The Writer’s Journey

Aug 31, 2014 by

The Writer’s Journey

For much of my life I have been in love with writing. If you jump over to TraverseAdventures.com, you’ll see a reference to the window at 208 Fortress Street on what was KI Sawyer AFB, in Gwinn, Michigan. From that window of opportunity,  I would sit at my kidney bean desk and a children’s typewriter and construct stories.

Admittedly, I long have had a problem in my writing. I like people and dislike controversy so much, I found it hard to create characters who I began to care for and then needed to throw every sort of imaginable adversity in their way to make a compelling tale. As I told the class I was in at SMU over the summer, “I hated to skewer my characters.” Essentially, however, that’s what makes a good story; one worth reading, one that has something to say.

My life has changed drastically over the past four years. I have had a lot of bad things happen to me emotionally, physically and any other kind of -ly you can come up with to where I’ve been able to punch through what I didn’t have in me before. I’ve experienced how bad things happen to people that shouldn’t, how nutty and dishonest people can wreck one’s life. I’ve witnessed how mean and disingenuous people really can be. Disillusioned now, I have seen how the truth has so little to do with what goes on in court rooms, and how jealous, greedy and evil some people really can be. I’ve seen what demise the use of meth can bring about to a person and their family. Ultimately, I’ve learned to put new value in the simpler things in life.

Christopher Vogler‘s The Writer’s Journey

The Writer's Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

There are two upcoming classes at SMU I look forward to beginning the next two weeks. One is called Story, a five-week class that features the book The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. The second is a class called, “Stakes,” which is a two-session class designed to help writers “raise the stakes” their characters will endure in a work.

I’ve begun reading Vogler’s work, which also led me to Barnes and Noble yesterday to purchase Joseph Campbell’s The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Vogler wraps a lot of what he has to stay around the works of Campbell, which are largely based on premises of Freud and Jung–and as much as modern psychology has undone the concepts they put forward years and years ago, I have to wonder about some of what Campbell says–but I’m enjoying the aspects of what Vogler has put forward. But Campbell also dissects the essential elements of what stories have been about for thousands of years of recorded human history, largely through myths. Volger and Campbell’s contention is that stories, even today, are still deeply rooted in the tales of yesteryear and will be until the end of time.

At this writing, I’ve only ingested the first part of the book but it has been exceedingly insightful into the essential elements of the characters a successful work theoretically should contain.

Of course, a story needs a hero. But then there are certain other foke that a hero must get help from, or be opposed by, to make a good story work.  I highly recommend this book already. Yes, I’m still a fan of Bob McKee’s STORY, but Vogler is able to say things in some ways that are simpler to comprehend than McKee.

The Privacy Patriots Progress Update

For the Stakes class, yesterday, each of us in class were to have sent in two chapters of our work, and a 12-point plan for our “hero’s journey.” That’s a dynamic spelled out in the Vogler book where the progress of a story is broken down into 12 logical steps from setting the stage of the hero’s ordinary world, getting called to go on an adventure, refusing to go, meeting with a mentor, crossing the first threshold or point of no return, going through tests, meeting allies and fending off enemies, to approaching the lair of the biggest enemy, the ordeal, getting the reward or seizing the sword, the road back, the resurrection or climax, and then the return with the elixir.

Essentially, any good tale is going to have all of those elements, not necessarily in that order, but they will be contained in the work to make it compelling to read or watch.

In some ways, it almost ruins the reading or watching of books or movies, because instead of concentrating on the content of the story, I’m now more mindful of which element is in play and where. The trick of all writers though is to make the tale so compelling, that while one might be aware of those elements, the reader is still captivated.

So I’ve begun the process of writing the book. The two chapters I sent in were a prologue–which many books argue is out of fashion today, but if you go to the book store and pick up a book, it’s still likely to have one–and then blocks of what’s theoretically going to happen in establishing the “ordinary world” of my primary characters.

This past summer, along with massive client projects, I’ve managed to build some in-depth character profiles for each person in my book. And now, almost as if I were a character in a story about writing a book, I’ve been given my call to adventure (START WRITING IT WILL YA?!)  and in part, answered it metaphorically with, “I’m not ready.”

My two instructors over the next six weeks are going to be the “meetings with the mentors” to get me further down the road with this tale I so desire to tell. It’s time to skewer some characters and make them hurt before helping them emerge on the other side, stronger, better and more human because of it. Much like the last four years has done to me.

 

 

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Writing A Novel – Learning From Mistakes

May 2, 2014 by

Writing A Novel – Learning From Mistakes

Airplane Sunrise

Airplane Sunrise (Photo credit: ClaxtonCreative)

The most powerful lessons we learn in life are from our own mistakes. Sometimes they’re silly mistakes. Sometimes they’re gross miscalculations. Sometimes we gambled too much and lost.

Over the past two weeks we’ve been going through a series of daily exercises designed as a self-study, even for someone who may not ever write a novel, short story or screenplay.

The gist of the exercise is simple. Take out a stack of blank 3 x5 notecards, title, number and date them, and then add a list of items associated with the exercise.

EXERCISE:

So here’s today’s challenge. Make a list of what you have learned from the mistakes you have made in your life. Maybe this just needs to be one lesson per card.  It’s up to you and as always, there are no wrong or right answers and you don’t have to share them with anyone else but yourself.  But the premise here is that when you go to writing and creating your characters, you’re going to want to create an arc for them over the length of the story.  That means they start at one point and hopefully, after crossing a couple bridges from which there is no return, they end up at a different point in their lives. Usually in storytelling that means they go from a negative aspect in their lives to a positive one.  They go from being a lazy drunkard to an energetic community leader hero and find redemption, etc.  Over simplifications, but I hope you get the point.

Well to write about those things, wouldn’t it be easier to have something of a list in hand BEFORE you really get going down the path so you have a better idea where you’re going?  And what better a thing to weave in some realness into your characters by dealing with things that you have truly experienced or seen in the lives of others?

Thinking about writing a novel? Now do you understand why this is so important for a writer?

Now thing about how important it still might be to someone who may never write a thing in their life, but instead used this one blog post to make an important life change….

 

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Writing A Novel – Characteristics of People I Like

Apr 29, 2014 by

Writing A Novel – Characteristics of People I Like

An essential part of a good story is being able to add good qualities and flavor into the lives of your characters. You want to create empathy between them and your readers.  Even your antagonist needs to have a soft spot so your readers/viewers can relate to him/her in some way.  It just makes for a better story.

And so today we continue on with our self-study exploration questions that hopefully will help make it much easier to come up with good things about your characters based on this series of exercises.

The good thing about these exercises is that they also can be helpful and beneficial to someone who just wants to learn a little more about themselves.

Last week we began this series and did some exercises. Saturday’s was to get a stack of 3 x 5 notecards and write about things you like. Yesterday’s was things you do NOT like.

Today we’re going to analyze that a little deeper.

To do the exercise, just fill out the top of a card with a heading, in the case of today’s exercise–Characteristics of people who I have liked–and then number the card in the top right corner. I also like to add the date somewhere so that two or three years from now when I come back to these, I’ll have a better frame of reference as to what was going through my head now versus then. When you fill up a card, start a second, third … as many as it takes.

Remember, there are no right or wrong answers.

And if you’re doing these exercises for the benefit of your future characters, think about exposition you will do and even dialogue you will write where this will add an extra dimension to your characters.

Okay, so here’s today’s exercise.

EXERCISE

What are characteristics of people I do like? Is it just superficial as in the way they dress, or look or can you probe deeper and really see somethings. Are they like how you want to be seen?  Are they how you are seen?  What do they do you do not?  What do they do that’s similar?  Keep probing, there’s a lot of good that can come from this.

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