Category: archetypes

On Boundaries

No living organism can survive without boundaries. Fundamental definitions of life, at the microscopic level, always involve a cell wall – a clearly delineated, visible, tangible boundary separating what’s inside the cell from what’s outside. A clear, observable definition of cell death is the moment at which this wall dissolves and what’s outside rushes in, what’s inside disperses out. On…

Seven Stories

I recently attended the wedding of an old friend of my wife. It was a well-put-together event, a fairly standard example of the genre, and though I don’t know the people getting married terribly well, I felt an upwelling of emotion at a few important points in the ceremony. A wedding is a narrative genre: it has a beginning, a…

The Dark Side of Heroics

Every time there’s a school shooting in the news (seems like every six weeks or so?), I find myself speculating that this person, almost always a young white male, probably believed as deeply and sincerely in his own righteousness as any of us, as dictated by the pretty-much mandatory western heroic worldview. If life is a competition, and you are…

The Post-Heroic Age

No to the heroic. No to the anti-heroic. (a brief excerpt from Yvonne Rainer’s famous “No Manifesto“) I get to teach a class on screenwriting in the fall, which is exciting. I took a screenwriting class in the English department while a grad student at the University of Minnesota in 2014, and found the state of pedagogy on the subject…

The Empathy Engine

A friend of mine, who works primarily in theatre, recently derisively described his experience as a movie audience member as “watching people have feelings.” He was speaking from a certain frustration and incomprehension. Theatre actors DO things. Film actors just FEEL things. This idea has stuck with me. Is it true? And if so, why? This also gets at the overarching…

The Archetype of the Sociopath

There is perhaps no more popular character in modern television (and to a certain extent, the movies) than the Sociopath. Going back at least as far as The Sopranos, but probably much further, writers and showrunners figured out that a charismatic, successful sociopath is a great character to build a show around – perhaps because they’re willing to make questionable…

Narrative Without End

The Hero’s Journey says, more or less, that if you go on this quest and take these risks, it will cost you something, you will learn something, and you will get to come home stronger and more mature. In other words, you will win. Beowulf, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings – all of these fit the template. It is not,…