More crazy ideas from yours truly

I’m sorta infamous among my friends for having lots of whacked-out, creative-but-slightly-off-kilter, usually (but not always) impractical ideas. Here’s my latest:

Rabbi Aryeh Leib Nivin–a motivational speaker/life coach/teacher/rabbi–speaks of everyone having a yeod, a unique life mission with which they are supposed to serve G-d (and people), and a tikkun, a soul correction they have to make in order to maximize their potential (by fulfilling their yeod). Also, a person has short-term lessons that must be learned as stepping stones to reach their yeod and tikkun. This self-development paradigm is very useful for those of us who want to build ourselves (especially now that we’re in Elul, the introspective month that leads up to Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur).

“That wacky Mrs. Klempner has some weird idea again!”

As I mentioned in a post last week, I’m going to be rewriting (yes, again!) the novel I wrote last year. One of the areas I want to focus on is character, really fleshing each one out better and more coherently. Many expert authors suggest strategies about developing character such as:

1) Learn about Myers-Briggs personality types and assign one to each of your characters.

2) Consider what each character most wants, most fears, their biggest secret, and what they have to learn.

3) Use drawing, cut-and-paste, or the like to assign an appearance for your character. Brainstorm their likes, dislikes, etc. Paste such items on your character chart.

4) Pretend to interview your character for a magazine.

All these strategies make sense, but they didn’t appeal so much to me. Then I thought, “Hey! Why don’t I apply Rav Nivin’s rules to fictional characters?” Assign a tafkid, a yeod, to each one, and a tikkun, as well?

So that’s what I think I’m going to be doing. Maybe not exclusively, but I think it will bring a Jewish approach to my mostly Jewish characters and subject matter.

Has anyone else out there tried “unorthodox” (pun definitely intended) ways of developing characters or doing other work that usually isn’t done in a “spiritual” or “religious” way?

Jewish magazines still jockeying for market share

Hamodia front page.jpgYated Neeman
In the last few years, English-language Orthodox (charedi) periodicals have proliferated. (A little disclosure is appropriate here–I’ve written for both Aim! and Mishpacha Junior, am a long-time subscriber to HaModia.) Interestingly, as new publications show up, the older ones change formats (sometimes repeatedly) in order to improve their market share.
For example: HaModia came out with an online edition and now so has the Yated (honestly, I don’t know which happened first, but I heard about HaModia’s first). HaModia came out with a unique format for the kids’ mag that competes more with Weekly Reader than with any other charedi publication and sets it apart. Supplements targeted towards kosher “foodies” are in vogue almost across the board. Most recently, I noticed that Binah Bunch is now divided in two–one half “Clubhouse” (which seems designed to compete with Mishpacha Junior) and one half a tween magazine (more similar to Aim!).
Watching these “renovations” is sometimes entertaining (trying to guess the reasons behind different editorial decisions, for example), but it’s also a little depressing because these magazines HAVE to compete in order to make money. I enjoy all of them, but I can’t afford to purchase all of them on a regular basis. Neither can the average Jewish consumer, so these magazines and newspapers have to compete for our subscriptions.
It also has implications for us writers. If there’s more variety out there, there are more niches writers can develop for their writing…which is fabulous. But if everyone just tries to do the same thing, just better, (how many food magazines do we really need?) writers get locked in. I’ve seen a little of both in these format changes.
On a happier note, I think the competition has forced all the magazines to strive for a level of excellence that I don’t think has been reached before. Not only are there more magazines, but they are better than ever, I think.