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“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Theme Threshholds


Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Thresholds are necessary in the creative process in giving an idea somewhere to go.” Tim Wynne-Jones

Themes

Earlier in Deepen Vocabulary we looked at some ways we can influence our words with ambiguity like crossing a threshold. Here we’re looking at thresholds as an example of conveying image symbols with almost silent connections that undergird themes like the web threads without being as direct. Themes can often become a silent and powerful tool for typology impact through questions and choices and possibilities. Whether the purpose is for one scene only or an ongoing thread it invites personal participation.

 Do we open the locked door at the end of the spider-coated hallway? Are we ready to hear the words written in the old manuscripts found buried under the house?

When Eve saw that the tree God had forbidden, “was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave it also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Pandora couldn’t contain her curiosity and opened the box. “Out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late.”

Both these women were well warned before they succumbed to temptation, but what about the times there are no clear directions. We have good reason to hesitate before the unknown.  When do we need courage to resist a threshold, because the consequences are beyond our control and could bring great suffering, or risk stepping into the unknown to bring light into darkness?

If Lucy had not opened the door at the back of the wardrobe and discovered Narnia, she and her siblings would not have been instrumental in breaking the White Witch’s spell. By willingly entering the Beast’s palace, Belle breaks the curse. Hercule Poirot follows every lead possible until he can bring a culprit to justice.

Change, no matter how small, can create mental and emotional chaos as you turn into a different direction, physically or emotionally. To cross a threshold though requires a choice, even if it has been forced upon you like a refugee fleeing his war torn land. All sensory memory is heightened and sharpened. It is not just the moment that is at stake, but the journey that follows it. Thresholds become part of our soul shadows as much as our physical bodies cast their shadow. And the question can linger. “Did I choose the right fork in the road?”


Action Steps:

1. Look at the literal thresholds in your character’s daily world and choose one to explore as a figurative threshold. 

2. Think of ways they could become a life-changing threshold for your character: doors, windows, cupboards, gardens, railroads, or books.

3. And/or put your character into a moment of choice. Overwrite all the sensory details in the initial draft. Then write up the brief scene twice, once for each possible decision: to flee or fight, or to submit the accepted dogma either socially or personally.

Share: What main theme connection did you choose? Why?

Read deep, marcy


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Genre


Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“The poet—when he is writing—is a priest; the poem is a temple; epiphanies and communion take place within it.” Denise Levertov

Genre Typology Threads

One definition of an epiphany is that it is a moment of revelation or insight. As we saw earlier symbol webs can strengthen genres through a variety of image styles. Readers often lean towards one or two genre styles because of the insight they want to explore for themselves. We also have our favorite style or depth within those choices as well. Both a cozy mystery and a psychological thriller give insight into a murderous revelation, but the details and the descriptions of each will be very different.

As readers we lean towards the subjects and styles where we want to discover or understand the revelation the story unfolds. Symbols, images, concepts, and themes can be expanded both in a genre style and or as a thread borrowed from one genre to another to give a fresh view. And a very ordinary situation can be developed into a very different perspective like the shifting mirrors we saw earlier.

For example: sometimes we don’t need to search for mystery. It can happen during an ordinary day. The unexpected happens, either positively or negatively, shifting our perspective into a whole new direction. Suddenly the ground shifts out and the familiar, the foundation, is cracked opening into a world we do not know and cannot understand.

Choices follow. Do we get out a flashlight and investigate the new terrain, however hesitantly, or hide away and hope the world tilts back to normal in the morning? Perhaps a little of both enables ourselves, and our characters, to cope with sudden change.

In the movie Larry Crowne, when he is called into the office for a special meeting, Larry confidently expects to receive yet another employee reward. Instead he is fired for a supposed lack of education. Which is a total mystery to him. He grew up in an era when high-school education was the only requirement and work experience became the criteria for advancement and evaluation. Now none of it is considered valid? When and how did the life rules change? Or did they really?

Although still in shock, Larry begins to build a new life trying to adapt to a new culture for him—college. Like a young child entering the world of kindergarten everything is a mystery. Some days are extremely difficult and bewildering. However he also embraces the unknown with curiosity, changing not only his life but also those around him—especially his worn out, jaded instructor. He finds a way to blend his past and present into a rich discovery.


Action Steps:

1. Even if you do not have a mystery in your novel choose a situation to become a mini-mystery parable with long reaching significance.

2. Pick a scene where your character is pressed for time. Make a list of possible obstacles, such as a flat tire. Have a good ‘helper’ come alongside to assist, but keeps making the situation worse.

3. Then, when your character finally reaches his goal, he realizes that the interference saved him in some way—maybe from a huge embarrassment. How does that change his perspective on his frustration?

Share: What common question became a typology thread? Was there one word or concept that could be developed into several angles?


Read deep, marcy


Friday, June 21, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Character


Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Chart how each symbol you use changes over the course of the story.” John Truby


Character Typology

Does this character description remind you of anyone in particular?

-on top of the power hierarchy but his power is not boundless
-can be still be opposed, deceived, and tricked although dangerous to do so
-in a long term marriage but has endless affairs
-does not participate in petty arguments and schemes of daily activities
-can be extremely vengeful

Based on familiar movies, my first response might be a dictator or a CEO of a vast financial/business empire, or a James Bond 007 villain. But these are some of the characteristics given in Greek mythology to Zeus. Somehow they still sound quite modern. Truby notes that the character Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story can be compared to a goddess, not only because of her beauty and grace but also her coldness and fierce sense of superiority to others.”

Each genre also has its own special qualities for heroes. A place to begin might be to list what you consider to be heroic qualities. Are you looking for a Batman or a John Wayne, or is your hero a parent who shows up every day. What do you consider to be the difference between a hero and a role model? These questions will help you decide where to look for the ‘types’ that will best flavor your novel with the right added depth whether you are looking in characters, plots, or setting.

Action Steps:

 Example: In New Testament scriptures Peter was named the Rock, and the promise given that Christ’s church would be build upon him. In ancient Israel a strong foundation meant a rock foundation, both for the Temple of worship and for any military protective walls. Peter’s new name as symbol echoed his past history and bridged into his new character and role.

 From modern culture, Rocky Balboa does not seem to fit his name at the beginning of his story but like Peter grew into it. What traits did he build upon to become his name?

1.     Make a list of your character’s traits, positive and negative.

2.     Note where the change points are. Choose one and make a list of possible symbols that define that particular action or emotion.

3.     Then list as many variations of that symbol as possible.

4.     Use John Truby’s opening quote and make a chart of your choices.

Share: Did you discover more positive or negative options? Did any surprise you?


Read deep, marcy


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Introduction


Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“That old fossil, those old bones, walk again, and sing and dance and speak with a new tongue. The old stories bridge the centuries.” Jane Yolen


Typology

There are several opinions as to how many plot patterns there are for stories and how they can be interpreted. However the very basic two are considered to be 1) the hero or heroine leaves town, or 2) a stranger comes to town. It is quite amazing to see how many stories and movies fit into these types.

But just as these two plot structures can be repeated several times, and in several ways, they are not a formula. Yet they can be considered a typology in that every reader or viewer has an immediate connection to the premise. The frame might be an old story but it has the capacity to bridge the centuries regardless of genre.

The characters, phrases and patterns we internalize through our personal histories, literature, scriptures, folk-tales, songs and culture continue to add mythic depth in our reading and our writing. We make ‘copies’ of the original typology and pass them on through the generations. Some become so familiar that they enter into everyday language as common metaphors or references, both across languages and within ethnic cultures, giving us shortcuts.

Terrible sea incidents become tied to Poseidon allusions or flood. Rainbows are considered a sign of promise around the world. Black holes immediately spell danger. So does Godzilla, regardless of the language being spoken.

We use a modern version of typology when we give social references. “They’re calling her the new Marilyn Monroe.” The allusion of course is toward the actresses’ public personae and probably has no basis in comparison to either personality.

Or one friend introduces another at her party. She confides, “Watch out for that one—he’s a flirt. Stay away from that one—he’s a wolf.” In a shorthand version the explanations are clear. With the flirt type no one gets hurt if you play by his rules, however, with the wolf type there are no rules. One gives an impression of harmless fun whereas the other is a predator. Little Red Riding Hood stories have grown cute over the years but the early versions are quite disturbing with strong undercurrents of sexual danger. Were medieval mothers trying to protect their young daughters from men in powerful positions, lord of the manor types, and so used the metaphor of familiar dangerous, hungry wolves that prowled their forests in the winter as the warning?


Action Steps:

1. Choose two of your favorite movies and keep track of all the familiar and unfamiliar types you identify with—whether setting or character traits or story plot.

2. Compare in what way they copy something in your own life or experience or imagination.

Share: Did any particular image or reflection surprise you?

Read deep, marcy




Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Techniques


Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Imagination decides everything.”                                      Blaise Pascal


Animator Tezuka Osamu’s images, themes and stories that he worked with came from the heart. It showed through his choice of topics and the manner in which he developed his films. Some techniques he had to let go of because he couldn’t find enough people skilled in the process, but he kept as close to the passion of creating film by hand because “I really wanted to keep the preciousness of the hand animation in the work,” he said. At the time his industry was undergoing a metamorphosis of its own and Osamu felt that the original work of Japanese animation was becoming imitative instead of original.

The story was fueled by the techniques and the techniques enriched his storytelling. For example in his short film, The Legend of the Forest with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony Op.36, he divided the story into four parts. And then each movement he animated in a different style beginning with a basic form and adding more details and complications with each transition. So alongside the legend he also visually showed a development of animation without speaking about it at all. He embedded the metaphors naturally.

“Perhaps the animation can be supported by the passion of the creators.”

It’s that passion that creates timelessness as well as creativeness. Viewers today may find some of the imagery he uses odd or old-fashioned; especially since now computer graphics have emerged in leaps and bounds since his day. Which he also recognized as a growing field of development. Yet we still can identify and relate to his metaphoric images because he has grounded them in familiar circumstances.

Often we ourselves don’t recognize the metaphors in our work during the early drafts but by nurturing the quality and technical craft of our novels we will begin to recognize them. Then our use of image and metaphor, allusion, theme, symbols, echoes will all have the naturalness of originality instead of imitation too.


Action Steps:

1. Make a list of the words you’d like readers to say about your novels?

2. Write down the themes you’d like your readers to identify with in your novels.

Share: Which one would make your heart sing?


Read deep, marcy





Saturday, June 15, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Goals


Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”                         Thomas J. Peters


Last week we looked at how one word in a title, or as a character summary, can be strengthened into a metaphor for a broader understanding. But before you can even do that it’s important to know what are your themes and your goals for your story. For example, one of Osamu’s goals for his work was to include a touch of humor or irony, especially when dealing with difficult topics. He felt that especially when he tried to show culture out of control or present the idea that technology had the potential to become unstoppable he would lean into irony.

In the Tales of a Street Corner all the characters were developed with humor and pathos as war came to their corner crashing into their lives. And showed those who remained self-centered and those who grew into selfless actions, like the naughty little mouse who tried to save the bear.

Another key word image for Osamu in creativity was joy and fun. “The fun of experimental animation is the different perspectives people saw.” He appreciated the unique insights his audience had and in turn their comments often sparked new ideas for him to pursue. He worked diligently to create quality work, but did not expect everyone to see only his vision. Once his work released it went free. That is the gift of metaphor in any work.

 In his short film Mermaid he explored potentially closed thinking through “the story of a boy from faraway lands that likes fantasies.” The boy saw a mermaid. Everyone else only saw a fish and went to great lengths to blast his idea of out him. He too eventually saw the fish, but with Osamu’s tilt of angle the last line went, “But the boy did not forget the mermaid.”

Like a firecracker a familiar image might start off in plain wrapping paper and then explode into showers of light.


Action Steps:

1. Read through a picture book the next time you’re at the library or a bookstore but don’t read the words. Look only at the visual background first. Then go back and read the story. How do they complement each other? Does each page have a one-word tag? Funny, scary, curious?

2. Now do a reverse action. Take one of your chapter scenes and mark it off as if it were a picture book. Can you identify a main image on each “page”?

Share: Did you find an image that surprised you? Can you develop it further as a thread without it being forced?

Read deep, marcy



Friday, June 14, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Messages


Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“I never make work that is careless.” Tezuka Osamu


While discussing experimental animation during an interview he gave during the 1960’s, Tezuka Osama explained that he desired to introduce the good parts of Japanese animation to the world. He wanted it to be understood internationally or globally. “I would like to convey big messages to the world,” he said. So he began to make pieces for an international audience so that others would understand and care.

To convey his messages of animation and life, culture, humor and irony he worked with familiar images drawn from universal theme and experience. He built upon common ground to engage his viewers, and then angled the image or the expectation of the story in a way that it became a fresh insight and a means of communication. He thoroughly enjoyed the different perspectives that people saw after viewing his style of experimentation.

The titles he chose also provided an introduction to his images and concepts: Jump, A Memory, Mermaid, and Legend of the Forest, showing a wide range of topics and idea grist. Often we forget that our titles are as valuable as the metaphor images themselves. Titles, characters, music, and images all intertwined as metaphor in his animation.

Here is Osamu’s list of characters (images) for his short film, Tales of a Street Corner.

According to the caption these are the people who live at this corner. Note their variety.
      : a friendly girl and a teddy bear
      : a naughty mouse
      : a plant with seeds
      :an old street light
      : a street Punk “Moth”
      : a woman on a poster
      : a young violinist on a poster


Action Steps:

1. Choose two of these characters and make up a sketch of them even if you are a stick figure artist.  (Like me)

2. Then from your interpretation choose a word image or metaphor as their main personality characteristic.

Share: Whom did you choose? Why? What is your word metaphor for them?


Read deep, marcy

 
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