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Beyond – Sample Text

BOOK: Beyond the Hero's Journey

Sample Text



Art, among many things, is structure within chaos. Modern Information Theory basically says that the more order and the more bits of information that exist within a system, the more able that system is to convey intent and meaning without distortion. Yet you need some chaos for the system not to be static, for it to be interesting, a bit unsettling and provocative. There’s always plenty of chaos. The order in your creative endeavor is your Theme.


What is a Theme?

What is a premise?

Which do you need first?

What do they do?

Why should you care?

Have you ever been boggled in your attempt to state the Theme of your story? Is it “Love conquers all”, “Greed is good”, “Stand by your man”, “Duty versus desire”, “Death before dishonor”? Rather than Themes, these are premises from which to launch a Theme, but a Theme is a much more complex thing.

“Theme,” according to the Webster’s dictionary, is from Latin and Greek thema: “that which is laid down” (or plotted out).

“Premise” is from the Latin prae-mittere: “to send before; a previous statement or assertion that serves as the basis for an argument” (or story).

Actually either one can come first in the writer’s creative process but they should eventually work hand in hand with structural and tonal integrity.

The Theme gives you the Storyline and its Plot Points.

The Premise gives the Theme its tone, its mood and feeling.

You can have various stories on the same Theme but with different Premises and thus they’ll be quite different one from the other. Some examples are these stories on the Theme of “Cross-Dress for Success”: Some Like It Hot, The Crying Game, Mrs. Doubtfire, M. Butterfly, Boys Don’t Cry. Other examples are stories on the Theme of “Lost Love Rescued”: Orpheus and Eurydice, Streets of Fire, Against All Odds, Bodyguard, The English Patient. If you think about each of these stories on similar Themes you’ll see that they prove different points (Premises) in different ways such as comedic, tragic, romantic, action-oriented, etc.

Obviously you the storyteller care about crafting the most accessible vehicle for your creativity. You want to make the greatest, most effective connection with the greatest number of people. One sure way to do that is to be sure your story resonates with the integrity of its inherent Theme. Don’t be distracted, don’t fill the story with things that don’t belong, and make sure all the pieces fit one to the other.

Recognition and proper use of Theme is the first step towards creating this artistic integrity.

[…and more…]




It was a pleasant but hot afternoon in Greece around 1300 B.C. and Tiresius was strolling home down a wooded path in Greece, minding his own business. Stretched across the pathway were two snakes copulating. ‘Interesting’, he thought to himself as he stepped over their writhing bodies.

Tiresius suddenly felt rather odd. A few steps and his body began to weird out on him. A few more steps and he looked down in astonishment — his formerly masculine body was now feminine, complete with all the accouterments, but missing those of the masculine gender. “What tha–?” his own voice startled him with it’s higher, softer timbre.

Running his now softer, finer hands over his softer, finer form, Tiresius was faced with the inevitable conclusion that he had suddenly transmogrified (morphed) into a female. And he didn’t even have to go to Sweden! What a predicament. How was he going to explain this to his wife!? How had this happened? Suspicious, he looked back for the coupling snakes — but they were gone.

Stories vary as to whether Tiresius figured out a way to stay with her/his family in her/his new form or simply disappeared and made a new life as a woman. Whatever, she/he lived as a woman for seven years.

Then one day she/he was walking through the same forest along the same path and lo and behold she/he again came across two snakes copulating. “Aha!” he/she said, and scurried to step over the snakes, just to see if perhaps that was the magic that had caused the gender transformation.

Voila! Sure enough, after a few steps, the change occurred in reverse and Miss Tiresius was once again Mister Tiresius.

If you follow the story of him having been gone for seven years, it must have been a tumultuous reunion with his family. If the version that she’d blended into the system, how was he doing to deal with this new change? Any way you dealt with it, this was going to be difficult.

[…and more…]

  • The Individual is going along with their normal life, but has some trouble understanding or getting along with the opposite sex.
  • An exterior situation applies pressure on the Individual and precipitates the sex change.

  • The Individual either sees that as a means to escape the current dilemma or as a way to get what they desire.
    Accomplishing the sex change. This can be a focal point of the first part of story, or it could be quickly accomplished.

  • Individual has difficulty fitting in and carrying off the new gender.
  • Individual lapses into former gender habits and must deal with the consequences. Others are suspicious, old support systems don’t function anymore, etc.
  • Individual learns something valuable about their new gender and begins to incorporate it into their character (Tootsie did this very well).

  • A temptation to revert to the old ways challenges the character’s determination to hold this new gender.
    There’s a near-revelation and the Individual must either cover their tracks, enlist an ally in the cover-up, or redouble their efforts to “be” the new gender.

  • The Individual gains a success in the new gender.
  • Another challenge from the outside tests the Individual’s integrity. They are troubled, seek counsel, fret… think of Tiresius up there on Mount Olympus torn between the arguing gods and goddesses.

  • The Individual makes a stand on integrity, even at the risk of losing everything they’ve gained.

*** or ***

  • If you’re doing a tragedy, they do not stand up for the right. They fall prey to their own insecurities, fears, greed, etc.

  • The system punishes the Individual: you can do this regardless of which stand they took. If it’s a tragedy, we see the consequences of their weakness or the corruption of the system.

*** or ***

  • The system rewards the Individual: regardless of which stand they took. Sometimes having the bad guys get away with their sins makes for the more satisfactory endings.

  • The Individual has learned something valuable about the other gender, even if they don’t necessarily have the personal courage and integrity to fully apply it. They should voice that lesson.

View Beyond the Hero’s Journey Page

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