Out the Blue Door

Feilam: film

Loan-words are words that sound similar to their English counterparts. Sometimes the original words say it best.
Come read the inspired words of my guest blogger for today, Rick Wayne. You can visit his website at whyarethingsthewaytheyare.comfor more of his creative thoughts. 

Author Rick Wayne has dissected a cadaver, jumped out of a plane, swam in the Mediterranean, and meditated in Japan. Prior to becoming a writer he was stalked by a mountain lion in Texas, kicked in the head in India, bombed by terrorists in Manchester, and worked for twelve years in media and market research. He lives with two hairy beasts, neither of whom are his wife, just outside the beltway in Washington, DC.

Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened this weekend, which is occasion enough for me to pull out Tolkien’s classic and re-read it. It has the most wonderful beginning:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole… nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole… it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.
It had a perfectly round door like a porthole, painted green, with a shiny yellow brass knob in the exact middle.

We learn of course that this is the home of Mr. Bilbo Baggins, a respectable, homely hobbit who has never once been adventuring, and of how that changes when he sets out through that door after Thorin & Co.
It wasn’t until I started writing that I fully realized the power of doors and doorways, of gates, caves, shutters, windows, portholes and portcullises. They are all wonderfully evocative symbols, a fact exploited by the filmmakers in the movie poster:
More than once I’ve started a project only to find myself staring dumbfounded at a blinking cursor. More often than that I’ve been in the middle of a chapter staring at the same blinking cursor and quaking with the thought of being trapped, and of having trapped my characters, in a dead end plot. The dreaded block, like a concrete slab extending to the horizon of your mind and in every direction. Happens to everyone, right?
A door is a way out of course, but the plot device of the secret trap door that lets the hero escape was old the day it was born. If you don’t want to bore your readers, and if you respect their intelligence, you’ll have to do better. You could just open everything up, have the ground beneath your character’s feet give way. It happens.
But you’ll only get away with it once. 
There’s another way, a better way, that a door can help. Enter writer/director Joss Whedon, who noted in his summer blockbuster The Avengers that “doors open from both sides.” (The Avengers, like The Hobbit and so many others before, begins with the opening of a door.) Doors aren’t just a way out. They’re also a way in–to us, to our own heads.
The more I write, the more I’ve become fascinated with doors. I keep Bob Wilcox’s photographic catalog Doors on my “creative shelf,” a miscellany of prompts and triggers, next to works like Marcais Marchand’s Crazy Stuff and The Dictionary of Imaginary Places by Manguel and Guadalupi. I’ve even started collecting photos of doors I’ve found both online and in my travels. You might be surprised what you can come up with when you stare at a door and start to wonder what’s on the other side…
For instance I’ve found that color matters. Bilbo’s door was green–apt for a hobbit-hole –and quite a few doors are red (including my own), which is not surprising considering red’s immediate association with warning. Doors are usually meant to keep people out. But I’m particularly fascinated with blue doors. There’s just something inherently sinister, like an invitation to danger.
Whenever I’m stuck I add a blue door to my story, sometimes figuratively but sometimes quite literally. (I can always go back and edit it away.) This is not to let my characters out, which is letting myself off scot-free from shabby writing, but rather to let myself inside, through the concrete block and back to the swirling unconscious from whence all this comes. I send my characters through the blue door to see what terrible conflict or surprising discovery lurks on the other side.
The heroine, soaked in tears and bleeding from the motorcycle crash, trips over the lifeless hand of her fallen lover stretching across the pavement, wet with blood, as if beckoning her not to leave. The black van slows to a halt just as she realizes her left knee can take no weight, and as the van vomits its cargo of dark men into the night, she hobbles forward in a staccato of groans and falls panting through the blue door…
Before I go, I’d like to share two more doors with you. My second favorite is Rodin’s Gates of Hell, from which his famous Thinker was born–you can see it there near the top contemplating the meaning of it all.
Seen up close it just bleeds Dante’s famous dictum to abandon hope all ye who enter. Powerful stuff.
But my favorite door is this one.
It’s my own, the door through which, like Bilbo, my greatest adventure lies.
A Little Help from my Friends
Space(s) After Periods


  1. Doors are indeed our portholes to the world beyond. Nice to find out I’m not the only one with a threshold fascination.

  2. Absolutely fascinating blog post on doors. Very nice writing. The doors that come to mind are the ones in Monsters Inc., which I thought was an absolutely original concept that was wonderfully executed, and a movie from long ago whose name escapes me. Perhaps “sliding doors”? It started Gwyneth Paltrow in another extraordinarily written movie.

    It is rare that I watch movies at all. Even rarer that I pay attention to doors, of all things, but because Rick Wayne so eloquently pointed out so many nuances of doors, one can only go back into the recesses of the mind and thing about the rich symbolism that awaits.

    • Hi Amanda,
      It is “Sliding Doors.” I remember watching that movie.

      I’m a film lover, so I think this piece really resonated with me. I’m glad that you connected with it as well.

    • Thanks for the kind words. And sorry for the late reply–been enjoying the interstate highway system on holiday travel! I loved the Monsters, Inc. concept but I find some of the most evocative doors are the ones that slip into the background, and not just in movies but everywhere: literature, poetry, and art.

      Glad you liked the post.

  3. Jennifer, if you want to get all literary up in that … it’s called liminality, or the liminal.
    There are a few scholars who do analyses of the power of doors in stories. Might be somewhere to take this passion next.
    Great post, by the way. Sorry it took me so long to visit.

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