It has been some time now since my last book checkup and since then I have found other interesting books.
This post will primarily focus, as the title says, on so-called “mythic structures” as well as “hero analysis” and the psychology of characters.
Why this specific theme you ask? Well for starters I like reading/studying/talking about the human nature and specifically heroes/villains and other tragedy-based structures (what a previous post hinted at).
I also believe that to make something “new” you have to make it with some “old” (Faire du neuf avec du vieux as we say in French). What we call “original” is only a mixture so dense of things that we can’t pin-point where it’s coming from and/or what has inspired it.
For instance in storylines, Lost has put a “new” spin on time-travel (or at the very least made it hype) but stories about time-travel has been around for centuries.
Beyond the content is probably something greater: structure.
Structure has been analysed for centuries, even millenniums, way back when Homer wrote (or rather told) his Iliad.
In the last decades, this analysis has been transposed to scripts and screenplays. Scripts and movies were broken down and compared to other literary pieces to try to found out the common links, not the least of which being Robert McKee’s Story.
Besides script acts, and structures, “heroes arcs” and “heroes journeys” have been analysed and also broken down. These mythical archetypes lead obviously to mythic structures.
This is one of the specialties of mythologists, including Joseph Campbell.
Campbell wrote a fascinating book around his theories of the journey of archetypal heroes in various mythologies from around the globe. This book led to a memo written by Christopher Vogler (a development exec) to Disney studios about how to use Campbell’s book for screenwriting. This memo led to various critically-acclaimed movies Disney movies such as The Beauty and the Beast, Aladin and The Lion King. Vogler also worked on a small movie called Fight Club.
Soon after, Christopher Vogler expanded his memo and published a book around it where he explored not only Campbell’s work (and Jung’s) but expanded it to correlate directly to screenwriting.
Vices, virtues and dilemmas should also not be forgotten in the world of screenwriting. Identifying the “moral premise” behind a story is essential to understanding why this particular story touches us, affects us. It is also what will ultimately give dimension and consistency to a great story. Few books deal with this in direct correlation with screenwriting. The Moral Premise by Stanley D Williams appears to be right on target by clearly and easily linking past and present stories, both in theory and practice.
On the other side of mythical stories and structures we have what is inside the character’s head, the character’s psychology. A lot of books have been written on the subject but few aimed at screenwriters. William Indick’s Psychology for Screenwriters seems to be one of the only books I have come across dealing exclusively with this. Comprehending the psyche of your characters can only benefit your writing and your story, especially in the television medium where characters are the medium.