July 26, 2022

Wednesday Writing Prompt 07


Happy 🐪 Day!

Here's this week's writing prompt: 

1.      Flowers are delivered for you at the office, with no name written on the card. Just one message.

July 25, 2022

On The Hardships, And Rewards, Of Following Your Heart

I'm going through Steven Pressfield's latest book, Put Your Ass Where Your Heart Wants To Be*, and in chapter 25, he transcribes part of an article that concert pianist James Rhodes had written for The Guardian titled "Find what you love and let it kill you."(1)

I found it fascinating, and inspiring, so I'm sharing it here with you as well:

I didn't play the piano for ten years. A decade of slow death by greed working in the City, chasing something that never existed in the first place (security, self-worth, [etc.]). And only when the pain of not doing it got greater than the imagined pain of doing it did I somehow find the balls to pursue what I really wanted and had been obsessed by since the age of seven--to be a concert pianist.

Admittedly I went a little extreme--no income for five years, six hours a day of intense practice, monthly four-day long lessons with a brilliant and psychopathic teacher in Verona, a hunger for something that was so necessary it cost me my marriage, nine months in a mental hospital, most of my dignity and about thirty-five pounds in weight. And the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is not perhaps the Disney ending I'd envisaged as I lay in bed aged ten listening to Horowitz devouring Rachmaninov at Carnegie Hall.

My life [today] involves endless hours of repetitive and frustrating practising, lonely hotel rooms, dodgy pianos, aggressively bitchy reviews, isolation, confusing airline reward programmes, physiotherapy, stretches of nervous boredom (counting ceiling tiles backstage as the house slowly fills up) punctuated by short moments of extreme pressure (playing 120,000 notes from memory in the right order with the right fingers, the right sound, the right pedalling while chatting about the composers and pieces and knowing there are critics, recording devices, my mum, the ghosts of the past, all there watching), and perhaps most crushingly, the realisation that I will never, ever give the perfect recital. It can only ever, with luck, hard work and a hefty dose of self-forgiveness, be "good enough."

And yet. The indescribably reward of taking a bunch of ink on paper from the shelf at Chappell of Bond Street, tubing it home, setting the score, pencil, coffee and ashtray on the piano and emerging a few days, weeks or months later able to perform something that some mad, genius, lunatic of a composer three hundred years ago heard in his head while out of his mind with grief or love or syphilis. A piece of music that will always baffle the greatest minds in the world, that simply cannot be made sense of, that is still living and floating in the ether and will do so for yet more centuries to come. That is extraordinary. And I did that. I do it, to my continual astonishment, all the time.


James Rhodes: Find what you love and let it kill you, The Guardian, April 26, 2013 -- full article

*Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission should you choose to buy the recommended item. If the link is an Amazon link, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

July 19, 2022

Wednesday Writing Prompt 06


Happy 🐪 Day!

Here's this week's writing prompt: 

1.      A phone call wakes you up early one morning telling you your father fell down the stairs.

July 12, 2022

Wednesday Writing Prompt 05


Happy 🐪 Day!

Here's this week's writing prompt: 

1.      A stranger unexpectedly helps you when you’ve fallen down, and when they leave, you realize that they left something behind.

July 9, 2022

A Famous Belgian Inventor - John-Joseph Merlin

I spend quite a bit of time reading or watching historical documentaries, as I find they always bring up story ideas. Recently, I watched a documentary on the history of clockwork (very relevant for a future series of mine), in which I found out about a famous, and highly-creative belgian engineer:

John-Joseph Merlin.

On top of his fabulous last name, he was also the inventor of many clever and innovative contraptions, the only one which has remained popular to this day (though thankfully other works of his have survived and can be viewed in various museums), are the roller skates.

I know!

If you're curious, I wrote a little bit more about John-Joseph Merlin here :)

July 5, 2022

Wednesday Writing Prompt 04

Happy 🐪 Day!

Here's this week's writing prompt: 

1.      Birds have gathered ominously in your garden, covering every inch of it. And they’re all looking straight at you.

July 4, 2022

The Kuleshov Effect

Back in the first half of the 20th century, Russian film-maker Lev Kuleshov produced a short film in which he alternated shots of an actor after images of a bowl of soup, a girl in a coffin, or a woman reclining in a divan. Each shot of the main actor was exactly the same, yet the audience left the viewing convinced that he had magnificently expressed alternately hunger, grief, and desire.

Kuleshov Effect (1)

That was when Kuleshov discovered the associative power of the human mind using cutting techniques in film, for humans have the "need to impose order on the world. [Therefore, i]f an audience is presented with disparate images it will assemble them into a meaningful order."(2)

This, in short, is the Kuleshov effect.

As mentioned in Into the Woods by John Yorke, Finding Nemo co-writer Bob Peterson stated on the use of the Kuleshov effect in storytelling:

"Good storytelling never gives you four, it gives you two plus two... Don't give the audience the answer; give the audience the pieces and compel them to conclude the answer. Audiences have an unconscious desire to work for their entertainment. They are rewarded with a sense of thrill and delight when they find the answers themselves."

But it doesn't only work with visual images.

As a writer, you can juxtapose descriptions, lines of dialogues, or actions (or a combination thereof) in such a way that, when taken individually, each element might seem unrelated, but put next to each other brings a whole new meaning that's not obvious from the words themselves, but from the implications behind them.

It's a way to create subtext, and it draws the reader's (or viewer's) attention in. Because they have to work to make the connection to get the underlying meaning.

For example, say you have a woman who tells her lover that she now hates him and wants him to go, but she's crying and her fingers won't unclench from around the hem of his jacket, you understand that she actually loves him, so must be telling him to save him in some way (perhaps from her jealous husband, or from the Nazis, or from her parents who can't stand his family).

Hitchcock's Kuleshov Effect - Film Montage (3)

As John Yorke states further in the book:

"Two opposites are placed side by side; art is rendered from juxtaposition.
That interpretation is the art."

And it's by making readers interpret your scenes in this manner, that the writer helps them get more invested in the story, and they end up caring about the story because they've invested themselves (through their thinking power) into it as well (in a way, co-creating it with the author!).

In this short clip, you can clearly "read" the 
subtext between Walter Cronkite's professional announcement of 
the terrible news of JF Kennedy's assassination, and his actions (including
the slight pause he had to make), as the realization that this
is a terrible tragedy for the United States.


(1) Kuleshov Effect on TV Tropes, where you can also read a number of other, more modern examples.

On the topic, Yorke also brings up the fact that the Kuleshov effect can be subverted to create unexpected twists. You put together a number of ideas or clues, so the reader thinks they know where the joke is going (or who the murderer is), only to realize that the end is a total surprise (hence the joke makes them laugh out of surprise), or that the way you put the clues together, if taken differently, lead to an entirely different suspect!
Into The Woods is a brilliant book, by the way, that really delves into what it is that make us so riveted to good stories.

*Disclaimer: Please note that some of the links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I may earn a commission should you choose to buy the recommended item. If the link is an Amazon link, as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.