Justify the … Idea. It’s How I Write

In my theatre arts class, we play a game called Justify the Pose. I say ‘go,’ and everyone tears off around the room doing whatever they like. When I call ‘stop,’ they  must freeze in whatever awkward position they find themselves in, whether they are mid-step or standing on a desk. Then I call out a couple people’s names and they have to justify the pose, on the spot they have to think up a situation in which they might find themselves in this position and then act it out. It’s a great game to get the actors thinking creatively about how to understand certain situations.

Recently, I began to realize that this is exactly how I write. I try to justify the idea.

This is a great way to generate ideas and force a writer to think creatively about a certain idea. Here’s how it works. A random image pops in my head and I immediately think what could justify this situation. What would be the back story? Why would this person be in this situation at this time?

My entire second novel was started on a premise like this. One day I had a random thought of a woman from a second story window seeing a man below wearing a red hat. That’s all I needed to write an entire novel. I began thinking why this woman would be interested in a man wearing a red hat. What was his relationship to her?  Was he a bad man? Was he trying to hide something?

I’m currently working on a trilogy which is based on the same time of premise: a strange image which makes no sense, but I forced myself to give it meaning and make it make sense. In doing so, it forced me to think creatively and I ended up with a novel (and soon to be novels) which are beyond what I thought I could ever think of. But I now know that’s not the case. I can make anything work if I give it enough time and brain power.

So give it a try. Take an idea, a random idea, a bizarre idea and try to justify it. It’s fun and you never know what you’ll end up with.


Inspiration is Cheap. Just Open Your Eyes. (or Ears)

I’m amazed at the inspiration around me. I went for decades not seeing it. But it’s there. Everywhere – Invalidating our self-pitying claims of writer’s block.

Maybe we put blinders on and can’t see it.

Maybe we become so focused on the page that we forget that the page belongs in the world. That’s where it originated, and that’s where it will find it’s conclusion.

Every sight you see is a setting. Every person you watch is a character. Each of them need to be molded and shaped, manipulated and re-imagined on your page, but the spark is right in front of you. What’s keeping you from igniting it?

Even physical sight is not needed, and sometimes not preferred in order to be inspired by one’s surroundings. A breeze, a whistle, a bird’s persistent call, the shifting of the ocean, the honking of a horn, the laughter of friends, the confabulation of lovers, the braking of a car. All of these give depth and insight, we only need to listen. Hear the words, hear the sounds and allow the scenes to come alive in our minds.

And what of words themselves. These pre-arranged letters have a lot to offer on their own. How many of these single words or partial phrases have hidden meanings, unknown characters and plots hanging from them if we only prod them with our minds just a little.

“respectable” – Is it a son trying to please his father? Is it a girl looking for the right man? Is it the banker looking for a neighborhood to move into? Is it the drug addict with an unattainable label?

Stories are hidden behind each word.

Entire books can spring forth from a specific sound.

Trilogies have been erected upon a single panoramic scene.

Inspiration is everywhere, at each turn of every day. Don’t let it pass by.

Notice it and create.

Can we identify a real person’s ‘superobjective’ by how they actually behave in real life?

As I think about writing and character development and human behavior and a ton of other things, I keep going back to the fascinating world of the superobjective.

A superobjective is what acting coach Larry Moss calls the overarching goal or desire of a character’s existence.  Whether acting or writing, keeping the superobjective in mind will keep your character grounded in reality and genuineness, while keeping their focus on what is most important.

But lately, as I’ve been thinking about how people react in certain circumstances, I started to think if people in real life actually have superobjectives? Is there something that I am striving for more than anything else? Hmmm …Can some reactions and behavior of the people around us be explained away by understanding what caused that behavior? Is there some hidden superobjective tucked under the surface which could make a person’s action suddenly make sense?

A few years back I was at a banquet where some individuals were being honored. A relative of a certain person who was to be honored discovered that this person’s name was left off of the program by mistake. Well that was it! The relative could not let it go. The complaining got boisterous and the person’t behavior so distracting that the event could not go on and everyone in the room was giving this person their attention. The relative demanded restitution and would not back down until promised that their due reward would be forthcoming.

Why was recognition so important to this person that she was willing to cause a scene of epic proportions over an honest oversight? Could it have been that this person has been fighting for respect their whole life? Could it have been that she was belittled at a child? Or made fun of? Or had the perception of not getting their just rewards for their effort? Was she a middle child who envied the praise given to an eldest? Was respect this person’s life superobjective and she was willing to go to any lengths to right the wrong of not getting what was perceived as her due respect?

Of course, this is all conjecture as I don’t know the person at all. But I find this whole line of pondering rather invigorating. It makes me want to go create a character and give her some tragic past which helps explain current behavior.

So are thinking about superobjectives useful in looking at real life behavior? I’m not sure. But this is the kind of stuff I think about in my free time. Only a writer, I suppose.