Storytelling Part 2

My husband and I are still arguing about this.

It all started out as argument that there should be more women in stories with their own agency. And now my husband and I are arguing structure vs details

He believes that the finer details change a story so much as to make every story different.

I disagree. The finer details make them unique, but they do not make them different.

I’m hoping I can explain this here, so I can explain it to him.

Maybe South Park can help.

Head over to minute 14:28, 18:39, 20:02

And that’s the essence of my argument. Just because you face a trapperkeeper mutant and not manbearpig, you’re still saving the town and learning something today.

Just because your gay couple worries about discrimination, and your straight couple worries about impressing her dad, they are still overcoming an obstacle together.

Buffy fights vampire, Luke fights stormtroopers, both die and are reborn in the fight against evil.

If Gandalf becomes Galdina, she still fights the balrog, dies and is reborn, and shows up at Helm’s Deep.

HOW they do it might change, but the fact that they do it does not.

So what’s the point of telling your story?

Because it’s yours.

To use my curtain analogy, from the previous post. I don’t use the exact same curtains in every room. Some of them are light dampening, some are sheer, the kitchen has shades, but all of them are window dressing.

The individual differences are endless and fascinating, but you still have curtains.

Every writer knows what it’s like to read a story that’s similar to theirs. You spend hours thinking about your main character and crafting your world, only to read something new, and the superficial similarities make you blush.

Somebody likes the same kind of curtains that you do. The picked out a similar pattern and fabric, but yours are little longer and the tie backs are rope instead of cloth. So the little details differentiate your story from that story.

But it’s still about answering the call to adventure, or falling in love, or becoming a parents, or overcoming evil. It’s still curtains.

They say to write the story you want to hear. What they should say is to personalize the archetypes you want to use.

And by that measure, there are no gendered roles. There are barely gendered tropes. A mama bear isn’t different from a papa wolf.

To try and put it another way, The Hero can usually walk. If you make him paraplegic,  then trials he faces will be different and how he handles them will be different, but handling trials is what heroes do. They are all unique… or they should be. But ending is still the same.

If a hero can be parapalegic, he can be a woman, or a donkey, or an elf. The hero will still go on the same journey, just with a little variation.

The couple in the romance will always meet, have sparks, go through the chase phrase, have a falling out, and then overcome their differences. That doesn’t change based on time, place, orientation, or race.

Once you understand how a story is put together, you can make the pieces out of anything you want. There’s a certain freedom in knowing that. I can make any character I want, because I know what the story I want to tell is.

Not to brag, but I’m usually complimented on my characters.  I have elaborate histories for them, and take pride in giving them unique voices.  And I love watching sparks fly as they interact. I also understand why those characters are in the story.

I also know that whether I’m writing a guile hero or Sir Percival, that the call to  adventure will come, they will face trials, go on a midnight run, slay the beast, and go home again.

I know that the five man band needs a hero, a lancer, a chick, a big guy, and a smart guy, or it’s NOT a five band, even if you have five people.

Knowing how characters and stories are structured allows you to alter the structure to your personal whims, but you still have to work within the structure, or you aren’t writing that story.



One thought on “Storytelling Part 2

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s