There’s a basic narrative structure that is common to most (in fact very nearly all) stories that work well. Here I mean stories in the broadest sense, from the three-line joke, to the epic novel and the TV series. It goes something like this:
There is a hero, with a goal. We understand her. We know what she wants and what will happen if she doesn’t achieve it. We know that achieving her goal means everything to her. We know the unyielding nature of the obstacles that will get in the way of her journey towards that goal. Because so much is at stake, we care about whether she succeeds or not. We observe her as she goes, step by step towards her aim. At every step of the way, she encounters obstacles. We are on the edge of our seats. Will she defeat this one, or will she fail and lose everything? We journey with her. We are on the edge of our seats, gripped, enthralled by her journey.
You are the hero of your journey to be a writer-in-the wild. Only you know why you have embarked on it. You will meet challenges, both physical and emotional, on the journey towards that goal. Only you know where your greatest challenges lie, and how far to push yourself. For example, is it failure that scares you more, or success? After all, for some people, walking into a room full of people is more difficult that scaling the highest mountain in the world.
You are not alone on this adventure. You are taking a journey that has been taken millions of times before, in many different cultures, and on many different scales. The narrative arc of your story, that archetypal pattern of storytelling, is held in the unconscious of every writer, and stored in the collective unconscious of humanity. So, write in the spirit of every adventurer that has ever been. Just think of the stories you’ll have to tell, to whisper or shout out, upon your safe and celebratory return.
The Weekly Prompt
Think of yourself as an explorer setting out to discover your wild words. Then answer these questions:
What is your aim?
How will you try to achieve it?
What will get in your way?
What will support you in your quest?
What will the outcome look like?
If you’d like to work with fiction, rather than autobiographical writing, answer these questions for a chosen character about to undertake an inner or outer journey.
If you’d like to send me what you write, I’d love to read it.