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: http://wikipedia.org/wiki/monomyth
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.
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