In this week’s Rants and Raves post, I talked about a movie called 2 Days in the Valley. They used a device I’d call “Swirling Spheres.” It’s kind of a spin-off of the merry band, like in the Hobbit stories. Instead it develops several disparate groups.
In the movie, they began telling the story of the first group of people, the pivotal characters and jumped into the action. And then the scene switched to someone else who appeared to be totally unrelated to the first story. Scene change and onto another story. Paths crossed, revealing connections and eventually all the characters came crashing together. Big things happen when you combine all the threads. Explosions, romance, murder or fun!
Come up with a random selection of characters – from fiction, history, your life, characters you’ve created, people you’ve interviewed, or would like to, even people involved in a situation. Try for 6 or 8 that you know something about (or think you do). Do a brief sketch of each one and figure out how they’re all related. Then toss them together and experiment with what might happen! As if Charlie Chan or Sherlock Holmes had gathered all the suspects in the same room and invited them to share their stories. See what they have to say. You could get some insights for a fresh angle on a story or the first draft of a new one.
If you’re lost for ideas, try combining a few topics and see what comes out. Watch 2 Days in the Valley or Big Trouble. I hear Robert Altman uses this device in many of his movies, too. I’m sure there are plenty of examples in literature.
You might try simply combining two two things that don’t usually go together like ducks and the Empire State Building. What about Steely Dan and a coffee shop? This can give you a story-telling vehicle, as well as an angle.
Keep your eyes open when reading or watching for the structure, the bones of the story. How did they tell it? There are many options out there. Use them liberally. One of my favorite devices is when you start at one point, go hither and yon and end up in the same place, bringing the story back around. The television Lovejoy stories were often like that.
There’s also the device I used this week of taking the concept from the movie for a review and working it into a writing post. I also shook it out as a means of combining social networking connections for On Business. And talked about the wonderful things that can come from bringing energies together On the Path.
Collect your own favorites.