Hello Parallel World-ers. That doesn’t sound right. What are we? Parallel-ers. Parallels. A loose gang of rag-ma-tag people who build worlds? A gang of pirate world-builders, intent on remaking things as we see fit? Let’s go for world-builders, for now.
Welcome back. I hope you’re well, I hope you are safe, I hope the people you care about are well and safe too.
Let’s start today in the usual fashion. Five minutes of reflection. You know the score, I’ll let you get right to it. Go!
Hello again! Time to reflect on your reflection. Have you read or listened to any of your other writing recently? Can you see a trend? Has anything happened that punctuates your life? How would you draw a diagram of the last few days, or the last few weeks? What does normal look like?
Well today we’re jumping away from normal. Yesterday you wrote about fantastical origin stories, today we’re going to be thinking about fantastical objects. Objects which exist outside of normal bounds.
One of my favourite writers is Gabriel Garcia Marquez, a Columbian author who worked in – and you could say hugely shaped – magical realism. Garcia Maquez’s novels are full of objects and people who could exist in the real world, but possess powers or properties that are fantastical. In the book One Hundred Years of Solitude, a gypsy character explains that:
‘Things have a life of their own, […] It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.’
From Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967), excerpt available at the Nobel Prize website
Today we’re going to be thinking about the powers that objects can have. We’ll be taking seemingly normal objects and imbuing them with powers or properties which transform them into something they might not be right now.
As humans we have a real connection to objects. I’m quite a sentimental person, and there are countless things in my life that have a hidden meaning and value to me. Anyone else might look at that stuff and see a load of old junk. In fact, I guarantee anyone else would think that some of the things I keep are just silly. But I remember the objects’ origin stories: when they came to be in my life, what that moment meant to me, and all the places I’ve taken those objects since. Holding on to the stories are the reason I keep, for example, a t-shirt from when I was ten, or my grandfather’s old steel rule, or any of the other things that clutter up my house.
Last week I asked you to describe the origin of objects around you, where they came from, and what they mean to you. Today I’m going to ask something slightly different. That earlier task was about the real – a reflection on your life.
Today we’re working on the parallel version, where you’re going to give real objects special powers; you’re going to create origin stories, magical abilities, strange and esoteric effects. Everyone knows stories with like the legend of King Arthur, where whoever could pull a magical sword from a stone becomes the king – or the Lord of the Rings, where the bearer of a ring gains dark magical powers, or Jumanji, or Indiana Jones, or Alice in Wonderland, or Harry Potter, or Aladdin, or the Mask, or Big, and so on and so on.
You’ve probably heard horror stories too, or seen films where a cursed object dooms someone to a gruesome death. You can go as wild as you like with your objects’ special powers, or keep them completely mundane. What if you had a book which just turned up in every house you’d ever lived in, without you taking it there? Or what if there was a five Euro note with a mark in the corner which kept coming back to your wallet? Perhaps you’ve got a pencil that is made from the wood of a Viking longship, or an teacup made from the bones of a tyrannosaurus rex.
I’d like you to choose objects that exist in the real world, ideally objects you know well. You can be as wild or as mundane as you like with their superpowers. Make a list, if it helps, just list the items that you can see, or think about walking through your childhood home, or your studio, or anywhere else.
For this task, you’ve got ten minutes. Yes, ten minutes, with no distractions, to make a list of everyday items with special powers. Think how you can convey an entire premise within one line of text. If you get carried away with one item, don’t worry! But do try to get as many ideas, good and bad, on your paper.
Are you ready? I’m setting a magical timer. Go!
Phew! How was that for you? Where did you get to on the scale of mundane to wacky? Is there anything absurd, anything that makes you laugh, or makes you scared? Did you pick objects that are there with you now? Or things you remember well? Which thing on the list creates the most intriguing scenario for a story? Why do you think that is? Take a minute to reflect on your work.
And one more thing before I go – well done! That list in front of you didn’t exist ten minutes ago. Those ideas, whatever you think of them, have found their way onto your paper, or your computer, or whatever you’re using to write. You’ve breathed life into those objects. You could make a whole story from each of them.
So, I will be back tomorrow with more. Remember to carry on recording the sounds of life around you as you go, keep on being aware of what you can hear, what sounds and things frame your life. And take care of yourself, and those you care about.
- Self-reflection freewrite (5 minutes)
- List as many mystical objects as you can, ranging from the completely mundane to the outlandishly fantastical. We surround ourselves with objects that have special significance to us or others, which may seem irrational to an outsider. Today we’ll be creating a list of real-world and fictional objects which have special significance:
- Free write about objects that have special significance to you. Do you keep a picture in your wallet? Do you carry something someone gave you? Do you use the same thing every day? What objects around you have significance? (5 minutes)
- Make a list of objects with fictional significance or powers. You could work in several ways here: you could take objects you can see, and make up powers that they have (e.g. the pencil sharpener on my desk is forged of dragon-steel; this smartphone can actually steal souls) or make up objects and their powers (e.g. if worn, these shoes make the wearer as strong as an ox; glasses which make you ‘see the truth’), etc. If you find yourself going into detail on one object, go for it – but if you’d rather make a list, that’s also good! (5 minutes)
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