Daily Notebooking Writing Exercise August 9, 2014

August 9: Fallen for animation.

OK, first, watch this animated short film. It's called "Fallen" by Sascha Geddart and Wolfram Kampffmeyer about, as Geddart says in the Vimeo page "A little meteor learns the biggest lesson of life on its way down to earth." It's under four minutes, so don't worry, it won't take all morning. Pay close attention to the character's facial expressions and the scenery especially.

Now we're going to take the general emotional beats from the film and use them as the character arc structure for the skeleton of our short story/poem today. What that means, is when the character in the film changes how he's reacting, that's also how your piece will change, within its own world. I'll give an example for, oh, how about general beats from the movie Stranger Than Fiction. Also, spoilers. If you haven't seen the movie, go do that, forget this exercise for now, you have more important things to do. Stranger Than Fiction is a great movie, just don't go into it expecting Night at the Roxbury or even Night at the Museum. It's directed by Marc Forster, who also directed Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball, and Kite Runner before this.

There are lots of ways to show emotions in your characters, here is a highly informative post by Katherine Cowley about using emotional beats in different ways, it is definitely worth a read: Writing Powerful Emotional Beats in Fiction.

First, search through character archetypes and pick three or four. One will be the main character, but for two of the character types pick three of the classic literary fears that they might react to.

Think of three very different settings where the image you have briefly sketched in your notebook can be out of place in. Then pick of a general plot archetype.

Now that you have the basics done, let us begin with the character arc.

1) The awakening. In the animation the meteorite character is awakened as it enters the atmosphere. It appears confused, exhilarated, curious. Your character is in a brand new place, a fish out of water perhaps. In Stranger Than Fiction (henceforth to be referred to as STF) this is when Harold first hears the narrator's voice. There is at first curiosity, then trepidation, which has softened back into a mild amusement by the time we hit the second beat.

2) The first scare. An unexpected problem arises and your character doubts him/herself and their handle on the situation. The core of the character is briefly questioned. This would be when Harold hears Dustin Hoffman's infamous "Little did he know" speech and what follows.

3) The plummet. Although the first scare didn't cause any real damage, it caused introspection and panic. The character suddenly has a great fear of the possible (or likely) changes that lay ahead and it makes them drastically change their lifestyle/decisions. In STF this might be when Harold is desperately trying to not progress his narrative by remaining in his apartment, all the way to finding the narrator, and speaking to Dustin Hoffman about the book.

4) The embrace. The character is falling, and they know it, but they also know that there is an inevitable that they can't change, whatever that may be. Maybe the story is about competing for a promotion at work and they finally accept that they will not receive it. This beat would come in STF after Harold reads the novel and loves it.

5) The Glorious Swan Dive. (I'm keeping that as a term I think.) Never flinching, your character accepts their fate not as a pawn of the immortals, but as one who enjoyed the ride, at least at the end. Harold Crick, well, you know how it ends if you've seen Stranger Than Fiction, and if you haven't, I thought I told you to go watch that first then come back, sheesh. Here, but beware this is a very NSFW website--ie porn ads, don't click the porn ads, they have spyware and whatnot. Be very careful if you procede. This is a putlocker link to watch Stranger Than Fiction streaming for free (that may be gone any day now).

6) A slight prologue. Don't end on the splashdown. As in the animation and STF, there's an aftermath to the glorious swan dive to experience that rounds out the story a little. A small consolation.

There you are. Your character has an awakening to something that is entirely new to them, has a scare, then becomes scared, then embraces at least some aspect of that which scared them, and goes out with a bang. Or do they go out entirely? Perhaps not. Not too bad a start to a story. Have at it.