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

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Write with Impact: Thank You


I have so appreciated all your interest and feedback over these past few years as I’ve posted my writing workshops on the blog as a free version while I revised and edited and listened to your questions and suggestions.

Since Words with Impact is the final in the series I am going to close down the writing blog. Hopefully I will be able to get the rest of the workbooks up on Amazon soon to join the three that are now published.

In the meantime if you have any questions please message me on Facebook or Twitter.

Happy Writing

Continue to Read Deep, marcy

Friday, June 28, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Viewpoint

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“All this time the Guard was looking at her, first through a telescope, then through a microscope, and then through an opera-glass.”  Lewis Carroll

Alice does not change being Alice despite the various ways in which she is being observed, but the perception of her is altered by the method by which the Guard chooses to see her.

Just as images and word pictures feed our imagination through metaphors, so can a study of map-making enlarge and enrich our connections with the places we inhabit. In his book, the Geographer’s Art, Peter Haggett says that, “If the historian uses mirrors to look back and the physicist uses mirrors to look forward, then the geographer’s use of the mirror analogy lies in a different dimension—that of space.”
What exactly do we see in that space regionally and historically? Are places mapped by linear distance as in a conventional map or by spatial configuration?

Haggett gives an example from a vacation he once took at a lakeside village nestled in the Austrian mountains. As he traveled back and forth across the lake by boat he realized that the lakeside did not quite measure up to the conventional map. Some routes he took were fast routes and others slow. Which speed was taken would influence the map form or scale of the lake. He put together four different sketches to try to determine how nine locations reflected or related to the lake itself based on: distance, time of journey, cost of journey and frequency of service. He concluded that each map showed a “different aspect of the spatial structure of this settlement.”
His experiment on vacation opened up a whole new outlook on how maps can measure location and identity of place.

Today we can click our computers for directions and are given a choice to find a destination by conventional map, or street view or aerial. Why do we choose which version we do? How does your character approach space in his world? Why does it matter what she sees?

Action Steps:

1. Visit a favorite place of your own where you like to sit and watch the view. Take a pair of binoculars and a magnifying glass. Pick one focused spot and look at it intently for a few minutes each time using first your own natural sight and then each of these lenses.

2. Write down the differences you see with each one.

Share: Did you see something you’ve never noticed before? Can you adapt the experience for your character?

Read deep, marcy

            “On with dance, let joy be unconfined, is my motto.”         Mark Twain

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Geography

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“For some minutes Alice stood without speaking, looking out in all directions over the country – and a most curious country it was… ‘I declare it’s marked out just like a large chessboard!’” Lewis Carroll

There is a geography app game for children (and adults) that help to learn about world countries. Three sections ask questions such as language or landmarks or capitals, and then there is another that is by shape only. You have to identify the country by its image, like a puzzle piece. 

Two things surprised me while playing with my five-year-old grandson. One, how much I’d forgotten about world geography factually, and two, that it was almost impossible for me to identify a country based on shape only. However after playing the game only a few times, my grandson had almost instant recall on all the shapes and a high percentage of recall on flags. Whenever it was my turn he cheerfully showed me the right answers. The game had become a mutual teaching opportunity, as I in turn helped share with the capitals. At least I had one high area to succeed in.

The ability to step back and see the landscape through an unexpected image opens up a flow of possible thematic and plot ideas that might not have occurred otherwise. It gives us a chance to stop and play again with our creativity, especially as we move deeper in the middle of the story, which sometimes becomes sluggish and difficult to navigate.

Twists and turns, ragged edges and soft flowing lines turn into new metaphors, new possibilities, and new connotations to explore. What symbolism can we apply to a land that is shaped like a chessboard, or a stone dragon, or a blue marble? How can we turn them into theme types?

Action Steps:

1. Take different portions of the map you are using for your setting whether a full world or a small town. Make copies. Then ignore all the names and usual details and instead find shapes within in. Draw random lines around them.

2. Color-code them.

3. Or draw a shape over a section of the map and then look closely to see what is highlighted within that section. Color-code the new details.

Share: What perspective or theme or metaphor did you discover in your map world by seeing it as shape only.

Read deep, marcy

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology as Commitment

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Of course the first thing to do was to make a grand survey of the country she was going to travel through. ‘It’s something very like learning geography,’ thought Alice,…” Lewis Carroll

Last week we looked at the image concept of a threshold as a decision of choice. But a Threshold can also be used as a typology for a crossing, which 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. A threshold can also be developed as a 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.

Action Steps:

1. Make a list of your character’s fears from childhood.  Then put her in a situation where she has the opportunity to change it.

2. What steps does she take?

3. When does she hesitate?

4. What gives her the ability to push ahead?

Share: Which question was the most difficult to develop? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Theme Threshholds

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Thresholds are necessary in the creative process in giving an idea somewhere to go.” Tim Wynne-Jones


Earlier in Deepen Vocabulary we looked at some ways we can influence our words with ambiguity like crossing a threshold. Here we’re looking at thresholds as an example of conveying image symbols with almost silent connections that undergird themes like the web threads without being as direct. Themes can often become a silent and powerful tool for typology impact through questions and choices and possibilities. Whether the purpose is for one scene only or an ongoing thread it invites personal participation.

 Do we open the locked door at the end of the spider-coated hallway? Are we ready to hear the words written in the old manuscripts found buried under the house?

When Eve saw that the tree God had forbidden, “was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave it also to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Pandora couldn’t contain her curiosity and opened the box. “Out flew every kind of disease and sickness, hate and envy, and all the bad things that people had never experienced before. Pandora slammed the lid closed, but it was too late.”

Both these women were well warned before they succumbed to temptation, but what about the times there are no clear directions. We have good reason to hesitate before the unknown.  When do we need courage to resist a threshold, because the consequences are beyond our control and could bring great suffering, or risk stepping into the unknown to bring light into darkness?

If Lucy had not opened the door at the back of the wardrobe and discovered Narnia, she and her siblings would not have been instrumental in breaking the White Witch’s spell. By willingly entering the Beast’s palace, Belle breaks the curse. Hercule Poirot follows every lead possible until he can bring a culprit to justice.

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?”

Action Steps:

1. Look at the literal thresholds in your character’s daily world and choose one to explore as a figurative threshold. 

2. Think of ways they could become a life-changing threshold for your character: doors, windows, cupboards, gardens, railroads, or books.

3. And/or 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.

Share: What main theme connection did you choose? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Genre

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“The poet—when he is writing—is a priest; the poem is a temple; epiphanies and communion take place within it.” Denise Levertov

Genre Typology Threads

One definition of an epiphany is that it is a moment of revelation or insight. As we saw earlier symbol webs can strengthen genres through a variety of image styles. Readers often lean towards one or two genre styles because of the insight they want to explore for themselves. We also have our favorite style or depth within those choices as well. Both a cozy mystery and a psychological thriller give insight into a murderous revelation, but the details and the descriptions of each will be very different.

As readers we lean towards the subjects and styles where we want to discover or understand the revelation the story unfolds. Symbols, images, concepts, and themes can be expanded both in a genre style and or as a thread borrowed from one genre to another to give a fresh view. And a very ordinary situation can be developed into a very different perspective like the shifting mirrors we saw earlier.

For example: sometimes we don’t need to search for mystery. It can happen during an ordinary day. The unexpected happens, either positively or negatively, shifting our perspective into a whole new direction. Suddenly the ground shifts out and the familiar, the foundation, is cracked opening into a world we do not know and cannot understand.

Choices follow. Do we get out a flashlight and investigate the new terrain, however hesitantly, or hide away and hope the world tilts back to normal in the morning? Perhaps a little of both enables ourselves, and our characters, to cope with sudden change.

In the movie Larry Crowne, when he is called into the office for a special meeting, Larry confidently expects to receive yet another employee reward. Instead he is fired for a supposed lack of education. Which is a total mystery to him. He grew up in an era when high-school education was the only requirement and work experience became the criteria for advancement and evaluation. Now none of it is considered valid? When and how did the life rules change? Or did they really?

Although still in shock, Larry begins to build a new life trying to adapt to a new culture for him—college. Like a young child entering the world of kindergarten everything is a mystery. Some days are extremely difficult and bewildering. However he also embraces the unknown with curiosity, changing not only his life but also those around him—especially his worn out, jaded instructor. He finds a way to blend his past and present into a rich discovery.

Action Steps:

1. Even if you do not have a mystery in your novel choose a situation to become a mini-mystery parable with long reaching significance.

2. Pick a scene where your character is pressed for time. Make a list of possible obstacles, such as a flat tire. Have a good ‘helper’ come alongside to assist, but keeps making the situation worse.

3. Then, when your character finally reaches his goal, he realizes that the interference saved him in some way—maybe from a huge embarrassment. How does that change his perspective on his frustration?

Share: What common question became a typology thread? Was there one word or concept that could be developed into several angles?

Read deep, marcy

Friday, June 21, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Character

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Chart how each symbol you use changes over the course of the story.” John Truby

Character Typology

Does this character description remind you of anyone in particular?

-on top of the power hierarchy but his power is not boundless
-can be still be opposed, deceived, and tricked although dangerous to do so
-in a long term marriage but has endless affairs
-does not participate in petty arguments and schemes of daily activities
-can be extremely vengeful

Based on familiar movies, my first response might be a dictator or a CEO of a vast financial/business empire, or a James Bond 007 villain. But these are some of the characteristics given in Greek mythology to Zeus. Somehow they still sound quite modern. Truby notes that the character Tracy Lord in The Philadelphia Story can be compared to a goddess, not only because of her beauty and grace but also her coldness and fierce sense of superiority to others.”

Each genre also has its own special qualities for heroes. A place to begin might be to list what you consider to be heroic qualities. Are you looking for a Batman or a John Wayne, or is your hero a parent who shows up every day. What do you consider to be the difference between a hero and a role model? These questions will help you decide where to look for the ‘types’ that will best flavor your novel with the right added depth whether you are looking in characters, plots, or setting.

Action Steps:

 Example: In New Testament scriptures Peter was named the Rock, and the promise given that Christ’s church would be build upon him. In ancient Israel a strong foundation meant a rock foundation, both for the Temple of worship and for any military protective walls. Peter’s new name as symbol echoed his past history and bridged into his new character and role.

 From modern culture, Rocky Balboa does not seem to fit his name at the beginning of his story but like Peter grew into it. What traits did he build upon to become his name?

1.     Make a list of your character’s traits, positive and negative.

2.     Note where the change points are. Choose one and make a list of possible symbols that define that particular action or emotion.

3.     Then list as many variations of that symbol as possible.

4.     Use John Truby’s opening quote and make a chart of your choices.

Share: Did you discover more positive or negative options? Did any surprise you?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Words With Impact: Discern Typology Introduction

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“That old fossil, those old bones, walk again, and sing and dance and speak with a new tongue. The old stories bridge the centuries.” Jane Yolen


There are several opinions as to how many plot patterns there are for stories and how they can be interpreted. However the very basic two are considered to be 1) the hero or heroine leaves town, or 2) a stranger comes to town. It is quite amazing to see how many stories and movies fit into these types.

But just as these two plot structures can be repeated several times, and in several ways, they are not a formula. Yet they can be considered a typology in that every reader or viewer has an immediate connection to the premise. The frame might be an old story but it has the capacity to bridge the centuries regardless of genre.

The characters, phrases and patterns we internalize through our personal histories, literature, scriptures, folk-tales, songs and culture continue to add mythic depth in our reading and our writing. We make ‘copies’ of the original typology and pass them on through the generations. Some become so familiar that they enter into everyday language as common metaphors or references, both across languages and within ethnic cultures, giving us shortcuts.

Terrible sea incidents become tied to Poseidon allusions or flood. Rainbows are considered a sign of promise around the world. Black holes immediately spell danger. So does Godzilla, regardless of the language being spoken.

We use a modern version of typology when we give social references. “They’re calling her the new Marilyn Monroe.” The allusion of course is toward the actresses’ public personae and probably has no basis in comparison to either personality.

Or one friend introduces another at her party. She confides, “Watch out for that one—he’s a flirt. Stay away from that one—he’s a wolf.” In a shorthand version the explanations are clear. With the flirt type no one gets hurt if you play by his rules, however, with the wolf type there are no rules. One gives an impression of harmless fun whereas the other is a predator. Little Red Riding Hood stories have grown cute over the years but the early versions are quite disturbing with strong undercurrents of sexual danger. Were medieval mothers trying to protect their young daughters from men in powerful positions, lord of the manor types, and so used the metaphor of familiar dangerous, hungry wolves that prowled their forests in the winter as the warning?

Action Steps:

1. Choose two of your favorite movies and keep track of all the familiar and unfamiliar types you identify with—whether setting or character traits or story plot.

2. Compare in what way they copy something in your own life or experience or imagination.

Share: Did any particular image or reflection surprise you?

Read deep, marcy

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Techniques

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Imagination decides everything.”                                      Blaise Pascal

Animator Tezuka Osamu’s images, themes and stories that he worked with came from the heart. It showed through his choice of topics and the manner in which he developed his films. Some techniques he had to let go of because he couldn’t find enough people skilled in the process, but he kept as close to the passion of creating film by hand because “I really wanted to keep the preciousness of the hand animation in the work,” he said. At the time his industry was undergoing a metamorphosis of its own and Osamu felt that the original work of Japanese animation was becoming imitative instead of original.

The story was fueled by the techniques and the techniques enriched his storytelling. For example in his short film, The Legend of the Forest with Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony Op.36, he divided the story into four parts. And then each movement he animated in a different style beginning with a basic form and adding more details and complications with each transition. So alongside the legend he also visually showed a development of animation without speaking about it at all. He embedded the metaphors naturally.

“Perhaps the animation can be supported by the passion of the creators.”

It’s that passion that creates timelessness as well as creativeness. Viewers today may find some of the imagery he uses odd or old-fashioned; especially since now computer graphics have emerged in leaps and bounds since his day. Which he also recognized as a growing field of development. Yet we still can identify and relate to his metaphoric images because he has grounded them in familiar circumstances.

Often we ourselves don’t recognize the metaphors in our work during the early drafts but by nurturing the quality and technical craft of our novels we will begin to recognize them. Then our use of image and metaphor, allusion, theme, symbols, echoes will all have the naturalness of originality instead of imitation too.

Action Steps:

1. Make a list of the words you’d like readers to say about your novels?

2. Write down the themes you’d like your readers to identify with in your novels.

Share: Which one would make your heart sing?

Read deep, marcy

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Goals

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Celebrate what you want to see more of.”                         Thomas J. Peters

Last week we looked at how one word in a title, or as a character summary, can be strengthened into a metaphor for a broader understanding. But before you can even do that it’s important to know what are your themes and your goals for your story. For example, one of Osamu’s goals for his work was to include a touch of humor or irony, especially when dealing with difficult topics. He felt that especially when he tried to show culture out of control or present the idea that technology had the potential to become unstoppable he would lean into irony.

In the Tales of a Street Corner all the characters were developed with humor and pathos as war came to their corner crashing into their lives. And showed those who remained self-centered and those who grew into selfless actions, like the naughty little mouse who tried to save the bear.

Another key word image for Osamu in creativity was joy and fun. “The fun of experimental animation is the different perspectives people saw.” He appreciated the unique insights his audience had and in turn their comments often sparked new ideas for him to pursue. He worked diligently to create quality work, but did not expect everyone to see only his vision. Once his work released it went free. That is the gift of metaphor in any work.

 In his short film Mermaid he explored potentially closed thinking through “the story of a boy from faraway lands that likes fantasies.” The boy saw a mermaid. Everyone else only saw a fish and went to great lengths to blast his idea of out him. He too eventually saw the fish, but with Osamu’s tilt of angle the last line went, “But the boy did not forget the mermaid.”

Like a firecracker a familiar image might start off in plain wrapping paper and then explode into showers of light.

Action Steps:

1. Read through a picture book the next time you’re at the library or a bookstore but don’t read the words. Look only at the visual background first. Then go back and read the story. How do they complement each other? Does each page have a one-word tag? Funny, scary, curious?

2. Now do a reverse action. Take one of your chapter scenes and mark it off as if it were a picture book. Can you identify a main image on each “page”?

Share: Did you find an image that surprised you? Can you develop it further as a thread without it being forced?

Read deep, marcy

Friday, June 14, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Messages

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“I never make work that is careless.” Tezuka Osamu

While discussing experimental animation during an interview he gave during the 1960’s, Tezuka Osama explained that he desired to introduce the good parts of Japanese animation to the world. He wanted it to be understood internationally or globally. “I would like to convey big messages to the world,” he said. So he began to make pieces for an international audience so that others would understand and care.

To convey his messages of animation and life, culture, humor and irony he worked with familiar images drawn from universal theme and experience. He built upon common ground to engage his viewers, and then angled the image or the expectation of the story in a way that it became a fresh insight and a means of communication. He thoroughly enjoyed the different perspectives that people saw after viewing his style of experimentation.

The titles he chose also provided an introduction to his images and concepts: Jump, A Memory, Mermaid, and Legend of the Forest, showing a wide range of topics and idea grist. Often we forget that our titles are as valuable as the metaphor images themselves. Titles, characters, music, and images all intertwined as metaphor in his animation.

Here is Osamu’s list of characters (images) for his short film, Tales of a Street Corner.

According to the caption these are the people who live at this corner. Note their variety.
      : a friendly girl and a teddy bear
      : a naughty mouse
      : a plant with seeds
      :an old street light
      : a street Punk “Moth”
      : a woman on a poster
      : a young violinist on a poster

Action Steps:

1. Choose two of these characters and make up a sketch of them even if you are a stick figure artist.  (Like me)

2. Then from your interpretation choose a word image or metaphor as their main personality characteristic.

Share: Whom did you choose? Why? What is your word metaphor for them?

Read deep, marcy

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Genre Webs

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“That old fossil, those old bones, walk again, and sing and dance and speak with a new tongue. The old stories bridge the centuries.” Jane Yolen

Taking your basic threads and extending them throughout your story can build strong web imagery regardless of genre. Some will be an almost invisible backdrop and then there are some genres that build their stories around a basic practical web that their readers will expect.

In addition to universal symbols, allusion and echoes, “there are also prefabricated symbols whose meaning the audience understands immediately at some level of conscious thought,” says Truby, and they are seen quite clearly in “highly metaphoric genres” that have honed objects in their forms, such as fantasy, horror, and Western.

Even acknowledging that symbols are always ambiguous to some degree the symbols in these categories also represent something within the hero.  Here is his example list for a ‘Myth Symbol Web’.


Think of a fantasy novel you’ve read. How many of these word symbols do you recall being present—if not in common form, what about as concept?

A Mystery Web is another category where readers have specific expectations that they look forward to puzzling out.

Suspect Characters
Clues/Red Herrings

Every genre—every story—has its own web style whether seen or hidden. Movies often explore deep underlying themes, which the viewers did not necessarily notice at first glance. Ordinary images can create impact and build bridges.

Action Steps:

1. Take your central theme for your story and make a list of all the potential links where you could insert an image that undergirds your premise.

2. Make up your own category web for this particular story.

Share: Were you surprised by any symbol theme or image you chose for your web? Why?

Read deep, marcy

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Words With Impact: Design Symbols as Images Storyline

Workshop: Discover Words That Sing

“Natural worlds like the island, mountains, forest and ocean have an inherent symbolic power. But you can attach additional symbols to them to heighten or change the meaning audiences normally associate with them.”     John Truby

Just as we have a variety of traits for our character to keep them from being one-dimensional, so we also need to build a web of symbols, says John Truby, “in which each symbol helps define the others.” The symbols can be attached to the story overall, the world setting, actions, theme, and characters to name a few. For example, the story symbol unifies the story theme under one image. So it helps to identify a central story image, or the single line that then connects all the main symbols to its premise, according to Truby.

“The Odyssey: The central story symbol in the Odyssey is in the title itself. This is the long journey that must be endured.”

Network: The network is literally a television broadcasting company and symbolically a web that traps all who are entangled in it. ”

Once we identify the symbol that best unifies our story under one image, then we look for ways to repeat it by varying the details in some way. Look for categories, Truby says. One example he gives is from A Streetcar named Desire.

“Stanley is referred to as a pig, a bull, an ape, a hound and a wolf to underscore his essentially greedy, brutal and masculine nature. Blanche is connected to a moth and a bird, fragile and frightened.”

The variations may also be disparate actions but at the heart all contain a common thread. For example, the movie Green Dragon has an abundance of metaphoric symbols that on the surface are not at first recognized as connected. However the common ground is creativity built into everyday activities.

The staff sergeant takes photographs throughout the camp setting to keep a record of the historical circumstances and of the people who have been impacted. But it is through the photos that he himself comes to term with his own secrets and need for healing. A young refugee woman sews, and an elderly general plants a seed.  An orphaned refugee boy and an American volunteer cook paint a mural and find hope in death. Each one finds a place of healing in creative actions.

The movie Avatar is an excellent study for the aspect of symbol connections within nature. Within each of the natural settings is a combination of breathtaking beauty and nail biting danger. Plus overlaying this exquisite world is a poisonous atmosphere, at least for humans.

Another is the lovable WALL*E where instead of humanity bringing rescue to a struggling world, they themselves are the ones in need of rescue. Both these movies use familiar images that then turn viewer expectations upside down and engage the audience into new perspectives.

Action Steps:

1. Choose a central story image that undergirds your story theme.

2. Now write up a verbal word or a visual image or music tone that could be a silent backdrop to the world setting, specific actions, central theme, for both your main character and another key character, whether they have a positive or negative purpose.

Share: What has become your main premise that links all your puzzle pieces?

Read deep, marcy

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