“You enter the extraordinary by way of the ordinary.” ~Frederick Buechner
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Building a Story World
“The conscious use of mythic themes and tropes-that is elements and language that reflect either figuratively or literal use of images, symbols and folklore-is the key ingredient, allowing authors to explore realistic themes on a symbolic level.” Julie Bartel
Another form of language communication that crosses the personal and the cultural, as well as historical, is the language of typology.The characters, phrases and patterns we internalize through our personal histories, literature, scriptures, folk-tales, songs and culture continue to add mythic depth in our reading and our writing. We make ‘copies’ of the original typology and pass them on through the generations. Some become so familiar that they enter into everyday language as common metaphors or references, both across languages and within ethnic cultures, giving us shortcuts.
Terrible sea incidents become tied to Poseidon allusions or flood. Rainbows are considered a sign of promise around the world. Black holes immediately spell danger. So does Godzilla, regardless of the language being spoken.
We use a modern version of typology when we give social references. “They’re calling her the new Marilyn Monroe.” The allusion of course is toward the actresses’ public personae and probably has no basis in comparison to either personality.
Or one friend introduces another at her party. She confides, “Watch out for that one-he’s a flirt. Stay away from that one-he’s a wolf.” In a shorthand version the explanations are clear. With the flirt type no one gets hurt if you play by his rules, however, with the wolf type there are no rules. One gives an impression of harmless fun whereas the other is a predator. Little Red Riding Hood stories have grown cute over the years but the early versions are quite disturbing with strong undercurrents of sexual danger. Were medieval mothers trying to protect their young daughters from men in powerful positions, lord of the manor types, and so used the metaphor of familiar dangerous, hungry wolves that prowled their forests in the winter as the warning?
Exercise: Start a section in your journal notebook for types. Choose different categories such as historical icons—places or people, natural disasters, traditional folk characters, movies, songs or artists. Pick one category and list as many ‘type’s as possible under it.
Share: Either your list the list of categories you chose or the types under the one.
I am an author, a freelance content editor, a writing workshop instructor, and a writing coach. I write fiction novels and short stories, and nonfiction reflective journals, workshops and poetry. I am an avid reader, an occasional knitter and love to watch the ocean or see a good movie.
Albert Einstein said, “When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge.” Einstein called his imagination “a holy curiosity.
As readers and movie buffs we enjoy the drama and universal feelings of love, revenge, greed, hope. “When the shoe fits”, we can tap into these versions, add our own imagination, and enrich our own stories. We begin to identify metaphors for ourselves, our characters and our readers and become more attuned to feelings and beliefs. We often find emotional heritage—our touchstones—in our personal history, literature, scripture, folk-tales, songs and culture.
Jane Yolen says, “Folklore reflects the society that creates it. Modern art tales…. take on this mirroring quality, too.” According to Roland Hein, G.K. Chesterton believed that everyday life is permeated with mythic qualities. “One must have the eyes and the ears to see.”
So in Mythic Impact we will open our ears and eyes to a holy curiosity, building bridges through chaos and confusion, to search out illuminations.