Fantasy Genre Speaker Series: Aftermath
Published Sat, Jan 5 2013 4:30 PM
Well, I went. The event was free, and yet it was worth many times the price of admission. It was not, as I feared an analysis of The Lord of The Rings like so many people do – looking for hidden meaning in the story and other such nonsense. Instead it was a rather brief introduction to Dramatica Theory, as applied to The Lord of The Rings.
This was the sort of thing I was looking for when I accepted the invitation to the event. It’s the sort of thing I’ve come to expect from the seminars at Norwescon, although there’s a lot more going on there than there was here, but this was free. I would have gladly paid for the privilege of listening to Tracy and Laura Hickman, and for the interaction with other people who were interested in writing.
The session began with an introduction of the speakers, and they continued the introduction. All very nice. Then we got started.
The first topic was Joseph Campbell’s Mono-myth. There was much discussion here about how mythology is the universal language of humanity and that “story is meaning – the why to every question”. A brief exposition of the story cycle in the mono-myth followed, beginning with the “call to adventure”, the “helper”, and crossing the threshold from the world of the everyday into the world of power and adventure. Moving on into tests of the character, more helpers, and the attaining of the prize.
At about this point in the discussion, Tracy made the point that all too often this is where the story ends. The readers or listeners or watchers are then cheated of the real point of the story. He used, as an illustration car chases on the news. Their stories on the news inevitably end with the capture of the miscreant – and the miscreant always has the same look on his face… “huh?”. Television stories and news stories seldom ever deal with the consequences of attaining the goal, and thus we learn nothing from them.
The mono-myth goes through two more stages in its cycle – the flight or return to the normal world and the crossing of that threshold – with the main character always being changed. We’re reminded that you can never go home. When you get there life goes on as it always has for all the people you left behind, but you are forever changed.
There was a lot more, including the discussion of epic story structure – where many stories are woven together into a single story. A discussion of four “journeys”, including the objective journey, the main character’s journey, the impact character’s journey, and the subjective journey of the main character and the impact character. There was a fairly long exercise assigning each of the major characters of the movies to character types for each of these journey-stories too.
Following this, there was a brief question and answer period. Questions ranged from self-publishing, e-books and the digital morass of dreck that so many “authors” produce (I believe the term Tracy used was “electronic slushpile”.). These days it seems anyone with a word processor and an Amazon account can be a published “author”. But that doesn’t make those “published” works worth reading.
Some interesting observations:
- An author needs an audience of between 2,000 and 5,000 people to really be successful.
- You’ve got to write something worth reading. There’s a lot of really bad “self-published” work out there.
- No one will value your work if you don’t. Don’t give your stories away. Always charge something, even if you only require an e-mail address from the people reading your work. An e-mail address by the way is a very valuable thing to acquire – it’s a way of keeping in touch with your readers and getting feedback as well.
All in all, it was a worthwhile session, and I hope to see and attend more of these.
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jen responded with:
Glad you took some copious notes Perri! My thoughts are similar, and am glad they looked at the material from a craftsmanship approach. So many commented afterwards about how useful that was. I sat in-between two writers (one successfully published about a dozen times and one just starting out) and the Hickmans' talk really generated some cool conversation- very inspiring.
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