Sunday, April 19, 2015

Crafting 101: Donkeys and Tigers and War Horses, Oh My!

There is a difference between crafting a story and just getting up and telling one.  Pretty much anyone who isn't afraid of speaking in public can get up and tell a story of some kind.  We share stories at weddings and funerals.  We share them during worship services, and amongst friends.  We share them on the radio and television. 

In this series of Blogs, I will look at a single story, and show the process I use to get from my first exposure to a tale all the way to the finished structure.

This is the fourth entry in the series.

The Pot Maker and The Tiger - The Story

1. Crafting 101: The Questions I Ask

2. Crafting 101:  Building The Structure

3. Crafting 101:  Flesh On The Bones

4  Crafting 101:  Donkey's and tigers and War Horses, Oh My!

5.  Crafting 101: There Are No Little Characters...

6.  Crafting 101:  Putting It Together

7.  Crafting 101:  Introductions!

The Pot Maker and The Tiger has a great cast of supporting characters.  Putting all of them in one post would make it unnecessarily long.  So, I'm dividing the support staff into two posts.  This one will deal with the animals.

I love it when I get a chance to work with animals in stories.  They make all sorts of great sounds.  The roar, screech, tweet, bellow, mew, and any number of interesting vocalizations.  They provide richness to a tale, and they make the characters real.  So, I have three animals to work with in this story.

Let us begin with the donkey.  He is the first animal we meet, and the one who starts the whole story in motion.  We are told the donkey is smart, and that it has the power to untie itself when needed.  In fact, it chooses to untie itself, and go home in the evenings.  The night the Pot Maker rides the tiger home, he is walking around in the rain with a rope...wait, there is something I seem to have forgotten from the remembered telling I got from Milbre.

On the night the Pot Maker rides the tiger home, he has tied the knot on the donkey's rope so elaborately that the donkey can't untie it, and chooses to simply back up and get out of its bridle, leaving the bridle, rope and all, tied to the post outside of the inn.  That's where the Pot Maker gets the rope to subdue the tiger.  All right.

So, the donkey chooses to leave the bridle rather than untie the impossible knot.  Does he try to untie the knot?  No.  He could, but I'm going to allow the donkey to have enough sense to forgo that part of the process.  He is smart, right?  Well, then does he struggle to get the bridle off, or does he do so calmly and logically.  Calmly, of course.  That would be funny, I think.  That means we could have a little personification that goes on with this donkey.

Okay, so, the Pot Maker ties the donkey to the post in an elaborate knot and says something like, "Get out of that, if you can." Flash from my childhood.  This is exactly what Prince John says to Sir Hiss in one of my favorite Disney movies when he ties him around a pole.  Keeping it because it evokes such a strong image in me!

 After the Pot Maker leaves, the donkey 'considers' the knot, and simply decides to leave the whole thing there.  This then is a wise donkey, not just smart, but shrewd.  Alas, having him make the donkey sound is probably not a good idea.  That sound is associated with stubbornness and foolishness and it is silly.  This dignified animal should not make such a sound...unless I can figure out how to make a dignified donkey sound.  Perhaps I could simply announce that he always was dignified, and so makes a much more subdued hee-haw sound.  Well, maybe, but probably not, though that would be funny to have a subdued, dignified hee-haw coming out of the donkey's mouth.

Now, let us move on to the Tiger.

Majestic, hungry for people, and the most personified of the animals in the story.  This tiger understands human speech.  He's used to being around people, and he has no problem coming near their homes.  When the woman starts freaking out about the insidious dripping, the tiger does not start  roaring on the porch.  He's too scared.  As his terror increases, he becomes much more needful of hiding than anything else.  When he gets so frightened he runs out into the rain, he is assailed by the Pot Maker, and he is far too terrified to make any noise at all.  That's what thinking like a human gets you.

So, the tiger isn't likely to roar either.  In fact, he's not even going to get an animal type body.  Other than becoming increasingly frightened, he doesn't need a tiger voice...well.  What about when he is thinking about the insidious dripping?  Could he have a tiger voice as he spoke out loud?  Well, that would make him sound kind of tough, and maybe dangerous, but the point is that he is almost in 'kitten' mode by the time he gets caught by the Pot Maker, so even if he begins with a gruff voice, he has to end with a squeaky, terrified one.  So, no roaring.

He will be funny, but not in any traditional way I usually make tigers funny.  This will require good timing with the old lady inside the house, and some major facial expression work more so than vocalization as a tiger.  Pauses are probably going to be huge here as well, while the audience watches the tiger's descent into blind terror.

This brings us to the war horse.

This character didn't get really developed until after I'd told the tale for the first time.  There was some things about him that I just really couldn't get behind.

Why does he run for the front?

Why doesn't he freak out when the Pot Maker is screaming on his back?

Why does he accept this poor rider?

Why does he run the scouting route instead of doing something else?  I mean, the horse has got to choose to scout the front, because the Pot Maker doesn't know how to do it, right?

The more I thought about the details of this animal, the more I got an idea about what to do with him.  Again, it took a couple of preliminary tellings before it came to me, and then, only in the midst of one of those tellings when I was feeling all of the characters, and all of these questions were still rolling around in my head.

Obviously the horse knew the route to scout, but what does the scout usually do?  The scout usually sneaks to the front, and tries not to be seen.  What if this horse is tired of that?  What if this horse wants to be a battle horse?  What if he feels like he should be a battle horse?

That's when it all came together.  This horse is descended from war horses.  His daddy was a war horse.  His granddaddy was a war horse.  His great-granddaddy was a war horse.  He, on the other hand, was only a scout horse.  Oh, how he longed to be in a battle with the horns blaring and the fight surging around him.  So, when the Pot Maker's wife slaps his rump, he rears, and the Pot Maker starts screaming, the horse thinks he is finally going to go to battle.

All right.  That means this horse is definitely making horse noises!  He's going to paw the air, shake his mane, and run for all he is worth.  Galloping noises!  Well, this is going to be dramatic, and it is the climax of the action in the story, so that's even better.  The Pot Maker can scream, and I can physicalize him holding onto the horse, and then holding the tree over his head, and the horse running for all its worth with its mane and tail flying, shouting its own war cry with the Pot Maker.  Now, there's a fun image!

So, despite wanting to ride into battle, the horse runs the scouting route, because that's all it has been trained to do.


Wow, that's a great deal to be practicing, incorporating and working with in three characters.  I didn't come to all of these conclusions in my first telling of this story.  I had some trial and error, and all of the characters are still evolving, but these are conclusions I came to after fleshing them out bit by bit, and trying to figure out what they need to fill in the background but not overpower the rest of the tale.

In the next installment, we'll deal with the people who have supporting roles.  There are no small parts...

Happy Crafting!

No comments:

Post a Comment