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

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.

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