When my girls were little, we used to play a story game with homemade cards—I would draw pictures on index cards; an apple tree, a hole in the ground, a cake, a cup and saucer, a girl, a boy, a witch, a candle, a ruby necklace, a door and so on. You get the gist. We would shuffle the cards, pick, I think eight or ten, (I can't remember!) spread them out on the table or in the back seat of the car, and then take turns making up a story using these items, these nouns, as the elements. Simple verbs written on some of the cards suggested the action, connecting the nouns to make things happen. The word 'but' usually worked as the turning point, the problem, the conflict. The plots, (if any) were very basic, but this is a simplified version of how I still go about starting a story. My choices, of course, are more purposeful—I do not draw them from a deck of cards, but rather they come to me in imagination. Still, they’re made up of nouns and verbs.
Newbery Award winning author, Linda Sue Park, says that every noun in a story has to do double duty—an item that shows up at any point, has to show up again, at least once, but preferably several more times. Writing coach Darcy Pattison calls this narrative patterning. If a blue mug is important enough to mention once, we better see that blue mug come into play again and again. It's not the sort of things we notice as readers, but it does work to stitch a story together, like connecting stars to form a big bear in the sky. The way the choices we make everyday in our real lives form our own narratives in big and small ways.
Similarly, random groups of images can create a narrative. Especially if each image has an element in common to bind it to the others. Tiny square things. Things with dots. Or stripes. Things with handles. Things that wind up. Things made out of paper. Things that are portals. Things that are blue. Or red. Or yellow. Calendar art is made of such groupings.
On my walks-abouts this week, I kept my eyes open for the color blue to see how it affected the narrative of my meandering. It was a random choice, but made me look differently and pay attention to corners and windows and alleys that wouldn't normally slip into conscious noticing. It made me look at my neighborhood, my world, in a new way. I saw things that I pass every day but never saw before. Like the blue truck in a nail salon window. Or the little blue doll in an apartment window in Chinatown. It was fun and opened my eyes to details in my landscape that I’ve missed. Here is a sampling of my blue world:
Next week, I'm going to look for red and then slowly work my way through the rainbow.
Take Good Care,