Monday 12 August 2013

Three Acts to Rule Them All: How the Hero's Journey Saved Aristotle's Cat.

As I've mentioned before, the ultimate purpose of Otherwhile Tales is to act as a sort of research centre for my ongoing project, a novel of fantastical adventure called (tentatively) The Heart of the World.  Writing this kind of book inevitably results in people bringing up Joseph Campbell and his book The Hero with A Thousand Faces, in which he laid out the structure of departure, initiation and return common to many myths, a structure usually referred to as "the hero's journey".

This in turn tends to bring up the way that Campbell's analysis has been brought to bear on Hollywood-style screenwriting by authors such as Christopher Vogler in The Writer's Journey and the late Blake Snyder in his various Save the Cat books.  It's at this point that things tend to turn negative, with blame being heaped on Snyder (who, being dead, is in no position to answer back) for every half-witted tent-pole flop Hollywood pumps out (while usually failing to credit him for the many successes that follow his model).  One of the more recent examples of the attacks on Snyder is this article from Slate, an article which has been linked to with approval by writers including Graham Linehan (who is, let's be clear about this, one of the funniest writers out there and can play structure like Paul McCartney can play bass1).   All of which can't help but feel unfair: of course slavishly following a formula is dangerous but Snyder is just the latest in a long line of writing gurus, all making remarkably similar points.  I could try to blog about this in more detail but handily, it's already been done very thoroughly by JJ Patrow, whose analysis can be found here on The Bitter Script Reader's excellent site, so, if you're interested, why not head on over there right now?

1. Obviously, no post-sixties reference to Macca will ever be remotely cool but this is meant as a huge compliment, as anyone who's ever listened to the bassline on, say, Getting Better must surely understand.

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