On Seeing YESTERDAY

Imagine if the Beatles never existed.

Such is the premise of the movie “Yesterday,” now playing in theaters. The film is clever. It’s cute. It’s funny. And it got me to thinking.

Imagination is at the heart of creativity, and given that reality, there are endless possibilities around what we choose to draw, paint, write about, sing about, etc. Furthermore, there are possibilities revealed to us through regular day-to-day events and activities—a beautiful window box of flowers inspires us to replicate it on canvas, an interesting turn of phrase inspires us to write a poem—and possibilities that we would have never considered had we not sat down and primed our creative pump. The latter inspired the following exercise…

  1. “Imagine if the Beatles never existed.” In this sentence, “the Beatles” is the subject and “never existed” is an action. Let’s devise a list of several other subjects and actions. Here’s mine:
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      My two piles of subjects and actions

      Subjects: The Royal Family, a farmer, a Bible study group, the Trump administration, a tribe of aborigines, a high school marching band, an NFL football team, the Disney princesses

    • Actions: Started a forest fire, invented teleportation, biked across the U.S., cured cancer, vacationed in Italy, cloned themselves, owned a bakery, became super heroes
  2. I wrote all sixteen of my subjects and actions on separate pieces of paper. Keeping them separated in the two categories, I mixed up the papers and put them face down in two piles. Drawing one piece of paper from each pile, I arrived at the following possibilities—imagine if:
    • A high school marching band owned a bakery.
    • A tribe of aborigines biked across the U.S.
    • The Trump administration cured cancer.
    • A farmer started a forest fire.
    • The Royal Family cloned themselves.
    • A Bible study group invented teleportation.
    • The Disney princesses vacationed in Italy.
    • An NFL football team became super heroes.

I’m not one to dabble in fiction, but how fun would it be to take some of these ideas and develop them into complete stories or fantastical paintings or an all-out screenplay! “Imagine,” said John Lennon. Now you try it!


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Finished project: “Trinity” (Macrame)

Gallery

I completed my first piece of macrame and found a little corner for it to hang in my kitchen! Overall impression: Macrame is a full-body sport—I found it most comfortable to twist and tie while on my feet.

Read “On Trying MACRAME” post>>

The Evidence of Things

A couple months ago, I confessed in my post “By All Appearances” that I’d never make a good detective. Sometimes, my conclusion-jumping has little foundation in sound logic and gets a bit too creative. However, that’s not to say that I don’t have an eye for evidence and an interest in it, particularly when it comes to the trail of things that my husband leaves behind. To me, the following clues scream that “Terry was here”…

Seriously, I did not alter their condition to take this photo. I found them this way… and there are more.

Exhibit A: Pens without caps – Until I lived with Terry, I assumed everyone found it comfortable and convenient to move the cap of the pen from the point to the end during use. Not Terry. He hugs the cap in his fist or puts it on the table as he writes. Needless to say, this habit has resulted in numerous capless pens floating around our house.

Exhibit B: Unfinished beverages – When I clear the table after a family dinner or scout the living room for dirty dishes, I can easily spot Terry’s leave-behinds. I can always expect to find about two-fingers worth of liquid still left in his drinking glass. Why? I’m not sure what’s so repulsive to him about those last couple swallows, but this aversion has become yet another one of his most common calling cards.

Exhibit C: Categorized hangers – Organization is not one of Terry’s strong suits, and I often find odd combinations of things together (e.g., there’s the box in the garage that contains one shoe, a golf ball and a John Grisham novel). But he’s obsessive about hangers! In Terry’s world, woe to those who jumble their pants hangers with their skirts hangers with their shirts hangers. He can’t stand the mayhem!

Exhibit D: The flat blue throw pillow – I think I bought it about twenty years ago, the royal blue throw pillow that matched my bedding at the time. Nowadays, it’s a common sight on our burgundy recliner, despite the clash it creates with the rest of our living room decor. Believe me, I’ve tried to sell Terry on more eye-catching replacements but, in his world, nothing compares to the perfect flatness and fit of that doggone pillow against his lower back.

Exhibit E: Vitamin and herbal supplements – I knew when we were dating that this guy valued better health through the proper cocktail of dietary supplements, but I had no idea until we shared a home what kind of stockpile he had amassed. That means my finding weird-shaped pills and capsules among our dirty laundry from time to time. Another mark of my Zorro!

How boring would it be if our writing only defined evidence in terms of fingerprints and DNA! Great characters–be them criminal, classy, or something altogether different–have tangible attachments that make them interesting and identifiable. What shreds of evidence will your characters present in your writing today?


WRITING PROMPT 1: Make a list of some of the people you know and the “evidence” that makes each of them unique.

WRITING PROMPT 2: Write about the physical evidence for which you think you are known.

WRITING PROMPT 3: Perhaps spin your personal story a different way… By what evidence do you want to be known? By what evidence do you not want to be known? Why?

WRITING PROMPT 4: Create a fictional character profile that considers the creative use of tangible evidence, and don’t be afraid to broach the outlandish. If you challenge yourself at this stage of the process, you’re certain to pique your readers’ interest later!

Great Expectations

As a Timberwolves season-ticket holder, my husband, Terry, has become very familiar with the downtown Minneapolis parking scene. He knows all the slick tricks related to entering and exiting a busy parking garage. Though his routine is strategic with regard to timing and location, the order of things is quite simple: park the car, watch the game, visit the payment machine, exit the ramp. Nothing to it.

Terry’s “receipt”… or is it?

Last Tuesday, when it came time for Terry to visit the payment machine, his request seemed  pretty straightforward. All he wanted was a receipt. After  pushing the appropriate button, the machine made its typical scratching and spitting sounds. All signs indicated that it was hard at work documenting Terry’s comings and goings–that it was generating a perfect summary of his proof of purchase. However, when the apparatus eventually coughed out a “receipt,” it showed no date, no cost, no location. It showed none of the details that one would expect.

Expectations. We have them of each other. We have them of circumstances. And we have them of words. For instance, if the machine had offered a map or a menu  instead, Terry would have had an entirely different expectation, all in thanks to the intricate distinctions we make between words and the items or conditions assigned to them.

In my last post, I relayed the importance of fact checking. Here, I simply encourage my fellow writers to take great care with word choice. After all, our decisions will spur great expectations among our readers.


WRITING PROMPT 1: Make a brief list of basic terms (e.g., apple, book, calendar, diary). What makes each thing distinctive from any other thing in existence? Write your own definitions.

WRITING PROMPT 2: Think about the recent presidential debate. What if it had been called something else (e.g., a presentation, a cookie exchange, a talent show)? Write a scene showing how the event would have played out under this different title.

Not So Pumped

I love my book club. I love the other women who make up our group, and I love the variety of books we read. Sometimes we read some big winners. Sometimes we read some big duds. Sometimes we read something in between, like our current book.

Later this month, my book club will gather to critique Northwest Angle by William Kent Krueger. Krueger is a local author known for his tales of suspense and the recurring character of Cork O’Connor. In Northwest Angle, Krueger takes O’Connor to an adventure on Lake of the Woods, a large body of water bordering Minnesota and Canada. As its name implies, the area is very “woodsy”–a great place to escape from all civilization and to experience unblemished nature.

My Coleman camp stove has two fuel options: “pumpable” liquid and “nonpumpable” propane.

So it makes sense that the likes of a Coleman® camp stove would make its way into the story. After a devastating storm, one of the main characters happens upon a cabin stocked with food and equipment, including a Coleman. Early on (page 35), she uses the stove to heat some water… and, unfortunately, that’s where I get hung up on the whole credibility of the book.

The scene reads, “She lifted the Ball jar, unscrewed the lid, and pulled a kitchen match from the supply inside. She pumped propane into the Coleman stove, something she’d done a zillion times with her father on camping trips…”

I put the book down. I couldn’t read any further. Pump propane? That’s not how my Coleman stove works!

My husband and I have gone round and round over this in recent hours. Is “pump” really the right word in regard to using propane? Is propane ever pumped? Or perhaps the author got his fuels confused. Did he actually mean liquid versus gas? I’m stuck! What really happened with that blasted stove?

What really happened? I realize that Northwest Angle is purely fiction, but before I encountered this stove issue, the story was real to me. I enjoyed the characters. I was intrigued by the plot. I think it just goes to show that even the smallest questionable detail can remind readers that they’re being taken for a ride, and the magic is lost.

Are you the kind of writer who acknowledges the importance of fact checking, or do you dismiss it as a painstaking step unnecessary to your “art”? Whatever your approach, remember that your readers will notice.


WRITING PROMPT 1: Have you ever encountered a questionable detail or error in a book you’ve read? What was it, and why did you stumble?

WRITING PROMPT 2: Pick a piece of equipment (a stove, car, bicycle, drill, clock, etc.). Research the details behind how it works, then write about it.

By All Appearances

I got to know my neighborhood pretty well this past summer. I resolved to run at least three times a week on the main drags and through the windy streets of my community. As a result, I could tell you where there are dips in the pavement, barky dogs, lush yards, weedy yards–all the things I came to expect every time along my path.

As my expectations grew, so did my observations around what changed from day to day. New landscaping here. A coat of fresh paint there. One morning, I couldn’t help but notice some atypical pieces of debris along Winnetka Avenue.

They were clumpy. They were grassy. They were dried up and ugly. To me, by all appearances, they were the foul droppings of a horse. A horse along one of the busiest side streets of the West Metro? With evidence in plain sight, I fully believed it could happen.

A few days later, my parents joined me for a walk along Winnetka. In time, we came upon my discovery, and I was quick to share my theory that a horse and rider must have somehow, for some reason, made their way down the well-traveled street’s sidewalk in recent days.

“You think that’s from a horse?” my dad interjected. “That’s just the stuff that collects in lawnmowers.”

Okay, so my imagination can run away from me, and this incident also proves that I’m not cut out for any kind of CSI work. But I’d like to think my openness to other possibilities only helps with my writing. It stirs my ideas for stories. It feeds the twists and turns that make plots and characters so fun to create.


WRITING PROMPT 1: Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper to create two columns. Make a list of objects in the first column (e.g., a simple piece of rope), then ask yourself if those objects could be perceived as other things with grander stories (e.g., the rigging of a sailboat lost at sea). Jot your imaginings in the second column, and consider how they could be woven into your writing projects.

WRITING PROMPT 2: Recall a time when you believed something was true by all appearances, but later found out you were way off track. Write about it.