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

Friday, November 25, 2011


“One is poised on the Threshold of life waiting to be born. It’s an ongoing process. Some of us are not happy unless we are born over and over again, still trying to get it right.” Tim Wynne-Jones

Thresholds of Ambiguity

Memory gives us the process of choice and decision-making and thresholds. Our understanding grows and our perspectives shift. A right choice made once before has now become a wrong choice. An ordinary day shifts suddenly into the unexpected—sometimes by events—sometimes morally.

Scripture stories, fairy-tales and folk-tales speak this language into our hearts. We’re not left without access to wisdom or experience. Others have taken this journey and we find hints how to find our way through.

The day began on an ordinary walk through the woods with their father searching for food, but this time Hansel and Gretel are abandoned. They step into the unknown. Many of their choices are made without mature knowledge but they rely on instinct.

Red Riding Hood travels a familiar path to her grandmother’s house, but comes back from one visit completely different, or is she?

The added beauty from a journey perspective is that the reality of common day-to-day activities can be developed into shadows, as passages from long ago or as foretelling to the future. All also have the potential to tap into echoes and allusions and metaphors. It opens up creativity and new beginnings. “Which way is in and which way is out.”

In the movie Avatar, new arrival Jake Sully has no qualms about gathering intelligence on the Na’vi and their world. Jaded by his twin brother’s death and his own injuries, he just wants to walk again. And then he begins a dual life living among the Na’vi and reporting on them. Gradually his values change as he recognizes the threshold he is aiming for has moral consequences far greater than he imagined.

Will the journey chosen to find shelter bring death or freedom?

Journal Prompt:

Although nothing illegal has happened to your protagonist, she begins to notice some discrepancies in the paperwork. When she asks her boss he dismisses it as unimportant. However she realizes that only her signature is on the documents. And she really needs a job. What are her options? What course of action does she choose and why?

Friday, November 18, 2011


Thresholds as Commitment

Just as we plot out a map to a new location, this category requires taking a deliberate step of faith. We are not forced. We choose with as much insight as possible, even with an unknown outcome. Sometimes the decision is plotted out ahead of time, and sometimes it’s spur of the moment. But we accept the potential consequences before we act.

Alice follows the rabbit down the hole even though the crossing feels as if she’s in a dream. Her curiosity overrides the penalty she fully expects for wandering away.

Consider a character’s rationalization in a space movie when someone who has never traveled through a time warp has to choose to get "beamed up.” Their career is in the line and that desire to be a part of exploration and discovery is strong enough to squash legitimate concerns.

Do you know anyone who manages to get into an airplane when terrified of flying? What makes the person choose--commit to this action?

Or go backwards. A person refuses to cross the threshold and is held in her immediate sphere, much like phobias trap people, such as agoraphobia. How does a life get mapped out that is restricted by fear?

And yet sometimes choosing a restricted boundary line can be freeing creatively. Emily Dickinson lived a reclusive life. The majority of her poems only became know after her death when her sister discovered the extensive works.

Journal Prompt:

Make a list of your character’s fears from childhood. Then put her in a situation where she has the opportunity to change it. What steps does she take? When does she hesitate? What gives her the ability to push ahead?

Friday, November 11, 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 a recent workshop, students and I wrestled with this metaphor and concept using categories suggested in “An Eye for Thresholds,” an excellent essay written by Tim Wynne-Jones in the book Only Connect. As we explored each category we noted that the metaphor opened several tension points as choices challenged beliefs, values and possibilities, either personally for a main character, or in relationship to family or society.

So as I share these ideas, over this next month’s sequence, I hope you’ll join in the discussion.

Thresholds as Crossings

Here we deliberately make a choice to step into new stages, probably never to return: a passage of some moment. It can include walking away from a place, or a relationship, or choosing to no longer be who we were a few minutes earlier. Often that moment of decision become a life metaphor or signpost.

For example, in the novel, The Hero and the Crown, protagonist Aerin made that crossing when she arrived at her first dragon slaying. “Talat halted, and they stood, Aerin gazing into the black hole in the hill. A minute or two went by and she wondered, suddenly, how one got the dragon to pay attention to one in the first place. Did she have to wake it up? Yell? Throw water into the cave at it? Just as her spear point sagged with doubt, the dragon hurtled out of its den and straight at them.”

Despite the moment of hesitation Aerin acted upon all her preparation and stepped into a new role as a dragon-slayer. The threshold changed her life.

Journal Prompt:

Put your character into a moment of choice. Overwrite all the sensory details in the initial draft. Then write up the brief scene twice, once for each possible decision: to flee or fight, or to submit the accepted ‘dogma’ either socially or personally.

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