The Journey from the Outside In

For all of you writers out there,

Today I’m tackling part 3 of story structure.  Here’s part 1 and part 2.  Just to review.  You start with a complex character and you give them a goal.  The goal should drive the plot.

But don’t confuse the inner journey with the outer journey.  You need both, but the inner journey should be more subtle.  Nobody likes an “issue story,” but you do want to see your character change in some profound way at the end as well as get (or not get) what they originally wanted.  In fact, you might try giving them something else that they never knew they needed.  The happy surprise, just like in real life 🙂

For example: Character X can have a stuttering problem, but the goal should not simply be to overcome that problem.  There should be an external goal, (i.e. the character wants to be class president) which forces the character to face that issue.  As Character X battles his opponent, he must also tackle the childhood wound that caused the stuttering to take place.  The character not only stops stuttering and wins the election, but also comes out with greater self-esteem which is the real prize.

Bottom line:  Your job as a writer might be to show character growth, but  readers are here for story.  If you can deliver that first, they won’t mind the lesson they learned along the way.  In fact, they just might be grateful for it 😉

 

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“Trust the Path”

The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

One of my writing critique partners recommended this book to me, which I received as a Christmas present.  Somehow I decided to read the last chapter first, and boy am I glad I did.  The author relates a personal story about getting lost at Big Sur while on a journey to find himself.  The story suggests that we need to stop looking for the “right path” and instead trust the path that we are on.  I was just discussing this in my guest post on my friend’s photography blog.

Taking a look at the cover image, a labyrinth, makes me see the idea of the path in a whole new way.  We’re always worried about ending up on the wrong path.  But perhaps there is only one.  If all paths are connected and intertwine, then we don’t have to be concerned with being stuck somewhere we don’t want to be.  We can simply go in a new direction.  Or better yet, we can trust that by moving forward, taking action, and staying in the present moment, that we’ll end up where we need to be regardless of the path we take.

I’m reminded of the fantasy movie “The Labyrinth” with David Bowie.  The main character feels like the path she is on continues forever without leading her anywhere.  She gets a little help from a tiny worm who suggests that things aren’t always what they seem.  Why not walk through walls?  Maybe there’s an opening.  But even when she does, she still has a choice to make: left or right.  The tiny worm sends her in the opposite direction, which, unbeknownst to her, actually leads her away from the castle.  Is she on the wrong path?  OR does she need to make this journey.  The best part for viewers is watching her overcome obstacles while discovering herself.  Making it to the castle is just a reflection of all her hard work and how far she’s come.

So I encourage each of you to TRUST YOUR OWN PATH.  And who knows, perhaps we will see each other along the way.

Walking the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, CA

Highlighting the Journey

I’m reporting live from the trenches!  Today we focus on action. Today we take a step towards our destiny. We choose a path and our journey begins. Where will your journey take you? I’m not talking about the destination. I’m talking about the places you fell down and first learned about yourself along the way.  Here are some highlights from my journey.  Keep digging!

calligraphy ink on rice paper

calligraphy ink on rice paper

This is the Japanese kanji character for zen.  I took my first Japanese language class last year, and we practiced calligraphy for the final session.  Everyone had to choose a subject.  Most people started out with something simple like “tree.”  My sensei said I chose a complicated one.  Of course!  What better way to learn than by failing from the start.  This is a zen practice, although I’m not sure I was feeling zen at the time.  We only got 3 attempts.  No pressure 😉  I chose to share this one with you because of its overall feeling.  I actually see it as two entities reaching out to each other, trying to grasp something intangible.  The best part of the class was when our sensei told us that the school was donating the calligraphy kits to us.  I got a stone and a stick of ink.  Now all I needed were brushes!

The biggest calligraphy brush ever!

The biggest calligraphy brush ever!

You can see where I’m going with this 😉  The next stop on my journey was to a brush shop at a temple in Japan.  I actually didn’t buy my brushes here, but I did find a brush stand and another unexpected treasure.  Colored inksticks!

Painting of Horses at Senjokaku Shrine

Painting of Horses at Senjokaku Shrine

Painting of Horse at Senjokaku Shrine

Painting of Horse at Senjokaku Shrine

These are photos I took of paintings I saw while visiting The Hall of a Thousand Tatami Mats, which I mentioned in a previous post.  I became really inspired by these horses in particular.  I couldn’t wait to get home and start painting some of my own!  Just remember, you only get this kind of inspiration off the beaten path.  So get going!  See where your journey takes you….

Introducing…

So I really didn’t see myself as a blogger.  I mean, I’ve posted to other people’s blogs for sure, but I figured having my own blog would take up way too much time when I could be busy creating– art, poetry, stories, etc.  But after creating and creating, I finally asked myself– What’s it all for?  That’s when I realized I need to practice sharing it and that one way to do that in the modern world is by creating an online presence.  Afterall, sharing is part of what it means to be human.  Of course, there are still going to be days when I want to hide out or hide my work under the bed, but I think I’m making progress by getting into the arena, so to speak.  I look forward to sharing my personal journey with you as well as any wisdom I discover about becoming an artist through meditation and practice.  Thanks for reading!