“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.
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.