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

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


“Symbol is a technique of the small.” John Truby

When a character is in an unfamiliar external or internal environment, familiar creative pursuits such as gardening, cooking, music, or art can become mirrors, reflecting a spiritual alliance to another place. They can translate the characters’ soul landscape into some sense of stability as they respond to these metaphors. Sometimes these responses come in action, sometimes in desire or longing, sometimes in a symbol. These images often find a ‘voice’ within the small common ground creativity built into everyday activities.

The movie Green Dragon has an abundance of metaphoric symbols that on the surface are not at first recognized as connected. For one, the commanding staff sergeant takes photographs throughout the camp. He thinks he is doing so to keep a record of the historical circumstances and of the people who have been impacted. But it is through the photos and their images that he himself comes to terms with his own secrets and need for healing.

And in another small action, an elderly refugee general plants a seed. An orphaned refugee boy, Minh, watches intently as the old man daily waters a tiny dirt patch. Minh tries to understand why he is even trying to grow anything in the makeshift camp. But like a living photograph Minh is drawn to watch the daily routine. And when the old man dies Minh takes his place, watering and waiting to see what exactly lies under the ground. The general had lost his ‘voice’ to give to his people, and turned instead to a symbol of hope. When Minh presented the first offering from the tiny growth it shook the camp.

Journal Prompt:

1. Choose two different movies from your personal favorites and watch the immediate opening of each with the sound on mute. What images stand out?

2. Re-watch with sound. What changes—if anything?

3. Apply to an ongoing activity for your character. What are some repetitive common actions? Make an image list for them.

4. Choose details that turn them into metaphoric symbols.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


To unravel a mystery involves many choices, decisions, and persistent questions. But to unravel an historical one requires another set of problems regarding where even to begin. How to know what elements are important enough to pursue?

Phantom’s opening scene is shadowed with possibilities, all coated in shades of gray. All the viewer has to lean towards is the two interested bidders, so seemingly out of place in the opera house mausoleum. Yet they must be there for a reason. They have obviously chosen to attend this auction despite adverse conditions.

When the elderly man and woman vie for the same item, they repeat their initial respectful nod. Yet they still choose to bid against one another. So the mystery is not between them as a relationship, but is held somewhere within their mutual desire for the musical toy, a commonplace item.

It is such a deliberate purposeful action that makes clear choice will be a major theme in the story about to unfold. The atmosphere of the first scene is ominous, one student noted, but it does not “yet have the measure of how choices effects the characters.”

Only a beginning hint, resting in a child’s battered toy.

Journal Prompt

Make a list of old-fashioned toys such as the ones that every generation has enjoyed. For example action figures have longevity, even though once they were regimental tin soldiers and now may be space aliens.

Choose the least likely from your list and place it in your antagonist’s room or suitcase or deluxe office. How incongruous is it to an acquaintance. What questions does he wish he could ask?

Thursday, August 4, 2011


Memories are often like torn spider webs. You follow the thin thread a little unsteadily and then suddenly there’s an open space. What’s missing? You look down to the next tier of strands, or perhaps up, hoping for a closed portion, but the ends straggle in the emptiness.

It’s a muddle, like an early morning gray fog that shifts around you in swirls.

Phantom of the Opera’s opening scenes, shot in black and white, give the same sense of movement, as different objects fade in and out of highlight with different degrees of shadow. Why is it important to remember that particular item? As the camera light passes over each object it further shades them like a passage of time. One student commentated that; “there are shades of gray in all of life’s stages.”

So when we look back into memory, to gauge our progress or to find a foothold for the future, sometimes uncertainty hangs in wisps like the spider web. And then a slight flush of air pushes another strand into view—just over there—just near the empty space. Now comes the decision. To jump, or not.

And suddenly the image is blazing with color.

Journal Prompt

1. Choose a turning point memory in your own life, or for your character. Write it up with as many details as possible. Don’t worry about overwriting it. Pour in sensory specifics.

2. Now color code the sensory highlights as if you were filling in a stained glass window or a paint-by-number. Which color is predominant?

3. Now re-write as a scene capturing that particular focus.

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