Creativity's Workshop

Taming and Training Your Creativity to Write Abundantly


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Smashed Cars and Investigations

A smashed car and a sizable hole in the road.

Have you ever walked out of your apartment building to find your street looking like a war zone?

It’s not something I’d ever experienced, until last week.

The photograph above is of the small road in front of my apartment building (in China). Yes, that is a massive hole in the road, all the way down to the pipes. Yes, that is an ex-car.

‘Curiouser and curiouser.’

The event made me realise that there are two types of mysteries:

  • The mystery where the solution will finally be revealed if you wait long enough – a.k.a. the mysterious oval.
  • The mystery where the event has already happened, and investigation should start immediately. The longer you leave it, the hazier the details become – a.ka. the mass overhaul of our alley.

So, realising these circumstances were of the latter genus, I messaged a friend of mine in the same building to get the goss.

Apparently, a truck heavily laden with dirt was turning the corner to contribute it’s offering to the oval when it overturned and squashed the parked car. We’re not sure if the road gave out underneath the truck, but it’s possible the area had been eroding for some time and the truck’s weight finally caused it to crumble.

I would assume the subsequent crater is at least partially man-made. If it had looked like that when the truck went down, we’d still have the truck in a reclining position.

‘Ah ha,’ you may say. ‘If your friend is so knowledgeable, why didn’t you ask her about the oval?’

But where’s the fun in that?

As far as the oval is concerned, the wooden framework I pointed out last week is being used to lay short concrete ‘walls’ on top of the brickwork. I’m still none the wiser.

These events remind me of when I was in my primary school days, and just longing for something mysterious to happen so I could investigate it. I devoured Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Trixie Beldon, The Secret Seven and The Famous Five series. Then I would watch the world around me, wishing for something strange to happen so I could look into it.

At what point do we grow out of that view of the world? Is it when nothing mysterious happens and we eventually get bored of looking? Or is it when we find something slightly mysterious and adults explain it away too quickly? Perhaps we should work harder to hang on to that curiosity.

While it’s true unbridled curiosity kills a lot more than cats, in the right amounts curiosity leads to discoveries, inventions and ideas which could never have been achieved otherwise.

So perhaps we should inject a little more mystery searching into our lives. Ask questions. Take new routes. Stare out the window. Ask ‘what?’ and ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ and keep asking.


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The Mystery Continues

The oval continues to mystify

I’m into my second week of work deadlines so no time for writing posts at the moment. We hope to be back to our normal programming next week.

In the meantime, I give you a photo of the mysterious oval as of this morning. They’ve been covering it with dark gravel…whatever that means.

Wooden scaffolding perhaps?Also, I noticed over in the ‘top left’ corner of the oval they’ve put up some sort of wooden structure, but I can’t see it clearly enough to work out exactly what’s going on there. (Excuse quality of photograph. I’ve only got a little digital camera and the ground is 22 storeys away.)

Anyone have any ideas of what it could be?

P.S. While there doesn’t seem to be much progress from this angle, the street outside the school has gone through some very noticeable changes. I’ll try include photos of that soon (not that I think it will reveal the mystery, but you never know).


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The Mysterious Oval

The mysterious oval

Recently I watched this TED talk by J.J. Abrams. (Warning: The video includes a scene from the first episode of Lost which may disturb some viewers.) In it he said:

Maybe there are times when mystery is more important than knowledge.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this statement. Mystery is an important part of plot and capturing people’s imagination. It’s the essence of the ‘hook’ which draws a reader in.

Let’s face it, if we know all the answers up front, what is the point of continuing to watch the movie or read the book? It’s the fact that you do not know/understand certain aspects, and the answers are not coming easily, which brings you back to the story again and again until you know it all.

The truth of this reasoning is being drummed into me every day at the moment. You see, I live next to a school. Being summer holidays right now, the school is using the time to renovate their yard.

The yard used to be covered in bitumen, but a couple of weeks ago they ripped it all up in preparation for building something new. To begin with I’d look out the window to see how far along they were in their work. As the days went by, I became hooked.

Why?

Because I can’t for the life of me work out what they’re doing. Once the bitumen came up, they dug a shallow trench in the shape of an oval, lay concrete at the bottom of it, and then built two walls of bricks in the ditch. You can see the result in the photograph at the top of this post.

But why?

I’m completely flummoxed. Each time I walk pass the window I just have to look out, because I want to see if there are any new clues. Anything which could tell me what they’re doing.

And of course, the best part of not knowing is coming up with theories. When they first drew the oval, I thought it was going to be a race track, but the ditch put a hole in that theory. Next I thought they were laying the foundation for a covered area of some kind, but that’s not coming together either. So I’m back to square one.

However, in the process I’m learning how to structure mystery.

  • Progress is essential. If nothing is happening, then even an intrigued watcher will lose interest because you’re not showing them anything new.
  • Theorizing should be encouraged. If the watcher comes up with their own theories, then they feel like part of the process, and have a vested interest in seeing if their theories are true. It also provides you with that glorious moment when you twist the plot and the watcher has to start theorizing all over again.
  • Controlled confusion can work to your advantage. The watcher doesn’t need to know exactly what’s going on at every minute. In fact, the best mysteries are the ones which, in the process of revealing the answer, force the watcher to go back through all their assumptions and work everything out afresh – either in their heads, or by watching/reading your work again.

Have you had similar mysterious experiences in your life? Do you have any suggestions on what the mysterious oval could be? I’d love to hear your comments. In the mean time, I have to get back to my window.