Are We Having Fun Yet?

Three years and 150 blog posts later, I find myself no less excited about exploring:
How Fiction Works and
Why We Read and
Why We Write.

As you know, I find answers to these questions buried in what I call the “mystical heart” of a story. 

By mystical I mean “not immediately available to our senses”. It’s a story’s job to hone the protagonist’s senses so that she sees what her belief system has so far prevented her from seeing.

Is all this too deep?

Well, from the looks of my subscription list, this blog isn’t for everyone.  Which makes you—whoever you are—all the more precious to me.

So, on this, my 3rd blog-birthday, I ask: Who Are You?

Here’s my guess:

  1. You’re not here to learn the “how-to” of writing fiction, so much as to understand “how fiction really works”. 
  2. You’re attracted to a plot’s dark alleys and dead ends.  You appreciate failure, disillusionment and despair for its potential to wake a hero up. 
  3. You’ve read Story Structure to Die for and you think I may be on to something.  Your protagonist must (somehow) “die”.  That’s the dramatic bottom line.
  4. You see parallels between your own life journey and the ruthless facts of fiction.
  5. Stories are inside your life—they’re not restricted to the outside.
  6. You yearn to write stories that contain a “secret centre”. 
  7. Writing gives your life meaning.

How accurate is that?  Or not?  Le me know.

What would you add to this list?  Who are you as a reader or writer?  What questions do you have about “story” or “drama” or “how fiction works”? 

The Comments section is open. I’ll take the data and run with it into the future of this blog.

And, finally…thank you for showing up here.  Without your radical interest in books, movies, and what makes stories work—this blog would not exist.

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  1. says

    Well PJ – this made me think. While I love stories, whether I’m telling or hearing, I’ve fallen into the role lately of a professional development consultant and my interest is how do you encourage people to jump into that dark hole in their own lives, the very same free fall into darkness that provokes transformation? Since I’ve tried this many different ways over many years I realized that my current best method for helping others is to invite them right up next to that hole in ourselves and through storytelling to help them look over the edge. The next step is sharing, which involves roping up together in that recognition of shared dilemma, stuckness, foolishness, fear. This comes from self-honesty of course. Ordinarily you’d rope up with others before climbing a mountain so the group can save an individual from a fall. Here it’s the opposite, we rope up so that when anyone gets the courage to jump into that hole the rest of us go with him.

  2. says

    Just realized I didn’t really answer your question. I’m here at the feet of your blog because you consistently remind me where to look for transformation and in what direction, if there is any possibility of my helping someone else, I need to be inviting others.

  3. says

    Great metaphor — roping up with fellow adventurers — in the hope of being pulled into the abyss. Reminds me of my sojourns in India where yes indeed it was almost impossible not to fall under the influence of others leaping before you. In fiction, of course, the poor protagonist doesn’t usually have such a support group. The fictional hero often just takes a mini leap, but even that is enough to nourish a reader. Hmm… I wonder, Rick, if my blog could act as a mustering station for writers in advance of their courageous forays into their fictional heart of darkness. Double-Hmm.

  4. says

    Yes, this precisely a major part of it’s value. A “mustering station.” Don’t know if you could serve a much higher function actually.

  5. says

    who am i? 😉

    i’ll definitely have to default to your title! – “Are we having fun yet?” and say, yes, beginning to 😉

    my challenge for myself, is that accepting an attraction “to a plot’s dark alleys and dead ends” & appreciating “failure, disillusionment and despair for its potential to wake a hero up…” –

    i want to then, also, entertainingly, convincingly, satisfyingly (should i add successfully? 😉 ) depict positive instances of, not only the morning after, but the mornings after re-birth, that show a satisfaction by the character of his or her decision

    that’s a mouth & keyboard full! which is to say i’m working on it, but beginning to, again, have fun

    best wishes pj!

  6. says

    Thanks, Adan… of course, the “morning after” is always satisfying, unless it’s a tragedy. I see the morning after (ie, Act 3) as a new story, a protagonist with a new and higher goal that buoys up the tale as it races to its conclusion. It’s a payoff in so many ways. And often so easy to write because I think the reader has, by this point, already been nourished by the heroics necessary to survive through all the dead ends and disillusionment. It’s a mouthful… and also a “soul-ful”.

  7. says

    8. I love a good story. I resist shallow fiction. I yearn to know how to take my meagre creative pulse and hone it, refine it into a powerful muscle that creates a mythological experience for the reader.

    The size of your subscription list does not describe your value in this business. Neither does the lack of response to ‘I swallowed a saint’–Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was rejected 40 times, I believe, before it was accepted–publish your novel yourself, I’ll buy it! :-)

    What you provide here is invaluable, PJ. Your blog is a safe haven, an artist’s cave, which folks like myself seek out in order to be nurtured on our path. There’s enough fluff out there for the masses, the select few need to imbibe food for the soul in order to thrive and produce good work.

    As soon as I read your words on The Write Practice, when you guest blogged about Story Structure to Die For, I felt ‘home’. It’s hard to express how much I appreciate your blog. I can understand, through you, the deeper processes behind story and how better to walk this treacherous path that winds between melodrama and meaningful fiction. Thank you!

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