The need to produce and consume stories is hard-wired into the human species. Through story, we massage the randomness and monotony of life into a pleasing, purposeful order. When our stories dig into the inner world of character as well as portraying the outer world of action, they create meaning by modeling positive transformation.
The strategy of story-telling, evolved over millennia of practice, fuses two separate techniques. First the writer develops texture, by capturing in language the data from the five senses. (See “Returning to our Senses“.) Rich texture reaches beyond the visual and auditory to the tactile and olfactory details we often overlook. It paints vivid, enveloping description, spins moody atmosphere—in general, it gives flesh to a moment in time. Then there’s its complementary process: building structure—providing the bones for the flesh, the underlying armature. Structure arranges those moments in time in a sequence that compels the reader to move forward.
We can’t spin a vital, credible story without texture. Without structure, we can’t spin a story at all. But if we focus exclusively on the external structure of action, neglecting the inner structure of character development, we start losing vitality and credibility again.
What is this inner structure about? Scholars of the story have suggested that all strong stories can be explained as a journey from innocence to experience, in other words, from a state of relative ignorance to one of knowledge. The fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis provides one archetypal version of this story. We live it everyday—retiring each night a bit wiser than we were when we awoke that morning. It’s a story about inner change.
Much of action-based fiction runs on adrenalin—murder, mutilation, mayhem, and mystery as to the physical facts. There may be some outer change to the main character—a broken bone, a bullet wound—but psychologically s/he is not much different at the end than s/he was at the beginning, save for a new grasp of some factual knowledge—who the bad guys were and how exactly they perpetrated their evil.
In Satan’s Chamber, by the way, we refuse that exclusively external spy-thriller model in favor of a protagonist who begins in mistrustful incompetence—indeed, her lack of experience is a plot point—and grows into an efficient team-player. In The Gift of El Tio, the radical change imposed on the outer world is reflected in the psychological transformation of both authors. Fuze Publishing will continue to bring out engaging stories that chart different journeys to wisdom.