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

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Build a Story World

History Cont'd  Part Three

The following is a detailed essay that shares a very organic way of passing on family history.

Describing a place with history: Language and Literature From a Pueblo Indian Perspective

1. What style does Leslie Marmon Silko use? (reflective or emphatic, didactic or philosophical) How does that affect the process she is explaining?

2. How many of you have experienced moving from one place to     another or re-visited a former family home?

3. What are the ideas or images that you find familiar and can relate to in this essay?

  When I try to access this essay by the url, I get computerese instead, so I suggest that you just go to google and type the title above. The essay is a little long but well worth your time.

Share: What new idea or application struck you after reading Leslie Marmon Silko?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Build a Story World


Even if it is a “new world’ it brings with it the influence that marked the journey. For example the new beginnings for the first immigrants to America and to Australia suffered extreme deprivation. Yet the societal mix of each group was entirely different. Many first settlers to America were fleeing religious persecution, but still maintained loyalties to England. Generally they still had some choice to go or not. However many of the first settlers to Australia were forced to go as laborers, convicts and bound servants.

Another important factor for historical background is to consider what is being left out. For example, we read or see a violent fight between two groups of people, with or without distinction by class or race or apparent vocation or aliens, and there is no evidence of law enforcement whatsoever. What are possible questions?

Over the next few blogs we’ll examine three critical reading exercises that help us access a sense of history. First look at the example and then repeat the ‘reading’ with material from your own world research either using a photo or painting or narrative description.

The first you’ve already done with the photo by Hopper several weeks ago.  But now repeat the exercise, and choose a photo you’ve selected for your world. Consider one city, or one landmark within a particular city. For example, is there a national monument that draws a pilgrimage?

 Describing a place.
a.     How has the author organized the space?
b.     What is the attitude or feeling portrayed?
c.      What features are employed?
d.     What is unique?
 For each give a specific example.

Share: Which detail did you emotionally connect to?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Build a Story World

History Introduction

“Place in fiction is the named, identified, concrete, exact, and exacting and therefore credible, gathering spot of all that has been felt, is about to be experienced, in the novel’s progress. Location pertains to feeling; feeling profoundly pertains to place; place in history partakes of feeling, as feeling about history partakes of place.” Eudora Welty

According to this quote history and setting are not meant to be dull, dusty tomes but living and breathing credible locations.

What is the civilization? Is it in decline or in ascent? What is the regime? What difference does it make if we don’t know? For example, in episode one, Serenity, why did Joss Whedon pick the first scene in Firefly to show a battle from several years earlier? What difference does it make to see it all in actions as opposed to a brief narrative story opening with lines of a diary?

We have all had years of reading history and sometimes still not really understood, and then we see a photo or painting from that era and everything suddenly makes sense. We see the multi-faceted layers.

So another decision that needs to be incorporated is what is the level of historical importance to your world and what are the key factors that you want to maintain as influence?


1.     Make a list of the first three questions above and answer them with as many specific details as you have at the moment. If you’re undecided then list both possibilities.

2.     Next, thinking in terms of atmosphere that we’ve already discussed, answer the fourth question for each of the three categories and write out a brief reason why.

For example, a couple on a road trip take a detour to see an historic site—an old western town, so gives us all the mythic sensory details that resonate with that setting. Answer also=in decline. Regime= non-existent—or the hideout for modern day smugglers or underground aliens or avenging ghosts. For the non-existent regime then we don’t need to know. The setting can simply be a potential symbol of their dried up relationship. However for either of the other regimes you must know what and why because that choice will affect your entire novel.

Share: Did any of your answers surprise you? What detail did it bring into clarity?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Construct With Memory

What is the difference between a hero, a celebrity, and a role model?

When I would first ask my college students this question, as an introduction to a research essay, at least half the students responded with a puzzled expression. Usually one would have the courage to reply, “Aren’t they all the same?”

So we would break out into small groups to write definitions and give examples and talk out experiences. This was one set of essays I always looked forward to reading to see how they discovered personal concrete definitions of their own that related to their lives.

Two quotes from our readings that drew the most discussion included the “hero evolves as the culture evolves” according to Joseph Campbell discussing the hero’s adventure, and one article re Rosa Parks that said, “Perhaps the most interesting thing about her was how ordinary she was.”

In some ways Rosa Parks did fit all three definitions but as the class continued to research and discuss it became more obvious that it was outside perceptions that created all the labels—and were not necessarily warranted in all situations. Because of her personal integrity and genuine character, Rosa Parks was already a role model who then became a news celebrity by her actions and has since become a hero.

But then is a hero someone who does one amazing rescue or a faithful parent who shows up each day?  How can we determine quality substance under media glitz?
And then, how have our lives been influenced by those whom we desire to emulate? What happens when we discover our ‘heroes’ have clay feet?

Have you heard the saying that you are what you eat? The application applies to be careful whom we have emulated, or do so now, and what we value as purpose in life.  

Journal Prompt:

1.     Ask your character how she defines a hero, a celebrity and a role model?

2.     Based on her answers choose which one has had the most personal influence on her?

3.     Is the influence positive or negative? Why?

Share:  What characteristic of your personal role model do you still try to emulate?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Build a Story World

Core Cosmos Summary

Just by knowing and choosing one aspect of our world’s creation beliefs opens up the core of setting as it can develop and clarify conflict. It strikes right at the heart of culture and coinage, history and heresy.

 Extended Writing Exercise

Using a style such as originally told in the traditional form of an anonymous storyteller; write up a paragraph that reflects a time that portrays the quality of your cosmos. 

Then narrow that essence as an opening sentence hook.

For example, Dickens famous opening line for A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Or: Many circles passed since our people lost their way.

Share: Your first line.
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