Over the course of the 24 weeks I am working with the writers in The Quest, each will write a weekly dispatch to share with the GITS community. There are several reasons for doing this, the main one educational: Hopefully you will learn something of value for your own understanding of the craft from the experiences of the Questers. I should also add they are a great group of people, so I expect you will enjoy getting to know them.
Today: Christian Fontenot lays a little θεός [theos] on us:
“A man who has not passed through the inferno of his passions has never overcome them.” – Carl Jung
WE ARE GODS! Sorry for yelling, but this is important for all of us storytellers to understand. We, the writers, are the masters of the universe, not in a He-Man or Seinfeld way, but masters of our story’s universe, and it is up to us to make sure that our protagonist deals with their shit.
As an amateur to intermediate level writer, I have struggled with giving the car keys of my story to Plot or Character. Plot offers me the comfort of structure, defined beats, pretty rainbow colored note cards, and if I’m really good, he will take me to the Dairy Queen for a milk shake. Character is the crazy, unpredictable ex-girlfriend. One second she’s a flirt but without warning turns into a raving bitch. For her, it’s about the wild journey and not the boring destination.
My first 2 screenplays were definitely more character driven. I knew the endings and just let the characters guide me there but all at the expense of pace. Then I discovered the usual suspects of popular screenwriting books, and my world changed. How could I be writer with out outlining? Help – there’s no hook on page 10; no inciting incident on page 30. Comprehensive outlining led me to many stops and starts and half written stories, as well as 2 completed screenplays that were both page count and character lite.
The Quest is offering a middle ground – a chance to deconstruct and rebuild my way of looking at story. Character should drive plot. Plot should be structured around character metamorphosis. Plot twist are the universe telling our protagonist that he/she/it still isn’t ready to move forward – more shit to deal with. As gods we must push our hero to their breaking point then rebuild them. We can’t let the fat lady sing until our protagonist has fulfilled the destiny of the universe that we have created. WE ARE GODS! DAMN IT!
Key Stats: Dashes: 5; Clichés: 1; Curse Words: 3; Gratuitous Yelling: 2.
Or in the words of Bill Murray in Groundhog Day:
Phil: I’m a god.
Rita: You’re god?
Phil: I’m a god. I’m not the God… I don’t think.
Apropos, Christian. As writers, we create an entire story universe with its own External and Internal World. We create the characters so they may inhabit the land, sea and sky. Hell… er… heck, we even name the characters, although technically per Genesis 2:20, that was Adam’s gig, at least the animals. Aardvark. Really?
So yes, I think it’s fair to say we qualify as a god. But wait. Do we control the destiny of our characters? If we want to carry the analogy one step further, The God gave free will to humans. So, too, do we with our characters. After we breathe life into them, something mysterious happens: it seems they have gone about living their lives. They have back-stories and memories and personalities. Thus once we disengage from our Heavenly Throne and enter the Story Universe we have created, we go from a god to investigator… reporter… and eventually narrator.
We live with a dynamic tension born of two locations we must inhabit, traveling back and forth: Outside the Story Universe where we nudge and push and prod the characters and events; Inside the Story Universe where we observe and listen and study the characters and events.
And somehow out of all that, we create a story.
So Christian, I thank God… god… you for that, even your Gratuitous Yelling (I’m glad I had my virtual earplugs in). And even though you don’t know it, you engaged in a nifty bit of synchronicity – perhaps divinely inspired – which you, and everyone else, will understand in 1 hour when the next post goes live.
Tomorrow: Another Dispatch From The Quest.
About Christian: From Louisiana, now in Seattle. Turns off street lights with his mind. Regrets not learning the tuba – TUBAS ROCK! Storyteller. @cmfontenot