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

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Memory holds our emotional reservoir, both personal and public. Some memories are buried so deep that we don’t recognize them when they echo in the present. We have a fleeting pang or touch of comfort, and wonder why. We need these echoes to help us bridge understanding and communication with others. Regardless of language or status we immediately connect, or recognize, the joy of a newborn child or the grief of a death.

Tying the echoes of emotional resonance in our stories adds texture and depth. Jack Hodgins says it helps support a story’s truth; “the writer is attempting to find that place in a reader’s consciousness where myth already exists, to free the ghosts and archetypes that stalk about and haunt.”

The opening of the movie Titanic focuses on the sunken vessel. The camera lingers over the silent giant at the bottom of the sea. What echoes are stirred by this choice? Another opening could extend the newspaper stories, or old photographs. It could highlight the passengers. All of which are included in the movie as well, but not with the slow pace of the mysterious ocean liner seen through murky waters.

Journal Prompt:

Write your own opening to the Titanic using another focus. What echo becomes enhanced? What echo disappears? Apply the same technique to a new scene in your novel.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


In our writing, as well as on the roads we literally travel on, we continually need to read directions to understand where we are, to make sure we haven’t gotten lost. What does that sign say? Danger ahead, construction work in progress, slow down, curve ahead, slippery, speed limit. The story becomes as much a part of the journey as the destination.

But there are other mythic maps to explore as well: cultural, psychological, spiritual, emotional, and personal. All have the potential to deepen our appreciation of the story we’re in. Our emotions engage in resonance as we hold our breath at the villain, sigh in relief at escape, and cry with happiness at reconciliation. Our hearts watch for the clues.

In the movie, The Seventh Stream, we track the moral direction of the characters through their actions. Actor John Lynch portrays Dunhill, an embittered young man who controls Mairead, the selkie. Greed is Dunhill’s heart’s desire.

Our first glimpse is his attempt to kill a seal. But he stops as he looks into her eyes. Why? Belated compassion? No, instead he has a glimmer of a greater bounty. Unlike Quinn, Dunhill does believe the legends and so he captures the skin of a selkie, forcing her under his power.

He is desperate for a life of ease, for the respect of the villagers and for riches. Greed leads to murder. First he kills her spirit by imprisoning her. Then later he threatens to kill his own father. His choices and decisions are plotted according to his heart’s desires as clearly as a roadmap.

Journal Prompt

Choose one of the ‘seven deadly sins’ and write out a trajectory for its satisfaction, from the smallest impulse to final completion. Apply those steps to your antagonist’s career arc.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Metaphors help create ‘a holy curiosity’ by capturing our attention. They catch us up, we pause instead of racing past words. Like Moses we turn to see why the burning bush is not consumed. We allow the concepts to soak slowly into our emotions.

In the movie, The Seventh Stream, grief-laden widower Quinn is a man of logic. He believes in only what he can see and feel and “sometimes not even that.”

When a mysterious woman appears in their fishing village he cannot accept that she is walking off the pages of a legend.

However, he recognizes her inner turmoil instantly and her emotional pain strikes his heart. With her pure heart insight as a selkie, (a seal in human form) she discerns his loneliness and uses it to build a bridge of communication, a bridge of possibility. Gradually both Quinn and the audience begin to accept the truth of what she is.

Actor Scott Glenn who portrays Owen Quinn says, “I hope the audience will feel the possibility of magic—if not real magic, then the metaphor of magic—touching their lives, and making them better for it.”

Journal Prompt:

For yourself, or for one of your characters, choose a painful emotion. Then write a short scene where another person bridges that pain with healing by use of metaphor. How does that touch make the pain better, or at least bearable?

"The Seeker" Rachel Marks | Content Copyright Marcy Weydemuller | Site by Eagle Designs
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