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

Friday, June 22, 2012

Connect Maps

Summertime and the maps come out of drawers ready to plot vacation travel. We customize a route connecting the dots of destination and sightseeing. Everyone is anxious to get to our destination, however somewhere along the route we realize we don’t all have the same expectations for when we arrive. We agreed on the surface route, but not the underlying motives.

It’s not always the best scenario for travel relationships but it’s a terrific opportunity to build tension within theme in our novels. As we connect the emotional and goal dots between characters we add stress to plotting the story route.

In her excellent book, Wild Ink, Victoria Hanley differentiates between premise, message and theme. Premise is “often used to refer to the underpinnings of a particular world or milieu.” Theme is “a feature that runs through the novel.” The message “must hold true for that particular novel” and the subplot messages become mirror images that bring the reader back to the main point. Dot to dot connects the emotional route.

The movie Penelope has several excellent examples of sub-text communicating opposing message values in dialogue and in actions. In particular Penelope’s mother, Jessica, keeps telling her that she is not what she looks like, she is not her nose, rather someone waiting to come out. Jessica really thinks she believes it herself. However she also believes that the only way her daughter will be truly happy is to meet society’s expectations of good looks and a good name and only through this map configuration can Penelope’s curse be broken. 

Jessica truly lovely her daughter but she is so fixated on a one-route course that, even after the disfiguring curse is removed, she still suggests more ways for Penelope to improve opportunities by her looks.

Journal Prompt:

Write a brief conversation between your protagonist and someone he trusts completely where he realizes that this person has been undermining all his efforts because ‘it’s for his own good’.

Share: Which has the greater damage—the external situation or the emotional impact?

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