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March 12, 2018

Today’s Writers’ Tip

Fiction Plots

RESCUE

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(Photo compliments of http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

Continuing our study of fiction plots, we’ll look at plot number 4 today: RESCUE.

Who hasn’t been on the edge of his seat as a child when reading books or watching movies on TV like “Snow White,” “The Secret Garden,” or “The Lone Ranger” (He was always “rescuing good guys from the bad guys!) But now as a writer, we need to analyze the clever writing technique used to create a work that keeps the viewer wanting more as the hero or heroine search and rescue some poor lost wandering soul (or sometimes an animal).

Let’s take a look at the defining characteristics of a Rescue Fiction Plot:

PLOT #4

RESCUE

Snow White

The Magnificent Seven

  1. The rescue plot relies more on action than on the development of any one character.
  2. The “character triangle” should consist of a hero, a villain, and a victim.
  3. The moral argument of the rescue plot is usually black and white.
  4. The focus should be on the main character’s (hero’s) pursuit of the villain.
  5. The hero usually must contend with the villain on the villain’s turf.
  6. If there’s a heroine, she should be defined by her relationship to the villain.
  7. The villain should deprive the hero of what each believes is rightfully his/hers.
  8. The villain continually interferes with the hero’s progress.
  9. The victim is generally the weakest of the three characters and serves mainly to force the hero to confront the villain.
  10. There are three dramatic phases: separation, pursuit, and confrontation and reunion.

All information compliments of:

Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

(I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing good fiction in any subgenre!)

I hope as you outline your fiction plots, you can better define which plot you’re developing and better understand how to incorporate many of these characteristics to improve your writing 100%.

Next time, we’ll have a look at PLOT #5: ESCAPE

Happy writing!

**********************************************************

Want to learn the truth about what the Amish believe?

Check out my LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY SERIES

 

 

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Nov. 9, 2015

Fiction That Wows Your Reader (Part 5)

Writing Outside the Box

stock-photo-happy-child-playing-in-cardboard-box-kid-having-fun-at-home-303306602

First, let’s define the term “outside the box.” What in heaven’s name does that mean? “Write outside the box.”

Well, in plain language, it means to write a plot and develop characters that don’t have a normal humdrum boring story line or everyday blah life.

As a short exercise in my presentation, I always cite some average boring story lines and ask my class to change the plot so that it’s outside the box. One example I cite is the following:

“A little girl finds a nest of baby bunnies in her back yard.”

Now, of course, everyone is immediately drawn to the “outside the box” famous children’s story, Alice in Wonderland, where Alice finds a whole new world, not a nest of baby bunnies.

Several years ago, I presented this workshop to a group of writers and asked how to change the story line. One fellow in the back of the room raised his hand and said, “How about if a big rabbit finds a nest of little girls in his back yard?”

I said to him, “Sir, you are DEFINITELY thinking outside the box. Go for it.”

Just for the fun of it, I’m going to list about 10 different story lines. Analyze each one. If you can change the plot to move it outside the box, do so. But some of the story lines are already outside the box and are, in fact, famous stories or books written by best-selling published authors. See if you can identify those that are already great plots.

So, which of these would you like to continue to read?

  1. A little girl saves enough money to buy a horse at auction.
  2. A bitter sea captain of a sailing ship hunts for a white sperm whale to kill him.
  3. A newly married couple tours Paris, France, and enjoys all the sites.
  4. A boy is shipwrecked on an island with only a wild stallion that won’t let him get near him.
  5. A middle-aged woman works at Wal-Mart, saving enough money to take a trip to Hawaii.
  6. A young pioneer woman is left alone on the prairie in her covered wagon when her husband falls from his horse and is killed.
  7. The neighbor’s cat has a litter of six kittens underneath a little boy’s porch.
  8. A collie dog, sold and taken away from the boy he loves, travels a long distance through life-threatening dangers to return to his boy.
  9. A young unmarried girl decides to marry her childhood sweetheart.
  10. An unmarried woman on a plantation in a southern state faces the harsh reality of post Civil War life and the loss of all she held dear.

Well, how did you do? Did you analyze the boring plots and the character development and decide what you could do to make them better? (Numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9)

And did you identify the best-selling books/movies in numbers 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10?

MOBY DICK

THE BLACK STALLION

LOVE COMES SOFTLY

LASSIE, COME HOME

GONE WITH THE WIND

When you analyze what makes these million-dollar story lines what they are, you’ll be on your way to writing, possibly, the next great American novel. And all the while you’re writing, keep on reading. Read tons of books, especially in the subgenre in which you are writing, and learn how the masters did it. Maybe someday, your name will be on a best-seller list with the rest of them!

Marsha (Web) www.marshahubler.com

(Writers Tips) www.marshahubler.wordpress.com

Montrose Christian Writers Conference http://www.montrosebible.org/OurEvents/tabid/113/page_550/1/eventid_550/58/Default.aspx

(Horse Facts Blog) www.horsefactsbymarshahubler.wordpress.com

******

(More Shameless Promotion)

Book2.On.Victory.Trail.Cover

ON THE VICYTORY TRAIL

 (Book 2 in the Keystone Stables Series)

Skye faces the challenge of her life when her best friend, Sooze, develops a brain tumor.

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November 10, 2014

Twelve Common Mistakes Found in Fiction Manuscripts

Mistake Number Seven: Weak Transitions between Paragraphs

 

This is the seventh blog discussing some common mistakes found in fiction manuscripts from early readers and chapter books to adult novels of all kinds of subgenres. Several weeks ago, we started this list and will continue until we’ve done all of what I believe are the most important common mistakes. Today we’ll look at “Weak Transitions between Paragraphs.”

Too much description and narration

Switching viewpoints in the same scene

A negative tone throughout the story

Infallible or underdeveloped characters

Stilted or unnatural dialogue

No significant conflict

Weak transitions between paragraphs

Impossible resolutions

Redundancy

Passive verbs instead of active verbs

Lack of sensory detail

Lack of emotion or action

If you’ve attended any writers’ conferences for any length of time, then you’ve probably heard this statement more than you care to recall: “Your manuscript must FLOW.” Okay, your manuscript must “flow.” Does that mean you have sad scenes that make your readers cry? Or happy scenes that make your readers laugh hysterically until the tears stream down their faces?

Really, making a manuscript “flow” has nothing to do with the actual storyline. Rather, it has to do with the author’s clever use of words and sentences, resulting in strong transitions between paragraphs and moving the scene forward. So what happens when a smooth transition is not feasible?  Then it’s time for a scene break or a new chapter.

As is my method to discuss fiction weaknesses, let’s look at some examples. We’ll analyze a few weak transitions and see how they can become strong transitions. (In case you haven’t noticed, I like to “show” not “tell.”)

Example One

Weak Transition

Homer read the hand-written note taped to the lid. “You always seemed to know what was important. That’s why I’m counting on you to take care of this for me.” And it was signed, “Jake.”

His mouth went dry and his ears grew hot when he lifted the cover. “Oh, God,” he prayed, closing his eyes. “Don’t let it be…let it be anything but—”

Well, his intentions had been good. Every year, like clockwork, he’d typed reminders into his daily planner: “Call Jake” on a January page. “Drop note to Jake” in June. “Jake’s b-day” every August, and “Send Jake’s Christmas card” in December.

Strong Transition

Homer read the hand-written note taped to the lid. “You always seemed to know what was important. That’s why I’m counting on you to take care of this for me.” And it was signed, “Jake.”

His mouth went dry and his ears grew hot when he lifted the cover. “Oh, God,” he prayed, closing his eyes. “Don’t let it be…let it be anything but—”

When he opened his eyes, Homer saw a golden wing tip, partially hidden beneath a layer of wrinkled white tissue. Hands trembling and heart knocking, Homer admitted what it meant:

Jake was dead. He never would have parted with the angel for any other reason.

(From “A Promise to Jake,” a short story by Loree Lough in MARSHA HUBLER’S HEART-WARMING CHRISTMAS STORIES, © 2014 Helping Hands Press, p. 19)

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Have you spotted what makes the first part of this sample a weak transition? The problem is between paragraph two and three.  Homer closes his eyes and prays. In the next paragraph , Homer’s intentions are discussed without addressing Homer’s closed eyes! Did he finish the scene with his eyes closed? Review again how Loree Lough handled the transition from the second to third paragraph. She opened Homer’s eyes and then continued with the scene.

Example Two

Weak Transition

Skye’s attention shifted to the barn and riding corral straight ahead. “I just can’t believe that serving the Lord could ever be like this. I mean, like, Morgan and me together in the same bunkhouse! And on top of that, Champ and Blaze could come too.” She glanced at the trailer hooked to the back of their truck.

“Did I hear my name?” a man’s voice called from inside the barn. A large door slid open, and a giant of a man walked out with a belly that looked like he had swallowed a watermelon—whole.

Strong Transition

Skye’s attention shifted to the barn and riding corral straight ahead. “I just can’t believe that serving the Lord could ever be like this. I mean, like, Morgan and me together in the same bunkhouse! And on top of that, Champ and Blaze could come too.” She glanced at the trailer hooked to the back of their truck.

Neigh-h-h! At the mention of his name, the sorrel Quarter Horse whinnied and pawed the trailer floor. Blaze nickered.

(From SUMMER CAMP ADVENTURE by Marsha Hubler, © 2009 Zondervan, p. 10)

********************************************

What’s the obvious weak transition here between the paragraphs? When you read that first paragraph, it leads you to expect something to be said about the horses in the next paragraph. But in this weak transition, a man speaks, which at first, might make the reader think one of the horses is talking! In the actual strong transition example, the expected result of the good lead in the first paragraph is another paragraph about the horses in the trailer.

Example Three

Weak Transition

That evening, Nellie insisted that everyone sit down to have Christmas Eve supper together as Douglas seemed much better and had fallen asleep. Margaret placed a centerpiece of fresh greens on the table she and Nana had arranged, along with gold napkins folded into stars. George thanked God for the food and prayed for Douglas’s healing.

Nellie gave each of them a candle and turned out the lights while they sang “Silent Night.” Just as they finished, a bell tinkled from Douglas’s bedroom.

Strong Transition

That evening, Nellie insisted that everyone sit down to have Christmas Eve supper together as Douglas seemed much better and had fallen asleep. Margaret placed a centerpiece of fresh greens on the table she and Nana had arranged, along with gold napkins folded into stars. George thanked God for the food and prayed for Douglas’s healing.

After supper, Nellie gave each of them a candle and turned out the lights while they sang “Silent Night.” Just as they finished, a bell tinkled from Douglas’s bedroom.

 

(From “Hobby Horse Faith,” a short story by Patricia Souder in MARSHA HUBLER’S HEART-WARMING CHRISTMAS STORIES, © 2014 Helping Hands Press, p. 121)

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The difference between the weak and strong transitions in these two samples is as obvious as the nose on your face. In the first example, the very important transitional words “After supper” are not included. Thus, as you read that passage, it appears to the reader that Nellie gave everyone a candle, they turned out the lights, and they sang “Silent Night” at the supper table.

In the strong transition example, you can easily see how important those two little words “After supper” are to the flow of the story and the overall flow and tone of a good short story.

So, there you have three examples of weak and strong transitions. Take a look at your manuscript, especially the transitions between paragraphs. If your writing leaves the reader wondering what in the world is going on, then it’s time to rethink your “flow” and do some revising. The dots have to connect, even in a good piece of fiction.

Next time, we’ll look at Mistake Number Eight: Impossible Resolutions.

Happy writing!

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May 5, 2014

Today’s Writers’ Tip

WRITING FICTION PLOTS

Plot Numbers 19 & 20:

ASCENSION AND DESCENSION

The Godfather

The Elephant Man

Elmer Gantry

Citizen Cane

We’ve combined the last two fiction plots because they are very similar in their plot structure if you simply consider that one counteracts the other. Let’s look at the characteristics of building one of these super plots.

1. The focus of your story should be about one main protagonist.

2. That character should be strong-willed, charismatic, and seemingly unique. All other characters should revolve around this one.

3. At the heart of the story should be a moral dilemma. The dilemma tests the character of the main protagonist/ antagonist and is the foundation for the catalyst of change in his/her character.

4. Character and event are closely related to each other. Anything that happens should happen because of the main character. He/she is the force that affects events, not the reverse. (We are more interested in how the main character acts upon the world than how the world acts upon him/her.)

5. Show the main character as he/she was before the major change that altered his/her life so there’s a basis of comparison.

6. Show the character progressing through successive changes as a result of events. If it’s a story about a character who overcomes horrible circumstances, show the nature of that character while he/she still suffers under those circumstances. Then show how events change his/her nature during the course of the story.

7. Don’t “jump” from one character state to another; that is, show how the character moves from one state to another by giving us his/her motivation and intent.

8. If the plot is about the fall of a character, make certain the reasons for the fall are a result of character and not gratuitous circumstances. The reason for a rise may be gratuitous, i.e the character wins $ 5 million in the lottery, but it won’t be the reason for his/her fall.

9. The reasons for a character’s ability to overcome adversity should also be the result of his/her character, not some contrivance.

10. Try to avoid a straight dramatic rise or fall. Vary the circumstances in the character’s life: Create rises and falls along the way. Don’t just put your character on a rocket to the top and then crash. Vary intensity of the events. It may seem for a moment that your character has conquered his/her flaw, when in fact, it doesn’t last long. And vice versa.

11. After several setbacks, the character finally breaks through (as a result of his/her tenacity, courage, belief, etc.).

12. Always focus on your main character. Relate all events and characters to that main character. Show the character before, during, and after the change.

So, there you have a detailed list of how to develop a complicated plot of ascension or descension. Read books in this subgenre and study how the authors developed each point to make an exciting, nail-biting story.

Next time we’re going to review how to develop a good story arc.

All information about plots compliments of:

Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

20.Master.Plots.Cover.Ronald.B.Tobias

http://www.amazon.com/20-Master-Plots-Build-Them-ebook/dp/B006RAIXXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390841564&sr=1-1&keywords=20+Master+Plots

(I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing good fiction in any subgenre!)

Happy writing!

Marsha

 

Please check my latest publication on Amazon:

RHONDA FINDS TRUE LOVE

Volume 5

The Snyder County Quilting Bee Series II

 

Rhonda.Finds.True.Love.Cover  http://www.amazon.com/Snyder-County-Quilting-Bee-II-ebook/dp/B00K3EQHWS/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1399306867&sr=1-1&keywords=Rhonda+Finds+True+Love

Louellen Friesen’s neice Rhonda Bidleman and Rodney Hornberger are set to be engaged. But when Rodney’s old flame, Sharon Hoffnagle from Wisconsin, shows up in Mapletown claiming her two-year-old child is Rodney’s, Rodney has a terribly hard decision to make, one that will leave someone heart-broken.

What does Rodney do? Does he follow the Mennonite church’s edicts to marry Sharon or pursue his own heart’s desire?

 

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April 21, 2014

Today’s Writers’ Tip

WRITING FICTION PLOTS

Plot Number 18:

WRETCHED EXCESS

Mildred Pierce

The Lost Weekend

Adam, Eve, and the Serpent

 

I think you’ll probably agree with my assessment of this plot. If you’re down in the mouth at the time, don’t write this fiction plot, and don’t read a novel with this plot in full swing. You might walk away depressed or in need of a good shot of caffeine to get you through the rest of the day. However, although this fiction plot can be a tear-jerker, it also requires intense planning and storyboarding, working your way to a whopper of a climax and a big “crash” at the end. Let’s take a look at the characteristics of the Wretched Excess Fiction Plot:

1. Wretched excess is generally about the psychological decline of a character.

2. Base the decline of the character on a character flaw.

3. Present the decline of your character in three phases:

a. How he/she is before events start to change him/her

b. How he/she is as he/she successively deteriorates

c. What happens after events reach a crisis point, forcing him/her either to give in completely to the flaw (tragedy) or to recover from it.

4. Develop the main character so that his/her decline evokes sympathy.

5. Don’t present him/her as a raving lunatic.

6. Take particular care in the development of your character because the plot depends on the author’s ability to convince the audience that the character is both real and worthy of their feelings for him/her.

7. Avoid being melodramatic. Don’t try to force emotion beyond what the scene can carry.

8. Be straightforward with information that allows the reader to understand your main character. Don’t hide anything that will keep your reader from being empathetic.

9. Most writers want the audience to feel for the main character, so don’t make your character commit crimes out of proportion of our understanding of who and what he/she is. It’s hard to be sympathetic with a person who’s a rapist or a serial murderer.

10. At the crisis point of your story, move your character either toward complete destruction or redemption. Don’t leave him swinging in the wind, because your reader will definitely not be satisfied.

11. Action in the plot should always relate to the character. Things happen because your main character does (or does not) do certain things. The cause and effects of your plot should always relate either directly or indirectly to your main character.

12. Don’t lose your character in his madness. Nothing beats personal experience when it comes to this plot. If you don’t understand the nature of the excess yourself (having experienced it), be careful about having your character do things that aren’t realistic for the circumstances.

So, the bottom line for writing this fiction plot is to do your homework. Thoroughly understand the nature of the excess you want to write about, and go for it!

Next time we’ll look at the fiction plot number 19 & 20: ASCENSION & DESCENSION.

All information compliments of:

Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

http://www.amazon.com/20-Master-Plots-Build-Them-ebook/dp/B006RAIXXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390841564&sr=1-1&keywords=20+Master+Plots

(I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing good fiction in any subgenre!)

Happy writing!

Marsha

 

Please check my latest publication on Amazon:

No Furlough for Mandie

Volume 4

The Snyder County Quilting Bee Series II

 

No.Furlough.for.Mandie.Cover

Mandie and Tobias Schmidt, missionaries to Jakarta, Indonesia, have waited two years to come home to Snyder County for a six-month furlough. With their nine-month-old baby, Lydia, the couple plans to spend quality time with their families and travel to numerous states, presenting their ministry to Mennonite churches, whose congregations pray for the couple and sometimes offer financial support.

But Mandie and Tobias’s furlough is cancelled after only a few weeks because of a crisis back in Indonesia. What happens that forces the couple to consider returning to Indonesia immediately?

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April 7, 2014

Today’s Writers’ Tip

WRITING FICTION PLOTS

Plot Number 17: DISCOVERY

Death of a Traveling Salesman

Ghosts

Oedipus Rex

If you’re considering writing a “discovery plot,” take a good look at these characteristics, which are quite involved. A writer who does an excellent job with this type of plot will create a character-driven plot. The universe revolves around him or her. Let’s review how to write a good discovery plot:

  1. A discovery plot is more about the character making the discovery than the discovery itself.
  2. If the protagonist is searching for something, the focus of the story is not the search itself; it’s a search for understanding about human nature.
  3. Focus the story on who the character is, not on what the character does.
  4. Start the plot with the understanding of who the main character is before circumstances change and force the character into new situations.
  5. Don’t linger on your main character’s “former” life; integrate past with present and future.
  6. Place the character on the pinnacle of change. Start the action as late as possible, but also give the reader a strong impression of the main character’s personality as it was before the events started to change his/her character.
  7. Make sure the catalyst that forces the change (from a state of equilibrium to disequilibrium) is significant and interesting enough to hold the reader’s attention.
  8. Avoid being trivial. Don’t dwell on insignificant detail.
  9. Move the protagonist into the crisis (the clash between the present and the past) as quickly as possible, but maintain the tension of past and present as a fundamental part of the story’s tension.

I’ve never written a discovery plot, and in my opinion, it seems like one of the most difficult to master. But now that you have your ammunition, go for it!

Next time we’ll look at the fiction plot number 18: WRETCHED EXCESS.

All information compliments of:

Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

http://www.amazon.com/20-Master-Plots-Build-Them-ebook/dp/B006RAIXXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390841564&sr=1-1&keywords=20+Master+Plots

(I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing good fiction in any subgenre!)

Have a great day writing!

Marsha

Please check my latest publication on Amazon:

No Furlough for Mandie

Volume 4

The Snyder County Quilting Bee Series II

No.Furlough.For.Mandie.Cover 

Mandie and Tobias Schmidt, missionaries to Jakarta, Indonesia, have waited two years to come home to Snyder County for a six-month furlough. With their nine-month-old baby, Lydia, the couple plans to spend quality time with their families and travel to numerous states, presenting their ministry to Mennonite churches, whose congregations pray for the couple and sometimes offer financial support.

But Mandie and Tobias’s furlough is cancelled after only a few weeks because of a crisis back in Indonesia. What happens that forces the couple to consider returning to Indonesia immediately?

Read Full Post »

March 17, 2014

Today’s Writers’ Tip

WRITING FICTION PLOTS

Plot Number 16: SACRIFICE

Abraham and Isaac

High Noon

Casablanca 

Have you been aching to write a real tear-jerker? Do you want to create a main protagonist, who is willing to sacrifice not only fame and fortune but even his own life for someone or something else? Well, then you want to write a Sacrifice Fiction Plot. Let’s take a look at the characteristics that make an excellent fiction plot with sacrifice as its theme:

1. The sacrifice comes at great personal cost.  The main protagonist plays for high stakes, either physical or mental.

2. Your protagonist should undergo a major transformation during the course of the story, moving from a lower moral state to a higher one.

3. Main events should force the protagonist’s decision.

4. Lay an adequate foundation of character so the reader understands the character’s progress on the path to making his/her sacrifice.

5. All events should be a reflection of your main character. They test and develop the character into a better person, animal, or entity.

6. What motivates that protagonist to go on? Make clear his/her motivation so the reader understands why he would make that kind of sacrifice.

7. Show the line of action through the line of your character’s thoughts. (P.O.V.)

8. Develop a strong moral dilemma at the center of your story, and have the protagonist in a position where he/she must choose.

Are you ready to start typing on that blank page you’ve been avoiding? Now you have some ammunition to create a best-selling novel with sacrifice as the theme.

Next time we’ll look at the fiction plot number 17: DISCOVERY.

All information compliments of:

Tobias, Ronald B (2011-12-15). 20 Master Plots (p. 189). F+W Media, Inc. Kindle Edition.

http://www.amazon.com/20-Master-Plots-Build-Them-ebook/dp/B006RAIXXI/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1390841564&sr=1-1&keywords=20+Master+Plots

(I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in writing good fiction in any subgenre!)

Happy writing!

Marsha

P.S. Interested in a heart-warming Amish love story? Please check out one of my creations:

LOVE SONG FOR LOUELLEN

Why were Louellen and Eli Friesen shunned by their Amish Ordnung?

LoveSong.KindleFire

 

VOLUME 3 IN THE LOVES OF SNYDER COUNTY

http://www.amazon.com/Loves-Snyder-County-Love-Louellen/dp/1622083024/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391533076&sr=1-1&keywords=Love+Song+for+Louellen+by+Marsha+Hubler

Twenty-five-year-old Amish Louellen Friesen finds herself falling in love with forty-year-old Englishman Dr. David McAndrew, a widower with two children, for whom she cleans house regularly in Mapletown, Snyder County, Pennsylvania. There’s only one problem. Louellen is already married. Well past the “marrying age” at twenty-two, Louellen Bidleman had wed Amish man Eli Friesen three years prior, mostly because of pressure from her family. Eli, also in his mid-twenties and in danger of being “passed over,” had married Louellen for one main reason, to have sons. Louellen has some love for Eli, but because of her church vows, sets out to be the best wife and mother she can be, especially when God blesses them with little ones. However, after three years, there are no children. Louellen is devastated, and Eli becomes bitter, feeling trapped in a marriage that has produced no offspring even though he knows that he has the medical problem, not his wife. Although he treats Louellen civil in public, at home he ignores her needs, and their wedded life is nothing but a disappointment to both. What should Louellen do? Turn her back on her husband and her Amish Ordnung? Should she leave, become “English,” and marry Dr. McAndrew, a man who has promised her the moon?

 

 

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