Origins are very important – that’s where we come from, where we get our inspiration, the beginnings of our path.
He’s known as a ‘structure guy’ – he can look at a story and see through to the bovines – almost like a chiropractor who can see what’s out of alignment. Gets to the true potential of the story.
A map is not the journey – it gives a sense of direction BUT, it is in the digressions and side trips that the magic happens.
The sweeping music in films reflects the energy.
Ray Bradbury – one of the techniques he uses is to get all five sense on every page.
Use sensory detail…
The grey ribbon of 4-lane highway is alive with mostly lone commuters hunched behind their steering wheels, trapped in the sludge that is morning rush-hour. I crack open my window but instead of the smell of spring, I get wafts of diesel from the line of dump trucks jockeying in and out around me. Gears grind, brakes squeal and horns honk as we crawl to walking speed, as if the noise will clear a path through the auto-clutter. I sip my warming smoothy – thank goodness the slice of ginger I threw in masks the taste of the powdered greens the saleswoman at Natures Emporium assured would cleanse my blood.
Writer Duet…collaborative software – several writers can input simultaneously
Try to add some cinematic quality to your writing!
Not ‘Motion Pictures’ but EMOTION pictures – the ability of the story to transmit emotion and move us. If it doesn’t bring about change in the audience and characters, why bother? An expectation that there will be growth and change.
Maya Angelou – “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Not just 3 or 4 emotions but ALL the known emotions. Ambitious but not always necessary or possible.
Make a list of emotions – HOW WILL YOU EVOKE THEM? What’s are the possibilities? What language do you have to express them? What sensory elements will help evoke emotion – smell, sounds, touch…
INTENTION – the work really needs to begin with a strong intention.
Learn useful tips and tools from recognized writing experts and regain the energy to enjoy creating good fiction again.
Whatever you’re doing when you write – don’t forget to be the ‘fool’. Be wise open to the new…what form should your next work take? Can you apply fiction techniques to add emotion to creative non-fiction writing?
His intention – to completely transform us and send us out to transform the rest of the world through what we do.
Alfred Hitchcock – the master of intent. Storyboarded – considered every single dot on the screen in terms of its impact, what it said about character and plot. He uses positions, shadows, etc. To mean something – another language in his films – a shadow across someone’s face means they are in trouble, doubtful, deceiving, their soul is lost – depends on where it falls, e.g., on chin, forehead, eyes, etc.
What he’s trying to do is make the invisible things, visible to the audience – feelings, moods, inner realities, etc. Objects transmits the inner workings of characters.
Cinematic technique – Use objects to describe something. Giving a gift is usually symbolic – represents a desire to make a connection with another person, e.g., win loyalty, confirm friendship, build power – an externalizer proof when something passes from hand to hand. Audience will wonder what happens to it – becomes the centre of collecting emotional feelings.
TRANSFORMATION – helpful to know what your story is about – THEME…boil it down too one word. Force yourself to discover what it is – as you write, it may change over time – ensure that every scene in the structure says something about that quality – REINVENTION – how does each scene relate?
IS THERE ONE WORD THAT KEEPS COMING UP, e.g., trust, confidence, etc. You can use different angles in different scenes – how does x regard trust, how does y regard trust – everybody has a viewpoint or set of experiences with that quality
Example, ‘regret’ – most people have an inventory of references – can be motivating for the audience because it is familiar but your skill is to present it in a fresh way…
PREMISE – an expanded theme. Sentence about the THEME or human quality. What is your point of view about a human quality? Becomes your hypothesis, e.g., you can’t expect others to trust you until you trust yourself.
Do a word search to see how often your theme word appears
CHANGE – Yin & Yang – whatever you are, the seeds of the opposite are in you. The movement from one side of emotion or action creates TRANSFORMATION – it goes on all the time.
Transition from one state of existence or from one world to another – sunrise to sunset. We automatically select a point in someone’s story when they are in a state of change – why do we look at them unless they are about to transform? A ‘crossing the log’ moment – transitioning from childlike innocence to a more mature approach to the world – stand jump for yourself, take your rightful place.
This kind of examination should clarify things for the reader – clear away the film of life – gets the reader to resonate – either they have experienced it or it’s missing from their life
It’s all about the vibes, man. Everything you see and hear around you is vibrating fast. Your book is charged with your vibrations – everything you’ve learned, some X factor you tap in that’s beyond your experience. Should cause the reader to go through a little bit of a shift or transformation – could be entertaining, informative, etc.
Most people come into a book jangled, distracted, bored, tired – the writers takes the reins of their mental and perhaps physical processes for a brief period of time – you interfere with their vibrations in a positive way – tune them like a staticky radio. Take them from fatigue and cast a spell to get them to a new state. There is a possibility in our work to get people centred again for a brief time, as they turn from one page to the next – e.g., answer a question, take them to another level of understanding.
As they get involved with your characters, you take them on a wave-like journey – the characters have good days, bad days, really worse days, best days – builds in intensity to the point where it shatters expectations – so exciting or cathartic that it attacks the whole framework of their previous existence and sends them off in another direction or to a new adventure – make the character sympathetic, interestingly flawed with lots of problems – but there has to be a progression that leads the reader to follow.
How the character enters the story is important – sets the tone, catches interest
Principle – contrast should be used more. Use element of surprise. What is the emotional load in each scene?
How can you better externalize what is happening internally? Can you give the reader shivers because of how you portray the truth of the moment? Insert some mystery – hold something back. Props can be used as visualization of deeper meanings, e.g., wrestler doll on dashboard, source music that reflects what’s going on emotionally.
Details are filled with possibilities, even seemingly insignificant ones. Play around with the readers’s expectations – lead them to believe X but deliver W that reveals something about a character’s nature.
CHAKRAS – the subtle body relating to internal organs. Invisible, thought forms – there is a progression from the low-level stuff – survival, sex, power on the lower or animal world levels. Most people toil on those basic levels. Stories can get into the system and either open up or close down those chakra centres up and down the spine. For example, when you are helpless, powerless – Root chakra: you feel that in your gut.
Good movies lift us from the Root and Sacral or solar plexus chakra and stimulate them to the heart chakra (love), throat (musicals, overcoming fear and telling your truth – could have a shocking effect but it necessary to character development.
Third eye – we see characters experiencing the unknown or spiritual; side of life or having intuition), e.g., in crime stories, the hero is knocked unconscious somewhere in the middle of the story. Reorganizes their thinking. When he comes to, he has an insight – I’ve got a hunch. [after Kenora falls over the ladder and is assaulted]
Crown chakra – very rare in life or movies. About someone’s whole picture of life opening up – enlightenment when they see the vision of their entire life.
Chakra examples tend to occur in pairs that create circuits, e.g., open in power chakra (want control) and throat chakra (strong ability to express ideas and convey power). Common theme in stories – people who cannot express themselves or tell the truth until an event happens to open them up. Open people – smile, ready to connect with others. Closed – solitary, confine themselves to situations they can control, do not engage.
Sound vibrations can affect chakras – ‘touches you where you live’.
RELATES TO MASLOW’S HIERARCHY OF NEED – EVERYONE HAS NEEDS AND DRIVES and varying desires to express them – everybody in your story must know what their Prime Directive is, e.g., the default is not to upset anyone or have them angry at you, urge to please (may be unconscious but is important to know). For some, it is being first, being in the background, being considered competent, etc.
WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN CHARACTERS’ PRIME DIRECTIVES? Are they extremes or middle of the road? ME first; me last or me too? What is at the top of their list? What might serve them better?
Good story is examining the list of needs and wants of characters – 3 or 4 things. Is that serving the story or is it a crutch that has reached the end of its value?
Movement from one level to the next doesn’t have to be dramatic but could be incremental.
He first discovered the theory 40 years ago but now he is revisiting the mythological concepts of Hero with a Thousand Faces. For him, it was almost hypnotic – the code and magic of symbolism.
Images in myth act directly on organs of the body – EMOTIONS
VOGLER’S RULE – if two or more bodies of the body are not squirting fluids, the story is no good. Linking survival with sex, for example, makes for an interesting story – organic cinema.
Be very wary of trying to throw in too many tools and tricks – story gets unfocused. What is it about? Identify the key theme. When the protagonist achieves their wish, then what to do? How to create adjustment resulting from self-evaluation and realization – cut out everything that is not about the theme and does not serve the main purpose.
Don’t be afraid of editing and losing something – there is only so much energy in a film or novel – a fixed amount. When you edit a piece, that energy stays in the design and goes somewhere else. The hole that was made is filled by ‘other stuff’, enhance the next line of dialogue, make the next scene brighter, etc. You may be fearful of taking out something you’ve worked hard to create – lee your view on the big bigger.
It’s about a State of Mastery when you stop creating obstacles and go directly to your goals.
In alignment with the grid – you imagine that there is a string coming from the top of your head anchored above and grounded in the earth. Using that concept keeps you buoyant and gliding forward!
HOW STORIES WORK
Identify Want vs. Need within the main characters.
There are certain things that are firm – you should know what the hero wants before you can properly plug into the story. You must want it, too. Save the Cat moment – make the connection between hero and audience.
Plugs the reader into the story.
Make the characters flawed and broken in some way (we are automatically sympathetic because we are flawed too. Take something away from them – becoming an orphan in fairy tale.
Have them doing something they don’t have to, but they are altruistic, care about the other person more than themselves…
BUT…the hero must learn what he or she really needs. Desire at first is usually physical and external – winning the game, getting the car, freeing the people.
The other dimension is what the character needs emotionally – requires different kind of writing. Where did they make a wrong turn, how did they get wounded in the past, what will it take to ‘fix’ the problem or guide them in the right direction.
Audience comes in for the thrill …but they stay for the LESSON. Not moralistic or preachy – they watch with close attention for acts of comparison – clues relating to how to live their life in a different way. Can be body language, playing a role (fake it til you make it – take from fictional work an inventory of survival skills). E.g., Rumpelstiltskin – when the girl cries, it triggers his appearance, they make a deal – she wants to spin straw to gold and get out of the locked room. NEED – she should have thought about the consequences of promising him her first born child.
When he comes to collect, she has a last chance to save her child and best the villain.
Fairy tales – all true and not fantasies. They are journalism and mysteries based on real events…puzzles to be solved.
Want + Need
Creates suspense with Outer and inner questions – inner & Outer Journeys
Will the hero get what he wants?
What will they learn on a spiritual level
+ price – what are you willing to pay to get what you want/need?
Often a tick-tick back and forth between wants and needs – at the climax, you can create one scene where all the questions are answered OR they are all back on the table.
Like architecture – certain realities of the inner and outer dimensions. Tension and transformation that happens when you leave the outside and enter the inside space – part of the time you spend that is set off/dedicated to a specific operation – takes you someplace or shows you something about your characters.
Everything should be by design and serve a purpose, e.g., Classical Greek and Roman temples always had an even number of columns (harmonious and practical). Bilaterally symmetrical – mirror image – beautiful, divine, pleasing – cultural choice.
Leaving some details out can create mystery and push the reader to fill in the blanks…
The map is NOT the journey – helpful when you start or get lost. – they are orientation devices that can help readers take what you give them and plug it into their own lives – reassurance they are not alone.
The Three Act Structure
In the beginnings of drama, Aristotle laid down the principles in The Poetics. Stories were designed to create emotional purging – story builds up to the point where the audience can’t hold it in any more – releases energy from the body – Catharsis, e.g., vomiting. For mental health, you need to do that with emotion or frustration when you are crossed (resentment, rage, revenge, etc. – has to be released) The theatre is a safe arena for that kind of explosive release.
- Thought that writers have to be insane to be able to imagine, build worlds and create characters, then put it all on the page.
- Protagonist – the first one – the one who starts the action. Now means the her.
Syd Field – one of the first in modern times to keep the unwritten rules hidden. Captured the knowledge previously held secret by screenwriters in his book Screenplay.
Mid-point – you know it’s half way through
Aristotle – tension rises then it falls, builds up energy then runs down
Syd Field – Three act structure. There will be forces in that world that are diametrically opposed – every society is divided somehow. Have to figure out which belief system is at play – will it change?
Turning points – something happens that hooks into the energy of the story and turns it in another direction, changing the nature of the story
Questions that were set up in Act 1 get fleshed out in Act 2 – some are resolved.
Denouement – things start to wind down, get resolved…
The only guideline worth paying attention to is, “What works for you?”
The underlying reality is that each piece fits together to create a satisfactory whole.
Aristotle applied the three Act structure
THE HERO’S JOURNEY
Commonalities – action happens in two different worlds
1. Ordinary world – comfort zone
2. Special world – things happen that transform you from the ordinary
Act 1 – Act 2 – Act 3 – Act 4 – can be related to markers in the calendar like Solstices. We’re vitally important in the old world for planting and harvest during specific times in the season – survival.
Important to fix your story in time – what season is it happening in? Pinpointing it makes it easier for your audience to contextualize – they have experience with seasons and what they represent.
Act 1 – separation – moving from Ordinary World – can’t stand it any more – I’m going to leave and do something drastic psychology of Jung and individuation – every person swings from solo to group, part of mother to separate individual) In life, we are always moving back and forth
Act IIA – descent – When you cross the threshold (symbolic and real) or centre line (from inner to outer or outer to inner dimension). Stepping into the unknown – you don’t know what you’ve said ‘yes’ to – feeling like falling or descending. Something challenges you – a death, crisis, etc that transforms you
Act IIB –initiation (into new life) – you are reshaped into another being. A period of learning
Act III – return – you cross the threshold again and return to the Ordinary world where you put what you have learned into practice – how will those who stayed in ordinary world react
1. Ordinary world – sets the table. This is where we are and how the hero relates to his/her situation. Is she confident, afraid, happy, sad, etc. SPEND SOME TIME DRAWING THIS PICTURE FOR THE AUDIENCE- does it come through in conversation or flashback?
2. Call to Adventure – How is the character introduced? Charming (sassy,), victim of underserved misfortune (identification – what if it was me in that world?) Has to be some type of announcement – their universe is threatened and the hero has to do something. The adventure shows up…What is the vehicle or instrument to take the hero where they want to go?
Hero may be of two minds OR they may be nervous and take their time to get over their fears. Even when the hero does not express fear – says “yes, that’s for me’, the fear has to be expressed and someone else will say ‘are you crazy? That could get you killed.”
KENORA – as soon as she is told not to do something, she inevitably will
3. Refusal of the Call – fear of change, take somebody else. There will be obstacles and scary opposition. Hero has to make an adjustment – re the arrows death-inducing or can I do something with the arrows and turn them to my benefit as weapons or setting them on fire. TURNING THE FEAR INTO SOMETHING POSITIVE. Flip the script so that you can go on. Threshold guardian – figures who appear when you try to do something difficult or new (naysayers) – Hero has to undermine or seduce them – under/over/through obstacles. In a music score, the director usually brings out the strings to mimic what the hero is feeling inside – a screeching sound with high vibrations
4. Meeting with the Mentor – in myths, there is a class of people (wise old woman/man, Obi-Wan, Merlin, Gandalf) who are helpers. Sometimes it’s a drunk, a minor figure who knows something…May be an inner mentor – some sort of wisdom, intuition, face, beliefs in yourself, memory…has been internalized. They give you something – a talisman, magic horse, something you were told (take a deep breath, etc. Landed early in the story by the mentor)
KNOW THE PATTERNS, CONVENTIONS OF YOUR GENRE, WHAT THE AUDIENCE EXPECTS, WHAT WORKS – but, you are obliged to do something that breaks the pattern. DEFY EXPECTATIONS SOMEHOW, BUT WITHOUT BREAKING THE CONTRACT WITH YOUR AUDIENCE, UNLESS YOU HAVE A GOOD HAND WITH ECCENTRICITY, e.g., Game of Thrones. Creates a ‘what next’ suspense – spice of something that breaks the pattern.
Mentor – the name of a character in the Odyssey.
5. Crossing the Threshold – signals a call, e.g., hunting horns calling to battle. Instinctive and intuitive – ‘reach for the brass’ when somebody has to do something. Leaves the old world. TURNING POINT – COMMITMENT – preparation is over. Start the meal. The audience is waiting for this – music can accent this – has to be specific to the new world. In writing – can change the rhythm, use shorter sentences, stronger language, suggest music, e.g. A certain Beetle song that fits the energy – illustrates there is something new and slightly dangerous – crossing, e.g, a body of moving water – can be a puddle or stream. SYMBOLIC.
6. Tests, Allies and Enemies – leaving comfort zones – being put back into a child’s place – they are not familiar with the environment and at first it is embarrassing. They have to find out what are their values, which armies they can belong to – small tests that are only a bit dangerous. Has to figure out what is good or bad – world hero knew may be turned upside down in the Special World – REVERSALS OF EXPECTATIONS make it a challenge to get bearings. Alliances are formed, often under situations of intense pressure. Find your allies. Not threatening the hero directly. See movie SHANE – bar is divided into farmers and cattle ranchers. Similar locations show up repeatedly – a bar or saloon, dancehall, casino. CASABLANCA – one set play – Rick’s Place.
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave – a period of possibilities where the hero gets to know herself better (comedy, romance, intrigue), see past the superficial impressions about others – someone could be suspect, a saboteur. Deeper perspective. This is where relationships are built, romances develop, first impressions of loved one begins to change – hero realizes they were putting on a front and they start to see the real person. Go in with a set of assumptions but in this phase of the story, those assumptions get shaken and stirred. In ROMANCE realm – reality of WHAT NOW sets in when they are not the paragon you expected – that’s when the real drama hits. A twisty path with physical and emotional adventures – escapes, chases and rescues – all must flow to DEVELOP the characters and deepen perspectives
8. The Ordeal. Some physical challenge – “in the belly of the beast”. Life and actual death – death becomes a character – has to pay a visit. The poetic sense of death must be suggested. Can be FAILURE, DEATH OFF HOPES & DREAMS, Relationship, self-image – it should look like it’s over. Some aspect of the hero is challenge on one dimension. When Jake sends her home?
Can be psychological life-or-death moment – hero faces terrible trials but doesn’t give up. Have to convince the audience the end is near – pile on the death-dealing options and challenges. This is a point where the hero appears to have perished, but after a time, they return and have been restored. When you do this well, the audience comes back changed – you’ve depressed them by apparently taking life away, then you restore life and they end up higher.
Like bungee jumping…Afterwards, life is different – sky is bluer, air is cleaner – they don’’t return to the same level – the change must he higher, deeper and reviving. Use a moment of suspense – after Dorothy throws water on the burning scarecrow and kills the witch. The soldiers turn from frightening into supportive – energy changes – lifts the audience. RITE OF PASSAGE.
TELL IN ACT 1 WHAT THE HERO IS AFRAID OF!
Kenora is forced to realize she has to rely on others.
9. Reward. They experience the challenge fully, survive and move on to collect their reward – magic mirror, keys, amulets, loot, reconciliation, etc. What is the treasure or new insight the hero got from facing their fears? Can be a celebration – party scene, love scene – after the heroes have been joined after completing their ordeals. Tends to be concentration of locations – fireplace, candles – flame is evoked intuitively at this stage. Often a sense that it’s night time – after the ordeal it takes a cycle of time to absorb what has happened – they take a time to review, followed by a speech/realization at a deep level about what happened – acknowledgment of mistake made in the past – it caught up with them and they’ll never make the mistake again.
THEY GET IT AND UNDERSTAND – deep realization. “Now I know who the killer is.” Something that puts meaning to the big event. A real sense of turning towards the end – there are still pitfalls, but not as serious.
You need to pump energy into the system so they don’t regress… Movies will often put in a chase scene to pump up the energy – the audience is tired – they’ve been through the challenges, danger, love scene, etc.
10. The Road Back. Is it benign or have you stirred something up by challenging the forces – they will chase you. Hero has to deal with the consequences of confronting the dark forces in the Ordeal – some element of the irritated, stirred-up energy. Often a showdown. Marks the hero’s decision to leave the Special World and return to the Ordinary World. Should look bleak – the hero is painted into a corner. Setbacks. Looks like ‘all is lost’ – she gained it but now it may be in jeopardy – they must figure out how to save the mess and get back on track. Kindnesses may be repaid…
Kenora stops Mitch from grabbing Maggie after brunch but he renews his attacks on her.
11. The Resurrection. Often the second life-and-death struggle (stage 8) but at the highest possible level for the hero. Final showdown (gun fight, courtroom battle- deadly serious/not fun– this is the CLIMAX – HIGHEST POINt OF TENSION. Out of death comes life – redemption, purification, rebirth – gets a fresh start. CATHARSIS – everything is out on the table; there are no secrets any more. Writer has to save something – they have been holding back until now – instead of 25, 50%, it all comes out at full power. Comes out of the experience a better person plate human being
Possible tragedy – no one believes because of an uncorrected mistake made early on – it catches up with you. Innocent person killed for no reason, etc.
12. Return with the Elixir – Someone has gone through great difficulty to obtain what they wanted – do they share it with others? Reinforces idea of sharing the wealth, lessons learned, experiences, etc. There’s a certain promise – if you approach these things respectfully and try to understand and put them to work, you will be rewarded with more than you put into. Affects the audience in ways they did not anticipate.
The Elixir may be love, freedom, knowledge, survival – the Ordinary World is a better place.
BE aware that conventions may not be the same for other cultures.
- Not all inclusive – villains can be generous, can save someone – but they are a villain at base
- Heroes can be villains as part of their characters – behaviour is so awful but the mask is being moved more freely.
- Make sure the characters use the standard archetype characteristics and fulfill their role in the end – may change depending on the scene
- A well-rounded hero will wear many or all of the masks
Hero – whoever the hero is, the rest of the archetypes will be consistent. Word is loaded with assumptions from different cultures – immediately takes people down roads. Some people immediately hear ‘man’. Heroes are often harnessed with pre-conceptions…there is still work that has to be done.
A woman’s journey is different than a man’s journey. Male is focused on external and emotion tends to be secondary. Stories generated by woman about women tend to be the opposite – we care about the emotional elements.
Collective heroes – Eastern cultures focus on family rather than individuals.
- Cultural values of heroes rise and fall – silly versions of Batman, etc. Can flip depending on events or cultural conditions. Don’t forget the ordinary hearses – farmers, cleaners…
- Shadows – Dark side – everything the hero is afraid of – guilt, regret, etc. That place where you store the uncomfortable stuff – monsters, psychopaths – can be tamed and healed if you bring them into the light – takes away their power.
- Shapeshifter – romantic issues, friendships of contrasting characters (one sort of normal and the other is violently different in their styles – the second one keeps changing – puts on disguises – inconstant. Genie in Aladdin
- Trickster – clown or sidekick. Native Americans use ravens – purpose is to teach you a lesson.
Threshold guardian – there to test the hero. THROWN UP WHEN YOU TRY TO DO SOMETHING NEW,
DIFFICULT – take them in as enemies initially but observe and learn…
- Herald – brings the call to adventure. R2D2 – brings hologram – the agent who brings the call. Beware the ides of March.
- Ally – epic of Gilgamesh – his buddy was the wild man of the forest. Let’s be friends – fight the monsters together. Sometimes the Ally is an animal (totem for tribe or individual) Represents a theme or premise. The song or message they bring provides an answer. Sancho Panza, Sherlock Holmes and Watson, Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda. Hero and heroine need someone to talk to – why doesn’t he understand me? What should I do? Ally’s advice is almost always wrong – then they try to fix things.