Saturday, December 3, 2011

The Journey

We are all on a life journey, and when we write, so are our characters. This always makes me think about where characters come from. The truth is they develop from many factors: people the writer knows, personal experiences, news reports, portrayals, exposés, and other public personalities -- all mixed with imagination. It is in the imagination, however, that archetypes dwell, and like it or not, they inevitably emerge in each character an author develops.

Joseph Campbell in his book The Power of Myth led me to Vladimir Propp and his Morphology of the Fairytale, and Jungian psychology with its collective unconscious and archetypes. From these sources I learned our stories contain not only heroes and heroines, but also gift-bearing mentors, journey-blocking gatekeepers, challenge-bringing heralds, devilish shadows, and mocking jokesters. If the hero is successful, he or she earns the ultimate treasure and it seems every character along the way has a job to accomplish.

Were ancient storytellers psychologists? I don’t think so, but they must have been keen observers of human nature. Their audiences demanded good stories, and like many authors today, those storytellers believed in their dreams and used their imaginations. Another interesting snippet of information I read claims myths and fairy tales developed similar stories in every culture, and that when a significant change took place in a fairytale in one location, it usually took place in all locations. It’s all fascinating stuff about dreams and journeys.

What does this mean? Only that while characters seem infinite in their variety they are tied together in a collective imagination ready to provide readers entertainment and to perhaps help them on a personal journey. Perhaps that is why at any particular time in our own life journey, certain characters speak so fervently to us.
 Available from Champagne Books


Julie Eberhart Painter said...

Very well explained. You obviously love your research as well as the origins of your charactors.

January Bain said...

Rhobin, very insightful blog! You are so right, it is a many faceted creation, this dance with our muse and the understanding of human nature.