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

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Personal, public and cultural memory have the potential to loom over current decisions and negotiations in either positive or negative terms. If the memory is old enough to be considered history, it can turn itself into a legend that may or may not have any bearing in reality, other than as a name or a place.

And yet we often use these memories as measures against others and ourselves. That is, if we think one is valid. Or, if we consider it as impossible and only vivid imagination, we will make a concerted effort against it. However the legend may contain truth that unlocks hope.

In the movie Avatar, Jake has lost all possibility of negotiating a peace. He has completely lost the trust of the people he now loves. Desperate for a solution he remembers the story of the Toruk, the mighty predator of the skies, caught by a leader at times when the people were in danger. The previous Toruk riders brought them victory, so Jake sets out to become one, not knowing whether the legend was real history or story, or a mix of both. But it is enough to give him enough courage to try.

Journal Prompt:

Under what conditions would your character be willing to turn and trust in a story, or legend, or person, that may or may not be true? Under what conditions would you?

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Ancient travelers observed nature to guide them to their destination. They depended on the position of the sun, moon, and stars as reference points. They tracked the wind. They examined ground and foliage to trace water sources.

Today we have computerized maps and guidance systems to talk us through strange surroundings, or we can access quick text messages to ask others who know.

Avatar’s world unfolds one view of technology overload. The military is completely dependant on their machines from breathing livable air, to industry, protection and travel. Without their machinery they are virtually helpless on this strange planet. And yet they see themselves as conquerors, as an advanced people, who openly disdain the native population.

But they are locked in their steel worlds and unable to navigate or explore without taking life risks. They pre-set their radius maps, emotionally and physically, and stay hostage in a false sense of safety. They follow programmed sight. Until they reach the floating mountains with magnetic force that sends all their instruments askew, and they have to fly by eye sight. Watchful. Careful. Really seeing the land around them. Involved in beauty and danger side by side.

Journal Prompt:

Choose a travel destination for your character. Is it familiar territory or new? Will she jump in her car and just go? Or pre-plan every step for every possible emergency. Are her precautions common sense or anxiety ridden? Examine her attitude as she approaches each marker en route, and show your reader how she perceives her trip.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


“Tell the truth but tell it slant.” Emily Dickinson

Metaphors also incorporate juxtaposition to catch our wonder. The movie Avatar brims with such metaphors creating not only a visual panorama, but also a breathtaking palette of concepts.

The floating mountains startle us. Our perspective struggles to grasp solid rock weighted familiar assumptions with transparent air. We need mountains to stand firmly on the ground, don’t we? So we can admire their grandeur, scale their heights and conquer the elements. All are still possible in Avatar’s world, except that if anyone falls, they fall into air. Both the beauty and the danger are heightened to an unimaginable level.

Sometimes we become so familiar with the language and the images we use in our writing that we sap their strength. We know to avoid clich├ęs, but often we settle for ordinary when with a metaphoric dab we might shatter open new possibilities.

What about some rock hard assumption we make for our characters, or ourselves, whether positive and negative? What could happen if we released them into air? What consequences could follow?

Journal Prompt:

Make a list of natural elements that we expect to be free-floating. Now ground them as with the weight of a mountain. What new concepts do they provide?

Repeat using personality traits in yourself or someone you know well. Then apply the change to one of your characters.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Mystery opens a trail into questions. It catches us sideways with curious glimpses. When we’re too busy or pre-occupied to notice, it often nudges a little harder, or makes us stop a moment to consider a possibility.

In the Season Five of Doctor Who the story thread of a crack in the universe (that erases memory) takes a backseat among all the chaos and adrenalin in continuing episodes. Yet in each one, following its introduction, somewhere The Doctor manages to ask, “Do you remember what was in your room when we first met?”

Or suddenly he’ll hesitate, look quizzical, then murmurs, “Why don’t you remember?” He doesn’t expect an actual answer and his companion regards him clearly confused as to why he is even asking such strange things, especially now in the middle of dire threats.

But it makes the audience remember, and we sit up, take notice, mull the possibilities, and come up with more questions. It must mean something but what? What does it have to do with this episode? Where’s the connection? The storyline here is completely different. Or is it?

When the finale comes at season’s end we discover the intricate puzzle woven throughout and that all the pieces fit perfectly. And then I wonder how many people were prepared? And can it come back again? What other thread throughout the series will re-surface?

Journal Prompt:

Whether you’ve watched the series or not, make a list of causes that could create such a crack in the universe. Approach it from different perspectives such as science or history, legend or architecture. Play with at least three different threads and set up cause and effect scenarios.

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