The Big Picture

Post copyright and written by Doris McCraw 2014







So what is the big picture? Thinking of the answer, high school popped up. There we studied “The Bard”. My favorite was “The Scottish Play, (Macbeth)”. I loved the line from the play “The Valiant” by Middlemass:  “Cowards die many times before their death, the valiant never taste of death but once”.

On into college and it was the study of Camus, Sartre,  Saint-Exupery and Hesse. Enjoyed “The Little Prince” by Saint-Exupery, but Siddhartha by Hesse has stayed with me all these years.

Later “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu and Lao Tzu’s work came out of my study of Japan and Eastern Philosophies and religious studies.

So why, you may ask am I talking about these earlier ‘required’ reading. They are part of the big picture of my storytelling, both verbal and written. The concepts snuck in without my even being aware of them.  Then the big three arrived: Campbell, McKee and Chubbuck that brought focus and question.

Joseph Campbell spoke about ‘the hero’s journey’.  It’s composed of three primary parts:  separation, initiation, return. Our characters, especially in novels do take journeys. Campbell gives an outline for that journey. For a more complete discussion of the concept:

Next McKee and his book “Story”, a must read for screenwriters, but the concepts translate well for other works. A long book, but one that goes into detail of all the elements that create a compelling story.

Finally, Ivana Chubbuck’s “The Power of the Actor” for a way to understand the inner life of characters. Primarily written for actors who strive to create the full character from the script, the ideas also add to the richness of an authors understanding of their own characters.

Do all the concepts of Campbell apply in every situation? Can McKee save a bad story? Will understanding where your characters have been make a difference in a short short story? Perhaps not, but having the knowledge, using it helps to create the big picture that can only help writers create the best story they can.

Just a bit of something I have thought about and wanted to share.  What have been your literary and educational influences? Until next time.


Cover for Home For His Heart

HOME FOR HIS HEART by Doris McCraw, available on:

Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords

Follow my haiku post five days a week at:

“Film & Photography on the Front Range” : the stories of the people who made film and photograph history on the Colorado Front Range. You can buy online at:





23 thoughts on “The Big Picture

  1. I am impressed with your memory, education, and ability to apply it to your current endeavors. Great post with lots of gems in it! You are obviously able to apply the principles you learned and do it well. Neva


    1. Thank you Neva. I do confess that one of the gifts I have been given is a good memory. I do try to at least understand the concepts and use them to the best of my ability in my work. Doris


  2. Hi Doris. The literature classes I took in college… several books come to mind: James Joyce’s Portrait of a Young Man as an Artist and Thomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel. After college, I read novel after novel after novel in the fantasy and SF genre; I even belonged to the SF Book Club for about 20 years. I also hung out in Walden’s and Dalton bookstores back when they existed in malls. I wonder how much longer Barnes and Noble will have brick and mortar stores.


    1. Hello Mike, the funny thing for me, I was a sociology major, once I decided. I think I just took courses that sounded like fun…like Japanese culture, world religions, etc. Libraries, bookstores were and are a major part of my life, the improv group meets at Barnes & Noble. I do hope the bricks and mortars stay around. The ambiance is so calming and I pity the upcoming generation if they lose that. Doris


  3. Hi Doris,
    I was also a sociology major but with a very strong liberal arts education. The existentialists as you’ve listed impressed me as did Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Pearl Buck, and the early romance/suspence writers. My teachers have been many since then and would filled a curriculum list for today’s writer’s: Oakley Hall, N. Goldberg, A. Lamott, J. Cameron, etc…and writers who love to talk of craft at any gathering that brings us together! Thank you for your insight and input…so much to be studied and tried.


    1. Arletta,
      You are so right. There is a lot to be tried and learned. I also think being a Sociology major has impacted the way I write, more than I would have realized. All the authors you mentioned are great reads. Doris


  4. Great post, Doris, with lots of great references. I’m intrigued by the Chubbuck book. I’ve never been an actor or studied acting, but it completely makes sense that you’d have to use similar skills for character-building as a writer. All our history and learning and life comes into our creations, doesn’t it?


  5. Thank you Stephanie. The Chubbuck book is a good one and easy to read, although long.
    I do agree it is our history that does influence our characters and our writing. Doris


  6. Campbell & Vogler definitely. And so many others. But for me I think the greatest influence has been ALL the books I’ve read. I think you have to absorb the rhythm of the language and storytelling.
    I’ve done some theater and think it has been helpful. Will look up Chubbuck’s book.
    Nice post.


  7. Doris, I think everything we fo in life shapes us and influences us. I read a lot of poetry , true crimes, and Westetns. We read a lot of Classics Literature Class. Cher’ley


    1. Cher’ley, I am enjoying reading about what has influenced the other Wranglers and writers who are commenting. I also am adding to my list of reading material. It is a joy to share these with others. Doris


  8. Hi, Doris — I’m not familiar with the references you made so I may just have to look into them, especially as I look into writing other genres (not there yet, not really even a paragraph, but a “needling noodle” of an idea or two!). LOVED YOUR BOOK! I will be leaving reviews on various sites in the next few weeks — GREAT JOB! 🙂


    1. Gayle, you have made my day. Thank you for the kind words about my book. Writing other genres is a fun thing to try…hence my first book. Now, I think I’m hooked. Look forward to seeing you, it is getting closer and having a chance to talk. Doris


  9. Doris- Like you, I studied many of the classics you ( and Mike etc) have mentioned at Teacher Training College, and since my first year course also included French I had to read Sartre in French. Existentialism isn’t even easy in English! Camus- was a little easier. Sadly though I know I’ve read many great books over the decades, I’ve always had a very poor recall. This means that only a ‘gist’ or ‘essence ‘ is left for me to build on now. I like the idea of Campbell and McKee’s work for character building – sounds like something I should be investigating.


    1. Nancy, you may enjoy the two, although both are fairly long. I also loved the Chubbuck book. Happy reading. I do confess my gift is a pretty good memory. Doris


  10. Thank you for sharing your literary idols. I loved Shakespeare, Copperfield, Thomas Hardy, and all the required reading i was given. To be able to look into the soul of each and every writer gave me concepts and inspiration I still use today. I think what is a great book to one person may not be the same for another. There are a few classics I didn’t enjoy as much as others (or rather, they didn’t affect me in the same way) but I’m sure I gleaned knowledge from them as well. Great post!


    1. Thank you Linda. I agree, we each have books the resonate with us. I also love that others have shared for it gives me food for thought and reading material for the future. Doris


  11. We are all influenced by books in one way or another, and apply that influence in a variety of ways. You gave me something to think about. I will be returning to the lower shelf of my book case to reread an old favorite soon.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s