Tuesday, January 8, 2019

ARCHETYPES, MYTHS AND THE STORY OF THE WEST: part two -writers and screenwriters

Photo (c) by Doris McCraw
Part two of the discussion of writing stories/novels and screen writing. This section deals with some of the similarities between the two and the underlying importance of engaging your reader/watcher.

For those who would like to review the first part, you can access it here: writers and screenwriters

So here we go.
  • Psychological effect
    • It’s important for writers to understand the human psyche. By doing so the writer can effectively communicate their message to their audience.
      • The best stories include both sides of conflict equally, thus allowing the audience to form their own opinions.
When we start a story, we usually have an idea of where we’d like the story to go. As noted above, some of the best stories have multiple views of what is happening. I’ve heard it said a story is only as good as it’s villain. I don’t know how others feel, but in my first published novella, “Home for His Heart”, I felt I needed a villain who was strong enough to force the hero and heroine out of their respective fears. That the villain felt justified in his actions made him even scarier than just a bad person.

    • Symbolic Linkage – Symbolic links are a handy tool for any writer. Most audiences are smart and are have a common culture; therefore writers can effectively use what some audiences might already have been subjected to.
The story of the West has been told by many authors in many different forms. This is also true of the film industry. As we look back to the early western writers and film makers we see a cleaner delineation of good and bad. We can reference events and most will understand the connection. As time has passed, the stories have become more complex, the line between hero and villain have sometimes been blurred. One of my favorite films is the original ‘3:10 to Yuma’ with Van Johnson and Glen Ford. Although you know who the hero and who the villain are, the story adds the element of good in the bad. The remake with Christian Bale and Russell Crowe added more on screen violence and more of the pieces of good and bad for both the hero and the villain. However, if you really want to see how one story can be told is a myriad of ways, read the original short story by Elmore Leonard. It is a great, yet short read.

photo (c) by Doris McCraw
    • Archetypes – Another way to engage your audience is the use of archetypes. In particular the concept of an archetype reveals recurring mental images and/or themes that encompass many different cultures and societies throughout time. One could say that we as humans innately understand archetypes from birth. Character examples might include: The Hero, The Caregiver, or The Wizard. Story specific examples might include: The Hero or The Rebirth.
If there is a more perfect description of the Cowboy as hero, I don’t know what is might be. We have the archetype right there. The Cowboy is the hero, the caregiver and for some a wizard who is there to save the day. When I was writing “Chasing a Chance” my hero was just a man who wanted to find and help the woman he’d always loved. Through the story he learns just how much he was capable of. In some ways, his journey is one of rebirth into who he always was.

    • Myths – With archetypes also comes the use of Myths. Constructing your own myths, legends and saga can also have a big impact on an audience. Myths help make a connection in the same way that both symbolic links and archetypes do. As a myth story unfolds the audience instinctively understands what’s at stake and instantly realizes this is an epic larger then life adventure ahead.

We as Western and Western Romance writers make use of the myths of the West in our storytelling. It is what has drawn us to the genre and keeps us telling its story.

So as storytellers, what part of myth, archetype and symbolic links do you use? I realize I love telling stories of people who come to understand what they are capable of and of making peace with their past. The stories of the West, the journeys and new starts fit so well with the men and women I come to love as I strive to tell their stories.

Doris Gardner-McCraw -

Author, Speaker, Historian-specializing in
Colorado and Women's History
writing fiction as
Angela Raines - author: Where Love & History Meet
For a list of Angela Raines Books: Here 
Angela Raines FaceBook: Click Here


Kristy McCaffrey said...

I believe it can be a great benefit to a writer to look at the inherent symbolism in a story they're writing and to strengthen those themes. It can really enrich the work. Lovely blog post, Doris.

Renaissance Women said...

Thank you Kristy. I know I use archetypes and symbology when writing, even if it is just in my own head. Doris

Elizabeth Clements said...

I learn something from you every time I read your article or blog, Doris. If we ever reach the point where we think we know enough, well, that's when we really have to dig deeper.

Andrew McBride said...

Very interesting post, Doris. Like you I really like the original 3.10 TO YUMA movie. For me the remake fell down by trying to replace tension with action. I also felt it was weakened by shifting the main emphasis to the moral struggle of the bad guy, so that the good guy (CHRISTIAN BALE) was underdeveloped as a character. In the original both characters struggle - the bad guy to find some virtue as he comes to respect his captor, and the good guy (a tremendous performance by VAN HEFLIN) to resist temptation.

Renaissance Women said...

Thank you Elizabeth. Since a young age, I've always wanted to know more, figure out how things work, and challenge myself to learn something I didn't know. I'm glad I have outlets to share that information with others.

Renaissance Women said...

Andrew, The Elmore Leonard story is a great read, and then to see how they took the story and made the two movies is enlightening as to how people react to the written word. They all are as different as night and day in the execution. I'm glad you also enjoy the original movie. I've DVDs of both, the the early one gets the most play. (It makes for a great exercise to watch one after another and analyze.) Doris