One of the first question patients ask when they wake up from a coma is not „How long have I been gone”, but: „Where am I?” At least that’s what I have read in a medical journal, years ago. I guess it’s still true today. Establishing a point of reference, context, knowing where we are is very important to us.
I’ve read the same thing about story telling. Every story needs to introduce these three things: 1. Location, 2. Main actors, 3. Plot. Some authors go straight forward in introducing these three components, some beat around the bush for a little while, but eventually all three are revealed.
“The buzz in the street was like the humming of flies. Photographers stood massed behind barriers patrolled by police, their long-snouted cameras poised, their breath rising like steam. Snow fell steadily on to hats and shoulders; gloved fingers wiped lenses clear. From time to time there came outbreaks of desultory clicking, as the watchers filled the waiting time by snapping the white canvas tent in the middle of the road, the entrance to the tall red-brick apartment block behind it, and the balcony on the top floor from which the body had fallen.” … … … 13 pages later … … … „Are you M-Mr Strike?” – excerpt from Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling, The Cuckoo’s Calling
When a story does not have the real estate of a full book to unfold itself, experienced writers like David Sedaris may put all three things in one short opening sentence:
„A year after my graduation from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, a terrible mistake was made and I was offered a position teaching a writing workshop.” – the first sentence of „The Learning Curve”, from David Sedaris.
„It was Easter Sunday in Chicago, and my sister Amy and I were attending an afternoon dinner at the home of our friend John. ” – the first sentence of „Big Boy”, from David Sedaris.
That’s also how dreams work.
If you’re into lucid dreaming, in any dream you will know 1. Where you are, or at least be informed about the set, even if it is minimalist. Or kafkaesque, if you ate too much before going to sleep. 2. Who is interacting (with you), and 3. What the dream is about.
It could be similar with movement. There’s questions. Or at least: there should be questions. We could have these kind of questions:
- What is your starting position?
- What are you moving? Where to?
- How is the movement quality – fast, slow, rhythmical, choppy, tense, smooth, laboured, accelerating, slowing, … ?
- What is moving along with it? What isn’t?
- What are we trying to achieve?
With these questions in mind there’s suddenly a lot to observe in the physical world, and by collecting answers, we build understanding.