Monthly Archives: January 2017

“Story Water”

Getting to know your characters is the most important aspect of plot for me. A good story develops from the decisions, the reactions and responses a character makes in relation to given circumstances.

The economy collapses!

But who your character is will determine what she does in response: marry a millionaire, start her own business, join a revolution, write a poem, run for political office, move to another country. So getting to know your characters is really a way of coming to terms with the story you want to tell.

Stories are like life: there are the cards you are given at birth and the way you play those cards. It’s important to push ourselves to reveal and come to terms with the cards our main character has been dealt. It’s important to explore the limits, the boundaries of that character’s beliefs because understanding those limits will create dramatic tension throughout the story and catalyze the plot point.

Here are the words of the great poet Rumi:


A story is like water
that you heat for your bath.

It takes messages between the fire
and your skin. It lets them meet,
and it cleans you!

Very few can sit down
in the middle of the fire itself
like a salamander or Abraham.
We need intermediaries.

A feeling of fullness comes,
but usually it takes some bread
to bring it.

Beauty surrounds us,
but usually we need to be walking
in a garden to know it.

The body itself is a screen
to shield and partially reveal
to light that’s blazing
inside your presence.

Water, stories, the body,
all the things we do, are mediums
that hide and show what’s hidden.

Study them,
and enjoy this being washed
with a secret we sometimes know,
and then not.

John Berger

The great John Berger passed away just a few days ago on the 2nd of January. He was a wonderfully prolific writer who made art history, the way we see the lives of artists and their productions, come alive. He was a playwright and a novelist.

On a personal level, though, three of his “poetic essays” affected me most: And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos (1992); The Shape of A Pocket (2003); and Hold Everything Dear (2008). I don’t know what else to call these three works because Berger does much more than, in the original sense of the word, “assay” or “essay” his topics.

Berger had an extraordinary ability to shatter boundaries: the frameworks we choose to render invisible and apolitical to ourselves and others. He was an iconoclast who shattered the boundaries of genre, refusing to accept the usual, framed ways of seeing literary (and painterly) forms.

These three “poetic essays” are prose meditations that distill at points into love poems, intimate and public, that reflect on eros as well as agape, the ethics that bind us to one another. What I will miss most is his ability to depict the fragility and sturdiness of life—that and his reminders about the darkness of the age in which we live.

Here are two obits:

New York Times

The Guardian