Monday, December 19, 2011

Walk, Amble or Shuffle?

by C.L. Phillips

Over the weekend I attended a college graduation and watched hundreds of shiny bright faces as they walked across the stage and collected one of life's great achievements.  Except nobody walked.

Some ambled.  Others glided. One young man, wearing a fishing ensemble glued to his cap, bobbed across the stage, as if propelled by a mysterious current.

At StoryMasters in Houston, Chris Vogler, author of The Writer's Journey, told a story about his early days at Disney.  He mentioned one of the animators that worked with Walt Disney told him that they could not make a cartoon character walk.  As I watched each person collect their diploma, I realized the animator exposed one of those fundamental truths about man.

Man does not walk.  Nor does woman.

Whatever a person carries in their heart fuels their movement.  The heart, the face, and movement are intertwined.  Ever see a smiling face shuffle?  Or an angry face skip? 

When you put a song in your heart, a smile on your face, how do you move?
How do you move when your heart is filled with anger, your face clouded with rage?

What about those times when you are on auto-pilot, focused on the errand and chores you have to finish before Christmas?   Does your movement change if you start singing Jingle Bells?

It's official.  None of my characters will ever walk again.  Amble or shuffle, absolutely.

Happy Holidays!

Keep Writing.



Patg said...

I know what you mean, but I think that happens when there is something driving you. OTOH, I know I walk because I've taken lessons. Years back, in a walking class, I learned how to adjust my body to forward motion walking. The knees, neck and spine have to be properly stretched and you must focus to get started. Once you have your gate, you can focus your mind on something else.

C.L. Phillips said...

Oooh! A walking class? This would be fun for nothing more than research. Of course, I bet it would massively improve my posture as well. :)

Your comment reminds me of watching a jazz singer yesterday. She wouldn't start singing until her band had just the right tempo...

Maybe that's why I let words percolate in the brain before writing!

Ramona said...

At my Pennwriters workshop last year, we did a few minutes on word choice. I used walking as an example, and the word "lope" to illustrate. First I had someone demonstrate what they thought someone "loping across the yard" would look like. Then I asked questions: Can a short person lope? (No.) Would an old person lope? (Probably not.) Would a person in a hurry or in distress lope?) (Again, probably not.)

So, from the word lope, we determined that the character was probably a young, tall, and not frightened or upset. All from one word choice. It's a fun exercise to do with action words.

C.L. Phillips said...


This is a new must party game for writer's groups! Love, love, love this example.