Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interesting Light

Make what you write interesting:

Headlights, flashlights, light bulbs, they all have one thing in common—they all give out light. Nothing particularly interesting to look at. Just light.  Rainbows, prisms, water mist also have something in common—they take white light and make it interesting to look at.

Just giving the facts without making it interesting is just like the bulbs of light.  But add intrigue, add humor, add suspense and you've captivated your audience with a rainbow of ideas.  Do you have trouble determining how to do that? Consider the current TV programs on both the Discovery channel and History channel. Especially if you've ever watched the history channel didn't you find yourself thinking, “Man, I wish history were told to me in such an interesting way when I was in school.”  Try watching some of those episodes. Note also how true-life murder mystery shows like Cold Case Files, Cops and Dominic Dunn’s Privilege and Power tell compelling stories that would have probably been passed up in the newspaper. They work because they appeal to the “human experience,” emotions and motivations that, even if our personal values differ, we can understand.

Try this exercise. Pick up a stone or rock. Describe it but do not say merely “it is a rock.” Look at it all the way around. Describe its weight, the feel of its surface, how fragile is it? What color is it? Next, examine the rock in a different light. Hold it above you, in front of you, and below the horizon of your sight. Finally, find one or two specific characteristics of the rock and describe them. Now, fabricate a story about the rock--how did it get to where you found it? What was its journey? Was it a "pet rock" that got lost? How many civilizations has it seen? 

With the above exercise, you will begin to see the value of character development. In a figurative sense, stand next to person you are writing about. Talk to them. Imagine how they would respond to you, their surroundingsand events in their live.

In all the animations listed below, what impressed me besides the graphics was the character development, plot/story-line and the simple, basic "truths" common to humans. As a human I could relate to the characters.

Over the Hedge
A group of brush animals comes out of hibernation only to discover that their foraging area has been all but decimated by a large new housing tract. There is insufficient area to find enough precious nuts, roots and bark to prepare for their needs in the next hibernation cycle. Along comes a raccoon with a hidden, personal agenda. (He had tried to steal a slumbering bear's stash and the bear caught him. The bear "promised" him if he (the raccoon) didn't replace all the stolen goods by a certain date, the bear would kill the raccoon.) Now, the raccoon is under pressure and, under the guise of showing the foraging animals how good human food can be, proceeds to endanger and alienate all of them. The raccoon soon learns what it means to belong to a "family" and becomes a real help.

Open Season
A pet bear is quite content to be "kept" by its owner, a female Forest Ranger. That is, until he meets a free-spirited buck who entices him to leave home for some wild romping in a candy store. Both the bear and the dear end up being sedated and lifted by helicopter to a remote forest area. The bear wants to go home but the buck wants freedom. The bear keeps rejecting the bucks ideas about how grand forest living is and just keeps going home. However, just when he seems closest to finding his goal, he realizes that where he belongs is indeed in the forest.

Toy Story
Jealous rivalry rages between an old toy and a new one. They finally become partners willing to share the affections of their owner, but only after the newer toy comes to his own personal revelation that he is not the real Buz Lightyear, but a mere toy.

Monsters, Inc.
Although a monster takes pride in his work and is top performer, he sees his job as just something he does, without realizing the dire consequences it has on children. However a toddler adopts him because she thinks he is a cuddly pet. Since being touched by a child or any article of clothing means needing to be decontaminated and quarantined, he is horror-struck when he discovers this small girl clinging to his back. Eventually he takes a liking to her and nicknames her "Boo." Now he has to protect her from the #2 goal-driven coworker who wants to torture the child in order to extract screams, which is how they power their city. After much pathos, he gets Boo safely back home.

A final thought: In the game of charades, participants attempt to describe something without words. They use exaggerated gestures and other clues. Play this game with yourself or even someone else when developing a part of your story that seems to lack depth, breadth or other tangible characteristics that your audience can relate to.


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