I recently attended an art show for Joan Sommers, the 85-year old mother of a dear friend. She is a marvelous painter and the work included pieces she’d created as a student at The Art Institute of Chicago in 1948. I’m lucky enough to possess one of her calligraphy pieces entitled, “A Heart Waiting For Spring,” and she has been a major influence in my work, teaching me about the relationship to the motion in the heart and how it affects the hand of the artist.
When I left the show (after a glass or two of superior wine) I walked in the fading weekend light towards the subway, surrounded by happy couples walking together in the warm spring air. I am currently single, and content for the moment, but of course Saturday nights are the one time everyone who doesn’t have a date wants one. I felt a stab of melancholy and wondered what I would include in a retrospective of my own life: Photos of the two husbands and all the boyfriends? A teaching award? A still from a movie I worked on? What about all of the cats?
I then realized that it wasn’t just the paintings that Joan exhibited that were significant; it was the image of her surrounded by her successful daughters, devoted and dashing husband, and many friends. It was the elegant outfit she wore, her soft-spoken manner, and her beautiful smile. This realization brought me back to my own writing and inspired the following exercise (to be done for both your main character and the villain or obstacle).
Imagine that the character is 85 and is in some way being feted for their life’s work. Pick the type of party—an art show, a dinner, an award ceremony, etc. How would the character look, who would be with them, what would they say? Where would it happen? Would the villain be there? Fill in the checklist below, and then have your character “talk” about the event for a page or two. You will discover wonderful new information that will enhance and enrich your current script, and may spawn ideas for new works.
Who is being celebrated?
What is the event?
Why is this happening now?
When is it?
Where is it?