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

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Compose Through Metaphor

Sample Movie Deconstruction (1 A)

Author David Morrell shares in his book, Lessons From a Lifetime of Writing, that he can pinpoint the exact age, date and time he was when he realized he wanted to be a fiction writer. How? That was the date that the television series Route 66 began. “I vividly remember the power with which the opening sequence struck me.” He so identified with the characters that he felt their search became his search and the journey of the route his journey. The title, its metaphor, the characters, and the theme changed his life. “How ironic that a television program became my salvation.”

Deconstructing movies and novels help us find those pulse points that keep us coming back to watch or read regardless of how many countless times we already have. Sometimes it’s not even the quality of the presentation, but the resonance or memories the story connects within us. Other times it may just be one part, or the sheer craft or creative whole. And it’s when we can identify those something’s that we can implement their qualities into our own work. Or at least understand what we are trying to share ourselves. 

When I taught English at a junior college, each semester I presented a movie for an analysis assignment. One movie that elicited widespread feedback was the movie Green Dragon, despite the fact it’s first third is communicated in sub-titles. Since I’d seen it more times than I could count, I always planned to use the time to grade papers, and yet invariably at some point the movie would pull me in and I’d watch it all over again with my students. And every time I’d see something new that I had not noticed previously. Also, with only a few exceptions, my students were completely hooked by the end of the first few scenes, including the grumblers.

We’re often encouraged as novelists to write what we know, but how does that work when we write in different genres, or history, or characters of various ages and genders, which we have not factually experienced? Part of the joy of writing is living other lives in other worlds and other vocations. Yet when we recognize the emotional threads that engage us, then we do write what we know—always.

Journal Prompt:

1.     Make a list of the movies you consider to be your “go to” movies for inspiration. Which ones have you watched ten or more times? Five or more times?

2.     What is your emotional connection to each one?

3.     Write out a metaphor for each one?

4.     How many of those same emotional connections and metaphors do you incorporate in your own writing?  Consciously or unconsciously?

Share: Which movie pulls you in to watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it? Why?

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