1 - The Story Mind
A Tale is a Statement
Imagine the very first
storyteller, perhaps a caveman sitting around a campfire. The first
communication was not a full-blown story as we know them today. Rather, this
caveman may have rubbed his stomach, pointed at his mouth and made a
More than likely he was
able to communicate. Why? Because his “audience” would see his motions, hear
his sounds, and think (conceptually), “If I did that, what would I mean?”
We all have roughly the
same physical make-up, we make the assumption that we also think similarly.
Therefore when that early man encoded his feelings into sound and motion,
the others in his group could decode his symbolism and arrive back at his
Buoyed by his success in
communication, our caveman expands his technique, moving beyond simple
expressions of his immediate state to describe a linear series of experiences.
For example, he might relate how to get to a place where there are berries or
how to avoid a place where there are bears. He would use sign language to
outline his journey and to depict the things and events he encountered along the
When our storyteller is
able to string together a series of events and experiences he has created a tale.
And that, simply put, is the definition of a tale: an unbroken linear
We call this kind of tale a
“head-line” because it focuses on a chain of logical connections. But you
can also have a “heart-line” – an unbroken progression of feelings. For
example, our caveman storyteller might have related a series of emotions he had
experienced independently of any logistic path.
Tales can be just a
head-line or a heart-line, or can be more complex by combining both. In such a
case, the tale begins with a particular situation in which the storyteller
relates his feelings at the time. Then, he proceeded to the next step which made
him feel differently, and so on until he arrives at a final destination and a
concluding emotional state.
In a more complex form,
emotions and logic drive each other, fully intertwining both the head-line and
hear-line. So, starting from a particular place in a particular mood, driven by
that mood, the storyteller acted to arrive at a second point, which then made
him feel differently.
The tale might be driven by
logic with feelings passively responded to each step, or it might be driven
completely by feelings in which each logic progression is a result of one’s
And, in the most complex
form of all, logic and feelings take turns in driving the other, so that
feelings may cause the journey to start, then a logical event causes a feeling
to change and also the next step to occur. Then, feelings change again and alter
the course of the journey to a completely illogical step.
In this way, our
storyteller can “break” logic with a bridge of feeling, or violate a natural
progression of feelings with a logical event that alters the mood. Very powerful
techniques wrapped up in a very simple form of communication!
We know that the human
heart cannot just jump from one emotion to another without going through
essential emotional states in between. However, if you start with any given
emotion, you might be able to jump to any one of a number of emotions next, and
from any of those jump to others. But you can’t jump to all of them. If you
could, then we all just be bobbing about from one feeling to another. There
would be no growth and no emotional development.
As an analogy, look at
Freud’s psycho-sexual stages of development or consider the seven stages of
grief. You have to go through them in a particular order. You can’t skip over
any. If you do, there’s an emotional mis-step. It has an untrue feeling to the
A story that has a
character that skips an emotional step or jumps to a step he couldn’t really
get to from his previous mood it will feel wanky to the audience. It will feel
as if the character started developing in a manner the audience or readers can
follow with their own hearts. It will pop your audience or readers right out of
the story and cause them to see the character as someone with home they simply
So the idea is to create a
linearity. But doesn’t that linearity create a formula? Well it would if you
could only go from a given emotion to just one particular emotion next. But,
from any given emotion there are several you might jump to – not all, but
several. And from whichever one you select as storyteller, there are several
more you might go to next.
Similarly with logic, from
any given situation there might be any one of a number of things that would make
sense if they happened next. But you couldn’t have anything happen next
because some things would simply be impossible to occur if the initial situation
had happened first.
Now you can start from any
place and eventually get to anywhere else, but you have to go through the
in-betweens. So as long as you have a head-line and/or a heart-line and it is an
unbroken chain that doesn’t skip any steps, that constitutes a complete tale.
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Copyright Melanie Anne Phillips - Owner, Storymind.com, Creator Storyweaver, Co-creator Dramatica