Molly McBride and the Christmas Pageant: A Book Review

As the Christmas season begins, Molly, Dominic, and Molly’s pet stuffed wolf Francis are looking forward to all the fun that only the holidays can bring. One of the things that Molly is looking forward to is performing in the Christmas pageant. At first, Molly thinks that she’s going to be cast as Mary.

When Molly’s teacher, Mrs. Rose, announces the cast, Molly is devastated to learn that she got cast as a sheep and that one of Molly’s classmates got cast as Mary instead. When rehearsals start, Molly pitches a fit about her casting.

If this was a grown-up theater production, Molly would’ve been kicked out of performing altogether for her attitude. However, Mrs. Rose tells our little “diva” about Mary’s life as well as her reasons for casting Molly’s classmate in the leading role. Once Molly understands, she goes into a nice Hamilton pose, filled with determination to do her best in her role.

In theater, there is a saying: There are no small roles, only small people. Mrs. Egolf has told me that this story was partially inspired by her oldest child, who is currently doing theater. Mrs. Egolf also did stage managing in the past, although she never acted.

I really liked this story because of how relatable the whole situation was. I think everyone who has ever participated in a play always wished they were the lead. But most plays can’t be carried by just one person. As someone who has been in a few plays, I understood what Molly was feeling. I was never in the leading role of any play or musical, but I always enjoyed the time I had on the stage.

In the theater, the virtue of obedience takes precedent. Even if one isn’t a Christian, there are still rules everyone has to follow: Listen to the stage manager and the director, be nice to your fellow actors and the tech crew, and leave your attitude at the door or at least channel your feelings into your acting.

I recommend this book as one families should read around the Advent/Christmas time. I’m very certain that many Catholic schools are going to have their own Nativity play or a Christmas pageant of some sort. This story will remind kids to be humble and understanding.

Happy holidays!

The Play’s The Thing: How to Let Characters Drive the Story

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts.

-William Shakespeare

I have heard a lot of conflicting writing advice in my years. But one big conflict that I’m still having trouble getting over is the issue of plot versus character. In the past, I was very character-driven. However, in trying to fix myself, I have now leaned way too hard on plot and keep getting feedback about my characters feeling more like chess pieces.

So how the heck do you resolve this issue? When a character takes over the story, the plot basically becomes like a black hole, revolving all around them and dragging everything else along with it. When the plot is driving the story, the characters feel boring.

As William Shakespeare said in Hamlet, “The play’s the thing.”

I used to do theater in high school and college. Even though I don’t have a lot of theater experience, I still learned a lot from memorizing monologues and acting out scenes in class. When you’re acting you (quoting Lizzie Bennet Diaries here) “open yourself up to inhabiting another person or letting another person inhabit you.” Actors put a lot of thought into embodying the character they play, no matter how small the role may be.

Emotion is really the driving force behind a good story. The reason why a majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have worked is because there are always emotional stakes behind all the action scenes. We care for the characters. The same applies to My Hero Academia. It’s a series with a perfect balance of plot/action and character-driven moments and you slowly start to see the characters develop in between all the fights or even as the action is happening.

Basically, creating a novel is basically like putting on a one-man show where you play all the characters at once. No matter how crazy it may seem, every character you create is a part of you. Some characters will feel more like you than others, but every character comes from something inside you, even if it’s the worst part of you.

What does that all mean when it comes to plotting a story?

Plot is created by decisions the characters make and the consequences that result from those actions. You might have the characters react to things at first, but there needs to be a point where the characters take initiative.

How the heck can we figure out how to make sure our characters drive the story without getting lost?

Aside from taking an acting class, I recommend looking into musicals and studying Shakespeare plays. The most memorable musicals have character-driven moments that still move the plot along. I think of musicals like Hamilton, WickedThe Great Comet of 1812, and even the Heathers musical. Check out this essay as to why:

 

I hope that you take some time to get in touch with your inner actor.