Sunday, 24 March 2013

Nuts and Bolts Workshop

We held our first workshop yesterday morning in "upside down library" of the Egg in Anderlecht.  
The upside-down library at The Egg

We started off with a quick discussion of The Last Leaf by O. Henry (here's the text of it here:  

The Last Leaf is an example of a story that has a real inevitability (some said predictability).  We discussed how the structure of the story depended on integrating the different plot points into a coherent whole, or to put it less hideously, connecting the dots.

Stories have a structure, an architecture, and the conclusion of The Last Leaf is not just a right ending, it is the right ending, like the keystone in an arch.  It fits the story perfectly and holds the whole thing together.

Humans naturally make stories, and naturally connect the dots to make coherent narratives.  It affects the way we talk about people as well as history, the news, and incidents and anecdotes from our own lives.  Our next exercise was a series of questions designed to create a character.  It's a great exercise and it resulted in some very interesting, and surprisingly full-rounded characters (even if a disproportionate number of the characters resulting from the exercise turned out to be gay violinists).

(You can download a document outlining the exercise here:

The results of the exercise were varied and interesting.  If you ask a person to invent a detailed and rounded character in thirty seconds, most people would be stumped, but by answering these questions we join the dots and find ourselves describing a person who seems real and, perhaps more important, interesting.

Again, it's a matter of joining the dots and allowing our narrative instinct to impose a cohesive structure on the information we generate.  And the results seem somehow inevitable, satisfying and "right".  Usually given the questions asked there is only one person that this character could be.

Don't tell me you see a daffodil or a helicopter; this is a dinosaur!
Our last exercise was to choose an object, a location and an emotion and put them together to create a story.  

The challenge was to use the character we'd just created and to place them in the story, and it was great to see how the constraints imposed by the exercise became a spur to creativity.  By the end of the exercise, and the morning, everybody had a new character, rounded and developed, and a new story to write.

We're hoping to run another workshop in the summer and we look forward to building on the success of our first.

No comments:

Post a Comment