Did you think there were more? Well of course there are as many ways as people but a little bit of delving around reveals a strange and perplexing truth about storytelling – all the stories anyone ever writes are based around one or the other of the following seven themes:
Think of St George and the dragon, The War of the Worlds – and so topical now – Dracula and his gluttonous vampire army. Monsters represent our fears – dark and dank, and that we have to beat to achieve happiness. So of course that is why we are buried under a ton of vampire and werewolves YA (young adult) fiction at the moment. What more dank and drear source of fear is there than adolescence?
Oh easy, I hear you say – I’m getting the hang of this now. Cinderella, right? Well, yes, of course – and The Ugly Duckling, Jane Eyre, Slum Dog … it crosses all genre, cultures and centuries. It gives credence to our belief in ourselves – we may start out mundane, poor, struggling, but we can – through hardship and trial, achieve the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and return home – bad boy done good etc. It may sound trite, but seeing the underdog triumph does us all good and gives us hope – so we love to read about it too.
3. The quest:
Another very topical one here – Lord of the Rings is the best and most spectacular example of this – and it’s an epic journey too, but you could go for Watership Down, or Raiders of the Lost Ark as well. There must be a hero, a lure or pull to an all-important goal and thrills, spills and almost death along the way before success brings the conquering hero home again with their spoils. Uplifting, inspiring, escapism – wonderful!
4. Voyage and return:
The Wizard of Ox – I had to have that one as it is the production my daughter is dancing in this summer, Alice in Wonderland, The Time Machine … Traveling out of everyday surroundings, the hero(ine) and the group of people traveling with them have to cope with the strangeness of another world, face shadowy threats and make a thrilling escape back to a normality they now appreciate where they had found it boring and mundane before – ‘there’s no place like home…’ (And of course there isn’t!)
Bridget Jones had us laughing all the way here and back with her, and then – if you’re a Shakespeare fan, so does The taming of the Shrew, A Midsummer Night’s Dream etc . It’s all good clean fun where the central character is blinded to the reality of things by their ego, short-sightedness, one track mind, whereas the reader/audience sees the wider picture and the humour lies in seeing the two juxtaposed. Of course our hero(ine) sees the error of their ways and All’s Well that Ends Well but not before they’ve been led a merry dance along the way. The end result is self-knowledge and reconciliation where there was harmony and unrest.
Ironically the same as comedy – and essentially the same as all the other story lines ultimately, where there is a problem to solve, ordeals to overcome and a journey in search of the goal – but rather sadly, the outcome will involve – for some of the characters, at least – death, destruction or disaster. And if you’re watching a Jacobean tragedy the body count on stage will probably be higher than the numbers in the audience (I love a bit of blood and guts!).
And finally there is…
Again a journey to achieve self-realisation, but the enemy is often – at least in part – from within. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, The Secret Garden are all based on rebirth. Often there is a direct confrontation between dark and light to achieve self-understanding and healing.
So let me think which of these I have written so far.
Chained Melody has to be rebirth, with an element of tragedy involved too. Someone or something has to fail, suffer or be lost in order for self-knowledge to enable the two main characters to achieve their form of happiness.
Web is dark and dire at times, and funny and lighthearted at others, but its message is all about seeing oneself and others clearly and putting that understanding together to create a whole. Two of the characters are so immersed in their own machinations they fail to see the most dangerous aspects of the whole until it is almost too late, and the other character is dark, dark, dark – confronting themself, and allowing the darkness to take over… It has elements of a tragedy too but is again a journey towards rebirth for my two dipsy daisies in it.
Then I have left to consider Falling Awake – which is definitely all about overcoming a monster – but defining the monster is as intriguing as finding out how it is overcome – or is it? And Patchwork People, which I have just started, is a quest, pure and simple.
Web will be released in the Autumn, Falling Awake Spring 2014 and Patchwork People towards the end of 2014 (unless I get lost on the quest).
Which one of the 7 are you working on?
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