An Analysis of 'Flying from the Heart'
A project I did for my master's program that I'm quite proud of.
The story of the young robin I had saved in my adolescence is indeed true, though not quite as whimsical and introspective as I have presented it in the accompanying slideshow. I am nevertheless a firm believer in animal and botanical sentience, and symbolic beliefs that have been passed down in my family for generations. For thematic substance, I added my own interpretation to each. For example, the oak tree here represents endurance in life, as shown in the robin’s will to live when we first meet and last see it, whereas the robin itself embodies hope for the future in how it changed my outlook throughout the story, all while retaining a sense of unfailing rapture.
Thus, embellishments felt necessary to immerse an audience in what would have otherwise been a simple memory without any indication of growth, atmosphere, or an appreciation for the world we inhabit. I was inspired to assume this line of reasoning by television drama producer John Yorke, when he hinted that a character—or perhaps even a storyteller—who expresses care toward a particular goal is not necessarily adhering to expectation, but rather is revealing a trait(s) about them that they want their audience to be affected by, and reflect on in their own lives. (14) A similar rationale prompted the careful selection of extracted story text for each slide as well, as shown in the gradual progression from in-the-moment thoughts to longer accounts.
Yet evoking such sentiments would not have been possible without some form of organization for the audience to connect with them at a sensible pace. I looked to Yorke’s overview of the five-act structure for assistance: starting with exposition, which entails information about the characters involved and the setting the story takes place in, and ends with, a call to action that sets the story in motion. (36) In Flying from the Heart, we are introduced to a younger version of me as the protagonist, the robin as the deuteragonist, and my oak tree as the tritagonist at my home during morning time. I make my decision to keep the robin shortly after meeting it under the tree, setting the tone for change in the following days. It segues into the rising action whereby complications arise to obstruct the protagonist’s path to their goal (Yorke 37), and what is intriguing about this point in my story is that it is twofold.
Aside from the fact that I am already prolonging the robin’s independence by supervising and keeping it housed at night, my thoughts on whether or not I can stand to part with it altogether are complicating my initial objective, to keep it only until it matures enough to fly on its own. Meanwhile, the robin is showing signs of restlessness; however, it has not taken flight, and at this stage it is unclear if it is ready to go out on its own. Because the robin’s behaviour is hindering my ability to discipline it, another obstacle is added to my resolve.
These consequences escalate to the climax or midpoint where the protagonist is faced with adversity. (York 39) My neighbour’s cat, which symbolizes an unforeseen challenge more so than antagonism, scares away the robin, although the incident does not automatically determine our fate. We then witness the falling action: How will the protagonist respond to the challenge in spite of the odds? (Yorke 37) Although I follow it in desperation, I ultimately choose to stop searching for the robin after it escapes through the bushes, trusting instead its wild instincts to survive.
At long last, the lesson that is learned in the penultimate act leads to the resolution, usually a time for the characters to be relieved of conflict either on a positive or negative note (Yorke 37). The robin, having slightly grown, briefly returns to my garden; knowing that it is alive, I finally achieve closure, and my story ends happily. Character and motivation are also crucial components for dramatic tension; it was my wish for the audience to understand my well-meaning, though admittedly selfish perspective so that they may similarly develop an emotional connection to the narrative and perhaps find endearment in the romanticized way I viewed my situation. Among the four types of characters, science fiction author Nancy Kress had outlined a changing character with a static motivation: In pursuing a desire, the protagonist might experience an event(s) that shapes their beliefs, therefore impacting the moral of the story. (“4 Ways to Motivate Character and Plot”)
This type of character best describes my own in Flying from the Heart. The loss of my parrots motivates my want for the robin to live, but while that remains unchanging, my overprotectiveness turns into trust by giving the robin its independence. The lesson here is that I acknowledge the reality of wildlife behaviour. I chose to vocally document my tale in the first person, with an amalgam of past-tense, homodiegetic, and knowing narration. As the central character, I am an insider (Smith 89) using retrospection and emotion (Smith 90) to engage my audience on a personal level; additionally, in reinforcing the benefit of hindsight, I influence the degree to which listeners have access to information and hold certain morals. (Smith 94) My stylized voiceover, ranging from delightful to dire, likewise fulfills the latter purpose; instances include my palpable admiration for the natural world and disdain for the raccoon.
In all my years of storytelling, visuals have never been my strong suit. Fortunately, I had come across photographs on my laptop that offer an adequate representation of each plot point. The YouTube channel DSLRguide serves as a helpful resource for listeners to interpret the significance of each photograph themselves: My opening narration is accompanied by amaranth-coloured flowers, whose close proximity to the camera and depth indicate a rich, intimate relationship with me. (Cade) The same can certainly be said for the following photo of the chick in my hands.
The tall height of the Sakura trees blended together and their distance from the camera in the third slide may denote their importance relative to me as an individual (Cade); nevertheless, they symbolically bind together Earth’s wonders and beauty. The abundance of food in the fourth slide is a blissful moment signified by the aforementioned deep, close-up shot (Cade) that is immediately contrasted with a flat shot of a dock in the next slide, figuratively isolating my feelings (Cade) from the robin’s newfound interests. My isolation becomes more apparent with the subsequent long shot of a flying airplane (Cade), and its fade effect I edited in is analogous to the robin slowly disappearing from my life.
Despite the robin being perched on the garden fence further away from the camera, the tilt-shift effect I used to help it stand out, or create contrast, (Cade) shows my support for it even as I feel us disconnecting. The ballet slipper ornament with a cat popping out is an exaggerated departure from the rest of the slideshow, with the photo stretched out across the slide and colours brightened. The distracting lack of balance (Cade) marks the robin’s shock at a predacious animal’s sudden appearance, disrupting the peace up until this point.
The heart-shaped stone in the ninth slide expresses my undying love for the robin, shot up close so as to cement, as it were, its inseparability from my own heart. (Cade) Instead of taking its place at the centre, however, it is cast to the side, metaphorically putting aside my own feelings for the robin’s sake. One of my favourite books on the last slide concludes the story—and the slideshow—as I poetically look back on this fond period in my life. I hold it close to me (Cade) regardless of how bittersweet some of the experiences were.
Cade, Simon. “Composition and framing – Storytelling with cinematography.” YouTube, uploaded by DSLRguide, 5 Feb. 2017, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfIanZimZR8
Kress, Nancy. “4 ways to motivate character and plot.” Writer’s Digest, 19 Mar. 2013, writersdigest.com/online-editor/4-ways-to-motivate-characters-and-plot. Accessed 29 Sept. 2019.
Smith, Hazel. “Narrative, narratology, power.” The Writing Experiment. Allen & Unwin, 2005, pp. 89-90, 94.
Yorke, John. “Five act structure.” Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them. Penguin, 2015, pp. 36-9
Yorke, John. “What is story?” Into the Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them. Penguin, 2015, p. 14