We speak of stories as a journey, our lives as a journey, the ubiquitous three-act structure is a journey, based upon the Aristotelean beginning -middle-and end, a certain allegory for living. There is certainly a difference between a trip, an expedition, and a pilgrimage, and that difference is one of purpose and need. Joseph Campbell attributed a kind of moral imperative to a journey by labeling it a quest – The Hero’s Quest. In Campbell’s description there is a need and a sense of urgency attached to the journey.
With all this talk of journeys it seems we should consult Map Quest rather than an oracle to help us with our direction. I rather like the phrase a voyage of discovery because while it is obviously a “trip” over time and distance, the purpose or goal is perhaps less specifically defined: “What will I find out there…?”
Quite frankly, I become tone-deaf when I start thinking of journeys and their ubiquitous beginnings, middles, and ends. There is something tired, old, even stifling by applying journey to anything longer than a trip!
I have recently discovered a different approach, far from mastered, that puts my mind less in this sequential, linear, mode of thinking or imagining, and more like the above mentioned voyage of discovery; or, perhaps, weathering a storm.
The approach is called Dramatica, and it looks at story as a grand argument. Today we are not so much on long journeys as involved in grand arguments and that sums up the story telling for these times. Previously, the trek to the Promised Land was a momentous journey, as was Oliver’s search for love. Marco Polo never debated why he needed to make his historic sojourn; likewise, Chris Colombus! They needed to get from one place to another, literally. Today we are involved with debate and persuasive argument that deals with the challenges of today. We are here, and the issue is how do we stay here; by what means do we stay here and survive.
There is yet one real quest or journey still to make, and that is one beyond our solar system, and perhaps why Sci-Fi has the popularity it enjoys. Aside from outer space, our real issues seem to be one of persuasion, and as such it is a productive model for 21st Century storytelling. We’re not finding new worlds so much as trying to make this one last.
Dramatica provides me with a basic point of attack, a premise for all of my writing. You see, for me to succeed as a writer will require a challenge of all accepted ideas regarding the making of a writer. I have none of the prerequisite building blocks most writing gurus enumerate. I haven’t written a lot. I haven’t read a lot; although, I read a lot of different things for work and education, I don’t read a lot of fiction which is my reason d’etre for writing.
Can I become a writer; (and I’ll be more specific) can I succeed in writing fiction that someone else publishes, not me? This becomes my voyage of discovery, my grand argument, pitting all the characters of life that might suggest I can’t do something because I don’t have the background for that endeavor. It becomes a wrestling match with the idea that 10,000 hours of work is required to master something, anything.
Oh my, now we’re mixing our metaphors with sports!
My competitive instinct says I can, or should…
The debate and its vehicle, Dramatica, will appear on these pages over the coming weeks and months – or however long it takes!