any in your family? While you ponder, I’ll share a few of mine.

For starters, my family is a bit dispersed, letting life sweep us up and scatter us about as the years pass. On Thanksgiving, however, we are always sure to fly in, drive in, or dogsled in to spend time with one another. Then the next concern is that year’s Thanksgiving dinner host. As with most families, it’s hard to decide where to enjoy this special meal: who has the largest TV, most seating, and who’s cooking? This brings me to our first two Thanksgiving traditions, 1) that we disregard the first two concerns and 2) simply pack into my great grandmother’s house, sporting rumbling tummies for the meal she elected to cook.

Speaking of, our third tradition is being non-traditional with our Thanksgiving meal. Not in the “adding a little nutmeg to the pumpkin pie recipe” kind of way but a complete switch-a-roo. One year, the family table was decorated with necessities for a Mexican-food themed Thanksgiving. Dishes of chips, salsa, sour cream, and fresh veggies surround a couple of flour and corn tortillas filled with beef and cheese. The year before, a tart fragrance would linger in the air from my aunt’s mouth-watering lemon peppered fish served on a bed of white rice. Last year, to be even more rebellious, we didn’t even bother preparing a meal. Instead we pitched in for Kentucky Fried Chicken, which worked out imPECKably.

After gobbling down our chicken-fixin’s or whatever else we’ve determined to eat that year, my family and I, in all our largeness, usually gather around to watch the Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving game. With great pride and admiration for “America’s Favorite Team,” we sport our jerseys (both real and not) and shout at our favorite players through the TV, with comments varying between congratulatory and critical – based on each play.

Our final Thanksgiving Day tradition is to put up our Christmas tree. That’s right folks, with bellies full from our Thanksgiving meals, we pull out my mom’s pack of 500 silver and gold Christmas ornaments. By nightfall, our Frosty the Snowman figurine is back in its proud position on the coffee table with fresh batteries in his back and a pep in his step (as he is motion activated to dance). Waving another successful Thanksgiving goodbye, my family and I eagerly welcome that big day in December, with tinsel, lights, and hundreds of ornaments – we make it rain Christmas on Thanksgiving.

Written by Ashley

Image credit


Chip Bowls Crashing Down

The air is chilly. Dark red and yellow leaves lie restlessly on the damp evergreen. Jack o’ Lanterns with whimsical faces nestle in bunches outside of people’s doors. The aroma of cinnamon scented pinecones and pumpkin spice fills the nostrils of many as they cuddle around their roaring fires. In October, autumn is casting about mini tornados of leaves, brushing the feet of those in its path as the trees dance in the wind. This month is witness to the increased purchase of candy, fake spider webs, and Batman costumes. Only few know why this month is so significant, but don’t worry, I’ll clue you in. Besides all of the fantastical autumn themed scents, ten-pound bags of Snickers, and funny-looking pumpkins, this month brings sports fans together. October marks the halfway point of football season and provides a map for predicting which teams will make it into the Super Bowl.

Football season usually begins in early September when the pungent scent of Kingsford Match Light charcoal lingers in the air and hot dogs and burgers sizzle on the grill. Families and friends come together sporting the jerseys of their favorite teams and players, finding community in those who support their choices and even those with whom they can argue. While the kids are slip-slippery-sliding and cannonballing into the pool, their parents engross themselves in the nearest television, chanting and hollering in support of (and on many occasions, at) their favorite teams until another chip bowl comes crashing to the ground. This time is the start of the season, the first four games in which all teams have something to prove, and if your family is nearly as competitive as mine, then you do, too. If you were disappointed in last year’s performance, it is during this time that you are most optimistic, hoping your players have had rest and practiced and are prepared to dominate the season. September proves to be just that for football fans: a phase of optimism.

By the following month of the season, players are competing in games five through eight, which, to me, is truly when the season begins. October marks the point at which all the teams have exposed their secret super stars, those who run sixty-five yards upfield to the touchdown or kick an eighty-five yard field goal. These super stars help us football fanatics gage which teams will most likely advance to the playoffs and ultimately compete for the title of Super Bowl Champions. Now, instead of the smell of burgers and franks on the grill, the aroma of a Glade Warm Flannel Embrace plug-in fills the room. With one obnoxiously large marshmallow topping their cups of hot chocolate and s’mores filling their bellies, groups of football connoisseurs and amateurs, alike, continue rooting for their teams. With a scorching flame from the fireplace keeping them warm and a hot season approaching, fans are on fire for football during the chilly month of October.

Written by Ashley

Image credit


How to Combat Summer Boredom

Summer is finally here. As a student, I really look forward to summer every year. It seems like I have so much going on during the fall and spring semesters, and at least one aspect of my life is always completely out of control. If I don’t have eighteen projects due for my classes in the span of one week, then I’m preparing for a big weekend with the media team at my church. If things at the church aren’t crazy, then I’m dealing with some family crisis or my friends suddenly want to hang out until way past my preferred bedtime. The problem is that I care about all of these areas of my life, so I want to give them all as much attention as they require. During the summer, it seems like every area of my life comes to a screeching halt. Suddenly, there are no classes to attend, no homework to do, and maybe no one on campus to hang out with. I find myself wondering what to do with all of my free time. Maybe you do, too, dear readers. Don’t worry. I’ve got some ideas for you to combat summer boredom.

My first idea is a pretty simple one. During the school year, there are a lot of things that get put on the backburner. Summer is a perfect opportunity to get some of those things done! At different points throughout the year, I’ve wanted to read some of the Harry Potter series, re-watch The Office, play a video game called Undertale, clean out my closet, and have my sister come to stay the weekend with me. Now that I have a few months without anything too crazy happening, I can probably do all of those things and more. Maybe some of you readers have goals you always seem too busy to reach. They can be small goals, like the ones I listed, or really big ones. Even if your aspirations are too high to reach in only a few months, maybe you can get your start this summer.

Another thing you can try if you find yourself bored out of your mind is going on an adventure. I grew up in a small town where there wasn’t much to do and there weren’t many places to go. In this boring environment, my friends and I used to come up with small adventures to keep ourselves busy. We would go to our nearest movie theater and see the worst-looking movie playing, just so that we could laugh at how bad it was. We would buy sidewalk chalk and draw murals at our local park. We would take a road trip to visit the closest zoo on half-price ticket day. We would walk to the highest point in town to watch the sunset overlooking our neighborhood. Sometimes, we would even just sit in my living room and watch the first episode of a bunch of different shows on Netflix. There are all kinds of adventures to be had if you open up your mind and use your imagination.

phineas and ferb

My last tip for staving off summer boredom is to just rest and relax. I know it might seem counterintuitive to try to rest when you want to be busy doing something, but that’s kind of the point. During the school year, I tend to become so busy that I run myself ragged. Without the presence of that busyness, I realize how slowly time can move. This summer, I want to take a deep breath and revel in a change of pace. I want to take the time to appreciate the world and the people around me without distractions. I’ve spent a lot of time in prayer over the past few weeks, and that time has made me really hungry to understand my God more. I’ve never felt a hunger this strong, and I want to run with it. I want God to show me new things. I think the perfect environment to foster this desire is a few months when I’ll be taking things slow, when I can rest, be still, and know that He is God.

Those are just a few ideas to fight the beast of boredom. Hopefully your summer will be a fun, enjoyable few months. Even if your summer will be busy with classes, work, mission trips, or just life in general, I pray that the God of peace will give you rest.

Written by Becca

Image credits: Header image, Phineas and Ferb