3 Lessons You Can Only Learn from Your Grandmother

Creative inspiration can come from anywhere, and some of the best comes from the people you love most: your family. Every family member has their own unique qualities and abilities to contribute to your stories, but one in particular stands out for how much unconditional love and care she showers on you: your grandmother! Grandmas have plenty of love to give their grandchildren, so they can serve as great inspiration for grandparent characters in your stories!

So to honor someone special in my life, today’s post features three lessons you can only learn from your grandmother. Enjoy!

1) Grandchildren are meant to be spoiled.

If there’s one thing grandparents are experts at, it’s spoiling their grandkids. Every family visit to my grandmother’s house includes platefuls of delicious homemade food and lots of fussing over us, mostly about how we’re “not eating enough”. She also makes a point of complimenting her granddaughters and telling us how much she adores us, and we can’t help but smile and tell her how much we love her too!

So if you’re writing a grandmother character, be sure to make her as doting as possible of her grandchildren. Have her share her best cooking with them, fuss over them without end, and constantly let them know how much she loves them and that they’re the greatest joys in her life. Grandmothers love spoiling their grandchildren, but that’s fine because we love being spoiled!

2) Nobody cooks like Grandma!

Going back to those “platefuls of food”, one thing I love about visiting my grandma is getting to enjoy the delicious snacks she makes! They’re something we always look forward to when we visit, since we get to enjoy them almost exclusively at family gatherings for special occasions. Her cooking is always a treat, so I’m glad her gift has passed on to my mother (and hopefully someday to me)!

When writing fictional characters who are grandmothers, it’s common to give them the skills to cook and bake delicious treats, especially for their grandchildren! Remember, nobody cooks quite like Grandma does, so for Heaven’s sake, learn those family recipes! You’ll definitely miss them otherwise.

3) No matter how old you get, your grandmother will always see a child in you.

Grandma Loves You, by Helen Foster James

Every time my family and I see my grandma, some story from when I was little inevitably comes up. My grandmother loves reminiscing about when her grandchildren were small enough to be picked up and were doing something adorable every minute, and I can’t really blame her. I too love to remember the good old days of childhood; in fact, my inner child is one of the main reasons I’m a writer today!

If one of the important characters in your story is a grandmother, a good touch is to give her excellent storytelling abilities, as much of her youth as of more recent times when her grandchildren were little. Grandmothers enjoy telling stories of the people they love most, so grandchildren will naturally be a favorite subject for them! And if nothing else, telling your own story inspired by your grandmother may be the best way to show her how much you love her too!

What lessons have you learned from your grandmother? What other lessons would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my grandmother, whose love has always been a wonderful inspiration. Happy Birthday, Grandma! I love you!

My 5 Favorite Fictional Fathers

Father’s Day is coming soon, so what else could I write about this week on my creative writing blog but the awesome dads in fiction? Fathers are among the most important family figures we know, and fathers in fiction can be just as influential to the other characters in their stories. There are plenty of well-known dads in literature, film, and television, but I finally managed to narrow this list down to a few of my favorites. They aren’t always perfect, but these lovable dads are still awesome parents!

So to celebrate this coming holiday, here’s a list of my five favorite fathers in fiction. Enjoy, and Happy Father’s Day!

1) Mufasa (The Lion King)

Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life. – Mufasa’s spirit to Simba

For those of us who grew up in the ’90s, the death of Mufasa in The Lion King was a defining moment in our childhoods. It was heartbreaking and tearjerking, not just because it was one of our first hard lessons about the tragedy and permanence of death, but because we witnessed a child lose his greatest mentor, role model, and friend.

Through his brief time on screen, Mufasa imparts much of his wisdom to Simba (and the audience), teaching valuable lessons about the circle of life, the responsibilities that come with power, and the difference between courage and recklessness. Even in spirit, this wise and powerful king guides his son through the most difficult time in his life and encourages him to become the leader he was born to be. This great lion may not have lived through his movie, but to all us lifelong Lion King fans, his lessons have stayed with us since childhood and contributed to our understanding of the world as adults. It’s no wonder Mufasa is everyone’s favorite Disney dad!

2) King Fergus of DunBroch (Brave)

Princess or not, learning to fight is essential. – Fergus disagreeing with Elinor on Merida’s use of weapons

If I see myself in Princess Merida and my mother in Queen Elinor, I definitely see my father in King Fergus. The Bear King of DunBroch in Pixar’s Brave, Fergus is essentially the opposite of his wife: loud, easygoing, and hot-tempered. This polarity explains why Merida clashes so often with her mother while getting along so well with her father, as the king passed much of his personality on to his daughter. His views on the princess’s future are even more progressive than the queen’s; while it takes Elinor the length of the film to let go of tradition, Fergus believes from the beginning that Merida should be free to live her own life and make her own choices (even if he’s too anxious for household peace to bring it up).

Fergus has a great sense of humor and loves a good brawl, and while he doesn’t handle every situation ideally, his training and other contributions to Merida’s upbringing prove invaluable throughout the film, as the courage and fighting skills she inherited from him help her save her mother and lift the curse from her kingdom. Clearly, Merida is a strong and fierce young woman thanks to her equally strong and fierce father!

3) Mr. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice)

An unhappy alternative is before you, Elizabeth. From this day you must be a stranger to one of your parents. Your mother will never see you again if you do not marry Mr. Collins, and I will never see you again if you do. – Mr. Bennet after Mrs. Bennet tries to force Elizabeth to marry Mr. Collins

While he may not be winning any Father of the Year awards given that he totally neglected to leave his five daughters a proper inheritance, Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice is still a pretty cool dad where it counts. He’s witty and sarcastic, which explains much of Elizabeth’s intelligence (she definitely didn’t get it from her mother!), and he has a delightfully cynical sense of humor, to the point where he delivers some of the funniest lines in the book.

Unlike his wife, whose sole obsession in life is to marry her children off to wealthy gentlemen, Mr. Bennet is in no rush to see his girls get hitched, especially to people with whom they would clearly never be happy. After Jane, he’s the only other person Elizabeth can confide in for most of the novel, and if not the greatest role model for happiness, he at least has the sense to recognize his faults and warn the daughters who will listen not to make the same mistakes he did. Mr. Bennet isn’t nearly the greatest father in literature, but his cleverness and close relationship with Elizabeth make him awesome nonetheless!

4) Arthur Weasley (The Harry Potter series)

Yeah, Dad’s crazy about everything to do with Muggles; our shed’s full of Muggle stuff. He takes it apart, puts spells on it, and puts it back together again. If he raided our house he’d have to put himself under arrest. – Fred Weasley to Harry

There are dorky dads, and then there’s Arthur Weasley. The patriarch of the Weasley family in the Harry Potter series, Arthur works in the Misuse of Muggle Artifacts Office in the Ministry of Magic, but he’s so enthralled by Muggle objects that he spends much of his time breaking the very laws he’s supposed to uphold by studying and enchanting said objects (the most notable example being the flying car Harry and Ron use to get to Hogwarts in The Chamber of Secrets).

Aside from being eccentric, Mr. Weasley is a kind and laid-back wizard, a good father to seven children, and a strong advocate for Muggle protection. And while Harry does have a pretty cool godfather in Sirius Black, given all the time he spends with Ron’s family and all the hospitality they show him, Arthur is arguably the closest thing Harry has to a father figure throughout most of the series. He may be one of the dorkiest dads we knew growing up, but we Potter fans can’t help but love Arthur Weasley for his odd magical parenting skills and his heart of gold!

5) Marlin (Finding Nemo)

There, there, there. It’s okay, Daddy’s here. Daddy’s got you. I promise I will never let anything happen to you… Nemo. – Marlin to his only surviving egg

Yes, Toy Story is a classic and I do write a lot about Brave, but if you ask me what my favorite Pixar movie is, I’ll definitely say Finding Nemo. Maybe I’m biased as a marine biologist, but as visually stunning as this film is, I find it especially appealing for Marlin and Nemo’s story and its depiction of the lengths a parent will go to for the love of a child. Sure, Marlin is far from the perfect father; he’s neurotic and overprotective, and at one point even tells Nemo he can’t do anything by himself. But can you really blame the guy for being so afraid of the ocean after losing almost his entire family to it?

Despite his flaws, this lovable clownfish turns out to be a great father where it counts; when Nemo is taken by divers, Marlin instantly overcomes his crippling terror of the “Big Blue”, facing fear after fear as he crosses the ocean to bring his kidnapped son home. The best part is that his adventure, Dory’s optimism, and Nemo’s bravery all help shape him into a much more relaxed and encouraging parent by the end of the movie, which really takes the strain out of his relationship with his son. As far as Disney dads go, Marlin is certainly one of the most devoted of the bunch!

Who are your favorite fictional fathers? What other fathers in fiction would you add to this list?

Dedicated to my dad and all the other amazing fathers out there! Thank you for all your love, wisdom, and support! Happy Father’s Day!

What If? Writing Prompts: Nature VI

World Environment Day was on Monday, so here’s a new set of “What If?” Writing Prompts to acknowledge the date! This week’s batch features another collection of prompts about nature and environmentalism. See what stories you can create based on these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own! Have fun!

What if… every person in the world became a vegetarian?

What if… all non-renewable sources of energy on Earth suddenly disappeared?

What if… deforestation of the rainforests could be completely stopped?

What if… every nation in the world contributed to the effort to clean the oceans?

What if… humanity could halt global warming in time to reverse climate change?

Good luck spinning more stories about the environment!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

What If? Writing Prompts: History V

After researching Memorial Day for my last two posts, I was inspired to write another set of “What If?” Writing Prompts. In keeping with the themes of war and the past, today’s batch features prompts in the history genre. See what historical tales you can create from these ideas, and feel free to add more of your own! Enjoy!

What if… none of the major conflicts of history had been resolved with war?

What if… the territories of the British Empire had been conquered by another nation instead?

What if… the American Civil War had never happened?

What if… the atomic bombs had never been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki?

What if… the American Civil Rights Movement of the ’50s and ’60s had failed?

Good luck writing some more historical tales!

If you have any “What If?” writing prompt suggestions (for any theme), please feel free to share them in the comments below. Ideas I like may be featured in future “What If?” posts, with full credit and a link to your blog (if you have one)! Also, if you’ve written a piece based on an idea you’ve found here, be sure to link back to the respective “What If?” post. I would love to see what you’ve done with the prompt! Thank you!

Off The Bookshelf: Sense and Sensibility

Back in January, I finally returned to my Off The Bookshelf segment with a review of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. So today, I’d like to continue my reviews by writing about the other Austen novel I read last year. Since I’ve definitely been enjoying reading her literature, there was really only one novel could I review next: Sense and Sensibility!

Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen

Summary

Sense and Sensibility was Austen’s debut novel, first published in London in 1811. The story follows sisters Elinor and Marianne Dashwood as they adjust to their new life with their widowed mother and younger sister, who have all been left impoverished after Mr. Dashwood’s death. Over the course of the narrative, the sisters experience love, romance, and heartbreak, and eventually come to realize that they must learn to master the delicate balance between sense and sensibility in order to achieve happiness.

Review

Though I wouldn’t say I liked it as much as Pride and Prejudice, I enjoyed Sense and Sensibility for Austen’s realistic take on romance and manners, seasoned with all her classic humor and wit. Much like in the author’s more popular novel, the main characters of this story are faced with the challenge of finding love in a world where their low income and social status put them at a severe disadvantage. What really sets this novel apart from its successor, however, is the comparison it draws between the tempers of Elinor and Marianne, who each occupy one extreme of the romance-realism spectrum.

Movie poster for Sense and Sensibility (1995)

As the title suggests, the most prominent theme in Sense and Sensibility is the contrast between good sense and overt sensitivity (known as sensibility back then). As the eldest Dashwood sister, Elinor has the best judgment in her family and is highly skilled at exercising good sense and composure. Her younger sister Marianne, on the other hand, has no control over her emotions and no desire to keep her overly sensitive demeanor in check, favoring romantic idealism over etiquette. This contrast between their personalities makes for several interesting situations throughout the story, but in the end both sisters learn the same valuable lesson: too much sense or sensibility only leads to unhappiness. Only after Elinor learns to open her heart to sensibility and Marianne learns to temper her spontaneity with sense do they both achieve their happy endings.

Another major theme in the book is the role of money and social standing in romance. Though her novels all have happy endings, Jane Austen was never one to tell an idealistic love story; in her view, even the truest love isn’t immune to the real-world obstacle of low income. In the most notable example, Marianne and Willoughby seem like a perfect match: they’re both romantic and outspoken about their opinions on art and love, and spend so much time together that everyone assumes they’re engaged before they even say a word. Unfortunately, being one of the author’s well-known “hero caricatures”, the charming Willoughby couldn’t be anything less than a scoundrel, and sure enough, his expensive tastes coupled with Marianne’s poverty lead him to jilt her for a wealthy young lady he doesn’t love. Funnily enough, the same obstacle of wealth turns out to be a saving grace for Edward Ferrars, who for most of the story finds himself honor-bound to a loveless engagement only to be saved at the end from said commitment by his disinheritance from his mother, leaving him free to give his heart to Elinor after his conniving fiancé abandons him. From beginning to end, wherever there are love and romance, the shadow of money looms in the background.

Overall, Sense and Sensibility is an enjoyable read that shows less-than-idealistic romance in a humorous light, as well as an interesting dynamic of character development between two polar opposite sisters. Just as Marianne learns from Elinor that excessive emotion can destroy one’s life, Elinor learns from Marianne that excessive repression of emotion leads to intense suffering and risk of abandonment. Still, in true Austen fashion, both sisters achieve their happy endings by the story’s conclusion, finding comfortable lives with gentlemen who can provide them with all the security and emotional fulfillment they desire. In this way, from her very first novel, the author reveals that despite all the realistic obstacles in its way, romance can still thrive in a world plagued with social barriers, a hope not yet forgotten in the modern age.

Inspiration

Much like Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility offers a glimpse into the romantic and realistic elements of past life that have survived into the present. The novel also teaches a valuable lesson on the importance of both practicing good sense and being willingly sensitive, albeit a somewhat imbalanced one that favors sense. We shouldn’t give our emotions total control over our happiness, but we also shouldn’t be afraid to feel vulnerable in the pursuit of love. There are plenty of opportunities in life to be both sensible and sensitive; it’s all a matter of exercising the right judgment.

Though her novels often highlight the limitations placed on women in the society of her day, Jane Austen clearly had a way of demonstrating the strength that women have always had to succeed within their means. Because of that, I know I can always turn to one of her novels for inspiration on writing heroines with real personalities, issues, and aspirations. Whether you seek inspiration for historical fiction, realistic characters, or contrasting themes in human behavior, Sense and Sensibility is an excellent novel that warrants a place beside Pride and Prejudice on any Austen fan’s bookshelf.

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