Monday, August 31, 2015

Star Wars - Not your simple Morality Play

Joseph Campbell, the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, described the hero's journey and how it can be found in virtually all the great myths of the myriad cultures on this planet.

Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers sat down and worked on five episodes of The Power of Myth where they discuss, among other things, the virtues of the epic space fantasy film, Star Wars.

George Lucas has often credited Campbell for helping inspire the Star Wars franchise, saying Campbell "exposed me to cosmic questions and mysteries" and those questions led to the creation of one of the most successful film franchises in history.

The Hero's Journey in Star Wars is outlined at Star Wars' Origins:

  • I. Departure
  • The Call to Adventure - Princess Leia's message
  • Refusal of the Call - Luke has to help with the harvest
  • Supernatural Aid - Obi-Wan rescues Luke from the sandpeople
  • Crossing the first Threshold - Escaping Tatooine
  • The Belly of the Whale - trash compactor
  • II. Initiation
  • The road of trials - lightsaber practice
  • Meeting with the goddess - meets Princess Leia
  • Temptation away from true path - Luke is tempted by the Dark Side
  • Atonement with Father - Darth and Luke reconcile
  • Apotheosis (becoming god like) - Luke becomes a Jedi
  • Ultimate Boon - Death Star destroyed
  • III. Return
  •  Refusal of the Return - Luke wants to stay and avenge Obi-Wan
  • The Magic Flight - Millennium Falcon
  • Rescue from Without - Han save Luke from Darth
  • Crossing the Return Threshold - Millennium Falcon destroys pursuing TIE fighters
  • Master of the Two Worlds - Victory ceremony
  • Freedom to Live - Rebellion is victorious over empire

Once you see the whole story outlined, it's easy to understand how many of our classic myths and fairy tales follow this journey. What stories, movies, and books can you outline using this model?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut's 8 Tips for Writing a Good Story

"Now lend me your ears! This is how to write a good short story."

This is how Kurt Vonnegut begins his tips for writing short stories that readers will actually finish.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote the classic science fiction stories Cat's Cradle and Slaughterhouse 5 (click on the links to listen to each) and was never afraid of speaking his mind. He once called semicolons “transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing."

Vonnegut's eight tips for a good story are:
1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
4. Every sentence must do one of two things–reveal character or advance the action.
5. Start as close to the end as possible.
6. Be a sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them–in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.
Think of an essay as a story, a story that you want your audience to WANT to finish. How could you rewrite one of these tips so that it applies to college essays?