Myth is in our DNA

On the BioWare social network I was involved in a long and very interesting conversation about promises made, and endings and writing and emotional resonance, and this one person who posts is a professor and really brilliant, and he talked about myth.  Which sent me off to read an essay by J.R.R. Tolkien about Fairy Tales and why the endings are so satisfying.  While we may use the phrase fairy tale as a dismissive thing that’s actually rather foolish.  These stories are woven out of our deepest dreams and desires and they teach us life lessons.

So I’m working on this movie, and I’m coming up on a scene that I know I have to write, and there is a form it should take.  But I’m resisting it because “I’ve seen it a million times before.”  Everybody does this.  I don’t want to to look like — fill in the blank.  So I’m trying to come up with some startling new way to play this moment.  Maybe take it in a whole new direction.  But it’s not feeling right, and I can’t for the life of me think of this exciting new take on an age old trope.

I called my friend Sage Walker who is a wonderful writer, and I lay out the problem, and she says, “You know what you have to do.  You are writing myth.  If you try to wrench this into something different it will fail.  Because this was the promise you made.”

She was right.  These old stories speak to us on levels that we can’t fully understand because these are primal impulses they are tapping.   And there’s a truth to them that we have to acknowledge and accept.

One Response to Myth is in our DNA

  • wolflahti says:

    I believe Fowler was talking about clichés when he said “The obvious is better than obvious avoidance of it”, but that nugget of wisdom applies over a broader scope, including plot and trope. It may be true (though I disbelieve it myself) that there are no new stories, but the old ones can be told with a variety and richness of detail that makes them new – but still resonate with the underlying truth.

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I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it. — Albert Einstein

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