Lessons Learned: Story Structure and Being Clever

Mike and I watched All is Lost, a movie written and directed by J.C. Chandor. The only star is Robert Redford, and the movie theme is about man versus nature. If you intend to watch the movie and don’t want to know the ending, here’s my spoiler alert. You may not want to read the last part of my blog.

All is Lost

For me, I was intrigued how the movie had little dialog. Only two scenes had dialog: the narrator (Mr. Redford) spoke in the beginning of the movie and then when calling for help. I thought it clever to film the story without words, and I was drawn to how the story structure unfolded. I think my husband nailed it when he said that it was like reading a book in scenery form. Books are all about detail to help form the story and setting. This story had both.

The first turning point of the movie begins when the man wakes to find that his sailboat is taking on water. His boat has hit and is stuck to a shipping container that’s floating in the middle of the sea. Who would have thought of that!! The container has left a huge hole in his boat. We watch as he painstakingly detaches from the cargo container, patches the hole, pumps out the water from inside the boat, and dries everything off. This includes watching him fix his radio that briefly works again.

The change of plans or the second turning point arrives with a rainstorm. The good news is the patchwork holds up. The bad news is the antenna on top of the mast gets disconnected. When the storm is over, the man climbs up the mast to reconnect it and sees another storm heading in his direction. This storm is a knockout. His sailboat capsizes and manages to upright itself with him inside the boat. It capsizes again when he’s out on the deck. Back on the boat, he now inflates the life raft, jumps aboard, and rides out the storm. When the storm breaks and he wakes, there is little left of the sailboat—the point of no return.

After taking food and water from the sailboat, he now has to survive on his raft. The elements are harsh as the days go by. The emotion is raw when the man sees two ships pass by and neither one, even with flares, stops to rescue him. The last turning point of the movie, the major setback, is when the man builds a fire out of pages from a book to draw attention to another ship off in the distance. The fire gets out of control and the raft burns to nothing. The aftermath or spoiler alert is when the man floats in the ocean with nothing left for his survival. As his body sinks into the sea, he looks up and sees a rescue boat and a light searching the water. The man swims up and reaches for the rescuer’s hand.

I liked how the ending was left to the imagination. The viewer could either believe that the man was actually rescued (the happy ending) or he was being drawn to the light in death. I’m not sure if that was the original intent of J.C. Chandor, but I thought it was clever.

My lesson learned is how you can take a simple story, one that’s been told before, and make it unique. Be a little creative, be clever, and you’ll have a story that pulls the reader/viewer in. This movie was good. We had to fast forward in a few places, but it’s still one that I’ll remember.


Lesson Learned: Getting Rid of the Dark Place

I was in a pretty dark place last week. I was withdrawing from those around me after having some health issues, and I knew that I had to snap out of it. I couldn’t let fear or anxiety direct my mood or life and I was letting it happen.

A couple ways that helped me get out of that dark place included:

Talking It Out
I let those close to me know what was going on. They shared my concern and gave me the support that I needed to make me feel better.

A Bike Ride
I went on a 17-mile bike ride on the Gandy Dancer Trail. Being with family, enjoying the outdoors, and exercising helped clear my mind. The scenery was beautiful, the light conversation was fun, and my thighs loved the workout. My darkness lifted almost immediately.

A Night Away
We spent the night at the “Osgood Campground.” It was a spur of the moment decision to stay at Denise’s place, and I’m glad we did. We made dinner and then sat around the campfire. The S’mores helped too!

Even though there are things that you can’t control, you can change how you react to them. When it’s bad or worrisome, you can go out and find something positive to do. Find family or friends who you can talk to. Go to an event or go for a walk. When the darkness lifts, you’ll feel better and think clearer. A positive attitude and a better outlook go a long way. Who needs or wants to be down and out? Not me.

Lessons Learned: Stillness

My husband and I went RV’ing this weekend with the intention of spending time at the campground to relax instead of going into town, sightseeing, or hiking. Usually we’re always on the move. We’ll spend a few hours here and there to chill or a few minutes in the day to unwind. But an entire day of stillness? Did I make it? Somewhat.

I did slow down and let myself come back to the present. In the morning we took a little walk around the campground and by the river. We couldn’t stay at the river too long because the mosquitoes were nasty. I had ten blood bombers on one leg, and they weren’t giving it up. Back at our site we chilled, talked, read, and watched the other campers. We plugged in a fan to an outside outlet to blow the bugs away which made it comfortable. In the afternoon we went swimming to cool off and then to the bar (the campground had a bar and grill) to have a couple drinks and view our emails. This is where the somewhat comes in to play. I hadn’t gone through my emails for a while and needed to make sure that there wasn’t anything that I needed to immediately respond to since we had limited cell phone service if there were an emergency. I know I was bad, but it was less than an hour.

My take away from the day is that I was able to enjoy the moments where I sat and watched the clouds roll by. Where I watched a fox dart back into the woods from the road. Where I admired a red-headed woodpecker in a nearby tree, a Monarch butterfly flutter near the ground, and a swarm of gnats hover in the air.

Sometimes they say that it’s not until a crisis or an emotional crash occurs before we take these moments. I can relate to that. I remember when my mom had her stroke and time seemed to stand still when we had to make the decision of letting her live or letting her go. You’re only there for that moment. I’d rather take the time to make the choice for one of our camping days to relax and be in the moment than when in crisis.

I know I’ve written about this before in other blogs, and I believe that it’s worth repeating every so often to remind people to take time to feel the stillness.

Lessons Learned: Happily Ever After

What does happily ever after mean? In fairy tales, it’s about the man and woman going off into the sunset and knowing that their life will be perfect and the most wonderful thing in the world forever and ever. As we all know, this is like winning the lottery—something pretty much out of reach. Relationships are work with many ups and downs in life. I love how the princess always dreams of her prince coming to save her when something evil cometh. There’s turmoil and conflict yet there’s also hope and determination to get the end goal…that prince.

Fairy tales provide the GMC – Goal, Motivation, and Conflict – that every story needs. But what happens after? Once the guy gets the girl or the girl gets the guy? I don’t know one person who really has had the happily ever after. And I’m not being pessimistic. The heart of a relationship is about sharing events together. By being strong for each other when life takes a downturn, to weep and comfort each other in sorrow, and to find humor in each other’s idiosyncrasies. It’s also about sharing odd moments that make you realize how much you love your partner, when you get encouragement or spend a moment in a kiss; when you see the love within your circle of family and friends that you’ve created together. It’s about the good and the bad.

At the end of the day, it’s about wanting to be with each other because you’ve had the fights and the laughter. Things won’t always be perfect. And even though there may be other dreams out there, don’t think that it’s the happily ever after. Don’t keep searching if what you have fits. The saying “happily ever after” means that you have a challenge to meet. You want to grow old together.

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