A Dreamer Walking

A Ball

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on September 18, 2012

I give you a ball. What you do with this ball could easily tell me how good of a storyteller you are. Here are a few questions I want you to answer. What kind of ball is it? who has the ball? And most importantly, what is going to happen to the ball?

You can turn the ball into a basketball and have a basketball player shoot a basket with it. I personally would call that a bit cliche and uninteresting. You can make someone throw the ball into someone’s groin area. Many would call that funny! But, is it any more original or less cliche? A lot has to do with why he threw it in someone’s groin. You also have the ability to do nothing with the ball. You might think, “This is stupid and I am going to stop reading now”. Well, it is fine with me if you deny this perfectly functioning ball (that I already created for you by the way) and leave. However, choosing to leave just might be contributing to the trapped situation you are in. Some people never end up writing anything because they are too afraid of what others might think, don’t have enough time to put pen to paper, or are not confident enough in themselves to believe they have anything worthy enough to say. Well, I have something to say………….”DON’T BELIEVE THESE LIES!”. As an individual you should always have something worthy enough to say. Don’t worry about what others say, even the harshest criticism could be used for good. And, if you don’t have the time to be creative I very much question why you feel you should still be living. Let me quote acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin in saying, “The difference between Page Two and Page Nothing is the difference between life and death”. You might also argue a “ball” is too small of a thing to interest anyone. Why create stories about balls when we can create stories about huge battle ships, missile shooting robots, and blood thirsty warlords? I guess my only reply to this argument is, “bigger does not always mean better”.

With this ball you need to go farther then “cliche” and have it be more then  just an object to set up a cheap sight gag. Creativity is a personal thing. You want this ball to say something about who you are and what you think of this world. How will you make the ball personal? I would turn it into a baseball. Why a baseball? Because I grew up playing the sport. I was a pitcher. There is a lot of emotional connection I have to the game. Maybe it could be the last game ball my character won before he called it quits. Maybe it could be the baseball my main character was given after being denied trying out for the big leagues. “Before you come back I want you to get to know this thing”, the scout says tossing the rejected player a baseball. “If you like it so much I want you to throw it so nobody could hit it”. There, I just set up my whole story within a few lines. I am dealing with a lot of emotional elements, all of which are represented in the baseball. The ball represents the game he loves, a rejection, and a challenge that the main character doesn’t know whether or not he can fulfill. For the rest of the story I could use the ball as a reminder to why my main character is working so hard to become a great pitcher.

Great storytellers do not need to take us to a galaxy far far away or show a situation where the life of mankind is on the line, in order to interest us. No grand monster, clever plot twist, or epic action scene will impact an audience more then a personal story. All a good storyteller needs to do is make even the smallest of objects and situations personal and insightful. If you believe yourself to be a good storyteller I challenge you to make a lot out of something small. Create interest where many would say there is none. My favorite thing involving a ball is baseball. I challenge you to show me a better one. You have the power to do what ever you want with the ball. Don’t think about doing something nobody would ever think of. Don’t think about trying impress us with your story. Just think about why it matters to you personally. Believe me, if it matters to you at a foundational level it will matter to someone else as well.

4 Responses

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  1. Heather O. said, on September 22, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I like this idea, Jacob! A simple symbol can be so powerful in a story — and I would agree that personally meaningful topics usually give more fodder for a meaningful story than something pulled out of thin air. However, the way you set up the post by calling basketball “cliche” at the beginning and then calling baseball meaningful in the middle shows your own inclination pretty strongly… while maybe condemning the beginning of a story that someone else would be ready to develop. Maybe the person shooting a basket is someone in prison whose only feeling of freedom is watching the basketball fly through the air during recreation time — that to say, any “cliche” beginning that could be easy to shrug off at first sentence could still grow into a really powerful story if developed in a way that the ball represents some compelling aspect of the human condition. Being afraid of starting with a cliche could contribute to the unwillingness to start that you describe. Another idea for getting over the block to just start writing something — a friend of mine used to meet with several people and they would take turns coming up with a sentence that had to be the first sentence of a story, and then all of them would go different directions with the story and meet back to see the different possibilities they had all explored.

  2. Jacob said, on September 23, 2012 at 2:49 am

    Heather! Thanks for commenting. I was actually meaning left alone “shooting a basketball” is cliche. I would suggest if basketball is personal to you make the ball a basketball. My point was not to call any kind of ball more “cliche” then another. My point was to have the ball, no matter what you make it, be a personal thing that goes “farther then cliche”. I think I was too interested in getting to my next point I didn’t explain that one as well as I should have. I was trying to use a small example so it would be easier for others to start writing. I find many people have problems starting their stories because they are thinking to “BIG”. Using a small object, like a ball, or a random sentience to get you started could help you create a story much more interesting then most of the “BIG” stories out there. Thanks again for checking the blog out and I really appreciate you comments.

  3. Jose Siles said, on May 27, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    This is an interesting exercise . Here’s what I could muster:

    I imagine a grey ball. An ordinary rubber toy ball. This ball in particular belongs to a woman named Eleanor. Eleanor a middle aged woman who lives alone in her small 1 room apartment. She’s lived a very depressing life with it’s downs and few ups. She was born colour blind growing up in a world of simple black and white pallets influencing her emotions in a depressing state of mind without being able to enjoy the rich Colours that the world had to offer. Her father left when she was born leaving her insecure of me at an early age.She didn’t have many friends at school and while she grew up she never knew what she was going to do the rest of her life. Her only consolation as a child was her grey ball which she played with. Even at an older age she kept it as a reminder of some of the good times she had with it. She eventually starts to change her her view on men so she gets married and bares a child, which she unfortunately miscarriages afterwards. Complications in her marriage caused her to divorce and she soon loses all trust she had in men once again.

    Soon enough Eleanor is faced with a new challenge when she pursues writing and tries to write a children’s storybook. But her insecurities make her doubt her abilities to pull off this stunt, afraid that her book will be a failure and will not be worth the trouble.

    With all these experiences she keeps the ball but without knowing why. Maybe as a means of consolation? Perhaps, but not because it’s deeply rooted in nostalgia. Because the ball is the only thing Eleanor see’s for what it truly is. It’s true colour grey. It tells her that the world isn’t as black and white as it seems and not just in a literal way. It’s more of a constant reminder telling her that while the world may have it’s darker and brighter times there’s always that grey area in between. That she should not try to seek the failures of her past or the impossible happy ending we all crave for. But to find the balance in her life that brings it all together. Because as much as we try to run from it, our failures are parts of our accomplishments.

    I’m sure there’s more I could elaborate on this but the concept itself interesting to share in this state for the sake of the exercise.

    • Jacob said, on May 28, 2014 at 2:24 am

      That sounds like a beautiful story Jose and I especially like this line. “Because the ball is the only thing Eleanor see’s for what it truly is”. You managed to make the ball become a fundamental part of the story. It speaks volumes about the protagonist Eleaner. My only advice if you were interested in continuing to develop this story is to simplify it a little. Right now you talk about a lot of things in here life, her father leaving, no friends at school, miscarriage, divorce, children trouble, etc. Instead I would pick one or two points and go into more detail with them. But big props for really running with this writing exercise. Thanks for taking the time!

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