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

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


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

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?”

In the movie Green Dragon Tai is forced to make a deliberate choice for himself and his newly melded family as a threshold crossing into a fresh beginning. He must face a country filled with mystery, compared to the one he left behind and probably never to return to.

On the surface it is a passage of a moment. Yet it includes walking away from a place, and choosing to no longer be who he was a few minutes earlier. At first fear paralyzes him from taking that step into discovery. There have been too many changes, too many losses and disappointments. Then his American friend takes him for a drive, over the dried-up hills to investigate the small town just beyond the camp walls, just beyond sight. And he returns with a grocery bag filled with familiar foods. He returns beaming with possibility and encouragement, not only for himself but also for the other refugees. A new possibility has bridged the gulf of despair into hope. He is ready now to face mystery with anticipation and curiosity.

Journal Prompt

Choose a psychological threshold that your character must face at each main stage of the novel structure categories: set-up, response, attack, and resolution.

Which one has the most emotional impact? Write it up as a new scene.

Thursday, September 15, 2011


Shared memories can open up windows into broad horizons. Even when the memories are painful, or contradictory, the willingness to talk about them creates a space for wholeness. Or at least a different perspective. If left unspoken hurtful scenes may board up bitterness and destruction closing off any fresh air.

The movie Green Dragon depicts the story of Vietnamese refugees after the fall of Saigon. Crowded into army tents and Quonset huts the assortment of survivors covered a broad spectrum: young and old, civilian and army, educated professionals and laborers. And across that divide were religious, political and economic stratas, now all together experiencing a common grief from their individual sorrow. In the movie there is at first a stoic silence, even within a family unit. No one is willing to share. Bit by bit the numbness eases. One day a man takes out his instrument and begins to sing a national song, and the camp quiets into listening and then gradually adds their voices and their tears.

This common ground, experienced through a beloved song, drew them together in memory. And as they began to share with each other their escapes, their fears, their losses, they took steps towards a new horizon.

Journal Prompt

Choose a situation for your character with a sibling or friend where they have opposite emotional memories, one positive and one negative.

Write up a page of dialogue between them as they remember.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


What happens when the ‘map’ of existence as you know it disappears? Instead of a broad landscape you have only a tiny space allotted to you. What will shape your new reality, emotionally and geographically? Going camping in nature gives us a taste of adventure, but fleeing your home with a few grabbed possessions sets a different tone to the journey.

In the movie, Green Dragon, many find solace in establishing daily routines. One young woman volunteers at the sewing tent, and a young entrepreneur tries to set up a mail order business—to both help ease the circumstances and begin to learn to adapt to this new ‘land’ as he is anxious to move forward as soon as possible. Others try to settle in this new location and physically resist leaving the camp when the opportunity arises to find an outside sponsor family. Even with nothing left but a cot in a corner, they still are among their culture and language and refuse to be separated from the threads they still have.

The young children map out their new surroundings and then make a daily tour. Minh in particular makes sure he watches the old man watering his patch of dirt and visits the cook to watch him paint. He diligently reads the notice board, watching for any hint of his family, takes a stand at the arrival gate, checks the bathhouse, the eating tent, and the women washing clothes. He comes to know the routine and lives the camp inside out. When the time comes to leave his understanding and adaptation to new territory becomes the bridge across his uncle’s fears.

Journal Prompt:

Put your character in a situation where she either dreams, or actually experiences, a ‘refugee’ relocation. It can be either by war, or natural disaster. What is the first thing she does to give her space a personal focus? Or how does she resist?

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