Category Archives: The Art of Storytelling

Questing Minds.

So here I am auditing a college freshman lit class — Survey of Western Lit. I had been rereading Gilgamesh this last fall and find out that is the first story we’re covering. Several times the prof looked right at me, so I came up with some insights.

Today was the 5th class and we were sitting in groups. The prof came up to me and said, “May I talk with you for a minute?”

Ye gads. Here I am umppity years old and being called out of class by the prof. So I do the walk of shame and we go out of the class room for a chat.

But I guess what I am saying is okay except this is a FRESHMAN class. Enough with bringing up the Hero’s Journey, etc. It’s a bit too sophisticated for this class. Don’t stop commenting, but can I please help the students to search for the answers themselves? Ask them questions?

“And,” she says, “I have some good books on myths I can loan you.” (She doesn’t know I’m a book hoarder. But that’s okay. I’d love to see what books she has).

Sure. And I go back to my group I (By now I’m feeling both possessive and protective of these four freshman). They were trying to come up with their arguments for a paper. They had chosen the gods and supernatural as their topics.

They all talked and then looked to me for guidance. I told them I needed to not give them the answers but point them in a direction. So I asked them questions and listened, and asked other questions. When the prof wasn’t listening, I threw in a bit of cultural anthropology and number of times something is done. I’ve always been into going across disciplines and it will get them looking at other sources for material.

When the class was over, our group was the last to leave. And the four young students with their wonderful young minds all said they were so happy when I sat down with their group and they loved to hear my comments in class.

Wow. What a rush when the young want to listen to what I have to say.

And as the whipped cream and sprinkles on my chocolate cake, one of the students wants to be a writer. And from the first day of class, I picked her out as a person with a writer’s mind by the comment she made when we we moving the tables and chairs around the room. — “And so there begins the thundering of chairs.”

So I’ll be helping her make connections to our wonderful world of writers. It’s time for her to meet her tribe.

NYC Midnight Short Script Feedback

I received a first round honorable mention on my short script, Guns of War.  I thought I would share the feedback.

“Dear Rosalind Malin,

The judges’ feedback on your Screenwriting Challenge 2013 1st Round screenplay is below.  Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns.  We hope you find the feedback helpful and you enjoyed the competition!

”The Guns of War” by Rosalind Malin  – WHAT THE JUDGE(S) LIKED ABOUT YOUR SCRIPT – ……………Some really good craft on offer here, including plotting, characterisation and dialogue. It also has a strong message, anchoring it with a theme…………………………….Visually and imaginatively stunning short screenplay. I love how a (popular in this competition) pro and against guns political-type opening soon blends into a really spooky, artistic and symbolic story of the battle between war and peace. Some fab horror elements, too – feels like a nightmare with all the shape-shifting!……A very magical and intriguing story filled with great imagery. Very imaginative  – this is would visually stunning to see…………………   WHAT THE JUDGES FEEL NEEDS WORK – ……………The script doesn’t really feel eerie enough to be a ‘true’ horror film – it actually feels more like a drama. Though there is a message present, with the potential for a strong theme, the story kind of loses itself and strays away from the theme – from what it’s about………………………….…This script might be difficult to understand upon first reading and is the sort of script that would need to be read a few times to fully appreciate it, but it’s very unique and has great integrity; therefore it’s hard to criticise it. ……The dialogue comes across a little redundant at times. Warren sounds like he’s saying the same thing, but just in a different way. Work on making Warren and Elpis more personal. ……………… 

Best,”

Not too bad considering the time limit – 8 days for a 12 page script. Doesn’t give much time for the idea to gel.

The Prologue That Isn’t

Prologue is a dirty word – a swear word – to many agents and editors. It will doom your story to the same trash bin as opening with a dream or a mirror image description. But a prologue that is not a prologue presents a way around this dilemma. Tom Robbins, a master storyteller, demonstrates this in Jitterbug Perfume. He doesn’t call his a prologue he calls it:

Today’s Special

It begins:

“THE BEET IS THE MOST INTENSE of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious.

Robbins continues to describe the attributes of the beet—both red and white—and ends with:

“An old Ukrainian proverb warns, ‘A tale that begins with a beet will end with the devil.’

That is a risk we have to take.”

– Tom Robbins Jitterbug Perfume

(For the whole Today’s Special, Google Books lets you read the first pages of Jitterbug Perfume.)

Now in the middle of his non-prologue, Robbins did start talking about hemorrhoids and I took a step back. I have given birth and hemorrhoids are not an image I want to remember.

BUT.

It is wonderful introduction to The Beet which is integral to his whole story—beginning to end.

The beet is a main character. And that first sentence—THE BEET IS THE MOST INTENSE of vegetables—is what I believe Hemingway meant as a true sentence. The whole paragraph is brilliant writing and full of images. And Robbins did it with veggies.

What do you all think of Tom Robbin’s solution to the prologue dilemma?